We’re just over a month into the major league season and there are already plenty of story-lines unfolding. We should be in for fun-filled summer followed by an exciting September. Things can change quickly as a season progresses, these are my thoughts on the 2012 season keeping in mind its early May.
American League East:
Orioles – Pitching has been sensational, specifically the bullpen. Matt Wieters has been a force both offensively and behind the plate calling games. Chris Davis is having a nice bounce back year offensively, winning games after pitching the 16th & 17th innings is a bonus.
Rays – The franchise continues to excel despite a low-budget and limited fan support. Andrew Friedman is among the leagues best GM’s as he pieces together veteran pickups around excellent young talent.
Blue Jays – Toronto continues to compete behind a solid starting staff and a power filled lineup. Jose Bautista will need to return to his 2010-2011 form for them to remain competitive for the long haul.
Yankees – Mariano Rivera’s season ending injury is among the biggest story-lines of the 2012 season. Rivera is the greatest closer of all time and one of the most dominating players in the sports history. Its going to be interesting to see if he can make a full recovery in time for one last go around in 2013. The Yankees will remain in the race until the end with a strong lineup but will the pitching staff have enough to win a championship?
Red Sox – What a mess in Boston…the pitching staff has been awful, the lineup has been injury riddled. One has to think big changes are on the way in Red Sox nation if this season continues at its current pace.
American League Central:
Indians – The Indians lead the division early on, not really expecting that to hold into September. Would be really nice to see the squad get some support while playing well. Cleveland ranks last in average attendance only filling 35% of Progressive Field.
Tigers – Prior to the season it looked like Detroit had an easy path to October baseball. The road hasn’t been easy so far as they have fallen on some tough times. Still expect them to get on track as the year rolls along. The duo of Cabrera & Fielder will put up some big numbers before it’s all over.
White Sox – Philip Humber’s perfect game has been the highlight of the season to this point. Though he has been awful since. Adam Dunn has provided more for the offense this first month then he did in all of last season.
Royals – The Royals still look like they are a year away. They are going to need to focus on pitching in the offseason. The loss of young catcher Salvador Perez during spring training has had a negative affect on both the offense and pitching staff.
Twins – Thought perhaps last season was just a bad year. Its becoming pretty well-known that this is just a bad team in serious need of good young talent.
American League West:
Rangers – In my opinion they are the best team in baseball. Great lineup. Excellent bullpen. Solid starting rotation. Looking for big things as the year moves along.
Athletics – Billy Beane continues to work the Moneyball magic as the A’s hover just above .500. Look for continued up and downs out of this light hitting lineup.
Mariners – Felix Hernandez is looking like a Cy Young candidate.
Angels – The most disappointing team in baseball includes the most disappointing player in baseball (Albert Pujols) on its roster. Pujols will need to pick up the pace along with the remainder of the lineup if the Angels are to keep pace with Texas. Jered Weaver no-no has been one of the few bright spots in a rather bleak start to the 2012 Angels campaign.
National League East:
Nationals – Despite an onslaught of injuries the Nationals have been atop the NL East for the majority of the seasons first month (Morse, Zimmerman, Werth, Storen). The rotation has been awesome from top to bottom. 19-year old Bryce Harper has brought an energy to the lineup as he hustles as much as any player in the game. With young superstars throughout the roster, if they can stay in the race and get healthy at the right time, the time may be now as well as the future.
Braves – The Braves have been very good after a poor start. They have a rock solid roster with a nice mixture of veterans and youngsters. They will be a major player in a very competitive division.
Mets – Based on the low expectations coming into the 2012 season the Mets have actually been a rather pleasant surprise for their fans. David Wright is off to a fantastic start, Johan Santana has pitched well and Mr. Met surpassed the Phillie Phanatic as the sports most popular mascot (Forbes).
Marlins – Hot & Cold. The Marlins have been one of the more inconsistent teams in the early going. They have the talent to win if they can get consistent play, specifically from the big guns who have struggled (Josh Johnson, Jose Reyes, Heath Bell).
Phillies – They have enough talent to win the World Series. They also have enough holes to miss the playoffs outright. While the rotation is still loaded, the lineup is hurting without Howard & Utley. Now that the offense has begun to pick it up a little, the bullpen has begun to fail them. How long until panic begins in Philly?
National League Central:
Cardinals – The defending champions have continued to role in 2012. The thought in the offseason was that the Cardinals would take a step back without Tony LaRussa & Albert Pujols. Carlos Beltran has been a great addition. David Freese has kept up his postseason momentum and Lance Lynn has been the best starting pitcher in baseball. Sometimes you just never know.
Reds – Johnny Cueto has been quietly putting up very impressive number the past two seasons. The Reds have had issues but continue to hold up strong. I still think they can be a big factor before it’s all over.
Astros – They still have a long way to go before they are serious playoff contenders, especially considering they’ll be moving to the tough AL West next season. On a positive note they are improving. Jose Altuve has been very good and the minor league system is filling up with potential future stars. Brett Myers, Brandon Lyon, Wandy Rodriguez & Carlos Lee could all make for solid July trade chips should they continue to play well.
Pirates – It appears that the record streak of sub .500 season will continue for at least 1-more year. They pitching staff has been solid but the bats have been rather quiet. Pedro Alvarez finding his inner slugger has certainly been a positive.
Cubs – The World Series championship-less streak will continue but Theo Epstein does have some pieces to work with. Jeff Samardzija has finally found a comfort zone in the majors. Bryan LaHair has been an excellent story. Starlin Castro is a great hitter. So there are things to enjoy while visiting Wrigley Field, just not in October.
Brewers – I think the loss of Prince Fielder was expected to bring the Brew Crew down a bit, but this much? Offensively they have been very inconsistent and the pitching staff has been awful. Alex Gonzalez is now likely done for the season with an ACL tear. One of the most successful seasons in franchise history may be followed potentially by one of the more disappointing years.
National League West:
Dodgers – Sale completed! Finally the Dodgers focus can get back to the baseball field. Matt Kemp has been far and away the sports best player early in 2012. The starters have been excellent, so good in fact that Clayton Kershaw has statistically only been the teams 3rd best starter. They look like they may become a postseason factor again much like ’08-’09. They may need to look for bullpen help & power at first base if things don’t pick up.
Giants – The Giants continue to hold their own despite injuries & lack of production. Matt Cain & Madison Bumgarner have been very good but Tim Lincecum has really struggled to this point. Brian Wilson has been lost for the season. Pablo Sandoval will miss a month or more and Aubrey Huff is dealing will mental issues.
Diamondbacks – With success & offseason acquisitions come high expectations. Those high expectations haven’t exactly been met to this point. They have the talent, they just need to put it all together on the field.
Rockies – Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki & Michael Cuddyer provide the Colorado fan base with a ton of excitement at the plate. Unfortunately the pitching staff provides plenty of heartache on the mound.
Padres – Petco Park is beautiful. Unfortunately the Padres hold the worst record in the National League. The rebuilding project continues.