Hard to believe we are already at the All Star Break. 23 teams are still within 10 games of the postseason and we have already had more no hitters than amount of times mentioned on “First Take”. Here is your top 10 at the break:
#1 St Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals took advantage of a light schedule leading into the break and won 7 of 9 (Astros, Marlins, and Cubs) to maintain a 1 game lead on the Pittsburgh Pirates. The most balanced team in baseball (5th in runs and 3rd in ERA) will possibly have their fate decided between August 22nd and September 8th, when they will take on, in succession, the Braves (4 games), Reds (3 games), Pirates (3 games), Reds (4 games), and Pirates (3 games). By the way: Keep an eye on the starting staff. The #5 spot has been bad, and after such a hot start, Shelby Miller has seen his ERA go up in 6 of his last 7 starts.
#2 Boston Red Sox
Even though the Sox sputtered a little bit going into the break, this team had a phenomenal first half. Almost no one expected this team to be where they are right now in the AL East. The good news for Boston though, is that they have dominated the East so far this year, 23-15, which they will have to continue to do to maintain their division lead. By the way: Big Papi continues to amaze me. 37 years old and he just keeps mashing.
#3 Oakland Athletics
Since June 10th of last year, the A’s have a record of 124-72, which is the best in the MLB. So while their streakiness may bother me a little bit, it’s hard to bet against what they have been doing as a whole. Cespedes needs to step up though. A .293 OBP with his skill set is just unacceptable. By the way: Their starting staff may not have many household names, but they are #2 in quality starts.
#4 Pittsburgh Pirates
Even though the Pirates the 2nd best record in baseball, I have them at #4 because I have some serious doubts. Don’t get me wrong, I really hope the Pirates make it to the postseason; it would be awesome for baseball. I just don’t know if their overworked bullpen can hold up. By the way: Has anyone noticed how good Liriano has been this year? Wow, early candidate for comeback player of the year.
#5 Atlanta Braves
Shockingly, the Braves go into the break with the biggest division lead in the MLB at 6 games. As long as Heyward and Upton get back soon, the Braves should be able to play well enough to hold off the Nats and Phillies in the second half. By the way: Out of their last 67 games, the Braves only have 19 left against teams with winning records.
#6 Tampa Bay Rays
The break couldn’t have come at a worse time for the red hot Rays. Despite having a weak road record (21-22), the Rays have won 14 out of 16 and find themselves just 2.5 games behind the 1st place Red Sox. By the way: David Price has now thrown 25 innings in his 3 starts since coming off the DL and given up just 3 runs. He is the heartbeat of this starting rotation and they need him to be healthy desperately.
#7 Detroit Tigers
This team has been extremely frustrating in the first half if you are a Tigers fan. They have a deep/solid starting rotation and the most efficient offense in the MLB, but only lead the Indians by 1.5 games. Verlander appears to have fixed himself though, which will be huge down the stretch. By the way: The Tigers starting rotation is trying to become the first staff in history to average a strikeout per inning.
#8 Cincinnati Reds
On paper, this looked like the most complete team in the NL Central. However, for the first half of the season, the Reds have been everything but. I can’t really put a finger on it, but something about this team just doesn’t quite mesh. By the way: with the talent they have in their lineup, someone is going to have to start making teams pay for walking Choo and Votto so much.
#9 Texas Rangers
I know they are still reeling from a lot of pitching injuries, but nothing about this team really impresses me. They don’t struggle in any particular area’s, but theu don’t excel either. Also, as I have said before, I worry about the durability of a 38 year old closer who is on pace to throw his most innings since 2009. By the way: Adrian Beltre is a stud and it is a shame he is not in the All Star game.
#10 Arizona Diamondbacks
The Dbacks are here by default. As much as I like this team, their success is more of a product of a weak division (no other teams over .500). When a starting staff only wins 5 times in a span of 36 games, it’s tough to have a lot of faith. Now that the Dodgers are healthier, the Dbacks are probably in trouble. By the way: Randall Delgado has very quietly turned in 5 quality starts in 6 tries.
Please tell me how wrong I am on twitter: @Cole_Stevenson