MLB Power Rankings: Franchises Bound for Strong Second Half of Season
We’re halfway home.
The first half of the 2013 Major League Baseball season is complete, and we now look toward what’s to come in the second half.
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Organizations will soon be breaking for the All-Star Game and then shortly after that, the July 31 trade deadline will be here. It’s going to be a very busy and exciting couple of months leading up to the postseason.
There are some teams that are in a good position to make the playoffs and others that look to be out of contention already. But what’s important to keep in mind is that most teams in are in the mix. Is your team one of them, and one that is bound to be great down the stretch? Let’s take a glance.
Here’s a look at where every franchise in the league stands entering the second half of the season, including analysis as to what’s gone right and wrong to this point in the year.
*Italicized teams are those with additional analysis because they are bound for strong second halves.
1. Pittsburgh Pirates (51-30)
Who would’ve thought that the Pirates would be the first team to hit the 50-win mark this season? I certainly didn’t. Pittsburgh has been great on both sides of the ball, and that’s the main reason why the franchise is in a strong position to make the postseason for the first time since 1992.
The offense has had its ups and downs, but the pitching staff has been able to deal with a lack of run support at times. The reason why is that the starters only need to go six-plus or seven innings in order to get a win. Jason Grilli has been a man on a mission this spring and Mark Melancon has done a great job in the eighth.
Pittsburgh has a slim lead in the NL Central at the moment, and the race for the top spot in the division is one of the most important things to watch in the second half. If the offense can score a few more runs each night, the Pirates will be in good shape. The pitching staff can get the job done if that’s the case.
2. St. Louis Cardinals (49-32)
Adam Wainwright isn’t undefeated, but he might be the best pitcher in baseball right now. He’s 11-5 through 17 starts with a 2.22 ERA. But the most staggering statistic about him is that he’s walking less than one batter per nine innings. That’s insane. Without him, the Cardinals aren’t close to being one of the best in baseball.
3. Boston Red Sox (50-34)
The Red Sox must be careful with their top two starting pitchers, Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester. Without those two in the rotation, Boston could quickly slip from the top of the AL East. The likes of Ryan Dempster, Felix Doubront and John Lackey won’t be enough to win the division this year. If Buchholz and Lester will be out for a week or two longer, Boston needs to make a move.
4. Texas Rangers (48-34)
Texas has the second-best staff in baseball, in my opinion. Derek Holland and Yu Darvish both deserve to be in the Cy Young conversation and Nick Tepesch and Justin Grimm has been good despite ERAs of higher than 4.00. With Joe Nathan recording 27 saves and a 1.51 ERA, jot the Rangers down for a playoff spot.
5. Oakland Athletics (48-35)
How about Bartolo Colon? I mean, wow! The veteran right-hander might take home his second career Cy Young award at 40 years old. That’s pretty incredible. He has been the ace of Oakland’s staff this season without question. If a couple of batters can hit over .300 like Josh Donaldson and Jed Lowrie, the A’s will be dangerous contenders.
6. Baltimore Orioles (47-36)
The Orioles might have the best offense in baseball. Chris Davis can’t be stopped and there’s a strong chance we have a Triple Crown winner for the second straight season. While Davis, along with Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Manny Machado and the supporting cast has been great, the pitching staff has not.
Baltimore currently has one of the worst staffs in baseball, ranking 27th in WAR, according to FanGraphs. Chris Tillman has 10 wins, but is walking a bunch of batters and serving up a lot of home runs. Jason Hammel has seven victories, but it appears that he only wins when the team torches the opposition, as he has a 5.09 ERA.
The Orioles need one great starting pitcher in order to be the top team in baseball. Baltimore needs to go out at some point in July and find a starter who can greatly improve the rotation. Even if it takes a couple of great prospects, it’s essential to making the playoffs again. Baltimore might not get there without a starter.
7. Cincinnati Reds (47-36)
The Reds are currently the third-best team in the NL Central, but still one of the best clubs in baseball. That NL Central is just brutal at the moment. In order to win the division or at least clinch a playoff berth, Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart need to hit at least .270. While they’re productive in other ways, both need to hit more consistently.
8. Atlanta Braves (48-34)
Atlanta is in the best position of any team in the league to make the playoffs. This is mainly because the Mets, Phillies and Marlins have been bad and the Nationals have been a bit flat. The pitching staff has done its job all season long, and as long as all of the Braves don’t fall into a slump, count them in to be playing in October.
9. Detroit Tigers (43-38)
The Tigers will make the postseason no matter how well Max Scherzer pitches in the second half of the season. The offense is still very strong and the rotation is very deep. Detroit has the best hitter in baseball in the heart of the lineup, and the top pitcher in the game, Justin Verlander, hasn’t gotten hot yet.
10. Cleveland Indians (44-38)
There’s a lot to like about Cleveland’s offense, but the pitching staff makes me a little uneasy about its future. It currently ranks 26th in the league in WAR, per FanGraphs. The Cleveland staff walks more batters per nine innings than any other team in baseball. It’s tough to say that the Indians will be fine with a stat like that.
11. Tampa Bay Rays (44-39)
You have to enjoy watching Evan Longoria play every day. The All-Star third baseman is hitting .298/.367/.550 with 17 homers and 47 RBI. And what about James Loney? The guy hit .249 last year and has raised his average to over .300 in 2013. How does that happen? The Rays could sneak into the playoffs if the offense keeps it up.
12. Toronto Blue Jays (41-41)
The Blue Jays are starting to get hot at the perfect time. They’re back to .500 on the year and with two strong weeks before the All-Star Break, Toronto is going to be one dangerous second-half club. As long as the Blue Jays stay healthy, there’s no reason why they can’t shock everyone and make the postseason.
13. Washington Nationals (42-40)
The second half of the season for the Nationals relies on one player: Bryce Harper. Well, he doesn’t control the team’s entire destination, but he’s the most important player in the lineup without a doubt. Washington needs Harper in the outfield and in the batter’s box in order to keep up with the Braves in the division.
Harper just came back from a knee injury last night and had a big role in the team’s victory. Through 45 games, the outfielder is hitting .286/.387/.597 with 13 home runs and 24 RBI. He has the potential to jumpstart the entire offense, which has been lacking a spark for most of the season.
There are six players who have appeared in at least 40 games who are hitting .240 or worse on the year. That’s just appalling. Now, Harper is back to show them all how it’s done. If the Nationals don’t follow Harper’s lead, they won’t go anywhere in the second half. Washington has to be better on offense going forward.
14. Arizona Diamondbacks (42-40)
The Diamondbacks are a fun young team to watch, but don’t be surprised if they don’t hold the top spot in the NL West at the All-Star Break. The division is tightly contested and the Arizona starting rotation has been struggling. The starters are 22-28 on the year with a 4.20 ERA. That needs to improve in the second half.
15. Los Angeles Dodgers (38-43)
At what point we are just going to admit that Yasiel Puig is the best player of all-time? The guy has been outstanding to start his career and through 26 games, he’s still hitting well over .400. He and Matt Kemp, along with Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford, make up the top outfield in baseball—or at least the most talented one.
On paper, the Dodgers should be a lot better than they currently are, which is in last place in the NL West. Adrian Gonzalez has had the best full season of all of the regular position players and Hanley Ramirez has been great too—but has only played as many games as Puig. When everyone is healthy, that’s a lethal lineup.
The Dodgers must click on offense to make a playoff push. One of the overarching problems has been a lack of run support. Clayton Kershaw shouldn’t be 6-5 with a 2.08 ERA. He should be, like, 11-0 or something. Sure, Brandon League has a 5.83 ERA, but if the offense provides a large lead, he won’t be able to blow it.
16. New York Yankees (43-39)
While Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter could be back soon, it’s not going to be enough for the Yankees to make the postseason this year. The AL East is as good as it’s been in recent memory and the offense for the Yankees just isn’t there. New York could pull a few strings at the deadline, but for now, the Bronx Bombers won’t be in October.
17. Los Angeles Angels (39-43)
Being the third-best team in the AL West isn’t going to get the Angels to the postseason. There’s no way that both Wild Cards come from this division, meaning Los Angeles needs to finish in at least second. For that to happen Josh Hamilton has to hit higher than .223 and Albert Pujols has to hit higher than .249. It’s that simple.
18. Colorado Rockies (41-42)
Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge de la Rosa have been brilliant thus far and deserve a ton of credit for keeping the Rockies in contention. The same goes for Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez on offense. In general, though, it’s going to be an uphill climb to top the four other teams in the division by the end of 2013.
19. Kansas City Royals (38-41)
Kansas City has been very average throughout the first few months of the year, and that doesn’t bode well for Royals fans. While Alex Gordon and Sal Perez have been great, Mike Moustakas and Jeff Francoeur have negated any sort of progress. The pitching staff has gotten no run support, and that’s why the Royals are under .500.
20. San Diego Padres (40-43)
There’s one statistic that tells why the Padres aren’t going to stay afloat for the rest of 2013. Right now, the pitching staff’s WAR is -1.6, the worst in baseball, per FanGraphs. For those who don’t know, that means that San Diego would probably be better off putting its Triple-A staff in the big leagues. That’s very scary to think about.
21. San Francisco Giants (39-43)
It’s going to be tough to win back-to-back titles when you’re under .500 through the midway point of the year. San Francisco has a lot of talent on the roster, but is going to have to be fantastic in the second half to have any hope of a postseason berth. I’m looking at you, the 25th best pitching staff in baseball, per FanGraphs.
22. Philadelphia Phillies (39-44)
The Phillies have the talent to make a strong second-half push, but it all just hasn’t clicked yet. Before long, it’ll be too late. General manager Ruben Amaro is going to be forced to clean house before July 31. Philadelphia isn’t that far out of the race yet, but it’s going to take a bunch of wins in order to get back before Amaro pulls the trigger.
23. Minnesota Twins (36-43)
So, the Ben Revere deal sort of blew up in Minnesota’s face. Sure, Revere hasn’t been an All-Star, but Vance Worley went 1-5 with a 7.21 ERA before setting sent to the minors. He was supposed to lead the rotation this year. Well, not anymore. In other news, Glen Perkins is making a name for himself with 20 saves and a 2.05 ERA.
24. Seattle Mariners (35-47)
I’m as excited for the future of the Mariners as anyone, but it seems little bit too early to be promoting so many prospects. Seattle is going to ruin them if it isn’t careful. Nick Franklin (.295/.363/.482) has been fine, but Mike Zunino has gotten off to a slow start. Seattle has to know that it isn’t going to contend, so the moves seem drastic.
25. New York Mets (34-45)
Remember when John Buck was the talk of the NL once the year began and he was clubbing home runs like it’s nobody’s business? While he has 13 home runs, he’s currently hitting a gentleman’s .205. The Mets offense has been scary to watch this season. Ike Davis, for example, was hitting .161 in 55 games before losing his job.
26. Chicago Cubs (35-45)
Chicago’s offense has been a nightmare this season and one of the biggest storylines to watch as the year progresses is the status of Starlin Castro. The shortstop is a horrific defender who’s hitting .233/.266/.328. He’s supposed to be the face of the franchise right now. He might be the face of the Cubs’ Triple-A team soon.
27. Milwaukee Brewers (32-49)
Arguably the top three starters on Milwaukee—Yovani Gallardo, Kyle Lohse and Wily Peralta—are a combined 14-23 this season. That speaks to how the season has gone for the Brew Crew. Thing should get better once Ryan Braun—who’s hitting .304/.380/.509 with nine homers and 36 RBI—returns, but not by a lot.
28. Chicago White Sox (32-47)
The White Sox are a very interesting team. On one hand, they have the third-best pitching staff in baseball, per FanGraphs. On the other hand, the offense is the second-west, per FanGraphs. The biggest disappointment has to be Paul Konerko, who has been great in his career, but is hitting .253/.319/.373 in 2013.
29. Houston Astros (30-53)
It’s been a tough start to the season for the Astros this year and it doesn’t seem likely that things are going to get much better. Houston just isn’t built to win right now. The Astros just need to continue to focus on getting more talent in the minor leagues who can help turn the team around in a few seasons.
30. Miami Marlins (30-51)
You have to feel bad for the players on the Marlins, as the front office hasn’t done a good job to keep them from embarrassing themselves. Marcell Ozuna has been a bright spot and Giancarlo Stanton has been hurt, but the offense as a whole is hitting just .232/.289/.337. With a slash line like that, it’s no wonder Miami’s in last.
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