MLB Report Cards

BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES: GRADING THE FIRST HALF OF THE SEASON

AND SO THAT MEANS IT’S TIME FOR THE MLB REPORT CARDS

By Jim Hurley

It’s time to grab the red magic marker and grade the MLB teams in this edition of "Jim Sez"…

NATIONAL LEAGUE

Grade: A+
MILWAUKEE (52-41)—The one-and-only National League team to receive such a high mark, the Brewers were expected to be an 80 or 81-win team but monster years from CF Carlos Gomez and C Jonathan Lucroy plus some dandy pitching—did you realize RHP Wily Peralta’s 1.34 WHIP is the worst among this starting staff?—has really propelled Ron Roenicke’s club into the limelight. Yes, we noticed the “Crew” has lost nine of its last 10 games at press time.

Grade: A
MIAMI (44-47)—Don’t want to hear anything about giving these Fish such a great grade ‘cause they’ve been without ace RHP Alex Fernandez since mid-May and still Mike Redmond’s guys have been tough outs though we admit some of that home magic is starting to wear thin lately.

SAN FRANCISCO (50-42)—It’s rather amazing that the Giants have stayed at or above the .550 mark for much of this season considering RHP Matt Cain has won just two games and 1B Brandon Belt (10 HRs) missed two months of the season with a busted thumb… and we didn’t even bring up the fact the San Fran bullpen has blown 13 saves!

Grade: B+
WASHINGTON (49-41) —Hats off to the Nationals for regaining their footing after a slowish start and now it seems the biggest question mark for rookie manager Matt Williams is who’s gonna sit the most in this musical chairs game involving one-time-3B-turned-LF Ryan Zimmerman.

Grade: B
LOS ANGELES DODGERS (51-42)—It took two months or so for the Dodgers to “get their act together” but here’s Don Mattingly’s squad with a neat plus 50 in the run differential department and riding LHP Clayton Kershaw into immortality. Still, shouldn’t the Dodgers be a plus-.600 win team with this starting rotation that includes RHP Zack Greinke (11-5) and LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (9-5)?

CINCINNATI (49-43)—Take nothing away from the Reds but they were headed for disaster-land before turning the beat around in June and now they have fingers crossed that 1B Joey Votto will be back soon while 2B Brandon Phillips will be down for weeks following his thumb injury. Closer Aroldis Chapman is 19-of-21 in saves after having missed the first month… good for him!

ATLANTA (50-42)—The Braves have been a bit too streaky for our tastes but gotta give ‘em high marks for hanging in after all the spring training arm injuries as RHPs Aaron Harang and Ervin Santana have been better-than-expected items off the discount rack.

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Grade: C
ST. LOUIS (50-43)—Let’s just say the Cardinals have struggled mightily for runs this year while ranking 13th in the NL in runs scored and 12th in home runs and so this has been an average year at best for Mike Matheny’s crew that may hit the 90-win mark yet, but probably needs LF Matt Holliday (5 HRs) to pop a few more long balls and now someone has to chip in after the expected eight-week loss of C Yadier Molina (thumb).

PITTSBURGH (48-44)—The Pirates had their world rocked in St. Loo this week till salvaging the four-game series with last night’s 9-1 win but overall manager Clint Hurdle has ‘em hanging in there… still, is Pittsburgh at least two arms too short to make a playoff berth in 2014? Let’s see if the Buccos will be dealing right out of the break.

Grade: C-
SAN DIEGO (40-51)—The anemic Padres rank 14th in team batting average, 15th (or dead last) in runs and 11th in home runs and so maybe being 11 games below .500 isn’t half-bad, eh?

NEW YORK METS (42-50)—The recent hot streak has breathed much-needed life into this franchise but it’s been a dour year overall without ace RHP Matt Harvey as runs have been hard to come by and the likes of 3B David Wright and OF Chris Young—among others—simply haven’t shined.

ARIZONA (39-54)—We’ll cut the Diamondbacks some slack because they did crawl back from a horrendous start but this qualifies as a “passing grade” in name only.

PHILADELPHIA (41-51)—No reason to change our tune that GM Ruben Amaro should have “gone young” two years ago and now he and this rag-tag franchise are paying for it and fully expect a “fire sale” any day now with injured LHP Cliff Lee and RF Marlon Byrd expected to be on the trade block.

Grade: D
COLORADO (39-53)—Nothing to write home about here ‘cept the fact SS Troy Tulowitzki (20 HR) is having a great and injury-free season.

Grade: F
CHICAGO CUBS (39-52)—The retooling of this franchise continues after last week’s multi-player swap with Oakland that sent RHPs Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel to the Bay Area and all we’ll say is we like the bat and the fight of n1B Anthony Rizzo who’s Chicago tough.

Note…

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers are banging outs lots of winners in Major-League Baseball these days and all you need to do is check in either right here online at www.jimhurley.com or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 any time after 1 p.m. Eastern time for the weeknight action, after 11 a.m. ET for weekday games and after 10 a.m. ET for Saturday/Sunday/Holiday Winners.

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!

AMERICAN LEAGUE

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.

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