Midseason MLB Report Cards
OUR NATIONAL LEAGUE REPORT CARD GRADES ARE IN! ...
LOS ANGELES DODGERS (60-32) - Baseball's best team at the break, the Dodgers have won a batch of "walk-offs" and every night there's a different hero. MVP frontrunner OF Cody Bellinger (.336 batting average, 30 HR, 71 RBI and 107 runs scored) is a whiz on "D" too while All-Star Game starting pitcher LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (10-2, 0.91 WHIP) never gets hit hard. If this ain't the year the Dodgers break the 31-year-old World Series curse, then when?
ATLANTA (54-27) - The Braves were the NL East's "forgotten team" last off-season when folks were critical of the club's lack of player moves but look at 'em now: Entering the break, Atlanta's six games ahead of Washington / 6.5 games ahead of Philadelphia with plenty of power on tap (143 home runs) and a true MVP candidate in 1B Freddie Freeman (.309 batting average with 23 HR, 68 RBI and a .394 on-base percentage).
PITTSBURGH (44-45) - Three cheers for the Pirates who (as we mentioned in yesterday's Jim Sez) have been the "best bets" in the NL this year with a + 654 profit margin thus far and slugger Josh Bell sports 27 of the team's 98 home runs on the year. Manager Clint Hurdle has kept it all together after a 20-34 spell that ended back on June 18th and this club could be dangerous if the Pirates can get anything from RHP Chris Archer (5.49 ERA).
ARIZONA (46-45) - The Diamondbacks were projected to win 75.5 games, so they're a bit ahead of pace as RHP Zack Greinke (10-3, 2.73 ERA with 108 Ks and just 15 BBs) has been worth his weight in gold. P.S., the D-Backs haven't missed 1B Paul Goldschmidt as much as they thought they would.
Grade: B -
CINCINNATI (41-46) - The Reds have stayed in the hunt (just 4.5 games back of the Cubs in the NL Central race) thanks to some brilliant pitching (3.77 ERA is third-best in baseball) and note RHP Luis Castillo (8-3, 2.29 ERA with 124 Ks in 106 IP) is our NL Cy Young guy right this minute.
WASHINGTON (47-42) - Truth is the Nats were buried alive weeks ago but they've gone 28-11 since May 23rd and SS Trea Turner's return from a broken finger (he missed six weeks on the IL) has coincided with the team's resurrection.
SAN DIEGO (45-45) - The Pods were hoping for a bit more from free-agent signee Manny Machado (20 dingers, 76 K) but closer Kirby Yates (29 saves) has been brilliant and winning the last three games at Dodger Stadium just prior to the break was uber-important.
COLORADO (44-45) - Truth is the Rockies looked buried after the first couple of weeks (see a dreadful 3-12 start) but savvy manager Bud Black has 'em back in the wild card race even though they rank 28th in the bigs in team ERA (5.16).
MIAMI (33-55) - The low-salaried Marlins have given plenty of folks fits this year but no hiding the fact this offense is awful (dead-last in MLB in runs scored with 312 or 3.54 runs per game) though Garrett Cooper could be a future star.
PHILADELPHIA (47-43) - The Phils rank 19th in the big leagues in home runs (with 115) and 19th in team ERA (4.64) and so maybe Gabe Kapler's club is "fortunate" to be sitting here a few games north of the .500 mark. It's possible that OF Jay Bruce - and not $300 million man Bryce Harper - will be this team's savior in 2019.
SAN FRANCISCO (41-48) - Offensively-challenged Giants are right about where they were supposed to be (see wins projection of 73.5 this year) as closer Will Smith (23 of 23 in save opportunities) has kept outgoing manager Bruce Bochy thinking a wild card is possible (5.5 games back).
Grade: C -
CHICAGO CUBS (47-43) - Talk about a roller-coaster season! The Cubbies have alternately run hot-and-cold through the first 55 percent of this season and there's no reason Joe Maddon's club ranks 13th in the majors in runs scored (455) with this hearty lineup. Maybe recently-signed closer Craig Kimbrel can rescue this underachieving bunch the rest of the way.
MILWAUKEE (47-44) - Go ahead and put the Brewers right there with the Cubs for overall inconsistency. Last year's NLCS Game 7 loser has gotten yet another monster year from OF Christian Yelich (.329 batting average with 31 HRs and 67 RBI and remember he missed nine or 10 games) but this lineup ranks middle-of-the-pack in runs scored and the pen has blown 10 saves.
ST. LOUIS (44-44) - Score it a third consecutive C- grade for an NL Central squad as these Cardinals have some excuses (see back problems suffered by past All-Star Matt Carpenter and hefty ERAs from the likes of starters RHPs Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha) but they just have not played smart /sound ball.
NEW YORK METS (40-50) - One of MLB's biggest disappointments, the Mets have been a real train wreck, thanks in large part to a brutally bad bullpen (closer Edwin Diaz already has six losses) to go along with a terrible defensive squad. P.S., 30-HR guy Pete Alonso - Monday's Home Run Derby champ -- and hit machine Jeff McNeil have been terrific, but the Mets truthfully didn't know either of these guys would be this good.
NOW, HERE'S OUR AMERICAN LEAGUE REPORT CARD GRADES...
MINNESOTA (56-33) - Let's remind one-and-all that the Twins' win projection this year was 84.5 games, so Minny cashes if it goes just 29-44 the rest of the way! Wow, Minnesota's been bashing the long ball right from season's start and so no shocker that the Twins have 166 round-trippers this year and are "on pace" to hit 302 dingers this year. Still, we salute a pitching staff of mix-and-match parts that ranks sixth in the bigs in team ERA (3.97) with RHPs Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi both standing tall.
NEW YORK YANKEES (57-31) - Second-year Yanks' manager Aaron Boone has waved a magic wand over this here-and-now team that played a slew of games without the likes of OF/DH Giancarlo Stanton, OF Aaron Judge, SS Didi Gregorious, RHP Luis Seveino and righty reliever Dellin Betances ... and NYY actually thrived in their absences! The Yanks are a rollicking 29-9 against fellow AL East squads and they rank in MLB's top six in batting average (.265, 6th), runs scored (5-3, 3rd) and home runs (149, 4th) with team MVP and All-Star DJ LeMahieu (.336 batting average with 113 hits and a team-best 63 RBI) the numero uno story of this offense.
TEXAS (48-42) - One of MLB's "best bets" this year, the Rangers have re-tooled in a hurry and first-year manager Chris Woodward has been a perfect fit for the Lone Star State squad that can chisel into that nine-game lead held by Houston beginning with this four-game weekend set in Arlington. The likes of injured All-Star Hunter Pence, Shinn-Soo Choo and All-Star Game home-run hitter Joey Gallo (a combined 48 dingers so far) has perked up an attack that ranks sixth in the big leagues in runs scored (485).
CHICAGO WHITE SOX (42-44) - You could see this young talent pipeline rushing to the surface the past year-and-change and now here's the Pale Hose as one of MLB's "best bets" despite the fact they are - 71 in runs differential. The Sox may have struck out in an attempt to get INF Manny Machaho this past off-season but there's plenty of pop on hand including 1B Jose Abreu (21 HR, 66 RBI). One of the top pleasant surprise teams in the bigs this year.
TAMPA BAY (52-39) - Give a rousing ovation to a Rays' team that is playing .571 ball even though reigning AL Cy Young Award winner LHP Blake Snell (5-7, 4.70 ERA) has been less than ordinary the first half of this '19 season. True, All-Star RHP Charlie Morton (10-2) has been brilliant and overall the TB staff ranks first in the bigs with a 3.32 team ERA as it's pitching / defense that continues to carry a club that is projected to win 84.5 games this season. And don't look now but OF Tommy Pham is a certifiable star (see .379 on-base percentage).
HOUSTON (57-33) - Gotta rate the Astros as the co-favorites (along with the Yankees, of course) to make it to this year's World Series but we are not handing Houston an "A" grade here 'cause the offense has not be as explosive as thought (no 2B Jose Altuve for much of the year has hurt). It helps that Houston's 26-7 in divisional games as All-Star Game starter RHP Justin Verlander (2.98 ERA) and Gerrit Cole (3.09 ERA) have been rock-solid forces at the head of this rotation.
OAKLAND (50-41) - Note that on May 14th, the A's were 19-23 and so that's 31-18 ever since with a team that ranks in the MLB's top 10 in team ERA (4.06), home runs (145) and runs scored (467) and remember this is a team that's blown 17 saves (21-of-38). All-Star 3B Matt Chapman has a quiet 52 RBI while CF Ramon Laureano (16 HR, 47 RBI) can go get 'em on defense.
CLEVELAND (50-38) - Maybe you deem this an "unfair" grade for an Indians' club that has roared back from a sluggish start. There's been major injuries / illnesses to key starting pitchers such as RHP Corey Kluber (5.80 ERA in just seven starts) and RHP Carlos Carrasco (4.98 ERA in 12 starts) and that has really hurt the cause but the Tribe still ranks 5th in MLB with a 3.94 team ERA ... hello All-Star Game MVP Shane Bieber!
BOSTON (49-41) - When the Red Sox started off this season at 6-13, it sure seemed that second-year skipper Joey Cora didn't have his finger on this club's pulse ... but ever since that April 17th loss at the NY Yankees, the Sox have gone 43-28 and wriggled their way back into the AL wild card race (yes, still 9 full games back of the Yanks). The Red Sox lead the majors in runs scored (509 / 5.65 runs per game) and oft-overlooked SS Xander Bogaerts already has 65 ribbies and a .384 on-base percentage. If LHP Chris Sale didn't start off so bad, then the defending champions might have had a shot to win the division again.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS (45-46) - The sudden death of 27-year-old LHP Tyler Skaggs has rocked the Halos who - truth be told - have been battling mediocrity all year long (see 24th in the majors in team ERA at 4.94). Sure, do-everything CF Mike Trout (28 HR, 67 RBI and a .453 on-base percentage) will finish somewhere in the top three of this year's AL MVP race but it's looking like yet another wasted year for the Anaheim guys.
TORONTO (34-57) - It's been a major dud of a '19 season for Canada's club (thank goodness for the Toronto Raptors, eh?) that can't hit (22nd in the bigs in runs scored (393) and can't pitch either (22nd in team ERA with a 4.91 mark).
SEATTLE (39-55) - Remember when the Mariners bolted out of the starting gate at 11-3? It's been a major nosedive ever since.
KANSAS CITY (30-61) - It's been a downright depressing year in Kaycee where the Royals rank 27th in team ERA (5.08) and 28th in homers (87). Plus, they are the AL's biggest cash-burner in 2019.
BALTIMORE (27-62) - Realize it's a "rebuilding / tank" season for the Birds but how about being 30.5 games out of first place by the All-Star Game break! The club's bloated 5.59 team ERA is the worst in MLB.
DETROIT (28-57) - Hard to remember the Tigers were just one game below .500 (see 16-17) on May 8th and yet now here's the Motowners with the second-worst won/loss mark in the junior circuit. Highly disappointing campaign and a thumbs-down for out-of-touch manager Ron Gardenhire.