American League Mid-season Report Cards
IT'S TIME FOR THE A.L. REPORT CARDS AS WE ZOOM TOWARDS THE ALL-STAR GAME BREAK
PLUS OUR NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM REPORTS FEATURE THE CHARGERS, COWBOYS & SEAHAWKS
By Jim Hurley:
Hey, don't sit there and tell us the American League - save for a couple of teams - is a "mass of mediocrity" because we've got an all-time high three AL squads pulling down "A+" grades here in today's mid-season report card segment of Jim Sez.
That's right, the Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins and defending AL champ Kansas City Royals all have gone above-and-beyond expectations the unofficial first half of this 2015 MLB season but we've also handed out four "D's" and an "F" too. Okay, so it's been a bit of a wacky first 80-plus games for AL teams that featured 12 teams above-or-below .500 by seven games or less while heading into this pre-All-Star Game Weekend.
AMERICAN LEAGUE MID-YEAR REPORT CARDS
HOUSTON (49-39) - Keep in mind the Astros had an "over" 75.5 wins mark prior to the start of this season when the general consensus would be this AL West team needed another year or two of seasoning and so this has been a glorious year for the 'Stros who rank first in the league in home runs (122) and third in team ERA (3.58) and may have the frontrunner for the Cy Young in LHP Dallas Keuchel (11 wins and 0.99 WHIP) and the game's best young player that still doesn't get enough "pub" in OF George Springer (team leader in on-base and slugging percentage).
MINNESOTA (46-40) - So, who saw this coming? The Twins - who had a modest 70.5 wins mark prior to the start of the season - have been re-born behind first-year manager Paul Molitor who continues to get star performances from 1B Joe Mauer (team-best .343 on-base percentage). OF Torii Hunter (team-leading 47 RBIs) and 2B Brian Dozier (his 18 HRs leads the team) and this is not some super pitching staff either (the 3.81 ERA is only eighth in the league). The Twins do more with less and think of where they could be if young kid OF Byron Buxton didn't get hurt after just 37 at-bats.
KANSAS CITY (50-33) - Three cheers for the Royals who started off this 2015 season by engaging in a slew of brawls (did someone say it was a chip-on-the-shoulder start after all the preseason knocks on KC?) but now that things have settled down we see another great defensive team that runs the bases well, pitches great out of the pen and gets enough pop from their All-Stars and gotta send some love to manager Ned Yost who has become a real master of handling his key relievers Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland who sport a combined 104 Ks and 37 BBs.
NEW YORK YANKEES (46-39) - Consider that RHP Masahiro Tanaka has started just 11 games and LHP CC Sabathia entered this weekend 4-8 with a bloated 5.47 ERA and still the Bombers are sitting in first place in the jumbled AL East ... c'mon. Okay, so Joe Girardi may not be a modern-day Miller Huggins or Casey Stengel but he's done a wonderful job mix-and-matching this year and surviving for a huge chunk of time without closer Andrew Miller. Perhaps 1B Mark Teixeira (22 HR and 62 RBI) deserves some mid-season MVP love.
LOS ANGELES (46-39) - Once upon a time this season it appeared the Angels who gonna fade into the Pacific Ocean but internal bickering or not (see recent resignation of GM Jerry DiPoto or not) this club has pulled itself up by its high tops to get within 1.5 games within AL West front-runner Houston and RHP Garrett Richards (club-best 9 wins) is bury writing his own comeback story. Ditto for 1B/DH Albert Pujols (26 HRs) who - dare we say - could be a 50-HR guy when all's said and done in 2015.
TAMPA BAY (43-45) - The Rays staggered into this weekend having lost nine of their last 10 and 14 of their last 17 games and thus what appeared to be an "A" or this club was chopped down a full grade with the pitching staff starting to grumble about the way rookie manager Kevin Cash handles his bullpen.
BALTIMORE (43-42) - The Orioles have been super streaky (now have lost eight of last 10) and we keep thinking Buck Showalter's squad should be better than this especially considering RHP Ubaldo Jimenez (7 wins and team-best 2.81 ERA) is enjoying an epic bounce-back season.
TORONTO (44-44) - Our pick to get to this year's World Series sports the league's top run differential (plus 82) but that dawgone starting rotation is a mess with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey at 3-10 with a 4.87 ERA and with righty Drew Hutchison pitching to a 5.33 ERA (and he's 8-2!). Where would Canada's club be without 3B Josh Donaldson (.299, 21 HR and 60 RBI)?
TEXAS (41-44) - Would have liked to give the Rangers a little bump up in this grade but fact of matter is AL West squad dropped five in a row heading into Friday's game versus San Diego and putrid 15-24 home record a killer.
DETROIT (44-41) - Suffice to say, the Tigers' "window of opportunity" to win it all could be gone as this only-average club has been dragging its way through the season with a minus 3 runs differential and lots of question marks on a staff that ranks 13th in the AL in ERA (4.19).
CLEVELAND (41-44) - Where are all the folks that forecast a World Series appearance this year from the Indians? Terry Francona's club has been sabotaged by an un-Cy Young season from Cory Kluber (4-9, 3.45 ERA) and a real power outage as Tribe bats rank just 12th in the league in home runs.
CHICAGO (39-44) - Another popular preseason pick, the Chisox have been LHP Chris Sale (see 147 Ks and 0.94 WHIP), 1B Jose Abreu (.296, 14 HR and 45 RBI) and a cast of nobodies.
BOSTON (41-45) - Hey, we could have told you back in March that the starting rotation would be rotten and who knew if LF Hanley Ramirez and 3B Pablo Sandoval would "fit"?
OAKLAND (39-49) - Last year the A's were the only AL team to nab an "A+" grade in our Jim Sez mid-year report grades and so this blow-'em-up experiment by GM Billy Beane just blew up in his grill.
SEATTLE (40-46) - Are we being unduly harsh on the Mariners who were supposed to be a borderline 90-win team and instead are 19-25 at home, minus 42 in runs differential and are 35-45 on grass.
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 San Diego Chargers, the Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks ... and do check out our quickie pointspread ditties here too.
SAN DIEGO (9-7) - Is it us or have there been a plethora of performance-enhancing drug suspensions that have come down the pike in recent weeks? The Chargers have their PED woes with the recent word that veteran TE Antonio Gates - a 12-year NFL veteran - will miss the first four games of this 2015 season and so that means TE Ladarius Green will get plenty of attention this summer from QB Philip Rivers and backups. P.S., first game back for Gates will be the Week 5 Monday Night Football tilt against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Pointspread Notes - The SD Chargers actually started off last year with five consecutive spread wins but wound up going an ugly 7-9 ATS (against the spread) and if you date back to the start of the 2011 season you'll see the Bolts are just 31-34-1 ATS and that includes an 0-6 spread mark in divisional play last season.
DALLAS (13-5) - Okay, Cowboys fans, happy now? New DE Greg Hardy had his 10-game suspension reduced to only four games on Friday and so all the doomsayers when it comes to the much-publicized WR Dez Bryant contract issue can breathe a little easier on that front. Hardy now hopes to bolster a Dallas team that registered only 28 sacks a year ago and raise your hand if you knew Jeremy Mincey's six sacks led last year's team. Now, the Cowboys are tinkering with the idea Mincey will shift from defensive end to defensive tackle now that both Hardy and second-round draftee DE Randy Gregory (Nebraska) are expected to be new/integral parts of this year's stop unit.
Pointspread Notes - The Cowboys are a miserable 15-32-1 ATS as betting favorites since the start of the 2010 campaign but did you remember that Dallas covered five of its last six games overall a year ago including that gut-wrenching 26-21 loss-but-cover at Green Bay in the NFC Divisional Playoffs.
SEATTLE (14-5) - Gotta admit that we're beginning to tire of all this QB Russell Wilson contract status talk ... aren't you? The hidden factor here is the Seahawks - set to pay Wilson only $1.54 million this year - do need to improve the backup quarterback position unless you think B.J. Daniels or Tarvaris Jackson are the answers. In fact, look for Settle to spend some time later this month working out a couple of other journeymen-type signal-callers but we believe the Wilson Saga will work itself out sooner rather than later. One other Seahawks note: Last year's club ranked first in the NFL in passing defense (allowed 185.6 ypg) but calls to gobble up secondary help min the draft were left unheeded until CB Tye Smith (Towson State) was nabbed in Round 5 ... we wonder if the 'Hawks should have grabbed a DB earlier.
Pointspread Notes - Last year's Seahawks actually covered seven consecutive games before failing to cover the NFC Championship Game versus Green Bay and then the Super Bowl versus New England. Note that Seattle is 25-15 in its last 40 games when in the favorite's role.
NOTE: Stay tuned for all the latest College Football and NFL Updates all summer long right here at Jim Sez plus we'll get you ready for the Baseball All-Star Game the beginning of next week.
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