Identifying All 30 MLB Teams' Second-Half X-Factor

Christopher Benvie@CSBenvie81Correspondent IIJuly 13, 2012

Identifying All 30 MLB Teams' Second-Half X-Factor

0 of 30

    OK baseball fans, the All-Star game has come and gone. The midseason break is over and it is time for teams to settle down and prepare for the second half of the 2012 MLB season.

    Nineteen of 30 teams are in viable position to make a run at a playoff berth, thanks in large part to the addition of the second wild-card team this season.

    That, of course, will make this season's non-waiver trade deadline extremely interesting and highly unpredictable as compared to years past, when things have been extremely interesting and highly unpredictable. Wait a minute...

    Nevertheless, every team has needs. Some holes are more glaring than others. Depending on the motive of every team involved, here is a look at every teams' second-half X-factor.

Arizona Diamondbacks

1 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 42-43

    Team Batting Average: .263

    Team OPS: .751

    Runs Scored: 375

    Runs Allowed: 365

    Team ERA: 4.02

    The Diamondbacks are a hard team to get a pulse on this season. They have immense talent but have the misfortune of being in the NL West behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants, two of the hottest teams in all of baseball.

    What we know is that they can still viably make a push for the playoffs.

    They are in the middle of the pack in the National League in terms of runs allowed, while ranking sixth overall in runs scored. The team OPS ranks them third behind only the Cardinals and Rockies in the NL and eighth in all of baseball.

    Same goes for the team .263 batting average.

    The X-factor moving forward for the Diamondbacks will be the performance of their pitching staff. A team 4.02 ERA is not going to get them to the promised land. It qualifies the D-Backs as the 10th best staff in the NL, 18th in all of baseball.

    Pitching wins out. It always has and it always will.

    The efforts of Wade Miley do not go unnoticed. He leads all starters with an impressive 3.04 ERA. The Diamondbacks will need more of this from Miley, coupled with a resurgence from Ian Kennedy.

Atlanta Braves

2 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 46-39

    Team Batting Average: .259

    Team OPS: .732

    Runs Scored: 391

    Runs Allowed: 357

    Team ERA: 3.91

    The Atlanta Braves are currently sitting in second place in the NL East behind the red-hot Washington Nationals. 

    Braves fans know that Atlanta has been playing some extremely solid baseball this season behind a rejuvenated Chipper Jones. The loss of Brandon Beachy has not had too big of an adverse effect on the team.

    That said, their team ERA is in the middle of the pack among NL contenders. While seeing Freddie Freeman get hot would be nice, the true X-factor for the Braves may be the addition of another quality arm.

    Competing with the Nationals this season is proving to be a hard task. They have statistically the best pitching staff in baseball. If the Braves can add a quality arm, this division race could become very interesting down the stretch.

Baltimore Orioles

3 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 45-40

    Team Batting Average: .240

    Team OPS: .704

    Runs Scored: 351

    Runs Allowed: 387

    Team ERA: 4.05

    The Baltimore Orioles are in second place in the American League East for the first time in over a decade. 

    Inexplicably, though the team has scored fewer runs than it has allowed, they continue to win. The team ERA is only ninth in the American League, but they continue to win.

    Behind Adam Jones, it is hard not to like what the Orioles are doing.

    That said, with this new-found winning culture, the Orioles should be willing to make some moves and address a couple of key areas.

    While the pitching has been solid, the addition of an arm would help to stabilize the rotation for what will likely be a grueling second half of the season with the O's having to face the likes of Tampa Bay, New York, Toronto and Boston numerous times.

    The other, and in my opinion, bigger X-factor would involve bringing in a bat; someone to help add some offense and drive in runs. Allowing more runs than you score will only keep you afloat for so long.

Boston Red Sox

4 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 43-43

    Team Batting Average: .268

    Team OPS: 770

    Runs Scored: 432

    Runs Allowed: 389

    Team ERA: 4.02

    It's clearly not an offensive problem in Boston.

    The Red Sox, though sitting at .500, are second in all of baseball in runs scored with 432 and fifth in OPS with their .770.

    The issue is the pitching staff. The team's 4.02 ERA is not getting the job done.

    If you want to single out blame, one should look no further than the team's two aces, Josh Beckett and Jon Lester, who are a combined 9-13 in 32 starts this season.

    While the Red Sox will get some help back on the field in the form of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford and Andrew Bailey, the X-factor for them is the starting pitching. They need Lester, Beckett and Clay Buchholz to be the pitchers they are supposed to be.

Chicago Cubs

5 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 33-52

    Team Batting Average: .248

    Team OPS: .686

    Runs Scored: 317

    Runs Allowed: 386

    Team ERA: 4.36

    The Cubs are in last place in the NL Central, and yet Cubs fans couldn't be happier. 

    OK, maybe happy isn't the right word, but they see the future and it really is a bright one. Fans are buying into the Theo Epstein rebuild and understand that the team is going to be very competitive soon and for a long time.

    Therefore, the easy X-factor for the Cubs is a game called Salary Dump: What Can Theo Get In Return?

    Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Alfonso Soriano: just a handful of names that Epstein will try to move for some prospects in the coming weeks. It will be exciting to see what this team is going to look like come August and moving forward.

Chicago White Sox

6 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 47-38

    Team Batting Average: .260

    Team OPS: .742

    Runs Scored: 409

    Runs Allowed: 346

    Team ERA: 3.91

    From the last place team in Chicago we move on to the first place team in Chicago, the AL Central-leading White Sox.

    Having made a trade with Boston that appears rather one-sided at this point, the White Sox have already addressed a huge area of concern, adding a solid defensive third baseman with an above average bat in Kevin Youkilis.

    That leaves really just one area to address: pitching. However, the bullpen, not really the starters, that could use a boost. 

    Chris Sale, Jake Peavy and Gavin Floyd have performed well enough this season to allow the White Sox to focus on adding to the bullpen for late game situations.

Cincinnati Reds

7 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 47-38

    Team Batting Average: .248

    Team OPS: .732

    Runs Scored: .358

    Runs Allowed: 316

    Team ERA: 3.39

    The Reds own the third best ERA in the National League behind only the Dodgers and the Nationals. They've given up the third fewest runs as well, behind the Nats and the Pirates.

    Clearly, pitching has not been the issue.

    One would also think that hitting would not be the issue, with Joey Votto and Jay Bruce on the team. However, the Reds find themselves in a position that will require them to address some offensive needs.

    The X-factor: offense, specifically in the form of a left fielder. Adding another solid bat to this lineup could drastically change things in terms of NL dominance, tipping the scales in favor of the Reds.

Cleveland Indians

8 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 44-41

    Team Batting Average: .258

    Team OPS: .735

    Runs Scored: 385

    Runs Allowed: 414

    Team ERA: 4.50

    The Indians just keep winning despite the fact that they are a team that really shouldn't be winning.

    Opponents have outscored them this year.

    The team ERA is 13th in the American League.

    They are just a middle-of-the-pack team at the plate both in terms of average and OPS.

    Yet, they keep on winning.

    That said, the X-factor for the Indians might very well be just adding a quality right-handed bat. Currently, the tribe has seven left-handed hitters with two switch hitters. Adding the diversity to the lineup in terms of dominant hand could prove to be a wise investment at this juncture.

Colorado Rockies

9 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 33-52

    Team Batting Average: .268

    Team OPS: .775

    Runs Scored: 413

    Runs Allowed: 479

    Team ERA: 5.26

    The Rockies prove every argument I can make in regards to pitching being more important than hitting. The Rox have the highest OPS in the NL, the second highest team batting average behind only the Cardinals and have scored the second most runs in the NL.

    Yet they're tied with the Astros and Cubs with the worst record in Major League Baseball.

    That, of course, is due to having the league-worst 5.26 team ERA.

    X-factor? If the Rockies could strike a match and pour some gasoline on the pitching staff and start over from scratch, I'm sure they would right now.

    If they want a prayer at making any type of run this season, they really need the staff to get it together. No team would be foolish enough to trade for any of the Rox starters.

Detroit Tigers

10 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 44-42

    Team Batting Average: .269

    Team OPS: .753

    Runs Scored: 387

    Runs Allowed: 381

    Team ERA: 3.97

    The Detroit Tigers started a bit slower than what fans would have liked, but since have been playing pretty solid baseball.

    They currently enjoy the second best batting average in the American League and the fifth best OPS.

    The area that has been of concern for the Tigers has been the starting pitching. Seems odd to say that with Justin Verlander on this staff, but the truth be told, the team ERA is floating in the high 3.97 area that won't get it done long term.

    As is, the Tigers are behind the Indians and the White Sox for the AL Central division title.

    Beyond Verlander, the Tigers could use some help in the rotation. Not taking anything away from Doug Fister or Max Scherzer, but if Detroit could add another quality arm (the same complaint fans had last season), the team could do some serious damage down the stretch. 

Houston Astros

11 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 33-53

    Team Batting Average: .245

    Team OPS: .692

    Runs Scored: 344

    Runs Allowed: 416

    Team ERA: 4.47

    The Houston Astros find themselves in a situation very similar to the folks in the Cubs organization. It is all about the rebuild.

    Right now the team has found its future in Jose Altuve. Coupled with shortstop Jed Lowrie, the Astros actually have a pretty solid tandem up the middle.

    They also have commodities to trade.

    Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers could bring back some prospects to help develop this young team.

    Once again, the X-factor is going to hinge upon wise trades being made.

Kansas City Royals

12 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 37-47

    Team Batting Average: .264

    Team OPS: .720

    Runs Scored: 344

    Runs Allowed: 385

    Team ERA: 4.35

    The Kansas City Royals are a victim of their own lack of pitching, unfortunately. They are also a victim of a rather strong American League Central division this season.

    The Royals have a lot of really nice pieces to the puzzle in place offensively.

    However, their pitching staff is in need of some serious help. The X-factor for the Royals actually won't have (presumably) much impact this season, but rather in the coming years.

    Royals fans do have a lot to be optimistic about. Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Billy Butler give you a solid core to your offense. 

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

13 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 48-38

    Team Batting Average: .268

    Team OPS: .744

    Runs Scored: 378

    Runs Allowed: 334 

    Team ERA: 3.61

    How much fun is it watching Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo?

    The Angels have managed to catch lightning in a bottle...twice. Oh yeah, and they still have Albert Pujols.

    Suffice to say that the offense will not be the issue?

    The true X-factor for the Angels will be the health of the pitching staff. If this team can stay healthy, they are going to be absolute monsters from here on out.

Los Angeles Dodgers

14 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 47-40

    Team Batting Average: .250

    Team OPS: .686

    Runs Scored: 332

    Runs Allowed: 322

    Team ERA: 3.33

    The Dodgers have taken a couple of significant hits to its offense this season. Matt Kemp was on the shelf for a large portion of the first half of the year and Andre Ethier followed suit in recent weeks.

    Somehow the team has managed to stay on top of the NL West, just one game ahead of the rival San Francisco Giants.

    I hate to say it two slides in a row, but the Dodgers' biggest X-factor has to be the health of its superstars. A healthy Kemp and Ethier make for an imposing offense to match its stellar pitching this season.

Miami Marlins

15 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 41-44

    Team Batting Average: .242

    Team OPS: .700

    Runs Scored: 334

    Runs Allowed: 390

    Team ERA: 4.17

    The Marlins were in need of offense and have already addressed that issue by adding Carlos Lee from the Houston Astros. 

    Now, more pressing is their ugly 4.17 team ERA. The X-factor moving forward will be a bounce-back second half from Josh Johnson and Anibal Sanchez.

    The NL East is an extremely stacked division this season, and the Marlins will need to see some solid pitching from its young stars. The 9-11 record in 34 starts won't get it done.

Milwaukee Brewers

16 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 40-45

    Team Batting Average: .245

    Team OPS: .736

    Runs Scored: 384

    Runs Allowed: 393

    Team ERA: 4.24

    The Milwaukee Brewers will have to decide if they think they can compete this season or if they'll just resort to being sellers in the next couple of weeks. 

    Offensively, the Brewers are fine. Once again, we see that it all boils down to pitching. By all indication it looks as though the Brewers will be dealing Zack Greinke, maybe others.

    The X-factor: return on investment. Though the Brew Crew will lose their ace, they still may be able to get something of decent quality in return to help transition the team for the future.

Minnesota Twins

17 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 36-49

    Team Batting Average: .258

    Team OPS: .720

    Runs Scored: 354

    Runs Allowed: 441

    Team ERA: 4.86

    The Minnesota Twins are a bit of a mess. They share the worst record in the American League with the Seattle Mariners.

    Along with a disappointing record, the Twins have the AL's worst ERA.

    What they do have is a lot of bargaining chips. Being one of the teams that is out of playoff contention (barring some miraculous turnabout), the Twins can decide upon which pieces they may want to sell off at the trade deadline and start to rebuild.

    The X-factor for the Twins: obtaining young pitching to develop.

New York Mets

18 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 46-40

    Team Batting Average: .259

    Team OPS: .727

    Runs Scored: 394

    Runs Allowed: 374

    Team ERA: 3.96

    The New York Mets are performing above and beyond all expectations that were set for them in 2012. The team is on fire behind the amazing performances of David Wright and R.A. Dickey.

    That being said, the X-factor for the Mets will actually fall on the shoulders of players like Dickey and Wright. Can they keep up their torrid pace for the next half of the season?

New York Yankees

19 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 52-33

    Team Batting Average: .262

    Team OPS: .796

    Runs Scored: 412

    Runs Allowed: 347

    Team ERA: 3.73

    The New York Yankees have been extremely impressive this season. Through countless injuries, they have still found a way to win and currently own the best record in baseball.

    What's more is they also have the best OPS in all of baseball.

    While the team has not been tearing the cover off the ball like in years past, they are playing hard baseball and winning.

    The X-factor for the Bombers moving forward will be the health of their starters. They've been fortunate to have been able to string wins together when their stars have been injured. 

Oakland Athletics

20 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 43-43

    Team Batting Average: .225

    Team OPS: .557

    Runs Scored: 319

    Runs Allowed: 316

    Team ERA: 3.39

    Billy Beane actually had the right idea heading into this season. The A's have one of the better pitching staffs in all of baseball, as evidenced by their team 3.39 ERA and the fact they've held opponents to just 316 runs.

    The signing of Manny Ramirez coupled with Yoenis Cespedes was supposed to boost the offense.

    Supposed to.

    Instead, Manny Ramirez never played a game for the A's and, while he's been good, Cespedes hasn't quite lived up to his billing yet.

    As it always seems to be, the X-factor for the A's this season will be the pieces or picks they get in return for their pitching, which is likely to be trade bait. 

    The funny thing about the A's is they share the same record with the Boston Red Sox, who believe they can contend. The A's, on the other hand, will likely look to deal away pieces and wave the white flag, which is unfortunate.

Philadelphia Phillies

21 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 37-50

    Team Batting Average: .262

    Team OPS: .719

    Runs Scored: 368

    Runs Allowed: 396

    Team ERA: 4.23

    It's hard to wrap your head around the fact that the Phillies, a team with Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, have a team ERA of 4.23.

    Of course, it is a bit unfair to look at the numbers that obtusely. The Phils have suffered injuries this season, and with injury comes setbacks. The fact that Joe Blanton has the second most wins on the club is evidence of that.

    Couple that with a disgruntled Cole Hamels, and you have the makings for a bad start of the season—they may be too far gone to right the ship.

    The Phillies are dead last in the NL East, a division that has been ratcheted up with talent this season.

    It appears that the Phillies should be looking at being sellers this season, with their X-factor being the returns received from trading away a few key pieces such as Cole Hamels, Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino.

    With a high payroll, moving a few players can help set the team up for sustained success by adding younger pieces (presumably, especially in any trade involving Hamels) to build around.

Pittsburgh Pirates

22 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 48-37

    Team Batting Average: 2.46

    Team OPS: .704

    Runs Scored: 345

    Runs Allowed: 313

    Team ERA: 3.47

    Any true baseball fan has to appreciate the special season the Pittsburgh Pirates are enjoying this year. Not since players named Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla and Andy Van Slyke have the Pirates been this successful.

    It's been refreshing, to say the least.

    Led by Andrew McCutchen, the culture in Pittsburgh has changed. They're a winning franchise with a winning mentality, as they sit on top of the NL Central.

    Pittsburgh has been a very well-balanced team this season. Their pitching staff has been greatly bolstered by fine seasons out of A.J. Burnett and James McDonald.

    Offensively, obviously McCutchen has been a beast with support from Neil Walker and Garrett Jones.

    The X-factor for the team will hinge upon the front office's willingness to win this season. Pittsburgh has a very deep farm system that can sustain success for several years to come. Would they be willing to move some of these pieces to bring in another arm (like a Matt Garza?) or another bat (like a Justin Upton?) to enhance the team this season?

    If they want to make a serious push, they'll seriously have to consider it.

San Diego Padres

23 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 34-53

    Team Batting Average: .234

    Team OPS: .666

    Runs Scored: 305

    Runs Allowed: 381

    Team ERA: 3.91

    The Padres could be a lot better than what their record reflects. They have the sixth best ERA in the National League, ahead of playoff contenders like the Mets, Cardinals and Braves.

    Their offense is what is lacking in San Diego. Their team .234 batting average is the worst in the NL and fourth worst in all of MLB.

    A team OPS of .666 is the worst in the NL and second worst in MLB.

    That said, the Padres have had their share of injuries this season. If you want to believe general manager Josh Byrnes when he says, "We don't need to trade anyone," then you can see the team riding out the storm this season while developing younger players for next year.

    Therefore, the X-factor for the Padres will be the word of Byrnes. Does the team truly value Chase Headley, Carlos Quentin and Huston Street or will they value the chips each piece could bring them in return? 

    Time will tell.

San Francisco Giants

24 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 46-40

    Team Batting Average: .261

    Team OPS: .696

    Runs Scored: 338

    Runs Allowed: 346

    Team ERA: 3.63

    The San Francisco Giants have put together a fine first half of the season behind solid pitching from Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong.

    Less we forget about the otherworldly season being had by Melky Cabrera.

    The X-factor for the Giants seems like a straightforward one: Tim Lincecum.

    Right now, Lincecum is 3-10 and leads all NL starters in losses. The two-time Cy Young award winner looks like anything but good right now, having allowed a league-leading 69 earned runs while posting a 6.42 ERA and 1.583 WHIP.

    The Giants need Timmy to get his stuff together. If he can have a strong bounce back in the second half of the season, the Giants are going to be a very tough opponent.

Seattle Mariners

25 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 36-51

    Team Batting Average: .230

    Team OPS: .649

    Runs Scored: 337

    Runs Allowed: 365

    Team ERA: 3.96

    At what point should a team realize they should be in full-on rebuilding mode? I'm pretty sure the Mariners are at that point.

    While, as a franchise, they have money to spend, they have not truly done so in recent years. It has reached the point where the product on the field is not really competitive. Felix Hernandez is really the only big draw nowadays. 

    Clearly it is not the offense. They have the second-worst batting average in the AL with the lowest OPS. Only Oakland has scored fewer runs.

    Their pitching is what has gotten them by to this point. For a franchise that says they want to build around Hernandez, their X-factor might be trading Hernandez to build a more balanced team.

    They have some great young talent in Kyle Seager and Jesus Montero to build around. Just imagine the truckload of pieces the Mariners could receive in return for Hernandez. Time for the team to sacrifice one for the greater good of many.

St. Louis Cardinals

26 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 46-40

    Team Batting Average: .275

    Team OPS: .775

    Runs Scored: 426

    Runs Allowed: 356

    Team ERA: 3.91

    Albert who???

    The Cardinals have been impressive in 2012. They currently have the best team batting average in the NL, second in all of baseball. The same can be said for their team .775 OPS as well as 426 runs scored. 

    So much for lacking offense when Pujols left town. The addition of Carlos Beltran has proved to be a great fit for the Cardinals. The rest of the team has stepped up immensely as well. They currently have 10 players on their roster with a batting average of .290 or better.

    The X-factor for the Cardinals will be their pitching. Having suffered the loss of Chris Carpenter for the rest of the season, the team may need to look in to adding another arm before the trade deadline.

    Hats off, of course, to Lance Lynn and Kyle Lohse, who have shouldered much of the load this season, winning a combined 20 games. In order for the Cardinals to make the push and leapfrog over the Reds and Pirates, the addition of another quality starter is a must.

Tampa Bay Rays

27 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 45-41

    Team Batting Average: .232

    Team OPS: .689

    Runs Scored: 363

    Runs Allowed: 359

    Team ERA: 3.73

    Despite the fact that the Rays are in third place in the AL East, rumor has it they could very well be sellers this summer.

    I'm not entirely sure that would be surprising. The Rays have a knack for staying young and talented. Right now, having suffered the loss of star third baseman Evan Longoria for much of the season, they have some weight they can cut.

    The X-factor for the Rays will be determining if they are buyers or sellers. If they become sellers, which I assume they will, you could see them move players like B.J. Upton and James Shields to get younger and sustain their competitiveness for years to come.

Texas Rangers

28 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 52-34

    Team Batting Average: .280

    Team OPS: .792

    Runs Scored: 443

    Runs Allowed: 364

    Team ERA: 3.72

    The Texas Rangers are an offensive juggernaut this season, leading all of Major League Baseball in team batting average, OPS and runs scored.

    Rightfully so, as they're stacked.

    Only the New York Yankees have a better record, by percentage points, at this stage of the season.

    The X-factor for the Rangers will be the sustained success of the pitching. Rookie sensation Yu Darvish has been incredibly impressive with a 10-5 record in his first 16 starts. Couple that with the 11-4 record of Matt Harrison, and you have a pretty fine one-two punch.

    Roy Oswalt and Derek Holland both need to have a big second half to help anchor this team for another World Series run. Right now, a 7-5 record between the two of them with 17 starts and an ERA north of 5.00 will not get the job done.

Toronto Blue Jays

29 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 43-43

    Team Batting Average: .254

    Team OPS: .754

    Runs Scored: 430

    Runs Allowed: 408

    Team ERA: 4.45

    It certainly is not the offense that has the Blue Jays tied with the Boston Red Sox at the bottom of the AL East right now.

    Their 430 runs scored is third best in the American League as well as all of Major League Baseball.

    On the flip side, allowing 408 runs is fifth worst in MLB.

    To say that this young pitching staff has been disappointing in 2012 is an understatement. The Blue Jays started the season off red-hot and have since floundered.

    The X-factor for Toronto will have to be the continued development of their young arms. If they feel they can compete this season, you may see them make a couple moves to shore up the rotation. Kyle Drabek, Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow should be good enough to push this team forward, they just haven't been this year.

    If those three starters can get their heads on right, the Blue Jays could actually be serious contenders without having to make any significant shake-ups. Right now, their combined 19-15 won't cut it in the AL East.

Washington Nationals

30 of 30

    Record at the All-Star Break: 49-43

    Team Batting Average: .250

    Team OPS: .727

    Runs Scored: 348

    Runs Allowed: 290

    Team ERA: 3.20

    The Washington Nationals are easily the most enjoyable, likable and fun-to-watch team in 2012. Coincidentally, they also have the largest bandwagon. Jump on, there's plenty of room!

    This young Nats team has the nastiest pitching staff in the business right now, as evidenced by their team 3.20, the best in Major League Baseball.

    Their 1.20 WHIP also leads Major League Baseball.

    Batters have only average a .231 against Nationals pitching and have only been able to get 290 runs off of the team. 

    Impressive may be an understatement. Their starting five is 35-20 through the first half of the season. The highest ERA of those five starters is owned by Edwin Jackson with a 3.73. Most teams would kill for that type of production out of their third starter, let alone their fifth!

    Offensively, the Nats are ninth overall in team batting average and seventh in OPS. While not exactly knocking the doors off, they aren't dwelling in the cellar either.

    The X-factor for the Nats is to keep doing what they're doing. They'll have players like Jayson Werth coming back from the DL (don't laugh, as he adds power to an already impressive lineup) coupled with their otherworldly pitching, making this team very scary down the stretch.