Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The MLB Midseason Slant For 2011 - CROSSFIRE!!!

We're getting caught up in it.
Wow, we're halfway done already? (Then again, it's really been 92 games...not 81 as the midpoint would truly be.) It seems like just yesterday when I was getting ready for my least favorite class in the whole wide world and I was checking the scores of the first season game. Three months, a few no-hitters, a divorce, and a slew of things later, we're nearing the All-Star Break. Some of the records are nowhere near surprising, whereas other teams are saying: "Wow, that was the best nap I've ever had."
Well, in case if you guys aren't exactly keeping up with the other teams among the leagues, I'm here to help.

Let's do this crazy thing.


East Division

Boston Red Sox (55-35) - Now, whoever doesn't expect these guys and the Yankees up top should be beaten with a stick. These guys have proven themselves to be the biggest offensive force in baseball. With powerhouses like newcomer Adrian Gonzalez (who is an MVP candidate at this point), David Ortiz, and well...the rest of them, expect problems for pitching staffs everywhere. Speaking of pitching, lack of Daisuke Matsuzaka hasn't been that big of a deal as of yet. Pitchers Jon Lester and Josh Beckett have been holding their own behind the bulldozing offense.
New York Yankees (53-35) - The Yankees have a well-built team that can duke it out with the rest of them. Of course, they have to have just as powerful an offense as the Red Sox in order to keep up. Along with Yankee hitting king Derek Jeter, the team has been near the tops in hitting (leading the majors in home runs), and pitchers like Sabathia, Colon, Burnett, and Garcia, the Yankees have been showing their too-well-known quality of being a "well-rounded team." The thing I wonder about now is what the heck the Yankees are going to party about now that Jeter is over 3,000 hits. Ha.
Tampa Bay Rays (49-41) - I always feel bad for the Rays, because even though they do so well, they're often overshadowed by the guys up north. They're about as good as you could ask them to be. James Shields and David Price are stellar pitchers as always, and a lot of the hitters hit for average (i.e. Johnny Damon, Casey Kotchman, Matt Joyce, B.J. Upton) which accounts for their always-present small ball tactic. Although I don't see them winning the division, there's a good chance you will see them play the upset in Wild Card contention.
Toronto Blue Jays (45-47) - Ohhhhh Caaaaanadaaaaa, your only baaaseballlll teeeeeeeam... So, while I continue singing like an idiot, these guys shouldn't be counted out, either. Sure, Jose Bautista is giving them a lot of attention, but aside from that, they're just an average team waiting to burst out in fury. I mean, don't get me wrong, Jo-Jo Reyes has a really bad reputation for being really bad, but the rest of the pitching isn't half bad at all. Every team is entitled to have their good days and bad days...they honestly have an equal amount of them. I don't think that will continue for much longer.
Baltimore Orioles (36-52) - After starting out 6-0, they certainly started lying to us. Some people actually thought this group of folks were going to make it after all. Grant it, they get A's for effort, but the lack of team sync and consistency really isn't helping their cause to not have a losing season. What else am I supposed to say about them? Camden Yards is pretty...uhhh....Vlad Guerrero...yeah, I think that's enough. Have a good second half, kids.

Central Division

Detroit Tigers (49-43) - Now here's a good hitting team where the pitching is lucky to be saved most of the time. The only pitcher that is an exception to that rule is Justin Verlander, and that's not saying much. A lot of the bigger names like Magglio Ordonez have been injured for a good part of the half, but for now, a lot of guys are holding the fort and making a good run toward the finish line. Once the bullpen gets a good rest and gets bolstered a little bit, they can be the heavy favorite to win the AL Central.
Cleveland Indians (47-42) - Holy guacamole, Manny Acta, what the heck happened to you that you're actually having success with your team? I don't get it. Even though a rocky June cut off a red-hot first place run, these guys are going to be in the race for postseason the whole way through. While hitting can be shaky at times, the pitching has the tendency to make up for it. Let's put it this way--the wins are often close. Asdrubal Cabrera is the next hot shortstop. Believe that.
Chicago White Sox (44-48) - Is it safe to say that the pitching staff worries me a little bit? Not the bullpen, the rotation. They look awfully shaky to me. Even Mark Buerhle. They're going through a bit of a rough patch at the moment, but until the starting rotation works in unison with the offense, life will be good. With the look of their schedule, the second half isn't going to be very easy on them, so if they don't make the playoffs this year, don't be surprised.
Minnesota Twins (41-48) - Grant it, these guys haven't been doing that bad, they're just losing some really tough games amid everything else. The starters are very hot and cold, and the lack of run support during crucial parts in the game is really killing them. I don't really see much success in the future, but there's a good chance they can pick up the pace with a couple of home series coming up for them. They're not what you would call "road warriors."
Kansas City Royals (37-54) - If there's a team I can give the "Ultimate Inconsistency Award" to, it's these guys. Neither side is really on the same page, if anything. Grant it, they have a good hitting team. They really like to hit for average (you can bet on that if their team average is around .265, which is Top 5 in the majors) but at some times they just don't like showing up to the extent of wanting to save their pitchers' backsides by scoring more runs. I'm telling you, this team does not suck...they're just...tired, I guess.

West Division

Texas Rangers (51-41) - Can I get a "whooaaaa hot bats?" You can't expect anything other than that when it comes to the Rangers. The only problem I see is the bullpen numbers, and that's the reason why Texas' pitching stats as a whole don't look that formidable. Also, one minor problem is their troubles away from home. They're under .500 in away games, and absolute monsters at home. Things need to get better out yonder, y'all. (yeehaw) As the World Series runners-up, they look to go back and take it this time.
[RIP Shannon Stone]
Los Angeles Angels (50-42) - The Angels certainly have the pitching to be a total threat. Jered Weaver and Dan Haren have been absolute monsters. Don't count the offense out, though. Guys like Howie Kendrick and Eric Aybar have stellar averages. However, not a lot of these guys have played over 75% of the season thus far. And to be honest, some of the absences have made a difference in whether plays were made or not. As long as the team stays healthy as a whole, we're going to have one heck of a race in the AL West.
Seattle Mariners (43-48) - This is the saddest statistic I've seen in a long while: Doug Fister is 3-10 with a 3.06 ERA. I think we can figure out what the Achilles heel is on this team: The team is injury-ridden, and they're not hitting very well at all. There's only about four guys on the team that are hitting above .260, and it's showing when guys like King Felix are out on the mound. In the ten years since the Mariners won over 100 games, I think it's about time for an extreme makeover for this team.
Oakland Athletics (39-53) - In seeing this record, you would have no idea how good their pitching actually is. They're tops in the American League in ERA, but the offense won't let you see that, because they're near the basement in batting average. A change in hitting personnel may be necessary for these guys, because it looks like they're having a hard time seeing the ball in a league where the hitting is usually more formidable than pitching and where the designated hitter is implicated. C'mon.


East Division

Philadelphia Phillies (57-34) - A lot of people expected this especially after the shocking acquisition of Cliff Lee in the offseason. Now with what is called "The Four Aces," these guys have pitching powerhouses, which comes in especially handy when it comes to their common slumping offense. With having the best record in the majors, you wouldn't think they'd be near the bottom in batting average, but they are. Thank Roy, Cliff, Roy, Cole, and the other guys that pitch in the five spot.
Atlanta Braves (54-38) - The Braves are what you call a good team that can annoy everybody. Although slumping hitting and injury have been quite contagious, they have been quite consistent and keeping tempo with their rivals with strong pitching from guys like Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, and Derek Lowe. These guys are going to be real contenders if they stay strong throughout the rest of the season; you might be seeing these guys giving playoff teams real troubles in the future.
New York Mets (46-45) - Curse you, Bernie Madoff, you're ruining everything! Not really. Jose Reyes has been red-hot as of late, and the strong small ball being played has been effective. It's tough not being able to win a lot of games at home, but when they can, they get the job done away from home. The controversy surrounding the team hasn't exactly been the best for the team fanbase, but at this point, they're not out of the race if they keep up their strong run that started after interleague play.
Washington Nationals (46-46) - I really hate to put it this way, but it seems like these guys have a hard time keeping their cool when it comes to a winning streak or something else productive. Even after acquiring all-rounded Jayson Werth by spending big bucks this past December, their offense doesn't look as consistent as it should be right now. Because of that, their pitching doesn't win very much, and they look like bird droppings more than they really should. This team is a chemical imbalance at it's finest. Patience is a virtue, dear offense. Stop striking out.
Florida Marlins (43-48) - After chasing out Edwin Rodriguez and acquiring the oracle-aged Jack McKeon, the fish are trying to make up for lost time and regain ground in the East. However, with ace Josh Johnson struggling with injury, it hasn't been easy on the team morale. Although they've been picking up the pace since the new management came through, it's going to take a lot to climb up the mountain of insane pitching in the NL East.

Central Division

St. Louis Cardinals (49-43) - Amid a few speed bumps and bruises, these guys are cruising along in first place with the Brew Crew. It sucks that they lost pitcher Adam Wainwright to Tommy John Surgery, but the rotation has been fairing well without him and haven't missed a big beat yet. Pujols, Berkman, and Holliday have been a terrible threesome, and the team as a whole is going to be a big force to knock off in the NL Central.
Milwaukee Brewers (49-43) - Wow...33-14 at home. Good going, guys. This is the kind of team where they get hit hard, but then hit back even harder through small ball. A big plus for this team is that they've stayed pretty healthy and have had good backups when accidents have happened. For a team that went through a lot of rough business last year, this is a good sign that they're going to be the team to beat in the Central. I know, I sound contradicting, but they're going to be a good matchup against the Cards.
Pittsburgh Pirates (47-43) - Whooaaaa. For those who did not expect this, it's okay--you're not the only one. To not have a sub-.500 team after so many years is a nice breath of fresh air for these guys. It seems like everything is going right stats-wise for this team and now PNC Park is filling rather well. Can we beat the losing streak here?
Cincinnati Reds (45-47) - The main problem with this team is their rotation and bullpen. They have troubles with giving up the long ball, ergo the high ERAs among the team. However, the offense is still trucking through the pitching woes, as 2010 MVP Joey Votto is still pumping out great numbers. Although they're 4th in the majors in runs scored, they're not keeping the leads for very long. It's good to see the ball and everything, but it's not good when the other team does against the pitching.
Chicago Cubs (37-55) - What the Cubbies are currently going through is a mix of stuff: injuries, awkward fielding issues, minor pitching adjustments...that kind of stuff. They currently lead the majors in errors (WOO! Good job, guys!) and their disabled list is never really...empty, per se. At this point, it's all-or-nothing, and they need to get healthy. Games have gotten very ugly at Wrigley Field, and there's only so much pain that faithful fans can take in one sitting.
Houston Astros (30-62) - And here we are folks...our basement team thus far. When neither of your starters have more wins than losses, you know you've got a problem. There really isn't anything wrong with the hitting...their starting rotation is just beyond crap. I hate to put it that way, but it's kind of true. Not much more to say but to have fun, Houston.

West Division

San Francisco Giants (52-40) - It looks like the defending World Series champs are back at it again with their determination and their grit in conquering the NL West. Although the pitching hasn't been at it's strongest as far as the health of their rotation goes, they're still within the Top 10 in the majors, and they're making up for offensive slumps that may affect this team. Injuries to big players such as Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey have made a big dent in their team batting average, but other guys like Freddy Sanchez and Nate Schierholtz have been hitting relatively well. Can they go back-to-back this year? If they remain steady this second half, their chances are good.
Arizona Diamondbacks (49-43) - No joke, these guys have been surprising a lot of people as of late. Although their pitching isn't exactly "tops" due to injury among other things, their offense can get really hot and can save the pitching when absolutely necessary. In looking at their scores, they rarely win games with a lead of more than three runs. Heck, no wonder why J.J. Putz is in the top 10 in saves. In a division that is not offense-heavy like this, they are holding their own. However, if they aren't careful, the second half may not be kind to them unless they search for stronger starting pitching during the trade period.
Colorado Rockies (43-48) - I think "Ubaldomania" is officially over. Heck, he's actually on the trading block right now. While both hitting and pitching staffs are below average in their stats, the usual suspects like Todd Helton are still kicking and shining. This is another team that is being attacked by the accident/injury bug, and they don't seem very comfortable playing in any ballparks other than their own. Then again, Colorado is a huge second half team. They could really make a comeback within the next two months.
Los Angeles Dodgers (41-51) - This is a team where you think to yourself that it's a really good team as a whole. Not really...it's just a couple of guys carrying the team on their backs and everyone else is just watching the McCourt divorce business and wondering how the team is going to fare out financially. This really isn't a home run-hitting team at all; Matt Kemp has more home runs than the rest of the team combined (dead serious). This is just a team with a bad reputation that is hurting right now. It's a shame they don't have a longer break. Stuff could get fixed up over time.
San Diego Padres (40-52) - After the loss of Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox, there's not much saving these guys at the moment. The hitting hasn't exactly been the same--then again, it really wasn't before that, either. The lack of offense makes the pitching staff look weak, even though they rarely give up home runs, let along any runs at all. Trades need to be in the future in all categories. A revamp of the offense is absolutely necessary at this point in time. It might not make a world of difference, but it could at least prepare them for next year.

And that about does it here for the midseason slant. I love doing these, and hopefully I'll get to do more if the lockouts end. (Pretty please, NFL?)
Every division has a tight race between two or three teams. Hopefully these stand and we'll get to see some really exciting games in September. As for the other guys struggling behind, it's going to be hard to even find a spot in the Wild Card chase since all of the races are so close.

For now, we have the second half to look forward to. Who is going to reign supreme at the end of the September? We'll find out, for the fight is now on...



(All information was researched on MLB.com)

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