Major League Baseball Midseason Report Card

MAJOR LEAGUE MIDSEASON REPORT CARD GRADES

By Jim Hurley:

The Major-League Baseball All-Star Game this Tuesday night has had its fair share of controversy what with National League manager Tony LaRussa already having upset folks in Cincinnati (no RHP Johnny Cueto nor 2B Brandon Phillips) but wait till some of you baseball fans see our NL and AL Report Card Grades for the first half of this 2012 season!

Here goes (and note all records below are through Thursday's games) ...

THE NATIONAL LEAGUE

GRADE: A+

WASHINGTON (48-32) -The Nationals get our one-and-only "A+" grade in this year's Jim Sez MLB First-Half Report Cards (remember we handed out straight A's to three American League teams -the Texas Rangers, New York Yankees and Chicago White Sox) ... and why not? Davey Johnson's squad sports the best team ERA in the senior circuit (3.21) and there's true star power now in the everyday lineup with OF Bryce Harper a thrill-a-minute player and 3B Ryan Zimmerman getting his groove back on after missing a bunch of games. Now, can Washington's new "Nat-itude" hold up for a whole, long hot summer?

GRADE: A

PITTSBURGH (46-36) -No question that the Pirates have been a dynamic team (see 27-13 home record) and gotta put CF Andrew McCutchen (16 HRs and .356 BA) right there at/near the top when it comes to first-half NL MVP candidates but sheer fact that Buccos are feasting off weak NL Central (20-11) has us keeping'em from that sacred A+ grade here.

GRADE: B+

NEW YORK METS (45-38) -Okay, so the only thing holding Terry Collins' club from getting into the "A grade" category is that their lefty bats can't hit lefty pitching plus the Mets did lose 5-of-6 Subway Series games against the Yankees. Still, one of the real feel-good stories in MLB this year with RHP R.A. Dickey a real cult hero these days with his 12-1 record and don't forget LHP John Santana's no-hitter (first in the team's 50-year history) and 3B David Wright's MVP-caliber season.

GRADE: B

LOS ANGELES DODGERS (47-37) -Why does it seem like the Dodgers have been nose-diving for the past month-or-so? The fact remains that without CF Matt Kemp in the everyday lineup for most of this current campaign the Dodgers have hung in there (okay, only 12th in the NL in runs scored) but no ignoring the fact that journeyman LHP Chris Capuano (9-3, 2.62 ERA) has saved Don Mattingly's team big-time.

SAN FRANCISCO (45-38) -- In a glass-half-filled look at things, the G-men entered the weekend just 1 ½ games back of the archrival Dodgers even though RHP Tim Lincecum (3-9, 6.08 ERA) has been awful. Who knew that OFs Melky Cabrera (116 hits) and Angel Pagan would have combined for 206 hits through the first half of the season?

ST. LOUIS (44-39) -If the Cardinals thought they were gonna keep up that torrid pace from early in the year, they had another thing coming and you might question why St. Loo (yes, even without Albert Pujols anymore) don't have more wins with the top-scoring team in the league (see 416 runs).

CINCINNATI (44-38) -The Reds are right about where they figured to be at this point in time (88 over/under wins total this year) but why is this offense in this hitter-friendly ball park only eighth in the NL in runs scored this year? Maybe manager Dusty Baker should worry less about those All-Star Game snubs and more about his guys getting the key hit!

GRADE: C+

MILWAUKEE (38-44) -True, the Brewers are supposed to be a better-than-.500 team this year (see 85.5 for their over/under wins total) but they rank a lowly 13th in the league in team ERA and the defense -always a weakness with this franchise -doesn't often make up for shoddy pitching. Hey, don't look now but LF Ryan Braun is putting up MVP-like numbers again (23 HR, 59 RBI and .305 BA).

ATLANTA (43-39) -The Braves have been maddeningly inconsistent the first half of this season (okay, some may choose to call'em simply streaky) and there is no telling where this NL East club would be if closer Craig Kimbrel (23-of-24 saves) wasn't so terrific.

GRADE: C

ARIZONA (39-43) -Enough about the home fans booing RF Justin Upton, this club has to get its mind right and get its pitching straightened away as only LHP Wade Miley (9-5, 3.04) has carried his weight this season.

SAN DIEGO (34-50) -Fully expected the Padres to lose around 90 games this year but Bud Black's club is even more anemic than we thought while ranking 15th in the NL in runs scored and with nobody having hit more than 8 HRs (see Chase Headley ... note that OF Carlos Quentin does have 7 dingers in 101 at-bats but he's missed more than 60 games).

HOUSTON (32-51) -Since nothing was expected from this Astros club, we won't pound'em down grade-wise but they gotta be kidding with only 9 road wins!

GRADE: D

MIAMI (40-42) -The Marlins may have a beautiful new ballpark but the team has been a real stinker the first half of this season with a pitching staff that ranks 11th in the NL in team ERA plus this Miami attack ranks 12th in the league in runs scored with SS Jose Reyes having scored just 41 runs -not good. Throw in the Ozzie Gullen "Castro comments" and this has been a bitterly bad season through early July.

CHICAGO CUBS (31-51) -No wonder MLB Network analyst Larry Bowa was wondering aloud this past week why the dreadful Cubbies have two All-Stars this year (see 1B Bryan LaHair and SS Starlin Castro). Its safe to say that the North Siders are well on their way to a 100-loss season.
 
GRADE: F

PHILADELPHIA (37-47) -It's been an utter disaster for the Phillies so far in 2012 as 1B Ryan Howard (Achilles) has yet to take a swing and it took LHP Cliff Lee till July 4th (14 starts in all) to register his first win of the year. Body language on this bunch is terrible and maybe it is time for a housecleaning for this NL cellar dweller.

COLORADO (31-51) -We know, we know. Way back in early April here in a Jim Sez Preview column we advised you to go "over" 81 ½ wins with these Rockies and so go ahead and yell! The fact is this NL West crew is an absolute mess with a 5.36 team ERA (worst in the league, naturally) and how about OF Carlos Gonzalez who's putting up MVP numbers but nobody outside Denver knows it (see .336 BA with 17 HR and 58 RBI)?

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THE AMERICAN LEAGUE

GRADE: A

TEXAS (50-33) - No post-World Series hangover for this crew that entered this pre-All Star Game weekend as the only team with 50 wins and Ron Washington's club can bash your brains in so many ways with an offense that ranks first in the AL in batting average and first in runs scored (434 or an eye-popping 5.2 runs a game). And LHP Matt Harrison (11-4, 3.10) is turning into this year's C.J. Wilson, if you know what we mean!

NEW YORK YANKEES (49-32) - Consider that the Bombers were staggering around for the better part of the past two months but they've come alive and showed signs of running away with the AL East and that's despite the fact 3B Alex Rodriguez has not hit for power, C Russell Martin hasn't hit at all and despite the fact closer Mariano Rivera (knee) has been on the shelf for the past two months. No doubt that manager Joe Girardi has been brilliant in handling his bullpen ... and that never was a strong suit for predecessor Joe Torre, remember?

CHICAGO WHITE SOX (45-37) - Keep in mind that the Chisox's win total for this 2012 was 75 and here they are sitting with the fourth-best overall mark in the AL behind first-year manager Robin Ventura and if there's a first-half MVP it's young LHP Chris Sale (10-2, 2.19 ERA) who's been every bit as magical as New York Mets RHP R.A. Dickey (12-1). Welcome back, Adam Dunn (25 HRs).

GRADE: B+

BALTIMORE (44-38) - The Orioles have more than held their own in the rough-and-tumble AL East (17-15) and they've found themselves one of MLB's most dependable closers in RHP Jim Johnson (25 saves) and hats off to the Birds for thriving while playing much of this '12 season without 2B Brian Roberts and RF Nick Markakis.

CLEVELAND (43-39) - The Tribe is doing something right 'cause they're playing winning ball despite ranking 11th in the AL in home runs and 13th in the league in team ERA and so maybe Manny Acta's name should pop up a bit more when Manager of the Year talk starts to circulate.

GRADE: B

TORONTO (42-41) - Even the basement team in the AL East is playing winning ball at press time and that's a minor miracle considering how this starting rotation has been mangled by injuries but the long ball - read RF Jose Bautista (27) and Edwin Encarnacion (22) - has saved the Blue Jays thus far.

LOS ANGELES ANGELS (46-37) - The Halos' horrendous start has been put in the rear-view mirror and now Mike Scioscia's squad is playing with an almost reckless abandon with energizer rookie OF Mike Trout now being compared with a young Rickey Henderson by the MLB Network folks on Thursday night. Wow!

OAKLAND (41-42) - Don't quite know how the no-name A's hang around all the time (we'll watch Moneyball one of these days!) but fact of matter is this Bay Area bunch wins a lot of games late and it helps to sport the league's best team ERA (3.43).

TAMPA BAY (43-40) - The Rays ranks 10th in the AL in runs scored and 11th in batting average and no wonder as injury-prone 3B Evan Longoria has missed a major chunk of this season and now the bullpen is starting to fray at the edges too. Throw in the fact T-Bay's defense has been awful and it's a wonder Joe Maddon's crew is the north side of .500 these days.

GRADE: C+

BOSTON (42-40) - Maybe the Red Sox would have drawn a higher grade here but getting swept three in a row in Oakland this past week drops 'em to an average mark at best and no doubt everyday lineup simply doesn't scare anyone even if David Ortiz now has 400 career dingers.

GRADE: C

MINNESOTA (35-47) - The Twins have shown some major grit in recent weeks and how about a round of applause for LF Josh Willingham who has whacked 18 home runs and many of them game-changers. Hey, it's tough to win with a 4.99 team ERA (that's last in the AL).

KANSAS CITY (37-44) - The Royals remain one of MLB's real "tease" teams as just when you think they're making progress they take two giant steps back and did you know KayCee ranks dead-last in the league in home runs (66) right now?

SEATTLE (35-49) - Not much was expected from this year's Mariners (see over/under wins total of 72) and the M's have not disappointed and even OF Ichiro Suzuki's hitting just .262 this year. Ugh!

GRADE: D

DETROIT (41-42) - No need to start bellyaching about the injuries to this team's pitching staff (especially the bullpen) because RHP Justin Verlander has five complete-game games and 1B Prince Fielder and 3B Miguel Cabrera have 128 RBI between 'em and so where is the criticism of manager Jim Leyland? Hmm.

18
Nov

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