Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, July 9, 2019 at 12:00 AM
OUR NATIONAL LEAGUE REPORT CARD GRADES ARE IN! ...
MORE NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM UPDATES: IT'S THE BILLS, LIONS & SAINTS
School may be out for summer ... But Major-League Baseball's Report Card Grades are in and so we'll get you the National League's team-by-team grades in today's Jim Sez and our next column will feature the American League team grades:
LOS ANGELES DODGERS (60-32) - Baseball's best team at the break, the Dodgers have won a batch of "walk-offs" and every night there's a different hero. MVP frontrunner OF Cody Bellinger (.336 batting average, 30 HR, 71 RBI and 107 runs scored) is a whiz on "D" too while All-Star Game starting pitcher LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (10-2, 0.91 WHIP) never gets hit hard. If this ain't the year the Dodgers break the 31-year-old World Series curse, then when?
ATLANTA (54-27) - The Braves were the NL East's "forgotten team" last off-season when folks were critical of the club's lack of player moves but look at 'em now: Entering the break, Atlanta's six games ahead of Washington / 6.5 games ahead of Philadelphia with plenty of power on tap (143 home runs) and a true MVP candidate in 1B Freddie Freeman (.309 batting average with 23 HR, 68 RBI and a .394 on-base percentage).
PITTSBURGH (44-45) - Three cheers for the Pirates who (as we mentioned in yesterday's Jim Sez) have been the "best bets" in the NL this year with a + 654 profit margin thus far and slugger Josh Bell sports 27 of the team's 98 home runs on the year. Manager Clint Hurdle has kept it all together after a 20-34 spell that ended back on June 18th and this club could be dangerous if the Pirates can get anything from RHP Chris Archer (5.49 ERA).
ARIZONA (46-45) - The Diamondbacks were projected to win 75.5 games, so they're a bit ahead of pace as RHP Zack Greinke (10-3, 2.73 ERA with 108 Ks and just 15 BBs) has been worth his weight in gold. P.S., the D-Backs haven't missed 1B Paul Goldschmidt as much as they thought they would.
Grade: B -
CINCINNATI (41-46) - The Reds have stayed in the hunt (just 4.5 games back of the Cubs in the NL Central race) thanks to some brilliant pitching (3.77 ERA is third-best in baseball) and note RHP Luis Castillo (8-3, 2.29 ERA with 124 Ks in 106 IP) is our NL Cy Young guy right this minute.
WASHINGTON (47-42) - Truth is the Nats were buried alive weeks ago but they've gone 28-11 since May 23rd and SS Trea Turner's return from a broken finger (he missed six weeks on the IL) has coincided with the team's resurrection.
SAN DIEGO (45-45) - The Pods were hoping for a bit more from free-agent signee Manny Machado (20 dingers, 76 K) but closer Kirby Yates (29 saves) has been brilliant and winning the last three games at Dodger Stadium just prior to the break was uber-important.
COLORADO (44-45) - Truth is the Rockies looked buried after the first couple of weeks (see a dreadful 3-12 start) but savvy manager Bud Black has 'em back in the wild card race even though they rank 28th in the bigs in team ERA (5.16).
MIAMI (33-55) - The low-salaried Marlins have given plenty of folks fits this year but no hiding the fact this offense is awful (dead-last in MLB in runs scored with 312 or 3.54 runs per game) though Garrett Cooper could be a future star.
PHILADELPHIA (47-43) - The Phils rank 19th in the big leagues in home runs (with 115) and 19th in team ERA (4.64) and so maybe Gabe Kapler's club is "fortunate" to be sitting here a few games north of the .500 mark. It's possible that OF Jay Bruce - and not $300 million man Bryce Harper - will be this team's savior in 2019.
SAN FRANCISCO (41-48) - Offensively-challenged Giants are right about where they were supposed to be (see wins projection of 73.5 this year) as closer Will Smith (23 of 23 in save opportunities) has kept outgoing manager Bruce Bochy thinking a wild card is possible (5.5 games back).
Grade: C -
CHICAGO CUBS (47-43) - Talk about a roller-coaster season! The Cubbies have alternately run hot-and-cold through the first 55 percent of this season and there's no reason Joe Maddon's club ranks 13th in the majors in runs scored (455) with this hearty lineup. Maybe recently-signed closer Craig Kimbrel can rescue this underachieving bunch the rest of the way.
MILWAUKEE (47-44) - Go ahead and put the Brewers right there with the Cubs for overall inconsistency. Last year's NLCS Game 7 loser has gotten yet another monster year from OF Christian Yelich (.329 batting average with 31 HRs and 67 RBI and remember he missed nine or 10 games) but this lineup ranks middle-of-the-pack in runs scored and the pen has blown 10 saves.
ST. LOUIS (44-44) - Score it a third consecutive C- grade for an NL Central squad as these Cardinals have some excuses (see back problems suffered by past All-Star Matt Carpenter and hefty ERAs from the likes of starters RHPs Adam Wainwright and Michael Wacha) but they just have not played smart /sound ball.
NEW YORK METS (40-50) - One of MLB's biggest disappointments, the Mets have been a real train wreck, thanks in large part to a brutally bad bullpen (closer Edwin Diaz already has six losses) to go along with a terrible defensive squad. P.S., 30-HR guy Pete Alonso - Monday's Home Run Derby champ -- and hit machine Jeff McNeil have been terrific, but the Mets truthfully didn't know either of these guys would be this good.
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers keep winning big with Major-League Baseball action every day of the week. Make sure you cash in on tonight's All-Star Game here at 1-800-323-4453. Pile up the profits as we head towards another great NCAA Football / NFL season straight ahead! Remember that the NFL Hall of Fame Game is set for August 1st in Canton as the Denver Broncos battle the Atlanta Falcons.
NFL TEAM-BY-TEAM / SUMMERTIME LOOKS
We continue rollin' along with our annual Jim Sez NFL team-by-team summer accounts right here - and every day here at Jim Sez we'll be posting two or three teams as we check out news/notes/reports while getting ready for camp. Plus, we get you some key pointspread info to boot and note a team's SU (straight-up) record is listed next to the team name. Today, we focus on the Buffalo Bills, the Detroit Lions and the New Orleans Saints. Next up: The Indianapolis Colts, the Oakland Raiders and the Philadelphia Eagles.
BUFFALO (6-10) - Let's just say the Bills don't have the utmost confidence in veteran RB LeSean "Shady" McCoy in making a major comeback from what was a down year: McCoy averaged just 3.2 yards per carry in the 2018 season and so this AFC East crew went out and added ancient RB Frank Gore, rookie Devin Singletary (Florida Atlantic) and the 25-year-old TJ Yeldon to the mix in hopes of "spelling" McCoy at times. The team's current depth chart lists McCoy (514 yards rushing on 161 attempts with 3 TDs last year) as the starter and Gore as second string.
Pointspread Notes - None of the Bills' recent head coaches has really distinguished themselves versus the vig as the following numbers attest: Third-year head coach Sean McDermott is a collective 17-15-1 ATS (against the spread) through the 2017-18 seasons; Rex Ryan went 14-15-2 against the odds in 2015-16 (he was fired prior to Week 17); Doug Marrone registered a 17-15 ATS mark in 2012-14; and Chan Gailey finished up a three-year stint (2010-12) with a 21-25-2 ATS log.
DETROIT (6-10) - Nobody in / around Motown has to remind Lions' fans that QB Matthew Stafford has never won a single playoff game (he's 0-3 lifetime in the post-season) and his QB Record of 66-75-0 SU hardly gets the heart pumping, yet the 11th-year slinger could have new life this season under first-year offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell (late of the Seattle Seahawks). Note that Stafford lost "security blanket" WR Golden Tate to the New York Giants but rookie TE T.J. Hockenson (pick #8 overall) and former New England star WR Danny Amendola are new targets that could be red-zone keys.
Pointspread Notes - The Lions are a collective 20-27-2 ATS in divisional games the past eight years and that includes failing to cover four of their final NFC North tilts a year ago. But get this ... Detroit's a solid 10-5-2 spreadwise as betting favorites while dating back to the middle of the 2016 season.
NEW ORLEANS (14-4) - The $64,000 question is whether these Saints are going to spend a large part of this 2019 season "re-living" that non-pass interference call in the NFC Championship Game 26-23 overtime loss to the LA Rams. No doubt this is another "Super Bowl-or-bust" season for the Saints who need to watch out and see if 40-year-old QB Drew Brees shows any decrease in arm strength - that was the word in last year's post-season.
Pointspread Notes - Hard to believe the Saints ended last year on a five-game spread losing skid and still went 10-8 ATS on the year! Like it or not, Sean Payton's crew is just 19-23-1 ATS inside the Superdome the past five years but the Saints are a slick 17-7-1 ATS away the past three years ... so much for all the "experts" telling us the Saints "don't travel well" and are a great "turf team at home". The numbers sure don't back that up.
NOTE: More MLB News and NFL Team-by-Team reports in the next edition of Jim Sez. Plus, don't forget we'll have plenty of College Football News & Notes all summer long.