Jim Sez Sunday Best



By Jim Hurley:

Could it possibly be?

We're nearly halfway through the 2011 Major-League Baseball season (already!) and nearly halfway through 2011 itself as we all get set to flip the '11 calendar page ahead to read July a little later this week.

Okay, so in a year in which the Green Bay Packers (NFL), Dallas Mavericks (NBA) and Connecticut Huskies (NCAA Men's Basketball) all have been crowned kings, the $64,000 question is what odds right here and right now would we place on the betting favorites to win it all in MLB this year?

Here's how we see it at the near halfway point with the top handful-or-so teams:
Let's get real here and point out the fact that the Phils (now 48-29 following Friday's 1-0 walk-off win against Oakland) have the head-and-shoulders best starting pitching in the land and that snazzy 29-12 home record (that's a .707 winning rate) is tough to top. If you consider that LHP Cliff Lee (8-5, 2.87 ERA) is just now hitting his stride on this current campaign and RHP Roy Halladay (9-3, 2.51 ERA) is clicking with this dynamic duo already having thrown a combined seven complete games than you know even with a shelved RHP Roy Oswalt (4-6, 3.79 ERA) this club will be tough to take down. Heck, we think Philly should be better than "even money" just to win the National League - and we don't care that the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants might be a potential hurdle come October!

The Bosox are a long, long ways from that frigid start this season and now - even following the team's third consecutive loss in Friday's 3-1 setback to the Pittsburgh Pirates - Terry Francona's club is the odds-on favorite to get to the 2011 World Series and that dominance inside the American League East (see 18-9) could be the key to carrying 'em to a divisional crown. No doubt that Boston's starting rotation - re: RHP Josh Beckett (6-2, 1.86 ERA) - must stay healthy but did you realize that closer Jonathan Papelbon has converted 13 saves in 14 opportunities and still is considered to be suffering through a "down year" with that bloated 4.03 ERA. If 1B Adrian Gonzalez doesn't fall off the map in October, than this club is gonna be playing for all the marbles - and likely against these aforementioned Phillies - in what would be a real doozy best-of-seven set.
Count us among the folks who don't believe the Bombers (43-31 following Friday's 4-2 home loss to Colorado) have enough starting pitching to get 'em through three rounds of post-season action but what could save Joe Girardi's team is a bullpen that could be dominant should oft-injured set-up man Rafael Soriano come around this summer or - if recent New York City tabloid stories are accurate - if New York Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez gets shipped across town where he might be the eighth-inning guy for the pinstripe crew.

Let's face it: Everything fell into place perfectly for the Giants (42-34 following Friday's 4-3 win against Cleveland) a year ago en route to playoff wins against Atlanta and Philadelphia and that five-game World Series win against Texas but now there's no C Buster Posey and the strain of playing in too many low-scoring, one-run games figures to catch up with the San Fran pitching staff. Does everyone really expect closer Brian Wilson (22 saves following Friday's win) really think he can be untouchable for a three-week run again?

Last year's surprise American League champs are buoyed by the recent return to the everyday lineup of "blue-eyed" CF Josh Hamilton and RF Nelson Cruz but this starting rotation doesn't have Mr. Lee this time around and something tells us RHP Alexi Ogando (7-2, 2.66 ERA while heading into Saturday's game versus the New York Mets) is apt to wilt in the summertime heat in Arlington. The Rangers (41-36 following Friday's 8-1 win against the Mets) have enough spunk and more than enough firepower to get back to this year's Fall Classic but what's the odds that Ron Washington's crew can beat both the Red Sox and Yankees in a single post-season?

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will be releasing loads of Major-League Baseball Winners each and every day and you can be part of all the action -- just remember to call the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or go online right here and make sure you're all aboard for a summer filled with all our MLB winners! The calling/check-in times are as follows: After 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays; after 11 a.m. ET for weekday Baseball and anytime after 1 p.m. ET for all the weeknight action in the world of Major-League Baseball.


Always lots to say in the hours/days/weeks following the NBA Draft and here's some observations:

Folks, the TV/radio/newspaper/internet analysts are forever telling you the "winners" and "losers" of a particular NBA Draft - heck, we joined into the fray with that sort of chit-chat the past couple of days right here in Jim Sez columns - but how about really getting down to it and spelling how both the "great fits" and the "don't make sense" first-round picks from this past Thursday night in Newark. Here goes ...

KEMBA WALKER, G, CHARLOTTE BOBCATS - The draft's #9 overall pick probably slid a little more than he should have on Draft Night but the 'Cats got their floor leader for the next several seasons and last year's NCAA Tournament hero will prove to be the face of this organization and a true stat-sheet stuffer on a regular basis. Walker's an absolutely wonderful "fit" for Charlotte because the team needed an identity (go ahead and tell us three players on this squad off the top of your head!) and because last year the Bobcats ranked a lowly 25th in the NBA in points per game (100.8) and now that's about to change.

KLAY THOMPSON, G, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS - Nobody wants to rain on anyone's draft parade but what was G-State doing here with the 11th overall choice? No doubt that there was talk the Warriors were set to deal away high-scoring G Monta Ellis but now that he appears to be staying put in the Bay Area there was a much greater need for a blue-collar player here who shined either on defense or on the boards (or both) and either of the Morris Twins from Kansas (that's Markieff or Marcus) would have been a better fit and ditto for Morehead State glass-man Kenneth Faried.

REGGI JACKSON, G, OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER - You've no doubt heard all the talk that the Thunder and this former Boston College star had a wink/wink deal arranged months before this selection at #24 but the problem is Okie City had other needs (like a front court guy who could get dirt under his fingernails) and we wondered why this on-the-rise club didn't trade a player and this pick and zoom up into the lottery (top 14 picks) for one of the aforementioned Morris Twins. Maybe Jackson isn't so much a "bad fit" here but he's not exactly what the Thunder needed either with PG Russell Westbrook allegedly entrenched in the position for the next few seasons.


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