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How Each MLB Team Can Recover from the First Half of the Season

Ely SussmanCorrespondent IJune 18, 2012

How Each MLB Team Can Recover from the First Half of the Season

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    All MLB teams face challenges during the summer. Injuries, poor performances, and strong competition test their desire to win.

    To recover from the season's exhausting first half, organizations need to make adjustments. They will tweak game strategies, redefine individual roles or even change personnel in pursuit of the 2012 World Series title.

    This article identifies specific keys for each club going forward.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Less aggressiveness on the basepaths

    With Miguel Montero and Justin Upton mashing fewer home runs than expected, the Arizona Diamondbacks have been impatient between the foul lines. Dozens of potential rallies die prematurely because of their aggressiveness.

    They should choose their attempts more carefully.

     

    Get Stephen Drew back in the big leagues

    It has been 11 months since Stephen Drew last played for the Diamondbacks. Despite Bloomquist's near-.300 batting average and the team's overall success in the interim, I assure you they are more dangerous with Drew at shortstop.

    He is superior to John McDonald by all offensive measures and a better fielder than Bloomquist.

    According to Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic, Drew is ready for a heavier workload at Triple-A Reno. Barring any setbacks, the Snakes could recall him before June is through.

     

    Trade Joe Saunders

    Arizona's starting rotation has a mediocre strikeout rate, and Joe Saunders is guilty of possessing underwhelming stuff.

    This staff can ill afford to retain the pitch-to-contact southpaw because Chase Field is a hitter-friendly venue. Saunders has already allowed seven home runs in as many home starts, a ratio that will only worsen as the temperature rises.

    Meanwhile, hard-throwing prospects Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs are practically MLB-ready. Their repertoires are better suited for the climate.

Atlanta Braves

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    More production from reserves

    Eric Hinske and Jack Wilson are total liabilities with the bat. Though Juan Francisco has hidden power, he isn't impressing anyone with a .243 on-base percentage.

    It will be difficult for Atlanta to contend—especially in the Senior Circuit—with such an anemic bench.

    And yet, the Atlanta Braves rank third in the NL in runs per game. It's scary how much more productive they could be.

     

    Jair Jurrjens in All-Star form

    This is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, and Jair Jurrjens was battered in four April starts before being demoted to the minors.

    However, at this time a year ago, he was locking up a spot on the All-Star Game roster.

    Mark Bowman of MLB.com reluctantly discussed the possibility that Brandon Beachy may face season-ending surgery. Beachy has already been placed on the 15-day disabled list, so at the very least, Jurrjens will get several shots at redemption.

    The Braves are desperate for the Curacao native to subdue batters with finesse once again.

Baltimore Orioles

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    Consistency from the lead-off spot

    During their first 60 contests, the Baltimore Orioles won dozens of times with their slugging ability, but were bested nearly as often on nights when the strikeouts piled up.

    With pesky lead-off hitter Brian Roberts disabled, manager Buck Showalter tried to replace his contributions.

    Robert Andino didn't steal bases, and Xavier Avery couldn't make contact. Endy Chavez posted a .356 OPS from the No. 1 spot (that's on-base plus slugging percentage). In summary, none of the fill-ins were of much assistance.

    Now, the veteran second baseman is in good health again. If he is the same player he used to be, the O's will be able to manufacture offense when the long ball fails them.

     

    Cleaner defense

    Baltimore's season has already qualified as a success. Hardly anybody outside of Maryland expected them to stay relevant this deep into the summer.

    With that said, the error-prone O's could nosedive at any time if their fielding deficiencies aren't addressed.

    Wilson Betemit and Mark Reynolds, for example, botch too many routine plays. Only three AL defenses have surrendered more unearned runs.

Boston Red Sox

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    Strike-throwing starting pitching

    The Boston Red Sox starting pitching is guilty of allowing too many batters to reach base in 2012.

    Opponents are going to take advantage of the compromised outfield (sans Jacoby Ellsbury), but free passes will ruin this team. Walks turn into doubles when Jarrod Saltalamacchia is behind the plate.

    The starters will be able to keep their pitch counts more efficient by trusting those behind them to make plays.

     

    Move Kevin Youkilis

    It's easy to understand why Red Sox hurlers fear contact.

    A surplus of corner infielders has forced Adrian Gonzalez into right field. Though sure-handed, his lack of agility leaves much to be desired. The front office wants him back at first base, which calls for Kevin Youkilis' exit from Beantown.

    Youk's game is eroding, and Boston will get little—if anything—in a trade, but regularity in the lineup card would certainly be a plus.

     

    Carl Crawford, Jacoby Ellsbury come back strong

    Skipper Bobby Valentine suggests that Carl Crawford (elbow) and Jacoby Ellsbury (shoulder) are close to getting into games

    Having both return to All-Star form upon activation would swing momentum for the struggling Sox.

    It's rare for two speedy players to be so skilled. Their contributions could single-handedly erase Boston's deficit in the AL East.

Chicago Cubs

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    Talk Carlos Marmol into minor league stint

    Closer Carlos Marmol is currently pitching below replacement level and contributing to the bullpen's MLB-worst walk rate. Dale Sveum was wrong to award him the ninth inning.

    Unlike the guy who earned a three-year, $20 million deal, this poser is generating fewer swing-and-misses and being tagged for more extra-base hits. He used to be unhittable.

    Giving him time away from the big-league team in June would manifest itself in more wins down the stretch.

     

    Dump Alfonso Soriano

    There was a point when Alfonso Soriano and his disgusting contract—he's due approximately $47 million between now and 2014—looked immovable.

    But evidently the Chicago Cubs aren't eternally cursed, because Old Soriano has transformed into the Soriano of old. He's durable and productive...and stuck in the wrong league.

    The 36-year-old is a displaced designated hitter.

    Chicago must eat 50, 60, 70 or whatever percentage of his future salary to dump him elsewhere before he goes cold again.

    By recalling Anthony Rizzo from Triple-A and sliding Bryan Lahair over from first base, the offense wouldn't skip a beat.

Chicago White Sox

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    More starts for Tyler Flowers

    Catcher A.J. Pierzynski has rolled through much of 2012, but the 35-year-old is finally at the onset of an overdue cold streak.

    Tyler Flowers has been riding the pine long enough. He works well with the pitching staff (evidenced by his 3.32 catcher's ERA), and he would regain his timing at the plate with semi-regular at-bats.

    The veteran Pierzynski can continue serving as primary backstop for the Chicago White Sox. However, the current 80/20 playing-time split will need to be modified.

     

    Keep pitches low in "Windy City"

    Pitchers, be aware of your ballpark's dimensions and conditions before entering a game situation. The White Sox staff needed to hear that.

    Chris Sale was the only effective arm during a 4-5 homestand, while everybody else had trouble containing the ball in U.S. Cellular Field. Chicago yielded 49 runs—and prevailed twice—in the seven games where Sale was a spectator.

    Elevated pitches are to blame for these undesirable results.

Cincinnati Reds

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    Redefine Mike Leake's role

    Miguel Cairo and Wilson Valdez are among the most offensively-inept position players in the majors. In spite of them, the Cincinnati Reds do a surprisingly decent job at pinch-hitting.

    Still, another legitimate bat would bolster that bench.

    Starting pitcher Mike Leake isn't excelling in his current role. With a .272 career batting average, he should be swinging the stick in more games and logging fewer innings.

     

    Adjust Mat Latos' game plan

    In an offseason trade, the Reds acquired Mat Latos from the San Diego Padres.

    He has been slow to adjust to Great American Ballpark. Opposing batters have tagged him for 11 home runs in 50.2 home innings because he challenges them like a fly-ball pitcher.

    The roster surrounds him with stellar defensive players. Cincy can run away from its rivals in the NL Central once Latos utilizes them by keeping balls in play.

Cleveland Indians

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    Justin Masterson

    One man can have a considerable impact.

    Justin Masterson was the ace of the Cleveland Indians in 2011, but slumped through April and May of this campaign.

    Solid strikeout-to-walk ratios from his latest work suggest that everything has normalized. When he's on a roll, the rotation is far more formidable.

     

    Do damage in hitter's counts

    Collectively, the Indians are patient at the plate. So much so that it's preventing them from realizing their offensive potential.

    The lineup isn't particularly deep. Key hitters like Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana are frequently stranded on base after walks.

    They can take matters into their own hands by expanding the strike zone and trying for extra-base hits.

Colorado Rockies

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    Power pitching

    Jamie Moyer wasn't cut out for Coors Field, and neither is Jeremy Guthrie.

    One does not simply induce harmless contact in that environment. It's impossible at such a high altitude.

    Why did Ubaldo Jimenez have terrific results in 2010? Because he was overpowering.

    Colorado's pitching staff can be respectable—somewhat respectable, at least—with Drew Pomeranz and talented arms that can miss bats. Matt Garza would be a reasonable fit.

     

    Ramon Hernandez to guide them

    Ramon Hernandez is a quality battery mate. He's an experienced game-caller who denies would-be base stealers better than the average catcher.

    It's no coincidence that the Rockies have been losing in his absence.

    Rather than Wilin Rosario, Hernandez should receive the bulk of game action.

    He guided those great pitching staffs the Oakland Athletics had in the early 2000s. Perhaps he can start something special in Colorado, too.

Detroit Tigers

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    Jose Valverde out, Joaquin Benoit in

    American League teams have solved Jose Valverde.

    They know about his splitter and where he likes to throw it. They are familiar with his deliberate nature on the mound, so they run against him at will.

    Because he has become predictable and hittable, "Papa Grande" is not equipped to close ballgames. Joaquin Benoit is.

    The longtime setup man doesn't wilt in high-leverage situations. Al Alburquerque, who should be available around the All-Star break, can be second in command.

    That pair gives the Detroit Tigers a tremendous edge in close contests.

     

    Alex Avila restores order

    Baseball-Reference.com estimates that Alex Avila was worth 4.9 Wins Above Replacement in 2011. Watching Detroit flail in his absence makes me skeptical of that figure.

    He squeezes the best starts out of Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander.

    He is sorely missed in the batting order. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder haven't been able to carry the offensive load on their own.

    If his hamstring fully recovers, so will the Tigers.

Houston Astros

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    Return Brett Myers to the rotation

    In spring training, the Houston Astros asked Brett Myers to move into the closer's role. Management was worried that the bullpen would otherwise implode.

    As it turns out, protecting leads for a rebuilding team isn't a busy job (22.2 IP).

    Myers has been excellent, and the Astros need to milk more innings out of him. Bud Norris is officially on the shelf, so a return to the rotation makes sense.

     

    Better pitch recognition

    Houston's lineup is laden with inexperienced batters.

    Madison Bumgarner (12 K), Matt Cain (14 K), Yu Darvish (11 K) and Colby Lewis (10 K) have all schooled them in June.

    Carlos Lee—recently recovered from a bad hamstring—will alleviate the problem. He seldom strikes out.

    "El Caballo" must be a mentor. His teammates can barely recognize a breaking ball.

Kansas City Royals

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    Lorenzo Cain, Salvador Perez fill lineup voids

    So far in 2012, the Kansas City Royals haven't been lighting up the scoreboard.

    However, two exciting additions—catcher Salvador Perez and center fielder Lorenzo Cain—will give the lineup cyclical potential.

    When these players went down with injuries, the organization settled for lackluster replacements. Countless runners were stranded on base because the fill-ins couldn't handle their bats.

    Perez and Cain aren't wide-eyed prospects. Both have significant big-league service time.

     

    Bullpen brilliance

    Ned Yost leans heavily on his relievers (see June 17). One or more have pitched in every Royals game.

    Everybody had to move up in the pecking order when Joakim Soria went under the knife for Tommy John surgery.

    Starting pitching hasn't provided length or quality, but K.C. can stay afloat if the bullpen continues to shine.


Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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    Motivate Ervin Santana

    With his starting job on the line, right-hander Ervin Santana tossed an inspiring, one-hit shutout.

    Santana has reason to be pleased. When Jered Weaver rejoins the rotation, it surely won't be at his expense.

    But the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim can't allow him to get complacent. Without sufficient motivation, he'll lose focus and get knocked around (hence his 5.16 ERA).

    The Angels are on the fence about exercising his $13 million team option for 2013. Make him earn it.

     

    Use or lose Peter Bourjos

    Peter Bourjos is the most coveted defensive sub in baseball. That's because other teams are dying to start him.

    He's under team control through 2016. Any deal for him would certainly involve MLB-ready pitching.

    Unless the Angels want to maximize his talents, they should send him elsewhere and deepen their staff.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Keep Matt Kemp away from All-Star festivities

    The Los Angeles Dodgers don't depend entirely on Matt Kemp, but he must return to full strength if L.A. aims to win the NL West title.

    All will be fine if he takes precautions.

    Any extracurricular activities that may lead to re-injury of his hamstring are obvious no-nos. Sadly, MLB fans, the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game in Kansas City are not worth putting a $160 million man at risk.

     

    Good ol' fundamentals

    Don Mattingly's guys do the subtle things that other groups don't.

    No team, for example, has executed more sacrifice bunts. Similarly, the lineup cashes in regularly with runners on third and less than two outs. 

    A.J. Ellis, Jerry Hairston and other blue-collar players on the roster make an incalculable impact.

Miami Marlins

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    Fresh Legs

    The Miami Marlins lost their swag after Emilio Bonifacio injured his thumb. They conceded second place to the Atlanta Braves and have since dropped down another rung.

    However, it may have been a blessing in disguise.

    Bonifacio was swiping bags at a prolific pace for the Fish, but he would have exhausted himself—as base stealers historically do—with a chunk of the schedule left to play.

    The speedster instead should be completely rejuvenated by his time away from the diamond.

     

    Acquire Carlos Quentin

    Miami's front office will have considerable money to spend on in-season improvements.

    A tertiary power source to compliment Hanley Ramirez and Giancarlo Stanton might be on the wish list. Carlos Quentin from the San Diego Padres fits that description.

    As an impending free agent, Quentin has millions of incentives to produce.

     

    Reliable Starting Pitching

    Unlike other MLB teams, the Marlins haven't had to use more than five starting pitchers. They may never need to.

    Specifically, Mark Buehrle, Ricky Nolasco and Carlos Zambrano are durability incarnate.

    Miami's rotation matches up well against the other fivesomes in the NL East, all of which are affected by injuries or innings limits.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Second-half surge from Aramis Ramirez

    A large sample size is required to validate possible career trends. With 14 previous MLB campaigns under his belt, Aramis Ramirez can be dissected to the nth degree.

    Ramirez always carries poor power numbers into midsummer, only to find his stroke and live up to the back of his baseball card.

    He went on a tear of that ilk with the Chicago Cubs in 2011. All indications are that he'll surge for the Milwaukee Brewers in the second half.

     

    Key relievers regain fastball command

    The late-inning duo of John Axford and Francisco Rodriguez, meanwhile, has less predictably started off the season in a slump.

    K-Rod and Axford were practically automatic in concert once they joined forces last July. They shortened games for the Brew Crew by taking charge of the eighth and ninth frames, respectively.

    Both suffered from lousy fastball command in the early months of 2012.

    Because their pure stuff is still filthy, this setup/closer combination isn't far from rebounding.

Minnesota Twins

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    Continued success of Drew Butera/Francisco Liriano battery

    Overall, 2012 has been a disappointing year for Francisco Liriano.

    However, since rejoining the Minnesota Twins starting rotation on May 30, his pitching is much improved. He has hurled 23.2 innings in that span and been charged with merely 12 hits.

    The one constant over those four outings? Reserve catcher Drew Butera. He and Liriano apparently have some chemistry, and manager Ron Gardenhire would be wise not to mess with it.

     

    Resist the temptation to sell

    Justin Morneau, Denard Span and Josh Willingham are all valuable players. But each is also an attractive trading chip that other organizations reportedly have interest in.

    Parting with any of these regulars is accepting defeat.

    Lucky geography has put Minnesota in a volatile division. The front-running Chicago White Sox are within reach.

    A turnaround is possible, but that won't even be a pipe dream if the roster is stripped.

New York Mets

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    Settle on a shortstop

    Three different New York Mets players have amassed at least 100 innings at shortstop. That inconsistency has hindered Daniel Murphy's development at second base.

    Murphy is very raw in the middle infield (in terms of positioning, glovework,...everything). For his sake and the team's, there needs to be less turnover.

    Ruben Tejada is coming back from the disabled list after a six-week hiatus. He'll be the one working alongside Murphy.

    Their relationship will benefit the defense as a whole.

     

    Bolster the bullpen

    I won't sugarcoat it—New York's bullpen is pathetic.

    Its ERA is a full run worse than that of any other relief corps. Also, the group has blown the most save opportunities and been rocked for the highest batting average against.

    However, it's a weakness that a couple established pitchers could probably remedy.

    Grant Balfour (Oakland Athletics), Rafael Betancourt (Colorado Rockies), Jonathan Broxton (Kansas City Royals) and Huston Street (San Diego Padres) are worth looking at. Jose Mijares (Royals) would be ideal for quelling powerful lefties.

New York Yankees

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    Mark Teixeira uses the whole field

    Since he signed with the New York Yankees in 2009, Mark Teixeira has seemingly been mired in an offensive decline.

    In reality, opposing defenses are positioning themselves according to his pull-happy tendencies and robbing him of would-be base hits.

    This is why his batting average on balls in play is unusually low.

    The opposite field is wide open, Tex.

     

    Dispose of Freddy Garcia

    Manager Joe Girardi removed Freddy Garcia from the rotation earlier this season and uses him exclusively in low-leverage situations. The 35-year-old only pitches when the team is trailing or leading by a significant margin (or in extra innings after the 'pen has been emptied).

    Why is he hogging a spot on the active roster? Because it is difficult to trade the aging right-hander with approximately $2.4 million still remaining on his contract.

    But this has gone on long enough.

     

    Bring Brett Gardner along slowly

    Left fielder Brett Gardner initially injured his elbow in mid-April. His outstanding base running and defensive prowess have been sorely missed.

    Several setbacks have delayed his return. One more might end his season.

    There is no rush to recall Gardner with the club so dominant, but he will be invaluable down the stretch when the elder players begin to wear down.

    He means as much to the Yankees as Matt Kemp does to the Los Angeles Dodgers. The organization must ensure that he's 100 percent healthy.

Oakland Athletics

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    Fewer strikes from Bartolo Colon

    Rarely does a beer-bellied man exude confidence. Then again, Bartolo Colon is unique.

    According to FanGraphs, 88 percent of his pitches are fastballs. If you've watched him work, you know that nearly all of them cross over the plate.

    Not surprisingly, Colon left his start on June 17 as the MLB leader in hits allowed.

    The Oakland Athletics need to sit him down and explore the idea of off-speed pitches. They'll have a few weeks to chat with the news that Colon is "likely headed" to the DL with an oblique injury.

     

    Commit to Brandon Moss

    Before Brandon Moss, the A's were getting negligible offense from first basemen. After eight starts at the position, he had homered more than the rest had through two months of the season.

    They should stick with Moss.

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Lengthy outings from starting pitchers

    Antonio Bastardo and Jonathan Papelbon are top-of-the-line relievers. Sadly, the Philadelphia Phillies do not have other pitchers of that caliber in their bullpen.

    The recipe is simple when Charlie Manuel gets his starters through seven innings. Meanwhile, turning a lead over to Jacob Diekman or Chad Qualls is asking for trouble.

     

    Chase Utley solidifying second base and middle of the order

    Of Philadelphia's injured All-Stars, second baseman Chase Utley is closest to returning to MLB action. He is several games into a minor league rehab assignment and is projected to make his 2012 debut in early July.

    If healthy, he would dramatically upgrade the team's defense and lineup depth. Michael Martinez is currently serving as a stopgap with Freddy Galvis injured and suspended.

    Don't underestimate how Utley would boost morale on the cellar-dwelling Phillies.

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Containing the running game

    The Pittsburgh Pirates pitching staff is excelling in 2012, but not by hurling perfect games every night.

    Eventually, the club's inability to deal with base runners is going to haunt them (50 steals allowed in 54 attempts).

    Everybody in the infield is at fault. Particularly, though, A.J. Burnett and the pitchers have adjustments to make.

    Shortened deliveries and refined pick-off moves are a few suggestions.

     

    Selectivity at the plate

    This team is awful offensively. On 17 occasions, the final output has been two runs or less.

    What accounts for Pittsburgh's struggles? Poor plate discipline.

    The Buccos are certainly at a talent deficit with their traditionally modest payroll, but chasing after ugly pitches exacerbates the problem. Swinging—and missing—early in the count prevents them from getting in favorable hitting situations.

    Without changing any personnel, the lineup can heat up around star hitter Andrew McCutchen. Taking pitches will wear out the competition and lead to better swings.

San Diego Padres

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    Get Cameron Maybin going against lefties

    Cameron Maybin isn't producing at the plate. Though several other San Diego Padres are guilty of the same crime, he has a peculiar weakness—left-handed pitching.

    He batted .296 versus it in 2011, but that figure has halved in the first year of his $25 million contract extension.

    This problem won't linger.

     

    No more injuries to the starting rotation

    On June 16, Ross Ohlendorf became the 12th pitcher to start a game for the San Diego Padres. That can't be healthy.

    This team has lost many of its top arms to the disabled list, including Cory Luebke and Tim Stauffer.

    The Padres won't be able to compete this summer if they continue to be victimized by such rotten luck.

     

    Hold on to Carlos Quentin

    I understand why the front office might be tempted to trade Carlos Quentin, but doing so would be a wave of the white flag. Stay strong, San Diego.

    The Padres can hardly score without their cleanup hitter, and fewer runs draw fewer fans. Poor attendance discourages players. Uninspired players never win games.

San Francisco Giants

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    Everyday duty for Brandon Belt

    All along, San Francisco Giants general manager Brian Sabean has claimed that Brandon Belt was the club's first baseman. It sure didn't look that way originally, when the 24-year-old was making sporadic starts and hiding from left-handers.

    Finally, Belt has proven himself worthy of everyday duty. That means no more ugly at-bats for Aubrey Huff or Brett Pill.

    With Belt, the Giants are getting offense from a position that was previously counterproductive.

     

    Fix Tim Lincecum

    The two-time NL Cy Young award winner is the biggest enigma of 2012. Not just in San Francisco—in all of Major League Baseball!

    How such a supreme being can lose all ability to locate his pitches is beyond me.

    Tim Lincecum is physically fine, so there's optimism that he'll get off the schneid in due time. His career wouldn't have gone this far if he wasn't able to handle adversity.

Seattle Mariners

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    Rethink the batting order

    Seattle Mariners manager Eric Wedge has constantly tinkered with his lineup in 2012.

    He is reluctant, however, to drop Ichiro to the bottom of it, which is understandable.

    Outraged fans would protest, petition and threaten him because they don't want to believe that the future Hall of Famer is in decline.

    But Wedge is not a fan. He's trying to win ballgames, and a leadoff hitter with a sub-.300 on-base percentage makes that difficult to do.

    Dustin Ackley is more worthy.


St. Louis Cardinals

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    Added depth from Chris Carpenter

    It's only a baby step, but Chris Carpenter threw off a mound this past week.

    He came up huge for the St. Louis Cardinals last October and will be leaned upon heavily to guide them to the postseason again.

    His transition back into the rotation should be seamless. Yadier Molina has been catching him since 2005, and the Cards are eager for reinforcements since Jaime Garcia strained his shoulder.

     

    Divisional Play

    The NL Central is arguably baseball's weakest division.

    St. Louis has dozens of games remaining against the Chicago Cubs, Houston Astros and Milwaukee Brewers (total cream puffs).

    Those series will be played after the All-Star break. Carpenter and other ailing Cardinals will be back with the team by then.

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Get the starters out earlier

    Joe Maddon has too much faith in his starting pitchers. He keeps them on the mound long after they've lost command.

    Though no American League rotation is tougher to hit through the first 75 pitches of a game, few get abused as badly once that threshold is reached.

    It's tough to blame him. One through five, the Tampa Bay Rays are incredibly talented.

    You want to believe that they can work out of any jam, but the proof is in the splits.

     

    Evan Longoria helps in all facets

    Third baseman Evan Longoria hasn't participated in a big-league game since April, and yet his club is still alive.

    Entering June 18, Tampa Bay owned the fourth-best record in the AL.

    Will Rhymes and Sean Rodriguez manned the hot corner while he was rehabbing. Of course, defense and run production were compromised during that stretch. No one can replace "Longo."

    In fact, the Rays plummeted in all sorts of statistical categories, most notably batting average and fielding percentage.

    Brighter times are ahead.

Texas Rangers

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    Unleash their power in warm weather

    Midsummer brings triple-digit heat to Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Baseballs carry particularly well in the warm weather, which means more souvenirs for fans beyond the outfield wall.

    Of course, the front office is aware of this phenomenon. It annually loads the roster with offensive talent to out-slug visiting teams.

    Adrian Beltre? Mike Napoli? Josh Hamilton?! Yeah, the 2012 Texas Rangers are equipped to do just that.

     

    The addition of Roy Oswalt

    The once-mighty pitching staff is thinning out. Roy Oswalt is tasked with saving it.

    He will have a huge impact on the American League playoff race. The 34-year-old had remarkable success during his 11 seasons with the Houston Astros and Philadelphia Phillies.

    Age has not sapped Oswalt of his ability to locate. Working efficiently and into the later innings will be a great relief to the Rangers bullpen.

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Invest in experienced arms

    In a matter of days, the Jays lost starters Kyle Drabek, Drew Hutchinson and Brandon Morrow to significant injuries. The club has already moved them to the disabled list, and people at all levels of the organization are unsure how those innings will be replaced.

    Toronto is not necessarily doomed by these untimely losses. Reputable pitchers are available.

    Livan Hernandez was designated for assignment by the Atlanta Braves, and Jeff Suppan elected free agency in early June. Both are exactly what this short-handed team desires—cheap help that can compete at the big-league level.

    And don't believe that the Jays won't bid for pricier options like Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza.

Washington Nationals

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    Implement six-man rotation

    Stephen Strasburg is as amazing as advertised. There's no pitcher the Washington Nationals would rather have start a must-win postseason game.

    But if the fireballer continues to take the mound every fifth day, he'll exhaust his strict innings limit before the summer is through.

    The other option being considered is a midseason shutdown. In that case, Washington would bring him back in September unless the team falls out of the pennant race in his absence.

    This predicament calls for a six-man rotation. That way, Strasburg could dominate throughout the second half without over-exerting himself.

    Conveniently, he thrives after long layoffs. Strasburg's career stats following five-plus days of rest: 8-2, 2.43 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 92.2 IP, 117 K.

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