Thursday, July 11, 2013

National League Mid-Season Review

Well, we covered the American League in this space earlier today, so it's time to do a review of the National League before the break for the Midsummer Classic. Is the National League starting to overtake the American? After years of dominance in interleague play and at the All-Star game, the senior circuit is starting to close the gap, and has been producing more young talent, particularly over the past year-plus. And that has shaken things up in the National League, too. Just over halfway through the season, the Pittsburgh Pirates have the second-best record in the league, the defending champion Giants are falling apart at the seams, and the consensus choice for best team in the league has been incredibly mediocre. But not everything has changed; the Marlins are still terrible. So who and what has been the best of the National League?

American League Mid-season Review

The All-Star break begins Monday, and just as everyone expected in March, the team with the best record in the American League is...Boston? To be sure, there were plenty of people who felt that the Red Sox would benefit from some decent mid-level veteran signings and a change in leadership from last year's Bobby Valentine disaster.* And here they are, 56-37 through July 10th, enjoying (among other things) a bounce-back year from Jacoby Ellsbury (minus the power), strong pitching from one-time lemon John Lackey (a 2.80 ERA and 3.16 xFIP in nearly 100 innings this year), and David Ortiz raking at age 37 (.331/.412/.636 with 19 bombs), which encouraged the execrable Dan Shaughnessy to accuse him of using steroids with zero evidence. Over in the Central, Detroit leads as expected, but not by nearly as much (50-40, 3.5 games up on Cleveland) as might be expected from a team boasting SIX All-Stars (to be fair, all of them are deserving apart from Torii Hunter). And in the West, relatively star-less Oakland is 54-38, riding an ageless Bartolo Colon (a 2.69 ERA and 4.06 xFIP in 120 innings at age 40 while throwing almost nothing but fastballs) and a cast of relative unknowns to a comfortable cushion over all of their western brethren save Texas. Without further ado, some awards and stories from the first half of the season.