By the end of this week, every team in the game will have played at least 100 games. That’s nearly 2/3 of the season that has already flown by. With that in mind, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what we’ve seen this year in the game we love . . .
Disappointment . . . thy name is Philadelphia. Granted, there are still 60+ games left to be played. But, at this point, the Phillies are easily the biggest disappointment of the season. With Ryan Howard and Chase Utley spending the majority of the season on the DL, their offense has been in the bottom half of the league all year. Just think how bad it would be if Carlos Ruiz (a.k.a. Chooch) wasn’t having the best year of his career. And, to make matters worse, their two-headed pitching monster of Halladay and Lee have a total of 5 wins between them. Understandably, some of that has been due to DL stints, but it’s not like they’ve lit it up when they’ve been playing. As it stands today, the Phillies are last in the AL East, and have some very good teams ahead of them – Washington and Atlanta will be the hardest to overcome. So, two full seasons with what looked to be the best starting pitching rotation ever put together . . . and they have one NLDS exit, and most likely a season without a playoff appearance. Yikes.
Biggest surprise: I have to say it’s the Chicago White Sox. Pretty much everyone (myself included) picked them to finish last – or, at best, next-to-last – in the AL Central. But, thanks to a resurgence by Adam Dunn and Alex Rios, they have remained at or near the top of that division all season long. Their pitching is in the upper half of the league, and their hitting is right around the middle in avg., OPS, and SLG. But, that’s been good enough to stay on top of a mediocre division. The only question might be . . . can they hold on to a playoff spot with the Tigers, Angels and Orioles all battling to get in?
The future is bright. Andrew McCutchen (.373*/.429/.642*/1.071*, 22 HR, 66 RBI) is just 25 years old. It only seems like he’s been around longer than that. So, as great of a player as he is . . . he technically hasn’t hit his prime yet. How scary is that?? Melky Cabrera seems to have finally found a home in San Francisco – and he only turns 28 in August, and looks to have several good seasons ahead of him. Jay Bruce looks to be a 30 HR/100 RBI guy (and maybe even more) for years to come, as he just turned 25 in April. His teammate, Joey Votto (.342/.465*/.604/1.069) may be about to turn 29, but he already has one MVP under his belt, and looks like he could win more. Starlin Castro is an exciting young shortstop who led the league in hits last season at the ripe old age of 21, and could be a perennial .300 batter for the next decade+. Mike Moustakas doesn’t turn 24 until September, and could hit 30 home runs this season. Ryan Braun may have some suspicion hanging over him, but the guy’s just 28, has won ROY and MVP awards already, and is still leading the league in home runs even without Fielder behind him. Giancarlo (formerly Mike) Stanton doesn’t turn 23 until November, and is on pace for over 30 home runs, and could possibly drive in 100, with an OPS over .900. Josh Reddick is probably going to hit 35 home runs or more (in Oakland!) at the age of 25. Johnny Cueto (12-5, 2.23 ERA, 1.17 WHIP) is finally putting together the season everyone expected him to, and he’s just 26. The Nationals may have the scariest looking pitching rotation in the coming years, with Jordan Zimmerman (2.31 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 3.91 K/BB ratio), who’s just 26, Gio Gonzalez (12-5, 3.32 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) who’s also 26, and Stephen Strasburg (10-4, 2.85 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 11.4* K/9) who’s just 24. Chris Sale (11-3, 2.37 ERA, 1.01 WHIP) is just 23 years old. And, even though you’ve heard their names a lot over the last couple years, David Price and Felix Hernandez are only 26 years old.
And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the impressive start to their careers that both Bryce Harper (.272/.343/.449, 13 SB in 75 games) and Mike Trout (.357*/.412/.600/1.012, 31* SB) have had, at the ages of 19 and 20, respectively. It’s exciting to see so much young talent around the league – and I didn’t even mention some of the young guys that have incredible potential like Anthony Rizzo, Mike Olt, Jurickson Profar, Matt Moore, Jacob Turner, Will Middlebrooks, Trevor Bauer, etc., who have either just barely got their feet wet at the major league level, or are names you’ll almost definitely hear in 2013.
It’s been an exciting season so far, and I hope the remaining third of the season is full of drama, leading into another great postseason.
[* = league leader]