* * * AL East * * *
Whenever you lose two front line pitchers especially lefties for any amount of time that will hurt. When you have the best lineup in the game it doesn't hurt as much. Robinson Cano is on fire and Derek Jeter continues to perform at high level.
If Evan longoria could stay healthy, who knows? As usual, Joe Maddon has his young group of stars competing and winning on a nightly basis. The bullpen is strong and the rotation lives up to its reputation as a league best.
Buck Showalter's great deep baseball mind can only take this team so far. The Orioles have not been this relevant, this late in the season, in more than a decade. Adding slugger Jim Thome last week is a push in the right direction. Adding a starting arm could propell the Birds into the postseason.
A team on the rebuild for yet another season lack quite a bit. All star slugger Jose Batista is left alone in the valley of offense. The Blue jays organization posses a plethora of young arms. Non of which have yet to season into a big time arm.
Blame it on the manager, the front office, the pitching, or chemistry all you want. The fact is that you can't win with your a virtual all-star team rehabbing injuries. Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, Clay Bucholz, Andrew Bailey all spent most or part of the first half on the DL. It's amazing they have even remained in the hunt.
* * * AL Central * * *
First-year manager Robin Ventura has the Sox believing and performing. Led by the resurgent Jake Peavy and with the help of newly acquired Kevin Youkilis the Chicago sits atop the division
The Tribe, picked by most to finish dead last, has been quite a surprise. You may not recognize most of the names on the scorecard, yet they seem to end up on top more nights than not.
The offseason acquisition of Prince Fielder made most experts pick the Tigers to finish on top. A slow start by the Tiger pitching staff, and an injured Austin Jackson have put the club in third place. Look for that to change as Justin Verlander and the rest of the pitching staff heat up.
The city hosted this seasons All-Star Game. For the first time since Bo Jackson was playing, these fans got to see some All-Star calibur baseball. Sophomore slugger Eric Hosmer's slow start combined with a high club ERA, and you have another edition of the woeful Kansas City Royals.
Francisco Liriano is never going to be Johan Santana. That is the lesson the Twins have taught themselves. No pitching, no hitting, no fielding... no winning.
* * * AL West * * *
The two time defending Al champs are at it again. There offense fierce, and the pitching dispute a couple of minor injuries has been solid. Rookie free agent Yu Darvish's 10 wins to start the season is more than even the Rangers could have hoped for.
Albert Pujols has not been the complete answer or problem. As Albert started off slowly, so did the Angels. The Angels' starting pitchers (not named Weaver or Wilson) have been bruised and battered. Certainly as much as they underachieved in the first half, one must be prepared for the overachieving angels in the second.
Their small budget is always the first line in any story regarding the A's. However, critics have been surprised by the high level play the club brings to the diamond. The Athletics have managed to re-invent a few veterans (ie. Bartolo Colon and Coco Crisp all the while nourishing the future in Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes.
The Mariners opened April with a statement of honesty. Admitting the club was planning to rebuild its core in 2012 put very pressure on the young squad of 20-somethings. Still, King Felix has been King Felix and veteran Ichiro Suzuki continues to be a thorn in the side of opposing pitchers. For their honesty, I grade them favorably.
* * * NL East * * *
Who would have thought after dumping Jose Reyes in the off-season, the Mets would be a better club. Defense and most importantly, healthy pitching can be attributed to their success.
A youthful solid lineup of power, speed and versatility, Atlanta may be a lock for the post season. Early season injuries led to a slow start out of the gate. However, it's not how you start it's how you finish.
Overachivers in the first half they sit atop the NL east with hopes of a strong playoff campaign. Veteran Jayson Werth has finally begun to contribute regularly, and everyone knows about the kid making headlines: Bryce Harper. If the Nats were to add a veteran arm and/or bat before the deadline, they could be a tough postseason matchup.
New stadium, new manager, new shortstop, new name... yet still underachieving. Manager Ozzie Guillen took his circus show south to the Miami Marlins and has produced his typical results.
This story is surpirising and bleak. A shoe-in for a pennant run on paper in April, now sitting at the bottom of the division 10+ games out. The return of Utley, Holliday, and Howard from injury should help. Don't count the Phillies out just yet.
* * * NL Central * * *
When is the last time the Pirates were in first place at the All-Star break? A revived pitching staff that includes AJ Burnett and Erick Berdar, plus their producitve offense have been the driving force of their tale. Manager Clint Hurdle has his team dialed in, one game at a time.
Another team in the long list of 2012 surprises. Joey Votto is hitting the cover off the ball and his supporting cast has been nice enough to do the same. Young arms, both in the pen and in the rotation, have got them this far. Will it be enough to get them to October?
Carlos Beltran has been a mighty addition to the Cardinal lineup. Battling injuries and a transition in mangers from long time skipper Tony Larusa to rookie manger, Mike Matheny, the Cards have maitained a solid season thus far. A veteran club they will push for the postseason in the dog days off summer.
Ryan Braun and the Brewers got off to a hot start but since have cooled. Although Braun is hitting with a chip a Wisconsin-sized chip on his shoulder, the rest of the squad has struggled. Milwaukee is likely to be a seller come the trade deadline.
Wow...what went wrong here? Theo Epstein's first season has Cubs GM was not supposed to be a washout by May. Chicago can not seem to put anything together. There pitching abismal their offense invisible.
Astro's skipper Brad Mills will probaly be an unemployment statistic before long. With no signs of improvement, the Astros continue to be the laughing stock of the NL.
* * * NL West * * *
Pitching wins championships. In San Fransico they have some of the best. Even with their ace Lincecum struggling, the Giants have the best staff in the game. Pablo Sandoval's recent return from the DL has bolstered the offense, making the Giants an October favorite.
Don Mattingly is lock for manager of the year right now. A trimmed payroll and cast, the Dodgers are a threat. LA will be looking to add a low price arm or bat by the trading deadline.
Shipping off veteran Orlando Hudson early in the season said it all. Blow up the plans and start again. One of the youngest teams in the game, the Padres are hoping that the new kids develop into the stars of tomorow. Outfielders Cameron Maybin and Will Venable are getting a chance to play everyday and making the most of it.
Walking the fine line of contender or pretender, the Diamondbacks are an interesting squad. Competitive every night: yes. However they lack an equalizer; a big bat who can change the tone of a game in one swing.
Lack of depth in a poor rotation is the story in Denver. Young, but not as talented as most may be a good way of describing this Rockies squad. A long second half is in front of this club.
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