Second Half Stories to Follow

Tonight’s games officially mark the beginning of the second half of the 2011 baseball season. While the first half provided fans with some great stories — such as Derek Jeter‘s quest for 3,000 hits, Jose Bautista hitting like Barry Bonds or the Pittsburgh Pirates march back to respectability — the second half of the season should provide closure to certain stories, while extending the narratives of others. With the second half of the season starting tonight, here — in no particular order — are some of the major stories to follow.

What the hell is going to happen to the Los Angeles Dodgers?

Fans of both the Dodgers and Major League baseball can only hope there is some sort of progress made here before the season ends. It’s become pretty clear that Frank McCourt has no desire to go quietly into the night, even though his recent attempts to prolong MLB from completely ousting him seem futile at best. Problem is, McCourt is going to do whatever he can to fight MLB for as long as he can, so fans may not see a resolution to the Dodgers’ ownership problems by the time the season ends. As the trade deadline approaches, it’s unclear how the Dodgers are going to proceed with so much uncertainty surrounding the franchise. Andre Ethier is already reportedly fed up with the team’s financial issues, and free agents could shy away from the team if this issue isn’t solved by the time the off-season rolls around.

What will Jose Reyes and Albert Pujols get on the free agent market and where will they go?

Due to his strong play during the first half, Jose Reyes’ contract has been a major topic of conversation recently. Lost in the shuffle — perhaps due to his injury — is Albert Pujols, who is also set to be a free agent once the season ends. While Reyes has grabbed the spotlight more recently, Pujols has been the best player in baseball over the last decade and should be in line for a major payday once the season ends. These two players will likely be the premier free agents on the market this Summer, and it will be interesting to see the rumors start to fly as the season reaches it’s end.

Who is the real AL MVP?

Through the first half of the 2011 season, Jose Bautista was easily the best player in baseball. Eric Seidman told you as much earlier today when he outlined Bautista’s dominance over his competition. For some reason, though, Adrian Gonzalez continues to gain supporters despite being worth nearly two wins less than Bautista. This issue will be another test of old-school vs new-school statistics, as Gonzalez’s case seems to be built around his team’s performance, RBI and other fun traditional stats that he has little control over. Let me make one thing clear though — the only way I’m voting for Gonzalez is if he ends up leading the league in OPSBIs.

Other stories that may just interest me.

– How will the borderline contenders — Cleveland, LA Angels, Pittsburgh and Arizona — proceed going forward? Who will go for broke at the trade deadline? Who will re-evaluate?

– Will the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds finally live up to their lofty pre-season expectations?

– How many wins will Jose Bautista actually be worth once the season ends? We could be in for a ridiculous number.

– How many 30-30 players will we have at the end of the year? Right now, Matt Kemp, Ryan Braun, B.J. Upton and Curtis Granderson are all on pace to reach the mark; while Ian Kinsler, Andrew McCutchen, Justin Upton, Carlos Gonzalez and Chris Young all have an outside shot at reaching the milestone with strong second halves.

– Will a starting pitcher post a sub-2 ERA? Jair Jurrjens and Jered Weaver are the only two pitchers who were able to carry a sub-2 ERA through the first half of the season.

Those are some of the stories worth following as the second half of the season begins tonight. This list is far from comprehensive, so let’s add to it. What will you be watching for in the second half of the season?



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Chris is a blogger for CBSSports.com. He has also contributed to Sports on Earth, the 2013 Hard Ball Times Baseball Annual, ESPN, FanGraphs and RotoGraphs. He tries to be funny on twitter @Chris_Cwik.


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jorgath
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jorgath

Who is the NL Rookie of the Year? Espinosa, Kimbrel, or Gee?

Evan
Member
Evan

Gotta be Kimbrel. Unlike Espinosa, Freeman, and Gee, Kimbrel has already established himself as one of the elite players at his position. He is leading the majors in saves and has video game-like strikeout numbers.

Friedman
Member
Friedman

should be espinosa.

he is far more valuable this year than kimbrel

kick me in the GO NATS
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kick me in the GO NATS
DavidCEisen
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DavidCEisen

Am I missing something? Kimbrel is 2nd in WAR.

Gee is at 1 WAR, Ramos is at 1.8, and Kimbrel is at 2. Espinosa is destroying them all at 3.8.

Shaun Catron
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Shaun Catron

LOL. Espinosa hasn’t established himself as one of the elite at his position?

baty
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baty

Seriously, let’s not loose sight … Espinosa is having a very fine season, even if you forget the fact that he’s a rookie.

But Kimbrel is absolutely dominating. His second half must finish the story, but in this case you have to throw WAR comparisons out the window… Kimbrel is obliterating his relief pitching peers of late, and if he somehow continues the trend, he deserves it hands down. I hate giving the nod to relief pitchers over a position player or starting pitcher for any talent/performance measurement, but there’s something to be said about awarding dominance over what people view as genuine value (WAR) in this case. He certainly doesn’t have anywhere close to as tough a job as any middle infielder but who cares… I agree with Evans, there’s still a huge difference between an elite performer and a very good performer, no matter how you look at it.

steex
Member
steex

Sure, there is something to be said for dominance, but there’s also something to be said for positional scarcity and volume of work. At the end of the year, Kimbrel will have dominated 70 innings of pitching in a similar number of games. On the other hand, Espinosa will have been very, very good for around twice as many games while playing the field for 9 innings and coming to bat 4 times. The overall value of the latter is far greater than the former in my mind, and I’d award the ROY in kind.

Hone
Guest
Hone

Espinosa easily

Person
Guest
Person

If we’re talking who will, not who should, and if you assume it’s one of those three:

If Kimbrel gets to 50 saves, he will.

If Kimbrel gets to 45 and Espinosa gets 30 HR and 100 RBI, it will be Espinosa. Otherwise, Kimbrel gets it.

If Kimbrel gets 40 saves, Espinosa probably gets there with his current pace (28 HR, 92 RBI), unless Gee wins 15+, when it might be Gee.

If Kimbrel somehow finishes with under 40 saves, unless again Gee wins 15+, it would probably be Espinosa even with something like 25 HR, 80 RBI.

Freeman, meanwhile, is a wild card: as a first baseman, he will need probably 3-5 more HR and 10-15 more RBI than Espinosa to pass him.

Also, Evan: You can certainly argue that Espinosa is an elite 2nd baseman, if you think Kimbrel is already an elite closer. In such a comparison, the fragility/inconsistency of relievers probably cancels out how early it is in Espinosa’s career.

kick me in the GO NATS
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kick me in the GO NATS

If Kimbrel gets it then the system is broken!!!!!

Nick
Member
Nick

Freddie Freeman should not even be in the discussion. The great white hope has produced less than 1 WAR (0.9), and ranks behind several players who haven’t played all year (Cory Lebuke 1.4, Allen Craig 1.4).

I just don’t understand how him being on a good team and hitting some homeruns justifies any discussion. He’s simply overrated.

One final point: his fielding has been worth -6.4 runs.

Rudegar
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Rudegar

Fielding? Where is the info from, and please don’t say UZR, which not only needs more than 1/2 a season of sample, but also is horrible at judging 1B d. Watching him daily, he’s a solid but not special fielder.

jim
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jim

kimbrel and venters are going to tie

Anon21
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Anon21

Jonny’s not a rookie.

jim
Guest
jim

i thought 100 IP was the cutoff? he only had 83 before this year

jim
Guest
jim

ah nvm, he got RoY votes last year, so i guess he is out…

UBIK
Guest
UBIK

Mildly Irrational Phillies Partisan over here, and I’d give it to Kimbrel without hesitation. Yes, Espinosa is good, but I ain’t ascairt of him.
Hell, I’m more ascairt of Weeks, or Phillips, or even Johnson than I am of Espinosa.
Folksy fan-psychology aside, I think there’s something to be said for looking at the impact (WPA if you prefer?) of Kimbrel vs Espinosa minus the automatic +2.5 that Espinosa’s WAR gets him. Kimbrel might be the best closer in the NL right now. I’m mildly shocked that he’s still a rookie, actually; it must of been one hell of a callup last year.
On the other hand, hell, give it to Jonny Venters. He’s pretty good too.

chuckb
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chuckb

“Hell, I’m more ascairt of Weeks, or Phillips, or even Johnson than I am of Espinosa.”

That’s because Weeks and Phillips are really f-ing good. That doesn’t mean that Espinosa’s not the ROY, however.

It’s too bad that fangraphs doesn’t have a stat for the ascart-of factor. I know that Jim Rice would have the highest career mark.

TheBigStapler
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TheBigStapler

While Gee has convinced me that he is a real major leaguer, I think he will continue to regress to the point where by September he will no longer be in the discussion.

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