Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, July 12, 2018 at 12:00 AM
HERE’S OUR JIM SEZ
NATIONAL LEAGUE REPORT CARD GRADES
The Major-League Baseball All-Star Game is right around the bend – it’s here on Tuesday night from Washington D.C. (you might have heard!) – and so that means it’s time for our annual Jim Sez Report Card Grades for the unofficial first half of this 2018 season.
We’ll get things jump-started today with the National League grades and we’ll clue you in on the American League in our next column space, so don’t dare miss out!
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THE NATIONAL LEAGUE REPORT CARD GRADES
MILWAUKEE (55-39) – The Brew Crew has yet to take its foot off the gas pedal this year while staying just above the archrival Chicago Cubs in the NL Central race for first place. You can thank manager Craig Counsell – right now the leader in terms of NL Manager of the Year honors – for making lots of savvy moves and for adroitly utilizing his bench/bullpen and how about a round of applause for 1B Jesus Aguilar (23 HR, 67 RBI, .307 average – all team highs) who finally landed on the All-Star roster.
ATLANTA (51-40) – The “over” wins projection for this here-and-now Braves team was 75.5 back in spring training and so this NL East crew figures to smash that mark sometime in the month of August. No doubt the infusion of young every-day talent – read 2B Ozzie Albies and OF Ronald Acuna to go along with current NL batting average leader Nick Markakis (.322) – has been a boon for the Braves who are making things happen with an average pitching staff that ranks eighth in the league in team ERA.
PHILADELPHIA (52-40) – Consider that the Phillies had one of the weirdest starts to a season (see opening day meltdown by rookie manager Gabe Kapler, etc.) and still they’re double-digit games over the .500 mark and they really have not gotten all that much from free-agent/big-bucks RHP Jake Arrieta … maybe it’s time folks tossed some bouquets Kapler’s way, right?
CHICAGO CUBS (52-38) – The Cubbies have a far-and-away NL-best + 105 mark in terms of runs differential and no question 2B Javy Baez (team-highs 18 HR, 66 RBI) is right there at the top of the league’s MVP race but closer Brandon Morrow (20 saves) has given Joe Maddon’s squad some end-of-the-game stability and LHP starters Jon Lester and Jose Quintana have been sharp. Right now, the Cubs are even in the all-important loss column with the Brewers but don’t be surprised if Chitown passes ‘em by in the standings by the break.
ARIZONA (51-43) – One of the streakiest teams we’ve seen in MLB, this Diamondbacks crew managed to win even when All-Star 1B Paul Goldschmidt struggled and yet lost a batch of games when “Goldy” heated up … go figure. The bottom line: ‘Zona is slightly ahead of schedule when it comes to the “over” projection of 85.5 wins and LHP Patrick Corbin (1.05 WHIP) has been a blessing while regaining his health.
LOS ANGELES DODGERS (50-42) – Maybe we’re being a bit kind to the Dodgers who were slated to win 97 games this year but consider the shabby/post-World Series hangover start to this year and the fact key 3B Justin Turner missed the first couple of months and LHP Clayton Kershaw has not been in the rotation all that much from start to now. Give oft-criticized manager Dave Roberts some kudos for keeping the LA gang afloat and a tip of the hat to lefty stick Max Muncy (21 HRs) who’s headed to next week’s Home Run Hitting Contest.
SAN FRANCISCO (49-46) – The Giants rank 12th in the league in home runs, 12th in runs scored and 9th in team ERA and yet here they are in the thick of the NL West race thanks in large part to being 13 games over .500 at home … the Bruce Bochy effect (again!). No LHP Madison Bumgarner for most of this current campaign hasn’t shaken the Jints’ overall confidence.
ST. LOUIS (47-44) – Folks, we keep waiting for the Cardinals to get on some sort of winning streak but the Redbirds remain stop-and-start (e.g., split last 10 games) and it’s troubling that St. Loo is only 23-22 at home. The groin-area injury to C Yadier Molina kept him sidelined for a batch of games but All-Star INF Matt Carpenter (17 HR, .372 on-base percentage) has been a star for a team that ranks a so-so eighth in the league in runs scored. Hey, thank goodness for All-Star RHP Miles Mikolas who entered the year a major question mark (and #4 or #5 starter) and has 10 wins and a nifty 1.01 WHIP.
MIAMI (39-56) – Gotta admit that the stripped-down Marlins have been more competitive on a game-by-game basis than we originally thought and truth is the Fish is slightly ahead of schedule in terms of their 64.5 wins total at season’s start. Too bad that underrated LHP Caleb Smith went down for the year recently – his 88 Ks and 5 wins still leads this rather no-name staff.
COLORADO (48-45) – The Rockies are right around where you’d expect ‘em to be but consider that they’re 20-23 at Coors Field and that 3B Nolan Arenado (23 HR, 66 RBI) is an unhappy camper these days.
CINCINNATI (41-52) – Give the Reds some credit for a recent hot stretch (remember that Cincy started off the year at 3-17!) as underrated 3B Eugenio Suarez (19 HR, 69 RBI – both team highs) has been a great complement to lefty winger 1B Joey Votto (.424 on-base pct) this year.
PITTSBURGH (44-49) – Hey, the Pirates are right around where the “experts” thought they’d be with a .467 winning percentage (a .456 winning rate will get ‘em the over 73.5 wins) but the pitching’s been real bad (12th in the league in ERA at 4.41) and only closer LHP Felipe Vazquez (20 saves) has looked good.
WASHINGTON (47-46) – Quite frankly, we’re getting tired of answering the question, “What’s wrong with the Nationals” on a seemingly annual basis. Rookie manager Davey Martinez hasn’t pushed many of the right buttons and – yes, we know star 2B Daniel Murphy has missed a gazillion games – but this offense ranks just 9th in the league in batting average and runs scored and even All-Star Game starter RF Bryce Harper’s been sub-par.
SAN DIEGO (40-55) – Sorry, we realize the “over” wins projection was 73 W’s for this Padres team but we expected more oomph after the signing of 1B Eric Hosmer but this SD squad is 14th (or next-to-last) in the league in both home runs and runs scored.
NEW YORK METS (37-54) – To be fair, the Mets were supposed to be a .500-type team in 2018 even though they made some significant off-season free-agent signings (see OF Jay Bruce, 3B Todd Frazier and reliver Anthony Swarzak) but the bottom fell out soon after that electric/unexpected 11-1 start and first-year manager Mickey Callaway has been a gigantic bust … what was then-GM Sandy Alderson thinking when he hired this dude? If it wasn’t for RHP Jacob deGrom (MLB-best 1.68 ERA) then this season would remind Mets fans of 1962!
NOTE: Catch the American League Report Card Grades in the next edition of Jim Sez.