Division Checkup #4

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Division Checkup – 7/7/12

The season is more than half over already.  Some divisions are starting to take shape, while others are still too close to call.  With the All-Star break and trade deadline just around the corner, every team is looking to regroup and make the big push through September.  Who will come out on top?  Only time will tell.  But we can at least see how things have shaped up, and what we can look forward to in the next two months.

1.    American League East

Current Standings –

New York: 50-32

Baltimore: 45-38

Tampa Bay: 44-40

Boston: 42-41

Toronto: 42-42

After spending most of the first half at the top of the division, the Baltimore Orioles have fallen well behind the Yankees.  Despite a slow start, New York is taking full advantage of the talent pool at its disposal, and has together quite the lead over division foes.  Boston’s woes continue, though, as the team hasn’t found its way very far over the .500 mark the entire season.  Without performing much better, that’s never going to happen.  Even with the trade of Kevin Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox, nothing much has changed for Boston.  Tampa Bay has simply been the victim of the small-market team’s curse, which can only be described as only being able to afford a certain number of truly effective players.  Now that Evan Longoria is out, all the Rays have left is stellar pitching.  But with no offense, there’s not much of a way to stay in the division race right now.

The Youkilis trade does bring up an interesting point, though.  It’s almost like firing the entire managerial staff and front office wasn’t the best way to handle things last season, especially considering how veteran players who were fixtures in Boston are now clamoring to get out.  Youk was just the first, and may not be the last.

2.    American League Central

            Current Standings –

Chicago: 46-37

Cleveland: 43-40

Detroit: 42-42

Kansas City: 37-45

Minnesota: 36-47

The White Sox and Indians have been trading places at the top of the division for most of the season, but it’s currently Chicago that holds onto the lead.  With three games over the nearest competitor (and still playing extremely strong baseball), it’s not likely that they’re going to stumble anytime soon.  All the rest of the division can hope for is to claim a game here and there, and hopefully overtake them at some point down the stretch.  With the Indians continuing to play good baseball (and the Tigers showing signs of life) it’s entirely possible.

Detroit finally finds itself at .500 for the first time in two months.  Whether or not it can stay there remains to be seen.  The pitching has been pretty good, but the offense is still missing that consistency that teams like Chicago and Cleveland have found in the last two months.  I think the real surprise has been Minnesota – a team that could use some starting pitching help, but whose offense is actually quite good still.  If they could get the pitching into shape, there’s no doubt that they’d be competing with everyone else.  It definitely warrants consideration that the Twins could be back to the top of the division as soon as next season.

3.    American League West

Current Standings –

Texas: 50-34

Los Angeles: 46-38

Oakland: 42-42

Seattle: 35-50

To no one’s surprise, the Texas Rangers continue to be the best team in baseball by simply having every single solitary aspect of the game going right.  The Angels can’t find their way out of that four-game hole that they seem to have been stuck in for nearly two months.  But they’re at least keeping pace, and Texas has already shown that it will slow down as the season progresses.  Josh Hamilton is a prime example of that.  He got out to a start unlike anything thought possible.  But as the first half progressed, other players caught up to his home run, RBI, and batting average totals.  The same will be true of the whole team, if the Angels can just keep pace.  It’s only a matter of time before all these good teams in the same divisions start competing for real, and the races turn into photo finishes.

4.    National League East

            Current Standings –

                        Washington: 48-33

New York: 45-39

Atlanta: 44-39

Miami: 41-42

Philadelphia: 37-48

The Nationals continue to play outstanding baseball, finally becoming a team worth of competing in any division.  Unfortunately for them, New York and Atlanta aren’t making things easy.  Both teams, while currently behind in the division, have stayed well within striking distance of the top spot all season, and could, at any time, become a threat.  It is a bit surprising that the Phillies and Marlins are struggling to stay afloat this far into the season.  Yes, the Phillies have been plagued by injuries, but as the Yankees of the National League, the Phillies have way too much talent to be kept down by a couple of injuries.  And with the way the Marlins spent in the offseason, they should be much further up the ladder than they currently are.  Without a legitimate threat, the Nationals look like they can stay strong through the last couple months, and make a run at the World Series.

5.    National League Central

            Current Standings –

                        Pittsburgh: 46-37

Cincinnati: 45-38

St. Louis: 44-40

Milwaukee: 39-44

Chicago: 32-51

Houston: 32-52

The Astros, despite looking good early on in the season, have found their way to the bottom of the division yet again.  Which is good news for the Cubs, as they are no longer the worst team in baseball.  Both teams have effectively been eliminated from the playoff race at this point, because there seems to be no slowing down the Pirates, Reds, and Cardinals.  All three of the teams at the top have been jockeying back and forth for control, but it’s the Pirates that are currently sitting in control.  That in itself is a surprising turn of events, but it’s unlikely that they can pull away from the pack anytime soon.  The Reds and Cardinals are playing too well this season to allow Pittsburgh to get away from them.

6.    National League West

Current Standings –

Los Angeles: 47-38

San Francisco: 46-38

Arizona: 40-43

San Diego: 34-51

Colorado: 32-51

Like the N.L. Central, San Diego is thrilled out in the N.L. West because another team is finally playing worse.  Colorado has fallen to the bottom of the division, and doesn’t look like it’ll be competing for real any time this season.  That means the only team with an outside chance is Arizona.  The Diamondbacks are certainly within striking distance of the top spot, playing much better than they were earlier this season.  Of course, it helps that the Dodgers are floundering a little bit without Matt Kemp right now.  The Giants have taken full advantage of that, too, moving within a half game, and even being the top team for the first time recently.

It’s too early to call any of these division races over, and the trade deadline can make things very interesting in a few weeks.  But with so many divisions being decided by only two or three games, it’ll be a race to the very end, and who knows if the playoff picture will even be clear by mid-September.  Here’s hoping for an even more exciting second half.

One response

  1. Pingback: New Content Added: Week of July 1st « Before Visiting The Sportsbook

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