Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Our Mid-Season Report Card (and it's not good)

Hard to believe we’re half way through the marathon that is the MLB season as it seems like they just threw out the first pitch but here we are and even though there’s half the season to go unless some things turn around in a hurry apologies may be in order as we did not call most of the divisions correct to start the season. In any case, let’s take a look at where we stand 90 games in from the worst to the closest thing we got to best. In the AL East we thought the many off season moves my Toronto, their new state of mind to no longer be the doormat of the East, combined by what looked to be a down year in the division, would open the door for the Jays to get back to the glory days of the 90’s but the demise of the perianal power houses was greatly exaggerated. In our defense we did believe the Yankees were “getting to long in the tooth, that injuries may catch up with them and that you wouldn’t recognize the starting lineup by the end of the year”. That seems to have held true thus far but we certainly were dead wrong on the Red Sox whom we picked to finish dead last in the division as they tore up their lineup after the debacle that was last year. Those that were not still brewin’ in clubhouse would be outmatched on the field and the Sox would struggle to score runs in a division where offense mandatory. We couldn’t have called this more wrong as the sox have gone 54-36 over the first half, have the largest positive run differential in the division (+89), lead all of baseball in runs scored (458) and on base percentage (.350). They don’t stop there as they’re 2nd in team batting average (.278) and slugging pct. (446), making them the most potent offense in the league, yea you could say we called this one the wrong way so far. Now one could argue that they only lead the division by 4 games and which is tenuous at best but as a risk/reward scenario analysis the Red Sox are back to the winning days when they had “a bunch of idiots” and Bill James’ money ballers are doing just that, ballin’. However all is not lost as our second pick in the division were the Orioles whom still could come through as the division winner or at least the wild card. Buck’s boys are primed to make a second half push and seem to have the recipe for success down as they’re playing .581 ball at home and are just over .500 on the road. Known for their final week miracles the blackbirds may not need too sweep a series over the final 3 games but it will be a dog fight for the WC in AL as four clubs are within a game and a half at the break with Cleveland just a game and a half behind them, so there is still a chance we can save face in what has consistently been the toughest division in baseball. Upon further review, we seemed to be much closer in the National League than we are in the American. In the NL East we came out of the blocks playing the favorite with the Nationals as we thought the Phillies would not have the enough in the arms race behind Cliff Lee to last the full length of the marathon. Although Philly has gotten at least 18 starts from Lee, Kendrick, and Hamels but only Lee has an ERA under 3.5 when they get down to their 4th or 5th starter they’re vulnerable and if you can get into the bullpen then they’re really in trouble. So unless they make some trades before the deadline we don’t see them getting much closer than the 7.5 they’re back right now. We also figured the Braves would, well continue to be the Braves, the best regular season team in history but fade down the stretch. Once again, it may be early but up six games at the break and showing no signs of slowing down. The only club in the NL East with a positive run differential (+84) the Braves have the largest lead of any first place team at six games and their 29 home wins is second best in MLB. Unless they decide to move up their annual collapse from October to early September we think the division is theirs to lose. Meanwhile our horse is six games back in second place and despite some big off season signings the Nationals may be looking to do a little more before the trade deadline. The Nats are just two games above .500 and 6 back so on the surface it appears we’re being a little hard on ourselves but even at 46-44 it’s a wonder they got that far as they are almost dead last in each of the four major offensive categories, Runs (27th), Ave. (27th), On base Pct. (27th) and slugging (23rd) it’s no wonder their differential is -13. The presence of Straus this time around should be comforting down the stretch but if they don’t give him some run support it will be a frustrating finish as the Nats are still have some work to do even to climb into the wild card spot as they’re currently 4 games back of the Cards/Pirates/Reds survivor and you can bet those three clubs will be pushing each other to the end and raising the bar. In either scenario we’re in a little bit of trouble on the Nats call as well, and if they don’t not only make the playoffs but make a deep run, (besides making us look bad) they’ll be battling the ghost of the 2012-13 season that will haunt them more than a Charles Dickens novel and the decision to shut down Strausberg will continue to linger. In the AL West we thought the Angels we taking their cue from their SoCal rivals in the big city and spending the cash necessary to put a winner on the field, take the division and compete for the pennant. Adding Josh Hamilton to go along with Trout and Phat Albert the middle of that lineup looked like Boardwalk and Parkplace, and Parkplace, all with hotels on them. Even though Kendrick has been a huge welcome surprise, the fact that Hamilton (.229) and Pujols (.252) continue to struggle seem to have the halos lost in the middle of the pack a full 9 games out of first. Ironically the Angeles are in the top four of the four major offensive categories so if the big three can click all at the same time they may be in the position to make run late in the season so don’t right us off just yet. The clubs that are making us look so bad are the Rangers and A’s that have been taking turns leading the division well above the clouds and bottom three clubs. Both have a winning pct. of close to .590, second best in the AL just behind the afore mentioned Red Sox (.602) but the division runner-up may have to deal with the Rays who suddenly have gone 9-1 over their last 10, including 7 in a row ahead of the All-Star break. However the talk of the division have to be the A’s that may not completely be playing “money ball’ any longer but they sure have put a non star-studded lineup on he field but they’re delivering with timely hitting and good pitching. The Rangers look like they have just enough in tank to make another run at the brass ring. Its looking like they won’t have to worry about the Giants again this season if they can get back to the show, but the odds are against them as well as there is stiff competition but the Rangers have been a model of consistency this season with only three losing streaks of 3 games or more vs. 8 winning streaks of the same duration or longer. The second half schedule should play a little tougher, so we’ll see if Texas will be playing late into the fall again in 13’. With 92 of the 162 in the books the stretch run is sooner than you think and unless someone makes a substantial move, and rather quickly, this will be a two-horse race with both getting into the second season as the loser should still get in via the card and then all bets are off as it’s just a matter of who can get hot at the right time and maybe it will be their turn. Moving on to the AL Central, which is actually the only division we have called correctly to this point, (we shamelessly waited to do the NL West last in hopes the Dodgers caught the DBacks which didn’t quite happen) where we picked the Tigers to win the division and get back to the ALCS. 90 games into the season Detroit looks like the reincarnation of the “Lumber Company”, that Pirates team in 79’ with Parker and Stargell that went on to beat Baltimore in 7 to with the World Series, as the Tigers are in the top 3 of the four major offensive categories (1st in batting average) and have the second highest run differential (+84) in the AL. They are 2.5 games up on Cleveland and 6 on KC for the division, not a commanding lead by any stretch but if those two faded over the second half of the season it wouldn’t be a surprise to many but they have been among the best stories in MLB this year. Kansas City has recently hit a slide where they have gone 5-5 and dropped deep in the rearview mirror but they’ve been near the top most of the year. Cleveland as well dropping six of ten including 4 straight to begin the month otherwise we might not be quite so adamant in our position. A big three-game set between the two closes the first half of the season and if either puts a sweep together it may be deemed the turning point. Keep your eye on this race however, something tells us that this may be the best race coming down the stretch, but we are sticking with our pre-season pick to come out on top. Back with our NL worst call tomorrow, in the meantime catch all the MLB news, scores, and picks on the main site here.
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