July 4th weekend marks the halfway point in the season and I wanted to look at the top stories of the first half and going into the second half and reveal my first half awards.
- The division races are not close. The American League East is the only division that is separated by less than 5 games. Two division already see the leaders with at least an 8 game lead. I believe the second half will see two more races become close like the A.L East. I would be surprised if the American League East did not come down to the final week of the season because every team in the division has a serious flaw. Right now the Nationals have a 5.5 game lead in the National League East but both the Nationals and the Mets have been streaky this season. The Mets have a dynamic pitching rotation that has not quite clicked this season and are due to make a run. The other division that I think is still up for grabs is the American League Central. The Indians used a 14 game win streak to propel themselves into first place but Detroit and Kansas City are still in striking range to make a push at the division.
- Clayton Kershaw’s health. This week Kershaw went on the disabled list with a herniated disk in his back and will likely be out until after the all-star break. Kershaw may be the most valuable player in all of baseball. When he pitches, the Dodgers are 14-2. When he is sitting in the dugout, the Dodgers are 33-35. I do not like their rotation besides Kershaw. Kenta Maeda has had a strong first half with a 2.82 ERA but the more games he pitches, the more scouting reports teams can build against him. In my opinion, their rotation is full of 4 and 5 starters. If Kershaw is not healthy in the second half, the Dodgers could easily find themselves out of the wild card race.
- The trade deadline will be interesting. This year there are so many teams that are already out of contention. That means that there could be more teams that are willing to trade some of their trade chips than most seasons. There will not be any aces on the trade deadline but guys like Rich Hill, Julio Tehran, and Sunny Gray could help some rotations if teams are willing to part with prospects. A lot of chips will depend on the New York Yankees and if they decide to become sellers at the deadline. Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman could help bolster some bullpens like the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers. Some hitters that could be dealt are Melvin Upton, Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy, and Carlos Beltran. I also think the Minnesota Twins would be smart to listen to offers on Eduardo Nunez. Nunez is having a huge season and is hitting .322/.348/.491 with 11 home runs and 18 stolen bases. The Twins are having a disappointing season and should be trying to restock for the next few seasons.
- 1st half Award Winners:
A.L. ROY: Nomar Mazara: .287/.337/.433
A.L. CY: Chris Sale: 14-2, 2.93 ERA, 8.9 K/9
A.L. MVP: Jose Altuve:
N.L. ROY: Corey Seager: .303/.362/.536
N.L CY: Clayton Kershaw: 11-2, 1.79 ERA, 10.8 K/9
N.L MVP: Kris Bryant: .277/.367/.564, 23 HR
In my pre-season picks, I took the Giants over the Rangers in the World Series. I feel pretty confident about that pick at the midway point in the season.
If I were Sandy Alderson, I would go get a third baseman. David Wright is reportedly out for at least the next 8 weeks with a herniated disk in his neck. And even if/when he is able to return to the lineup, there is no predicting if he will be healthy.
I do not think the Mets can rely on Wilmer Flores for the next 2+ months of baseball at third base. Through Friday, he is hitting .190. The Mets have scuffled over the last couple of weeks and went 14-15 in the month of May. Their offense was strong in the month of April as they were crushing home runs left and right as they hit 33 in April. The problem with relying on the home run ball is teams go through droughts where they do not hit them and then where does the offense come from. As a team, the Mets hit an MLB worst .211 in the month of May. The Mets have not hit as many home runs of late and the offense has struggled.
The solution for the Mets at third base is in LA. Yunel Escobar would be a great fit for the Mets. Escobar is hitting .307/.361/.412 and would bring a different dynamic to the Mets’ lineup. The Mets are first in the National League in home runs and Escobar is not known for his power. His strength is to put the ball in play and get on base. He has great bat control and would fit perfectly in the 2-hole for the Mets.
The Angels are in the basement of the American League West with a 25-29 and should become sellers soon. Their rotation has been decimated by injuries as C.J. Wilson, Andrew Heaney, and Garrett Richards all have serious injuries to their throwing arms. The Angels did not have a strong rotation coming into the season and now the rotation is a mess. The Angels are not going to compete in 2016 and need to begin rebuilding. Baseball America ranked the Angels’ farm system as the worst farm system in all of baseball coming into the 2016 season. The Angels do not have a ton of attractive pieces on their team but Escobar is definitely one of them. The time is now to start rebuilding that farm system.
I am not exactly sure what it would take to get a player like Escobar. Escobar will be a rental if the Mets were to make a deal. He does have a team option but it would be up to the Mets if they would want to keep him in New York. Would it take the first base prospect Dominic Smith or include RHP Seth Lugo in a package to bring Escobar to LA? I’m not sure but it is worth making a phone call. The Mets are blessed with brilliant, young pitching and they cannot afford to waste a year of this rotation. Matt Harvey is proving why it is important to take advantage of great pitching because you never know when a pitcher struggles or gets injured. The National League has so many bad teams and there are only a few teams that the Mets will have to compete with for a playoff spot. If they are serious about contending for a pennant, they have to go out and make a move to improve their offense. Yunel Escobar would be a great addition.
Being a Red Sox fan I will always have a special place in my heart for Dave Roberts but last night Dave Roberts almost cost the Dodgers the game against the Mets and the series.
I do not know why he would take Kershaw out of the game in the 8th inning to bring in another lefty. Kershaw was brilliant again last night as he only gave up 1 run in 7 and 2/3 innings. Roberts decided to take Kershaw out with Curtis Granderson coming to the plate. Granderson is a left-handed hitter and lefties are hitting .136 against Kershaw this season. Granderson led off the game with a double off of Kershaw and then grounded out and struck out. Now the announcers on Sunday night baseball were talking about fatigue and that his pitch count was at 114. If Roberts took Kershaw out because he was at 114 pitches, that is an absolute joke. Kershaw is by far the best pitcher in baseball and I think he has proven himself by now. If Kershaw would have thrown 120 pitches to get Granderson, so be it. Roberts decided to go to the left-hander Adam Liberatore. I don’t care if lefties are hitting .138 against him, there is no way I would take out Kershaw to bring in another lefty to face Granderson. NO WAY!
Now the only way I would have even considered taking out Kershaw last night was to put in Kenley Jansen. Jansen has been excellent against both righties and lefties this season and encourages his manager to use him for more than one inning. I liked the shot of Jansen shaking his head as he went to sit down in the pen after Liberatore gave up the game-tying triple. So many people believe in playing matchups but in moments like last night, I want my best versus their best.
Luckily for Roberts and the Dodgers, the Dodgers retook the lead in the 9th inning on an Adrian Gonzalez 2-run single. I hope Roberts learned his lesson and next time leaves Kershaw in the game.
In tonight’s game between the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers, Noah Syndergaard was ejected for throwing behind Chase Utley. It was clear that Syndergaard was trying to get revenge for Utley’s slide that broke Ruben Tejada’s leg.
This is a topic that really bothers me with today’s game. I still have some of those old-school roots in me but I also like some of the new ideas in the game today. Despite what my brother believes, I have no problem for the Mets trying to get a little revenge from last year’s post-season. What bothers me is how they went about it. The Mets and Dodgers had a 4 game series in Los Angeles and Chase Utley had 14 at-bats without being hit. Noah Syndergaard even faced Chase Utley 4 times in one of those games. So if Syndergaard felt an obligation to get justice for his former teammate, should he not have done this in LA? Why did the Mets wait for the 6th game and 18 at-bats versus Chase Utley to finally hit him? That bothers me. Syndergaard is one of the hardest throwers in all of baseball as he has thrown more fastballs of 98+ than half of the teams in baseball. Syndergaard cannot throw at a player when he throws that hard when he is not expecting to be hit. Utley had to feel like the Mets would try to get revenge in LA. But after 18 at-bats, the idea of getting hit intentionally was probably the farthest thing from his mind. What if Syndergaard would have missed badly with a fastball up and in and Utley was expecting a fastball on the outside corner instead of getting hit? Bad things happen when guys who throw that hard go seeking for revenge.
Whatever viewpoint you have about getting revenge or not in baseball, Syndergaard deserved to get thrown out. According to the rule, the umpire had every right to throw him out because there was clear intent. So was it worth it? The Mets had to use their bullpen very early, may lose the game, and Syndergaard is likely to receive a suspension. Thoughts?