The last series for each team before the mid-season break has been completed. Teams will be looking to regroup or continue the momentum they have going into the second half. Players not going to the All-Star game will be getting a few days off to recharge their batteries while those participating will be enjoying their time in the spotlight. Now is as good a time as any to look back and assess where each team is and how they have done in the first half.
Arizona Diamondbacks – Believe it or not, the Diamondbacks are in the thick of the West Division race only three games back in second place. Their team ERA of 4.08 and BAA of .259 rank in the bottom half of the NL but the top three-fifths of their rotation – Ian Kennedy, Daniel Hudson, and Joe Saunders - all have an ERA under 3.90 which is no small task in Chase Field. Rookie Josh Collmenter has pitched very well despite a losing record. On the other hand, Armando Galarraga, Barry Enright, and Zach Duke all have ERAs of at least 5.47. J.J. Putz has converted 21 of 25 save opportunities but is currently on the disabled list. David Hernandez has been closing out games in his stead and is seven of nine in save chances on the year. But both relievers have allowed their share of runs with both sporting an ERA higher than 3.00.
On the hitting side, Arizona is middle of the pack in BA and near the top in strikeouts. They are also second in the league in HR with 101. They swing and miss a lot but when they make contact the ball flies out of the park. Justin Upton leads the regulars with a .293 BA and is on his way to a 25/25 season with 15 HR and 14 SB. Chris Young is tied for the team lead in HR with 16 and has chipped in 12 SB as well. Besides Upton and Young, there are three other players with double digit HR – Miguel Montero, Ryan Roberts, and Kelly Johnson. Roberts has been a pleasant surprise adding 13 stolen bases of his own. Johnson is only hitting slightly over the Mendoza line and already has 102 strikeouts while Upton, Young, Stephen Drew, and Roberts are also on their way to the century mark for whiffs.
GRADES: Pitching – (C); Hitting – (B)
Atlanta Braves – It’s been a good and somewhat surprising season for the Braves. They have managed to stay close to the Philadelphia Phillies thanks in large part to their pitching. The Phillies got all the press with their three big starting pitchers but Atlanta leads the National League in WHIP, ERA, and OPS. Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson have been outstanding while Tim Hudson has been pretty good himself. On the back end, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel have been as good as any duo finishing off games.
At the plate, it’s been a different story for the Braves. They are near the bottom of the league with a .239 BA and .307 OBP and are near the top in strikeouts. They have no team speed as evidenced by a league worst number of stolen bases and a success rate of just over 50%. Brian McCann leads the team in virtually every hitting category. He, along with Freddie Freeman, account for most of Atlanta’s damage to opposing pitchers. Chipper Jones is in the twilight of his career and has managed only eight homeruns and a .259 BA. Dan Uggla (who was supposed to supply much needed power) has clubbed 14 HR but is only hitting a miniscule .185.
GRADES: Pitching – (A+); Hitting – (F)
Chicago Cubs – Another disappointing year for the Cubbies and their fans. Chicago is sitting in fifth place in the Central Division, 12 games out of first and 18 games under .500. They are one of only four National League teams to be playing sub .500 ball both on the road and at home. They have the second worst run differential in the league. The Cubs are near the top of the league in BA but only middle of the road in OBP and HR. They strike out more times than the league average and are dead last in drawing bases on balls. Stolen bases are not part of their game as they have attempted the second fewest steals in the league although they do succeed about three quarters of the time. Carlos Pena leads the team in HR after going the month of April without hitting any. Aramis Ramirez has added 15 and Alfonso Soriano has added 14 round trippers. Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney have been consistent in getting on base and Castro is tied for the team lead with ten SB. Barney has been a pleasant surprise at 2B and he, Castro, and Marlon Byrd are all hitting above .290 on the year as regular players.
Pitching has been the Achilles heel for the Cubs as they are firmly entrenched with the second worst ERA in the league. Matt Garza, leader among the starters with a 4.26 ERA, has been a disappointment with only four victories and seven losses in 16 starts. Carlos Zambrano leads the team with six wins, has a 4.34 ERA and has only struck out six batters/nine innings. Ryan Dempster had finally gotten his ERA under 5.00 for the first time this season before again allowing it to climb over that mark in his last start and has allowed better than a hit/inning to go along with 14 homeruns. Doug Davis, Randy Wells, and Casey Coleman haven’t worked out as starters either with ERA’s of 6.50, 6.80 and 7.23 respectively. In the bullpen, Carlos Marmol has converted 19 of 25 save chances and has allowed 12 earned runs on the year, six of them coming in one outing against the Houston Astros. Without that game, Marmol’s ERA would be 1.29 instead of the 2.57 he has now. Sean Marshall and Kerry Wood have also been very good out of the pen with ERAs under 2.80 while striking out at least 8.38 hitters per nine.
GRADE: Pitching – (D); Hitting – (C-)
Cincinnati Reds – This team has been a personal disappointment for me since I picked them to win the Central Division. Although the Reds are two games under .500, they are still in the race only four games out. Cincinnati is just about as good as anyone in the NL with a .260 BA, .330 OBP, and .405 SLG. Hitting homeruns is definitely part of their game with 100 – third best in the league. They are the leaders in runs scored and tied for the lead in RBI. Joey Votto leads the team with a .324 BA and .438 OBP while Jay Bruce has broken out with 21 HR and 57 RBI to lead Cincinnati. Brandon Phillips has improved his batting eye and is hitting for a higher average but is off the pace in HR and SB. Drew Stubbs has 11 HR and 23 SB but has struggled to a .250 BA and has whiffed 122 times. Between Scott Rolen, Miguel Cairo, Paul Janish, and Edgar Renteria the Reds have a combined nine HR out of the SS and 3B positions. Chris Heisey and Jonny Gomes have a total of 21 HR from LF but only a .233 BA.
The Reds are near the bottom of the league with an ERA of 4.17 and .739 OPS and have allowed a whopping 103 HR. Only two NL teams have a lower K/BB than Cincinnati does. Of the seven pitchers they have used for multiple starts, only Johnny Cueto and Sam LeCure have an ERA under 4.00. Travis Wood, Bronson Arroyo, and Edinson Volquez have a plus 5.00 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. With the exception of LeCure and Volquez, none of the starting pitchers have a strikeout rate greater than 6.56/9. Things have been so bad Volquez has even been demoted for Dontrelle Willis. In the bullpen, Francisco Cordero has been successful in 17 out of 22 save chances but is no longer a strikeout pitcher with his K rate plummeting from 12.22 in 2007 to 6.23 this year. The rest of the relievers have been pretty successful with the exception of Aroldis Chapman who has struggled with his control in surrendering better than a walk per inning.
GRADES: Pitching – (D); Hitting – (C+)
Colorado Rockies – Colorado finished the first half of the season in third place in the National League West, 8.5 games from the leaders and five games under .500. They are just at the break even mark at home and five games below away from Coors Field. The Rockies are middle of the pack in BA but in the top third in most other offensive categories in the NL. The overall hitting leader has been Carlos Gonzalez with a .292/51/13/55/14 line. Troy Tulowitzki is on a pace to outperform last year in HR, RBI, and SB although it is coming at the expense of a 44 point drop in batting average. Todd Helton has been a surprise with ten HR and a .321 BA. Chris Iannetta has chipped in ten HR behind the plate and Ty Wigginton has been valuable with 13 HR at playing at multiple positions. Jason Giambi has chipped in with nine dingers in limited at bats but three of them have come in one game. Dexter Fowler has been a disappointment without any HR at this point and a .238 BA and is in AAA on a rehab assignment where he is not doing very well.
Colorado’s pitching has been near the bottom of the league and a big reason has been the performance of Ubaldo Jimenez who has regressed after a breakout 2010 season. With an ERA over 40% higher and one-half strikeout per nine lower than last year, this is not what the Rockies envisioned for Ubaldo coming into 2010. However, Joulys Chacin has stepped up and provided some improvements of his own over last year. Jorge de la Rosa had been doing well until his season was ended with Tommy John surgery and Huston Street has converted 26 of 28 saves but is still considered an injury risk going forward.
GRADES: Pitching – (C); Hitting – (C)