Baseball: Second Half Surges?
- Updated: July 6, 2016
The first half of the 2016 baseball season is in the books. There were surprising winners, such as the Indians, Rangers and Mariners, an uptick in homers, and several teams competitive at home and lousy on the road (Orioles, Royals, Astros, Padres). There was even one team (Arizona) good on the road but awful at home! With the surprises out of the way, here’s a look at some teams that might be active at the trading deadline and primed to make a second half surge.
Red Sox: Boston spent a lot the last three offseasons but is finally getting something for their dough, namely a great offense. It’s not the free agents, however, that have been crushing the baseball but a talented trio of kids in Mookie Bets, Xander Bogarts and Jackie Bradley Jr., laying the cornerstone of a powerhouse offense for when David Ortiz retires after this campaign.
But the pitching is another chapter — a bad one. Big ticket David Price has been up and down and they finally dumped Clay Buchholz to the pen. A year ago Buchholz was the opening day starter, their only “ace”, which shows you how much work they still have to do. But the defense in the field has been surprisingly strong and the bullpen improved. Mark down the Red Sox atop your list for a team willing to make a trade for a starter before the trade deadline.
Cubs: A Cubs/Red Sox World Series? Fenway and Wrigley in late October? Baseball history would be made, one way or the other. Chicago finished third in the division last year but still won 97 games, so their fantastic first half was not a surprise. The offense is a beast and the starting pitching is the envy of the baseball world. They are not going away and could get even better with reinforcement depth before the trade deadline.
If the Cubs and Red Sox do meet in October, who would be the winner? Cubs’ GM Theo Epstein, who was the pretty much the main architect of Boston’s three recent World Series champs and might take the Cubbies to their first World Series title since (gulp) 1907. “What size plaque would you like in Cooperstown, Mr. Epstein?”
Toronto: The Blue Jays crushed the baseball last summer but have been in the middle of the pack this season. Still, they’ve been competitive because of strong pitching behind Marco Estrada, Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ. 21-year old closer Roberto Osuna can bring the heat in the ninth, so this team only needs to get the offense untracked. If they want to make a second half run the Jays could be in the market for a bat and a fourth starter.
Cardinals: St. Louis always seems to have great pitching and defense, with just enough offense to squeeze out a few 3-2 wins each week. In 2016 that formula has been reversed, however. The Cardinals’ offense has been outstanding, one of the top run producing units in the game. They don’t steal many bases, but do everything else well, including Top 5 in slugging.
But what happened to the St. Louis train of great young arms from the farm system? Mike Wacha hasn’t been himself, Adam Wainwright has been hittable and veteran Mike Leake has been Okay. The Cards can probably get one of those three going, or add a fourth starter later this month.
Giants: We know the San Francisco wins the title in even numbered years, then takes the odd years off. Once again, it’s a presidential election year and the Giants are playing like GIANTS. They’ve been Top 10 in both runs scored and team ERA, the perfect balance to have.
The addition of Johnny Cueto a year ago is paying bigger dividends in 2016, having a monster year. Teamed with Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samadzija they have the best NL rotation outside of Wrigley Field. But the rotation drops off sharply with Jake Peavy and Matt Cain, so it’s easy to see San Francisco being a major player for another arm this month.