Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett

Friday, July 17, 2015

Midseason Outlooks

Red Sox
     The Sox seem to be switching off between great and absolute train wrecks. Unfortunately they've been stuck in the train wreck for about a year and a half now. After Ben Cherington tried to create the greatest fantasy baseball team ever in free agency, things have gone south. Hanley's looked lost in the outfield, and the stats back that one up. He's cost the Red Sox 16 runs this year in the field. The pitching isn't helping either. After whiffing on Jon Lester in the offseason, the Red Sox took gambles on Rick Porcello, Justin Masterson and Wade Miley, all of whom are sporting ERAs over 4.70. You can't even blame that on Fenway park either. Miley has the lowest FIP, which adjust for park and fielding, among them at 3.95. And I'm not even going to mention Rusney Castillo, the Cuban signee who's hitting .230/.260/.284 with one homer in the first year of his seven year, 72 million dollar contract.
     Even with all that going on, the Red Sox are somehow just 6.5 games out of first place in a weak AL East. That said, I'm still not sure they're going to be buyers at the trade deadline. They have the prospect depth to make a deal for Johnny Cueto or Cole Hamels but don't seem to want to part with enough players to make the deal. As of early May it was reported that Boston was refusing to part with Mookie Betts or Blake Swihart in the deal. It makes sense. Betts has been one of the few bright spots in the Sox season, batting .277/.328/.464 and displaying a cannon of an arm in center field with six assists. The Red Sox should sit back, accept this isn't their year, pick up some pitching in the offseason, and look toward next year.
     Hey, we're on a run of teams that made a splash in the offseason and are now having massively underwhelming seasons. Unlike the Red Sox, their future looks bleak. Really bleak. They don't have many assets like the Red Sox after they sold the farm for Matt Kemp, who has hit .250/.291/.382 and played his usual miserable defense, ravaged after a variety of injuries. In the trade they gave up Yasmani Grandal, who appeared in his first All-Star Game Tuesday and has become one of the best backstops in the National League. They also dealt pitcher Jesse Hahn to Oakland for Derek Norris, who rode a BABIP wave to an All-Star appearance in 2014 slowing down and hitting .245 in the second half. This year he's been much closer to that second half version of himself, batting .233/.279/.407. James Shields, has struggled as well, posting an ERA of 4.01 in a pitchers ballpark. Even worse, he's in the first year of a five year contract. They also have Melvin, formerly known as B.J. Upton. That's all I'll say on that matter.
Watching the Astros is like seeing a team full of Dave Kingmans. Featuring guys like Evan Gattis, (.241 15 homers) and Chris Carter (.185 15 homers as well) they lead the league in round-trippers with 124, but also strikeout rate at 24.7%. As a team they're hitting .240, which is by far the lowest among teams above .500, but none of that matters if they just outslug their opponents, which they need to do. They have a good bullpen, but beyond Dallas Kuechel, the rotation is subpar, although stud prospect Lance McCullers has done well in his brief stint with the team so far. Number two overall pick in 2012 draft Carlos Correa has also done well, teaming up with Jose Altuve to add some desperately needed speed to a slow, slugging lineup.
     The Phillies just have to wait right now. Ryan Howard's mammoth contract comes off the books after the 2017 season. Chase Utley's salary goes down next year. Cole Hamels is on his way out. Carlos Ruiz's ridiculous contract is done after 2017... There are so many awful contracts on this team I'm surprised Melvin Upton hasn't somehow ended up on the team. There is light at the end of the tunnel though. They'll get a small army for Cole Hamels in a few weeks and probably something for Jonathan Papelbon. Reliever Ken Giles is having another great year after finishing fourth in Rookie of the Year voting last year. Also, Philly called up top third base prospect Maikel Franco, who's hit .284 with 10 homers in 55 games. There getting there. Just very slowly.
     These Tigers' pitching isn't as good as it's been in years past, but the lineup is as fearsome as ever. Even with Miggy injured, the middle of the lineup is Kinsler-Martinez-Cespedes-Martinez which is absolutely terrifying when they're coming up in a big spot. Throw Cabrera in there and they'll score a lot of runs. The problem is the pitching. David Price has been his usual dominant, but the rest of the rotation doesn't have a single guy with an ERA under 4.3, headlined by the disastrous duo of Alfredo Simon and Shane Greene who have ERAs of 4.53 and 6.32 respectively.
     For the first time in a long time, the Tigers seem mortal. 2011 Justin Verlander is long gone, and Victor Martinez is clearly on the decline. If they don't get some pitching soon, they'll miss the playoffs for the first time since 2010. If they do get pitching, this five year stretch of Tiger dominance will continue into October... again.

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