Written by: LaShawn Encarnacion aka The Dark Knight of Sports
This is part two of the two part series breaking down the 1st half of the 2015 MLB season.
The American League was already done as the New York Yankees, Kansas City Royals and Los Angeles Angels hold the top spots in their respective divisions with challengers like the Houston Astros, the Minnesota Twins and Tampa Bay Rays right on their heels. With home-field advantage in the World Series on the line come Tuesday night, lets dive into the senior circuit of MLB, the National League.
National League East:
Winner: The Washington Nationals finish their 1st half of the season with a 48-39 record which has them 2 games ahead of their 2nd place opponent for the NL East crown, the upstart and other winner of the NL East, the New York Mets. For the Nationals they are winning on both sides of the ball. MVP candidate Bryce Harper is reminding everyone that he is just as good as his draftee counterpart, Angles outfielder Mike Trout. His stats continue to impress, hits, home runs, RBI etc… The Nationals did well in preserving Harper’s health when necessary.
Combine Harper with player like Anthony Rendon, Denard Span, Willie Ramos and Ryan Zimmerman who have been on the roster with free agent acquisition from the Tampa Bay Rays in Yunel Escobar and the team offensive firepower is not just strong and fast but consistent. Not even getting into the starting rotation that has yet to have all its starters together at the same time. Players like Matt Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez, Stephen Strasburg (coming back from DL), and Jordan Zimmerman, this team will no doubt be one to contend with come September and into October.
Loser: The Philadelphia Phillies, with a very painful record of 29-62, the worst record in the majors so far. Now if memory serves, was not the Phillies the talk of the playoffs and World Series appearances just several years ago? Oh how the once mighty have fallen. The retirements of pitchers Chris Lee and Roy “Doc” Halladay, the Phillies continue to fall apart at the seams. Jimmy Rollins departure to the Dodgers did not help the team improve as they are forced to rely on the offense of Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. The pitching staff that once put fear into the hearts of their opponents is now kitty cats, zero fear from it.
National League Central:
Winner: The St. Louis Cardinals finishing their 1st half of the season with he best record in baseball, a 56-33 record with the second place Pittsburgh Pirates AND the Chicago Cubs (YES the Chicago Cubs) nipping at their heels.
But the Cardinals are not without controversy this season as reports had surfaced about some internet “hacking” of opponent’s team systems to gain an advantage. It has been proven a Cardinals employee DID hack into the Houston Astros system but claims it was a retaliation response.But for article sake, lets keep this to on-the-field until investigation is 100% complete.
The trade and re-signing of Jason Hayward from the Atlanta Braves has proven most valuable to the Cardinals. Combined with Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday, Matt Carpenter and many others, the Cardinals have the offensive firepower to compete with the Nationals in the East. Pitchers Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha continue to throw dominant stuff, reaching 10 wins each before the break and when its time to close the door, no one has been better and more consistent that Cardinals closer Trevor Rosenthal, whose WHIP numbers rivals that of some of the best starters in the league.
Loser: The Milwaukee Brewers continue to feel the pain of being the bottom team of this very tough division. With a 38-52 record, the Brewers are 18.5 games behind the 1st place Cardinals and 10.5 games back of the wild card position. Ryan Bruan seems to have shaken off the PED demons and continues to deliver for the Brewers, in fact making him an All-Star replacement for Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday who will be out with an injury. The “other” Felix Hernandez, better known as “K-Rod” continues to shine when the Brewers give him a chance to, earning his way to the mid-summer classic.
National League West:
Winner: The Los Angeles Dodgers finished the first half with a 51-39 record and a comfortable 4.5 games lead over the second place San Francisco Giants. The consistency of Adrian Gonzalez has proven most valuable for the Dodgers. Add in free agent acquisitions like Justin Turner from the Mets, Howie Kendrick from the Angels, Jimmy Rollins from the Phillies and Yasmani Grandal, who they got from the Padres in the Matt Kemp trade and you have a very deep offense.
The continued contributions of veteran Dodgers like Carl Crawford, Andre Eithier and Yasiel Puig, this is one lineup that could scare pitchers like Cy Young himself. The one loser with the Dodgers is one who is figuring out his throwing after being injured, former two-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw. He is just NOT himself this season. Reminds the league of what happened when Justin Verlander went down with his first major injury. Could be trouble for the Dodgers moving forward.
Loser: The San Diego Padres, granted have a 41-49 record and are 10 games back in the NL West race and 7.5 games out of the wild card, they may not be in the cellar HOWEVER with all the off-season acquisitions made this off-season the expectations were much higher than this for the friars. Matt Kemp and Wil Myers were suppose to be the answer for the lack of offense over the past several seasons and while Derek Norris and Justin Upton continues to dominate the plate for the Padres (Upton making the All Star team) it as not been enough offense to win games. Add in the lack of run support in crucial starts from Andrew Cashner and James Shields and the Padres are where they are, firing manager Bud Black early and sitting in the bottom two of the NL West race with an entire city disappointed in their 1st half performance.
Current MVP Candidates:
Arizona Diamondbacks Paul Goldschmidt
Washington Nationals Bryce Harper
Cincinnati Reds Todd Frazier
Miami Marlins Giancarlo Stanton (Currently on DL)
Chicago Cubs Anthony Rizzo
Current Cy Young Candidates:
Pittsburgh Pirates Gerrit Cole
Chicago Cubs Jake Arrieta
Los Angeles Dodgers Zack Greinke
New York Mets Jacob deGrom
St. Louis Cardinals Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez
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