The All-Star break is the traditional midpoint on the Major league calendar, but most teams have played about half of their 162 games by now. And it is the beginning of the final three months, so now’s as good a time as any to take a look at what’s been happening to the boys.
THE BIG THREE
You can’t ask much more than what Ryan Braun has accomplished to date. He is currently
• 8th in NL in HR (16)
• 4th in NL in RBI (60)
• 2rd in NL in BA (.321)
• 6th in NL in SB (19)
• 2nd in NL in R (57)
• 6th in NL in SB (19)
• 4th in NL in SLG (.562)
• 4th in NL in OPS (.964)
With a good second half and perhaps a fall-off from some of the guys above him (not that we’re wishing anything bad to happen, God forbid), it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Braun could be the first Jewish Triple Crown winner (home runs, RBIs, and batting average). And don’t forget the 19 stolen bases; that combined with the 16 homers puts him on pace to join the 30/30 club (and he’s not too shabby with the glove either). With the Brewers vying for first place in the NL Central Division, a post-season berth might go a long way in making Braun a serious MVP candidate.
Slowly but surely?
Kevin Youkilis numbers are slowly edging up after a horrendous start. While he’s till some 31 points away from .300, he’s “on pace” for more than 100 RBIs and near 100 walks. If only he can stay health. Youkilis has missed six of the team’s 80 games and has a tendency to get banged up (he’s tied for second in AL hit-by-pitches). He’s seventh among AL batters in RBIs and ninth in walks. Plus he’s a mensch, very busy on the charity circuit. (Old picture, by the way; he still has in famous goatee.)
Ian Kinsler is in a similar situation, except that he got off to a torrid start and has cooled off considerably. He’s a streaky hitter with some pop and speed (11 homers, 15 stolen bases, good for eighth in the league, so if he gets hot again, he could also make 30/30).
Like Braun, both Youkilis and Kinsler play on teams that are expected to still be playing after the regular season is over. Texas leads the AL West by a game; Boston is 2 1/2 behind the Yankees in the AL East. A
JMLS, THE NEXT GENERATION
Good neighbor Sam.
Dominique Wilkins was a nine-time NBA All-Star, and one of the best dunkers in NBA history, earning the nickname “The Human Highlight Film.” Although considerably shorter at 5’10″, Sam Fuld has become something a folk hero. He was given the starting role for the Tampa Bay Rays after Manny Ramirez suddenly resigned (in the face of another possible PED suspension) and went nuts, batting as high as .366 with lots of extra base hits and steals. Perhaps more entertaining has been his defensive play. The Rays sponsored a Super Sam day, handing out capes to the fans. As an example of how much of a pop culture figure he’s become is this profile in the current edition of The New Yorker, a preview of which you can read here.
Of course the season isn’t over yet, but Danny Valencia has a bit disappointing to date. Although showing flashes of brilliance, his numbers are down from his fine rookie campaign.Of course, he’s not the only reason the Twins are flailing in the AL Central (fourth place, just two ahead of the Kansas City Royals). In fact, management keeps looking for answers and has shifted him in the order, batting him everywhere from fourth to eight. He leads the team in RBIs, but they’re 26th in the majors in runs scored, so that’s somewhat of a dubious distinction.
Poor Mets. Poor (Jewish) Mets fans. Poor Ike Davis. Where would they all be if he had been healthy all this time? When he went down with his ankle injury in mid-May, he was among the NL leaders in home runs and RBIs. Now it questionable if he’ll even be back this year. The Mets are doing better than a lot of people probably expected — many of their current players began the season in AAA Buffalo — so how much better could they have been with Davis, David Wright (who’s been out roughly the same amount of time), and pitching ace Johan Santana, who has yet to pick up a ball in anger?
MAKING THEIR PITCH
After a disastrous 2010, Jason Marquis has made an impressive comeback for the Washington Nationals. His 7-2 record could have been better given a couple of breaks and he’s given the team a very competent fifth starter. More often than not, he’s pitched deep into his games, although he has suffered the occasional glitch. Overall, however, Washington has to be happy with what he’s given them.
Grab-ing the Bres
Sorry, there’s not a whole lot to say about middle relievers.Nothing terribly sexy about them, no closer bravado, no starting pitcher clippings. If they do well, it’s only for a batter or two as a bridge to the (new) eighth-inning specialist and the closer.
Craig Breslow has been doing a steady job for the A’s, appearing in the second-most games for all pitchers. I wish I could say the same for the Cubs’ John Grabow, who, frankly, fills me with dread when he enters a game. Perhaps it’s just bad timing or luck, but I hate seeing those high WHIPs (Walks-plus-hits per innings pitched) that usually accompany Grabow’s name in the box scores. Even though it’s comparable to Breslow’s, it seems to come in more inopportune times, as indicated by Grabow’s high ERA.