ST. LOUIS, MO: Albert Pujols #5 of the St. Louis Cardinals flips the ball to first base against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Cardinals beat the Diamondbacks 7-6. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
It's weird that only one division in baseball has six teams. It's the kind of thing you don't think about until you're doing a batch of stupid predictions for each team in baseball. Somehow it doesn't seem fair that the Cardinals have to compete with five different teams in one division, while the Angels only have to compete with three. Then again, the Angels would probably trade away Mike Trout if it meant that they could play the Cubs and Astros 35 times a year in addition to the A's and Mariners, so it probably evens out a bit. Here are second-half predictions for each team in the NL Central.
Milwaukee will win the NL Central
They've already proven that they'll trade any prospect they have in their system for help. And though they don't have a lot of prospects left, they're going to put a "Team Seeks Prospect" ad on Craigslist, throw a burlap sack over his head when they meet him in the parking lot of a Burger King, and trade the crap out of him.
With J.J. Hardy signing an extension, and Jose Reyes looking like he's staying with the Mets for the rest of the year, there aren't a lot of options for the Brewers to upgrade their biggest weakness, but they could still go for a guy like Jamey Carroll, who isn't a world-beater, but is also tied for the league lead in not being Yuniesky Betancourt.
Colby Rasmus goes to the Rays in a deal for Jeff Niemann
Cardinal fans will mostly hate the deal until Dave Duncan does his sorcery, and Niemann becomes one of the better pitchers in the rotation. The Cards are supposed to covet Jeremy Hellickson, but the Rays won't give him up. With John Jay ready to play center -- and possibly hit better than Rasmus right out of the gate -- St. Louis will feel comfortable dealing the scourge of La Russa. Niemann will fill in for Jake Westbrook, who just allowed a home run as you were reading this.
Also, when Rasmus leaves the clubhouse, he'll turn around and do that thing where you use both hands to make middle fingers, move your arms up and down, and make a loud "PHBBBBT" sound.
Pittsburgh will finish .500
Finishing at .500 or better since Barry Bonds left after 1992 would be a huge deal, even if they don't win the division. The reason it's so important is because of The Pirates Haven't Finished at .500 or Better Since Barry Bonds Left Theorem, which posits:
The Pirates haven't finished at .500 or better since Barry Bonds left. Cripes
Just think about that. The SNES was the hot gaming technology. Michael Keaton was still Batman. Windows 3.1. That was the world the last time the Pirates won more games than they lost.
They'll do it this year because Andrew McCutchen is a bad, bad man (which is good!), and because even though the pitching staff will leak oil into September, they'll still be just good enough to finish 81-81.
Dontrelle Willis will pitch his way into the Reds' rotation for 2012
He's thrown only six innings since being recalled, walking four, which seems like the Dontrelle that teams cut over and over again. But the 2.4 BB/9 ratio in AAA was the best he's had at any level since 2005. If he has any semblance of his command back, he'll impress more than the Bronson Arroyos and Edinson Volquezs of the rotation.
Also, here's a list of other pitchers likely to impress more than Bronson Arroyo and Edinson Volquez for the rest of the season: Matt Maloney, Sam Malone, Sam LeCure, Robert Smith from The Cure, and Jose Canseco on two days' rest.
The corollary to this prediction is that Volquez doesn't find his command in AAA this year, leaving him questionable for a rotation spot next spring.
Randy Wells will tun 29
On August 28, Randy Wells will have his 29th birthday. This event will signify that 29 years have passed since he was born. Marlon Byrd will get him a card. After three hours staring at a Baseball-Reference page, this was the most interesting thing I could find for the Cubs, and it wasn't especially close.
If you go to said Baseball-Reference page, don't look at the stats for the starting pitchers without a lead shield. If you're lucky, the stats will only make you sterile without one, but there's serious potential for greater harm. Another prediction is that the starting rotation beyond Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza improves because, brother, they can't get worse.
The Astros trade Michael Bourn and Hunter Pence for a pretty sweet haul of prospects
Rather than risk losing the two outfielders after next year, the Astros will trade them at peak value, getting back all sorts of goodies from the Indians, Rangers, Red Sox, or Braves. The resulting lineup for the Astros will be fascinating -- just not in a baseball way. It will be a total "Boxing Helena"-type train wreck, and possibly the least-qualified lineup of the decade. You'll tell your kids about the Bourgeois / Barmes / Lee / Wallace / Johnson / Sanchez / Bogusevic / Quintero lineup, and your kids will stop acting like spoiled brats because your tale will frighten them.
Also, the Astros will reacquire Bill Hall just so they can have the satisfaction of releasing him again.