The NL East Race looks like an interesting one, because no team has run away with the division. It looked like the Braves and Nationals would run away with an interesting finish, but the Braves haven't been unbeatable, and the Nationals have underperformed to this point. This opens up an opportunity for the Phillies and maybe the Mets to have a SHOT to win the East. If you look at the standings today, you would see this:
1. Braves 28-18 0 Games Behind
2. Nationals 25-23 4 Games Behind
3. Phillies 23-25 6 Games Behind
4. Mets 17-27 10 Games Behind
5. Marlins 13-35 16 Games Behind
Obviously, since it's only late May, the Braves, Nationals, and Phillies obviously have a chance to win the division. Also, if the Mets got hot, they could make a push through June and July. But, the Marlins are not contenders in the division or for a playoff spot.
The Braves and Nationals will still be the favorites to win the NL East, but you cannot count out the Phillies or Mets. If the Phillies gain some consistency, they could easily have a chance to win the division. If the Mets get hot, it could be them, but they need a lot to overcome the three teams ahead of them.
The division at this point is still interesting, and it hopefully will stay this way throughout the rest of the year. This may be the division that gets decided in September.
But, right now? The teams have to keep playing well.
Well, the Indians are in second place in the AL Central. They are only half a game out from the Tigers, and look like they could be in the hunt for a playoff spot, whether it would be a wild card or the division crown. But, after finishing 68-94 last year, what happened to the Indians? Well, just take a look at their opening day lineups from 2012 and 2013.
1. Michael Brantley, CF
2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
3. Shin-Soo Choo, RF
4. Carlos Santana, C
5. Travis Hafner, DH
6. Shelley Duncan, LF
7. Casey Kotchman, 1B
8. Jason Kipnis, 2B
9. Jack Hannahan, 3B
2013 (27-21, Through May 25):
1. Michael Bourn, CF
2. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
3. Jason Kipnis, 2B
4. Nick Swisher, 1B
5. Michael Brantley, LF
6. Carlos Santana, C
7. Mark Reynolds, DH
8. Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B
9. Drew Stubbs, RF
A lot has changed in the Indians over the past two years. Getting Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn helped a lot, but losing Shin-Soo Choo hurts, as he is a very good leadoff man for the Cincinnati Reds. Also, the pitching has gotten better with an ERA of 4.78 (Last in AL) in 2012, compared to a 4.24 ERA (8th in AL) in 2013. Their runs per game also has improved, from a 4.12 RPG in 2012, to a 5.06 RPG this season. This improvement has been the main cog of their recent success this year. Was the improvement just Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher? I doubt it. Their GM also signed Jason Giambi, who's been a successful DH, even in his later years. And, they have Terry Francona, a great manager, who managed the '04 and '07 World Series winning Red Sox.
The Indians are on the rise, without any signs of slowing down. They have a good pitching staff, but an even better lineup.
I think the Indians will make the playoffs for the first time since 2007, and win the AL Central within the next three years. If all goes well, the AL Cental division crown could be in Cleveland this year.
The hot corner is a very tough position to play, and it's very hard to play it well. But, in the majors, the players are professionals, and are very star-studded. But, who's the best? Who's the worst? Here's my Top 10:
10. Kyle Seager
Seager could be ranked higher, but he's only 25 years old. But, with a .275/.344/.468 line, it's nearly impossible to keep Seager off this list. He provides pop and contact for the Mariners lineup.
9. Michael Young
Michael Young is a very experienced third baseman, which is why he's at number 9. While only hitting a .287/.378/.376 line, he's still has career numbers of .301/.348/.443, which shows that he plays the game and gets on base. Even though he's out of his prime, Young is still a valuable third baseman.
8. Chase Headley
Headley, who spent most of the season on the DL, has finally returned, and has found his stroke. With a .281/.394/.456 line with 4 HR and 14 RBI (32 games), Headley is still an elite 3rd Baseman.
7. Josh Donaldson
Donaldson has burst onto the scene just this season. He only had 89 MLB games prior to the beginning of this season. But, nonetheless, the 27 year old is playing well. With a .308/.383/.517 line, it's almost impossible not noticing him.
6. Pablo Sandoval
The Big Panda is at it again. As the anchor in the Giants lineup, Sandoval has come through. Hitting a .306/.343/.475 line with 8 HR and 34 RBI, Sandoval is playing 3rd as good as anyone else.
5. Adrian Beltre
Ah, look at 'ole Beltre (34 Years Old). But, you can't argue that he hasn't been productive. Hitting a .281/.328/.503 line, Beltre has provided the pop and contact the Rangers need in their lineup. Good job, grandpa!
4. Manny Machado
The only reason Machado's ranked this low is due to experience. Everyone above him has established themselves as a star, by continuing to play at a high level. He has a .330/.362/.527 line with 5 HR and 28 RBI. He has been outstanding. But, the inexperience keeps him to the 4 spot.
3. David Wright
Wright was the star in the WBC and has not let down this season. Hitting .293/.395/.490, Wright is off to a good start. But, he also has 10 SB in 44 games, where he had 15 in 156 last year. His career numbers really rank him this high, though (.300/.382/.505, 210 HR, 846 RBI).
2. Evan Longoria
While Longoria's season may not look as good as Manny Machado's, he has the experience to back him up. This is only his sixth year in the league, but Longoria is an established star already with a career three stat line of .280/.363/.521. He's the anchor in the Rays lineup.
1. Miguel Cabrera
Cabrera is a very good hitter, no doubt. He's also good with the glove. With a 3 stat line of .391/.467/.701, Cabrera is making is 2012 Triple Crown season look like a joke so far. And, that's saying something. Cabrera is obviously the best third baseman in the league.
The Phillies are 21-23, and have had pitchers start games this year. With a rotation full of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels, the Phillies have multiple top starters in their rotation. But, their best starter may not be one of them. Kyle Kendrick and Jonathan Pettibone have been fantastic starters, and even though it may not seem like it, lets break it down.
Jonathan Pettibone (Stats Through May 18, 2013): 3-0, 3.41 ERA, 29.0 IP, 17 Ks, 1.28 WHIP, 5.3 Ks/9, Phillies are 4-1 (.800) When Pettibone Starts
Kyle Kendrick (Stats Through May 18, 2013): 4-2, 2.82 ERA, 60.2 IP, 41 Ks, 1.15 WHIP, 6.1 Ks/9, Phillies are 7-2 (.778) When Kendrick Starts
Cliff Lee (Stats Through May 18, 2013): 4-2, 2.83 ERA, 63.2 IP, 50 Ks, 1.08 WHIP, 7.1 Ks/9, Phillies are 4-5 (.444) When Lee Starts
It may just be bad luck for Lee, but the Phillies just do not win when he starts. If the Phillies want to have any chance of making the playoffs, they need to use Lee's quality starts to their advantage. If they do, and Cole Hamels comes around
as a starting pitcher, the Phillies could find themselves right in it.
The 2012 Astros were the Major's worst, and even with major logo changes and even a move to the AL West, they don't look any better this year. They have a very long time before contending again in any postseason race.
Offensively, the Astros are lacking seasoned veterans to help their rookies. With the release of Rick Ankiel, the 'Stros only have 1 of their 9 starters over the age of 30 (Carlos Pena). The Astros have a overall team age average of 26.7, therefore proving the information that they don't have the leadership to have them go far. As a team, the 'Stros only hit .249 (10th in AL) and have a OBP of .307 (12th in AL). Their SLG is .396 (10th in AL). In 36 games, the Astros only have 140 runs (11th in AL) (3.8 Runs Per Game). And, only Jose Altuve has an average of above .300 (.342). The Astros even LEAD the league in STRIKEOUTS (360 SOs in 36 games; 10 SOs per game)! Their offense is bad, and nobody has to break it down to see that.
Only Bud Norris has a winning record (4-3), leading a staff that has only a 27.8 age average. The Astros ERA is the worst in the AL with a 5.55. Besides Norris (3.40 ERA), the Astro rotation has ERAs of 4.67, 8.49, 9.41, and 7.36. And, their bullpen? It's better than the rotation, but not by much. Jose Veras is the closer with 4 saves thus far. His ERA is 4.50. Only 1 reliever has an ERA below 4 (Wesley Wright, 2.80). Besides Wright, anyone who has appeared in 10+ games has an ERA of 4.00 or higher. The Astros rank last in 6 pitching categories in the American League. Among them are Hits, Home runs, Runs, Earned Runs, Wins, and ERA.
Prediction: Bust (55-107, 5th AL West)
The Astros have a lot to overcome before we can start calling them a "boom".