With Major League Baseball at its All-Star break and the midway point of the season (technically slightly past it), it’s time to revisit some preseason prop predictions made here at Doc’s.
Let’s start with the home run crown. Back on March 1, I wrote about the Sportsbook.ag player odds for most home runs hit this season, and the site has updated ones currently. In the spring, it listed the Miami Marlins’ Giancarlo Stanton as the +800 favorite and I wasn’t a big fan of betting on him. I didn’t doubt his power, but it wasn’t clear if the new Marlins Park was going to favor hitters or pitchers. And it turns out it does favor the pitchers as it ranks as the ninth-toughest park to homer in, according to ESPN.com’s park factors rate.
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Stanton struggled mightily to start the season, hitting just one homer in April. He followed that with a huge May – 12 dingers – but then cooled off again in June with five long balls. Now the question of whether Stanton wins the home run crown is moot because he’s out probably six weeks after undergoing knee surgery.
Toronto’s Jose Bautista was at +900 to win his third home run crown in a row, and I’ll admit I didn’t like him there, either, as it’s just so rare to win three straight even in your own league, much less in all of MLB. But there is Bautista tied with the Rangers’ Josh Hamilton with a big-league leading 27 homers. I really didn’t think Bautista would have enough protection in the lineup to possibly win another home run title, and in fact his presumed protection, Adam Lind, has been terrible. But now Edwin Encarnacion (23 homers, part of field at +1000) is hitting behind Bautista and he’s having a big season. Bautista still has been walked 55 times, which is the fourth-most in baseball. He is now the -250 favorite at the site.
I also didn’t like either Albert Pujols at +1000 or the Tigers’ Prince Fielder at +1200 because both were moving to pitcher-friendly parks and both would need time to adjust to the American League. Both have struggled, with Fielder hitting 15 bombs and Pujols just 14. Guys like Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond and Red Sox catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia have more than those two sluggers.
I didn’t mention Hamilton in my spring story and he’s a co-second favorite at +300. The guy is a stud, no doubt, and he’s playing for a monster new contract this offseason. Plus, you have to pitch to him in that loaded Texas lineup, and he plays in one of the most-friendly hitters’ stadiums in Rangers Ballpark at Arlington. But I just don’t trust Hamilton to stay healthy enough to win this title. Just Friday, Hamilton had to leave a game with lower back spasms and those tend to flare up again. Hamilton missed a three-game series with the Blue Jays in late April and early May because of back spasms, but he said they were in a different area. Hamilton also missed four games with an intestinal virus last month.
Also with Hamilton at +300 are the White Sox’s Adam Dunn and Brewers’ Ryan Braun. I loved Dunn in 2011 when he moved to the hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field, but he had one of the worst seasons of any player in baseball history. He has bounced back in a big way with 25 homers this season and is a heavy favorite for Comeback Player of the Year. When Dunn connects, it usually goes a long way and he’s also very durable – he’s obviously a lot less likely to get hurt now that he plays DH (Dunn did play in the outfield during interleague play).
Braun, meanwhile, seems to have helped clear his name in the wake of that reported failed drug test during last year’s playoffs. The reigning NL MVP has 24 dingers. I do think pitchers will start to go around Braun without having Fielder in the lineup behind him. Aramis Ramirez just doesn’t scare anyone. Plus, Braun has never broken the 40-homer barrier, so I can see him slowing down.
The guy I thought presented the best value in the preseason was the Rangers’ Nelson Cruz at +3000 off his epic ALCS performance last season vs. Detroit. Cruz has actually stayed healthy for the first time but has gone yard only 11 times, so he’s obviously out of the race. You can get him now at +50000.
The Yankees’ Curtis Granderson is tied with Encarnacion for fifth in the majors with 23 homers and Granderson is at +400. Yankee Stadium’s short right-field porch helps Granderson’s cause a lot as does the fact he hits in a stacked lineup. But he has only two homers since June 18.
My pick is Dunn. It’s hard to go against Bautista at this point, but his swing could easily be messed up by Monday night’s Home Run Derby. It has happened before: just ask Hamilton (2008) or especially former winner Bobby Abreu (2005).
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