Previously in the Recap series, I discussed some of the trades that occurred in early-mid July. As the trade deadline loomed on the horizon, GMs became more aggressive and went after the more coveted players that were being shopped on the block.
07/23/12: (NYY-SEA) Yankees get I. Suzuki (OF), Mariners get D.J. Mitchell (SP), and Danny Farquhar (RP)
Another superstar has entered the fold in New York. Ichiro (38) will merely serve as another insurance OF for the Yankees. Yes, he had 10 consecutive 200+ hit seasons. Yes, he batted above .300 for 9 of them. However he is on the decline. In 2011, he had career lows in hits (184), BA (.272), and OBP (.310). While he is still racking the SB count (and those will go down soon as well), he cannot beat out the infield single as easily as he used to. His biggest asset was his quickness, but his second was his gold glove. He still is a premier defender and will provide a nice defensive substitute down the stretch. Until Gardner returns, Ichiro will most likely get the nod. If he does well, Manager Joe Girardi will stick him somewhere else (depending on the FA this offseason). On the other side of the trade, Seattle is clearly making a break from the Suzuki-era; they are trying to rebuild and create a new face to the franchise. These two 2008 draftees will help out one way or another. Of the two, Mitchell has greater potential but Farquhar will make the quicker impact at the major league level.
Conclusion – This was more or less a dump by Seattle in order to transition to an Ichiro-less future.
As the July 31st trade deadline fades into our rear-view mirror, teams are gearing up for the home stretch. Playoff contenders are looking to shore up missing pieces, bottom feeders are looking to snag deals for their rebuilding process, and GMs are looking to ship fat contracts far away in hopes of a deep splash in the FA pool this off season. While there have been a multitude of trades over the last few days, I will tell you all you need to know about em in this Recap series.
Previously in the Predictions series, we covered the National League (as a whole), American League East, and American League West post-All-Star break predictions. Now we move onto the final division: the American League Central.
Just to clarify, the Predictions series was written during the All-Star Break. All information thereafter has not been taken into account.
American League Central
Overview: The three contending teams in the 2012 season are Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland. Kansas City and Minnesota will continue to build and make a strong presence in the years to come.
Currently leading the pack are the Chicago White Sox, with a record of 47-38. Chicago has been playing well enough to keep themselves as contenders in this division. They are getting solid production from their DH, C, 1B, and OF. De Aza, Viciedo, and Rios are a playoff contending outfield. Adam Dunn is doing what he does best, and that is hitting longballs. His 28 HR and 75 BB make up for his usually poor BA of .204. The veterans Pierzynski (.286 and 16) and Konerko (.323 and 14) are putting up premier numbers. The rotation has its ups and downs, but its been able to stay in there. With anchors Chris Sale and Jake Peavy, fans can be assured of quality starts from their top two. Jose Quintana has been a pleasant surprise this year, boasting a 4-1 record and a .231 BAA. However much is needed when it comes to sealing the division. The reality is that the Wild Card spots will come from either the West or the East, so if the Sox want to make the playoffs they must push hard and fend off Detroit and Cleveland. In order for this to happen, Chicago has to bring veterans to the bullpen (Addison Reed, their 23 year-old closer, has been struggling; the rest of the pen has been as well). The pitching staff is finally getting healthy, and I foresee that a strong second half is in order. Back of the rotation starter Philip Humber has been injured but should be back soon and lower his 6.35 ERA back to Earth in the 2nd half. SP John Danks should return late August and help them make a late surge for the division crown. The IF bats have been the missing puzzle piece in terms of offense. Alexei Ramirez has been a huge disappointment this season and needs to heat up soon. Gordon Beckham’s defense is stellar, but his bat needs to improve if he wants to live up to his high draft pick and prospect rank. Recently acquired 3B Kevin Youkilis has been hitting .279 with 5 HR and appears very comfortable in Chicago. Their Keys to Victory are better IF production, a veteran presence in the pen, and a healthy rotation.
Previously in the Predictions series, we discussed both the National League (as a whole) and American League East post-All-Star break predictions. It is time to move westward and look into what will happen throughout the hot summer heat in the A.L. West.
American League West
Overview: At the top of this division lies the Texas Rangers. Sitting with a comfortable 5.5 game lead over the Angels, the two-time reigning A.L. champions are vengefully seeking a World Series win. They have an elite and well rounded pitching staff. Yu Darvish has been a more than pleasant surprise, becoming the Rangers ace in one fell swoop. The rookie pitching phenom from Japan has a 10-6 record with a 3.96 ERA and 121 Ks. The rest of the rotation features several talented young arms (and Roy Oswalt) who have proven that they can get the job done. Joe Nathan has come back to Minnesota-form and found his All-Star groove with Texas. The offense features run scoring potential throughout (well, except for the C spot), and makes any opposing pitcher shudder with just a glance at the lineup card. While there is no doubt this team is stacked in both pitching and hitting, there is always room to improve. In order to distance themselves from Oakland and LA, the Rangers must remain healthy. While Feliz, Lewis, and Moreland are all on the DL for 15 days or more, they had the backups necessary to keep the Wins coming. However, they will not be looking too fly if another starter gets hurt. They need to move Napoli back to the C spot once Mitch Moreland returns to provide more pop from 1B. GM Ron Washington will also need to step it up. His managerial decisions come playoff time have come into question several times during the past two years. To sum it all up, their Key to Victory is staying healthy.
Having taken a brutal beating from the National League in the 2012 All Star Game (an 8-0 shutout), the American League sits shocked wondering how it all went wrong. Barring the loss of home field advantage, A.L. teams must steel themselves for the next 81 games, and potentially thereafter.
American League East
Overview: If you took a look at the standings as of the All Star break, you would see some peculiarities. So many questions lie within the 2012 second half, and that is what will make this year a very exciting year to call one’s self a baseball fan.
Aside from the Yankees being at the top of the division, nothing looks as it did the for the past half-decade. The Orioles, currently in second, had the A.L. East lead on lock down for almost all of the first half. The next few weeks will be the deciding factor on whether or not they will attain playoff status (their last time this occurred was in 1997). They need help at 3B and with their rotation. Will they land an ace in Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) or Zack Greinke (MIL)? Who would they be willing to give up? Young’uns like Manny Machado, an elite young SS, and top pitching prospect 19 year-old Dylan Bundy? Or are they looking to give away high potential starting pitchers, Jake Arrieta and Brian Matsuz, who have been major letdowns at the major league level? Gut feeling tells me they realize that they actually can field a playoff team and will do whatever it takes to get that; the Orioles have grit.