Category:MLB
Posted on: August 9, 2009 9:32 pm
Edited on: August 9, 2009 9:36 pm
 

The Mystery of Alex Rios

Numerous MLB sources have reported tha Alex Rios has been claimed by the Chicago White Sox. Whether or not he gets traded is still a mystery, but we should know as early as Tuesday.

Rios has been a highly touted phenom since his breakout season in 2006, where he posted a clip of .302/.349/.516 while playing stellar defense in right field, shown by his 13.7 UZR/150.

He followed his breakout year in 2007 with a campaign that featured an OPS+ of 122 and a career high 24 home runs with 17 stolen bases.

Rios signed a 7 year $69 million contract extension in 2008, but a staph infection on his leg put him on the DL for a month. Rios did post a respectable 111 OPS+ along with a career high 32 stolen bases along with 11 home runs after the all-star break.

2009 has not been kind to Rios. He's currently hitting .262 with a .328 wOBA and the team seems to be eager to dump his expensive contract.

By looking just at the numbers on the outside, it appears that Rios is regressing at age 28. The question is, how many players start regressing in their prime, especially hitters?

A simple look at his career BABIP should tell you that this year has been a lot of bad luck.

Rios' career BABIP goes this way.

2006: .346
2007: .324
2008: .335
2009: .291

You could say that Rios has been lucky before in his previous seasons. The league average BABIP is around .300. Rios' BABIP was as much as 46 percentage points higher than that. But he's done this over a course of 3 seasons, so he might naturally be a guy who gets his hits to fall.

His LD% is fairly pedestrian, just slightly above league average. In fact, he's more of a ground ball hitter than he is a fly ball hitter.

However, Rios' LD% is 2% lower than his career norm at 18.1%. That's 7.2 less line drives hit by Rios than his career norm. Since Rios hits .726 on line drives, he should have 5.2 more hits than he should right now.

I know you're thinking, only 5 hits, how big of a difference is that?

With the extra 5 hits, Rios would be hitting a much better .273 with a .326 OBP.

Still not even league average, but much better right? There's also many other factors we can incorporate, but I'm not going to do that.

Even with his below average year with the bat and barely average year on defense, Rios is still a productive player. So far, he's contributed 1 more win than the average player this year for Toronto.

In previous seasons, he's contributed as many as 5.5 wins above replacement.

So how valuable would he be to the White Sox?

The answer is - very valuable.

The fact of the matter is, the White Sox haven't had a full-time CF who posted an OPS above .800 since 2004, Aaron Rowand's career year.

Rios will find himself with a lot more home runs at U.S. Cellular Field, which features smaller gaps and fences that are only 330 feet from home plate down the line.

The HR/FB rate of U.S. Cellular Field is around 11%. Rios has averaged an 8.6% at Skydome.

So that's a 2.5% jump in that category, which should result in at least 5 more home runs, if not more.

Rios will most likely play center field with the White Sox and he features a career 12.8 UZR/150 there, although it is only a 100 game sample size.

If Rios can be the hitter he was two years ago, he can easily become a 30/30 man in Chicago while playing a stellar defense. Add in the fact that he will play in a weaker division without the likes of the Yankees and Red Sox 38 times a year and he should play much, much better.

If Kenny Williams can lure in Rios for pretty much nothing while helping Riccardi free a lot of money from his books, it could be a great thing for all three parties.

Rios needs a fresh start, the White Sox need a CF, and the Blue Jays need to dump salary.

Win, win for all.


Posted on: August 2, 2009 9:05 pm
 

Gordon Beckham: 2009 AL Rookie of the Year?

I honestly cannot express how much man-love I have for Gordon Beckham right now (no homo). Just about everything he does on the field looks good.

Even if he screws up on a grounder, it seems okay because he's not really a third baseman. If he strikes out, you will think, "hey, at least he made the pitcher throw 3 pitches."
Basically, he can do no wrong because he does so much right.

Beckham, the #8 overall pick out of the University of Georgia in last year's draft, was not even an official member of the White Sox one year ago to this day. Yet, here he is in Chicago, hitting .311 with an .860 OPS, and 17, yes count 'em, 17 doubles while the White Sox are in the midst of a battle for the AL Central. Talk about being a stud.

His defense might not be sparkling with his -3.4 UZR (which translates to a -7.3 UZR/150), but he is a natural middle infielder, not a corner infielder. It's extremely hard to adjust to a new position that requires much faster reflexes. Thus, his bad defense to this point is excusable. The good thing is that he seems to be improving, at least I think so. But then again, nothing he does looks bad in my eyes.

Possibly the best quality (or intangible) that Beckham has is the way he goes about his business. He looks poised at the plate, he has the mindset of, "I'm better and I'm going to shove this ball up your ass if I have to", he thrives in big situations, and he has a good time while doing all of this. At this point in his career, he probably isn't a leader vocally, but he can sure back up his swagger with his play on the field.

His skillset reminds me a lot of Michael Young and his ability to lead almost reminds me of Derek Jeter. It's very early to put Gordon into the Young and Jeter category right now as both of those guys are accomplished all-stars and Beckham's nothing but a rookie. However, you can't go wrong thinking this guy can be something special. Sooner or later, his doubles will turn into home runs and he'll be considered one of the premiere middle infielders in the league.

In a year where there are very few rookie sensations in the American League, Beckham looks to be one of the front-runners for the award if he continues his fine play. His opponents include guys like Nolan Reimold, David Price, Rick Porcello, Matt Wieters, Brad Bergesen, Jeff Niemann, Ricky Romero, Elvis Andrus, and Andrew Bailey. I might be missing some, but those are some rookies out there who have put up good numbers.

In my opinion, Beckham's main opponents are Andrus, Romero, Porcello, and Niemann. If anything, Andrus will be his biggest competetion since he is an every day player. Niemann, Romero, and Porcello have been decent, but not stellar enough to possibly beat out a position player of Beckham's magnitude.
Posted on: August 1, 2009 4:01 pm
Edited on: August 1, 2009 4:10 pm
 

Peavy Deal Proves that Williams is a Genius

There should be Kenny Williams statues all around the city of Chicago. Just look at what the man's done as the general manager of the White Sox and it's quite obvious that he is an absolute genius.
  • Traded for Bartolo Colon in his prime for prospects that never turned out.
  • Signed Esteban Loaiza, who turned from journeyman to Cy Young award contender.
  • Traded Loaiza for Jose Contreras, who would help the White Sox win a World Series.
  • Traded for Freddy Garcia, won game 4 of the WS and was a very good pitcher for two seasons on the South Side.
  • Built the 2005 team with a lot of guts by trading away Carlos Lee for Scott Podsednik. Also made one of the best signings in White Sox history by inking Jermaine Dye to a three year deal.
  • He built a team that won the WS. I think that alone should be enough to have statues of him in Chicago.
  • Traded for Jim Thome. Although he did give up Aaron Rowand.
  • Turned Brandon McCarthy and Freddy Garcia into John Danks and Gavin Floyd
  • Turned Joe Borchard into Matt Thornton.
  • Carlos Quentin. Enough said.
  • Buying extremely low on Jake Peavy.
Did Williams also have a lot of deals that didn't turn out? Sure. I can think of three just off the top of my head: Billy Koch, David Wells, and Todd Ritchie.

But looking at the list up there and the three deals I just named, I think Kenny has done a lot more right than wrong.

This recent Jake Peavy deal just goes to show you that Kenny Williams has not lost it. He's still a genius. A genius with a lot of balls.

Jake Peavy is one of the premiere pitchers in baseball. He won the 2007 Cy Young without opposition and has posted ERAs in the 2s for the majority of the past 3 years. Granted, he did pitch in the best pitcher's park in baseball.

To trade for a pitcher who is still on the DL is a very big risk. To add onto that, Peavy has a health history that is a little bit shaky. The good thing about his past injuries is that very few were arm related. Lastly, his contract is enormous. He's going to be paid around $75 million over the next 4 years (if his option is picked up in 2013). That's nothing to sneeze at.

There's also a lot of doubt as to how well Peavy will transition into a better league and pitching in a hitter's park. I'll try to address all of these things in this post, as some analysis can show that Peavy is actually a good fit for U.S. Cellular Field. If he wasn't, Williams wouldn't have gone after him.

There's a lot of misconceptions about Jake Peavy. Some of them include: he isn't good enough to pitch in the AL, Petco Park skewed his ERA, he's not healthy, he bends under pressure, U.S. Cellular Field will destroy him, and etc.

First thing's first. Let's talk about his problems with the American League.

A simple look at Peavy's splits in inter-league play should tell you that the AL is not going to ruin him. His career ERA is a low 3.29. In his starts against the AL, he is 8-8 with a 3.29 ERA and a 1.172 WHIP. He also struck out 113 batters in 120 innings during the games against the AL.

You may ask, how does Peavy stack up against the AL in AL stadiums where he would have to face designated hitters?

Surprisingly, he's actually been pretty good in those situations. In 8 starts at AL stadiums, Peavy has pitched 48.2 innings. He's 4-3 with a 2.96 ERA in those starts. It's a small sample size, but it's the only thing we can go off of right now. From this sample size, it appears that pitching against the AL does not phaze Peavy.

Then some may say that Petco Park molded Peavy into the guy he was. His road/home ERA has a full run as a differential.

The simple explanation as to why this is the way it is is quite simple. Pitchers like to pitch in their own home park. Nobody likes to pitch in a hostile environment on the road.

U.S. Cellular Field is known as a launching pad, yet Mark Buehrle's career home ERA is almost half a run better than his road ERA. Need more examples? Gavin Floyd's home ERA at U.S. Cellular Field is more than a run better than his road ERA. Cole Hamles' career home ERA is .4 runs better than his road ERA even though he pitches in a hitter's park.

That just goes to show that the ballpark does not always make the pitcher. Some pitchers just feel more comfortable at home and they pitch better there. From his track record, Peavy seems like one of those guys. I don't expect Peavy to be the same Jake Peavy he was in San Diego. Not even close. But I do expect him to put up a ERA in the mid-3s. I don't see U.S. Cellular Field ruining him.

Another tidbit that shows why Peavy will benefit at the Cell is the fact that he is a strikeout pitcher. He will miss some bats. People profile him as an extreme fly ball pitcher at times. This is not true. In fact, he's fairly average. His career totals show that he allows 42% ground balls, 38% fly balls, 20% line drives. Fairly pedestrian if you ask me. Sure, he's no Derek Lowe, but who said he was?

What's more impressive about Peavy this year is that his FIP (fielder independent pitching ERA) is almost a run lower than his actual ERA at 2.98. Looks like the Padres defense wasn't very good. Too bad it probably won't get any better on the South Side since the White Sox defense also sucks.

There's a misconception that Peavy folds under pressure. Not exactly true. Sure, he didn't pitch very well in the 2007 tie-breaker game and his postseason numbers are horrible, but I think we need to look beyond that a little bit.

According to Baseball-Reference's Leverage stat (shows how much stress is on the pitcher according to certain situations), Peavy's done extremely well in high leverage occurances.

In 827 high leverage PAs, Peavy holds opponents to a .215 batting average and a .599 OPS. He's also gotten 42 double plays in these situations. His .276 BABIP in these situations also suggest that Peavy is getting a little bit lucky, but not by an extreme amount.

The last thing I'll talk about is Peavy's health.

Peavy's delivery is kind of hard to watch. He bends his elbow back to an extreme position before delivering the pitch. This could affect the health of his arm in his 30s. But as of right now, it doesn't seem like a huge concern.

In addition, Peavy's only had one arm related injury and he went on to pitch very well after the injury last season, posting a 2.82 ERA in 115 innings after coming off the DL.

Peavy's current injury is something he injured while running the bases. If it heels correctly, he should be fine. In fact, he even pitched with the injury after he got injured and he didn't do all that bad. 7 innings of 2 run ball against Arizona with 8 Ks. It shouldn't really be something of great concern just yet.

Outside of Peavy himself, some doubters of the trade also thought the White Sox gave up their entire farm system.

NO, THEY DIDN'T!

When you have yourself a rotation of Buehrle, Peavy, Danks, and Floyd until at least 2011, you don't need pitching prospects right away. Besides, the White Sox did not give up Dan Hudson in the deal, who will now assume the role of the best pitching prospect in the organization.

Also, what the White Sox will need a lot of in the next few years is hitting and they did not give up their hitting prospects. Jordan Danks, Dayan Viciedo, and Tyler Flower all stayed put. That's a huge win.

Besides, Poreda, Richard, and Russell were guys who can throw hard with no secondary pitches. If anything, I'll shed a tear over Dexter Carter.

So there you have it. I don't think Peavy will be a world beater with the Sox, but he'll be an ace and head a staff that could be one of the best in the AL for the next 2-3 years. He could even contribute this season if the White Sox stay close enough by September. All in all, this is a huge win for the White Sox organization and Kenny Williams. I have absolutely zero complaints about the deal.

Category: MLB
Posted on: July 30, 2009 1:39 pm
Edited on: July 30, 2009 1:40 pm
 

Cardinals are Officially My #2 Team

My explanation?

1. Lugo/Schumaker 2B
2. DeRosa 3B
3. Pujols 1B
4. Holliday LF
5. Ludwick RF
6. Rasmus CF
7. Molina C
8. Pitcher
9. Ryan SS

In other words, I really like their lineup. Holliday and Pujols are two of my favorite non-White Sox players. Plus the combination of the 2-6 hitters is absolutely dominating. That's 4 guys capable of an .800+ OPS in a row. Definitely impressive.

The top 3 of their rotation is almost lights out. Wainwright is quietly becoming one of the better pitchers in the NL. We've always known what a healthy Chris Carpenter can do. Lastly, Joel Pinero somehow has a sub-3 ERA. Now if only they can get Kyle Lohse and Todd Wellemeyer to pitch better...

Bullpen isn't all that great, but they have a real stopper this year in Franklin.

I don't think this Cards team is the favorite to come out of the NL as their World Series representative, but I fully expect them to make the playoffs.
Category: MLB
Posted on: July 23, 2009 6:49 pm
Edited on: July 23, 2009 6:57 pm
 

A Perfect Game on a Perfect Day

I woke up today with one thought in mind: today might suck.

Why?

Well, first off, the White Sox are horrible on get-away days. The last one resulted in Clayton Richard giving up 6 runs in one inning of work. Of course, there's also that embarrasing 20-1 loss against the Twins.

Then there's the problem of Mark Buehrle not pitching too well in day games compared to his night game performances. The stats show that, as Buehrle is 3-3 with a 4.02 ERA in day games while he is a perfect 7-0 with a 3.02 ERA at night.

Lastly, my mom lied to me and dragged my ass to the mall. I got a couple of shirts and then had to hang around the Sony store for about 2 hours while she went shopping. What pissed me off even more is that I missed some of the Sox game because of it.

Speaking of the Sox game, WOW. My first thoughts about the day were certainly wrong.

What was a really boring and sucky day for me turned into one of the best days of the year.

It all started to take form when Josh Fields, out of all people, belted a grand slam off of Scott Kazmir in the second inning. I was honestly praying that Josh would walk and bring home a run. I got 3 more runs than I asked for.

Luckily, that's all Mark Buerhle would need as he was absolutely brilliant today. And I mean, BRILLIANT.

The sheer probability of him not letting a single man reach base is absolutely impossible and unthinkable.

However, we're going to think about it. Let's take these things into consideration...

1. Mark Buehrle throws 85-89 MPH at most on his fastball. In other words, he's not throwing that much faster than BP.
2. The Rays are one of the best offensive teams in baseballl. They have scored the 3rd most runs in the AL and have a team OPS above .800.
3. Buehrle has one of the worst fielding teams in the AL behind him. Gordon Beckham's UZR is like a -4 and he's been up here for a month and a half. Josh Fields is in no way a good fielder anywhere. Carlos Quentin is literally limping out in left field. Jermaine Dye is one of the worst outfielders in baseball. Scott Podsednik is barely average in CF. Lastly, Ramon Castro has never caught a game pitched by Mark Buehrle.
4. This was done in one of the best hitter's parks in baseball.

Those four things should tell you just how amazing this game was and how brilliant Buehrle was this afternoon.

There were maybe a couple of plays that were even close to hits.

The first one that comes to mind is when Alexei Ramirez made a nice play in the hole to rob Ben Zobrist of maybe a hit.

Then there's the line drive by Pat Burrell down the left field line that was inches away from a fair ball.

Lastly, there was the ball that Gabe Kapler hit that everybody in the world thought was a home run. Everybody but Dewayne Wise that is. The catch by Wise is possibly one of the best of the year given the situation. He literally took the ball out of the first row in left center field, bobbled it, and then caught it with his bare hands as he was coming down. That's a candidate for Web Gem of the year, that's for sure.

With all these things in mind, I can conclude that Mark Buehrle has pitched one of the best games in Major League Baseball history today. It was a perfect game, only the 18th in history, so it already ranks in the top 20 of the best games pitched to begin with. Then there's the fact that he did it against one of the best hitting teams in baseball with a pretty bad defense behind him in an extremely hitter-friendly park. It is absolutely amazing that he accomplished such a feat today.

Enough about the game, let's talk a little bit about Mark Buehrle.

Mark Buehrle is one of the most underrated pitchers in baseball, mostly because a). he pitches for the White Sox b). he doesn't throw hard, and c). He's not very outspoken.

You hear very little from Buehrle. He's the kind of guy you root for. He's loose, he's funny, and he's extremely friendly. Ask any Sox fan about their experiences with Mark and you will hear nothing but positive remarks.

On the field, he's been one of the best pitchers in the past decade, believe it or not.

In the past 9 years, Mark Buehrle has the 6th best ERA+ in all of baseball behind the likes of Roy Halladay, Johan Santana, Roy Oswalt, and Randy Johnson.

He has also pitched 200+ innings in all of those seasons and posted 10+ wins in all of those seasons.

He is a model of consistency that nobody talks about. Maybe once, just once, people will see the guy on SportsCenter and embrace his accomplishments both on and off the field. Maybe he will finally get more national attention. Maybe he might finally finish higher than 5th in Cy Young voting. He may, he may not. But whatever the case might be, Mark Buehrle will be the man of the night.

What is lost in this story is that the White Sox are now tied for first place in the American League Central. What a perfect day it was.

Posted on: July 13, 2009 1:08 pm
 

MLB Power Rankings at the All-Star Break

It has been quite a surprising first half for Major League Baseball here in 2009. Manny Ramirez got suspended for PEDs and the Dodgers still hold the best record in baseball. David Ortiz couldn't hit his way out of a phone booth for the first two months of the season. The Cubs, who were supposed to win the NL Central again, are merely a .500 team. The Mets are a below .500 team after free-spending this off-season due to injuries from Jose Reyes, Carlos Delgado, and Carlos Beltran. The Texas Rangers are back in the mix for an AL West title in almost a decade. The San Francisco Giants are leading the NL Wild Card due to the masterful pitching of Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum with a little help on the offensive side by Pablo Sandoval and company. The Rockies went on one of those 2007-like streaks again and went from cellar to as high as second place in the NL West. Lastly, Joe Mauer and Albert Pujols are threatening to break records. All in all, it was a mysterious first half with a lot of surprises and even more disappointments.

So how did all 30 MLB teams stack up in their first 90 games or so? Let's find out.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers (56-32) - No Manny for two months? No problem. The Dodgers could have folded after the suspension of Ramirez, but the boys in blue got it together and still compiled a 29-21 record without Manny. Their bullpen is filled with young and nasty arms headlined by names like Troncoso and Belisario. One more great starting pitcher to go along with Billingsley will put this team over the top.

2. Boston Red Sox (54-34) - It has been quite a weird first half for the Red Sox. For the first two months of the season, David Ortiz was absolutely awful. He couldn't buy himself a hit, let alone a home run. Daisuke Matsuzaka was pitching like their vesion of Chen Mien Wang, so they had to put him on the DL. And yet, the Red Sox still own the second best record in baseball. It really is amazing how Francona's group find ways to win. What's even more amazing is that they've owned the Yankees. That rivalry just isn't what it used to be.

3. New York Yankees (51-37) - After spending hundreds of millions of dollars to repair their rotation in the 2009 off-season, the Yankees still don't have the best starting rotation in the American League. A.J. Burnett and C.C. Sabathia are a combined 16-12 and both have ERAs in the high 3s. And let's not even talk about Chen Mien Wang. What has been surprising is that New Yankee Stadium has become the new launching pad in baseball. The Yankees currently lead the Majors in home runs. Worst of all, they still haven't won against the Red Sox yet.

4. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (49-37) - It looks like paying Torii Hunter a lot of money last off-season has finally paid off. After a mediocre season with the Angels in 2008, Hunter is having a career year in 2009 with an OPS near 1.000. On the other hand, Vladimir Guerrero is doing the exact opposite. Both are currently on the DL, which has kind of been the story to the Angels' season once again. However, they're coming off a fresh sweep of the Yankees are are looking good going into the ASB. Even so, their team ERA is a very high 4.79, which is 12th in the AL.

5. San Francisco Giants (49-39) - If you wanted to see the best 1-2 punch in Major League Baseball in terms of starting pitching, head to San Francisco and see Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum just dominate opponents night in and night out. Both have ERAs in the 2s and both have lead the Giants to one of the most surprising records during the first half of 2009. Pablo Sandoval is also giving the Giants something they have lacked since the departure of Barry Bonds - power. Sandoval is currently on pace for about 30 home runs and is hitting well above .300. The Giants are just full of surprises this year.

6. Philadelphia Phillies (48-38) - The Phillies head into the break having won 5 straight with the help of Shane Victorino and the return of Raul Ibanez. Cole Hamels has disappointed in the first half, putting up an ERA near 5. However, phenom J.A. Happ is 6-0 with an ERA in the high 2s. Raul Ibanez is having a career year after finally moving to a hitter's park for the first time in his career and Chase Utley was not slown down by his hip injury. The Phillies look like heavy favorites to win the NL East once again.

7. Tampa Bay Rays (48-41) - The defending American League Champions found themselves in a big hole early on in the season. However, as the weather heated up, so did the Rays. They head into the ASB 6.5 games back of the first place Red Sox and 3.5 back of the Wild Card leading Yankees. The Rays have put up the second most runs in the American League thus far as well as the 5th best ERA in the AL. It looks like 2008 was not a fluke, this Rays team is here to stay.

8. Detroit Tigers (48-39) - The team with the highest payroll in the AL Central finished dead last in the division in 2008. In 2009, the identical Tigers team was looking for redemption and so far, they're getting it. The Tigers head into the ASB 3.5 games up on the White Sox and they also hold one of the best starting rotations in the American League. Rookie Rick Porcello has put up quite a showing for the first half and Edwin Jackson has become one of the biggest pitching surprises in baseball. Justin Verlander finally found his velocity again and absolutely dominated for about a one month stretch. Offensively, Brandon Inge is also finding himself having a career season as he was voted onto the All-Star team via the 32nd man fan vote.

9. Texas Rangers (48-39) - We always knew the Rangers could hit, but now they can pitch? Well, they can't pitch all that well, but they're pitching well enough to win. Kevin Millwood leads a Rangers staff that currently hold a 4.34 team ERA, which is good enough for 9th in the American League. But hey, that's much better than being 13th or 14th, which is where they were last season.

10. St. Louis Cardinals (49-42) - Albert Pujols looks about as good as he's ever looked. He's on pace for 60 home runs and he's also getting close to getting Barry Bonds treatment. It just amazes me how consistent this guy has been over this past decade. With a healthy Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals have one of the better 1-2 punches in the National League. They still need a 5th starter as well as a guy who can protect Albert Pujols. Maybe that guy is Ryan Ludwick now that he's finally snapped out of a big cold streak. The addition of Mark DeRosa should pay a lot of dividends in the second half of the season as well.

11. Colorado Rockies (47-41) - The Rockies started the 2009 season with a lot of bad news. They lost their ace Jeff Francis and they were in the cellar of the NL West. However, it looks like the Rockies thought it was 2007 again and compiled an 11 game winning streak to get themselves back into the race. They now stand only 2 games back of the NL Wild Card lead. Brad Hawpe is having an amazing season while Jason Marquis is pitching extremely well at Coors Field. Do we really expect Marquis to win 20 games? I don't.

12. Seattle Mariners (46-42) - The M's were one of the worst teams in the American League last season. However, this season is different. The Mariners currently hold the best staff ERA in the American League. Both Felix Hernandez and Erik Bedard have ERAs in the mid 2s while Jarrod Washburn's ERA is a just a bit over 3. With a staff like that, the Mariners could get somewhere. However, their offense is the big problem. Russell Branyan is having a career year. However, they need another big bat in the middle of the order to drive in runs. If they don't have that, there is very little hope for them to win the AL West.

13. Chicago White Sox (45-43) - The 2009 White Sox are really weird. They're only 3.5 games back of first in the AL Central, yet they called up their two best prospects in June. The White Sox own one of the best ERAs in the AL, but have had trouble scoring offensively. Mark Buehrle is having a 2005-esque season with a 9-3 record at the ASB while Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko are both on pace for .300 30+ HR and 100+ RBI seasons. The loss of Carlos Quentin hurt this team early on, as they were as low as 7 games below .500. The White Sox are one of the hottest teams in the month of July, as they have won 17 of their last 26. With the return of Quentin right after the ASB, the White Sox offense could experience a boost. However, things will have to go their way as their schedule is tough in the second half.

14. Minnesota Twins (45-44) - The Twins had one of the best starting rotations coming into 2009 on paper. The prospect of having Francisco Liriano healthy as well as 4 solid starters in Blackburn, Baker, Perkins, and Slowey should have excited every single Twins fan in the universe. However, Liriano, Baker, Slowey, and Perkins all hold ERAs above 4, with Liriano's and Baker's above 5. The only consistent starter for the Twins thus far has been Nick Blackburn, who is 8-4 with a ERA in the low 3s. What has kept the Twins in the race is their offense. Joe Mauer is hitting .380 with 15 home runs while Justin Morneau leads all AL 1B with an OPS+ of 158.

15. Milwaukee Brewers (45-43) - Talk about a troubled team. The Brewers have problems everywhere, yet they are only 2.5 games back of first place in the NL Central. J.J. Hardy, Corey Hart, and Bill Hall have all disappointed offensively thus far. However, their production has been made up by the likes of Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, and Casey McGehee. The Brewers rotation is even worse. Yovani Gallardo is their only go-to guy. Jeff Suppan, Braden Looper, and whoever they're going to throw out there just isn't going to cut it. If anything, the Brewers' bullpen has kept them afloat as Trevor Hoffman has been one of the best signings this off-season.

16. Florida Marlins (46-44) - The Marlins started off the 2009 season with a bang. However, that bang was an abrupt one as they fell quickly in May. However, a hot streak in July has put them back into the NL East race as they are 4 games back of the Phillies going into the ASB. Their pitching staff is headed by Josh Johnson, who has been absolutely dominant this season. The return of a good Ricky Nolasco should spell something good for the Marlins in the second half as well. Hanley Ramirez currently leads the NL in batting average as he is proving that he is one of the best all-around offensive players in baseball. The only problem with this Marlins team is lack of a closer due to the injury to Matt Lindstrom. They might be looking to acquire a Matt Capps by the deadline.

17. Chicago Cubs (43-43) - Talk about a disappointment. This is it right here. The Cubs got some of the worst production in baseball out of their two corner outfielders in the first half. Milton Bradley and Alfonso Soriano are both struggling to break .250. Bradley just eclipsed the 20 RBI mark two days ago and he has been batting in the 3rd or 4th spot most of the first half. Alfonso Soriano's OBP is below .300 and he was hitting leadoff for most of the first half. No wonder the Cubs offense was horrible. The return of Aramis Ramirez should help the offense a lot, but there are no guarantees. The Cubs' pitching has put them only 3.5 games back of first place in the NL Central with the emergence of rookie Randy Wells and both Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly having solid seasons. Rich Harden and Carlos Marmol are big concerns on the pitching staff in the second half, as they were both atrocious in the Cubs' first 86 games.

18. Toronto Blue Jays (44-46) - The Blue Jays held a glorious record for the first two months of the season as they led the big bad AL East for almost a month. That is until they went on an 8 game losing streak. Now it seems like J.P. Ricciardi is in sell-mode and anxious to get rid of Halladay, Rios, Wells, and Rolen. Even though the Jays are only 2 games under .500, they've gotten a lot of surprises this season. The first surprise was the emergence of Adam Lind and Aaron Hill. Both have put up all-star numbers. The second surprise was the emergence of Ricky Romero, who some have compared to Johan Santana. The Jays have a bright future ahead. They can even get a brighter one of they get the king's ransom for Halladay.

19. Atlanta Braves (43-45) - I have a feeling that the Braves should be a hell of a lot better than 43-45. Their rotation is strong with both Javier Vazquez and Jair Jurrjens owning ERAs under 3. However, those two guys are a combined 13-14. So that means one thing, the Braves hate giving run-support. The Braves have tried to improve offensively thus far. They acquired both Nate McLouth and Ryan Church to better their offense and yet, they're still not scoring. In fact, Atlanta has scored the 22nd most runs in baseball thus far.

20. Houston Astros (44-44) - Someway, somehow, the Astros find themselves 3.5 games back of the Cardinals for first in the NL Central. When you look at this team, you just don't think of it as anything good. I mean, yes, they have a good offense with guys like Carlos Lee, Hunter Pence, Miguel Tejada, and Lance Berkman, but just look at that pitching staff. Wandy Rodriguez and Roy Oswalt are both good pitchers, but Brian Moehler? Are you serious? When you have Brian Moehler as your 3rd starter, you shouldn't go anywhere. Plus, their bullpen is nothing overpowering. Valverde and Hawkins are known to be a little shaky.

21. New York Mets (42-45) - I don't know if you can blame Omar Minaya for the Mets' problems. When Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, and Jose Reyes go down, you're probably not going to win. Worse yet, David Wright has 5 home runs on the season. Memo to the people who built Citi Field: move the fences in. Well, maybe they shouldn't since Oliver Perez and the rest of the pitching staff besides Johan Santana has been pretty bad. K-Rod has done his job and the bullpen isn't as bad as it was last season. However, the results just aren't there.

22. Cincinnati Reds (42-45) - The Reds started off the season pretty well. Then they lost Joey Votto and Edinson Volquez and well, it hasn't gone too well since. They do have Joey Votto back now, but Volquez is going to be on the DL until August. By then, it might be too late. Johnny Cueto has absolutely broken down in his past couple of starts and Aaron Harang has been mediocre thus far. The offense is struggling due to the loss of Edwin Encarnacion and the regression of Jay Bruce. Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto are having very good seasons while rookie catcher Ryan Hanigan is quietly having a good season as well.

23. Baltimore Orioles (40-48) - The emergence of Adam Jones, Matt Weiters, and Nolan Reimold is definitely something to be happy about. However, the team itself is not all that exciting. Once again, pitching has not been the Orioles' friend. They're currently 13th in the AL in team ERA.

24. Arizona Diamondbacks (38-51) - The loss of Brandon Webb meant a lot more to this team than expected. Dan Haren has been the best pitcher in baseball for the first half of the season. He currently holds a 2.01 ERA. However, he only has 9 wins. Talk about lack of run support. The Diamondbacks are in the middle of the pack in terms of runs scored, but their team batting average is second to last in the NL. Mark Reynolds is having a pretty good season, but guys like Chris Young and Stephen Drew have not been spectacular. Arizona's pitching has been mediocre as a whole, you just have to wonder what it would be like if they had a healthy Webb.

25. Oakland Atheltics (37-49) - Before the season started, the A's were considered by most as a contender in a weak AL West. With the additions of Matt Holliday, Jason Giambi, and Orlando Cabrera, the A's seemed like a good pick to finish second. However, both Holliday and Cabrera have been disappointing. Holliday has been a very average hitter in the middle of the order and Cabrera has been a lousy top of the order hitter. Jason Giambi has hit some home runs, but his hitting as a whole hasn't been extremely helpful. Oakland's young pitching has been pretty good with the emeregence of Andrew Bailey, Dallas Braden, and Trevor Cahill. However, it just appears that the offense isn't good enough. Expect Matt Holliday to be traded.

26. Kansas City Royals (37-51) - The Royals started the season in grand style, leading the AL Central with a record of 17-10 at one point in the season. However, they've fallen flat on their face ever since. Injuries may have something to do with it, as Alex Gordon and Mike Aviles have landed on the DL. Joakim Soria was also lost to the DL for a short stint. Zack Greinke was possibly the best pitcher in the AL for the first two months of the season, but has since fallen back a little bit. The Royals are a below average team in terms of pitching and offense, as shown by their 4.40 team ERA and their 346 runs scored, good for dead last in the AL.

27. Pittsburgh Pirates (38-50) - Another year, another bad year to be a Pirates fan. Not only are they bad again this year, but it appears the team is going to sell off its good players. It has already traded Nate McLouth and Nyjer Morgan, two of their better players. Now, it appears that all-star Freddy Sanchez might be on the move. Zach Duke has been quite the pitcher this year, holding a ERA in the low 3s. Nevertheless, the lack of run-support has given him an 8-8 record. 

28. Cleveland Indians (35-54) - And to think I picked this team to win 93 games. Looking back at it, I wish I was never born. The team is one of the better ones in the AL in terms of offense, having scored the 5th most runs in the AL. Nevertheless, the pitching has been absolutely awful as they have compiled the AL's worst ERA at a hefty 5.40. Even Cliff Lee is 4-9. The bullpen as a whole has just been horrendous. Kerry Wood has also been shaky in the bullpen as he only has 12 saves on the season.

29. San Diego Padres (36-52) - The Padres had a hell of a first week this year. Then, they sucked, went on a nice winning streak, and has sucked ever since. The team is currently without Jake Peavy and Adrian Gonzalez has cooled off since his homer binge. San Diego currently holds the second worst team ERA in the NL as well as the least runs scored in the NL.

30. Washington Nationals (26-61) - The Nationals are on pace for less than 50 wins. What's funny is that they made a trade to improve themselves with the Pirates by acquiring Nyjer Morgan. What's even funnier is that they're almost worse this year with Adam Dunn than they were last year without him. The offense has been decent this year, but the pitching is just really bad. Lannan and Zimmerman have been decent, but their team ERA is a horrid 5.21. This is easily the worst team in baseball.

The first half has been a pattern of ups and downs for me as a White Sox fan and I don't know if I'm looking forward to this team playing a tough schedule in the second half. How was your team's first half and how do you think your team will finish? Discuss.

Meanwhile, have a fun all-star break.
Category: MLB
 
 
 
 
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