Monday, July 9, 2012

The MLB Midseason Slant for 2012 - All Banged Up

I seriously can't believe it.
We're halfway through the season and some of us are to the point where we're practically wheeling ourselves in.
Kudos to Cyanide and Happiness
At any rate, we've seen a lot of different races and chases, and many of them are good enough to have a theme song. Trust me, with some of the games I've watched, yes, Yakety Sax is completely necessary. Because I'm a kind person (and writing a good amount of this while away on my own vacation and asking Andrew to post this) here is the MLB Midseason Slant for 2012 with added Division Analysis Action!

(needs fireworks or something)
[Not a personal editing note for Andrew. Ha ha ha.]


Eastern Division

Analysis: Anybody who follows baseball can really tell that these standings are a massive flip-flop from over the past five years. New management, name changes, and injury have been a large asset in this division. Are they keeping up with the Joneses? Some of them are contenders, so absolutely.

Washington Nationals (49-34) – WHOA. Where did these guys come from? Ever since their trip from Montreal, they never really had a chance of anything, usually falling into 4th or 5th place in the East. This roster of underrated players has massive strength in their pitching as they lead MLB in ERA, opposition AVG, and WHIP. Of course there’s still time to go, but hopefully the young guns like Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg can keep up the fight and head into October for the first time in their inception.

Atlanta Braves (46-39) – Atlanta is about as average as average can be. Their power is pretty representative in their outfielders, and with Chipper Jones in his final year, the youth needs to pick up where he left off in the hot corner. Sadly, their loss of Tommy Hanson (MLB ERA leader) to Tommy John Surgery is going to be a thing to rebound from, as their pitching staff has been ailing in their own ways (no decisions, etc.). However, they can heat up in the second half without warning. Their chances are good.

New York Mets (46-40) – Smart hitting has certainly taken them very far. It’s not necessarily a total power-hitting team, but they are patient at the plate and can look at a lot of pitches. However, they can be rather streaky and have their little quirks here and there. The first quirk that comes to mind is their errant fielding. That can often screw up a good thing in a game. Based on pitching alone, R.A. Dickey is having a fantastic year and is looking to continue screwing up swings for the rest of his career. As long as there isn’t a massive collapse, they should be a good Wild Card team.

Miami Marlins (41-44) – Holy day-and-night-months, Batman! After having a fantastic month of May, they completely tanked in June (especially during Interleague play) and got bumped out of the first-place duel for now. While guys like Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Reyes are putting the ball in play, the pitching has been rather sketchy and problematic at times. Their loss of Mike Stanton to surgery could also prove to be a massive problem as well.

Philadelphia Phillies (37-50) – Again, WHOA. We haven’t seen them in this position since before their dynasty started. Plagued with injuries, this team has had major woes with pitching (loss of Halladay, bullpen is poor) as well as clutch hitting. Chase Utley and Ryan Howard may be back, but I doubt they could save the whole team. Who is the only shiny guy on this team right now? Carlos “CHOOCH” Ruiz. Other than that, get your act together, Charlie Manuel and Company. The axe could fall fast on the season.

Central Division

Analysis: This division has a knack of being tight in the first three to four spots or so and then a total deadbeat in the last few. Most of the teams in this league have their strength in numerous areas and it clashes into a fun race. Is there going to be a fun race until the end? Most likely. Poor 'Stros.

Pittsburgh Pirates (48-37) – These guys aren’t the best hitting team in the league (aside from Andrew McCutchen's brilliance, they're next to dead last in AVG.), but they have exceptional pitching in the rotation (Burnett, McDonald) as well as in their bullpen (Hughes & Grilli, to name a few). A winning season could be just what the doctor ordered at PNC Park. Unfortunately, these guys aren’t usually a second-half team and usually have a rough patch come August. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen this year. The guys need to add some smart hitting to complete the formula. It's really nice to see them leading the Division at the half for the first time since 1997.

Cincinnati Reds (47-38) – Dusty Baker’s team is faring out relatively well. Problem is, you can tell who the big names are and who aren’t based on the source of productivity of the team. That's not necessarily a bad thing though. Joey Votto is having another great year, and Johnny Cueto is pitching with style. This team rides on leader momentum, and they can make the NL Central race fun to watch if the lineup stays away from the DL.

St. Louis Cardinals (46-40) - This season, the defending World Series champs is a team that's fighting hard despite the numerous amount of players that have taken a trip to the disabled list. Their bats are contagious (Albert who?) and their pitching is decent as well. The loss of Chris Carpenter may put his future with the team in question, but his absence doesn't look like its affecting the Cards' determination to make another trip back to the Promised Land. In exchange, the rotation needs to remain strong.

Milwaukee Brewers (40-45) - Here's one of those teams that have their star players in offense and pitching and then the rest of the team more or less watches pitches and set up opportunity. Don't get me wrong, Their record doesn't show it, but guys like MVP Ryan Braun and Corey Hart are pushing the lower guys along and getting them across the plate. Pitchers like Zack Greinke (awkward MLB photo...) have been doing their job and have been trying to keep these guys in contention. There are a lot of guys on this team that can be given a chance to play; they all need to be consistent.

Chicago Cubs (33-52) – D’oh. I genuinely feel bad for these guys year after year. Even though they aren't at the bottom of the ladder, there are a lot of chinks in the Cubby armor. The hitting is often in bursts, and even though Ryan Dempster hasn't pitched a lot of innings, he's the only consistently effective pitcher on the team. I wouldn't completely give up hope on these guys, it's just that whatever they are doing right now isn't working.

Houston Astros (33-53) - I think this is the time where we start wondering how they're going to fare out in the different realm that is the AL West. Over the past two seasons or so, they've lost their bigger-named talent (Bourn, Pence) and they've continued this downward spiral. Their pitching isn't very good--Wandy isn't that bad though--and only having three eligible candidates hitting over .250 is a sign that there's a problem in Houston. (See what I did there?)

Western Division

Analysis: Here’s the awkward Western front. I feel bad for the divisions that have two good teams and the rest are usually under .500. You don’t automatically want to see a straight shoot to the postseason, but at this rate it could be that way. In a perfect world, you can see a classic shoot-out in the West that could go until the last week in September.

Los Angeles Dodgers (47-40) – Now that all of the divorce stuff is out of the way, it looks like the whole team and staff is officially back on track. On paper, it might seem that way. In reality, these guys have gone several games without Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier and you wouldn't know it based on their record. Their pitching has been excellent. You can't ask for anything better than Chris Capuano and NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw. If the team stays healthy, you have a great threat coming from the Old West.

San Francisco Giants (46-40) – It sucks to see guys like Tim Lincecum having problems at this point in the season, but on the other hand, guys like Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong are having strong outings regardless of the issue. In times past, their hitting hasn't been tops. This year, Melky Cabrera and comeback kid Buster Posey think otherwise. Their inner fire could really lift some other mini woes come second half. They could actually be a playoff team again this year.

Arizona Diamondbacks (42-43) - To me, Arizona has had a really wild hitting squad. I never really recognized them for their pitching. That actually stands here. Their team batting average is near the top in the National League, and it often makes up for sometimes shaky pitching. They're still a home run-hitting crew, as Jason Kubel, Aaron Hill, and Paul Goldschmidt have over ten pops a piece. I'd like to see the pitching surge in the second half; it could really pump up team morale and any chance to play extra baseball in the fall.

San Diego Padres (34-53) - Ladies and gentlemen, here's the National League team chilling in the AVG. basement. This is also a team that has become well-acquainted with the 60-day DL. Although they've always been known to have a pretty scary-looking bullpen, it doesn't prove to be that scary when it gets worn thin due to poor run support and the rotation doing their job to no avail. There is, in fact, a curse for these guys, but since I didn't mention the Cubs one, they're safe from that here. This could be another woeful season for them this year.

Colorado Rockies (33-52) – No, the wildfires aren’t the reason why they’re down at the bottom. Constant injury and poor pitching has really taken a toll on this once-threatening team. Although they are infamous for being a hot second-half team, we ask what kind of artillery is available that they could do this. Dexter and CarGo can only do so much with sub-par pitching, people. The team ERA is over FIVE. That would make anyone's brain explode at how the heck that happened.


Eastern Division

Analysis: This division has teams with a lot of uppers and downers. With new management and enough injuries to literally fill a whole hospital, there is something rotten in the state of the AL East. This is when you can tell the farm systems are incredibly effective in a pinch.

New York Yankees (52-33) - Even if you aren't a baseball fan, you should come to expect this at some point in time. Their hitting is strong. Derek Jeter is going for history this year. One thing is for certain this year: they're a home run team--the home runs keep flying out of Yankee stadium and that's how they're functioning. Their pitching has had their falls and injuries, but they're fighters, as most of their games are close. Expect them in October. They've had a good-working formula for years and years and years and it hasn't stopped working yet.

Baltimore Orioles (45-40) - Well this is something different to look at. Considering the fact that these guys are usually in the basement eating Cheetos, seeing a halfway decent lineup is a breath of fresh air. Although their pitching isn't the best, I'm an Adam Jones fan, so seeing him lead the team in AVG. is nice. They also got the home run bug too. That's fun to see. I'd like to see them make the Wild Card chase. Seriously.

Tampa Bay Rays (45-41)- At best, the team is so-so. I'm not overly impressed with their hitting, and their pitching is not working with enough run support. Their losses to the DL have been throwing things for a loop as well. Although their rotation is effective and their bullpen is strong as well, their hitting is not enough to keep these good pitching blessings intact. Health and a lineup that sees the ball consistently should be a good medicine for these boys.

Boston Red Sox (43-43) - Oh boy...Another injury-ridden team. Don't get me wrong, they're seeing the ball rather well, but it clearly isn't showing in the rough competition in the AL East. Their starting rotation isn't exactly the best in the league, and it leads to their hot offense to make up for those problems. Luckily the pitching isn't having a complete meltdown; the current injuries that the BoSox are dealing with could drain out the offense and make the team look like its amounting to nothing. The starting rotation needs to wise up before more woes happen on the team.

Toronto Blue Jays (43-43) - Let's play the game: "How Many Pitchers Have Been on the Disabled List So Far?" Seriously, it's been a rough first half for that in Canadaland. Although they're at .500 at the half, it hasn't been easy, and the AL East doesn't have a large margin for error. The lineup and hitting have been pretty steady for these guys, and just imagine what it would be like if there weren't so many pitchers dropping like flies. Health is key from this point forward.

Central Division

Analysis: This is usually one of the most exciting divisions in the league. Why is that, you ask? Because its always so tight, I have the hardest time analyzing who is actually going to win the division based on what qualities they have. There's always a good hodgepodge of talent located here.

Chicago White Sox (47-38)- They don't have the scary-looking records like the other league leaders, but this is one of the squads who have been more healthy than the others. Paul Konerko is having an excellent year, while this dude Chris Sale is drinking the tears of his victims on the mound. They're fun to watch (according to someone I know that has DirecTV) and their offseason deals have worked in their favor this far. They need to keep working the plate and bullpen a little more efficiently if they're going to keep the opposition at bay.

Cleveland Indians (44-41) - On paper, they don't look like the strongest unit, but it looks like y'all are in for a surprise. Smart plate appearances and small ball are working wonders for these boys. They have had kinks with pitching and the like, but they're making up for unfortunate events with close games and good streaks. I don't think that could last, but then again, teams with this formula have made it to October. Still, it would be good for them to have something to fall back on. Rotational pitchers should be on their to-do list before the trade deadline.

Detroit Tigers (44-42) - These guys are fun to watch too. Justin Verlander is having a good half as usual, and the hitting is doing their respective jobs. Although the loss of Victor Martinez may have shaken the team in the beginning, they're keeping strong and their fielding is holding up. Their hitting may only go so far though--if health is in the team's good graces, then we could see some fireworks in Detroit. You can't call this team 'average' even though they lie in the middle of the pack--they can sneak up on the lead in the second half.

Kansas City Royals (37-47) - I saw the starting pitching for this squad and literally winced. Bruce Chen is still playing?! Anyway, this is a case of a good offense, but worrisome pitching that could screw the whole team over. It literally has BoSox written all over it. Their offense is Top 5--excellent. They're way under .500--not very excellent. It seems like there are pitchers that either cant keep a lead or just dig a deep enough hole. It's rough.

Minnesota Twins (36-49) - As I was looking up stats for pitching, I noticed none of them were eligible for applicable ERA statistics. Aaaah injuries and blowups! Fielding isn't exactly the strongest, and a higher-than-average offense obviously isn't strong enough to get these guys out of the hole. At least Joe Mauer still has endorsements...right? In all seriousness, a good offensive team should not be sinking to the bottom like this. I do feel bad for them because they deserve more.

Western Division

Analysis: For being the smallest division in the league, there doesn't seem to be that much of a tightness there at all. There's just two teams over .500 and the others are picking their noses. The thing is, you shouldn't count the other guys out--there's always the Wild Card.

Texas Rangers (52-34) - Life can't get much better for these guys in first place. Although they don't have the most fearsome of pitching in the AL, their offense is what they're most known for. They have proven in this first half that they don't always need the long ball to win games (don't tell that to Josh Hamilton--we like him the way he is) and that if the pitcher has a rough game, there's always a chance for the blow to be softened. The team is in a good age right now. They'll be giving the league a run for their money for a while now.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (48-38) - One thing I always liked about these guys is their pitching. That like hasn't failed me thus far. Jered Weaver is being an absolute beast, and even with CJ Wilson going to the DL, it looks like there won't be any problems on that front. There's also this dude named Mike Trout--nobody knows where he came from, but he's been this awesome thing at the plate and in the outfield. There are a lot of exciting hitters and fielders on this team. They seriously have it all. If Texas doesn't falter, these guys will certainly be the kings of the Wild Card this year. I really like their chances.

Oakland Athletics (43-43)- Ouch. I understand these guys are at .500, but they're there for reasons that are really strange. They've lost several pitchers due to elbow surgery, and they still lead the American League in Team ERA. (I'm serious. Look it up.) Their lineup is healthy for the most part, but (in the amount of games played) over half of the team is hitting under the Mendoza line (meaning under .200) and they're dead last in Team AVG. It's like two polarizing concepts are wiping this team out of any possible credibility. The hitting staff needs to change and pronto. That is all.

Seattle Mariners (36-51) - I don't doubt that this team is in a massive funk, but they've been in this position numerous times in the past few years and it's getting old. Sure, I believe that King Felix and Kevin Millwood are doing quite well, but when Ichiro himself is having a strange year, you know things have been going south. This team has a lot of scrubbed players, and some trades could bring some added freshness to a team that's needed it for several years. I'd say they should start with the infield and go from there.

I can't tell you how many Twitter updates I've been getting about injuries and replacements. Apparently a lot of guys are going down. Is it the heat? Could be. Whatever it is, it is making an impact on the standings in baseball this season.

Let's have a good break. I'm gonna enjoy the rest of my vacation.

Until next time in October...