Sunday, July 3, 2016

MLB Midseason Report Card

            It's hard to believe that we're already halfway through the MLB season. It's proof that time certainly flies by. However, that doesn't mean that there's been a lack of storylines and surprises. Here's a look at some of the teams that are making the grade and those who are bombing miserably.

Exceeding Expectations:
Cleveland Indians: What can be said for a team that just went on a 14-game winning streak? The Indians are taking after the NBA Champions in the Cleveland Cavaliers and are playing clutch. The pitching blew opposing staffs out of the water for the month of June, posting an MLB-best ERA of 2.42. During the month of June, they held opponents to a batting average of .213 and pitched four shutouts.
Baltimore Orioles: Speaking of the month of June, the Orioles set a major league record for most home runs in a single month with 56 in June. Many pundits picked Baltimore to finish last in the AL East, but the O's have powered their way beyond such predictions. The offense has been productive thanks to the likes of Manny Machado (.331 BA, 18 homers, 50 RBI) and Mark Trumbo (23 homers, 60 RBI). But it hasn't just been the thunderous bats that have provided a spark. The bullpen has been one of the best with a shutdown closer in Zach Britton (0.78 WHIP, 0.81 ERA, 23 saves) and terrific set-up men.
Seattle Mariners' lineup: The Mariners' offense hasn't been known for producing anything of any sort in the past few years... until now. Currently seventh in runs scored, Seattle's offense has seen a renaissance from the late 1990's-early 2000's. The lineup has seen the resurgence of Robinson Cano, who is batting .301 with 19 homers and 54 RBIs. Other key contributors include Nelson Cruz (21 homers, 56 RBI) and Kyle Seager (16 homers, 52 RBI). The Mariners are drilling the ball, having the second-most homers in MLB (122) behind only Baltimore.
Going Just as Planned:
Chicago Cubs: Although the Cubs have had some struggles as of late, they still have a commanding lead in the NL Central. The rotation is the best in baseball and the youngsters like Kris Bryant (23 homers) are killing the ball. National Legaue competition like the San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals look to derail Chicago's hopes of ending the Curse of the Billy Goat. However, expect the Cubs front office to address whatever issues arise.
Texas Rangers: The Rangers might be exceeding expectations a bit, sitting comfortably atop the AL West. But that's mainly because the Houston Astros stumbled out of the gate. Although many of their starters are currently injured, Cole Hamels (9-1, 2.60 ERA, 102 SO) and crew have done a nice job of preventing utter chaos in Arlington. As for the lineup, Ian Desmond (.320 BA, 15 homers, 52 RBI, .372 OBP) has been a welcome addition to a good lineup.
San Francisco Giants: It is an even year, which means that the San Francisco Giants are competing for a World Series title. The Giants have found a formidable yin to Madison Bumgarner's yang in Johnny Cueto (12-1, 2.57 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 107 SO). If Jeff Samardzija (9-8, 3.97 ERA, 1.18 WHIP) can improve his performance a bit, watch out for San Francisco come October.
Houston Astros: This is mostly due to their 17-28 start, as Houston is now in the thick of a wild-card chase. However, that isn't to say that Houston is without any faults. Reigning Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel (1.42 WHIP, 5.13 ERA) has been subpar so far along with most of the rotation. The lineup also has its issues, striking out the most in the majors (761 SO). Still, the Astros are turning things around and will be in the hunt as long as they have Jose Altuve (.355 BA, 14 homers, 49 RBI, 21 stolen bases), George Springer (17 homers, 48 RBI), and a resurgent Carlos Correa (13 homers, 51 RBI).
New York Mets: The defending National League champions have the 2nd-best team ERA (3.31) in baseball, aided by Jacob DeGrom and Noah Syndergaard. So how come they're scratching and clawing with other teams for the second wild-card spot instead of competing for the NL East? One reason is Matt Harvey. Harvey has struggled for most of the season, posting an ERA of 4.55 and a WHIP of 1.40. Another reason is they really miss Daniel Murphy. The Mets are 28th in runs scored (294) and are batting .234 as a team. Having Yoenis Cespedes (.291 BA, 20 homers, 47 RBI) is nice. But what good will it do for the Mets if Cespedes is the only one who's contributing in the lineup?
St. Louis Cardinals: Normally, the Cardinals are ahead of the pack in the playoff picture. However, St. Louis finds itself on the outside looking in in terms of October baseball. You can point to Trevor Rosenthal's recent struggles as a closer as a problem. Or you can point to Michael Wacha (4-7, 4.42 ERA, 1.38 WHIP) and Adam Wainwright (4.70 ERA, 1.35 WHIP) struggling this season. Or you can point to the bats going silent in June (114 runs scored and a .241 BA in the month of June). Anyways, the Cardinals will be out of the postseason hunt if they don't turn things around quickly.

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