AL Report Cards + Chargers and Cowboys Capsules

OUR WEEKEND MLB NEWS & NOTES:

IT’S TIME FOR THE AL REPORT CARDS AS WE ZOOM INTO THE ALL-STAR GAME BREAK…
OUR NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM REPORTS TODAY FEATURES THE CHARGERS & COWBOYS

By Jim Hurley

So, here’s the lowdown…

We’re just days away from this year’s Major-League Baseball All-Star Game in Minnesota and—at last check—you get the sense that there’s really a case of the “haves” and “have-nots” in the junior circuit with the likes of Oakland, the Los Angeles Angels and Detroit a combined 163-108 (that’s a .601 winning rate) while there’s six other AL teams that are each five-games-or-more below the .500 mark.

Hey, the Athletics, Angels and Tigers all are getting “straight A” marks from yours truly here in this report card segment but what about everyone else?
Now, here’s your Jim Sez American League Report Cards for the first half of this here-and-now 2014 season…

Grade: A+
OAKLAND (58-34)—Baseball’s best team remains one of the true model franchises even if they haven’t won it all since 1989 and still don’t draw great in the Bay Area, but the oft-mentioned plus 147 run differential is plain wacky and 3B Josh Donaldson (20 HR) remains the best big-time player nobody talks about nation-wide.

Grade: A
LOS ANGELES ANGELS (54-37)—The Halos entered this pre-All Star Game weekend having won eight of their last 10 games, and they’re swinging the bats like mad men with 1B Albert Pujols (20 HRs) and OF Mike Trout (21 HRs and 68 RBI) a real one-two punch while batting in the two and three holes in the lineup. Yes, the bullpen’s functioning better these days too after dealing away lousy closer Ernesto Frieri.

DETROIT (51-37)—As we stated weeks ago, you almost get the feel the Tigers are “toying” with the rest of the AL Central this year and here’s a Motown team with a plus 48 in run differential and yet former Cy Young winner RHP Justin Verlander (8-7, 4.84 ERA) has been ordinary at best.

Grade: B+
SEATTLE (49-43)—The Mariners now have the singular task of trying to track down an AL wild card spot but at least they’re in the running with 2B Robinson Cano a main addition (wonderful defense can’t be overlooked despite the lack of power numbers) but losing home record is a disturbing stat (see 22-25).

BALTIMORE (50-41)—Three cheers for Orioles manager Buck Showalter for keeping his club on top of the AL East pack despite the fact the rotation often appears a mess, the bullpen’s blown 12 saves and 2013 slugger Chris Davis has just 14 HRs and a .202 batting average.

Grade: B
CLEVELAND (45-46)—The Indians can thank RHP Corey Kluber (8-6, 2.86) for hanging in there when it comes to the wild card chase because the rest of the starting rotation has been middling-to-awful, take your pick!

HOUSTON (39-54)—Hats off to the Astros for breathing baseball life back into the “space city” as young-and-exciting crew may or may not be future World Series champs (see recent Sports Illustrated cover) but 2B Jose Altuve (127 hits) is just one reason to tune in and watch this club play ball.

TORONTO (48-45)—No doubt that last weekend’s four-game sweep at the hands of host Oakland really splashed cold water on this North-of-the-Border gang, but the Blue Jays—who lead the league with 116 home runs—still have been a tad better than expected.

Grade: C+
KANSAS CITY (47-44)—The Royals rank as a minor disappointment thus far despite the plus-.500 mark and can someone tell us why this team ranks 13th in the league in home runs? One reason is 1B Eric Hosmer and DH Billy Butler have a combined nine dingers… yuck!

MINNESOTA (42-49)—The Twins serve as this year’s All-Star Game hosts and so three cheers for them but save for RHP Phil Hughes (9-5) and All-Star closer LHP Glen Perkins (22-of-25 in saves) the Twinkies are right about where you thought they would be.

Grade: C
NEW YORK YANKEES (46-45)—Tough times getting tougher with ace RHP Masahiro Tanaka going down for a minimum of eight weeks with elbow woes, but on top of all the other stuff this Yanks team is borrrrring, and when did you think the Bombers would ever rank 10th in the league in runs scored?

CHICAGO WHITE SOX (44-49)—Cuban 1B Jose Abreu (28 HR, 71 RBI) has been the real deal and we’re wondering why teams ever challenge him with what surrounds him in this lineup (note the Pale Hose ranks sixth in the AL in runs scored but Abreu has knocked in or scored 119 or the team’s 399 runs or nearly 30 percent).

Grade: D
TAMPA BAY (42-52)—We’re fully aware that pitcher injuries have crippled this Rays season, but there’s been plenty of other hiccups along the way with team defense a bummer and what about the fact 3B Evan Longoria is hitting just .262 with 11 HRs… what’s happened to his career?

TEXAS (38-54)—Much like the Rays, this starting rotation has taken a few major hits to the midsection but the quality of ball played by the likes of everyday players ain’t good and so expect manager Ron Washington to—finally—be shown the door any day now.

Grade: F
BOSTON (41-51)—No other way to handle the defending World Series champs but to give ‘em a failing grade here and, while John Farrell’s club is much different in terms of the day-to-day lineup as compared with last year’s magical bunch, this crew should be better-than-.500 with the starting rotation that includes a 1-7 Jake Peavy and a three-win Clay Buchholz.

Note…

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Plus, the Football Season isn’t that far off as NFL Preseason action swings into gear on August 3rd with the NFL Hall of Fame Game between the New York Giants versus the Buffalo Bills—can’t wait!

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NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM GLANCES
Hey, it’s summertime and that means the annual Jim Sez reports on all 32 NFL teams with our quick-hitter looks continuing today with the San Diego Chargers and the Dallas Cowboys… and do check out our quickie pointspread ditties here too.

SAN DIEGO—The major area for concern for this year’s Chargers club is defense one year after SD finished 29th league-wide in team defense (and 30th in pass defense while allowing 326 aerial yards per game).

First-round draft pick CB Jason Verrett (TCU) should spark a pass defense that last year collected only 11 interceptions while surrendering 23 enemy touchdown passes, but the Chargers must practice some patience after he underwent shoulder surgery a few months back. Verrett’s been unable to participate in mini camps or OTAs but San Diego insiders claim he should be good-to-go come the preseason sked.

Pointspread Notes—The Chargers come off their best single-season spread record since a dazzling 14-5 ATS (against the spread) mark back in the 2007 season as last year’s Bolts pounded out a dandy 11-6-1 ATS record. Note that the AFC West squad cranked out a 7-3-1 spread log in non-divisional affairs (and San Diego was a combined 7-13 ATS in non-AFC West games the prior two seasons).

DALLAS—Is the Cowboys schedule gonna be the team’s real problem spot this season?

If you haven’t taken a look yet, check out the fact that this NFC East team starts off with a home game against the mighty San Francisco 49ers before going on the road for back-to-backers versus Tennessee and St. Louis before coming home for a Sunday Night game against the New Orleans Saints.

The ‘Boys aren’t gonna be 0-4 SU (straight-up)—are they?—to start the 2014 season, right?

The Cowboys finished 8-8 SU last year for a third consecutive season and consider that last year Dallas never lost as many as two in a row and the last time the ‘Boys suffered a three-game-or-longer losing streak was back in the 2010 when Dallas lost five in a row during that ill-fated Wade Phillips Era.

Pointspread Notes—Last season’s 5-3 ATS home mark was a major improvement over the Cowboys’ collective 6-18 spread log at “Jerry’s House” the prior three years. Note that the ‘Boys also have a bummer record when it comes to head-to-head battles with Washington as Dallas has failed to cover seven of its last eight duels with the D.C. gang.

Hey, here’s a little reminder of the Best & Worst Pointspread Teams in the NFL last year—note this includes all post-season games:

BEST TEAMS

TEAM RECORD PCT.
Seattle  13-6-0   .684
Arizona  10-5-1  .667
San Diego 11-6-1    .647
San Fran   11-6-2  .647
Cincinnati 10-6-1   .625

WORST TEAMS

TEAM RECORD PCT.
Cleveland 6-10-0 .375
Detroit 6-10-0 .375
Jacksonville 6-10-0 .375
Tampa Bay 6-10-0 .375
Washington 5-11-0 .313
Chicago 4-10-2 .286
Houston 4-12-0 .250

NOTE: Stay tuned for all the latest College Football and NFL Updates all summer long right here at "Jim Sez"!

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