The Sports Bros.
From Berkman to Kemp to Pujols, the surprising state of baseball as the All-Starbreak beckons
Kind of like in business, you can't judge how well you're doing in a baseball season week-to-week or even month-to-month. But now that we're more than a third of the way through the 162-game grind, it's safe to say we're starting to see the trends emerge.
Luckily for baseball fans, we're seeing some wonderful new talent (Michael Pineda), surprising old talent resurgance (Lance Berkman, anyone?), and — putting all the steroid-era baseball haters to rest — we are personally glad to see Jose Bautista's 2010 season not be a fluke as he continues to power his way through the league.
Come with us as the Sports Bros. wrap up the first third of the baseball season.
Easily one of the best divisions in baseball to watch — stating it is like saying Steve Jobs is going to wear a black mock turtleneck. At any given point, the Rays, Red Sox and Yankees are switching up possession of first place. If it weren't for Tampa Bay’s horrendous start, Boston's red-hot run and the Yankees turning up the heat, the Rays would be right at the top. (They probably have the most talented defensive outfield in Sam Fuld, Matt Joyce and B.J. Upton.) Instead they're 4.5 games out.
Pair that with last place Baltimore being only 10 games out of first place and the Blue Jays boasting potential MVP winner Jose Bautista and this division is going to be incredible to watch.
The Yankees were getting some great pitching out of Bartolo Colon — who had obviously risen from the dead this season — before he went on the disabled list. This is great for them since Phil Hughes walked on the mound and forgot how to pitch.
The Red Sox are playing red hot right now, as was expected, and in contrast to the beginning of their season. (Thank God, signed, the author who may or may not have taken the Overs win total.) They've been bit a bit by the injury bug of late with Clay Buchholz and Carl Crawford going on the DL.
In probably the biggest surprise in baseball, the Cleveland Indians sit alone in first place (barely, by a game over the Detroit Tigers, but still alone in first). They’re getting great pitching from Justin Masterson, the key trade piece from the Victor Martinez deal with the Red Sox. Travis Hafner has seemed to find his stroke again, and if Grady Sizemore can remain healthy and Shin-Soo Choo heats up, we don’t see the Indians backsliding.
The most shocking number has to be seven and a half, as in the Minnesota Twins are seven and a half games behind the Indians. Staggering considering how competitive the Twins always are.
The Royals are actually playing some exciting baseball, especially now that they’ve called up phenoms Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas. And you can never count out the White Sox, especially with Paul Konerko putting up MVP-like numbers.
This should shape up to be quite an interesting race between all the teams in the division. Before the season, we chose the Oakland A's to take the division because of starters Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, and Gio Gonzalez. They haven't disappointed (until Anderson went on the DL and Cahill's recent backslide), but Oakland's offense just isn't scoring enough runs.
The whole AL West is give-or-take five games apart from each other, and Texas, after a hot start, is coming back down to reality. If the Rangers can't get their bullpen figured out, they could finish the year in third place.
The Seattle Mariners are the really shocking team here. We would not have guessed that they would be in second place and over .500 with Ichiro hitting in the mid .250s. Erik Bedard has had a nice comeback and Michael Pineda and King Felix are dominating right now. They might find themselves as buyers at the trade deadline.
No surprise that the Philadelphia Phillies are leading the division — almost no surprise they're arguably the best team in baseball. Placido Polanco is playing out of his mind and the Big Four of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels are all having Ace-on-any-team seasons. The Phillies will only get stronger now that Chase Utley's back.
At one point the Florida Marlins were poised to make a run at the wild card. They have an amazing core of young and talented players in Hanley Ramirez, Mike Stanton, Logan Morrison, Gaby Sanchez and future Cy Young winner Josh Johnson, but they have run into a horrible stretch where they can't win a game.
Even their manager resigned. It's not looking good in Florida. The franchise really needed to build some momentum going into next year when it will finally have its new stadium. (And the Marlins need to get Johnson off the DL ASAP.)
The Brewers and Cardinals are locked atop the division, but it's the Brewers that are currently trending up. Albert Pujols is out four to six weeks with a broken wrist and St. Louis' pitching outside of Jaime Garcia hasn't been particularly consistent. Don't sleep on Cincinnati though. The Reds are just a few games back and have the young arms and bats to get right back in it.
It’s no shocker that the Cubs and Astros are firmly entrenched in the bottom of the division. There isn't a lot to say for the hometown boys. Everything needs fixing.
The Astros have two guys in Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn that would start for other teams. But when the rest of your team is filled with a bunch of Average Joes, you will get below average results. Welcome to Houston baseball.
This division as a whole is underperforming quite a bit. It has the returning champion San Francisco Giants and a great Colorado Rockies team both hovering around .500. The Giants are getting good pitching from Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Brian Wilson, but their hitting has suffered; star catcher Buster Posey is out for the season and Pablo Sandoval had to get his wrist surgically repaired.
The Rockies have arguably the best two young hitters back-to-back in Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, but they haven’t both put it together at the same time yet. Other than batting, part of the Rockies' troubles is Ubaldo Jimenez’s struggles. Look for both Colorado and San Francisco to stay competitive, especially because they both play the Padres a ton.
The Arizona Diamondbacks are a real surprise. We predicted a very poor season from them, but they're clinging to second place and really pushing San Fran. They're getting great pitching from the rookie Josh Collmenter — who learned how to throw a baseball by throwing tomahawks — Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy. The West needs to look out if Chris Young and Justin Upton can continue to produce at the top of the Diamondback lineup.
The Dodgers have a mess in the owner's office and it’s effecting the play of the team. If they can get hot, they can make a run at the division, but as far as we can see, no one is running away with the NL West.
AL MVP: Adrian Gonzalez. It's close between him and Jose Bautista. The nod goes to Gonzo because he has 101 hits to Bautista's 76 — he's also got 64 RBIs to Bautista's 46. It doesn't help Jose that pitchers have essentially stopped pitching to him.
AL Cy Young: Josh Beckett. This is a hot race between him, his teammate Jon Lester, Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver and James Shields. Beckett is the only one sporting a sub 2.00 ERA of the group so he gets the pick.
AL ROY: Michael Pineda. This will be a good battle between Pineda and Baltimore Orioles phenom Zach Britton, but Pineda has an ERA around 2.70 and K/9 close to nine. Heck those peripherals could warrant him being the CY Young race. Should be exciting. If Eric Hosmer gets hot, he too could be in consideration.
NL MVP: Matt Kemp is beginning to run away with this award. He's on pace to be a 40/40 guy. If he does that, it's just about over. Not to mention he's hitting over .320. Dude is a stud. Prince Fielder and Jose Reyes are also having pretty tremendous seasons as well.
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay. He's leading the league in strikeouts and is top five in ERA. His teammate, Cole Hamels is also very high in all the right categories. If Jair Jurrjens had the Ks, he'd be in the mix. Clayton Kershaw is also having himself quite a year.
NL ROY: Craig Kimbrel. He’s looking pretty strong as the Braves full-time closer, but he has blown four saves and Jonny Venters may start taking away some of his opportunities. Danny Espinosa of the Nationals has 13 home runs and 43 RBIs. If he can get the average up a bit, he'll get some strong consideration too.