Tag Archives: Citizens Bank Park

Aaron Nola, The Symbolism of Facing the Rays, and the Concept of Hope on a Random Tuesday Night

(Picture via nola.com — Kinda makes you think)

I used to have this — for lack of a better term let’s call it a — ‘talent.’

You could name a random date between the months of April-October, and for an approximately seven-year span from 2006-2012, I could tell you what the Phillies did on said date. Not just whether they won or lost but final score, opponent, winning and losing pitchers, how runs were scored — everything.

Friends of mine who knew about it would tell friends of theirs. It wasn’t totally unusual to walk into a room and be suddenly greeted with:

“September 26, 2008.”

Let me think for a second. They beat the Nationals, 8-4. Wait, maybe it was 7-4, dammit, no, it was definitely 8-4. Joe Blanton got the win. Ryan Howard hit a three-run homer to center field in the first inning that Lastings Milledge leaped at the wall for but couldn’t bring back. Charlie Manuel got ejected in the top of the ninth inning just for the hell of it, and the Phillies put themselves in position to clinch their second consecutive NL East title the following day.

I think this whole thing started somewhere around May 12, 2006, when a then 22-year old Cole Hamels made his Major League debut on a Friday night against the Cincinnati Reds. Five shutout innings with only one hit allowed. I don’t recall ever being asked that date, but I wish I had.

Recently that ‘talent’ or whatever you want to call it has evaporated some. Name a random date from 2006-2012, and I’ll be very rusty trying to come up with the answer. Name one between 2013-2015, and I likely won’t know it. Combine less accessibility to games on TV along with the Phillies recent slide, and it had to end at some point. Shelling out money for MLB.TV to watch a team that is going to flirt with a franchise record for losses just isn’t that tempting.

I can count on less than two hands how many Phillies game I have watched so far in their hellacious first half of the season that left them with the worst record in baseball at the All-Star break. Tonight though, I’ll get one closer to double digits when Aaron Nola steps on the mound at Citizens Bank Park and throws his first pitch in the majors shortly after 7 p.m.

Hope is a beautiful thing, and tonight it comes in the form of a 22-year old right-handed pitcher who skyrocketed through the Phillies minor league system to the tune of a 2.57 ERA and nearly a strikeout per inning after being drafted out of LSU last summer, leaving the team’s much-maligned front office almost no choice but to call him up to the show.

How Nola fares specifically tonight in his first start is arguably irrelevant in the long run. He won’t save the Phillies from 100 losses and the worst record in baseball this season, not with his perceived innings limit and the other eight players in the starting lineup with him. He won’t rescue them from the baseball hell that a laundry list of miscalculated personnel decisions has subjected them to for next season or two. He won’t automatically make them a contender again.

No, not even close. Nola won’t single-handedly do any of that, but perhaps it is fitting that his initial taste of major league baseball comes against the Tampa Bay Rays, a team that rarely visits Citizens Bank Park but was here for a six-day stretch when baseball in Philadelphia was at its happiest over the past three and a half decades.

Hamels pitched like an ace that he would ultimately become. Chase Utley deposited a ball in the right field seats. Brad Lidge fell to his knees in celebration, and it rained a lot, so much that a mostly likable bunch of Rays players and coaches who played in the 2008 World Series decided to complain about Mother Nature among other things nearly seven years later.

Nola’s arm will not make that scene any more recent, but it can make the current mess a bit less painful and create the notion that better days are ahead even if they aren’t yet visible.

It won’t bring back the rally towels, and the scoreboard watching in late September, and the magical October nights when more than 45,000 fans rocked a ballpark to its core, but should those one day return over the next decade, Nola will likely be a driving force behind it.

Hope.

For such a short word, it’s a really powerful one, driving decisions that without it would make little to no sense, like being excited to watch a 33-62 baseball team in a bar on a random Tuesday night.

July 21, 2015.

Nine years from now, if I remember one thing from this nightmarish season, it will be whatever happens tonight.

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In the Latest Example of the Baseball Gods Hating Philadelphia, King Felx Will not Pitch Against the Phillies

The surprisingly good Seattle Mariners will make a cross country trip beginning on Monday night to face the unsurprisingly not good Philadelphia Phillies in a three game-series at Citizens Bank Park, and sadly, Felix Hernandez will not be a part of it.

The best pitcher of the last decade and American League Cy Young favorite will only be able to watch from the visitors dugout since he just pitched Saturday night and will not start again until next Friday at Fenway Park against the Red Sox.

Reading this, you’re probably thinking ‘meh, ace pitchers miss teams all the time.’

That is true, but the thing that especially sucks about this situation is Hernandez as of a week ago was on track pitch the final game of the Phillies series.

Hernandez pitched on August 5th, and the Mariners did not have an off day until this past Thursday, the 14th. Rather than pitch on four days rest like normal, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon shuffled his rotation, which pushed his ace back an extra day.

Instead of going August 5th, August 10, and August 15, he went, August 5th, August 11th, and August 16th.

The first schedule would have put him on track to pitch the Wednesday series finale, but that disappointingly is no longer the case.

If any of that was hard to follow, here’s a link and screenshot of the Mariners recent schedule to illustrate what I just wrote.

Mariners Schedule

I first noticed this a week ago but held off on writing about it hoping for some kind of miracle.

King Felix Screenshot

Felix Tweets

As you can see, a friend of mine who is a Mariners fan provided some hope, but in this instance, McClendon’s aforementioned decision worked against us.

To pour some extra salt on an open wound, Cole Hamels is scheduled to pitch on Wednesday for the Phillies. We could have had Hamels-Hernandez and instead we’re getting Hamels-James Paxton.

Paxton is a pretty nice young pitcher, but he’s not King Felix, who is currently rocking a 1.99 ERA and leading all pitchers in WAR.

If I had to make a list of individual MLB players who I would fork over top dollar to see live, King Felix would be third, trailing only Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout respectively.

If you are seriously invested in the Phillies right now, you are a better fan than me. I still watch most games, but the broadcasts have kinda turned into background noise while multi-tasking on something else. One of the game’s brightest stars in town, however, would have piqued my interest.

In a way, it would almost be a win-win situation. Either the Phillies beat one of the best (something they accomplished when they were one of the best in 2011) and have a nice memory to take away from a lost season, or you get to say that you saw him dominate in-person.

The Mariners have not been to Philadelphia since 2002, and there is no telling when they will be back again.

If you need a team to root for though with the Phillies out of it, might I suggest them? They are currently a half game back of the second wildcard spot in the American League.

Outside of Robinson Cano and Austin Jackson, there are not a lot of recognizable faces in the everyday lineup, but if they crash the playoff party, their starting rotation could make them the life of the party.

Everyone talks about feeling bad for Giancarlo Stanton wasting some awesome years playing for the Marlins, but he is still only 24 years old. His time will come. The Mariners ace has been dominating since 2005 but hasn’t seen an October yet. This might be his best shot.

Unfortunately, rooting for the Mariners won’t solve our immediate problem. We were one day, one Lloyd McClendon decision away from getting Hernandez-Hamels. An amazing matchup to spice up a dull August will not come to fruition.

Another disappointment in a season of them. This time though, you can’t blame Ruben Amaro, although I’m sure some people will still find a way.

Cole Hamels No Longer Sucks Against the Mets

In a lost season for the Phillies where positives are hard to come by, there might be a silver lining in that ace Cole Hamels may have finally solved his kryptonite.

After years of massive struggles against the New York Mets, it appears Hamels has at last figured out how to pitch against the National League East rival.

To the charts we go!

Date Stadium IP ER Score Winning Team Decision QS Career Record vs. Mets Career ERA vs. Mets
8/14/2006 CBP 8 0 13 — 0 Phillies Win Yes 1 W, 0 L 0
4/9/2007 Shea 6 3 11 — 5 Mets None Yes 1 W, 0 L 1.8
6/7/2007 Shea 7 3 6 — 3 Phillies None Yes 1 W, 0 L 2.57
6/29/2007 CBP 5 3 5 — 2 Mets Loss No 1 W, 1 L 3.12
4/18/2008 CBP 7 4 6 — 4 Mets Loss No 1 W, 2 L 3.55
9/7/2008 Shea 5 4 6 — 3 Mets Loss No 1 W, 3 L 4.02
6/10/2009 Citi Field 5 4 5 — 4 Phillies None No 1 W, 3 L 4.4
8/21/2009 Citi Field 5 4 4 — 2 Mets Loss No 1 W, 4 L 4.69
9/11/2009 CBP 6.2 1 4 — 2 Phillies Win Yes 2 W, 4 L 4.28
5/27/2010 Citi Field 6.1 2 3 — 0 Mets Loss Yes 2 W, 5 L 4.13
8/7/2010 CBP 7 1 1 — 0 Mets Loss Yes 2 W, 6 L 3.84
8/13/2010 Citi Field 8 1 1 — 0 Mets Loss Yes 2 W, 7 L 3.55
9/26/2010 CBP 4 5 7 — 3 Mets Loss No 2 W, 8 L 3.94
4/5/2011 CBP 2.2 6 7 — 1 Mets Loss No 2 W, 9 L 4.46
5/28/2011 Citi Field 7 2 5 — 2 Phillies Win Yes 3 W, 9 L 4.31
7/16/2011 Citi Field 4.1 7 11 — 2 Mets Loss No 3 W, 10 L 4.79
9/24/2011 Citi Field 7 1 2 — 1 Mets None Yes 3 W, 10 L 4.54
4/15/2012 CBP 7 2 8 — 2 Phillies Win Yes 4 W, 10 L 4.41
5/28/2012 Citi Field 8 4 8 — 4 Phillies Win No 5 W, 10 L 4.42
7/5/2012 Citi Field 7 4 6 — 5 Mets None No 5 W, 10 L 4.46
9/19/2012 Citi Field 6 2 3 — 2 Phillies None Yes 5 W, 10 L 4.4
4/28/2013 Citi Field 6 1 5 — 1 Phillies Win Yes 6 W, 10 L 4.27
6/21/2013 CBP 6 4 4 — 3 Mets Loss No 6 W, 11 L 4.4
7/20/2013 Citi Field 5 4 5 — 4 Mets Loss No 6 W, 12 L 4.53
8/28/2013 Citi Field 7 2 6 — 2 Phillies Win Yes 7 W, 12 L 4.44
9/20/2013 CBP 7 6 6 — 4 Mets Loss No 7W, 13 L 4.59
4/29/2014 CBP 4.2 6 6 — 1 Mets Loss No 7 W, 14 L 4.79
5/11/2014 Citi Field 7 1 5 — 4 Mets None Yes 7 W, 14 L 4.64
6/1/2014 CBP 7 1 4 — 3 Mets None Yes 7 W, 14 L 4.51
7/29/2014 Citi Field 8 0 6 — 0 Phillies Win Yes 8 W, 14 L 4.31
8/9/2014 CBP 7 1 2 — 1 Mets None Yes 8 W, 14 L 4.21

What we have here is a mess of data that covers nine years, three stadiums between the two teams, five managers, six NL East titles, and on a wider scale, two different presidencies.

Let’s pull some relevant numbers:

  • 31 total starts
  • Phillies are 11-20 in those 31 starts
  • 17 quality starts
  • Four starts where earned runs have been higher than innings pitched
  • Four quality starts in five games against the Mets in 2014 including four consecutive outings
  • The four consecutive quality starts streak ties a personal record against the Mets
  • 2.40 ERA against the Mets in 2014. (0.93 ERA last four outings)
  • Current career ERA vs. Mets lowered by .38 since the start of the season and by .58 over the last four starts.
  • Current career 4.21 ERA vs. Mets is lowest it has been since September 2010.

You might not think all of this is a big deal, but I’m telling you that it is. This is not some Drew Balis created narrative. Hamels’ problems against the Mets have been a real issue and acknowledged by mainstream media, specifically this CSN Philly piece by Corey Seidman from late April.

While I would like a bit of a larger sample size to make my point, four near lights out starts will get the job done here. There have been times earlier in his career where Hamels has been going great only to be tripped up when drawing the Mets, and that isn’t the case right now.

Why is it significant going forward though?

It’s important because Hamels has started four games against the Mets every season dating back to 2010 and already has five this year, and the Phillies have yet another series against them at the end of the month.

Whenever the Phillies face their NL East rival, there is a 60 percent chance that Hamels will pitch in a three-game series.

It also matters because as much as I hate to admit it, the Mets are pretty close to being a much improved team. Their rotation next season will feature Matt Harvey, Zach Wheeler, Jacob DeGrom, and Noah Syndergaard.

Right now, the Mets lead the Phillies by four games. If the Phils want to escape the division cellar in coming seasons and snap out of this three year malaise, their number one starter is going to have to beat other teams in the NL East.

The Phillies are still 1-4 in Hamels’ starts against the Mets this season, but run support is now the sole problem as opposed to Hamels himself contributing to the poor record in the past.

If the Phillies can ever return to prominence over the next decade, the left arm of their homegrown ace will be a driving force, and beating the Mets, who figure to be contenders, will certainly be significant.

Much of the talk on Twitter has been about how dominant Hamels has been over the past two months, but after nearly a decade of watching him every fifth day, we already knew he was capable of that. We did not know, however, that he was capable of consistently pitching well against the Mets.

Now we know.

Related Cole Hamels coverage you might enjoy:

Cole Hamels is on the Mound Tonight and I am Hella Hella Pumped

Why I’m Not Buying the Cole Hamels Trade Rumors

Cliff Lee Got Hurt and Everything Sucks

Everyone who would potentially care about Cliff Lee getting hurt already knows that Cliff Lee got hurt last night. I realize that I’m not telling you anything groundbreaking here.

When I introduced this blog, I made it a point to say that despite my previous experience covering sports it wouldn’t be branded as up to the minute sports news.

One of the advantages to operating it how I currently am is that it affords me the luxury of time when I want to reflect on something or maybe go deeper on a topic rather than spitting out a short, immediate take.

I find that when teams go as south as the Phillies have gone, one begins to identify better with individual players on the club than the entity itself. The final result might not matter a whole lot in those situations, but the players you care about still do.

Sometimes things get so bad where a late July game turns into background music while multi-tasking, almost an afterthought until something awful catches your eyes and ears.

When a frustrated and distraught Lee pointed to his elbow and removed himself from a baseball game last night in the third inning, my first thought wasn’t ‘There goes Cliff Lee’s trade value and the Phillies’ August plans.’ Instead it was ‘There goes Cliff Lee, I wonder if I will ever see my favorite pitcher again.’

That approach might be considered overly sensitive by some. When I covered Penn State football, a few people who were known to dislike my coverage thought I was too soft. They wanted a whipping boy every time a game was lost, and while I’m all for holding people accountable and believe I did that, demanding weekly firings wasn’t my style.

On another level, watching the injury unfold made me think about Ryan Howard’s controversial “Want to trade places?” line from a week ago.

Upon first hearing this, most people would probably utter some variation of “HELL YEAH!” When I slow down and think more about it though, it’s a difficult question for only being four words long.

It’s complicated to ponder for me because I point back to what happened less than 24 hours ago. At age 35, Lee’s elbow may have stopped him from doing what he does best. Certainly they are well compensated, but returning to Howard’s question, I’m not sure how I feel about a primary career ending before age 40. Average Joe’s may never have that financial security but also don’t see some of their best attributes erode so quickly.

I don’t have the answers; I just find it interesting to discuss.

What I do know is that if last night was the end for Lee, he deserved better. It is becoming increasingly likely that one of the greatest playoff pitchers of this generation will never see another October.

I don’t want this to completely go the route of eulogizing Lee’s career. He insisted after the game that he simply re-injured the flexor pronator muscle that cost him two months of the season.

Ruben Amaro said earlier this afternoon that there is no evidence of ligament damage. On the opposite side of that good news, he mentioned that Lee would likely see Dr. James Andrews at some point. A visit to Andrews doesn’t mean a pitcher is on track for major surgery, but the name Amaro uttered might be the scariest three words when it comes to sports injuries.

Hopefully this is indeed just a strain and Lee, who averaged 6.5 WAR a season and a 2.89 ERA between 2008-2013, comes back next April good as new, but one has to be realistic.

Think back to Roy Halladay in 2012 and 2013. If one of the hardest working and best-conditioned pitchers the game has ever seen cannot overcome a shoulder injury, that doesn’t leave a ton of hope for others, Combine that example with the Tommy John epidemic sweeping baseball, and it becomes easy to understand the pessimism.

I have been told by people over the years who would know that Lee is kind of a dick to deal with. Every time I hear it, I proceed with a combination of ignorance is bliss and ‘Alright, maybe he is a dick, but he’s our dick’ mindset. Never in any sort of trouble, I had no reason not to love him.

Even though you learn quickly that athletes have plenty of flaws, actually hearing evidence of them and seeing one of your heroes reduced to a mortal can be tough to come to grips with.

Lee earned better, but unfortunately this movie has plenty of previous editions. For as much press and fanfare as Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter’s yearlong farewell tours have received the past two years, there are tons of players every year who aren’t afforded the opportunity to go out on their own due to injury or ineffectiveness, and in some cases both.

Baseball isn’t fair, and last night shortly before 8 p.m. eastern time was another sad reminder of that cold, hard truth.

Lee didn’t need or merit a Rivera or Jeter retirement party, but he deserved far more than walking off the mound yelling “Fuck” on a random Thursday night in Washington D.C with many Phillies fans not even watching.

The baseball gods show no mercy, and last night, they came for Lee’s elbow, zapping him of a once golden arm. What a cruel game sometimes, man.

I want to say this isn’t goodbye, Cliff. It’s see you later, hopefully with a few more memories and a well-deserved standing ovation next spring at Citizens Bank Park, but unfortunately I lost my innocence when it comes to knowing the career trajectory of a baseball player a long time ago.

Right now, it is hard to believe that aforementioned wish with much conviction.

A Conversation with a AAA Tow Truck Driver from Exactly Three Years Ago

For as much as baseball fans enjoy waxing poetic about how unpredictable the sport can be, many will also concede that if one attends enough games, you’ve just about seen it all.

Maybe now and then you’re blessed with a no-hitter or some hot shot prospect making his debut, but things start to blend together for the most part.

At least I thought that was the case on July 22nd, 2011 — three years ago today. In a rather predictable regular season, it was one of the most ordinary Phillies games I have ever attended. until it suddenly wasn’t. In the blink of an eye on a scorching mid-summer night, things changed drastically, producing one of the most memorable conversations I have ever been a part of.

On the three-year anniversary of this event, I have decided to transcribe and reflect upon what happened that night.

As I alluded to earlier, the big detail that I recall from the early portion of this day is how painstakingly hot it was. I was working as a camp counselor at the time and spent practically all of the workday outside. Thermometers eclipsed triple digits. Heat warnings ran rampant on the east coast, and several temperature records were broken.

To show that I’m not making any of this up, here’s a douchey tweet about it.

Phillies Game Tweet

I was heading to the game with my friend Steve and one of his friends. Steve and I were high school friends, and we had kept in touch through our first two years of college. Steve was driving; remember this detail for later.

The Phillies were in the midst of a historic regular season, and Citizens Bank Park was the place to be on summer nights, but on this particular Friday evening, 45,383 folks were just trying to avoid falling victim to heat exhaustion and dehydration.

The ESPN box score records the first pitch temperature as 98 degrees. Usual ballpark favorites like cheesesteaks and crab fries only made you more thirsty, and if you didn’t have a bottle of water within arm’s reach at all times, you were doing it wrong.

The game itself was about as cut and dry as you could get for the 2011 Phillies. Cole Hamels, the only player whose performance has not dipped from three years ago, tossed eight dominant innings, only allowing one run. Chase Utley had two hits as an aging but still kinda formidable lineup produced three runs. Ryan Madson retired three straight Padres in the ninth, and everyone joined Harry Kalas in singing “High Hopes.”

The game lasted less than two and a half hours, but five minutes into the return trip, it became clear that we wouldn’t be getting home anytime soon. Steve’s car had all the signs of a vehicle about to break down — Overheated engine, unable to go faster than 40 mph, steering wheel about to lock.

Here is an Internet picture of I-95 in Philadelphia. This was not our exact location, but it will do to convey what we had to pull off.

I 95

The car on the far left might as well have been us. We figured we had less than a minute to get across four lanes of oncoming traffic and reach the safety of a shoulder. Steve obviously had the hard part of operating a car on its last leg. I was sitting in the back left seat behind him, so my job essentially was to verify that it was clear for him to switch lanes without getting smashed.

I’m normally a somewhat upbeat person, but as we proceeded through this 30-second challenge, I think I said to myself once or twice ‘We’re gonna die.’ 

Thankfully we didn’t die. Steve made it. A similar thing had happened to me with a different friend two years prior at an Eagles game, but having already experienced it once made it no less scary.

We tried the typical let the engine cool down and start up the car 10 minutes later strategy. No dice. Steve called for a AAA driver to tow the car and also get us close enough to home where someone could pick us up.

Forty minutes later, the tow truck came lumbering down I-95. The sun had long since set, but temperatures still hovered in the 80’s, and we were just excited to feel some air conditioning again.

Our driver was a hulking man with a shaved head wearing a T-shirt that looked like it could burst at the seams. He said his name was “Chris” as we boarded the car. It wasn’t a real friendly introduction but certainly not standoffish either.

The best way I can describe Chris is to say that while you might not be best friends with him, he was the type of guy you want to like you because if shit goes down, he could probably take out two or three people at once without much effort. You want Chris on your side.

Chris noticed the three of us wearing Phillies shirts, and this is where things got interesting.

“You kids coming from the game?” he asked. Typically I’m pretty shy in these situations, but for some reason I was the one to answer.

“Yeah,” I replied.

“They win?” Chris asked.

“Yep, 3-1.”

“Good shit. Hamels look good?”

“He did. Ten strikeouts over eight innings. Looked real sharp.”

“Nice. I was trying to watch before my shift. Looked like he was pitching a decent game.”

I kinda gave a casual head nod. At this point, Chris had been driving for a few minutes, and I figured the rest of the ride would pretty much feature silence.

Chris had other ideas though. Soon after, he asked if we had been alive for the 1993 season. Had I been a few years older, that World Series loss to the Blue Jays would have been my first sense of sports pain and not the Flyers getting swept by Detroit in the 1997 Stanley Cup finals, but we explained to him that while we remember watching, we were too young to really understand the magnitude of it at the time.

Take it away, Chris.

Phillies man, they’ll break your heart, man. I remember in 93, I was pumping gas in North Philly. We had a little TV set up outside there. I saw Mitchie-Poo give up the home run. It crushed my soul, man. I didn’t watch another game for 10 years after that. 

We transitioned to talking about the then current Phillies. Hunter Pence was the name on everyone’s mind with the trade deadline a week away and the team in need of a corner outfield upgrade, but Chris had other ideas.

I think if we trade for a guy like Coghlan, could be a real sweet move. Guy like that would pop 15-20 home runs in this bandbox of a park. 

Chris Coghlan was in the midst of a -.5 WAR season with the Marlins. The most home runs he has ever hit in a year is nine. At the time of this conversation, he was actually in Triple-A, trying to work out of a rough patch. Aside from sharing a first name, I’m not sure what could have possibly attracted Chris to the idea of trading for Coghlan, but he was passionate about it.

Last but certainly not least came one of the greatest lines I have ever witnessed. The topic shifted to Ryan Howard who was slashing a pedestrian .245/.341/.448 with 18 home runs. Three years later, the Phillies would yearn for anything close to these numbers.

Chris was ready.

Howard’s gotta shoot up a little bit, man. Not enough to get caught, just a little bit. Look guys, I’m 36-years old, I’m in the best shape of my life. I bench 350 every day. Pay me 20 million. I’ll pop a few pills and hit 30 home runs for ’em. Pay me 20 million. 

By now, we were less than a minute away from where Chris would be dropping us off, and perhaps that was a good thing because other than to all laugh together along with Chris, we had no good response ready for something like that.

Here is another tweet to show this actually happened and that I haven’t just drawn the whole thing up in my wildest imagination.

Phillies Game Tweet 2

I highly doubt Chris remembers this conversation as vividly as I do. Hell, he probably doesn’t remember it at all, and that’s okay.

One of the beauties of baseball is that it can hold friendships together as life begins to change and sometimes — even if it only lasts 25 minutes — introduce new people from different walks of the world into your life.

Chris’ opinions weren’t necessarily informed, but they were the perfect combination of humorous and outlandish to make us forget that we had previously been stranded on the side of I-95 without a way of getting home during one of the hottest of summer nights.

Rock on, Chris.

Despite one-bloody-nil, Roy Halladay’s arm falling off, Charlie Manuel being fired, and the ongoing malaise of the last two and a half years, I hope you’re still watching ball — and entertaining some college kids after their car breaks down on a major interstate.

Evaluating My MLB Predictions at the All-Star Break

Every year on the night before Opening Day I scribble down a bunch of baseball predictions for the upcoming season and post them on social media.

It has been a thing for much of the past decade, akin to a kid writing out his Christmas list every winter except this is a collection of what I think will happen, not necessarily what I want to happen.

For a decent amount of them, I pour over numbers and data. There’s also a few where I just shoot from the hip and try to have a little fun. Unfortunately though, I usually forget about a lot of the more detailed ones once October rolls around. This year I told myself that I wasn’t going to let that happen, and in order to help prevent it, I figured I’d take a look at how things are holding up halfway through the season.

Some are almost spot on, and others are embarrassingly bad, but unlike pond scum hack Mike Freeman, I will hold myself accountable when I get something wrong.

Let’s dive into it starting with the division standings and team records:

*Current record in bold and parentheses next to prediction 

NL East

Nationals (97-65) (51-42)

Braves (86-76) (52-43)

Phillies (76-86) (42-53)

Mets (74-88) (45-50)

Marlins (68-94) (44-50)

Overall, nothing jumps out as awful here. The Nationals would have to play .700 baseball to hit 97 wins, so that probably won’t happen, and the Marlins would really have to go south to only win 68 but no glaring errors here.

NL Central

Cardinals (95-67) (52-44)

Reds (90-72) (51-44)

Pirates (85-77) (49-46)

Brewers (78-84) (53-43)

Cubs (64-98) (40-54)

The big mistake here is obviously the Brewers. Despite a recent tailspin, it would still be quite a shock for them to finish under .500 at this point. Still plausible that the standings finish in the order I predicted though.

NL West

Dodgers (96-66) (54-43)

Giants (88-74) (52-43)

Diamondbacks (83-79) (40-56)

Padres (81-81) (41-54)

Rockies (71-91) (40-55)

The NL West seems really hit or miss for me. Dodgers, Giants, and Rockies predictions all have a chance to be pretty close. It would take a lot for the Diamondbacks and Padres to reach .500.

For real though, the Phillies might be brutal, but I’m not sure how people in San Diego do it.

Padres

AL East

Red Sox (95-67) (43-52)

Rays (94-68) (44-53)

Yankees (87-75) (47-47)

Orioles (86-76) (52-42)

Blue Jays (69-93) (49-47)

Let’s just take this and throw it in the trash, kk? I still wouldn’t be shocked if the Red Sox or Rays make a run in the second half, but this was kinda bad. Okay, really bad.

AL Central

Tigers (92-70) (53-38)

Royals (86-76) (48-46)

Indians (84-78) (47-47)

White Sox (70-92) (45-51)

Twins (62-100) (44-50)

The Twins will certainly eclipse 62 wins, but overall this looks pretty good. For the time being, I have the division order completely correct.

AL West

Rangers (90-72) (38-57)

A’s (89-73) (59-36)

Angels (86-76) (57-37)

Mariners (75-87) (51-44)

Astros (61-101) (40-56)

Yeesh. Perhaps I was a little too high on the Rangers, but I don’t think anyone anticipated them having the worst record in baseball heading into the All-Star break. The Mariners are on the way toward making me look stupid, and I welcome that because getting to watch Felix Hernandez in October for the first time ever would be awesome.

More predictions below:

NL Playoff Teams: Nationals, Cardinals, Dodgers, Reds, Giants 

If the playoffs started today, the Nationals, Dodgers, and Giants would all be in with the Cardinals and Reds knocking on the door. I have a chance to hit all five there, so things could be worse.

AL Playoff Teams: Red Sox, Tigers, Rangers, Rays, A’s

The American League is obviously less accurate. I’ll hold out hope that either the Red Sox or Rays make a run to get me three teams from that group.

World Series: Dodgers over Red Sox in six games 

With a playoff rotation of Kershaw, Greinke, and Ryu, the Dodgers certainly look capable of coming out of the National League. Red Sox, as already mentioned, are another story.

AL Cy Young: David Price

This is going to King Felix in all likelihood, but Price is 11th in the AL in WAR, 11th in FIP, and has the sixth best strikeout rate per nine innings in all of baseball. He may not win, but he’ll get some votes.

NL Cy Young: Madison Bumgarner

The popular thing here is to pick Kershaw or Adam Wainwright, and Kershaw will win it, but I decided to go a different route back in March. Bumgarner’s been good enough to make the All-Star game, so I’ll take that.

AL MVP: Mike Trout

Speaking of boring/safe predictions…I don’t think much else needs to be said here. Trout is going to win this time, and with the way the Angels are playing, none of the voters will be able to use them missing the playoffs as reason to vote for someone else.

NL MVP: Joey Votto

This was a shaky pick made worse by an injury plagued season for Votto. Oops.

AL Rookie of the Year: Xander Bogaerts

An awful June and July eliminated any chance of this. It’s Jose Abreu’s or Mashairo Tanaka’s (if he’s back by September) award to win.

NL Rookie of the Year: Billy Hamilton

This was a bit of an easy pick but for good reason. After a slow start, Hamilton has been everything I expected. Anyone who can swipe multiple bases off Yadier Molina in a single game deserves a medal.

First Manager to be Fired: John Gibbons

Turns out the Blue Jays are better than I expected. Despite a recent 2-8 stretch, Gibbons is likely safe so long as they’re in contention.

Ryan Braun bounces back and finishes in the Top five of NL MVP Voting

Braun’s battled injuries to put together a good first half, but this probably won’t end up happening.

Miguel Cabrera leads the league with 40 home runs

With only 14 on the season, Cabrera won’t get to 40 and certainly won’t lead the league. Hai Jose Abreu and Nelson Cruz.

Adam Wainwright leads league with 19 wins

This looks pretty good. Wainwright is currently tied for the league lead with 12, and one of the other pitchers with 12 is Tanaka who will be out at least six weeks.

Last but not least, the Phillies predictions:

The Phillies finish with a record of 76-86

In order to finish with this exact record, the Phillies would need to go 34-33 in the second half. Not likely but definitely not impossible.

Ben Revere will hit his first career home run on June 24th 

I was 28 days late, but he did hit a home run which is more than some would have realistically expected.

Dom Brown hits .271 with 30 HR’s and 90 RBI’s 

Go ahead and LOL. This is bad. It would take a monster second half for him to even sniff the same area code of that predicted average and home run totals. I know the negative 1.2 WAR is ugly as all hell, but the splits at least show that he’s been better lately at the plate. Hopefully that’s a sign of a bounce back second half.

Brown Splits

Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez never throws a meaningful pitch for the Phillies

Accurate so far. I don’t hate on Ruben Amaro Jr. as much as a majority of the fanbase does, but this was a bad move, very bad.

Marlon Byrd, career high 26 home runs

With 18 already, this looks on its way to being accurate. The 26th likely won’t happen in a Phillies uniform though.

On July 26, Cliff Lee throws eight shutout innings and receives a standing ovation at Citizens Bank Park. Three days later, he is traded to the Rangers at the trade deadline.

In a weird/completely lucky coincidence, Lee is scheduled to pitch this exact game. The trade obviously won’t be to the Rangers who are out of the race though. This is going to be a hot topic for the next couple of weeks leading up to the deadline.

My take: Keep Cliff, move him in December. He’s only scheduled to make two starts before the deadline. I fully expect him to come back strong, but I have a feeling teams are going to try to shortchange the Phillies citing questions about Lee’s health. Amaro already messed this up in 2009, and the repercussions would be much worse this time. Show him off for two months and wait for teams to come calling in the winter.

That’s all, folks. Obviously there’s a mix of good, bad, and average here, so I look forward to seeing where things are at in another three months.

If you have any thoughts or predictions of your own, please share in the comments.