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Jul 12

MLB Mid Season Report

by Robb • July 12, 2012

News Flash, People Search

Hello Spokeo blog readers! Let us introduce you to Robb, QA Specialist for Spokeo and our resident baseball expert.  Since we’re committed to keeping you updated on all people-related news, we’re inserting some baseball news to the mix.  Welcome Robb! (For those slightly less baseball literate, we’ve linked you to all of the players bios and provided definitions and descriptions when necessary.)

We are more than halfway there, by about six games. But in baseball you cannot round up.

Thank you, 2012’s first half! Thank you for the best pitcher in baseball being RA Dickey, a stark contrast from last season when Justin Verlander was keeping American League (AL) bats supressed, armed with a 100 mph heater. Thank you for another Konerko surprise, a good looking last hurrah from Chipper, the Pirates and Orioles in contention, Trum-bombs, Chapman’s somersaults, for proving Braun is for real, for getting Vernon Wells the off the field. But most of all thank you for putting Mike Trout, who is the most beautiful baseball player I have ever seen, in his place.

We have of course gotten our first taste of the spitfire that is Bryce Harper as well. The tandem of Harper and Trout together span the two extremes of baseball greatness. Of course both of them have demonstrated stunning ability in every facet of the game, including a flair for the dramatic. But over the course of time I think that the greatest have fit into two different molds. We will call these “George Bretts” and “Ken Griffey Juniors.”

Harper plays like I imagine Ty Cobb played: flooring it. He is Kobe Bryant, competing for the title at all times. He swings as hard as he can, he runs as hard as he can, and he takes the highest crow hop you’ve ever seen. He has stolen home. Harper is a Brett, he plays with a ferocious intensity that is the loudest among the many remarkable things about him. He is chaos.

But Trout… Trout is quicksilver, he is a masterpiece. He soars around the bases under total control. He is totally fluid, the essence of physical perfection. His swing is blistering, yet effortless. I watched him steal third by a mile, and pop up to go home as the throw sailed into left. As soon as he was back on his feet he was at full speed. I could only think of Griffey as a point of comparison.

Joey Votto and David Wright are the only players in baseball with a higher WAR (wins above replacement) this season and they have played 19 and 18 more games than Trout, respectively. If play stopped today he would not just be Rookie of the Year. He would be a near consensus pick for MVP. He would get the vote of the sabermetricians for leading the American League in WAR and wRC+(weighted runs created), and for being the fourth most valuable defensive player in the game (as measured by UZR/150*). He would win the American League’s batting title, and take its crown for stolen bases, to win the votes of the old school press. And he will be held in the hallowed space reserved for only the ones like him: tacked onto bedroom walls, by kids across the country.

Playoff Picture As of Today

Division Winners:

American League

  • - New York Yankee
  • - Chicago White Sox
  • - Texas Rangers

National League

  • - Washington Nationals
  • - Pittsburgh Pirates
  • - Los Angeles Dodgers

Play in Games:

American League: Los Angeles Angels v. Baltimore Orioles

National League: Cincinnati Reds v. Atlanta Braves

Who Can Stay

The Rangers, Yankees, Angels and Nationals have the talent to take their divisions and go deep into the playoffs. These are all teams that, if 2012 could be played ten times, would probably account for half of the World Series victories.

The Nationals, whether they really go the distance this year, have already shown us they could be a powerhouse for the next 5-8 years. Ryan Zimmerman isn’t even playing to his ability. Jayson Werth (say what you will), Wilson Ramos, and Drew Storen are all out and this team is still mowing down the competition. Harper has been a surprise success only because many thought he lacked the polish to contribute this early. Ian Desmond has emerged as a hitter and a leader, Ross Detwiler and Edwin Jackson have exceded expectations, and Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann, and Steven Strasburg have lived up to them. Even if Strasburg’s innings limit is adhered to and he doesn’t pitch down the stretch or in the playoffs, it is conceivable that this team could end up going deep come October.

Who Has to Worry

The Pirates have pitched very well, but have had trouble at the plate. Until recently they were on a historic pace in this particular deficiency. To put it bluntly: they were worse than the Padres. But they will likely make a trade as there is a new sense of urgency in Pittsburgh and fans have responded to what is a pretty talented team.

Detroit can’t field, and haven’t pitched all that well to boot. They need to rebound in all areas to continue to contend. The White Sox have enjoyed what can only be an all around miracle by overcoming the extreme handicap of having Kenny Williams as their GM. Rookie manager Robin Ventura is in a firmly applied headlock of winning, and maybe Youk can keep it going by hopping on the resurgence train with Jake Peavy, Adam Dunn and Alex Rios.

Baltimore and Cleveland are in the mix but cannot pitch, and the horizon is getting darker in a hurry. Each team is said to be targeting talent at the deadline, but no contender needs an arm more than these two clubs. They have been outscored by there opponents by 36 and 29 runs, respectively. By this measure they are both worse than the Mariners, who have the worst Win-Loss record in the American League.

More than any of the other Bubble Teams. The Dodgers have the chance to go all the way. Their rotation has pitched very well, there is some depth to their bullpen, they have battled through a ton of injuries and help is on the way off the DL (disabled list), and through the trade market.

Of course there is a chance their rental goes bad, or that Matt Kemps hamstring injury and Andre Ethier‘s strained oblique linger all year. In that case there cluster of three teams just a half game out of the Wild Card. The Cards are an experienced squad, the Giants are better armed offensively than in season’s past and David Wrights Mets are riding high on a wave of serious underdog momentum, despite playing the worst defense in the National League.

 

On the Second Half:

Allow us to borrow a little inspiration from RA Dickey, it seems easy to do so. There are few things so baffling and timeless as baseball, and there is nothing so baffling and timeless about the game itself, than the knuckleballer. This should remind us that as the season comes fluttering toward the finish it will look tantalizing to many, but only a few will be able to do something meaningful with it. Let’s just try to enjoy watching it dance. -Robb * Ultimate Zone Rating per 150 games, min. 345 innnings. See fangraphs’ glossary page for more information on UZR All stats are from FanGraphs.com

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