By Matthew Kory
Consider this article a respite from your Biogenesis-laden lives. If you're not tired of hearing about Biogenesis yet [cue Yoda voice] you will be … you will be. It's not going away anytime soon. Luckily, suspensions and protracted legal battles are hilarious and always tons of fun! However, should you be among that small minority that prefers actual baseball -- you know, on a field, bats and balls, that kind of thing -- be happy, because there is still much of it to be played before we all collectively slip into the BBQ-and-bad-beer-induced coma that is professional football season.
What's more, the season has been a compelling one, not even counting illegal drug use, lawsuits, and constant contradictory media reports about both. The Orioles and A's have spent the first 100 games proving last season wasn't a fluke, the Red Sox have moved on from last year's Bobby Valentine-inspired disaster just fine, the Yankees and Phillies dynasties are at various stages of falling apart (drama!), and the Pirates have the best record in baseball. The Pirates. Have. The best record. In baseball. For real. If that doesn't grab you, spin you around, and slap you with a fish, then maybe baseball isn't your bag.
Of course, the Pirates haven't won anything yet. There are about 50 more games to go and many things will happen. Here are some guesses at what some of them will be.
1. The Red Sox and Rays will come down to the last day of the season. Again.
The Red Sox have the best record in the American League through Sunday's games, and yet their lead on the Rays is a single game. The Rays would lead the Central-leading Tigers by a game and the West-leading A's by two games, were they in those divisions, but sadly for them (and for the Red Sox) they aren't. The Sox weren't expected to be where they are, primarily because of their starting pitching, yet their starters have the third-best ERA in the American League. The Rays weren't expected to be where they are primarily because of their hitting, yet they've scored the sixth-most runs in the American League. That's admittedly not lighting the world afire, but it's respectable enough, especially considering their pitching has been excellent (their starters are second in the AL in ERA).
The Rays bolstered their pitching at the deadline by getting Jesse Crain (who should help as soon as he gets healthy), while the Red Sox grabbed Jake Peavy and Matt Thornton. The Rays also got David Price back. In short, neither team is going anywhere. If either were in a different division they'd be the front-runners, but since they have to share space, we the fans will be treated to a race. And since they're so close in talent level, it should come right down to the wire.
2. Chris Davis will hit more doubles than Manny Machado
This would have been a more dangerous prediction a month ago when Machado had 38 doubles in 83 games. Now he has 40 doubles in 111 games, so it's considerably less dangerous and possibly even somewhat safe. Yet I'm still making it! Over those last 30 or so games Chris Davis has slowed down too, hitting .211/.294/.500 with seven homers and five doubles in July, for 30 doubles total. Machado is an amazing talent, the kind of player most teams would love to find first overall in the draft, let alone third where the Orioles selected him, but he's only 21 years old and this is his first full season in the big leagues. He may be wearing down. Meanwhile, Davis, 27, appears to coming back to Earth after a Ruthian first few months, but even back on Earth, Davis is very good. He's probably not going to out-double Machado on the season -- that ship has sailed -- but over the last 50 games, the prediction here is that he will.
3. An umpire will miss an important call
We all know it's coming. It's like handing the keys of your new sports car to a 16-year-old boy and saying, "The only problem with the car is the stereo is locked on the heavy metal station and the volume is broken at 11. There is a bunch of beer in the trunk, I'm not sure how much, but don't drink it. I'm going to bed, but be back by 1 am, or later if you feel like it. Okay, here's $1,000 in unmarked bills. Have fun!" Something bad is going to happen and it doesn't take an expert to see it.
The umpires are being tasked with doing things they shouldn't reasonably be asked to do. It's just unfair to expect them to be able to discern the location within a quarter inch of a 95 mph fastball, to make all the safe/out calls on the bases correctly, as well as any number of other judgment plays that shouldn't be judgment plays (did he trap the ball, etc.). An umpire is going to make a mistake, it's going to be big, we're all going to know it immediately, and it's going to happen at a vital time. The only fail-safe here is increased replay. We need it yesterday. The calls need to be correct. Twenty-first century baseball demands it, and if we don't know it now we'll know it immediately after some team gets jobbed and the umpire, who shouldn't have been put in that position in the first place, gets blamed.
4. Jim Leyland will forget and walk out to the mound to remove a pitcher with a lit cigarette in his hand. The umpire will come over to reprimand him whereupon Leyland will eat it and feign ignorance. At this point I will purchase a Leyland jersey.
5. There will be at least one more significant trade.
Last year the Red Sox and Dodgers pulled off a blockbuster trade, sending Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Josh Beckett (and Nick Punto) to the Dodgers. This deal was amazing on the face of it, but what made it even more surprising was that it came after the July 31st trade deadline. The deadline is a big deal in baseball, but its expiration doesn't mean no more deals can be made. It just means making deals is more difficult, but they are certainly possible, as the Red Sox and Dodgers showed.
Each year players who impact the postseason races, and indeed the postseason, are dealt in August. Last season it was Crawford, Gonzalez, and Beckett. In 2011 it was Mike Gonzalez, Aaron Hill, and Jim Thome. In 2010 it was Brian Fuentes and Derrek Lee. In 2009 it was Scott Kazmir, Billy Wagner, Ivan Rodriguez, and Carl Pavano. Every year good players get traded in August. It'll happen again this season too.
6. The Pirates won't finish with the best record in baseball
This one is actually a pretty easy guess to make and it has nothing to do with the Pirates. This question boils down to picking the Pirates, or any one other team (consisting primarily of the Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, A's, Cardinals, or Braves). I'll take the field -- and if you singled out any member of the above, I'd take the field against them as well.
7. The Royals won't realize trading Wil Myers was a mistake, will finish out of the playoffs anyway.
It's looking increasingly like the eight-to-10 year plan is going to take eight to 10 years, which, it occurs to me, might be the rationale for trading Myers in the first place. What's the point of having good, young, cost-controlled talent around if it won't be there in 10 years when you finally have a good team on the field? Justification!
8. The Marlins will finish with the fewest runs scored since… 2010? Aw, disappointment!
As of Sunday, August 4, the Marlins were on pace to score 521 runs. That would be 60 worse than the lowest scoring Marlins team of all time*, not that there are that many to pick from.
* That would be the 1993 iteration, a team with one starting player with an above average OPS+: third baseman Gary Sheffield.
The lowest scoring team since 2003 is the 2010 Mariners, who managed a paltry 513 runs. The 2003 Tigers scored 591, which is also bad, while also being a nearly impossible height for the 2013 Marlins to reach. If the Marlins can (not) beat the Mariners, then you have to go all the way back to 1995 before I get tired of looking.
As I noted in the article linked above, the 1962 Mets scored 617 runs while the historically execrable 1899 Cleveland Spiders, owners of baseball's worst record of all time (20-134), scored 529 runs. So there are still some milestones the Marlins may be able to fail to reach this season, even if they do end up out-scoring the 2010 Mariners.
9. Ben Revere will not hit a home run.
It helps that he's on the disabled list, as it is nearly impossible to hit a homer on the DL. I believe Barry Bonds did it once, but Ben Revere isn't Barry Bonds. In this case Barry Bonds isn't even Barry Bonds, because I just made that fact up. Anyway, Revere is as likely to homer from the DL as off it, which is to say not at all likely.
10. A-Rod will do something or nothing. People will flip the heck out.
Matthew Kory is an author at Baseball Prospectus, a writer at SB Nation's Over The Monster Red Sox blog, a stay-at-home dad, and the author of the books "How Dare I: An Unauthorized Autobiography" and "The Best Things In Life Are Stolen Which Is Why You Just Paid For This Book," neither of which will ever be published. He lives in Portland, Ore.