Change-UpJuly 05, 2007
Mid-Year Handicap: The American League
By Patrick Sullivan

With every team in the Bigs now past the 81-game mark, it seems like a good time to take a look at how we got here, where we might be going and which teams look like the best shot to be playing meaningful October baseball. I am going to look at only those teams I view as having a chance at the post-season, point out what they have done well, where they could improve and what their prospects look like going forward.

AL East

Boston Red Sox
411 runs scored (6th in AL), 324 runs allowed (1st in AL)

The others had their shot. Since May 31, Curt Schilling has been injured, the lineup has done nothing and the Sox have gone 16-15. Boston hit .264/.348/.413 in June, an abysmal line for a lineup containing the talent Boston's does. Slugging .413 for a month while playing home games in Fenway Park is not easy to do. Fortunately for them, they play in the league's worst division. The closest thing resembling a charge that any team could muster was the 17-13 stretch the New York Yankees have put together since the same date.

Boston will snap out. Come hell, high water, Jacoby Ellsbury or Alex Cora, they will get more out of center field and shortstop than they have thus far in 2007. Boston is 11th in the AL in center field OPS thus far, having posted a .256/.313/.373 line. Their shortstops (Julio Lugo, ahem) have been dead last (.201/.268/.303). In addition, Manny Ramirez (.285/.385/.467) and J.D. Drew (.261/.373/.402) have not yet hit like they can.

Boston's pitching has been superb, and they have received better production than they could have hoped for from Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Lowell. Each of these components could regress in the second half, but the aforementioned improvement candidates figure to offset them. Further, Boston has the farm system to deal for an extra part or two come deadline time.

With an 11.5 game lead on the morning of July 5, I just don't see how anyone can catch these Red Sox. But then, my father probably felt the same way on July 5, 1978.

AL Central

Cleveland Indians
453 runs scored (2nd in AL), 389 runs allowed (9th in AL)

Detroit Tigers
482 runs scored (1st), 395 runs allowed (10)

Minnesota Twins
394 runs score (9th), 369 runs allowed (4th)

Last week I would have felt really good about including Minnesota on this list. I feel strongly that Detroit's offense is in for a major fall back to earth in the second half and I thought that given their bullpen struggles and crummy 3-5 starting pitching, they would be in for a mediocre second half. But I am starting to think that Andrew Miller, Kenny Rogers and the soon-to-return Joel Zumaya easily make up for the regression Magglio Ordonez, Gary Sheffield, Carlos Guillen, Placido Polanco and Curtis Granderson are all likely to endure. Detroit is for real, and with Justin Verlander and Jeremy Bonderman anchoring that starting rotation, they have a great chance at making another post-season run.

Minnesota is probably not going to catch Detroit, but there is hope for the Twins. Any offensive production from position players not named Morneau, Hunter, Cuddyer or Mauer would go a long way. As would some quality starting pitching from any one of its youngsters. Minnesota may have a run in them, but they will have to climb over two teams that I regard as clearly superior to them.

Cleveland's offense is fantastic and I think due some inprovement. Travis Hafner should improve in the second half, and the lefty half of the right field / left field platoon that was so brilliantly pieced together (or so I thought) has not lived up to its billing. David Dellucci has been terrible, and just as we in Boston suspected, Trot Nixon's power is zapped. Jason Michaels, Casey Blake and Franklin Gutierrez have all been solid, however. I also have to think they can get more out of Josh Barfield than the downright Lugo-esque .257/.283/.337 line he has achieved thus far.

On the pitching side, it's been C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona and then little else for Cleveland. Paul Byrd has been serviceable, I guess, but the 4th and 5th slots in their rotation have been a black hole. Though he has improved a bit of late, Cliff Lee has had a rough go of it this year. Jake Westbrook and Jeremy Sowers have been a disaster. Improvement from any of these three combined with some of the hitting improvement that should come means Cleveland should be sitting pretty the rest of the year.

AL West

Los Angeles Angels
421 runs scored (5th in the AL), 360 runs allowed (3rd in the AL)

Seattle Mariners
404 runs scored (7th), 400 runs allowed (11th)

There just is not a whole lot to say about this one. The AL West should be the Angels in a landslide. Seattle doesn't hit it or pitch it all that well and have been lucky to win as many as they have. They will fall off. Meanwhile, it's hard to see how the Angels could fall off. Orlando Cabrera and Reggie Willits may regress, but Ervin Santana and a healthy Howie Kendrick should more than make up.

Oakland is omitted because there have been reports out there that they will be deadline sellers and it makes a lot of sense. They just don't have the horses to get it done this year and I think Billy Beane will recognize this.


Nothing is settled yet, but I would be shocked if the four teams that would qualify for post-season play today if the season ended, are not vying to represent the American League in the Fall Classic come October.

Anyone else see some darkhorses that I might be missing?


Great site! Just found out about this, as it appeared someone jumped to my blog from here. I have no idea why.

I will be a regular visitor. Can you predict if the Braves will lose Bobby COx at the end of the season? And what is going to happen to Andruw Jones?

Sully, as a fellow Sox fan(and yes your bias is inherent in your posts) I agree that Manny, Papi and the middle order will start to crunch. What concerns me is the starting pitching. Its been awesome thus far. Schilling is now out indefinitely. Dice-K is looking sweet but has thrown bucketloads of innings and Wakefield fell off the planet last year in the 2nd half. Tavarez is well...Tavarez. And where is Lester?These are issues that keep me up at night.

You could be right about the A's, Sully, but it's too early to toss dirt on the coffin yet. A Mariners regression combined with a post All-
Star surge by Oakland could change Billy Beane's mind.

Tim Wakefield 'fell off the planet,' so to speak, because he had a stress fracture in a rib. That would be a little difficult to pitch through, I imagine.

Dice-K has thrown a good amount of pitches, but this is the same guy who was a workhorse in Japan as well. Any pitcher with a lot of innings at such a young age is a dicey proposition, no pun intended, but I believe he will stay healthy.

The Sox are getting somewhat acceptable performances out of Tavarez and are waiting for Lester to start being consistent and a little more dominant in Triple-A. I have no worries about him. Why rush him?

Quote: Tavarez is well...Tavarez. And where is Lester?

Tavrez is well... a #3 starter for the sox this year. a 4.39 ERA with the stats to back most of that ERA up is nothing to scoff at. And Lester has been mediocre at best in the minors this year. all of the scouting reports state that his stuff isnt as sharp and his velocity is down as well. Just look at his AAA numbers at, he's striking out around 6/9ip and walking 4/9ip and allowing a decent amount of hits and hr. Let's not forget that when lester's luck evened out last year he was a #4 starter.

Not trying to bash Lester, just trying to show that he's not anything close to an upgrade over tavarez right now.

If you really don't think the Yankees have a "chance at the postseason" (your qualification for inclusion in this column) I am going to have to question your judgement. Their pythagorean record and stabilized rotation (especially once Hughes is back in a few weeks) makes them tough to ignore

I think the key to the Twins having a run in the central will be their pitching. If Kubel continues to hit as he has recently and Rondell White actually comes back healthy after the break, the Twins offense is only going to get better. My guess is that they have already taken too long to answer the questions in the rotation. They are going to need Baker, Bonser and Garza to be steady producers from here on out. I would bet on any one of them individually, but all three is going to be tough.