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The stories you'd be reading if the first half didn't exist

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If the season began after the All-Star break, we'd think the Padres and the Rays were on a collision course for the World Series, among other silly things.

This is an annual tradition. Every year, I remind you how horrible April is for baseball fans. It's a confusing, stupid time. Your brain wants to identify patterns, cut through the sample size and extract meaning from 20 or 30 games. Every time, you look back and wonder what you were thinking.

Oh. I guess Brandon Crawford isn't going to hit 30 homers this year. Okay. My bad.

To highlight how horrible April is, it's time to see what kind of stories we would be writing and reading if the first half didn't exist. It's been a month since the All-Star break. Let's see what kind of objective truths we would have convinced ourselves if the first half didn't exist. (Here's 2012, and here's 2013, by the by.)


Sample headline if the first half didn't exist:

Mike Trout, Bryce Harper finally equals

Sample hot take:

We figured this would happen. But we figured it would be because Bryce Harper started dominating pitchers the way Mike Trout did. We didn't anticipate Trout hitting down to Harper's level.

But that's where we are. Trout is something of a low-average, low-contact slugger now, hitting .240/.322/.452 with 35 strikeouts (!) in 104 at-bats. Harper is more of a bat-control guy for the moment, with a higher average and OBP, at the expense of dingers (.270/.359/.427). Both of them are still valuable. Both of them have bright futures. Trout's otherworldly start to his career jacked up expectations for both Harper and himself, though, when we just would have been impressed with a full season of what they're doing so far this season.

We had a feeling that Trout wasn't going to get better, but I'm not sure if we expected him to get worse, with Harper ever-so-slightly pushing past the Angel early this year. Just know that even if they don't improve a lick this season, they're still magnificent, young players, and there's still a reason we can't bring up one without the other.

Photo credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports


Sample headline if the first half didn't exist:

Billy Hamilton isn't a Major Leaguer

Sample hot take:

They say you can't steal first.

They were right.

They usually are.

Billy Hamilton is a track star dressing up as a baseball player for Halloween. Except the trick is on us.

The Man of (Caught) Steal is hitting a cool .190. Don't worry, though, with his keen eye, he's got a .212 on-base percentage, too.

That's just not getting it done.

When he does get on, it's not like he's doing his job, either. He's stolen six bases ... in nine attempts.

That's a 66-percent success rate. That hurts the team. Just like his 25 strikeouts in 100 at-bats. He has a 75-percent success rate ... of making contact. Even in the swing-happy '10s, that's far too much whiffing.

He can play a mean center field. So can Endy Chavez. So can a million guys, some of whom can hit better than .190.

It's time for the experiment to end. The only thing faster than Billy Hamilton might be the plane that gets him back to Louisville. And yet that plane still can't move fast enough.

Photo credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports


Sample headline if the first half didn't exist:

The Baseball Gods are punishing the Tigers for the stupid Doug Fister trade because it was a stupid trade

Sample hot take:


Sorry, sorry. That's a sloppy, unprofessional lede. It's just that all offseason, I was confused about why the Tigers would trade an excellent starting pitcher with two years of team control left for a prospect. There is no team that's more win-now than the Tigers. They traded Fister, and within a month, Justin Verlander is ineffective and hurt. The Tigers are 12-16, already seven games behind the Royals. They've allowed 118 runs, putting them with the Astros, Twins, and Cubs of the baseball world.


Ugh, sorry, I'll dial it back. It's just that the only way this trade was going to look smart, even temporarily, was if Fister immediately got hurt and the Tigers immediately called up Robbie Ray because he was pitching so well. Even if that unlikely scenario were to happen, it's not like it would continue to happen. Fister's too good. He's the kind of pitcher who would make a playoff-bound team empty the farm in July. Now there's a chance that the Tigers will need to empty the farm in July for a starting pitcher.

By "empty the farm," I mean they would have to trade more than Robbie Ray. Because it's not like that guy is going to be the centerpiece of a package for a frontline starter. They'd have to trade ... I don't know ... their starting center fielder and another prospect to boot to get one of those guys.


Photo credit: Joe Robbins / Getty Images


Sample headline if the first half didn't exist:

The Padres are the best team in the NL, and you shouldn't be surprised

Sample hot take:

It's early, so early. You know that. I know that. But it's not too early to make some bold proclamations. I have one: The Padres are the best team in the NL, and you shouldn't be surprised. They've been good this whole time, but we weren't paying attention. They're 16-9, but their Pythagorean record is even better. The most surprising part is how they're doing it.

They're hitting.

Sure, Tyson Ross is one of the game's most underrated pitchers, but the rest of the rotation has been just okay. Jesse Hahn, Odrisamer Despaigne, Ian Kennedy, and Eric Stults all have ERAs between 3.00 and 3.94 -- for San Diego, that's good, but it's not great.

No, the real strength of the Padres is their offense. Yonder Alonso is becoming a star, hitting .421 since coming off the DL. Will Venable continues to be one of the best players in baseball that the rest of the world has never heard of, except he's putting up numbers that would look good in *any* park. You don't need the Petco disclaimer.

Tommy Medica ... Jedd Gyorko ... Seth Smith ... they're all hitting. Even if you figure a couple of them will fall back to Earth, that still leaves an impressive, solid lineup. After the offseason trade of Chase Headley, everyone figured the Padres would score four or five runs in 2014. Except they're doing even better without him, especially since his replacement, fictional character Yangervis Solarte, is hitting for power with more walks than strikeouts.

The Rays are baseball's best team, there's no question about that, and they'll eventually overtake the Orioles and roll the rest of the American League. But don't sleep on the Padres.

Never sleep on the Padres.

It's not like they're going to go on an extended losing jag, fall out of the race, and wonder if that early winning didn't do anything but screw them out of a protected draft pick in 2015. No, no. Unfortunate things like that never happen to the Padres.

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