The first half of the baseball season is over, and there have been a lot of things I've noticed in this half.
Some include the monster seasons guys are putting up, while other include the subtle differences that often go unnoticed by all.
So here are some the observations that I have made in the first half of the Major League Baseball season.
- One more monster month for Josh Hamilton could have him on pace for 200 RBI. Although unlikely, Hamilton has 95 driven in at the break, along with 21 home runs. I wouldn't consider him a triple crown contender anymore, but he does have a reasonable gripe to win the A.L. Most Valuable Player.
- Sticking with the Rangers, they are proving how important pitching is. The Rangers are by far the best offense in baseball, but find themselves 7.5 games behind the Angels in the A.L. West. Vicente Padilla and Kevin Millwood cannot be the two aces on this staff if they want to win. C.J. Wilson is a solid closer for them though.
- Evan Longoria is worth the hype. He has really helped put the Rays in a position to make the playoffs. Although he's the favorite to win Rookie of the Year, I think David Murphy (above) is having an underrated season. Murphy is hitting .276 with 13 home runs and 60 RBI. Longoria's numbers are better, but Murphy is worth a look .
- Barry Bonds is a good fit for Tampa Bay. They can throw some money at him, and Tampa isn't exactly a traditional baseball place. In other words, they have a lot of newer fans tuning into the game that would likely look past the steroids and perjury. If anything, good or bad, Bonds will put more fans in the seats of Tropicana Field. He'll also be a player the young guys on the Rays can learn from.
- Derek Jeter's intangibles are what make him not overrated. Jeter does have an overrated glove and is not an overwhelmingly great hitter. But it's what he brings to the Yankees and to the field everyday that makes him so great. Jeter has that never-say-die attitude that essentially helped the Yanks climb back into the race last season. Four World Series rings and the fact he was named captain speak to that. Jeter has everything that can't be taught, like instincts. Just remember, "the Flip."
- The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim might just be the best team in baseball. They are my personal favorite to make the World Series from the American League. No disrespect to the Chicago Cubs, but the Angels have a better rotation with John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Jered Weaver, and the surprising Joe Saunders. K-Rod is far better closer than Wood, and the Angels' potential on offense is scary. The Cubs are still my National League favorite, but they will have their work cut for them if they see the Angels.
- The Chicago White Sox are the most underrated first-place team. Sure they let the Twins right back into the race, and the struggles by the Tigers and Indians have made them the dark horse. But the White Sox are overall a good team, and were last season, too. Kenny Williams improved the bullpen vastly with Octavio Dotel and Scott Linebrink, while Alexei Ramirez can also have his name thrown into the Rookie of the Year race. Carlos Quentin and Jermaine Dye are killing the ball, and Joe Crede is back. They have done all this with Paul Konerko hitting terribly, too.
- Jay Bruce is becoming overrated, almost to folk-tale level. Bruce will be good, there's no doubt about it. But when people start talking about him being a perennial 50 home run hitter, now you're crossing the line a bit. When you talk perennial 50 home run hitters, you're talking Alex Rodriguez-type of good. Bruce will not be that good of a power hitter. I still see him as a perennial All-Star, and a huge cornerstone to the Reds franchise for years to come.
- Ken Griffey Jr. stands a very good chance of not leaving Cincy this trade deadline. The Reds have calmed talks about him leaving and are having trouble shopping Adam Dunn and Aaron Harang. It's very likely the Reds are asking too much for Griffey. It wouldn't be the first time they couldn't pull the trigger on a deal for that reason.
- Mark Prior was rumored at the start of the season that he could see time by June. It's mid-July now. Prior will not see any action this year, or any worthwhile action at least. The Padres are in a perfect position to use him if he is healthy, seeing they are 10 games behind Arizona. If Greg Maddux and Randy Wolf are shipped out, he stands a better chance though.
- I'm still waiting for the elbow of Albert Pujols to give out. Seeing how this season is going very swimmingly for the Cubs and Brewers, I'm thinking it'll give out in late-August, early-September—playoff run time.
- Milton Bradley is having a huge year, but Coco Crisp still holds the crown and sash for best name in baseball. Thankfully for him, performance does not factor into that decision.
- The Tampa Bay Rays sound much, much better than the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Their jerseys look a whole lot better now, too. Way to be a performance and fashion surprise.
- Home runs are down so far this season. Don't credit the Mitchell Report though. Just look at your pitchers for this number. 14 starting pitchers have an ERA of 3.00 or lower, including Justin Duchscherer's 1.82 ERA at the break. Even pitchers with less than spectacular records are getting into the act: Jake Peavy (7-5, 2.47), Shawn Marcum (5-4, 2.65), John Danks (7-4, 2.67), Dan Haren (8-5, 2.72), Johan Santana (8-7, 2.84), Felix Hernandez (6-6, 2.95) and Jair Jurrjens (9-4, 3.00).
- Let's face it, steroid crackdowns may have helped, but the pitching quality has caught up to the hitters.