MLB Mid-Season Report 2014
By Anthony McClean, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus
NEW HAVEN, CT (BASN/BASN NEWSROOM) — We’ve finally reached the mythical midpoint of the 2014 baseball season. While some of the usual suspects sit atop their respective divisions, there are a few accidental tourists that are still in the hunt for some postseason play. In a year where the line between parity and mediocrity is being crossed every inning, there’s also been some decent baseball being played this season as well.
The biggest equalizer this season clearly has been the spike in pitcher injuries due to the dreaded “Tommy John” surgery. When you consider the fact that four prominent pitchers from last year’s All-Star rosters (Arizona’s Patrick Corbin, Miami’s Jose Fernandez, Matt Harvey of the Mets, and Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore) won’t be back until 2015 at the earliest, it shows just how the playing field has been leveled.
That being said, we take out our grading pen and are set to give our mid-term grades to all of the MLB teams at this point. We’re giving a grade for the team’s overall performance, not just where they currently sit in the standings. We’ll try to be as fair as possible. We start with the American League.
Teams are listed by where they sit in the standings at the All-Star break.
Baltimore Orioles (52-42)
Seeing the O’s at the top of the East shows you just how schizophrenic this race has been. The big questions will be can they get some offensive consistency despite the loss of C Matt Wieters and should they seek another bat or another arm down the stretch. Grade: B.
Toronto Blue Jays (49-47)
They showed in May just what kind of offensive firepower they had by winning 21 games in the month and leading the division for a brief period. Ironically, the starting rotation has carried the Jays most of the season. They’ll need to carry them in the second half. Grade: B-.
New York Yankees (47-47)
An aging lineup and injuries within the starting rotation have left New York lucky to be at the .500 mark in Derek Jeter’s farewell season. For the first time in a while, the Bronx Bombers may be sellers instead of buyers come trade deadline. Grade: C-.
Tampa Bay Rays (44-53)
We talked about the David Price rumors during Spring Training and they’ll probably get even louder come trade deadline. When that’s your biggest story, it makes for a very dismal outlook for the rest of the year. Grade: D.
Boston Red Sox (43-52)
For all the good karma generated from last year’s World Series run, reality has dealt a cruel blow to Boston. With the release of A.J. Pierzynski and the possible trade of Mike Napoli, Bosox management may be sending an early message to its faithful that 2014 may already be a lost cause. Grade: D.
Detroit Tigers (53-38)
Despite the trades of Prince Fielder and Doug Fister, as well as the retirement of Jim Leyland, the boys from Motown are still the gold standard in the Central. Even with Justin Verlander struggling, the rest of the rotation has been very impressive to keep Detroit as one of the teams to beat in the AL. Grade: A-.
Kansas City Royals (48-46)
For a 10-day stretch in June, Kansas City showed why many thought they could make a postseason breakthrough. They then lost six of their next seven and have been treading water ever since. Now with the second half set to start, we’re left to wonder if the playoffs are a legitimate possibility for Ned Yost’s squad. Grade: B-.
Cleveland Indians (47-47)
Last year’s playoff run raised the bar of expectation for Cleveland’s favorite nine. However, injuries and inconsistency have plagued them this season. Will management go for a veteran hurler or will they bite the bullet and begin to prepare for 2015? Grade: C-.
Chicago White Sox (45-51)
Much like their brethren on the other side of town, the White Sox are a work in progress. The emergence of uber-talented rookie Jose Abreu and the other youngsters around him make for a good immediate future for the Southsiders. Grade: C+.
Minnesota Twins (44-50)
The slow decline of this franchise has not been a pretty thing to watch. While acquisitions P Phil Hughes and C Kurt Suzuki, as well as the emergence of 2B Brian Dozier, have been clear bright spots, overall the Twins are clearly in rebuilding mode. The question is will longtime skipper Ron Gardenhire be a part of it. Grade: D.
Oakland Athletics (59-36)
The Moneyball boys have the MLB’s best record heading into the second half. Adding P’s Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to an already strong rotation should make them even more formidable for a long run. The regular season has never been much of a problem for this squad. But for this story to have a real happy ending, Oakland needs to reach (and win) the Fall Classic. Grade: A.
Cali Angels of Anaheim (57-37)
The nightmare of last season has been forgotten as the Halos are knee deep in the division race. The overall rotation has held up despite injuries and inconsistency. Not to mention a healthy Albert Pujols. Could a blockbuster acquisition (i.e. David Price) be the thing that puts this team over the top in the West? Stay tuned. Grade: B.
Seattle Mariners (51-44)
Don’t look now, but if the season ended now, the M’s would be a playoff team. So much for those who thought Robinson Cano’s impact would be minimal. King Felix along with the other youngsters in the rotation have put Seattle in position for a possible postseason run. This is definitely a team to watch in the second half. Grade: B-.
Houston Astros (40-56)
The fact that this squad isn’t sitting at the bottom of the standings is enough for Houston fans to think that the 100-loss seasons may finally be ending. They’re still a good ways away from being a contender, but the youngsters are making the faithful look forward to the immediate future. Grade: C-.
Texas Rangers (38-57)
With an injury list that reads like a fantasy baseball roster, the Rangers aren’t even the best baseball team in Texas this season. The run of four straight seasons with at least 90 wins will come to a crashing halt this year. The real question is whether Ron Washington will be around to see the aftermath. Grade: D-.
Washington Nationals (51-42)
Despite a slow start, the Nats are even with Atlanta for the top spot in the East. The walking wounded (i.e. Bryce Harper, Doug Fister, Ryan Zimmerman) are slowly coming back to make the second half charge. However, much like when they won the division two years ago, pitching will be the factor in a long D.C. playoff run. Grade: B-.
Atlanta Braves (52-43)
Despite injuries within the rotation and offensive inconsistency, Atlanta is right where you’d expect them to be — contending for another division title. Fredi Gonzalez has done one of the best managing jobs in baseball this year by juggling lineups and maintaining a strong staff. Barring any other injuries, they should remain in the hunt for one of the NL playoff slots. Grade: A.
New York Mets (45-50)
A strong finish heading into the break have some thinking playoffs in Flushing. While that may be a bit premature, it’s safe to say that the team has recovered from their slow start. Will it be enough to contend with the Washington’s and Atlanta’s of the world? That remains to be seen. Grade: C-.
Miami Marlins (44-50)
Despite losing their ace Jose Fernandez, the Fish find themselves right in the middle of a possible playoff berth. However, Marlins fans have been teased by this franchise more than this writer watching a Jill Scott photo shoot. Are they ready for prime time? Stay tuned. Grade: C.
Philadelphia Phillies (42-53)
Which is the worst team in Philly — the Sixers or the Phillies? Tough question. The second half of the season could be a possible fire sale as management tries to free up some salary while giving the youngsters a chance to show themselves. Grade: D-.
Milwaukee Brewers (53-43)
They started hotter than hot and then went colder than cold near the end of the break. We wondered if they’d have enough offense to real contend entering the season. They answered by scoring the second-most runs in the league — just behind the Rockies. They will remain in the hunt strictly on their rotation alone. But don’t be surprised if they try to add to it. Grade: A-.
St. Louis Cardinals (52-44)
Despite Milwaukee’s fast start, St. Louis remained within striking distance before closing the gap as the break approached. They’ll have to really do some work while All-World backstop Yadier Molina recovers from a thumb injury. One gets the feeling that they to will try to make some moves as the trade deadline approaches. Grade: B.
Cincinnati Reds (51-44)
Other than the Rangers, no team has been hit harder by the injury bug than the Reds. That being said, first-year manager Bryan Price has Cincinnati more than within striking distance of another postseason run. Like the Cardinals, Cincy will have to endure without one of their leaders — Brandon Phillips — who will miss time with a thumb injury. Grade: B-.
Pittsburgh Pirates (49-46)
Much like the two previously mentioned teams, Pittsburgh is poised to make another postseason run. Only 3 1/2 games separate the Bucs, Reds, and Cardinals from the division leaders in Milwaukee. Unlike most teams in the Central, the Pirates have yet to really show some consistency this season. They will be the wild card of this four-headed race. Grade: C.
Chicago Cubs (40-54)
The new sign outside the Friendly Confines now reads “Men At Work”. The Cubbies aren’t quite ready to contend right now, but Theo Epstein and company are laying the groundwork for a revival of fortunes at Wrigley. Other than SS Starlin Castro, there aren’t many household names on the current roster. That will change in a few years. Grade: C-.
Los Angeles Dodgers (54-43)
The return to the club’s roots — pitching and defense — has L.A. poised for another postseason run. The one big thing to watch in the second half will be which one of the outfielders will be dealt to free up the glut. They’ll definitely be players at the trade deadline. Will they be players come October? Stay tuned. Grade: A-.
San Francisco Giants (52-43)
Once again, San Francisco is following their good year/bad year pattern to a tee. They have a pitching staff that can match their rivals in L.A. which will make for an interesting race for the West this summer. The difference between a division title and a wild-card berth could be which club makes a bold move at the trade deadline. Grade: A-.
San Diego Padres (41-54)
They have the lowest team batting average in the majors. They’ve been shutout 14 times already this season. All of those factors cost former GM Josh Byrnes his job. For the fourth straight season, it appears that San Diego will endure another losing season. Most fans are already awaiting the start of Chargers’ training camp. Grade: D-.
Colorado Rockies (40-55)
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Colorado has an explosive lineup, but mediocre pitching — at best. That all translates to 13 games off the pace in the West and 12 games out of the wildcard race. They can be very exciting to watch at times at Coors Field. But in the big picture, the Rockies are a softball team playing on a baseball field. Grade: D-.
Arizona Diamondbacks (40-56)
An 8-22 start all but doomed the D-Backs chances at turning things around this season. The biggest news has been off the field with the hiring of Tony La Russa as the head of baseball operations. While this doesn’t signal a return to the dugout for the Hall of Famer, it should signal some major changes at season’s end and/or sooner. Grade D- minus.