MLB – 2013 MID-SEASON NL REVIEW

It’s officially mid-season in Major League Baseball for 2013.  How have my pre-season National League predictions held up?  And, what do I foresee the rest of the way to the playoffs?

NL EAST

MY ORIGINAL PRE-SEASON PREDICTIONS (TO FINISH):

  1. Washington Nationals (Win Division)
  2. Atlanta
  3. Philadelphia
  4. NY Mets
  5. Miami

ACTUAL STANDINGS (As of July 30):

EAST

W-L

GB

Atlanta

65-45

Washington

53-56

11.5

Philadelphia

50-59

14.5

NY Mets

49-58

14.5

Miami

43-65

21.0

NEW MID-SEASON PREDICTIONS (TO FINISH):

  1. Atlanta (Win Division)
  2. Washington
  3. Philadelphia
  4. NY Mets
  5. Miami

Atlanta Braves

My preseason prediction for the Braves concluded they would be a “good all around club” with an improved lineup due to the acquisitions of the Upton brothers & Chris Johnson, and an excellent pitching staff with tremendous depth especially in the bullpen.

I wasn’t sure, however, just how good the team would be.  In fact, I used the word “mystery”.

Specifically, I had some doubt that if injuries plagued the Braves, the Nationals fulfilled their potential, and the Phillies remained healthy, this team might not be able to grab another wild card spot like it did in 2012.

But, it seems as if the Braves just may be poised to win this division without worrying about the wild card scenario at all in 2013.

Currently, the Braves record is 65-45, .591 w/l %.  They lead the division by 11.5 games over Washington and are the 4th best team in MLB.  Only Pittsburgh (#1) and St. Louis (#3) have better winning records in the NL.

How Atlanta has managed to stay atop this division and seem destined for the post season is due to their tremendous depth and a subpar division.

Since the beginning of the season (and as I feared) injuries have plagued this Braves team.  A variety of players from starting pitchers to relievers, and infield and outfield hitters have spent time on the DL.

But, lucky for Atlanta, no other team is challenging their supremacy in this division, and other players have stepped up to the plate (pun intended).

For instance, Justin Upton, Chris Johnson, & Evan Gattis were clutch on offense and helped hold the forte until other hitters like BJ Upton and Jayson Heyward returned.   In fact, the offense has managed to amass the 4th most HRs in MLB, walk 7th most times, place 9th in OBP and rank 10th in SLG & OPS.

And, when pitchers like Cristhian Martinez & Jonny Venters went down early, starters like Mike Minor (10-5, 2.89), Tim Hudson (8-7, 3.97), and Julio Teheran (7-5, 3.07) have been clutch.  Reliever Craig Kimbrel has also contributed to the success of the Braves by snagging 31 saves so far this year alone. Collectively, Braves pitching staff have the following stats:

  • 3rd ERA;
  • 5th most Saves;
  • 5th WHIP;
  • Given up 2nd least HRs;
  • Given up 2nd least ERs;
  • Given up 4th least BBs.

The bottom line is that this team has done a magnificent job of weathering an ugly injury storm this year.  And, the rest of the teams in this division have their own issues – none others will likely challenge the Braves cushion to clinch this division.

But, concerns for Atlanta include the loss of starter Tim Hudson last week after he broke his ankle on a freak play at 1st base and also, one of their starters, Paul Maholm, was just placed on the 15 day DL.  Brandon Beachy is rumored to return soon from Tommy John Surgery, but it’s hard to say how his comeback will be.

As for the offense, they lack for any real speed on the bases and strike out at an alarming rate.  Uggla has 129, Justin Upton 107, and BJ 102.  They just may surpass 200 each by the time the season ends.  However, surprisingly, this team has the 7th most walks in MLB.  That helps.

Now the “mystery” to me is how this team will do in the post-season.  Are they the real deal?  Judging by the fact that they swept the Pirates (3 games) and Diamondbacks (3 games) in June and the Cardinals (3 games) last week, they just may be ready to win a Division Series and perhaps get to the NL Championship Series.  I’m not sure this team is complete and healthy enough to go any farther than that.

Washington Nationals

Like many others who made MLB predictions this preseason, I thought this Nationals team would do special things, including making it to their first World Series.

Alas, that doesn’t seem to be the Nationals destiny just yet.

Washington is currently 53-56 (.486 w/l %) and sits 11.5 games back of Atlanta in the division.  They are ranked 16th in MLB and 4th in the NL Wild Card Race.

So, why were my predictions so terribly out of whack?

For one, the pitching staff has been less than stellar and the offense, well – there practically is none.

Earlier in the year, I saw the tremendous potential of Washington’s starting pitching staff as one of the team’s major assets.  And, while, it hasn’t been terrible, three of the five starters have performed below their potential.  (Strasburg, Haren, and Detwiler)

In fact, who would have thought Stephen Strasburg would only have a 5-9 record midseason?  Well, it’s been a combination of lack of control and consistency on his part and lack of run support.  If we look at his last 10 games, for example:  2 Wins; 4 Losses; 4 No Decisions.  In 3 of his 4 losses, he did not have run support.  But, in 2 of those games, he did not last more than 2 innings and one game he only went 5 innings.

A bigger disappointment has been Dan Haren, who I thought would be an “anchor” for this pitching staff.  However, so far this year, he’s gone 5-11 with a 5.49 ERA.  And in his last 10 games, he was 1-6 with 3 no decisions and has given up 123 hits, 21 HRs, and 64 ERs.  Ouch.  In at least one of those losses, he did not last more than 3.1 innings, another only 4 innings and in 2 games he was yanked after 5 innings.

Despite all of this, the other starters have done good work and collectively, they are ranked 8th in ERA; 12th in Saves; and have relatively low numbers of Earned Runs, Home Runs, and Walks Given Up.  Those starters include Jordan Zimmerman (12-6; 3.19 ERA; 3 Complete Games; 1 Shutout) & Gio Gonzalez (7-3; 2.97 ERA).  Reliever Rafael Soriano has also performed well & has 26 saves this season so far.

But, any good pitching is all for naught if a team cannot bring in runs. And, this team cannot.

The lineup may be able to hit some home runs (17th Ranked), but getting on base and also bringing in what runners may be on base have both been major problems for the Nats.  Stats:

  • 27th RBIs;
  • 28th OBP;
  • 28th Hits per Game;
  • 28th Runs per Game.

I did foresee that lack of supreme firepower could be an issue, but this lineup is just plain not hitting.  So, even when the starters have managed to keep the team in the game, the batters are unable to get it done, let alone provide any real aggressive offense.

Oh, there is that one aspect of injuries which is somewhat bothersome to the Nationals.  Two of its biggest hitters have been on the DL multiple times (Jayson Werth – 2x with nagging groin & hamstring; and Bryce Harper – 5x since May for just about everything).

And, well – there is that aspect of Fielding which also has been less than good.  The Nationals rank 25th out of 30th on this front.

In the end, this team may be the most disappointing this year in all of MLB.  They definitely will not make the post-season unless those bats come alive.  And, I fear that manager Davey Johnson’s days will be numbered as leader of this club.

Philadelphia Phillies

My preseason prediction for the Phillies warned of how the overall “health” of certain key players would determine its outcome.

Specifically, I saw lots of red flags for Roy Halladay, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard – key core players who spent time on the DL last year and who are each over 30 years old.  I predicted that if they were not healthy overall, a lackluster offense and inconsistent pitching staff could cause the team to finish just like they did last year – about even, or perhaps worse.

Well, that prediction has largely come true.

Halladay suffered a season-ending injury in May; Howard has been on the DL 3x since May due to a knee issue; and Utley has played in only 77 games so far this season.

The team’s offense is also below average:

  • 20th HRs;
  • 21st SLG;
  • 22nd OBP;
  • 24th RBIs;
  • 28th in BBs.

And, similarly, the pitching staff has been below average:

  • 23rd SO;
  • 24th ERA;
  • 24th WHIP;
  • 25th Saves;
  • Given up 7th most hits; and
  • Given up 9th most ER.

That all pretty much explains why the Phillies record at the mid-point is: 50-59, .459 w/l % and 14.5 games behind Atlanta.  That makes them the 20th ranked team in MLB.

Going forward, can this season be saved for the Phillies?  Meaning, can they contend?

Likely not.

Cole Hamels, the team’s 2nd starter has had some command issues this year and as a result not consistent as usual; Cliff Lee has been doing well overall, but most recently has been on the DL for neck stiffness; Closer Papelbon has also been inconsistent (and has 20 of the team’s 22 saves); and then there’s the issue of the many free agents who may be on the market at season’s end.  This uncertainty is not good for team morale –  the core talent is unsure what will become of them at road’s end.

The hard truth is that the Phillies looked flat in the preseason and have lived up to that prediction.  The aging veteran core needs to be disbanded and the gems held onto.  The Boston Red Sox provide a great example of how to do it.  And, Philadelphia should really follow this lead if they wish to contend soon.

New York Mets

I finished my preseason prediction for the 2013 Mets by saying, “Sorry, Mom, this year’s going to be another stinker.”

You see, my Mom is a lifelong Mets fan.  She is pretty much used to me telling her that her Mets won’t contend every year.

Well, for this season, I predicted more of the same suffering.

I foresaw that outside some great players (Wright, Tejada, Davis), there wasn’t much else in the offense.

I also noticed that without Johan Santana and RA Dickey traded to the Blue Jays, there wasn’t much in the pitching staff either.

And, while this has pretty much gone as predicted, some bright spots have elevated this team – slightly.

Currently, the Mets record is 49-58 with a .458 w/l %.  They sit 14.5 games behind division leading Braves and are ranked 23rd out of 30 teams in MLB.

What it all comes down to for the Mets are a few great players giving a lift to an overall mediocre team.

For instance, David Wright has played well as usual and 2nd Baseman Daniel Murphy has been clutch as of late.  Then there’s the spark of starting pitcher Matt Harvey.  The 24-year-old All-Star ace has an 8-2 record, 2.11 ERA and has been described as “brilliant”, “dominant” and known for his command.  Too bad he is on a team that can’t give him the run support he deserves.

Still, it would be an accomplishment for the Mets to finish at .500 or better, something they haven’t done since 2008.  In this subpar division and a nice looking schedule for the rest of the season, that just might be something for the team to aspire to.

Hey, Mom.  Don’t get your hopes up.  David Wright just went on the 15 day DL…

Miami Marlins

A prediction for this club in 2013 was never very hard, really.

An abundance of inexperienced prospects, aging veterans, and perpetually angry mob at owner Jeffrey Loria’s door would spell last place to anyone.

So, I predicted 100 losses for this Marlins team.  And, well, they likely won’t break that number since there are about 50 more games left in the season, but the win/loss ratio is still going to be ugly.

In fact, if this Marlins team continues on its path of recording 43-65 or .398 w/l %, this will be the worst year in franchise history (since 1993).

The statistics show the ugly truth: Miami’s offense is the worst in MLB.  The team has the least RBIs, HRs, and Hits and the lowest Average, OBP, SLG %, and OPS.

There is a brightside, however – the pitching.  Miami has a talented group of young starters including Jose Fernandez and Jacob Turner who have surprisingly middle of the road stats amongst other MLB teams: 12th place rank in ERA and low BB and Earned Run numbers.  Too bad they suffer from lack of run support.  Reliever Steve Cishek also has 22 saves and a 3.14 ERA.

Bottom line is that the terrible Marlins offense holds back the rest of the team.  Even if the talented prospects or veterans performed better like Giancarlo Stanton (who admittedly has had his time on the DL) and Juan Pierre & Placido Polanco, this toxic atmosphere is not good for motivating players.

CONCLUSION

Atlanta has separated itself out from the other subpar teams in this division and are destined for the playoffs.  All other teams are not good and have major multiple problems.  Too bad the Nationals can’t figure out their offensive issues or the Phillies remained healthy.  They both had a shot at garnering a wild card which seems surely out of reach for both now.

NL CENTRAL

MY ORIGINAL PRE-SEASON PREDICTIONS (TO FINISH):

  1. Cincinnati
  2. St. Louis
  3. Milwaukee
  4. Pittsburgh
  5. Chi Cubs

ACTUAL STANDINGS (As of Aug 3):

EAST

W-L

GB

Pittsburgh

65-44

St.   Louis

64-44

0.5

Cincinnati

60-50

5.5

Chi Cubs

49-60

16.0

Milwaukee

46-63

19.0

NEW MID-SEASON PREDICTIONS (TO FINISH):

  1. Pittsburgh
  2. St. Louis
  3. Cincinnati
  4. Chi Cubs
  5. Milwaukee

Pittsburgh Pirates

I didn’t see this coming:  Here we are midseason and the Pirates have the best record in baseball.

Well, during the preseason, I did think the Pirates offense would improve with the arrival of Russell Martin and thought this veteran catcher would be an asset to the pitching staff, but I didn’t see how they could be good enough to lead MLB, not even once during this 2013 season.

Yet, Pittsburgh sits atop this division with a 65-44 record & .596 w/l %.  Better than Boston, Tampa Bay, and Atlanta…

How are they getting it done?

Continuing on their success from last season, the Pirates pitching staff is the best in MLB.  Led by Jeff Locke, AJ Burnett, and Francisco Liriano, they have a combined 3.03 ERA, good for best in all of baseball.  The bullpen has also been great including Jason Grilli has helped the Pirates get to 2nd most saves in MLB with his 30 alone.  Overall, Pirates pitching also accounts for 5th best in BB, 10th in SO, and they’ve given up the least ERs and 2nd least HRs.

It certainly isn’t the Pirates Offense which is definitely lacking.  Outside of 3B Pedro Alvarez who has 27 home runs and 70 RBIs, and CF Andrew McCutchen who has .301 BA, 15 HRs, and 59 RBIs, the Pirates Offense and Fielding are below average.  In fact, if we compare the Pirates Offense to the Cardinals, St. Louis is clearly much better in this area:

St.   Louis Pittsburgh
RBI

5

22

Hits

5

23

Ave

3

21

OBP

3

19

SLG

12

19

OPS

11

20

BB

17

18

SO

4

28

SB

30

8

HRs

27

18

And, Pirates Fielding isn’t the best.  Statistically, they are the 22nd worst in MLB and have the 5th most Errors.

So am I saying that it’s pitching alone that is working for these Pirates??

Well, I failed to mention that this team has one more major asset that is driving this bus:  Chemistry.

It’s one of the explanations for how this team has been able to overcome major deficits in Offense, Fielding, have the best record on the road, and survive several injury issues during the course of the first half of the season.

Also, word is that in the clubhouse, the team is getting along great, enjoys each other’s company, and are playing practical jokes on one another like putting an exploding resin bag on AJ Burnett’s mound and the full-body Chewbacca costume in the empty locker next to pitcher Jason Grilli’s, a recent gift from Russell Martin.  It’s made appearances around the clubhouse & field, including this recent photo bomb:

In the end, I remain somewhat concerned that the Pirates pitching staff will peter out and go on a late season collapse like it did last year.  In fact, worrisome is recent news that Reliever Jason Grilli will be on the DL likely until September.

But, amazing chemistry may save the day here.  If so, I believe that Pittsburgh is destined for the post-season, something this team hasn’t done since 1992.

St. Louis Cardinals

In my preseason prediction for the Cardinals, I thought the team would be an excellent overall club, but didn’t see a repeat of success in 2013.

I thought that due to key losses on offense (Furcal– out for shoulder surgery) & pitching (Lohse – traded) and the potential rise of the Nationals, Braves, and Reds, this team would be lost in the shuffle.

Well, I was wrong on those accounts.

Currently, the Cards have a 64-44 record and .593 w/l %.  They are 0.5 games behind the Pirates in the division and they have the 3rd best record in baseball.

What’s been contributing towards a successful season for St. Louis is its balance in all areas.  Despite the losses of key players, they’ve rebounded nicely.

For example, the offense is excellent, (except in the area of home runs). Stats in MLB:

  • 3rd OBP;
  • 5th RBIs;
  • 5th Hits;
  • 11th OPS;
  • 12th SLG;
  • 17th BB;
  • 27th SO (3rd least); but –
  • 27th in HRs.

Luckily, the Cards have that impressive lineup from last year including catcher Yadier Molina (.330 BA, 119 Hits, Only 36 SO); Allen Craig (.316 BA, 125 Hits, 79 RBIs); Matt Holliday (.275 BA, 13 HRs); and Carlos Beltran (.295 BA, 19 HRs, .503 SLG ).

Unfortunately, however, Molina is out on the DL for a sprained knee and Matt Holliday has been on/off the DL in July.

As for the starting pitching staff, it looks really good too.  In 23 starts, Adam Wainwright is 13-6, 2.61 ERA; Lance Lynn 12-5, 3.87; Shelby Miller 10-7, 2.79; Jake Westbrook 7-5, 3.18; and closer Edward Mujica has 30 saves and 2.01 ERA.  Collectively, they have the following stats:

  • 4th ERA;
  • 5th Saves;
  • Given up third lowest ER;
  • Given up third lowest BB;
  • Given up least HRs.

To sum up, I think that while St. Louis has performed well and is very balanced overall, I still have some concerns about the club winning the division outright.  And, I feel that even if they win a wild card, Pittsburgh will be a major problem for them to get past down the road.  So far this season, the Cards are only 2-7 vs. the Pirates.  That Pittsburgh team is also running on lots of chemistry and gaining momentum.  Nothing an opposing team can do to control that.

Also, the glaring lack of home runs from the Cardinals lineup and injuries to Molina, Holliday and past shoulder issues with Carlos Beltran may slow the offense down.  The pitching staff is good, but will need run support.

These issues alone and past concerns about collective talent makes me think the Cardinals will lose the division to the Pirates and take a wild card.

Cincinnati Reds

During the preseason, I had high hopes for the Reds in 2013.  I saw them winning this division outright.

I liked that the organization brought in Shin-Soo Choo from Cleveland, an acquisition I thought would help set up their superstar first baseman Joey Votto, and make them an even better team than last year when they won the division outright.

And while the Reds are currently 60-50 with a .593 w/l %, and 5.5 games behind division leader Pittsburgh, the team is the 12th best in MLB and look good overall.

What’s different so far this season is that the Pittsburgh Pirates are playing excellent ball atop the division, and the Reds lack of a bit of spark midseason.

Steady has been the Reds starting pitching.  Led by Homer Bailey (2 no hitters this season), Mat Latos, and Mike Leake, they have the best WHIP in MLB, 2nd best ERA, 3rd most SO, 6th least Hits Given Up, 4th least ER, and 8th least BB.

But Cincinnati lacks a bit of firepower in the lineup.  Their stats on Offense are pretty middle of the road on Hits, HRs, RBIs, and SLG.  What they do well is walk a lot and have the 7th best OBP.  But, bringing runners in late has been a problem during the 1st half of the season.

Still, this club has the potential to go on a nice run and take away a wild card spot from the Cardinals.  They just need a spark and some momentum.  Looking back at June & July, they hadn’t swept any teams like they did earlier in the season.  For example, in April, the Reds swept the Phillies.  Then in May, they swept the Marlins and Mets.  But, June & July were very up and down months for the Reds.

Consistency will be key for this Cincinnati team down the stretch.  It will be needed to motivate the players in a very competitive division this year.

Chicago Cubs

It was reported this week that GM of the Cubs Theo Epstein was satisfied with the ‘big picture’ outlook of the organization.  As I reported in my preseason prediction, Epstein’s philosophy to get down the yellow brick road has always been to rip down the entire team and then build it back up via young prospects.  With the move of Alfonso Soriano to the Yankees for a Class A pitcher and starting pitcher Matt Garza to the Rangers at the trade deadline, that was part of Epstein’s plan for closure on a previous era.

Still, there’s a long way to go towards Oz for the Cubs and in the meantime, this Chicago club at midseason is 49-6- with a .450 w/l %, 16.0 games back from division leading Pittsburgh and good for 25th ranked team in MLB.

And, while getting rid of Soriano and Garza (the team’s best producing hitter & one of their 5 best starters), may have been in Epstein’s long-range plans, I sensed a heartbeat in this Cubs franchise during the 1st part of the season.

For instance, in May, the Cubs took 2 out of 3 from the Nationals and Rockies and 3 out of 4 from the White Sox.  In June, they managed to win 2 out of 3 from the Mets, Brewers, and Mariners.  And, in July, they swept the Giants.

In the end, the rebuilding goes on for the Chicago Cubs.  They’ve just traded 2 of their best players away and their schedule for Aug & Sept looks to be the hardest stretch of the season.

Keep your chins up, Cubs fans.

Milwaukee Brewers

My preseason prediction for the Brewers was marred with negativity towards their superstar hitter Ryan Braun.

I saw the early signs of what was going to be (and now is a full blown) scandal midseason involving himself & several other MLB players with a Miami clinic selling PEDs (Biogenesis).

I predicted that Braun’s involvement in this scandal was going to put a “black cloud” over the organization and likely affect this club’s overall performance in a negative way.

Unfortunately, my hunch was right on the money.

Braun was recently announced to be among the first player suspended by MLB for his involvement with Biogenesis.  According to the Milwaukee Journal, he reportedly “drew a 50-game suspension as a first-time offender in the drug program and 15 additional games for detrimental conduct, a suspension he agreed to accept without appeal because of overwhelming evidence in MLB’s investigation of the Biogenesis clinic.”

In addition to the Braun scandal, I foresaw that starting pitching would likely be below average without any real talent beyond Kyle Lohse and Yovani Gallardo.  Too bad that has come to fruition and in fact, both have performed at or below their potential.  Another blow is that Gallardo just went on the 15 day DL.

Thus, it’s no surprise that this Brewers club is currently 46-63, .422 w/l %, and 19.0 games back from the division leader.  That puts them 27th out of 30th ranked teams in MLB, one of the worst.

There are a couple of highlights, however, for this club including 23 yr old SS Jean Sequra (.317 BA, 31 SB), 27 yr old CF Carlos Gomez (.301, 27 SB, 17 HR), and Norichika Aoki, (.289 BA, 16 SB).  These boys can run, giving the Brewers the most stolen bases in MLB.

In the end, the season boils down to a gesture by Brewer’s owner Mark Attanasio, who this past week announced that fans would receive $10 vouchers for August tickets.  He also released a letter to fans on Tues sharing his “frustation and disappointment” of Braun’s suspension.

Too bad Milwaukee’s season will be defined by the actions of one.

CONCLUSION

It’ll be interesting to see if the Pirates can hang on and win this division with St. Louis & Cincinnati on their heels.  Even if they lost this division outright to either team, I think they’ll hold onto the wild card and be a force in the post-season.  A Cinderella story would also be good for baseball this year and all that PED talk.

 

NL WEST

MY ORIGINAL PRE-SEASON PREDICTIONS (TO FINISH):

  1. Dodgers
  2. San Francisco
  3. Arizona
  4. San Diego
  5. Colorado

ACTUAL STANDINGS (As of Aug 3):

EAST

W-L

GB

LA   Dodgers

57-49

Arizona

55-52

2.5

Colorado

51-58

7.5

San   Diego

50-59

8.5

San   Francisco

47-59

10.0

NEW MID-SEASON PREDICTIONS (TO FINISH):

  1. Dodgers
  2. Arizona
  3. San Francisco
  4. Colorado
  5. San Diego

Los Angeles Dodgers

The first half of the Dodgers 2013 season is a tale of two teams.

Early on, devastating injuries to multiple players held the team back.  It sputtered to find itself while pitchers Ted Lilly, Chad Billingsley, and Josh Beckett all went out for the season for surgeries and Zack Greinke broke his collarbone in April.  And, then batters like Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, Mark Ellis & Matt Kemp all saw the DL several times, among others.

And, then June arrived. 

Finally, this team started to get healthy and the overnight rookie sensation Yasiel Puig was brought up to spark the lineup.  The team started to win more in July and now is gaining momentum as we speak.

The shocking statistics tell it all.  A comparison of the Dodgers June & July numbers in key areas:

Stat

June

(MLB Rank)

July

(MLB Rank)

Pitching – ERA

12

1

Pitching – WHIP

26

2

Pitching – ER

16

1

Hitting – OBP

18

3

Hitting – SLG

17

2

Hitting – RBI

18

5

Hitting – HR

19

7

Thus, currently, the Dodgers record is 57-49 with a .538 w/l %, leading this division and good for 11th best team in MLB and climbing.

Part owner Magic Johnson summed it up well in an interview recently, when he spoke of how he knew once the core team got healthy, this current revival of the Dodgers and dominance over the division is what we’d all see.

Fielding on the other hand, has not been the strong suit of these Dodgers then or now.  They are currently listed as 23rd ranked in fielding percentage & have the 8th most Errors.  Hopefully this will be the next area to be cleaned up.

Going forward, health is obviously crucial for the Dodgers continued winning ways and Puig must continue to produce in the lineup.  Having the best pitcher in MLB right now (Clayton Kershaw) also helps.  He has the lowest ERA of any pitcher at 1.87 and struck out 161 batters (4th).

I’m glad the Dodgers finally came together and fulfilled some of its preseason potential.  Like I said early on, there’s just something special about this team that makes me giddy.  I foresee them going on to do special things.

Arizona Diamondbacks

My prediction for this Diamondbacks team in 2013 was a .500 record.

I also thought perhaps 3rd in the division would be the finish-line, but if the Dodgers or Giants failed to perform as expected, this team could do better.

That is almost exactly where this team stands now just past midseason.  They’ve benefited from the Dodgers & Giants early season woes & injuries has cut the team down to a few good players.

Currently, Arizona’s record is 55-53, .509 w/l %, 3.5 games behind the Dodgers and good for 2nd place in the division.  They are the 15th best in MLB, exactly at the midpoint.

And, midpoint is also where this Arizona’s team Offense & Pitching stands.  They are both pretty average in statistics.  This is largely due to the many injuries the team has suffered this season, especially to key players who have only played partial seasons including Cody Ross, Willie Bloomquist, Eric Chavez and JJ Putz.

I also noticed that there seems to be lack of depth on this team.  There are several players over 30 and most of them have been injured.

One of the bright spots of this team this year includes 23 year old lefty starting pitcher lefty Patrick Corbin.  His record is 12-2 with 2.24 ERA, 0.991 WHIP.

The bullpen also has a young reliever to watch in Brad Ziegler.  He has done a fine job out of the pen in place of Putz & Heath Bell.  Since early July, he’s been great – Going 5-for-5 in save opportunities and he hasn’t given up an earned run.

I also like what 25 yr old 1B Paul Goldschmidt is doing at the bat this year.  He has a .300 BA, 10 SB, 59 BB, 24 HRs, and leads MLB with 86 RBIs.  He’s progressively gotten better since he arrived with Arizona in 2011.

The bottom line for this Diamondbacks team is that it really lacks for any collective strength.  There are bright spots as I mentioned, but not enough to really make a profound impact.

And, while the Dbacks benefit from a subpar division, I don’t see this team making the post-season unless health returns in earnest.

Colorado Rockies

My original prediction for the 2013 Rockies was for more of the same from last season: Expect major imbalances in the pitching and fielding to bring this team down; Better teams in the division will trump any runs of success during the season; Last place finish in the division.

Yet, a little past midseason, Colorado’s record is 52-59, .468 w/l %, 8.5 games back from the Dodgers, good for 17th best team in MLB and ahead of the Padres & Giants in the division.

Well, this Rockies team started out hotter than usual and like the Dbacks, benefitted from a subpar division.  But, unfortunately, performance has recently dropped overall due to a flood of midseason injuries.

The Rockies Offense, its best asset, has taken the biggest hit from injuries. Cuddyer, Tulowitzki, Helton, Flower, and Gonzalez have all been on the DL since May.

For all of those problems, there have been good things happening on offense.  For example, when 28 yrd old SS Troy Tulowitzki has been healthy, he’s been scorching hot.  In only 79 games played this season, he has a .324 BA, .599 SLG, 20 HR, 61 RBIs.  34 yr old RF Michael Cuddyer has been great offensively too.  In only 87 games, he has a .329 BA, .564 SLG, 17 HRs, 62 RBIs.  The third strongest batter has been clutch too – 27 yr old LF Carlos Gonzalez has a .302 BA, .594 SLG, 26 HRs, 70 RBIs, and 21 SB.

As for the pitching staff, it’s not been all bad and at least three starters have showed promise. Jhoulys Chacin has progressively pitched better during the season and managed to garner a 10-5 winning record at midseason.  Also, on June 11, he had a 4.52 ERA, but over the course of the season slowly brought it down to its current 3.40.  Jorge de la Rosa has been consistent and steady.  With a 10-5 record, his ERA went from a 3.38 in June and currently is 3.21.  Young Tyler Chatwood (23, righty) has improved his performance since last year when he finished with a 5-6 record in 12 starts and 5.43 ERA, to a record of 7-4 and 3.15 ERA this season.

So, while the Rockies have performed better this season and continue to show improvement, recent injuries and improved Dodgers & Diamondback teams have caused it to slip overall.  I’ve drawn a comparison of the Rockies stats in May vs. July:

Stat

May

(MLB Rank)

July

(MLB Rank)

Pitching – ERA

18

28

Pitching – WHIP

19

29

Pitching – ER

12

3rd (Most)

Hitting – Hits

14

27

Hitting – Ave

17

25

Hitting – OBP

18

29

Hitting – SLG

16

25

Hitting – RBI

15

27

Hitting – HR

10

24

Bottom line for this team is that if the pitching staff continues to stay steady and offense can collect itself and perform better, there is still a chance this team can climb in the standings.

It’s also not out of the realm of possibilities that this team could win a wild card if the team gets a spark.  I’m not counting on it, though.  I don’t see the Dodgers going away, I think the Giants will go on a late season run, and the Rockies just can’t seem to win at home.  It has one of the worst Away records at 20-33 and its interleague record is the worst in MLB (3-12).

San Francisco Giants

 

Who are the real San Francisco Giants?

That’s what we seem to ask ourselves every season since 2010 when the Giants (a) got to the post-season, and (b) won the championship in 2 of the last 3 years with good pitching but subpar offense.

But, that funny little something crept in which helped bring the somewhat unbalanced Giants to the forefront to win those World Series: chemistry.

Now, I wonder if the chemistry is still alive for the Giants in 2013?

My preseason prediction for these Giants was that chemistry which helped anoint this team in the past could not survive the rise of the Dodgers.  I surmised the Giants would probably garner a wild card spot, but strange as it may seem, this team is in jeapordy of even doing that well.

Currently, a little past midseason, the Giants have a 49-59 record and .454 w/l % and sit in last place in the division, 10.0 games behind the Dodgers and 24th best team in MLB.

One of the main problems for San Fran so far this season is a weaker starting pitching staff, something that has usually been an asset.

For example, other than Madison Bumgarner who has an 11-6 record and 2.69 ERA, the other starters have struggled quite a bit.  Matt Cain is 7-6 with a 4.57 ERA; Tim Lincecum hasn’t performed up to his standards consistently with a 5-11 record and 4.61 ERA; and Barry Zito posts a 4-8 record in 21 starts and 5.09 ERA.  It’s been so bad for him, that he’s recently been sent down to the bullpen.  Ryan Vogelsong also fractured his right hand in May and is out until early August.  Collectively, starting pitching has a 20th rank in ERA and WHIP of 19th.

And, the offense has had its fair share of struggles too in the first half of the season.  Namely, failing to bring runners in.  In 48 games this year, the Giants only scored 2 runs or less when they’ve had 10+ hits.

This deficit in RBIs is a major problem for the Giants who have never been a real power slugging team.  That ability to play small ball when it counts (piece together hits and bring in runners) has been the Giants bread and butter and part of their recent formula for success.

Still, I’m not counting out the ability of these Giants to come back somewhat.  I think they’ll go on a late season run, but their wild card hopes are in real jeopardy unless something special happens real soon.

San Diego Padres

My preseason prediction for this team was that it would finish similarly to last year: with a .469 w/l % and last in the division.

Currently, the Padres have a 51-59 record, with a .464 w/l %, good for 4th place in the division, 9.0 games back from the leader and good for 18th best team in MLB.

I still think the Giants will leap up in the standings ahead of these Padres and cause them to slip in the gutter.  The Padres have the same problems it did last year: a pitching staff that lacks a real ace and a lackluster lineup.

See that word used a lot: “lack”.  And, that is the bottom line for this Padres team, which I predicted would be its problem back in the preseason.  Offense & Pitching lack for any real oomph and power.

Padres stats in MLB:

  • 20th in BA;
  • 19th in OBP;
  • 22nd in SLG;
  • 22nd in OPS;
  • 18th in HRs;
  • 20th in Hits;
  • 22nd in ERA;
  • 19th in Saves;
  • 25th in WHIP.

And, like many other teams in this division, injuries have also compounded the problems for the Padres.  Too bad they can’t take advantage of being in the least competitive division in MLB.

CONCLUSION

Dodgers, Dodgers, Dodgers.  The team seems to be the only one in this division who is willing and able to make a move towards getting into the post-season and making a run for the championship.  All other teams seem to be bogged down with injury issues and are unable to overcome any deficits they may have.

The next most exciting issue for this division is which of the other teams end up in 2nd place.


Sources :

Baseball-Reference.com: www.baseball-reference.com
MLB.com Stats: http://mlb.mlb.com/stats/league_leaders.jsp?c_id=mlb&tcid=mm_mlb_stats
Sports Illustrated MLB Stats: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/mlb/

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