The Dubsism Baseball Power Rankings: The Homestretch Edition – The Contenders vs. The Pretenders

In my last baseball rankings,  I said the All-Star break to me has always represented the “far turn” in the horse race that is the Major League Baseball season. This means Labor Day marks the beginning of the home stretch; everybody has less than thirty games to play; everybody’s made their non-waiver and waiver trade deadlines, and everybody is bringing up the September “cups of coffee.”

But this is also the time of year where we discover who the “contenders” are; that select group at the front of the pack who may still be playing baseball a month from now. It’s that time we can start looking at how those teams will fare in that wonderful month of October. Not to mention, this another great opportunity to see how wrong we really were.

The Contenders:

1) Washington Nationals ↔

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The Nationals have one of the best young rotations in baseball.  Strasburg appears ready to return to his pre- Tommy John surgery condition, and the acquisitions of Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson were huge.  If Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and Chien-Ming Wang can stay away from the injury problems that have bugged them, the Nationals should be able to stay in most games based on their pitching alone.  But the Nats should be stronger in the middle of the order since Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche, Michael Morse, and Danny Espinosa all could be 25 HR, 90 RBI guys.

Downside: The Nats have three question marks. The first is at first base; Adam LaRoche played only 43 games last year before season-ending surgery and hit just .172. Can he return to the form of his previous years? However, Michael Morse blossomed at first base once LaRoche went down.  Secondly, the Nats have an issue in the lead-off spot. Ian  Desmond is going to start the season there, but he’ll have to learn to be more patient.  He’s drawn only 63 walks in 308 games during 2010 and 2011. Lastly there’s the matter of timing. This needs to be the year the Nats take a step toward the future because this is the last year before the expectations are going to go up. They can still be mediocre this year, but if they finish third or worse in 2013, they may just become a red version of the Cubs.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Best starters in league

Team pitching stats are crazy

Bats awakening

The Bottom Line:

You see that line about “a red version of the Cubs.” Yeah, you can forget about that. The Nationals are the best and most complete team in baseball. They are the photo-negative of the Cubs.  The Nationals and the Cubs represent the polar opposites of the baseball world.

The Nationals have a solid core of young emerging stars. The Nationals starting rotation is one of the best in the game, and the bullpen is even more complete.

The lineup lacks a .300 hitter, and may only feature one guy who will drive in 100 runs, but when you look at how the Nats hit with runners in scoring position, the difference becomes clear. If you were to take the performance of this team in RISP situations and balance it statistically to all potential scoring situations, the average National batter would be (in 500 at-bats) a guy who hit 21 home runs, drove in 132, scored 127 runs, and stole 22 bases. That, despite the pitching staff, is the reason why this team is 30 games above .500. They simply don’t waste opportunities.

Taking all of that into consideration, and adding this team has a future regardless of what happens today. This is why I so completely do not understand all the hand-wringing over Stephen Strasburg and the fact the Nationals intend to “shut him down.”

First of all, this is about making sure the guy can pitch in the future.  Don’t forget the guy is coming off “Tommy John” surgery, and I would bet there are plenty of doctors in this equation who know a hell of a lot more about Strasburg’s elbow that the dipshits at ESPN know.  Don’t forget this plan to limit Strasburg’s innings pitched was in place coming out of spring training.  Nobody cared then, because nobody saw this team being the best in baseball six months down the road.  Now, all of a sudden, the blow-dries at ESPN think this is a problem.

Secondly, the National team you see on the field today was actually built for 2013 or 2014, and just so happens to be achieving ahead of schedule.  In April, nobody saw the collapse of the Phillies, the injury-depletion of the Braves, and the train-wreck called the Marlins. Nobody saw the changing of the guard in the National League East happening in 2012, but it did.  Frankly, I think the Nationals should be commended for not changing their long-term plan based on what microcephalics like Buster Olney think. After all, this team has been built on a philosophy of not mortgaging tomorrow to pay for today. Why change that now?

If that isn’t enough for you, consider the following two facts. One, Strasburg isn’t even the Nationals best pitcher. Don’t look now, but Gio Gonzalez has more wins, more innings pitched, and nearly identical ERA and WHIP.  Second, history has shown us that to win in playoff baseball, you need two strong starters and a dominant bullpen. Look at the Nationals’ pitching staff top-to-bottom and tell me they don’t have that with or without Strasburg.

2) Texas Rangers ↔

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  The only team in the A.L. West they have to worry about is the Angels. The Rangers have a line-up tailor-made to their hitter-friendly park, so there is no reason they can’t lead the league in team batting average again. Not to mention, they placed top five in runs, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage.

Downside: The Rangers are gambling in the wake of losing C.J. Wilson to division-rival Los Angeles with their $103 million investment in Yu Darvish and moving  Neftali Feliz to the starting rotation for the first time in his major league career. Then there’s the Josh Hamilton situation…we all know about the off-the-field issues, but don’t forget the former AL MVP has been hampered by injuries lately as well.  Now contract talks are stalled, and who knows what impact that will have.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Texas bats don’t fail

Texas pitching often fails

This year is just same

The Bottom Line:

Three facts define the Rangers’ success this season:

1) The emergence of David Murphy. On Monday, Murphy finally got enough at-bats to qualify in the American League batting race.  Murphy is now hitting .324 in 416 plate appearances.  He is now third behind Mike Trout (.332) and Miguel Cabrera (.331).

2) Adrian Beltre is a serious MVP candidate, and he’s getting hot at the right time.  Since Aug. 16, Beltre is hitting .423 with nine homers and 20 RBI, and he has an  1.398 OPS in that time.

3) Yu Darvish became the fourth Japanese pitcher to have a 14-win season in the Major Leagues. The others are Hideo Nomo (four times), Daisuke Matsuzaka (twice) and Kazuhisa Ishii (once).  For another milestone, Darvish only need 12 more strikeouts to become the third Japanese pitcher to reach 200 in a Major League season.

As far #3 is concerned, here’s the dirty little secret.  While Darvish has fanned 10 in back-to-back starts, he walks waaaaaaay too many batters.  This is why his ERA in the second half of the season is a stratospheric 5.71. The Rangers have never seemed to learn that you can out-bomb opponents to 90+ wins in the regular seson, but when you get into a play-off series with a team that can pitch, you can’t give away a lot of free base runners.

3 – Tie)  Cincinnati Reds  ↑ 10

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  General Manager Walt Jocketty managed to improve the starting rotation by adding former Padres ace Mat Latos, the bullpen by bringing in Ryan Madson and Sean Marshall, and added some needed depth by acquiring Wilson Valdez, Willie Harris, and Ryan Ludwick. With these additions to the existing weapons like Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, and the fact the N.L. Central no longer has the likes of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, the Reds have the potential once again to seize the top spot in the division.

Downside: That pitching staff is managed by Dusty “The Ligament Shredder” Baker, the same Dusty Bake who think base-runners “just clog up the basepaths.”

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Great American

Ballpark holds team powered by

Mostly foriegners

The Bottom Line:

The Reds are summed nicely in this quote from Jay Bruce:

“If we continue to play baseball like we can play, it doesn’t matter what the Cardinals do. And I’m not saying that to be arrogant.  I’m just saying if we continue to play well like we have been, then they’re not going to be able to catch us.”

They are 7-3 in their last ten games, they are 40-29 on the road, and 37-24 against division opponents.

3 – Tie) Baltimore Orioles ↑ 6

What We Originally Said:

Upside: As bad as there were in 2011, their offense wasn’t all that bad and they’ve kept the core of it.  If Mark Reynolds can produce another 30-plus home run season, and Adam Jones and Nick Markakis continue their consistent hitting, the Orioles could end up being a mediocre team.

Downside:  The Orioles had the worst off-season of any Major League team.  If you don’t agree, here are their off-season acquisitions: pitchers Wei-Yin Chen, Tsuyoshi Wada, Jason Hammel, and Matt Lindstrom; and position players Wilson Betemit, Endy Chavez and Taylor Teagarden.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Baltimore baseball

Loves meaningless history

Two decades of proof

The Bottom Line:

To be honest, I have no idea how this team is contending: But they are, and I just have to accept that.

5)  San Francisco Giants ↑ 3

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The San Francisco Giants have one of the best pitching staffs in baseball. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Madison Bumgarner form one of the best 1-2-3 combinations in the game.

Downside: The San Francisco Giants have one of the worst offenses in baseball. With the losses of Cody Ross and Carlos Beltran, this team may find itself relying on a 3-4-5 heart of the order consisting of Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, and Brandon Belt.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Pitching carries team

Even though Lincecum sucks

Melky keys offense

The Bottom Line:

When Melky Cabrera got suspended, the prevailing wisdom was the Giants’ offense would implode. Rather, the Giants hit a season-high on Monday being 19 games above .500, and offense is having no problems scoring despite the fact they are last in the National League in home runs.  Matt Cain said it best:

“All these guys are finding different ways to get on base, drawing out the at-bats or getting a hit or walk. They’re doing a good job getting timely hitting.”

6)  Los Angeles Angels ↓ 3

What We  Originally Said:

Upside: This team has ownership that isn’t afraid to make a move. Due to the free-agent signing of first baseman Albert Pujols and starting pitcher C.J. Wilson, the Angels committed $331.5 million, which left little room for the team to add anyone else significant during the offseason. New GM Jerry DiPoto did, however, get his hands on a decent bat bat behind the plate in Chris Iannetta, and reliable veteran relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins becomes the latest on the list of guys who have played for both of my two favorite teams (Angels and Twins).

Pujols adds to a lineup which featured six players with double-digit home runs, and six with over 59 RBI. Top prospects in catcher Hank Conger and outfielder Mike Trout will also be in the running for a full season with the club.

C.J. Wilson adds to a rotation which already featured 2011 A.L. All-Star Game starter Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana.

Downside: Which Vernon Wells do the Angels get in 2012?

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Weaver and Haren

Awesome one-two starting punch

Pujols is Pujols

The Bottom Line:

There is no understating the importance of the current stretch for the Angels.  Starting Monday, the Angels entered a 10-day span that sees the Angels playing two of the teams they have been trying to catch in the race for one of the American League’s two wild-card playoff spots.  Right now, they have taken two of a three-game series in Oakland, which will be followed by a seven-game homestand during which the Angels will host the Detroit Tigers for three and then face the A’s for a four-game rematch.

7) Detroit Tigers ↑ 8

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Last season, the Motor City Kitties finished in the top four in runs scored, batting average, on-base and slugging percentage. The numbers can only get better with the offseason acquisition of first baseman Prince Fielder, who just happens to be a career .282 hitter averaging over 32 home runs and 93 RBI per season over the last six years.

Downside: How does the move of Cabrera back to third base work out? What will be the impact of losing DH Victor Martinez? And I’m not sold on the rotation beyond Justin Verlander and Doug Fister.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Slugger’s paradox

Cabrera and Fielder

Yet team lacks power

The Bottom Line:

Rick Porcello needs to sue the Tigers offense for non-support.  Porcello hasn’t seen a Tiger touch the plate in 23 innings in which he’s pitched. The shutout run began with the sixth inning of Porcello’s start Aug. 12 at Texas, continued through the next 17 innings of three starts and through the first five innings Tuesday night at Comerica Park against Cleveland.

8 ) Oakland Athletics ↑ 13

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  America’s favorite breakfast cereal, Coco Crisp,  will still man the Oakland outfield after signing a $14 million, two-year contract with a club option for 2014 after hitting .264 with eight home runs, 54 RBI and 49 stolen bases last season. Then there the Cuban grab-bag known as Yoenis Cespedes. This kid could be the real deal.

Downside: The A’s are without many of their pitchers who brought success to the team in recent years. Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez, and Josh Outman are out of the starting rotation, while Craig Breslow and Andrew Bailey are no longer in the bullpen. The one proven offensive power bat in the lineup has also departed; Josh Willingham hit 29 home runs and 98 RBI in 2011, but is now part of the Minnesota Twins.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

A’s have Cespedes

Ryan Cook and little else

At least no Manny

The Bottom Line:

The A’s continue to get production from a no-name roster. For example, pitcher Tommy Milone has tossed 13 consecutive starts in which he has walked no more than one batter, which so happens to be one start shy of the team record set by Gil Heredia in 1999.

9) New York Yankees ↓ 5

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The Yankees upgraded their pitching staff by adding Hiroki Kuroda and Michael Pineda, and by subtracting A.J. Burnett.  Prospects Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos will soon find their way to the major league rotation as well. If the pitching staff gels and Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, and Mark Teixeira perform as expected, this team will prove formidable.

Downside:  Don’t look now, but this team isn’t getting any younger.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Pitching Staff Falling

Sabathia Pettitte hurt

Ivan Nova is best left

The Bottom Line:

The Yankees are old, hurt, can’t pitch and are fading fast.

10) Chicago White Sox ↓ 5

What We Originally Said:

Upside: General Manager Ken Williams also showed a desire to rebuild his club by getting rid of longtime White Sox starter Mark Buehrle and letting go of Juan Pierre, Carlos Quentin, Jason Frasor, Sergio Santos, and Omar Vizquel.

Downside: General Manager Ken Williams has no idea how to rebuild a club. He replaced staff ace Mark Buerhle by over-paying for the ever-fraudulent John Danks.  The rest of the starting rotation will depend on the fragile Jake Peavy and the unproven Chris Sale.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Smoke and mirrors

Houdini made this mirage

Contender won’t last

The Bottom Line:

The South Side fade is on, largely because the Mighty Whiteys can’t beat the Tigers. This is a big problem, since they have six games left with the Tigers this season, all coming over the next two weeks. After the most recent loss, the Sox are now 4-8 against the Tigers, including five straight.

11) Los Angeles Dodgers ↓ 4

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  Clayton Kershaw won the NL Cy Young last year and is a contender for the award again. He is signed with the Dodgers through 2013.  Matt Kemp was the runner-up for the NL MVP Award, and was a single dinger away from joining the 40HR/40 stolen base club.  The Dodgers have him locked up through 2019.

Downside: They still have yet to rid themselves of Frank McCourt.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Matt Kemp Clayton Kershaw

Ethier on the list too

Why Dodgers contend

The Bottom Line:

The Dodgers have undergone a nearly complete revamping, and yet they still can’t catch the Giants.

12) Tampa Bay Rays ↓ 2

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Their pitching staff will carry them in 2012.  David Price, James Shields, Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis, Jeff Niemann, and Matt Moore form a six-man rotation that just might let the Rays continue their average 92 wins over the last four seasons. Only three teams in the majors had a higher average with one of the lowest four-year payroll totals in baseball at $222 million.

Downside: The Rays need a new fanbase and stadium.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Six-man rotation

Yet none of them really suck

Yet Rays kind of suck

The Bottom Line:

The Rays have gained 9 games on the Yankees and Orioles from (10.5 back to 1.5) since the All -Star break.  A big part of that gain is Jame Shields.  Shields has 13 wins, and has pitched into the seventh innings in 11 of his last 15 starts.  He only went that deep in four out of his first 13 starts.

13) Atlanta Braves  ↑ 1

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Last year, I said the Braves were a collection of “what-ifs” built around a solid core of just enough hitting and just enough pitching. Now, enough of those questions became facts so that barring injuries, the Braves can contend in the NL East.

Downside: The Braves finished 13 games back of the Phillies last season, and they way the season ended for them still has to sting. The question is did they improve enough to fix those issues?

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Chipper’s last hurrah

While team disintegrates like

Chipper’s ligaments

The Bottom Line:

The story in Atlanta is the arrival of pitcher Kris Medlen, who was named National League Pitcher of the Month for August.  Medlen pitched both of the complete games of his young career last month; one against the Rockies and another against the Padres.  Medlen had a stretch from from August 11-28 during which he had a 28 1/3 scoreless-innings streak , and his  ERA in his five August starts was a scant 0.50.

14 ) St. Louis Cardinals ↑ 4

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Despite losing Albert Pujols and manager Tony La Russa, the Cardinals still have enough weapons to be a factor in the N.L. Central. Starter Adam Wainwright comes back from Tommy John surgery, and he leads a rotation featuring Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia, Jake Westbrook, and Kyle Lohse. Also, could this be the breakout year for World Series MVP David Freese? His 21 RBI over 18 postseason games last October could signal the start of something big.

Downside: Let’s face it…losing Albert Pujols would hurt any line-up. This means Lance Berkman has to at least come close to the .301/31 HR/94 RBI campaign he put up in 2011, and Matt Holliday has to be a .300/25 HR/RBI guy as well.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Lance Lynn lifted staff

Lance Berkman’s big lefty bat

Replaced by Beltran

The Bottom Line:

The Lance Lynn miracle is over.  Since his banishment back to the bullpen after posting five positively pathetic starts, manager Mike Matheny at least expected he’d be adding another arm to a staff desparate for depth in front of closer Jason Motte.  But Lynn, who was an All-Star this season, has stunk in relief as well; in his most recent appearance he allowed four hits and two runs in one inning.

The Pretenders:

15) Pittsburgh Pirates ↓ 10

What We Said Originally:

Upside:  The Bucs are quietly cobbling together a respectable offense.  Outfielders Jose Tabata, Alex Presley, and All-Star Andrew McCutchen are likely to be the the 1-2-3  hitters; all of them hit over .275 last year, and all of them swiped over 20 sacks. Neil Walker looks like a #4 hitter after hitting 17 home runs and 62 RBI in only 460 at-bats.  Plus, the Pirates may have emerging power at the corner infield spots; Garrett Jones showed some pop with 17 homers last year, and Pedro Alvarez is due for his breakout year any time now.

Downside: Last year, the Pirates gave up the third-worst opponents batting average (.270) and received the fifth-fewest quality starts from their starting five.  A.J. Burnett is supposed to be the cure for that?

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Pirates no surprise

Tons of young talent living

In bad division

The Bottom Line:

The Pirates are dropping out of the race for one simple reason: they forgot how to win.  Pittsburgh’s record since August 9 is 8-18, in which time they have gone from 3 .5 games ahead in the National League Central to 11 games back now.

16) Arizona Diamondbacks ↑ 5

What We Originally Said:

Upside: In a division heavy in pitching, the D-backs chose bulk by getting potential question mark Trevor Cahill from Oakland and re-signing their own free agent, Joe Saunders, after non-tendering him at the December deadline for arbitration-eligibles. Kennedy, Hudson and Saunders logged career highs in innings last season, and it will be interesting to see if they can repeat that…see below…

Downside:  Even though the Arizona Diamondbacks finished first place in the NL West Division at 94-68, their starting rotation was filled with career-best seasons:

  • Ian Kennedy went 21-4 with a 2.88 earned run average and 198 strikeouts in 222 innings pitched.
  • Daniel Hudson went 16-12 with a 3.49 earned run average and 169 strikeouts in 222 innings pitched.
  • Joe Saunders went 12-13 with 3.69 earned run average and 108 strikeouts in 212 innings pitched.
  • Josh Collmenter went 10-10 with a 3.38 earned run average and 100 strikeouts in 154.1 innings pitched.

The D-backs line-up can be inconsistent as well – they struggled to hit over .250 as team despite everyday players Gerardo Parra, Justin Upton and Miguel Montero hitting .292, .289 and .282 respectively.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Arizona snakes

Swallowing their own venom

No playoff repeat

The Bottom Line:

The Diamondbacks’ youth movement has begun, at least among the starting pitchers. On their most recent turn through the rotations, the D-backs had the youngest rotation in the Major Leagues, beginning with left-hander Tyler Skaggs who turned 21 on  Monday.

17) Milwaukee Brewers ↑ 5

What We  Originally Said:

Upside:  Even though Miller Park is known for being tough on right-handed sluggers, the Brewers brought in third baseman Aramis Ramirez. He will need to have a Beltre-like season (.300/25 HR/90 RBIs) to help off-set the loss of Prince Fielder.

Downside: The big questions: Can Mat Gamel prove he is ready to be a major league first-baseman, including posting some power numbers at the plate? Can Wily Peralta develop into a credible big-league starter? Then there’s the elephant in the room…the Ryan Braun situation and what impact it may have…

The Mid-Season Haiku:

No Prince Fielder

Leaves Ryan Braun alone with

His tainted sample

The Bottom Line:

Even after the loss of Prince Fielder, this team can hit.  They have a streak of 73 games in which they have at least one extra base hit. Ryan Braun (96) and Aramis Ramirez (89) have combined to drive in 185 runs, the most of any teammates in the National League.

Now for the scary number…Carlos Gomez (16 home runs, 30 stolen bases) and the Angels ‘ Mike Trout (25/43) are the only players in the major leagues who have at least 15 homers and 30 stolen bases. Gomez had never hit more than eight homers in a season until this year.

18)  Seattle Mariners ↑ 10

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Felix Hernandez.

Downside: This is the last year of Ichiro Suzuki’s contract with the club. The 38-year-old has seen his batting average drop 80 points over the last two seasons, so you can only expect that this will be his final season with the club unless he’s back to being the old Ichiro. In addition to Ichiro’s decline, the Mariners finished dead last in runs scored, batting average, on-base and slugging percentage last year.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Felix Hernandez

Can only pitch, but team needs more

More of everything

The Bottom Line:

There’s no gold medal for a .500 finish in baseball, and in the red-hot American League West, a .500 record is still likely to leave a team in last place.  But considering where the Mariners have been, .500 would be an excellent finish to the season. For them, it would be like going to bed with Oprah and waking up with Halle Berry.  One game into the second half of the season back on July 13, the Mariners were 16 games under .500. They’ve trimmed that deficit by 75 percent, and if they can make up four games in the final four weeks, Seattle will have a huge reason to celebrate. They finally won’t suck anymore.

19) Philadelphia Phillies ↑ 4

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The starting rotation is as good as it gets with Cole Hamels, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Vance Worley. New closer Jonathan Papelbon should help shore up the bullpen.

Downside:  If the Yankees and the Phillies make the World Series, they may want to get the games done before 4 p.m., so they can all hit the early-bird specials at Denny’s. This is another team that is aging before our eyes. Carlos Ruiz, Ryan Howard, and Jimmy Rollins are 33, Chase Utley is 32, and Placido Polanco tops the list at 36. Not to mention, the Phillies have lost have lost four of their last five postseason series.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Team can’t be a winner

When it can’t even get right

Roy Halladay doll

The Bottom Line:

Tyler Cloyd, Phillipe Aumont, and the hope of getting healthy give the Phillies a reason to look forward to next season. They won’t the the Phillies of the last decade, but they won’t be as dreadful as the 2012 version.

20) New York Mets ↓ 9

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Whether its up or down, the theme once again for the Mets is hope. Hopefully, all the distractions that surrounded last season are gone with the departure of Jose Reyes. Hopefully, Ike Davis, and Johan Santana are healthy, will stay that way, and will perform up to expectations. Hopefully, there will be a resurgence of third baseman David Wright and Jason Bay now that the outfield wall has been moved in.

Downside:  Hopefully, all those things I just mentioned will happen.  Right after they all do happen, we can all join hands and visit the fairy princess together. Not only that, but this team goes nowhere as long as Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz own the team.  Let’s face it, meltdown, dumpster fire, train wreck…they all are synonymous with “Mets.”

The Mid-Season Haiku:

When R.A. Dickey

Is by far your best pitcher

Your life is mirage

The Bottom Line:

Note the above haiku-based snarkiness about knuckle-baller R.A. Dickey. Well, you can add catcher Kelly Shoppach to that list.  It seems “the Shopp” has whacked three homers since being acquired from the Red Sox a few weeks ago. Prior to that, all Mets catchers had hit only two this season.  That’s what the Mets are down to…non-important production from a career journeyman.

21)  San Diego Padres ↑ 5

What We Said Originally:

Upside: Again, you really can’t beat the weather in San Diego…and the Padres, despite the loss of Mat Latos, Aaron Harang, and Heath Bell still have a serviceable  (not great, serviceable) pitching staff currently slated to feature Clayton Richard, Edinson Volquez, Tim Stauffer, Dustin Moseley, and Cory Luebke.  Heath Bell’s closer role has been replaced by Huston Street.

Downside:  The Padres offense last year was in the bottom three in runs scored (593), batting average (.237), on-base percentage (.305) and slugging percentage (.349). The only improvements to that came in the form of Carlos Quentin, Yonder Alonso, and current AARP member Mark Kotsay.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Diego baseball

Much in common with Bigfoot

Rumored to exist

The Bottom Line:

Signs of life in San Diego…Chase Headley has 16 homers and 50 RBI since the All-Star game.

22) Boston Red Sox ↓ 6

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  The Boston Red Sox are taking on an entirely new look in 2012.  For the first time in recent memory, Jonathan Papelbon, J.D. Drew, Tim Wakefield, and Jason Varitek will not be on the Opening Day roster for the Red Sox. And it’s about time, especially after what happened last September.  Despite this new look, New GM Ben Cherington will be faced with the challenge of keeping the Sox a contender.

Downside: I don’t give a damn what anybody says, I don’t buy this pitching staff.  Jon Lester has always been over-rated in my book. The loss of John Lackey is a case of “addition by subtraction.”  Clay Buchholz walks too many guys. Who knows what Daniel Bard and Vincente Padilla really are?

Then, there’s the whole issue of that idiot Bobby Valentine. I can’t wait for the Terry Francona “Miss Me Yet?” billboards to break out all over New England.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Worst .500 team

Valentine captains a ship

Which hit iceberg twice

The Bottom Line:

Last Friday night’s lopsided 20-2 loss to the Oakland A’s may have represented the bottoming out for the 2012 Red Sox. The 20 runs were the most scored against the team this season and the margin of defeat was the greatest since a loss in 2000.  It didn’t help that much of the damage — 13 of the 20 runs — were produced by former Red Sox players Brandon Moss (four RBI), Josh Reddick (four RBI), and George Kottaras (five RBI).

23) Cleveland Indians ↓ 9

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  Shin-Soo Choo seems to be healthy. Vinne Pestano and Nick Hagadone could be the foundations of a solid, young bullpen.  Carlos Santana is a potential All-Star.

Downside: Fausto Carmona (or whoever he really is) may never get ba They also have the best home record in all of baseball.ck into the country and Grady Sizemore is probably finished as an effective major league player. The heyday for this team was fifteen years ago, and unless you can find a way to add Roger Dorn, Pedro Cerrano, Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, and Jake Taylor to the roster, there will be more than one long summer in Cleveland’s near future.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Somehow not shitty

Can pitch but have no offense

Shin-Soo Choo Korean sneeze

The Bottom Line:

Signs of life in Cleveland:   The Indians’ have a record of 17-8 in one-run games, the second-best mark in the majors.

24) Toronto Blue Jays ↓ 5

What We  Originally Said:

Upside: Jose Bautista.  In 2010, he hit .260 with 35 doubles, 54 home runs and 124 RBI. In 2011, he hit .302 with 24 doubles, 43 home runs, and 103 RBI. He has to figure in the MVP race.

Downside: The Blue Jays could have a bright future, but the future isn’t today.  Ricky Romero has also been nothing short of excellent for the club. Last season, the 27-year-old went 15-11 with a 2.92 ERA and 178 strikeouts. It’s time to see if youngsters Brett Lawrie,  Anthony Gose, and catcher Travis D’Arnaud can live up to expectations.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Canada’s baseball pride

Needs pitchers who are not in

Intensive Care Unit

The Bottom Line:

When healthy, this team can be quite interesting. But that just doesn’t seem to happen

25) Miami Marlins ↓ 7

What We Originally Said:

Upside: I don’t think there could be a more interesting team to watch in 2012. Miami is one of three teams in the Dubsism Top Ten from the N.L. East Division and got there through having by far the most active off-season. Tey’ve got a new name, new uniforms, new logos, a new stadium, a new manager,  and of course, new players. The new Marlins Park will play host to the new-look squad under new manager and old loud mouth Ozzie Guillen, who will be leading new shortstop and reigning N.L. batting champ Jose Reyes, new closer Heath Bell, and new starting pitchers Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano. Added to existing Marlins Hanley Ramirezx and ace Josh Johnson, there’s no way this team won’t be entertaining at least.

Downside: This also just could be the loading of a gigantic powder-keg. Zambrano and Guillen in the same dug-out? The Marlins may want to keep the bomb squad handy at all times, not just for the volatility I just mentioned, but for the fact if this team doesn’t win right away, look for it to get blown up quick.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Guillen loves Castro

As he not as huge asshole

As Ken Williams

The Bottom Line:

Year One of the the Great Marlin Experiment was an abject failure. What will Year Two bring?

26) Kansas City Royals ↓ 2

What We Originally Said:

Upside: The club is loaded with young talent like Eric Hosmer and Alcides Escobar.  Alex Gordon turned a corner in 2011. Billy Butler, Jeff Francoeur, and Jason Kendall provide veteran leadership, and there are more top prospects on the way like Wil Myers and Bubba Starling. The Royals also added pitching with starter Jonathan Sanchez and closer Jonathan Broxton.

Downside: General Manager Dayton Moore is a bit of an unproven commodity, so there’s no guarantee that he isn’t going to mortgage the future if the fans expectations suddenly outstrip the team’s talent.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

The ghost of George Brett

Cries when sees yet another

Great player leave town

The Bottom Line:

For the 27th consecutive year, Royals fans wait for next year.

27) Minnesota Twins  ↓ 2

What We Originally Said:

Upside: It is possible they get production from the faces of the franchise, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Last year thanks to injuries, Mauer hit .287 with three home runs and 30 RBI, while Morneau hit a horrid .227 with four home runs and 30 RBI.

Downside: Only three players on the Twins saw more than 100 games of action last year. There’s Michael Cuddyer, who is now getting his mail in Colorado, outfielder Ben Revere, and third baseman Danny Valencia. These might be the only Twins who matter in 2012.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Willingham and Plouffe

Deserve shampoo ad more than

Overpaid slap hitter

The Bottom Line:

Jamey Carroll –  Your Winner of the Duane Kuiper Award, given to weak-hitting middle infielders.  Before hitting a solo shot on Monday, Carroll had gone 1,384 at-bats without leaving the yard, which was the longest active streak in all of baseball.

28)  Colorado Rockies ↓ 1

What We Originally Said:

Upside: Troy Tulowitzki hit .302 with 36 doubles, 30 home runs, and 105 RBI in 2011. Carlos Gonzalez hit .295 with 27 doubles, 26 home runs, and 92 RBI in only 127 games. Casey Blake, Marco Scutaro, Ramon Hernandez, and Michael Cuddyer will all be joining the Colorado this season, which can only provide more cushion in a lineup that already features some of baseball’s best hitters. The crisp air in Colorado with these players and Todd Helton at the forefront can only mean runs, runs, and more runs.

Downside: The starting rotation will consist of Jeremy Guthrie, Jhoulys Chacin, and then any three out of about six possibles, including the 49-year old Jamie Moyer.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Even Yoda knows

Tulowitzki and Car-Go

The whole of team is

The Bottom Line:

The Rockies have won nine of their last 13 home games, improving their overall home record to 30-41. They must win eight of their remaining 10 home games to avoid finishing with their fewest number of home victories in any season not interrupted by a labor dispute. Other than the strike-shortened 1994 season when the Rockies went 25-32 at home, they have won no fewer than 38 home games. The remaining home schedule includes three games with the Giants, four with the Diamondbacks and three with the Cubs.

29) Houston Astros ↑ 1

What We Originally Said:

Upside:  They have some nice young talent on the team like Jose Altuve, Jason Castro, and Fernando Martinez, and they still have Carlos Lee as the lone power source on the roster.

Downside: Last year, the pitching staff was bottom five in league rankings with a 4.51 cumulative ERA, 1.42 WHIP and a .266 opponents batting average en route to a league worst 56-106 record. That staff didn’t get any better.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Houston, we have a

Problem of epic status

Football months away

The Bottom Line:

Until further notice, Houston will be regarded as a AAA team.

30) Chicago Cubs  ↓ 1

What We Said Originally:

Upside: Its spring, when Cubs fans everywhere have hope that at long last, this will finally be the year the winning drought in Wrigley Field ends. Plus, they off-loaded head-case first class Carlos Zambrano on the Marlins. Starlin Castro might be the bona fide star in Wrigley.

Downside: It’s not going to happen. Getting rid of Zambrano now means a pitching staff comprised of Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm, Chris Volstad and Travis Wood; along with threat of Jeff Samardzija getting work as a starter in spring training. The Cubs have an average-at-best rotation and no replacement for Aramis Ramirez on offense. Snicker if you must, but A-Ram stacks up favorably against some historic third-basemen. He’s complied the second-most 25-home run seasons (9) for a third baseman, behind only Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews who each had 12. Not to mention, only Chipper Jones has more seasons with at least a .300 batting average, 25 home runs and 90 RBI at the hot corner. Once again, spring becomes summer; the Cubs’drought continues.

The Mid-Season Haiku:

Cubs under Ricketts

Like bad date when one wants sex

Gets only hand-job

The Bottom Line:

I get that the Cubs have won nearly ten more games than Houston, but like I said before, the Astros are really a AAA team.  The Cubs have far too much talent to be as lousy as they are.  For example, they have scored two or less runs in ten of the last eleven of Jeff Samardzija’s starts.  They still can’t get out from under Alfonso Soriano’s obscene contract, and they just made it worse by giving Starlin “Future Soriano” Castro big money as well.

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2 responses

  1. I will say this about the league. 14 contenders, aka decent teams, is actually pretty good in a year.

    And no, Bud Selig, that has absolutely nothing to do with you adding an extra wild card team.

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