There has been a massive movement in Major League Baseball this year. The Houston Astros are in the AL West now, big-name players such as Mariano Rivera have announced their retirement, and up-and-comers like Yasiel Puig have been making headlines around the country just as men like Mike Trout and Bryce Harper last year. Also, there has also been a lot of controversy surrounding the league when it comes to the Biogenesis scandal (more on that in the next post!!). With these things mentioned, it has been a year full of uphill struggles and downhill triumphs for many teams. Which ten teams will survive and make it to October? It's anyone's guess at this point...
Let's take a look and see how they're looking after almost 100 games played!
THE HILLS ARE ALIVE!
2013 MIDSEASON SLANT
Overview: If you look strictly at statistics, this looks like one of the streakier divisions in the whole league. Most teams here have either been plagued with injuries or have hopes of passing the torch to younger players. Some of these transitions haven't been the absolute best. Could this be a sleeper division in the second half? If the rivalries are hot, then definitely yes.
Atlanta Braves (54-41) - After an extremely explosive April, these guys have somewhat stalled and played .500 ball since then. Guys like the Upton brothers, who were extremely hyped in the offseason, have been under-performing and clutch hits have been hard to come by. However, the pitching staff is one of the best in the NL, and efforts from hitters like Freddie Freeman (fresh to the DL) have been picking up the pace. Health and a change of pace is needed for a playoff push.
Washington Nationals (48-47) - If this team scores more than two runs in a game, they have a good chance of winning. That isn't the best sign at all. That line should tell you that the hitting is poor; they have the second-lowest team AVG in the National League, and the only way they have been staying in close games is through strong pitching in their bullpen. Sure, Ian Desmond, Jayson Werth, and Ryan Zimmerman have been doing rather well, but in order for this team to go back to the playoffs, it has to be a team effort in offense.
Philadelphia Phillies (48-48) - Afflicted with the chronic injury bug and a flimsy bullpen, it's hard to ride on any kind of winning streak in Philadelphia. Although it's good to see guys like Chase Utley, Domonic Brown, and Cliff Lee in good form, injuries to guys like Roy Halladay and a struggling Ryan Howard have shown that this team is aging as is desperate for a fountain of youth/production. Did I mention their bullpen is shaky and their starters have to go deep into games to prevent any kind of riots in Philadelphia? I sort of did? Oh.
New York Mets (41-50) - Here we have an average team that is still working through injuries and looking to make more big players alongside David Wright. You can tell of the youth and green eyes when you see their amount of team strikeouts (walks are okay too). While they are holding their own and playing the spoiler when they can, a quick shot of health and good vibes for a weakened staff could be the cure. While they can't win the division, they can win as spoilers and ruin dreams along the way.
Miami Marlins (35-58) - It's bad enough that they have to tarp off the second tier of the ballpark. This team doesn't hit very well at all (one of the lowest team AVG in the ML), and inconsistent lineups are proof that whatever they've tried over their 93 games played hasn't worked well at all. Their bullpen isn't the most consistent thing either; and most games where there is a lead early on is lost. Double-edged swords aren't always pretty at all.
Overview: This division is always known for their pushing and shoving in the top three spots in the division. They are failing to disappoint here thus far. Pitching has been stellar as usual, and the bats are still fresh. This is what I love to see. You're always guaranteed a strong game during each NL Central matchup, bar none.
St. Louis Cardinals (57-36) - This, ladies and gentlemen, is the most disciplined hitting staff that the National League has to offer. Not just that, but it also has one of the stronger rotations you'll see in the league. The baseball gods have been good to them thus far, so it would be best not to jinx them. With so many major contributors to mention, we could see a team that's a total threat to take the National League pennant this October. What else can I say?
Pittsburgh Pirates (56-37) - From someone who lives on the other side of the state and constantly sees them in their woes by September, this is incredibly refreshing to see. Their pitching staff is jam-packed with talent this time around (Grilli Cheese, anyone?), but the Pirates' hitting crew is a slippery slope at times. Striking out a lot can be a problem here. This year, they have the honor of being the first team to win 50 games in the Majors. Are we looking to break a curse of 20-straight losing seasons? Please, I think that would be nice to see.
Cincinnati Reds (53-42) - Dusty Baker's squad is never a bore to watch. Outfielders Shin Soo Choo and Jay Bruce are like judge and jury, and Joey Votto is putting up excellent numbers again at the plate and at first base. The starting rotation looks a sharp as it should, and Aroldis Chapman is a fiery closer. Things could get interesting with this team. Although the injury bug could start affecting them, they've been on fire in the second half in years' past, and they could burn their way through that possible issue.
Chicago Cubs (42-51) - Okay, they've been worse at this point. In fact, they're not looking all that bad. Although the looming rumor that starter Matt Garza is out is spreading, this should hopefully light a fire under the rest of the team to start dealing or they have to sell to contenders. Although they aren't doing a terrible job, injuries and streakiness has dealt a strong blow to the core of the team. You really have to be "Committed" to stick with this team. It hasn't been pretty at times.
Milwaukee Brewers (38-56) - There has been a lot of proof that things haven't been clicking on all cylinders for the Brew Crew. Their hitting crew is anything but patient, but they're consistent, and it shows in their lack of walks and strikeouts. Unfortunately, you can't say the same thing about the pitching when it comes to consistency. Being near the bottom of the barrel in ERA, the team's offense has had to battle in high-scoring games, and that can take quite a toll on the team. It's going to take a lot of willpower to be contenders again. Maybe not this year, but next year. Can they spoil? Abso-flippin-lutely.
Overview: We've seen a lot of flip-flops in positioning and records in this division so far. Fireworks from debuting pitchers, hitters, and fielders have been the major drive, but the Win-Loss column really hasn't been evident of these bursts of star power. While Interleague play has a chance to dampen this division a little further, August is the key month for these five teams. Nobody's really out of it here.
Arizona Diamondbacks (50-45) - Arizona has had a lot of scientific experiments done on their pitching staff, and once there's a sign of life and health there and in their lineup, these guys could be ridiculously scary in the coming weeks. If Patrick Corbin and Paul Goldschmidt isn't enough proof for you that it's possible to make hitting and pitching contagious, it will be soon. Is the second half theirs? They have to want it badly, otherwise it'll be an uphill struggle for them.
Los Angeles Dodgers (47-47) - Deemed "Yankees West" due to their exorbitant payroll this season, it almost looks like some financial decisions have blown up in the face of the front office. After losing guys like Chad Billingsley to the dreaded Tommy John surgery and seeing big-name acquisitions like Hanley Ramirez falter to injury early in the season, things looked bleak. However, win streaks and the "ManBearPuig phenomenon" has brought them out of the basement and into contention in the NL West. Good vibes are coming from this team.
Colorado Rockies (46-50) - Right now, this is one of the best-looking teams as far as hitting goes. CarGo, Michael Cuddyer, and Troy Tulowitzki are taking their smart hitting to the next level and keeping the opposition at bay. Wait a second, they're four under .500. Why is that? Oh, that's right. The bullpen and lower-tier starters are almost the pits in the National League. A beefier bullpen should be in high order for these guys; otherwise, this is going to be a rough second half.
San Francisco (43-51) - Remember October? I do. It seemed so long ago. The starting rotation has never looked so shaky. Aside from Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum's no-hitter this past weekend, things haven't looked strong at all. The hitting staff isn't terrible at all--if you look at the roster, just about everyone's a hitter (Hello, Buster Posey and Hunter Pence), but the pitching staff goes into such a hole at times that it's tough to come back. This second half could get ugly if the rotation and the bullpen doesn't wise up.
San Diego (42-54) - The pitching staff is like...messed up. While there are some bright spots like Jason Marquis, I see guys like Huston Street and scratch my head a lot. When Carlos Quentin doesn't have a hot temper, he doesn't a relatively good job at the plate. Things don't click very well with the team. Curse? We can't make that the cause of all the problems. The front office might have to make some personnel changes. Things don't look like they're getting much better, and the leadership could be the root of that.
Overview: This is the scariest-looking division I have written about in my three years of doing this. While not every team is over .500 here, they have the talent and the ability to burn out their opponents and make a statement. It would be rather sad to see this trend burn out within the next few weeks, which it totally could after the All-Star Break (among other controversy).
Boston Red Sox (58-39) - Ouch. If you want to top the AL East, you definitely have to have the best record in baseball. Check. Devastating hitters in the middle of the order? Check. Strong pitching not just in the rotation, but also in the bullpen? Check! The BoSox have been blessed with good fortune thus far in the season, and it could only be smooth sailing if they keep the opposition on their toes. Gotta stay #BostonStrong, right?
Tampa Bay Rays (55-41) - The pitching from the Rays makes quick work of the opposition, and that's nothing new from these guys. What is new is seeing some unsung heroes stepping in on offense and picking up when bigger names like James Loney and Evan Longoria can't pick up the pace. They certainly can make a good run for the playoffs. Heck, even the Wild Card. The sky's the limit for these guys.
Baltimore Orioles (53-43) - I could just put "Chris Davis leads the majors with 37 home runs" and that could be enough for this, but I won't go that route. The hitting is rather all-or-nothing, and the pitching doesn't always come through, but when they do, they certainly do. While they're fun to watch right now, they need to be extra careful. The act might not last very long.
New York Yankees (51-44) - Well, this is awkward. Although they're doing better in wins and losses than half of the teams in the National League (It's totally true), they're in fourth place in this monster of a division. Why? Don't know. Just happened to be that way. While age has been graceful to guys like Raul Ibanez and Mariano Rivera, it hasn't been to guys like Derek Jeter and A-Rod, who have still been waiting to see the light of day. Are we seeing a changing of the guard here?
Toronto Blue Jays (45-49) - On paper, these guys looked like they were going to contend before the season started. Things have been rocky, but so far, they are holding their own. They just look rotten because of the division they're in. R.A. Dickey hasn't had the strongest of stuff since his Cy Young win, and Mark Buerhle hasn't looks as hot as he has in years past. It doesn't always help either that the offense doesn't kick in when they should. Teamwork is going to be key here from here on out.
Overview: Please don't ask me why I have such a hard time getting around to writing about you teams. I swear, I have nothing against you, but there are so many wheels falling off from weird areas and you guys are so weirdly streaky and stuff. Do I get points for trying?
Detroit Tigers (52-42) - Here we see the Tigers in their habitat, where Max Scherzer is 13-1 and Miguel Cabrera has a .365 batting average. Let's not forget the other guys...they've had as much of a hand in this as the guys I have already mentioned. This team is well-disciplined, and they're looking to return back to the Fall Classic as they did last year. However, I'd like to mention that they wanna win it this time. Gotta keep going.
Cleveland Indians (51-44) - We have a well-rounded team right here, and that's incredibly nice to see after numerous struggles we've seen in the past. The rotation looks spiffy, and the offense is good as a unit. This is a good example of a team that feeds off of each other's successes. While I'd like to see them as a Wild Card contender, the AL East could make that tough, so these guys will have to use their super-friends powers and make that extra push in the coming weeks. Just don't sign Charlie Sheen or Wesley Snipes, that's all.
Kansas City Royals (43-49) - These guys aren't really a home run-hitting team, but even so, their batting average is just that...average. However, it doesn't always come through when the pitching has been supportive. Then again, isn't that usually the case? There isn't enough back-scratching on this team, but you can't blame them due to injuries and other forms of scratching when it comes to lineups. There is a chance for these guys, and a good second half of health could give deliver problems for their AL Central opponents.
Minnesota Twins (39-53) - When you see this record and some of the statistics put up by this team, you can tell that the only thing that is driving this team is the star-power that they have, and those guys like Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau can't always save the team. The starting rotation is extremely weak, and injuries to these guys isn't making matters any better. I think it's time to start playing the end music to The Incredible Hulk.
Chicago White Sox (37-55) - Statistically, these guys are in the middle of the pack in most hitting and pitching categories; why are they so far into the basement? You could blame injuries, you could blame lousy management, and you can even blame their errant fielding. Errors and simple mistakes cost games, and that is evident in where they're standing right now. To try to make a good run in the second half, it's time for the ChiSox to go back to basics and remember how the heck they made it to the majors.
Overview: Ladies and gentlemen, your OCD has now been regulated. There are now five teams on the AL West. Anyway, there's a lot of unknowns on this side, but there is also a lot of star-power in tow. Problem is, these two things I mentioned are oil and water here, meaning that there are unknowns in abundance on one squad, and too many stars on another. This could lead to problems, but for now, things are rather tranquil on that front.
Oakland Athletics (56-39) - Despite their massive issues with stadiums and media markets, these guys look spiffy on the field. Although they aren't the strongest-hitting team collectively, Josh Donaldson and Jed Lowrie have been leading the way for the offense, and smart, patience at-bats have been key. Did I mention that their pitching staff looks hefty too? I'm not saying that because Bartolo Colon looks like a freight train on the mound, either. These guys are earning their spot thus far; it's going to take some effort from the smaller-seeming players to get this team back to October.
Texas Rangers (54-41) - The injury bug doesn't seem like it has been a massive issue here, as their bats and their throwing arms have looked pretty consistent over the past few weeks. Yu Darvish and Derek Holland have been doing excellent out of the rotation, and clutch hitting has been in good form for the boys from Texas. Looks like these boys are winning the wars in Texas right now. They could make things interesting in the West for the rest of the season.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (44-49) - Oh, and look at this star power. People outside of the circle often laugh at this team since there are so many endorsements for their players and they're playing sub-.500 ball. Aside from Mike Trout: the Boy Wonder, a lot of these guys are either A - getting weird injuries, or B - severely underperforming. The pitching staff doesn't look so great either, but that's often because of run support. If you only have one guy in the rotation that has a winning record thus far, you have a serious problem on your hands. They're not doing badly...it's just the hitting needs to be tweaked and disciplined.
Seattle Mariners (43-52) - The hitting staff looks really bare without Ichiro, I'll tell you that much. It shows. Their team AVG is pretty low, and their plate discipline could be much better. On the other hand, we have some excellent starting pitching, and it's often enough to finish out the games...that is, if they go deep enough into those games. They need to be sellers and get some bullpen guys and some utility men. Things are looking rotten at Safeco if nothing is done.
Houston Astros (33-61) - Oh Heavens. Here we are again. Let's make a note of this, though: the Astros have the lowest payroll in the whole league. Alex Rodriguez makes more money than the team as a whole and he hasn't played a ML game this year. Anyway... Weak pitching and weak hitting are the main causes of failure here. You know it's bad when I only know about six or seven guys on the staff and most of them are injured. There isn't much else to say here but hope that they don't hit 100+ losses again this season.
I'd like to think that this was a pretty basic analysis. I'm usually not ready for this kind of stuff when it comes around, but I love baseball. Whenever I do research and do analysis, it makes me closer to the sport and it makes me feel better about myself. Really. I'm not joking.
I'm hoping that the rest of the season fares out well for most teams. Not everyone can fix their problems and reach the playoffs, but usually one man's failure is another man's success. It's only downhill from here, you peoples.