Now that we’re halfway through the season I thought I’d take a look at the teams that still have a legitimate shot at making the playoffs to see what, if anything, they can do to bolster their playoff hopes. AL is first but I promise I will not neglect the NL like some of our other contributors (cough BigLots…cough Guy).
In my opinion Seattle has been the luckiest team thus far. They haven’t had any major injuries and they’ve been hitting out of their…umm…butts. (We’re trying to be a family site.) If they’re going to make a run at the wild card or even the division they’re going to need another veteran starter. I really just don’t see any way they’re not going to tail off in the second half, especially with the distraction of Hargrove resigning.
Despite a number of injuries to key people, the A’s have managed to put together a respectable first half. As always, Billy Beane has found a way to get contributions from unlikely sources (Jack Cust, Chad Gaudin, Lenny DiNardo). Beane’s philosophy is that the first part of the season should be used to evaluate the team you’ve assembled and the second half is when you make moves to improve weaknesses. He always seems to make a move or two that works out in his favor. The A’s have typically been a second half team and I expect that to continue, especially if Rich Harden stays healthy.
I think this team is the strongest of the three contenders in the West. I know I wouldn’t want to face a 1-2-3 combo of Lackey, Escobar, and Jered Weaver in a short playoff series. They have suffered numerous injuries (Figgins, Weaver, Speir, Escobar, Willts, Izturis, etc.) and yet still have one of the best records in baseball, mostly due to their overall organizational depth. Seriously, their farm system is more loaded than Lindsay Lohan on a Wednesday night. I definitely expect the Angels to be the team to beat in the West without making any moves.
I think the Central should turn out to be the best race in the AL. Cleveland has looked great up to the half way point despite playing 65 games in the past 68 days. Honestly the thing this team needs most is just rest. The could use another quality arm in the bullpen but I think their budget keeps them out of the market for Gagne or Akinori Otsuka.
Speaking of those two, Detroit could be a major player when those two become available. Their bullpen is the only real weakness the Tigers have right now. Can someone please tell me why Todd Jones is still their closer?? His sweet mustache is really the only thing I can think of. With his declining K rate and is 5.20 ERA there are a number of better candidates on his own team! The Tigers could also upgrade in LF is anything is available at a good price; Craig Monroe has been pretty horrendous.
I listed them as a contender since they’re not that far back in the standings but I really don’t see them making a run. The back of their rotation is pretty weak and they don’t have the budget to upgrade. Their offense besides Morneau and Hunter has been far from impressive, and they really need Mauer to be healthy. It’s too bad that they probably won’t be able to do anything this year since its most likely going to be Hunter’s last year playing for the Twinkies.
It looks like the Red Sox have the division locked up, but I’m not going to believe it until I see it. Even if they do, things are definitely not perfect for the Sox. From what I’ve been reading this Schilling injury may be worse than initially indicated. Now that Buerhle is off the market there is basically no starting pitching available so they may be forced to rely on a rookie in the rotation the rest of the way. Manny Delcarmen has started to look like he may be capable of being a suitable setup man to complement Okajima and Papelbon, but I still wouldn’t mind seeing them make a play for Gagne or Otsuka if the price is right. This team’s hitting has been decent but has definitely underperformed. Manny hasn’t gotten hot, Ortiz’s power is lacking, and Lugo…actually I’m still not ready to talk about Lugo.NL later this afternoon/evening.