BOSTON RED SOX (Grade: A)
Fans of the Boston Red Sox must be happily surprised with the play of their team, being in first place after the disaster of the “Bobby Valentine Era” of ’12.
John Farrell, in his first season with the Red Sox, is an AL Manager of the Year candidate, because in all honesty, this team wasn’t expected, nor should they have been expected, to be in first place at the point of the season.
Clay Buchholz has earned an All-Star selection with his performance on the mound this season. The ace of the Sox is 9-0 with an ERA of 1.71 in 12 starts (84.1 innings). He’s accomplished all of that even with a current stint on the disabled list.
Team MVP: David Ortiz (DH) — Ortiz’s numbers speak for themselves. In 77 games this season, the designated hitter has 91 hits, including 22 doubles, two triples and 19 home runs. He’s batting .317 with 65 RBIs.
TAMPA BAY RAYS (Grade: B)
The Tampa Bay Rays were my choice at the start of the season to win the East, and though they’re in second place in their division, the first half could have been better than what it is.
It is good to see David Price becoming his old self in recent starts with his past two games going the distance, though his season consists of a record of 3-5 with a 3.94 ERA and 67 strikeouts, one year removed from winning the CY Young award.
In July, the Rays have really begun to turn things around, though it is against teams with below .500 records, as they are 12-2 in the first 14 days of the month.
This team has the potential to catch the Red Sox, and I see them and Boston battling for the division crown into late September.
Team MVP: Evan Longoria (3B) — I felt he should have been selected to the All-Star team, but his numbers are near the top of every category for Tampa Bay. Longoria is batting .278 with 97 hits (22 doubles, two triples) in 93 games with 18 home runs. His OBP is .356 with a SLG of .507. Longoria also has 52 RBIs.
BALTIMORE ORIOLES (Grade: B-)
Though they trail the Red Sox in the standings, I like what the Baltimore Orioles have done this season. The O’s have a losing record thus far in July, but they had a winning record in June (17-12), May (15-13) and April (16-11).
This team has the potential to win the East, no doubt about it, with their offensive capabilities, but they currently trail the Red Sox and Rays in the standings. That’s never an easy feat, no matter how many doubles Manny Machado or home runs Chris Davis are piling up.
Machado has 39 doubles, with 128 total hits in 96 games. His BA is .310 with a .470 SLG and an .807 OPS.
Team MVP: Chris Davis (1B) — Only need to know one number when it comes to “Crush” Davis … 37, as in 37 home runs before the All-Star break. I really like what Machado has done this season, but Davis’ home run power, in my opinion, tops doubles.
NEW YORK YANKEES (Grade: C-)
This doesn’t even look like a New York Yankees ball club whatsoever, but that is what happens when injuries arise in multiple numbers, and they are forced to bring up players.
I can’t say I’ve watched a ton of Yankees baseball, but from what I’ve watched this season, the Yankee lore hasn’t been there. When you have to rely on a 19-year veteran who is coming off a broken ankle from last season to provide a spark … well, you can say it isn’t your year, or at least half-year.
They have just one player batting .300 or better in Robinson Cano, who also leads them in home runs with 21 and 64 RBIs. The Yankees have just one pitcher with nine wins in CC Sabathia (9-8), with an ERA of 4.07, so that somewhat explains their current pitching situation.
Mariano Rivera is 30-for-32 in his final season in the majors. He has an ERA of 1.83 in 38 games (34.1 IP), so that’s a plus.
Injuries have hurt this team, and if their wounds don’t heal fast, they won’t catch the top three teams in this division.
Team MVP: Robinson Cano (2B) — The Yankees are Cano’s team, even though he really isn’t the captain. Cano’s aforementioned stats speak for themselves, but he’s in the present of MLB at second base, and he still has a bright future ahead.
TORONTO BLUE JAYS (Grade: F)
The hype of the Toronto Blue Jays’ offseason was nothing more than overexcited hope for the same ol’ Blue Jays. Though they tried to become a better team by trading for most of the Miami Marlins’ roster, it hasn’t gone in their favor.
They are 12 games out of first place, and one reason is their pitching, especially when it comes to R.A. Dickey, who is 8-10 with a 4.69 ERA in 20 starts. He’s allowed 67 earned runs (20 home runs). Josh Johnson’s season hasn’t been up to par either (1-4, 4.62 ERA in 11 starts), nor has Mark Buehrle’s first year in Canada (5-6, 4.89 ERA, 63 earned runs). When three of your top pitchers have a combined 14 wins, you are going to be sitting in last place. Bottom line.
Honestly, do you see this team making the postseason with a second-half surge with a team that was built to begin winning this season? I don’t, either.
Team MVP: Edwin Encarnacion (1B) — Encarnacion has come a long way in his MLB career since being traded by the Cincinnati Reds to the Blue Jays for Scott Rolen a few years back. Encarnacion has played in 90 games thus far with a .265 BA with 91 hits, 25 being home runs. He’s also added 71 RBIs, the most for the Blue Jays.