15 Top MLB Storylines to Follow Through Rest of 2013 Season

Josh SchochAnalyst IIIMay 29, 2013

15 Top MLB Storylines to Follow Through Rest of 2013 Season

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    Through roughly one third of the 2013 MLB season, the baseball gods have been kind to us humble fans this year, providing many storylines to follow as the season plays out.

    From Miguel Cabrera's insane hitting to the dozen young pitchers dominating the MLB, it's been a year to remember so far.

    Let's take a look at the hottest storylines to follow for the last 100 or so games of the season.

    *Note: All stats are from the morning of May 28

Yankees Injury Woes

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    If you haven't heard of the injury woes plaguing the New York Yankees by now you've probably been living under a rock.

    With guys like Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis, Curtis Granderson, Michael Pineda, Alex Rodriguez, Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter all on the DL (among others), the Yanks have been featuring a Frankenstein-like lineup.

    However, guys like Vernon Wells, Travis Hafner and Lyle Overbay have come to the team's aid, and the Yanks are 30-20 and are in the thick of the playoff race.

    It will be interesting to see if the Yankees continue to remain red hot without their top players, and if they can get even better once everyone comes back.

Dominance of Young Pitchers

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    It's been incredible to see just how dominant young pitchers have been this season. There have been more than half a dozen pitchers who are 25 or younger who have been marvelous this season.

    Just look at these stats:

    Name Age Record ERA WHIP WAR
    Matt Moore 23 8-0 2.21 1.10 2.3
    Matt Harvey 24 5-0 1.93 0.83 2.8
    Chris Sale 24 5-2 2.53 0.92 2.7
    Alex Cobb 25 6-2 2.66 1.06 2.1
    Clayton Kershaw 25 5-3 1.68 0.87 3.3
    Patrick Corbin 23 8-0 1.71 1.02 2.5
    Shelby Miller 22 5-3 2.02 0.98 2.4
    Mike Minor 25 6-2 2.47 0.93 1.9

    Note that the name Stephen Strasburg isn't even on the list of the best pitchers under the age of 25. And remember that these are just starting pitchers, let alone the hot relievers like Craig Kimbrel and Addison Reed.

    These young guns are running through major league lineups with ease, and we'll have to see if they can keep it up.

LA Teams Just Can't Put It All Together

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    No city spends more money on baseball players than Los Angeles, as the Angels and Dodgers combine to spend $358,468,159 in the 2013 season.

    The Angles went out and acquired Josh Hamilton and three new starting pitchers during the offseason, giving the team one of the best trios of hitters in the league on paper (Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Hamilton). However, Hamilton has been awful and the lowest ERA of the pitchers is a measly 3.43, while the highest is 6.19.

    The Angles are 23-28 and are third in the AL West. The team has all the parts to compete for a World Series, but so far the team hasn't been able to go .500.

    The other team in LA isn't doing much better.

    The Dodgers signed Ryu Hyun-Jin and Zack Greinke over the offseason, but Greinke has been getting shelled (4.38 ERA) and Ryu's 5-2 record is a bit inflated since he receives an average of 5.1 runs of support every game.

    The Dodgers are 21-28 and are in dead last in the NL West, and Don Mattingly is sitting on the hot seat.

    Both LA teams are struggling, and I wouldn't be surprised to see both managers fired before the season ends.

Miguel Cabrera Goes for a Second Triple Crown

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    Miguel Cabrera is a freak. If you thought his Triple Crown season last year was impressive he found a way to prove that he can do even better.

    Through 49 games he's batting .377 (.454 OBP) with 14 home runs and 57 RBI. If he keeps this pace up he'll finish the year with 46 home runs and 188 RBI.

    Cabrera is looking for back-to-back Triple Crowns, and he could easily do it. He leads the MLB in batting average and RBI, and he is only two home runs behind Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles for the lead in home runs as well.

    Miggy has been unstoppable this season, and we'll have to watch as he continues to prove why he's the best hitter on the face of the planet.

Clayton Kershaw Is an Animal

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    Speaking of the best players in the world, Clayton Kershaw has become the best pitchers to play the game right now.

    Kershaw is one of the lone bright spots for an otherwise bleak Dodgers team, posting an ERA of 1.68 and a microscopic WHIP of 0.87.

    In his 11 starts, Kershaw has surrendered more than three earned runs only once, and has not allowed a single earned run four times.

    While he has a record of 5-3 because the Dodgers can't muster more than 2.4 runs per game when he pitches, Kershaw has been dominant, and could easily lead the majors in wins.

Who Will Win the NL West

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    The NL West is really a four-team race, despite already having two teams that are seven games out.

    The Arizona Diamondbacks have been sensational this season behind first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, who is third in the NL in WAR at 2.9.

    Right behind the D-Backs sit the San Francisco Giants, who are 19-9 at home but have struggled away from home. The Giants are 1.5 games back, while the Colorado Rockies sit 2.5 games back behind the hot bat of Carlos Gonzalez.

    These three teams are going to go back and forth all season for the division crown, but we can't count out Don Mattingly's Los Angeles Dodgers, who simply have too much talent to stay seven games under .500 and 7.5 games back in the division.

    Really any team in the division has a chance to win it (other than the Padres), and the last 100 or so games will decide it.

    Here are the current standings, as of May 28:

    Team Record Games Back
    Arizona Diamondbacks 30-22  
    San Francisco Giants 28-23 1.5
    Colorado Rockies 27-24 2.5
    San Diego Padres 22-28 7
    Los Angeles Dodgers 21-28 7.5

Jason Grilli Becomes an Elite Closer

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    This is a storyline that isn't getting nearly enough national attention.

    At 36 years old, Jason Grilli got his first chance to play closer for the Pittsburgh Pirates and he's making the most of it.

    Grilli leads the majors in saves with 20. He's posting an ERA of 1.19 and a WHIP of 0.71, while not blowing a save all year.

    He has even better numbers than Mariano Rivera, who is having one of the best seasons of his Hall of Fame career.

    It's hard to believe that Grilli had just five saves in his career and an ERA hovering around 4.50 before the season started, but he has emerged as the top closer in baseball.

Where Will Cliff Lee End Up?

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    Cliff Lee has been dominant this season, going 5-2 and posting an ERA of 2.48 and a WHIP of 1.02. He is easily the best pitcher the Philadelphia Phillies have, but that could put him on the trade block, according to MLBDailyDish.com.

    Lee has been bouncing around at the deadline ever since 2009, and this could be the third time he's traded since then.

    However, Lee's massive contract, which goes through the 2015 season, could be a set back. He is owed $25 million in 2015, and very few clubs have that kind of money lying around if the Phils are trying to dump the contract.

    Lee should still end up being traded, but we'll have to keep an eye on where the year's top pitching trade bait will go.

John Farrell's Success in Boston

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    It's hard to believe that it was just two years ago that the Red Sox fell apart at the end of the year due to the team's fried chicken and beer controversy.

    John Farrell came in as the team's new skipper, and he's brought the team back to the top of the AL East, going 32-20. The team is tied for the best record in the American League, and it's all thanks to Farrell.

    He came in and got his guys to believe in him, and now he's on the fast track for Manager of the Year. We'll have to pay attention to how he runs the team for the rest of the year after getting off to this hot start.

Mariano Rivera Continues to Dominate

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    Is there a better comeback story in the MLB than that of Mariano Rivera?

    After tearing his ACL shagging fly balls last season, it looked like Mo's career could have been cut short. However, at 43 years old he decided to come back for another season, and no one can say that was a bad decision.

    Mo has been lights out this season, posting an ERA of 1.40 and converting all 18 of his opportunities.

    He's been instrumental in the Yankees' incredible success despite their many injuries, and we'll have to wait and see if he keeps getting better with age.

What's Wrong with Toronto?

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    There is something seriously wrong in Toronto.

    After the Blue Jays made huge moves this offseason to bring in superstars R.A. Dickey, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Jose Reyes among others, but the team still sits in dead last in the AL East at 22-29.

    With Reyes and Johnson on the DL, and Dickey and Buehrle getting shelled (4.85 and 5.51 ERA respectively), the Blue Jays have relied almost entirely on Jose Bautista this season, despite bumping their pay roll from $92.1 million to $115 million (h/t Yahoo! Sports).

    The Blue Jays sit 9.5 games back in the division despite being an early favorite to win the division, and we'll have to see if the Jays can fix it or blow it all up.

Umpires

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    We knew when baseball initially incorporated instant replay that it would eventually expand, and now the umpires are making it necessary for that expansion to come sooner rather than later.

    Angel Hernandez and Fieldin Culbreth both botched horrible calls recently, with Hernandez blowing a home run call and Culbreth failing to understand a simple rule, and getting suspended for it.

    While the umps haven't been as bad as the NFL's replacement refs were, it's still time to expand replay, and these guys are really helping the cause.

Will Bryce Harper Ever Be Healthy?

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    I swear it feels like Bryce Harper has missed more games than he's played in this month.

    The Washington Nationals' budding superstar injured himself twice by running into the wall, and once by sliding awkwardly. He has missed six of the team's last 17 games and will be out for a few more due to his injuries.

    Harper has the potential to be a Hall of Famer one day, but he has had a lot of injury trouble for such a young player, and the Nats should teach him to be a bit more careful when running back in the outfield.

The Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout Show

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    Just like last year, Miguel Cabrera and Mike Trout have been showing off in the American League, pushing each other to new heights.

    The stats from these two hitters are just incredible.

    Player BA HR RBI OBP SLG OPS
    Miguel Cabrera .377 14 57 .454 .663 1.117
    Mike Trout .304 10 37 .380 .570 .980

    While Cabrera has the clear edge in every category, it's still awesome to watch these two every night and check the box scores while asking yourself "I wonder what they did this time."

Who's the Best Team in Baseball?

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    It's hard to tell which team in the MLB is the best at this point.

    The St. Louis Cardinals are making their case, as they own the best record in baseball behind their dominant pitching staff that leads the majors in ERA. The Cards' divisional rival Cincinnati Reds have the second-best record in the MLB at 1.5 games back.

    You can't count the Red Sox or Rangers out, however, as both teams are just two games back. Don't forget about the three other 30-win teams in the MLB right now (Yankees, Diamondbacks, Braves, Pirates).

    While a case can be made for each of these teams to be considered the best in baseball, we'll have to watch until the very end of the season to find out.