- American Sports
- Other Sports
- Euro 2012
May is out of the way and the Major leagues are starting to heat up. Things have settled down now after a wild start. There’ll be no more major shifts in stats and standings thanks to just one good, or horrible, day, which means we can start to look at the break-outs (Adam Jones) with a bit more seriousness and begin to wonder if disappointing players (Adrian Gonzalez) will actually turn it around.
June sees a large slate of inter-league games as well which I always find fun.What’s more enjoyable that a career AL pitcher, who hasn’t swung a bat since high school, face major league pitching? The look of fear in their eyes as they try to lay down a bunt is just great.
So let’s get into my top 10 for the coming month…
Even allowing the Seattle Seahawks Mariners to score 21 on them won’t knock the Rangers off #1.
The bats in Arlington continue to sing. From Josh Hamilton’s 4 homers in one game against Baltimore to 5 double-digit scores in May there seems to be little that can stop a healthy Texas line-up.
Looking passed the stars, first baseman Mitch Moreland is quietly putting together a nice season. He’s striking out a career-low 15.8%, which is translating into a career high batting average of .283 so far. His power has starting to come through more too, hitting 5 homers in May to bring his total to 8 and his SLG up to .533. When you consider that’s from a guy hitting in the bottom third of their line-up and it’s not hard to see how the Rangers league the majors yet again in runs scored.
On the pitching front, people are far too excited about Roy Oswalt signing for the Rangers. I don’t see him being any better than replacement level, and while you can never have enough arms in your system, I don’t want Oswalt taking innings away from Neftali Feliz that’s for sure.
Joe Maddon continues to push all the right buttons for the Rays. If any other manager had decided to play Carlos Pena lead-off they would have been laughed at, but Maddon has enough credit to do it. And it worked! Pena snapped out of his slump and the Rays kept compiling wins.
Maddon has a wrinkle for seemingly every situation and is rightfully known as the best manager in baseball for what he’s done with the Rays. He’s been able to yet again navigate them through a difficult period with Evan Longoria and Desmond Jennings out and fairly soon those bats will be returning to the line-up soon. Jennings (knee) could be back as soon as next week with Longoria more likely to be patrolling 3rd base again by mid-june.
It was another nice month for the Rays rotation too. David Price put up a 2.75ERA in his 5 may starts and averaging just over 7 innings a start with Jeremy Hellickson hot on his heels.
They open June with a home series against the slumping Orioles that will un-tie them for the lead of the AL East before a trip to the Big Apple for 3 with the Yankees and a slate of inter-league games with the NL East. It’ll be a tough month for the Rays, but they have the quality to get through it in a good position to push on.
So Matt Kemp didn’t want to go on the DL in the first place. In his 2 rehab starts he crushes the ball, hitting nothing but home runs and doubles. And then in game 2 of his comeback he re-injures his hamstring scoring from first on a double.
Kemp was so annoyed he broke a bat over his knee in the dugout. Well so did all of his fantasy owners, which since last week include me.
The All-Star centre fielder said that he felt this injury was worse that the original one and will probably result in a DL stint, which was confirmed last night as the Dodgers placed him on the 15 day DL.
The Dodgers went 9-5 without him, leaning on their great 1-2 punch of Clayton Kershaw and Chris Capuano while getting some good hitting from Andre Ethier and catcher A.J. Ellis. Shortstop Dee Gordon has picked up his offensive production a little after being on the cusp of demotion-worthy.
The Dodgers have been playing GREAT defense, getting surprising contributions from the likes of Jerry Hairston and taking full advantage of a really weak NL West. They might not keep “The best record in baseball” title for too much longer, but the division should comfortably be theirs. Which is why they’ll take it super-slow and cautious with Kemp this time around.
Despite the Reds leading the NL Central by 1.5 games now, I’m going to give the edge to the National League’s best offense and the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals.
The Cardinals have gotten all of 13 games out of Lance Berkman but that hasn’t hampered offensive production thanks to a renaissance year from Carlos Beltran.
Beltran has already clobbered 15 home runs. After hitting 22 between the Mets and Giants last year it’s come as a pleasant surprise that’s for sure. A lot of it has to do with his health though. At 35 Beltran has played in all but 2 games this season so far, which is almost certainly an unsustainable rate for someone with Beltran’s injury history and age.
For now though Beltran will be needed to play every day as there are some significant injuries to the Cards outfield with Allen Craig and Jon Jay on the DL.
If the Cards ever get everyone back healthy at the same time they are going to have 3 too many MLB-calibre hitters, with their most recent call up Matt Adams has looked impressive playing 1st base. What a nice problem that must be.
The pitching in America’s capital is really, really good. Gio Gonzalez (2.04ERA) and Stephen Strasburg (2.64ERA) both have a K/9 rate over 10.5 and a HR/9 rate under 0.7. Basically, they’re amazing. Throw in Jordan Zimmermann and 4 relievers with an ERA under 3 and you can see why they’re still just ahead of a hot Marlins team.
Washington’s offense continues to be fairly poor, and I think they’ll find themselves overtaken fairly soon unless Ryan Zimmerman can re-find his 30HR, .300BA potential, the oft-injured 3rd baseman has been disappointing so far with the bat, leading to people re-thinking his place amongst the elite 3rd basemen of the league. Fortunately Michael Morse should be bringing that sort of production off of the DL with him imminently. He’ll help to bridge the gap to the other NL East offenses, but they’ll need improved production from everyday players like Ian Desmond and Rick Ankiel (Both sporting an OBP under .300) to stave off the various charges from Miami, Atlanta and Philadelphia.
Welcome to the 2012 season Mark Teixeira! After having his usual slow start to the season the switch-hitting first baseman has begun to come around and hit for power, with a .548 SLG in May. Other offensive pieces are warming up too as the temperatures rise in the parks. The old men of A-Rod and Jeter are both posting respectable averages so far (.283 and .336 respectively) but the power has almost dried up for A-Rod, with his isolated power (extra bases per at-bat) at a horrible .141 after dropping like the proverbial stone over the last 5 years.
Thankfully Curtis Granderson continues to abuse the short porch in right field, crushing 16 homers so far this season while Robinson Cano has come around after a slow start, getting 7 of his 8 homers this season in May and upping his average to into the .280’s.
Andy Pettitte’s return has somewhat stabalysed their rotation, as have recent starts from David Phelps, making up for disasters from Ivan Nova (5.60ERA) and Phil Hughes (5.64ERA). David Robertson and Rafael Soriano continue to cover up the loss of Mariano Rivera, but the increased workload might begin to show up down the stretch so it will be important to get more out of their other bull pen arms.
Joey Votto is one of the premiere 1st baseman in the majors, he just doesn’t get the coverage of other names. He’s sporting a huge .463OBP and .598SLG so far this season while providing good defense to go with it. Jay Bruce, one of the streakier players in the league, continues to show a lot of power despite upping his strikeout rate to a Reynolds-like 25%.
The pitching for the Reds has also been good, Johnny Cueto continues to impress while Mat Latos seemed to have put his early season struggles behind him before Colorado got to him on Sunday. But the real story is Aroldis Chapman.
Recently installed as the Reds closer, Chapman has compiled 26 innings without allowing an earned run this season. TWENTY SIX!! And a huge 44 strikeouts to just 8 walks. It’s insane. Chapman, 24, should be in the Reds starting rotation next season, where his fastball that tops out at around 103mph, will be bought down to a measly 96 or so. Maybe then opposing hitters will have a chance against him.
Let’s call this the “Able to hit Justin Verlander” bonus. On Tuesday they ripped 10 hits and 5 runs against the ace in 6 innings, giving Verlander his worst start for just over a year.
The Sox offense continues to tick along nicely with Ortiz and rookie 3B Will Middlebrooks getting 6 homers each in May while Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s bat has woken up with 5 homers and almost a .300 average for the month.
Bobby Valentine has had a tough job trying to juggle the line-up in order to keep a hot Middlebrooks in the team and play veteran 3rd baseman Kevin Youkilis. This has resulted in Adrian Gonzalez making starts in the outfield and Middlebrooks beginning to train at shortstop after the injury to Dustin Pedroia has left a hole in the infield defense.
Meanwhile the pitching has been steady if unimpressive. John Lester and Josh Beckett have been more reliable of late, with Daniel Bard being wild but effective in some of his starts. The Red Sox could well make a move towards the deadline to get themselves another arm (possibly sending Youkilis the other way).
For the Red Sox to keep pace with the rest of the AL East they will need more production out of Adrian Gonzalez, who is well below expected production in almost all stats so far this year. Hopefully he’ll turn it around, if not then his big contract will quickly become yet another albatross around Fenway Park to join those of John Lackey, Dice-K and Carl Crawford.
It’s almost as if Giancarlo Stanton doesn’t like his new ballpark, and is trying to bring it down one monstrous home run after another. First he broke the scoreboard on a grand slam, then he attacked the barman in the Budweiser Balcony about 440ft from home plate before finally crashing one into the bottom of the truly vulgar home run statue in centre-left. Stanton had 12 of Miami’s 23 May home runs, and needs more help from the rest of the line-up to stop opposing pitching from working around him.
Speaking of help, it’s starting to look like Josh Johnson might need some. Coming off of a serious shoulder injury that shut him down a year ago Johnson has looked far from his usual self. His strikeout rate is well down from his highest rates in 2010 and 2011 while his Line drive rate has shot up. Meaning people are making harder, and better contact against him so far this season and explaining why his ERA is up at 4.83. It may be that Johnson will return to form as his confidence and strength grows, but it’s a worry because without the usual JJ the Marlins are missing a big piece of the puzzle.
A 21-8 May record has the Marlins just out of 1st in the NL West, and will need more production from Logan Morrison, John Buck and Chris Coghlan to maintain this pace.
Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos have added a youthful, and lightning fast, spark to the Angels since coming into the team for their ancient starters of Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter. Bourjos’ bat is yet to show up but he’s so good in centre field and on the base paths that he’s worth carrying for a bit. Trout meanwhile is doing it all; making great plays in the field, hitting home runs, stealing bases and striking out a lot. The 20 year old will need to cut the latter down if he wants to maintain his .303 batting average, but Trout already looks like an absolute stud.
The Angels push back to .500 has been helped by Albert Pujols finally turning up, mashing 8 homers in May. But the real powerhouse has been Mark Trumbo.
Due to the Pujols signing Trumbo has been moved around the field, eventually landing in right where he’s really quite poor. But his bat has been incredible throughout May; 7HR, .367 average, slugging .670.
The Weaver injury is a big one for the Angels. As much as Dan Haren has started to turn his season around, and as good as CJ Wilson and Ervin Santana can be none of them are as consistently great as Weaver is. An injury like Weaver’s, inflammation near a disk, is a really difficult injury to put out a timeline for. They have to shut him down and hope it responds, then take things very carefully in rehab. We could be well past the All-Star break by the time Weaver is back, at which point the Angels should be in the thick of a wildcard chase against most of the AL East.
AL Hitter: Josh Hamilton (12HR, 32RBI, .344avg, .781SLG)
AL Pitcher: Chris Sale (4-1, 1.71ERA, 31.2IP, 35K’s)
NL Hitter: Giancarlo Stanton (12HR, 30RBI, .343avg, .769SLG)
NL Pitcher: James McDonald (3-1, 1.54ERA, 35IP, 39K’s)
Detroit Tigers (13-16 in May)
Chicago Cubs (10-17 in May, 12 game losing streak)
- Toby Durant (@TDonSport)