baseball icon*Well, we’ve all finally stopped laughing at the image of Prince Fielder steaming around second base to stretch that All-Star game hit into a triple … so with that image still fresh and rumbling in our minds, let’s break down four big storylines that will dominate the second half of baseball.

Miguel Cabrera will be named the American League’s MVP, not Chris Davis. Davis is, of course, on pace to be the first (supposedly) non-juicing player to hit over 60 home runs since Roger Maris. However, he’s bound to slow down at some point. We’ll peg his number at 48-52 – still pretty astonishing in this new pitching-dominated era. However, the wondrous career of Miguel Cabrera is going to bring him a second straight MVP. Figure that he’ll lead the league in average and RBI and carry the Tigers into the playoffs. That should be more than enough for the hardware.

The Pirates and the Red Sox both make the playoffs. Their October appearances will be a surprise, for different reasons. Pittsburgh hasn’t made the playoffs since the first Bush administration; their 1990s and 2000s were an unending parade of mediocrity. This year – powered by a better-than-average starting lineup, rookie flamethrower Gerrit Cole and a very good bullpen – they’ll have more than enough to claim one of the Wild Card spots. Boston has been one of the league’s most successful franchises over the past decade, but their 2012 collapse was one for the horror books. What was thought to have been a rebuilding year has instead brought out the best record in baseball, thanks to the steady leadership of manager John Farrell and the rejuvenations of John Lackey and David Ortiz. They’ll take a loaded American League East.

The Yankees and the Nationals do not. These two big-budget franchises are due to sit out the postseason for a year. New York is stapling together a patchwork lineup, one that the creaky bodies of Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter can’t really save. They’ve done well to stay in the race so far, but their lack of depth is starting to catch up with them. Look for a big second-half falloff. The Nationals are similarly injury-ravaged, and some of their pitchers look to have taken a step backwards; they won’t have enough to catch up to the more talented Braves.

Some big names will fall to the Biogenesis scandal. Major League Baseball seems out for the blood of the players implicated in the scandal (literally), and they’re not going to stop until they get names and headlines (). There’s some big names here whose suspensions could alter pennant races – Bartolo Colon of the Athletics, Jhonny Peralta of the Tigers, Nelson Cruz of the Rangers, Everth Cabrera of the Padres and Gio Gonzalez of the Nationals. It could be a huge factor as baseball enters into the second half of its season.