Let’s play a little game called, “Just the Tip.” Just for a second, just to see how it feels. Now let’s see which MLB teams can hang over the course of an entire season. Every year, someone comes out of nowhere and contends longer than they were supposed to. It then becomes a game of “will they or won’t they.” This year there are two teams that have come out of nowhere to lead their respective divisions at the time of this post. There are also two honorable mention teams that just so happened to meet in the World Series last year, but still, they don’t necessarily look like the best teams in their divisions.
The Giants, defending World Champions, don’t look like a championship team, but their pitching has kept them atop the NL West. Not sure if that’s so much a credit to the Giants, when you consider the division just seems pretty bad top to bottom. The Rockies have underachieved, and the Dodgers and Padres are pretty much irrelevant. Arizona has been a surprise, but no one really believes they can hang around and contend for the NL West crown. For that we say, the Giants will.
The Rangers, on the other hand, came into this season more or less as favorites to win the AL West. But, a lot of people saw either the Angels reclaiming the division, or the A’s making the jump and riding their pitching to a postseason berth. Instead, the Rangers have played just well enough to hold a 5 game lead over the Angels in the division. Their offense was never in question, but they’ve had surprisingly strong pitching that has kept them perched atop the AL West.
On to the real surprise teams of the 2011 campaign. I’ll start with the Indians because I sort of saw this coming. To be honest though, I’m sort of waiting for the team to fall off, as part of me doesn’t really believe they are for real. I at least thought that Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner could manage to stay healthy, and combine that with two guys who I knew would be solid this year, Asdrubal Cabrea and Shin Soo Choo, and it seemed the Indians were poised for an improbable run at the trophy this year. Unfortunately, Sizemore and Hafner have been sidelined often, Choo’s blood-alcohol level has exceeded his batting average, and Asdrubal Cabrera is left with few RBI opportunies costing him much deserved MVP attention. I’m also questioning whether that starting rotation can hold their ground for the remainder of the season.
Finally we come to the Pirates. I don’t think anyone saw this coming, but if they did, post a link showing off your premonition like I am once again HERE. Like many good teams, they’ve ridden their pitching to a division lead in late July. I honestly don’t remember the last time I saw this. I believe the statistics say it was 1992. That’s a long time. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Pirates have the longest streak of futility in ALL of professional sports. Is that right? Either way, I’m a big time Pirates fan this summer and fall. I wonder how many players I can name on that team….? Let’s count. Andrew McCutchen, Garrett Jones, Pedro Alvarez, Jose Tabata, Jeff Karstens, Ryan Doumit, Joel Hanrahan ….that’s all I’ve got. But I’m on board. Will they hang on? Not a chance. With Milwaukee, St. Louis, and Cincinnati (my other World Series pick) all chasing them, they’d be lucky to finish third this year.
July 20th, 2011 at 10:31 pm
Can’t argue with any of this….except I can’t pull for the Pirates. Probably wouldn’t go over so well at work.
July 21st, 2011 at 6:20 am
The Pirates are not doing it with smoking mirrors but at the same time I’d hate to see an owner such as Bob Nutting profiting from the team’s success like this ! What’s he’s done since he purchased the organization has been to run amok , plead poverty while pocketing millions courtesy of the league hierarchy .
So the New York Yankees Brian Cashman’s contract is up at the end of the season and he says he’s undecided about his future ? I guess he thinks that he can go elsewhere and replicate the same success he’s attained with the organization ?
July 21st, 2011 at 2:07 pm
Smoking mirrors? Really? You’re the dumbest person to ever walk this planet.
July 21st, 2011 at 8:41 am
Saw Cleveland coming. Pitt was a surprise. But I think it’s all going to fizzle out when it’s a Phillies-Sox series in October.
July 21st, 2011 at 10:06 am
1) Pirates can win that division, but so can three other teams. Frankly, I think the Pirates are a bubble, one that pops right about the first playoff series (See Reds last year).
2) I don’t buy the Rangers at all. Sure they can hit, but that line-up can be put into a coma by a B+ pitching staff. Another team that can win a weak division, but gets steam-rolled in October. That pitching you mention? Count on it to fade in August like Texas teams (except the Cliff Lee-led squad last year) always do.
3) Brain-rattling stat time – The Giants are 43-19 in games in which they score two or less runs. Think about that for a minute. In more than half of their games, they simply don’t score, and yet they are winning those games at a .694 clip. That’s dominant pitching…plain and simple.
July 22nd, 2011 at 7:54 pm
So that means they’re losing the majority of the games when they score more than two? Maybe their offense ISN’T that bad, and it’s all by design…. Eh, probably not.
July 21st, 2011 at 9:56 pm
Dude I can’t believe you had Cleveland winning in the beggining of the season. Great pick! I think Detroit pulls through though, they are likely to deal for a SP and have already replaced the horrible Inge with Wilson Betimit.
July 22nd, 2011 at 7:58 pm
What it means is the G-men get a lot more dominating pitching performances than most, and when they do, they win at a rate north of 2 out of 3.
July 23rd, 2011 at 7:54 am
Imagine if they had the Zito and Rowand money back to spend on a bat. They make a combined 30.5 million this year. Of course, that will be helpful when Lincecum hits free agency.