By Mike Ivcic
With the All-Star break upon us, itâs time for The Tenth Inning to hand out a midseason report card on all 30 MLB teams. This is part two â the National League.
Lack of depth on offense is a concern, and shutting down Stephen Strasburg would be a major mistake, but it’s tough to argue with the results thus far. This is â for now â the best team in the National League
The Braves have gotten just about everything they could have hoped for from just about everyone on the team â and that’s not a good thing, since they’re barely a playoff team. They can’t avoid any second-half missteps along the lines of last year.
New York Mets
They need bullpen help badly, but no one expected the Mets to be where they are. Plus they got their first-ever no-hitter, so it’s been a really good summer in Flushing so far.
Hanley Ramirez is unhappy, Heath Bell is ineffective, Jose Reyes is fairly ordinary, and Giancarlo Stanton is now hurt. All that’s missing is a blow up between Ozzie and Carlos Zambrano. Wait for itâ¦ wait for itâ¦
Ruben Amaro Jr. is learning a tough lesson â when everyone comes into the big leagues together as young players, they all get old at the same time. For the Phillies, that “time” is 2012, which puts the highest payroll team in the NL on pace for a 69-93 record. Ouch.
The Nationals were projected to be good. The Pirates? This is, without question, the best feel-good baseball story since Tampa’s first playoff appearance in 2008. GM Neil Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle deserve to win the end-of-season for their respective positions
Getting Mat Latos atop that rotation was a big left, but the left field situation still leaves a lot to be desired. Also, have I mentioned that making Aroldis Chapman the closer was a good move?
St. Louis Cardinals
Give Mike Matheny credit. He’s got this club one game out of the playoffs at the break in his first season â without their best starting pitcher. Picking up Beltran was a great move to help replace Pujols.
Sure, they lost Prince Fielder, but the revolving door at first place trying to replace him has been laughable. Add to that a less-than-stellar bullpen, and it’s time for the Brew Crew to sell.
Trading for Anthony Rizzo was a good move, but I can’t give this group a better mark until they deal Ryan Dempster and find a way to ship Alfonso Soriano out of town. Only then will the grade improve.
There’s a lot of good things here, actually â Jose Altuve and Brian Bogusevic, just to name two. The wins will come, eventually. Just not this year.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The luster may be disappearing, but the impressive part of LA’s season wasn’t the hot start, it’s that they didn’t fold when the Giants caught them. First place without Matt Kemp is reason to celebrate.
San Francisco Giants
There’s a whole lot to like here â Matt Cain’s dominance, Buster Posey’s return, Pablo Sandoval’s conditioningâ¦ ok, maybe not that, but even Kung Fu Panda’s weight looks incredible compared to the season of Tim Lincecum right now.
They under-achieved two years ago and over-achieved last year. This year? Right about .500 â just about what I expected this team to be back in March.
San Diego Padres
We knew they weren’t going to be good, so to have a better record than three other NL teams says a lot about the direction of this franchise. Hopefully, for the good folks of San Diego, it continues its upward trend in the second half.
The warning signs were there in spring training, when somehow the Rockies thought it would be a good idea to bring in Jamie Moyer as a top-five starting pitcher. He’s been the face of the franchise, but Todd Helton deserves the Ray Bourque treatment so he can try to win a World Series before he retires.
Playoff “Dead” List
July 9 â Oakland Athletics
I wanted to finish off the Royals, but given that they’re hosting the All-Star Game I’ll let them have one more week alive. Instead, this week’s ceremonial drubbing belongs to Oakland, who has the unfortunate luck of residing in the same division as the Rangers and Angels. Yes, the AL East will beat up on each other, but ultimately I believe a team from that division will grab at least one of the two wild card spots, and the A’s just aren’t good enough to catch Texas or Los Angeles in their own division. Thus, despite a lot of positive signs this season, it will be one without a game 163 in Oakland.
July 2 â Colorado Rockies
June 25 â Seattle Mariners
June 18 â Houston Astros
June 11 â Minnesota Twins
June 4 â Chicago Cubs
May 28 â San Diego Padres
Three series (or things) to watch this weekâ¦
1) Home Run Derby
2) All-Star Game
3) Potential Trades
If the season ended today, the playoff teams would beâ¦
1. Washington Nationals
2. Pittsburgh Pirates
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
4. Cincinnati Reds
5. Atlanta Braves
1. New York Yankees
2. Texas Rangers
3. Chicago White Sox
4. Los Angeles Angels
5. Baltimore Orioles
Check out my weekly column, “The Tenth Inning,” every Monday and the weekly “Power Rankings” every Friday, only at ultimatecapper.com
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