Neal Shaffer: Some stretch run predictions

The non-waiver trade deadline traditionally marks the beginning of the home stretch for baseball season, which makes now a great time to indulge in the fun of making a few Orioles predictions. Of course, the usual disclaimers apply: I wouldn't bet on me being right so you shouldn't, either.

With that, here we go:

* Chris Davis will break the 50-home run mark, but not 60

As amazing a first half as that was we all knew he wasn't going to keep up the pace. The good news is he's already had an amazing year. The bad news is that I'm not sure where the rest of the team will make up for his drop in production.

* Manny Machado will be named team MVP

This kid is special in ways that we haven't seen around here since. .. maybe ever? I don't want to overdo it but he appears to be just that good. He's started relatively slowly in the second half but I expect him to close strong and solidify his place as one of the game's best young talents.

* Kevin Gausman does not have a white horse, and will not ride in on it

As much as I like him, I don't think he's ready, and thus I don't think he can be counted on to help with a stretch run. Maybe in the bullpen a la David Price a few years ago but even that won't likely make a huge difference.

* We're going to realize the need for Jim Johnson's replacement

All the signs are there, all the writing's on the wall. I love what Jim Johnson has done for this team but I have a hunch he's going to break our hearts a little bit. Nothing disastrous necessarily, but he's on the wrong side of the mountain.

* The O's will make the playoffs once again as a wild card ...

It's close, sure, and the team has holes. We could have said (and did say) the same things last year -- when they weren't as good as they are now.

* ... and they'll win a series this time

I'm not going to be so bold as to predict a World Series, but I think they can get in there and steal the first round (in addition to winning the wild card playoff). Maybe that's just my optimism coming through but, hey, why not?

Neal Shaffer regularly blogs about the Orioles at The Loss Column, and his work appears here as part of MASNsports.com's season-long initiative of welcoming guest bloggers to our pages. All opinions expressed are those of the guest bloggers, who are not employed by MASNsports.com but are just as passionate about their baseball as our roster of writers.

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