The 2011 MLB All-Star break has arrived, and every division displays a tight race.
There have been many surprises this season, as well as disappointments. Certain teams that were never expected to contend are at the top of their division races.
In this article, I will explain one improvement each team can make to continue competing in their respective race or raising the level of competition.
The Diamondbacks could be considered a surprise team this year, in my opinion.
They are competing as well as anyone, only three games back from the first-place Giants. Their hitting has great, much better than expected.
I suggest they attend to their bullpen.
The Diamondbacks, among a few other teams, should consider trading for Heath Bell.
Bell is one of the best closers in the game with 26 saves his year and could greatly improve the Diamondbacks' bullpen.
The Braves have recently been suffering from their lack of offense, especially in the outfield.
In order to catch the Phillies, the Braves need to improve their offense.
A trade before the deadline would be an appropriate fix, and the most appealing option is Hunter Pence.
The Braves could sacrifice a few of their pitching prospects and in turn benefit from the .323 batting average Pence can provide.
The Orioles are, unfortunately, in last place once again and unlikely to contend in any playoff race this year.
They could, however, benefit in future years from a few top prospects.
The most desperate area they need fixed would be starting pitching. If they could manage to acquire pitching prospects, they could have more hope for future seasons.
The Red Sox are battling it out for first place with the Yankees; they currently hold a one-game lead.
With all the offseason trades the Red Sox participated in, they have the offensive area pretty much down.
Their only area of concern is their pitching.
Boston's amazing offense is almost sure to take them to the playoffs, but once there, their pitching may be too weak to win games.
Whether they will make a trade or simply get their pitchers to perform up to their capabilities, this is an area they need to attend to.
The White Sox are still competing in their division race, only five games back from the first-place Tigers.
Their pitching has been solid this year, but their offense has been average.
Chicago's main offensive difficulties are coming from their outfielders. Pierre, Quentin and Rios, have been having a less-than-impressive season.
If they can improve the performance from their outfielders, they would be in a better position to compete for the division.
The Cubs are 12 games out of first place and have a very slim chance of competing for a spot in the playoffs.
However, if you are feeling optimistic and would like to suppose they do have a chance, you should hope they make a dramatic improvement to their pitching performance.
Overall, the Cubs have the least quality starts, the second-worst ERA and the third-worst BAA.
Whether they would like to attempt acquiring a big-name starter or some great prospects, they should at least do something about it.
The Reds have let their division lead slip and are now four games out of first place.
This can be owed mainly to their collapsed starting pitching rotation. The ERA of their ace, Bronson Arroyo, has risen all the way to 5.58. Johnny Cueto is the only starter whose ERA remains below 4.00.
The Reds had a top-notch starting rotation last season, and they need to fix it up if they want to continue competing.
The Indians are yet another team with struggling offense from their outfielders.
After their amazing start to the season, the Indians have finally begun to cool down and let their division lead slip by 0.5 games.
Their lack of offense wasn't much of an issue before the injury of Shin-Soo Choo, but without Choo, their offense is a bit dull.
Hopefully he will make a quick return, and the Indians retrieve their division lead from the Tigers.
The Rockies are slowly slipping out of their division race.
Their amazing starting pitching staff from last season, headed by Ubaldo Jimenez, is no longer so. Jimenez's Cy Young-quality performance last year appears as if it was only temporary.
The Rockies are suffering from this and are in need of improvements on their pitching staff.
Justin Verlander is, arguably, the best pitcher in his league. He is extremely helpful to his team and greatly improves its starting rotation.
However, the remaining four spots in the Tigers' rotation are not quite as useful.
Each of the four remaining pitchers, though very capable of performing greatly, have ERA's above 4.00.
The Tigers may suffer from a lack of quality pitching through the next half of the season.
The Marlins, after their unbelievable start to the season, have fallen out of any division race for this season.
Their pitching is a slightly above average, but their hitting is awful.
The Marlins do not possess a single above-.300 hitter and have experienced many disappointments from players with great potential.
Hanley Ramirez, Chris Coghlan and Omar Infante were all expected to be great this season, but they are nowhere near great.
If the Marlins want to contend in future years, they need their top players to perform up to all of their capabilities.
The Astros, as well, have no chance of competing during this season.
They do have a chance in future years though.
Their main hope is acquiring as many top prospects as possible and hope they reach their full potential.
The Royals, though they will not be winning a title this season, do have a great farm system.
They have a good chance of competing in future seasons if they hold on to their young players and receive top performances from them.
The Angels are only one game back from the Rangers and are hoping to overtake them by the end of the season.
In order to do so, I suggest they improve their offense, which has been slightly struggling, by proposing a trade.
The Angels have expressed interest in Aramis Ramirez, a veteran third baseman who is currently batting .298. Acquiring an asset such as Ramirez may be enough to boost the Angels in to first place.
The Dodgers, like the Angels, have been suffering from a lack of offense.
The Dodgers are more negatively affected, however, because in order to acquire better offense their only trade options are their best outfielders.
One possibility is for the Dodgers to trade away either Andre Ethier or Matt Kemp and in turn receive multiple top prospects.
The Brewers are among a few other teams who have expressed interest in closer Heath Bell.
Bell is one of the top closers in the game and could complement the remainder of the team, which has been very impressive this season.
Milwaukee is currently competing for first place in their division with the Cardinals and Pirates, so a top closer could improve their chances of winning.
The Twins have not been performing impressively this season.
They are in need of a major improvement to their team, whether it's a position player or a pitcher.
If Minnesota is willing to trade away one of their better players or young players with high potential, they could receive a very useful player in turn.
Though they are currently 11 games out of first place, the Mets have not yet brought their best performance to the field.
They have been suffering from the loss of many important players, among them being Johan Santana, David Wright and, most recently, Jose Reyes.
If these players manage to return within a short period of time, the Mets may still have a chance at making the playoffs.
The Yankees are competing in a very tight race with the Red Sox.
They have similar teams, both with amazing offenses and faulty pitching.
The Yankees, like the Red Sox, are nearly guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, but once they face teams with great pitching, they may not fare quite as well.
If the Yankees can manage to improve their pitching, especially among the starting rotation, they should be the favorites for the World Series.
The Athletics have very impressive pitching this year, but their offense is holding them in last place.
Overall, the A's are second-worst in runs scored and batting average.
If they are willing, Oakland could trade away a pitcher to add a power bat to their roster, which they are desperate for.
The Phillies have one of the best pitching staffs in the league, and if everything worked out, they could also have a very impressive offense.
The middle of their roster contains veterans such as Chase Utley, Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins. If each of these players begins to hit up to their full potential—as they usually do the second half of the season—the Phillies are sure to remain at the top of the standings.
The Pirates have definitely been performing better than expected this season.
Their main worry is a few position players who have not been of much use this year.
They could trade for a catcher since their current catcher has not been much of an asset to the team.
Pittsburgh could also trade for first baseman Carlos Pena since Lyle Overbay has not been performing too impressively.
After an impressive 2010 season, the Padres have once again returned to last place.
The Padres have many young players on their team for whom they traded away a few of their best players to acquire.
If these players perform up to their full potential, the Padres will have a good chance of a postseason run in future years.
The Giants have one of the best pitching staffs in the league. Their only problem is the lack of consistency from their offense.
Players such as Aubrey Huff, Miguel Tejada and Cody Ross have great capabilities, but they are not consistent enough to support their team's offense.
Their contributions to the team are very important since the injury of Buster Posey, who was a main producer on their offense.
The Mariners' offense is terrible. They are in last place overall for runs scored and batting average.
Because they are unlikely to be competing this season, I suggest Seattle focuses on future years and trade for top hitting prospects who can improve the team in later seasons.
The Cardinals could have had one of the best pitching staffs in the league, but an injury to their ace and disappointing performances from their other pitchers have weakened the rotation.
Since St. Louis is currently competing for first place, I suggest they make a few improvements to assist them in their division race.
The Rays are just barely hanging on in their division race with the Red Sox and Yankees.
In order to continue competing, they should make a trade that will improve the offense from the outfield, if only temporarily.
Possible trade targets include Josh Willingham, Ryan Ludwick and David DeJesus.
The Rangers have had a very impressive offense this season—along with good pitching—and are battling the Angels for first place in the American League West.
However, it would be in the Rangers' best interest to acquire a solid starting pitcher.
If they are willing to trade away one of their big bats, I suggest they consider trading for Derek Lowe, who could improve their pitching rotation.
The Blue Jays do not have much of a chance to compete for a playoff spot this year.
Their most helpful improvement to the team would be acquiring top prospects who could develop into great players.
The Blue Jays can hope to compete in their division in the future.
The Nationals have been building an impressive roster for their future team. The most well-known of their prospects are Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg.
If the Nationals manage to hold on to these players who have amazing potential and possibly acquire a few more, the team may have a very bright future.