Submitted by Jim Feist on Tuesday, June 27, 2017 at 12:00 AM
by Jim Feist
162 games is a long season. Every year teams sprint out of the gate in April and May with October dreams, only to come back to the pack by July. It's not a sprint, of course, but a marathon, where a strong balance of pitching, defense and offense carries the best teams into the postseason. Injuries, too, are key, as well as trades made before the July deadline. Teams have figured out their strengths and weaknesses now and are beginning to look for pieces to add before the deadline, while others are figuring out whom to dump. Here's a look at some recent baseball surging and slumping teams.
Yankees: New York has been trading the last few years to stockpile the farm system and it's paying dividends. The Yankees have a talent group of young players on offense, top 10 in runs scored. RF Aaron Judge has power in his bat while Starlin Castro has star in his name and star in his game. And the pitching staff has impressed, Top 10 in ERA behind a dominant bullpen. That takes the heat off the starting rotation, which has some age with C.C. Sabathia, so New York might be aggressive at the trading deadline trying to add some rotation help.
Rockies: For years Colorado has been all offense with little pitching and this year doesn't look that much different. They are Top 10 in runs scored, bottom 10 in pitching ERA. The Rockies have a terrific infield that gets on base and can slug behind 33-year old 1B Mark Reynolds, 3B Nolan Arenago and 28-year old D.J. LeMahieu.
The pitching staff holds hope as they've gone the youth movement with so far positive results in 22-year old Antonio Senzatela, 24-year old Kyle Freeland and 27-year old Tyler Chatwood. If any team could use a reliable veteran starter for the stretch run it's this group, if they're serious about a strong second half.
Mariners: Each Seattle looks like a team that's almost there but isn't quite. Any team with an ace like Felix Hernandez won’t have long losing skids. However, the Mariners have fallen short, without much in the rotation beyond injured King Felix and James Paxton. At least they've found a reliable closer in 23-year old Edwin Diaz, long a concern with this team.
The offense has been very good behind Nelson Crus, Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano. What stands out is the home/road breakdown, where the Mariners are strong at home but wilt on the road. And those are often long road trips for this team in the northwest.
Pirates: What is going on with Pittsburgh? This young team was supposed to take off two years ago but has been up and down. They have an impressive rotation of James Taillon, Ivan Nova, and Gerrit Cole, while lefty Tony Watson has been great in the closer role. The offense has been erratic, able to get on base but not plate enough runs. In a three-game series at St. Louis they lost every game 2-1. Might be a good time to go shopping for a bat -- and a team to look at under the total in the second half?
Diamondbacks: Arizona was all offense last year and no pitching during a dreadful 69-93 campaign. But a new manager has brought optimism and better play. A powerhouse offense is led by on-base machine Paul Goldschmidt, RF David Peralta and catcher A.J. Pollack, Top 10 in runs, OBP and slugging. The pitching staff has been above-average behind Patrick Corbin and Zack Greinke. They look like a group that will be in it for the long haul and might be shopping for an arm or two next month.
Blue Jays: Wow, did this team get old fast! Toronto's pitching has taken a step back while the offense has fallen off a cliff, which has been the biggest surprise. What's going on? Father time. Jose Bautista is 36, Russell Martin is 34 and Kendrys Morales is 33. If you can fingerpoint any team to be a big seller at the trade deadline it would be this group.