Predicting 8 Big Surprises for the Rest of the 2013 MLB Season
Yet another week begins in Major League Baseball, but not much has changed.
The race in the NL Central continues to be exciting while the AL West and AL Wild Card are coming down to the wire as well.
Some people think it's obvious how the rest of the season will go, but Miguel Cabrera winning the AL MVP is about the only guarantee. Outside of that, it's all still up in the air.
Here are eight big surprises I expect to happen through the rest of the 2013 season.
The Reds Will Win the NL Central
The NL Central is being hotly contested by the Reds, Pirates and Cardinals.
Although currently third in the division and holding onto the second spot in the wild-card race, the Reds will come back to win the division.
Sure, the Cardinals only have one team left on their schedule with a winning record in the Nationals and they also just completed a sweep of the Pirates.
But before this latest three-game series, the Cardinals were struggling, having lost seven of their last 11 games. The Reds, on the other hand, are the hottest team in the division, having won seven of their last 10 games.
With Chicago, Milwaukee and Houston in their next nine games on tap, the Reds can make a huge leap in the standings and take over the division lead.
Cincinnati finishes the season playing six of nine against the Pirates, which will be a tough test. But with a veteran-laden team, along with having the X-factor in Billy Hamilton for late-game situations, the Reds are clicking at the right time.
Jose Fernandez Will Win NL Rookie of the Year
Ever since he got the call to the big leagues, it's been Yasiel Puig this and Yasiel Puig that.
Frankly, it's grown tiresome, as there are other players who also deserve credit for the Dodgers' reemergence. Then there are those rookies who are performing just as well, if not better, than Puig.
That's why I think Miami's Jose Fernandez will win the NL Rookie of the Year.
Fernandez is 11-6 with a 2.23 ERA and 182 strikeouts. His ERA ranks second in the NL while his WAR (5.9) is third among pitchers. Of his 27 starts, 19 have been quality outings.
Being in Miami, Fernandez may not get a lot of credit,. but he has gotten the job done this year. Since giving up 22 earned runs in the season's first two months, Fernandez has only given up 19 earned runs since.
Dodgers Will Lose in NLDS
While we still have no clue who the Dodgers would play in the first round on the NL playoffs, I forsee them not making it out of the divisional series.
No matter who they play in the postseason, the Dodgers will face good pitching. While not as highly touted as their pitching staff, the staffs of the Braves, Pirates, Reds and Cardinals can easily throw up zeros on the scoreboard as well.
The Dodgers are only 13-14 against those four teams this year and have only NL West foes the rest of the year. Then again, the Braves aren't facing much at the end of the year either.
Still, I like any of the NL Central teams or the Braves to beat the Dodgers in a five-game series—even with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke starting two games apiece.
I have already outlined the struggles those two have had in the playoffs and how the Dodgers' offense isn't all it's cracked up to be.
Paul Goldschmidt Will Win NL MVP
The NL MVP race is wide open this year. While many might say Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers deserves the NL MVP, as well as the NL Cy Young Award, I'm not in favor of the MVP going to a pitcher.
Thus, that's why I'm naming Paul Goldschmit as the NL MVP.
The Diamondbacks first baseman is batting .293 with 31 home runs and 107 RBI.
The only other player I would have remotely considered for the award was Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies, but he has missed significant time due to injury this year.
Indians Will Win an AL Wild-Card Spot
You're asking how this could be?
How could the Cleveland Indians win one of the two AL wild-card spots? After all, they don't have much on their roster.
Cleveland currently sits two games behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the second spot in the wild-card hunt.
But looking at the Indians' schedule the rest of the way, I just don't see how they won't grab a playoff spot. Left on the schedule are six games each with the Royals and White Sox, and four games each with the Twins and Astros.
How can they not win a majority of those games, especially considering they hold a 30-12 record against those four teams this season?
Now I'm not saying the Rays won't get in, because I think they will as well. So, who does that leave out?
The Rangers Will Miss the Playoffs
The Texas Rangers seem to be sitting pretty right now, up by three games over fellow wild-card entry Tampa Bay and five games ahead of the Indians and Orioles.
However, the Rangers don't exactly have the easiest schedule the rest of the way.
Their next 10 games will be against the Pirates, A's and Rays before it gets seemingly easier with the Royals, Astros and Angels to end the year.
But we must remember last season, when the Rangers had a five-game lead in the division late in the year, only to lose games against opponents who struggled all year.
Over their last 13 games, the Rangers went 4-9, including two losses to the Mariners and Angels, coupled with five losses to the A's that resulted in Texas dropping a one-game playoff to Baltimore for the final wild-card spot.
Let's also not forget the Rangers have lost five of their last six games entering Monday, as they have struggled to find ways to score.
I see a collapse happening once again for the Rangers with them missing the playoffs for a second straight season.
Detroit Will Lose in the ALDS
Unlikely to face the wild-card winner since they're currently four games behind Boston for the best record in the American League, the Tigers will likely face the A's in the first round of the playoffs.
While Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez have been dominant on the mound this year, the same can't be said for Justin Verlander, a probable Game 2 or 3 starter.
The Tigers have given up 85 runs to those two teams this season while only scoring 75 runs.
In a five-game series, I like either Boston or Oakland to outhit the Tigers and send them home early.
Miguel Cabrera can win all of the regular-season awards he wants to, but the rest of Detroit's offense has been inconsistent, at best.
If the Tigers face the Red Sox in the first round, the 20-4 beatdown that Boston put on Detroit on Sept. 4 will be fresh on everyone's minds. But if the Tigers face the A's, that's OK too, since the A's recently took three of four games in Detroit.
As the Chinese would say, this is not the Year of the Tiger.
Bartolo Colon Will Finish with Lowest ERA in AL
This is probably the boldest statement I'll make, but Bartolo Colon will finish the season with the lowest ERA in the AL.
Colon currently is second in the league with a 2.85 ERA behind Anibal Sanchez, who has a 2.61 ERA.
So how could Colon lower his ERA by 0.24 points between now and the end of the season?
The rest of Colon's schedule will likely be at Texas, versus Minnesota and at the Angels. Those three ballparks have an average of 0.937 runs for MLB Park Factor, according to ESPN.com, with none of those ballparks in the top half in park factors.
Another reason is that Sanchez has four games left, as opposed to Colon's three, giving Colon one more game to make a mistake.
With that in mind, I believe Colon will overtake Sanchez for the top ERA in the AL.