By Mike Ivcic
Itâs beginning to look like no one wants to stay at the top of the Ultimate Capper power rankings. The Yankees take over the top spot almost by default, and there were multiple choices for the number one position this week. Sometime soon, one of these teams will pull away and stake a claim as the best team in baseball. Right? Either way, today you get a bold mid-season prediction for each and every team. Records through Thursday, July 5.
1. New York Yankees (49-32) 2 â The Yankees will enter the playoffs as the odds-on favorite, but Rafael Soriano will have one game that will remind everyone why Mariano Rivera has been the real playoff MVP in every World Series victory for New York since 1998.
2. Texas Rangers (50-33) 1 â Ugly week in Chicago. If Nolan Ryan and the rest of the Rangers front office don’t make a move to bolster the pitching staff, either the rotation or the bullpen, Texas will not win the World Series.
3. Washington Nationals (48-32) 5 â This “Stephen Strasburg innings limit” is a joke. How can the Nationals blow a chance to make the postseason? Since the six-division format began in 1994, the ’06 Mets have been the only team not named the Braves or Phillies to win the NL East. Let the kid pitch the full season, or the Nats don’t make the playoffs.
4. Los Angeles Angels (46-37) 4 â The performance of Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo will lead to the trade of Albert Pujols prior to the end of his contract. On a more current level, Trout will win rookie of the year and finish top 5 in AL MVP voting.
5. Los Angeles Dodgers (47-37) 6 â As good as Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang have been, both will return to earth in the second half of the season, which will be all the impetus ownership will need to throw a large, 7-year contract at Cole Hamels in the offseason.
6. Chicago White Sox (45-37) 9 â Beating up on Texas is nice, but there’s still no “ace” on this staff. The Sox desperately need that go-to starter every fifth day to head the rotation. Without him, their playoff hopes will fade quickly.
7. San Francisco Giants (45-38) 3 â The pitching is spectacular and they have Colorado and San Diego to play in the second half, but I still really don’t like their offense. The Giants don’t make the playoffs.
8. New York Mets (45-38) 11 â They desperately need to find bullpen help somewhere, but either way the Mets will finish no worse than third in the NL East â an unfathomable thought at the start of the season. Even I as a Mets fan only picked them fourth. But if the Nationals go ahead and shut Strasburg down, I believe this is your NL East champ.
9. Pittsburgh Pirates (46-36) 15 â For the first time since Barry Bonds’ head fit through a standard door frame, the Pirates will finish above .500 â AND they’ll make the playoffs.
10. Cincinnati Reds (44-38) 8 â There are three aspects to baseball â hitting, pitching, and defense. If the Reds to solve the third part of that trio soon, they’ll be watching the postseason on television, no matter what they do with Aroldis Chapman (leave him as the closer!)
11. Baltimore Orioles (44-38) 10 â Since the Angels will get to beat up on Seattle and the AL East in the best division in baseball, only one wild card spot will be available for the Orioles, Rays, and Red Sox. Despite the great story in Baltimore under Buck Showalter, this won’t be the team that gets it.
12. Tampa Bay Rays (43-40) 13 â Short and sweet â somehow, someway, this group will once again play meaningful baseball in October. But not before winning a one-game playoff withâ¦
13. Boston Red Sox (42-40) 7 â … this team! Yes, that’s right, in the first year of the new wild card format, there will be a one-game playoff before the one-game playoff. Rays and Red Sox will play for the right to go to Los Angeles, creating a scheduling nightmare for MLB. I can’t wait to see how they solve this one.
14. Atlanta Braves (43-39) 12 â The starting pitching is the question mark here, so much so that I think they miss the playoffs. But my bold prediction is that Chipper Jones gets hurt prior to the end of the season. He’s had a Hall-of-Fame career, but Braves fans still have to always wonder what could have been without all of the injuries.
15. St. Louis Cardinals (44-39) 14 â The news that Chris Carpenter is done for the year without ever throwing a pitch makes this bold prediction a rather easy one â the Cardinals will be the second straight champion (’11 Giants) to miss the postseason the following year.
16. Cleveland Indians (43-39) 17 â Because of a lack of top-line starting pitching and a rather thin bullpen, the Indians will see a great deal of hard work over the first four months go up in flames in August and September, and will end the season under .500.
17. Toronto Blue Jays (42-41) 18 â I know there are a ton of division games still to be played, and I’m not a huge fan of this team as a whole, but since we’re doing bold predictions â this will be the first team ever to finish last with a record of .500 or better.
18. Oakland Athletics (41-42) 19 â Barring any major injuries, Oakland will finish above .500 for the first time since reaching the ALCS in 2006 â which will still leave them a good distance away from catching the Angels and Rangers.
19. Detroit Tigers (41-42) 20 â Ultimately, both the Indians and White Sox will regret not putting the Tigers far, far away when they had the chance. Detroit will win the AL Central and become everyone’s worst nightmare in a short, 5-game series.
20. Miami Marlins (40-42) 21 â Within a decade, this franchise won’t be in Miami, and that will put an end to most cities funding any stadium or arena construction. Short-term, Hanley Ramirez wouldn’t be bad trade bait to help restock the farm system, since he’s clearly still unhappy at third base.
21. Arizona Diamondbacks (39-43) 16 â So much for a rally. Clearly this is a team that will spend the rest of the season in third place, so there’s not a whole lot to be bold about. Let’s just say that despite the struggle last week, Arizona will finish closer to the Giants and Dodgers than they will to the Padres and Rockies.
22. Kansas City Royals (37-44) 23 â The Royals will make a mini-second half run and get to .500 sometime in August, providing at least some small hope for the third most-tortured fan base in baseball. At they can at least take solace in the fact that they’re still light-years ahead of the Cubs.
23. Philadelphia Phillies (37-47) 22 â Not only will the Phillies miss the playoffs this season, they’ll be hurting for the next five years unless Ruben Amaro Jr. does the only reasonable thing â trade both Hamels and Shane Victorino now to replenish a depleted minor league system.
24. Milwaukee Brewers (38-44) 24 â The Brewers should be looking to deal away every tradable asset they have, starting with Zack Greinke and Fernando Rodriguez. And when it’s all said and done, 2011 will be Milwaukee’s most successful season until at least 2020.
25. Seattle Mariners (35-49) 26 â Ken Griffey Jr.’s induction into the Hall of Fame as a Seattle Mariner will be the highlight of baseball in the great Northwest until the Mariners capture the AL West title in 2015 â at which point neither Felix Hernandez or Ichiro Suzuki will still be on the team. For this year, let’s go with 95 losses and call it a day.
26. Minnesota Twins (35-47) 27 â Since the idea here is “bold prediction,” I’ll go with the most unpopular prediction possible â before December 31, 2012, the Twins will trade Joe Mauer. I will now root for this to be wrong, because the good people in Minnesota deserve better.
27. San Diego Padres (34-50) 29 â Let’s group the last four teams together, and start here. Bold prediction number 1 â all four of these teams will lost at least 100 games this season.
28. Chicago Cubs (31-51) 30 â Bold prediction number 2 â none of these four teams will make the playoffs in 2013 either â in fact, none will even win 80 games next season.
29. Colorado Rockies (31-51) 28 â Bold prediction number 3 â the Rockies will be the first of this group to make the playoffs, doing so in 2014.
30. Houston Astros (32-51) 25 â Bold prediction number 4 â and this will be the last team from this group to get back to the playoffs, as they continue to curse Bud Selig for forcing them to move to the AL West.
Oh, and the Cubs will never, ever, win a World Series. I know â I’m really going out on a limb with that one, aren’t I?
Three series to watch this weekendâ¦
1) SFG @ PIT (7/6-7/8) â The Pirates have had a great week, while the Giants saw their hold on first place evaporate quickly in D.C. A series win here by the Pirates would be tremendous momentum heading into the All-Star break.
2) BAL @ LAA (7/6-7/8) â These would be your two AL Wild Card teams if the season ended today. These are also games the Orioles need a whole lot more than the Angels considering the respective difficulties of each team’s division.
3) NYY @ BOS (7/6-7/8) â Apparently these two teams don’t like each other? And this series is some sort of big deal? Who knew?
Check out Mike Ivcic’s weekly column, “The Tenth Inning,” every Monday and the weekly “Power Rankings” every Friday, only at ultimatecapper.com
Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org