It’s official: the winner of the American League is going to have homefield advantage again in the World Series. The AL won its fourth straight All-Star Game (and 16th in the last 20 years) by topping the NL 4-2 at San Diego’s Petco Park.
The current MLB system makes perfect sense. Why shouldn’t Eduardo Nunez have some impact on who gets homefield? Sure, his Twins are last in the AL, but it wouldn’t be very nice to exclude them altogether. At least, that’s what my mom would say.
Gripes about the All Star Game aside, the second half of the MLB season will get underway on Friday. Soon enough, we’ll learn definitively which five AL teams will crack the postseason field and have the chance to profit from the MVP performance of Eric Hosmer (gah, sorry, I swear I’m finished griping).
But waiting isn’t fun. Conjecture is fun, and it’s what brought you here. So let the SBD crew be your educated-guessing guide for all the major storylines in the MLB’s second half. From World Series futures to awards odds to managerial props, no rosin bag is left unsqueezed.
(Big thanks to Eric Thompson and Matt McEwan for the assist on this.)
MLB Second-Half Props 2016
Odds to win the 2016 World Series
Blue Jays: 16/1
Red Sox: 18/1
The Cubs looked like the class of the league for most of the first half, but parity is new paradigm. The North siders stumbled into the All-Star Break, going 2-8 in their last ten. But they remain the slight favorites thanks to a deep rotation and a lineup of mashers.
That said, does anyone really want to bet against Madison Bumgarner come playoff time? Plus, “Mad-Bum” might not even need to be Mr. Everything for the Giants the way Johnny Cueto is pitching.
Odds of winning their division
All of these teams have solid leads. The Rangers find themselves at the bottom just because of who’s chasing them, those pesky Astros.
Over/Under on how many teams currently occupying playoff spots will miss the postseason: 2.5 (under -115)
If the season ended today, the Jays and Red Sox would be the Wild Card teams in the AL, the Dodgers would have the first spot in the NL and the Mets and Marlins would be in a one-game playoff for the second berth. The Marlins won’t last, and the Mets are vulnerable. St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and LA are all within 2.5 games.
Over in the AL, the aforementioned Astros aren’t currently in the field. There’s a good chance that changes.
Odds on the next manager to be fired:
Bryan Price, Reds: 2/1
Brad Ausmus, Tigers: 5/1
Mike Scioscia, Angels: 8/1
Paul Molitor, Twins: 12/1
Joe Girardi, Yankees: 15/1
The sad Reds just keep being sad. They’re now barely above Atlanta for worst record in the majors. Price has shown nothing during his tenure to prolong his managerial life, unlike Molitor: his Twins are horrendous this year, but vastly surpassed expectations in 2015.
As for Scioscia, his great relationship with Angel ownership is well-known, but a last-place finish in the AL West isn’t going to sit well. It might finally be time.
Odds that no more managers are fired before the end of the season: 5/1
Odds Joe Girardi returns as the Yankees manager in 2017: 1/3
I don’t know why Girardi’s name keeps popping up in this context. He’s proven himself to be a great manager and has an aging and thoroughly average Yankee roster playing .500 baseball. Sure, Yankee fans want to see the team make the playoffs every year, but I have confidence that the front office recognizes that Girardi is doing what he can with the hand he’s been dealt.
Over/under on the number of ejections for John Gibbons post-All Star Break: 2.5
“Gibby” was ejected from six in the first half of the year. He’s not going to keep up that pace, but count on at least a couple more from the fiery Blue Jay skipper.
Awards and League-Leader Props
Odds to lead the MLB in home runs
Mark Trumbo: 5/2
Nolan Arenado: 5/1
Kris Bryant: 7/1
Edwin Encarnacion: 12/1
Josh Donaldson: 14/1
Giancarlo Stanton: 18/1
Todd Frazier: 18/1
Trumbo (28) has a three-homer lead on Frazier and Bryant at the moment. Donaldson, Encarnacion, and Arenado are all on 23. Stanton has a lowly 20, but we all know what he can do to baseballs, and it should qualify as some sort of assault crime.
Trumbo gets the edge thanks, not only to his current lead, but also his situation: he plays at home run-friendly Camden Yards and will continue to see quality pitches given the power in the Orioles lineup. Arenado, meanwhile, is a deserving second choice given what he did last year (led the NL in HRs with ) and the fact that he plays half his games in the rarified air of Coors Field.
I expect Frazier to tail off for two reasons: He’s never hit more than 37 in a season, and the Chi-Sox don’t have a fearsome lineup that will force hurlers to give him pitches to hit.
Odds of hitting 50 Home Runs
Mark Trumbo: 4/1
Giancarlo Stanton: 8/1
Nolan Arenado: 9/1
Kris Bryant: 9/1
Trumbo is the only slugger currently on pace for 50. Playing at Camden, and batting in a lineup that also features Manny Machado and Chris Davis, means he should continue to jack long balls. But his career high is just 34, and it’s tough for anyone to keep up a 50-homer pace over a 162-game season. Only two players have hit 50 dingers in the last eight seasons: Davis hit 53 in 2013; Jose Bautista had 54 in 2010.
The last NLer to reach the milestone was Prince Fielder all the way back in 2007.
Over/under on home runs for Giancarlo Stanton post-All Star Break: 21
Stanton is averaging a home run every 3.8 games so far. There’s a good chance he increases that pace a bit over the final 76 games, but don’t put too much stock in his preposterous home run derby showing. Also, don’t forget that he probably won’t suit up for every game.
Odds to win NL MVP
Kris Bryant: 5/1
Bryce Harper: 11/2
Clayton Kershaw: 13/2
Nolan Arenado: 7/1
Daniel Murphy: 10/1
A lot of people are giving Arenado a better shot than we are. The Rockies are a bad team. Voters never look at that favorably. Plus he plays at altitude, so his power stats have to be viewed in that context. Bank on this going to a guy from a contender. Don’t bank on Daniel Murphy continuing to be the Nats’ best player in the second half of the year.
Odds to win AL MVP
Josh Donaldson: 9/2
Mike Trout: 5/1
Jose Altuve: 7/1
Manny Machado: 7/1
Robinson Cano: 8/1
Just like last year, Donaldson and Trout are neck and neck. Just like last year, Donaldson’s Blue Jays are a playoff contender; Trout’s Angels have gotten much worse. Just like last year, that gives Donaldson the edge.
If Altuve can lead the ‘Stros to the playoffs after their horrendous start to the year, that’s going to garner a lot of attention.
Odds to win NL Cy Young
Clayton Kershaw: 7/5
Madison Bumgarner: 5/1
Stephen Strasburg: 5/1
Jake Arrieta: 6/1
Jose Fernandez: 9/1
Johnny Cueto: 9/1
Kershaw’s stint on the DL has deflated his chances somewhat. But he’s still having a historic season and remains the odds-on favorite. Kershaw’s dominance makes me empathize with Bumgarner and Strasburg; they’d both be huge chalk in the AL Cy Young race.
Odds to win AL Cy Young
Chris Sale: 5/3
Danny Salazar: 2/1
Steven Wright: 9/1
Cole Hamels: 15/1
Chris Tillman: 15/1
This is a two-horse race. Salazar (2.75 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 10.1 SO/9) has been every bit as good as Sale (3.38 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 8.9 SO/9) in the first half, but Sale has the stronger track record. Steven Wright actually leads the AL in ERA, but c’mon, Steven Wright is not winning the Cy Young. (Right??)
Odds to win NL Rookie of the Year
Aledmys Diaz: 2/1
Corey Seager: 2/1
Trevor Story: 3/1
This is going to be a fun award to monitor in the second half. Each one of these middle infielders has a legitimate shot. Story was the early fave thanks to his unprecedented power numbers out of the gate, but he strikes out like a young Screech Powers. If either Diaz (St. Louis) or Seager (L.A.) plays a key role in taking the Cards or Dodgers to the playoffs, that could tip the scales.
Odds to win AL Rookie of the Year
Michael Fulmer: 2/1
Nomar Mazara: 3/1
Dae-Ho Lee: 5/1
Fulmer and Mazara are both key pieces on contenders. Fulmer doesn’t have enough innings to qualify for the league-lead, but he’s only about ten short and his 2.11 ERA would top the AL. A similar second half will see the Tiger become the first pitcher to win AL ROY since Jeremy Hellickson in 2011.
Odds Alex Rodriguez reaches 700 home runs this season (currently at 695): 2/7
Odds Alex Rodriguez will pass Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list this season (714): 50/1
This one’s not happening anytime soon. First A-Rod has to win back a spot in the everyday lineup. Even then, he’d have to hit home runs at a pace he could never achieve, at least, not without a little “help.” He’ll break 700, but not by much. – Eric Thompson
Over/Under on when Ichiro Suzuki will get his 3,000th hit (currently at 2,990):
July 22: 20/1
July 23: 11/1
July 24: 13/2
July 25: 21/4
July 26: 11/2
July 27: 13/2
July 28: 17/2
July 29: 12/1
July 30: 20/1
July 31: 25/1
August or beyond: 18/1
Old man Ichiro doesn’t get to work like he used too, averaging just over two at-bats a game. That means, barring some insane production at the plate, his first real shot to reach 3,000 will come when the Marlins return to Miami for a ten-game homestand on July 22. Look for Don Mattingly to give his outfielder more work during that time, so he can break the record in front of Miami fans who will have little else to cheer for soon enough. – Eric Thompson
Over/Under on innings pitched for Clayton Kershaw post-All Star Break: 93 innings
Kershaw has averaged over 100 innings pitched post All-Star Break over his last six seasons. But you can’t set your watch to the normally reliable lefty this year, as he’s currently on the DL and the Dodgers aren’t sure when he’ll be able to resume starting.- Eric Thompson
Odds to be traded before the August 1st trade deadline
Jonathan Lucroy: 1/4
Jay Bruce: 2/5
Rich Hill: 3/7
Josh Reddick: 4/9
Carlos Beltran: 3/2
Danny Valencia: 5/3
Ervin Santana: 2/1
Yunel Escobar: 5/2
Aroldis Chapman: 4/1
Ryan Madson: 4/1
Andrew Miller: 12/1
Ryan Braun: 18/1
Carlos Gonzalez: 25/1
The odds on the Yankees waving the white flag are slim now that they’ve climbed back to .500 and are within 5.5 games of the final Wild Card spot. They have, arguably, the best bullpen in the majors, and Aroldis Chapman is the only member who becomes a free agent at the end of the season. The odds of Chapman re-signing are better than the Yankees trading him. If the Yankees do drop a handful of games over the next two weeks, Carlos Beltran would be the first on the list.
Although the Brewers are horrible, and should sell as much as they can, they may not be able to find any suitors for Ryan Braun’s hefty contract; teammate Jonathan Lucroy is a different story though. He’ll be a rental player shortly.
The Athletics are also in a position to start selling, but I don’t see Ryan Madson being too high on their list of players to deal. Rich Hill and Josh Reddick are both set to become free agents at the conclusion of this season; expect them to be suiting up for a contender over the last couple months of 2016.
In spite of the rumors, it wouldn’t make sense for the Colorado Rockies to trade away one of their best players who is still under team control beyond this season. They have a nice core that’s taking form, and the future looks bright. – Matt McEwan
Featured photo: bengrey (Flickr) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.