National League Mid-season Report Cards
IT'S THE LAST WEEKEND BEFORE THE ALL-STAR GAME BREAK AND SO THAT MEANS IT'S TIME FOR THE N.L. MID-SEASON REPORT CARDS (AND WE'LL HAVE A.L.REPORT CARDS TOMORROW!)
MORE NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM REPORTS AS WE CHECK IN ON THE BILLS, TITANS & PANTHERS
By Jim Hurley:
Fame can be fleeting - just ask the defending World Series San Francisco Giants who also won it all back in 2010 and 2012 but right here/right now have eight National League teams with better "mid-year grades" according to our Jim Sez report cards.
Okay, so maybe we are indeed "hard markers" having given the Giants only a "C" but roll through these NL Mid-Season Report Cards and we believe you'll see that we're very fair.
NATIONAL LEAGUE REPORT CARDS
ST. LOUIS (55-30) - The far-and-away best team in Major-League Baseball the first half of this 2015 campaign has shrugged off a spate of key injuries such as RHP Adam Wainwright having started just four games this year and 1B Matt Adams with just 144 at-bats and yet this club that's been to four consecutive National League Championship Series (winning two of 'em including the 2011 World Series) just keeps truckin' along with the NL's top ERA (2.65) and one of the most efficient lineups in the sport. Did you know St. Loo only ranks eighth in the NL in runs scored (339) and 12th in home runs (65)? No doubt manager Mike Metheny is fluent in English, Spanish ... and winning.
PITTSBURGH (50-34) - Give the Buccos a round of applause because the way this season began it sure looked like Clint Hurdle's club would be no better than a .500 squad but CF Andrew McCutchen (team-leading 53 RBI with a .398 on-base percentage) rounded into form and the pitching has been superb with All-Star closer Mark Melancon (28 saves) a better-than-you-think shutdown specialist. The Pirates are for real, folks!
ATLANTA (42-43) - Not often that we'll reward a .500-or-worse team with an "A" but keep in mind this whole Braves' team underwent an off-season facelift that included the night-before-the-season-started move of closer Craig Kimbrel to San Diego ... give oft-maligned manager Fredi Gonzalez lots of credit for piecing things together with ace RHP Shelby Miller (2.07 ERA) and born-again CF Cameron Maybin (43 RBI) two main keys.
ARIZONA (42-42) - It's been an excellent season for the Diamondbacks who may not have many "name" players save for All-Star 1b Paul Goldschmidt (.349 batting average with 20 HR and 68 RBI) but they score plenty of runs (an NL-best 385) and play to their hitter-friendly park. Remember the D-Backs had a season-opening 72.5 wins total in Las Vegas.
CHICAGO (46-38) - Right now the Cubbies are hanging on to that second wild card spot in the NL but the $64,000 question is can Joe Maddon's club get a strong second half from LHP Jon Lester (4-7, 3.48 ERA)? No question we've liked what we've seen from kid 3B Kris Bryant but this outfield hasn't delivered enough pop and remember the Cubs are 7-0 versus the Mets and just 39-38 against everyone else.
NEW YORK (44-42) - It's rather amazing that the Mets enter this final weekend before the All-Star Game break two games above .500 considering 3B David Wright has played just eight and this team just went more than 10 games without a dinger but that wow-wow-wow rotation starring RHP Jacob deGrom (9 wins and 2.14 ERA) could be the best in the league and the most well-positioned group with this current six-man rotation that cuts down on innings/pitches for deGrom, RHP Matt Harvey and veterans LHP Jon Niese and RHP Bartolo Colon.
WASHINGTON (46-38) - Gotta admit we're giving the Nationals the benefit of the doubt with this rather generous grade but maybe this is where Matt Williams' crew deserves to be considering the injuries but where would the D.C. gang be without All-Star OF Bryce Harper (.343, 25 HR and 60 RBI)?
LOS ANGELES (48-38) - The Dodgers have been just good enough to fend off a .500-type crowd in the NL West but for a team leading the league in home runs (109) and fourth in team ERA (3.32) should be better than a .558 crew. RHP Zack Greinke (0.89 WHIP) could have folks thinking Cy Young/MVP at year's end ... sound familiar, Dodger fans?
SAN FRANCISCO (43-43) - The Giants are 22-22 at home and 21-21 away and that's the problem ... and what's up with all the mental mistakes lately during this shaky 2-8 skid?
CINCINNATI (38-44) - The All-Star Game hosts simply have not "fired" this year and gotta believe the offense (12th in the NL in runs scored) has been a shocker with 3B Todd Frazier (25 HR and 55 RBI) a big hit but what happened to everyone else?
MILWAUKEE (37-50) - Recent hot streak catapulted the Brew Crew a grade level here and it appears in-season manager Craig Counsell has made a difference.
COLORADO (35-49) - Maybe the Rockies have spent too much damn time discussing whether or not SS Troy Tulowitzki and/or OF Carlos Gonzalez would get traded!
SAN DIEGO (39-48) - Now who would have thought with all these offensive acquisitions that the Padres would be eighth in home runs and seventh in runs scored in the NL here at the midway point? Bad and boring is no great combo, guys!
MIAMI (35-50) - The injury to OF Giancarlo Stanton is a killer but, let's face it, the Fish were rotten long before he broke his hand.
PHILADELPHIA (29-58) - Less said the better for one of MLB's most dysfunctional franchises in years.
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 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 the baseball winners. Plus, the Football Season isn't far off as NFL Preseason action swings into gear on August 9th with the NFL Hall of Fame Game between the Pittsburgh Steelers versus the Minnesota Vikings - can't wait, right?
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 Buffalo Bills, the Tennessee Titans and the Carolina Panthers ... and do check out our quickie pointspread ditties here too.
BUFFALO (9-7) - There are plenty of interesting characters (including new head coach Rex Ryan) on this Bills' team but one to keep a close eye on this summer is WR Percy Harvin who is telling anyone that will listen he only wants to be a wide receiver this year. The one-time return specialist and "gadget play" star has caught 52 balls worth 500 yards in the past two years - while playing in just 14 total games - but Harvin believes if he stays put as a wide out he could be a major field-flipper along with second-year star WR Sammy Watkins (65 receptions for 982 yards and 6 TDs last year). Keep in mind Harvin signed with the Bills after his former New York Jets coach Ryan inked his deal with Buffalo.
Pointspread Notes - Last year's Bills finished with a flourish going 5-1 ATS (against the spread) in the final six weeks of play but overall this AFC East squad is a dead-even but vig-losing 24-24 ATS the past three years.
TENNESSEE (2-14) - Only two AFC teams (that's Jacksonville and Oakland) scored fewer points last year than these Titans who finished up by scoring 254 points (or 15.9 ppg) and while all the preseason hype swirls around Heisman Trophy-winning rookie QB Marcus Mariota, there are some other Titans' draftees that deserve your attention this summer including WR Dorial Green-Beckham (a second-round pick from Oklahoma) and RB David Cobb (a fifth-round choice from Minnesota) as both look to infuse some energy into an offense that scored a grand total of 51 points in the team's final four games last season. If Green-Beckham - who's been plagued by both on- and off-field issues the past few years including getting booted from the Missouri team - can stay on the straight-and-narrow path this summer under new offensive coordinator Jason Michael (former tight ends coach for the San Diego Chargers) than Tennessee may have hit a real home run with this pick.
Pointspread Notes - Believe it or not, the Titans have suffered through six consecutive non-winning spread seasons (the 8-8 ATS mark in 2010 was the best during this time span) including last year's crummy 4-12 spread log. Go back to the start of 2009 and Tennessee's 34-55-4 ATS overall (a wobbly .382 winning rate).
CAROLINA (8-9-1) - It's not often that a sub-.500 record gets you a divisional title but that's what happened last year with these Panthers who won divisional road games at Tampa Bay, New Orleans and Atlanta to squeeze out a post-season berth (and then beat Arizona in an NFC Wild Card Game before losing a closer-than-it-appeared 31-17 decision at Seattle). Now, this year's Panthers realize the road will be ultra-tough with three separate back-to-back road trips including four of the final six games away. No doubt Carolina believes getting a bit more physical is the key this year and so rookies OLB Shaq Green-Thompson (Washington) and Michigan TE David Funchess (Michigan) - the team's top two draft picks - will play a huge part in attempting to upgrade the physical nature of this team that last year a middling 16th against the rush (allowed 112 yards per game on the ground).
Pointspread Notes - The Panthers have cranked out three consecutive 4-2 ATS marks in divisional play the past three years in a row. Overall, Carolina has failed to cover its season-opening game eight times in the past 11 years.
NOTE: Our American League Report Cards are next along with more NFL team-by-team accounts ... so don't miss out!
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