Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Signor Baseball's MLB Midseason Update

So here we are, just past halfway in the 2011 season, and what have we learned?

Well, for one thing the ownership of the Dodgers is even more screwed up than the ownership of the Mets--and they don't have Bernie Madoff to blame, either. And hitting a baseball thrown 90 plus miles an hour is still the single hardest thing in sports. Only a slight diminution of their reflexes can turn a .320 hitter into a .270 hitter just like that. Pace Ichiro and Derek Jeter.

Surprises? Always. In the American League Cleveland and Seattle are playing much better than I thought they would and Minnesota, Chicago, and Oakland much worse.

In the AL East, the Yankees and Red Sox are about where you'd expect, with Tampa Bay hanging close. Any more injuries to the New York or Boston pitching staffs or starting lineups and the Rays might pass one or both of them. In Toronto I didn't think Jose Bautista would hit 54 homers again and it looks like he may get to 60. That's about all the Blue Jays' fans have to look forward to. And in Baltimore, Mark Reynolds has finally cut down on his strikeouts. And his power. At least the Oriole pitching staff isn't afraid to brush people back. Now if they could just get someone out...

The Tigers and Indians will continue neck and neck in the Central. Cleveland seems to be for real and should stick around until the very end. Neither of them looks strong enough to run away from the other. This means that the Twins and White Sox, who have both really underperformed, aren't out of it yet...The less said about the Royals the better.

And in the West, the Rangers and Angels should go down to the wire. Texas still has the edge in talent, but never underestimate Arte Moreno's deep pockets at the trading deadline. After a stronger than expected start Seattle has begun to fade, and in Oakland it's already 'wait until next year' time.

In the National League, the Mets, Nationals and, wonder of wonder, the Pirates are playing a lot better than expected, while the Marlins, Padres and Dodgers have been the biggest disappointments.

As I mentioned in my NL season preview, if the Phillies pitching stays relatively healthy they should take the East easily. The Braves still have a good shot at the wild card, but Atlanta better keep an eye on both New York and Washington lurking behind them. Florida seems finished at this point. Then again, Jack McKeon has worked miracles in the past with the Marlins.

In the Central, the Brewers look like they're for real and should be able to keep pace with the Cardinals, with the Reds also in contention. I think Pittsburgh will fade in August, but for my son's sake I hope they don't. He's never been to Pittsburgh--we don't even know anybody in Pittsburgh--but for some inexplicable reason, the Pirates are his team. So go Pirates! The Cubs are the Cubs, God bless them, and there doesn't seem to be anything anyone can do about that. I know there's another team in this division, but I can't for the life of me remember what it is.

In the West, the Giants pitching rivals the Phillies, but sooner or later they'll miss Buster Posey's bat. The Diamondbacks bullpen has been a lot better and that has made all the difference in the world. They may need to add a couple of veteran players to catch San Francisco, though, and who knows whether they can afford to? The Rockies looked like they would run away with the division for the first couple of months but have cooled down and are now a sub .500 club. Losing Adrian Gonzalez has left a huge hole in San Diego. However, as in the Central, I don't see anybody pulling away, so maybe the Padres have a chance to regroup. And in Los Angeles, there's apparently no end in sight to the soap opera that Dodger baseball has become. Cherchez la femme.

Still, it's a long, long season, and all kinds of strange and wondrous things can happen between now and early October.

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