Baseball Notebook

Daily Baseball Blog

First Half Review

AL East: The Red Sox go into the All Star break with a three game lead over the Yankees and a six and a half game lead over the Rays. The Yankees had won 13 of 15 games before being swept by the Angels over the weekend.

The Rays were 23-27 on May 28 but have rebounded to post a 25-14 record since then. The Blue Jays and Orioles are 11 and 14 games back of the Red Sox respectively.

AL Central: The Tigers lead the AL Central by three games but have failed to put much distance between them and the second place White Sox and third place Twins. All three teams are 5-5 in their last ten games.

The White Sox were 31-36 on June 19 but since then have compiled a 14-7 record and are currently three games behind the Tigers. They open the second half with a three game series with the Orioles. The schedulemaker has not been kind to the White Sox since their next 18 games will start with  four game series against the Rays and Tigers.

They return to the Baggy Dome to play the Twins in a three game series then host the Yankees for a four game series and the Angels for a three game series which ends August 6.

Playing five top echelon teams after the Orioles series will be a real test for the White Sox.

The Twins have not won more than two games in a row since May 24 and are only one game over .500.

AL West: The Angels start the second half with a three game winning streak and are 7-3 in their last ten games. They started the season with a 6-11 record but have been 43-26 since their slow start.

Since being 29-29 on June 11 they have posted a 20-8 record. Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders and Matt Palmer have a combined 25-9 record to stabilize an injury riddled starting pitching staff.

Meanwhile the Rangers who have led the AL West for a good part of the season recently relinquished the lead to the Angels and trail them by a game and a half.

The Rangers almost certainly would be still in first place if Josh Hamilton hadn’t missed 45 of the 87 games played by the Rangers.

It has been an up and down season for the Mariners who are four games behind the Angels. They were 12-6 on April 25, then fell to 21-26 on May 26 but have played 25-16 ball since then.

NL East: The Phillies have opened up a four game lead over the Marlins in the NL East winning nine of their last ten games and taking a five game winning streak into the All Star break.

Four Phillies have 20 or more homers with Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez having 22 each and Chase Utley and Jayson Werth having 20 each. All four players are all on a pace to drive in 100 runs this season.

The Marlins are four games behind the Phillies after getting off to a fast start and then faltering but have battled their way back into the NL East race. After starting the season 11-1 the Marlins were 19-25 on May 23 for a stretch of 8-24 baseball.

Their first four games of the second half will be with the Phillies so it will be their chance to close the gap between them and the Phillies.

The Braves are six games behind the Braves and are in third place but the Mets freefall may have had more to do with them being in third place than anything they have done.

A win yesterday would have given the Braves a .500 record but they are now two games under .500 and can’t be taken seriously till they get back to .500.

Chipper Jones leads the Braves with nine homers. Brian McCann has hit eight homers in 238 at bats while his backup David Ross has hit six in only 90 at bats. The lack of power could keep the Braves from moving up in the standings.

The Mets front office seems to be more lenient with Jerry Manuel than they were with Willie Randolph. It may because of the rash of injuries which can’t be blamed on Manuel.

However after some of the injured players return from the disabled list and they still keep losing his job may be in jeopardy.

When May ended the Mets were 28-21. Since then they have been 14-24. They travel to Atlanta for a four game series with the Braves to start the second half with newly acquired Jeff Francoeur returning to Atlanta a week after being traded to the Mets.

NL Central: The NL Central has the widest open race in the majors with five teams separated by five games. The Cardinals currently hold a two and a half game lead over the Brewers.

The Cardinals have only been under .500 twice this season and that was only after their first and third games of the season.

April 21 was the low point for the Brewers when they were 4-9. They climbed back to .500 on April 28 when they were 10-10. The Brewers were ten games over .500 on June 6 with a 33-23 record but finished the first half two games over with a 45-43 for a 12-20 record in that time span.

The Astros and Cubs start the second half tied for third with both teams trailing the Cardinals by three and a half games. The Astros were 19-29 on May 30 but have battled back to a 44-44 record for 25-15 record since then.

The Cubs have been right around .500 most of the season but can’t put together a winning streak of more than four games. Since the end of May they have finished games with a .500 record eleven times.

Milton Bradley has been a major disappointment for the Cubs with only 21 runs batted in this season in 210 at bats. It will be interesting to see how much longer Lou Piniella will trot Bradley out to the outfield while Jake Fox has driven in 15 runs in only 80 at bats sits on the bench but Fox is a defensive liability in the outfield.

It may be better for Lou to let Fox play in the outfield and cross his fingers hoping that nobody will hit the ball to him and hope Fox can drive in more runs than he lets score defensively.

The Mariners, Royals and Padres are the only teams to have scored less than the 355 runs scored by the Cubs. In contrast the Yankees lead the majors in runs scored with 495 runs.

The Cubs will start the second half traveling to Washington for a four game series with the Nationals.

It has been surprising to me that the Reds are five games behind the Cardinals after losing Joey Votto for an extended time because of stress related issues. In addition their best starter last season Edinson Volquez hasn’t pitched since June 1.

Homer Bailey has had quality starts in his last two starts against the Cardinals and Phillies showing he may be ready to fulfill the promise expected from him.

NL West: The Dodgers are 56-32 with the best record in the majors and are holding onto a seven game lead over the Giants.  Though the Dodgers didn’t lose any ground while Manny Ramirez was out of action due to his suspension for using performance enhancing drugs they may have been much further ahead with him in the lineup.

The Giants have the lowest ERA among major league teams and that alone should keep them in the race. The offense of Pablo Sandoval has been a surprise so if he can continue to hit well to help Benjie Molina the Giants should be the NL wild card.

There is still enough time left for them to win the NL West championship if the Dodgers falter in the second half.

With the Rockies nine back of the Dodgers they have a chance of winning the wild card. Since Clint Hurdle was fired the Rockies have taken off for new manager Jim Tracy.


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