Well... We're underachieving

Joe Mauer has battled injuries all season long
Every year there are always teams that should rise to the top of the sport but instead the team cracks and then falls apart. Here are some of those teams that had high preseason expectations but have failed to produce.

Minnesota Twins: The Twins came into the season riding high after winning the AL Central for the second year in a row. They were very confident with the likes of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in the line-up while Matt Capps and Co. were on the mound. The Twins instead dropped a deuce in the first quarter of the season, holding the MLB's worst record for a while. The Twins have been gaining ground but with a high powered Tigers team on top and a young and determined Indians line-up chasing them they look to be out of the hunt. Minnesota fans had hoped that this was their year with the resigning of several key players and the addition of pitcher Matt Capps. Instead it looks like the Twins will have to wait till next year.

Cincinnati Reds: A young Reds ball club surprised many last season when they dominated the NL Central and came out as the champs to reach their first playoff birth in 15 years. They looked poised for another playoff appearance and hopefully another playoff run after retaining all of their key players and signing the World Series MVP, Edgar Renteria, and outfielder Fred Lewis. Instead the Reds have fallen well off the pace in the NL Central as the Brewers and Cardinals look to be in a two team race. Last season they won all the close games and this year they aren't pulling that off. The pitching has been very unimpressive, beside Johnny Cueto, while the batting has failed to capitalize on many opportunities. Look for the young club to be back and battle atop the NL Central next season.

Carlos Gonzalez hasn't been close to
repeating his 2010 season
Colorado Rockies: The Rockies will likely make another late season run but with the D-backs and the Giants so far a head it looks like they will come up short once again. The Rockies had two of the best players in the NL returning to their line-up and they had an upcoming star on the mound but all three have been having unfulfilling seasons. Carlos Gonzalez had a career year last season when he was batting an NL best .336 while blasting 34 homers drove in 117 runs. Gonzalez has battled with injuries all season and has mustered up a .289 average and has overall been far less efficent at the plate. Ublado Jimenez was stellar on the mound last season with 19 wins and even started for the NL at the All Star game, but he hasn't lived up to the hype this season and was traded to the Indians. Troy Tulowitzki has played pretty well all season but in several clutch moments at the plate the star has failed to produce. If it wasn't for hot hitting 37 year old Todd Helton, the Rockies could be even further back.

Los Angeles Dodgers: I am just going to skip all of the off field problems and get to the problems on the field. With the exception of Cy Young candidate ,Clayton Kershaw, and MVP candidate, Matt Kemp, the Dodgers have failed to produce for a second straight season. Clayton Kershaw is the seventh best hitter on the entire roster... that just shows you how much this team needs to improve at the plate. On the mound Clayton Kershaw has wowed batters all season and Hiroki Kuroda has pitched well with a sub 3 ERA but hasn't gotten much help at the plate. After those two the rest of the line up is up over a 4.15 ERA and when you have a cold hitting offense you can't give up four runs a game.

These teams aren't extremely far out of the race but at this point in the season and how they have been playing, the playoffs seem like a long shot.


Surprise! We're in the Hunt too

As teams creep closer and closer to their hundredth game I take a look at some teams that were written off before the season began but are in the hunt as we come down the stretch.

Cleveland Indians: Ever since CC left town the Indians have consistently been at the bottom of the MLB. After a disappointing season by the Browns and an embarrassingly bad season for the Cav's many didn't expect much out of the lowly Indians. Despite these low expectations the Tribe jumped out to a fast start and have stay atop or in contention of the AL Central ever since. Asdrubal Cabrera has been the leader both offensively and defensively for the Indians, batting .291 with 17 homers and 59 RBI's and having a golden glove season at short. Josh Tomlin has carried the Indians to 11 wins while Justin Masterson has been wheeling and dealing to a 2.80 ERA.

McCutchen hits walkoff 
The Indians should pick up another pitcher and a steady bat before the trade deadline if they want this to keep on top in the Central. They will have Detroit, Chicago, and Minnesota all breathing down their neck the rest of the season, just waiting for this young team to snap under the pressure.

Pittsburgh Pirates: The Buc's had no expectations going into the season besides to beat out Houston and not be last in the NL Central. Instead they taken the lead in the Central and they aren't gonna give it away without a fight. After 18 consecutive losing seasons in Pittsburgh they are on their way to snap that with ease and with over 60 games left in the season they are only a handful away from the total wins they had last season. The Buc's are led by young center fielder Andrew McCutchen, second baseman Neil Walker and pitcher Jeff Karstens. McCutchen has been an up incoming star for the last few seasons but now that the Pirates are in contention he as finally gotten the respect he should have gotten all a long. McCutchen is batting .277 while blasting 14 homers and driving in 58 runs in route to his first All Star game. Walker, just 25, has been lights out as well, also batting .277 and driving in 62 runs. Karstens' has been beyond oustanding on the mound has been the the fuel for this team. The righty is currently 3rd in the NL in ERA with 2.34 ERA and has an astonishing .56 ERA in July.

Dbacks' Justin Upton
The Cardinals have been banged up this season, Albert Pujols, while the Pirates key players have stayed relatively healthy. If they continue to stay healthy they will defiantly have a shot at winning the division but the loss of one key players could be tragic. They should defiantly look into getting some more hitters on the roster before the trade deadline as we come to the final third of the season.

Arizona Diamondbacks: This young Diamondbacks squad was just developing last season but many didn't think they'd come around and be this good so quickly. A team that almost racked up a hundred losses last season could wind up winning 90+ games in 2011. Arizona is lead offensively by young outfielders Justin Upton (23), Chris Young (27) and Gerardo Parra (24). The Dbacks rotation has been carried by the likes of Ian Kennedy and Dan Hudson all season. Young has hit 16 home runs and has 50 RBI's while Upton and Parra are batting .281 and .285 respectively. Kennedy and Hudson both have won 10 games and hold an ERA that is under 3.60.

The Diamondbacks will have a tough trail ahead of them because the Giants are starting to find their form from last season and the Braves control the Wild Card by a wide margin. By all means both feats are doable but will be difficult with this young ball club. They may need some veteran experience if they want to keep rolling and to have a shot at the post season. Playoffs or no playoffs I like where this team is headed, and so do their fans.

bottom line:
These three teams don't have many players on there roster that have playoff experience needed to succeed and that could defiantly come back to haunt them as we hit September and crunch time. They still have till July 31st to pick up some of their needs so they can make a push or stay on top. We still have a lot of baseball left but these teams have already proven that they wont go away.

Top 10 Left Handed Pitchers in Baseball

As we enter the second half of the season I take a look at the Top 10 lefty starters in the game right now

Ranger's C.J. Wilson
10. C.J. Wilson, Rangers: The Rangers starter was an major part in the World Series run and now that Cliff Lee left he has been thrust into that role as the franchise's ace. Last year in his first season as a starter he pitched to a 15-8 record with a 3.35 ERA. This year the lefty has gone 9-3 with a 3.20 ERA and 110 strikeouts, 7th in the AL.

9. Jaime Garcia, Cardinals: The young lefty starter has gone some what under the radar despite his outstanding pitching in his first two seasons as a starter in the majors. Last year the ace went 13-8 with an unbelievable 2.40 ERA. This year his stats have elevated a little and are almost identical to Wilson's but he is still pitching extremely well with a 9-3 record and a 3.22 ERA.

8. Gio Gonzalez, A's: Gonzalez has come on like a man looking for a comeback after struggling the first two seasons. The 25 year old starter has thrived the last few seasons in the bay area and it looks like things can only get better. After a break through last season with a 15-9 record and a 3.23 ERA he has come back even better being 7th in the MLB in ERA (2.47) has led the A's to a rare 8 wins.

2008 World Series MVP Cole Hamels
7. Johan Santana, Mets: The two time Cy Young winner is currently on the DL but is expected to be back at Citi Field by August. Santana has been one of the best lefties in this decade and has had an astonishing 3.10 ERA for his career. Last season the ace struck out 144 batters and had a 2.98 ERA throughout the season despite being on the struggling Mets.

6. Cole Hamels, Phillies: Hamels is the #3 for the Phillies but still in contention for the Cy Young award. Thats possible because the Phillies have the best rotation in baseball and arguably the two best pitchers in the game right now. Hamels was the ace during the Phillies 2008 World Series run and won the World Series MVP award that year as well. Hamels stuck out an amazing 204 batters last season and had an ERA right above the 3.00 mark but this season he has been a rocket. He is carring a 2.32 ERA out of the All Star break and has an 11-5 record on the mound. Great things still to come from the 27 year old.

5. Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: The boy from Dallas, Texas has been blowing his pitches by batters ever since he entered the league three years ago. This year his has been exceptional with a 2.88 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP while carrying the struggling Dodgers to 10 wins. This young lefty has a whole decade in front of him and I believe he will become on of the top three pitchers in the league in a couple years.

4. David Price, Rays: This former number one overall draft pick burst onto the scene as a starter last season for the Rays and was the AL's starter for the All Star game last year as well. Price was second in the AL last year in wins (19) and also had a deadly ERA of 2.72. Price has one of the best fastballs in the game and if he can keep up that velocity for the next ten years this guy could be headed to Cooperstown someday.

3. Jon Lester, Red Sox: The powerful lefty is one of the best all around pitchers in the game and had a great season last year and is backing it up with an extraordinary year this year as well. Last year he was tied for second in the AL in wins (19) 9th in ERA (3.25) and 3rd in Strikeouts (225). He is currently injured but is holding a 3.31 ERA and leads the Red Sox with 10 wins. Lester, only 27, looks like a keeper for the Red Sox.

Yankees' ace C.C. Sabathia
2. C.C Sabathia, Yankees: The 6'7 290 pound Yankee has been having arguable his best season of his career on the mound. He has already racked up 14 wins and his holding an outstanding 2.64 ERA. Sabathia is currently in a hotly contested battle with Josh Beckett, Jared Weaver, and Justin Verlander for the AL Cy Young award, his second. If C.C. keeps this up on the mound then we could easily see the Yank's playing in November.

1. Cliff Lee, Phillies: Arguably Lee is the second best pitcher in the league yet he is also the second best pitcher in his rotation, and he finishes out our top 10 list. The lefty just finished up one of the best months in pitching history, giving up only 1 run in June and a .21 ERA for the month. It took the ace a while to get used to the Philly atmosphere but he has clicked at the right time. More impressive than his regular season numbers have been his numbers in the post season. Lee has a 7-2 record with a 2.13 ERA in 10 career playoff starts. Halladay, Lee, Hamels, and Oswalt could be the most dominating rotation in baseball history.

Top Players on the Trading Block:

 As we are just half a month away from the trade deadline I take a look at the Top 10 players available before the deadline on July 31st.

10. Josh Willingham, A's: The 32 year old outfielder is the only elite hitter on the the A's roster and will be one of the most heavily sought after players at the trade deadline. There are as many as seven teams interested in the right handed outfielder. The list includes the Red Sox, Phillies, and Braves.

Cabrera is having a stellar season
9. Micheal Cuddyer, Twins: The Twins 32 year old utility player made his first all star game with remarkable first half numbers (.298/.369/.474). This is Cuddyer's last year on contract with the Twins and many teams could use a solid hitting utility player for a run to the playoffs.

8. Melky Cabrera, Royals: The 26 year old outfielder is having in outstanding season both offensively and defensively and it is a year when many teams need solid outfielders. Many believe that he will stay with the Royals but if teams make a good offer he could be headed out of Kansas City and on a playoff bound team.

7. Heath Bell, Padres: The Padres closer is having a career year with 26 saves through the All Star break and is by far the most sought after reliever on the market. Only the Phillies and Cardinals are in need of a strong closer but the Yankees and Rangers could get him to be a setup man.

6. Wandy Rodriquez, Astros: The Astros are trying to completely rebuild their team and clearing out Rodriquez and his 12 million a year contract will go along way in the process. Their aren't many elite starters on the market right now, especially lefties, and that is why Rodriquez is so high on the list.

The Mets' switch hitter will likely be leaving New York
5. B.J. Upton, Rays: The young center fielder wasn't expected to be in the trade market until the last few weeks when people started to hear that the Rays are open for offers. This is very puzzling considering the Rays are still alive and in the playoff race. Upton has been having his worst season but he can defiantly turn it on in the 2nd half of the season and become a clutch player for a team looking to make the playoffs.

4. Carlos Beltran, Mets: The 6 time All Star is one of the players most likely to get traded before the deadline.  The Mets need to try an get out of debt and getting rid of Beltran and the 6 million owed to him will be a start. There are several teams that need a strong bat... The Giants and Rockies would like him at the plate down the stretch.

3. Hunter Pence, Astros: The Astros don't want to get rid of their best player but may have to if they want to completely reform their team. Pence is having a career year but is on the MLB's worst team. Pence is standing out at the plate, batting (.323/.364/.496) with 11 homers and 60 RBI's. Pence will probably one of the more expensive players on the market but any team with a playoff shot would like to have a hot hitting outfielder on their roster down the stretch.
Carlos Zambrano is the best pitcher on the market

2. Carlos Zambrano, Cubs: The Cubs don't seem like their going to trade their ace but teams keep calling. Zambrano is easily the best pitcher on the trade market and the Cubs could get rid of 26 million owed to him if they get rid of him by July 31st. Zambrano is in the midst of his worst season of his career and the question is who can pay for him? The Yankees can.

1. Jose Reyes, Mets: Reyes was the best player in the NL for the first half of the season and many teams are in need of a shortstop than can put up great offensive numbers and also play defense. The Mets seem like they want to hold on to their superstar and the trade rumors have gone down dramatically since the beginning of the season. That still hasn't stopped teams, like the Reds, from calling. Their are still some teams that could give some good offers for the shortstop and we could still see him possibly headed out of New York by July 31st.

National League players that need to step it up a notch

As the All Star break is upon us we take a look at some players that need to step up big time for their teams in the second half of the season in order for them to make the playoffs and make a run deep into October and November.

Braves second baseman Dan Uggla
Dan Uggla, Braves: Uggla was the most disappointing player in the NL through the first half of the season. The former Marlin is supposed to make almost 10 million this year but is playing like a minimum salary player at the plate. Uggla is coming off of a season where he was hitting .287 with 33 homers and drove in 105 runs but this year the second baseman has batted an atrocious .184, over .100 worse than last season, .258 OBP and has drove in only 33 runs on 14 homers. The Braves are 3.5 games back on the Phillies in the East but lead the Wild Card race. I expect the Braves to make the postseason but if they want to make a deep run they need their 2B to step it up a notch, or two.

Francisco Cordero, Reds: The Reds closer blew another save against the Brewers and has started to struggle lately. The reliever is scheduled to make 12 million, highest on the Reds payroll, but may be headed to the minors with the way he is playing. The Reds need every game possible to climb back in the NL Central race and if Cordero is giving them away in the the ninth then they can't afford to have him on the roster.

Edison Volquez, Reds: The former All Star pitcher has been struggling all season and even spent some time down in the minors. His ERA is sky high at 5.93 and is 2nd in the league in walks with 55. Volquez seems to have really lost his control of the ball and is pitching all over, as shown by his 55 walks. If the Reds want to succeed the rest of the season and become back to back NL Central Champs they will need Volquez to gain control back on his throws while keeping his velocity.

Ubaldo Jimenez
Zack Greinke, Brewers: The former Cy Young award winner is struggling in his first season with the Brewers. Greinke has an extremely high ERA, 5.45, and hasn't had the quality starts like the Brewers wanted to see. Greinke seems to behaving nice control with only 16 walks to 99 strikeouts but something is defiantly off this season for the ace. In previous years he had been getting players handcuffed and in trouble more than he is this year. The Brewers need to have him get that "it factor" back over the break if they want a playoff appearance in the hotly contested NL Central.

Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies: The Rockies seem to always make a late season run but it seems to never be enough as they fall short of the playoffs or get knocked out in the NLDS year after year. The Rockies have the offensive firepower with Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, and the aging Todd Helton at the plate to get it done but the pitching is questionable in Denver. The Rockies ace has fallen off the map after an outstanding season last year with 19 wins a 2.88 ERA and even started in the All Star game for the NL. This season Jimenez's stats have been non ace like with a 4-8 record and a 4.14 era, his worst in 4 years.The Rockies as is are 8.5 games back in the NL West but if they want to make that run and advance in the post season they need Ubaldo Jimenez to become the Ubaldo Jimenez from last season and step up his game on the mound.

Pat Burrell and Aubrey Huff, Giants: Some of the offensive fire power from last years World Series Championship team have fallen down a deep hole and are trying to swing their way out. Huff has been more productive with driving in 44 runs and hitting 8 homers but still has a pathetic .236 average and a less than mediocre .290 OBP. On the other hand Burrell has just been more than useless at the plate while batting .234 hitting 7 homers and only bringing in 21 runs. The Giants are still one of the best pitching teams in the MLB but these two, and others, need to step up at the plate so that the Giants can try and defend their title as World Series Champs.

AL players that need to step up for their teams

As we head into the All Star beak I take a look at some players from the AL that need to step up big time in order for their teams to have a shot at playing long into October.

Ray's Longoria
The Boston Red Sox corner outfielder's: The corner outfielders have been very sub par this season for the Sox. Their starting RF, J.D Drew, is batting a miserable .229 with only 4 homers and 21 RBI's while their huge offseason accusation, Carl Crawford, has been streaky but overall has had a terrible first half of the season. Crawford is batting a sub par .243 with a .275 OPS 6 homers and 31 RBI's. The Red Sox need Crawford to come back from his hamstring injury healthier than ever and need JD Drew to get going. If the Sox want to take home another World Series Ttitle these two will need to step up.

Evan Longoria , Rays: The Rays young third baseman seems to be having a slump year. He is batting a career worst .242, over .030 less than his career average. The Ray has been battling various injures all season and is battling a foot injury at the time. Hopefully the All Star break will help him get healthy again so he can try and lead the Rays to another playoff birth in the tough AL East.

Joe Mauer, Twins: The former AL MVP missed the first quarter of the season but since his return the Twins have become relevant again. After starting out with the MLB's worst record the Twins are only 7 games out of first place in the Central. If Mauer can pick it up and stay injury free and if Justin Morneau comes back well after his neck surgery we could see a possible run for the Twins.

Adam Dunn, White Sox: The White Sox paid big money during the off season for Adam Dunn, 4 years 56 million, and he has done nothing but disappoint southsiders all season. In 2009 Dunn hit .267 with 38 homers and 105 RBI's and backed that up with a 2.60 average 38 homers and 103 RBI's in 2010. This season Dunn is averaging an awful .164 with 9 homers and only 34 RBI's while striking out an AL leading 115 times. The White Sox need Dunn to step up and become a productive DH in the second half of the season.

Mariners All Star Ichiro
The Tigers rotation, except Justin Verlander: Verlander has been exceptional and has had a Cy Young first half of the year but the rest of the rotation has been less than mediocre. The other four pitchers in the rotation all have and ERA over 4.50 and a WHIP above 1.40. As a team Detroit ranks 25th in total ERA, even with Verlander. If the Tigers want to win the Central their 2-5 pitchers need to improve.

The Seattle lineup: The Mariners are last in the MLB in runs scored, batting average, and OBS. The pitching has been amazing for the Mariners and has kept them in the race out West. The entire rotation, lead by Cy Young winner Felix Hernandez, has an ERA of under 3.50 and ranks 4th in the MLB. The batting though has been awful. Ichiro leads the Mariners with a modest .273 average, which is what the Red Sox team is averaging this season. If the Mariners, only 6.5 games back, want to have a playoff shot then they need Ichiro, Chone Figgins and Co. to get rolling.

Jeter, one of the greatest Yankees?

As Derek Jeter becomes the first Yankees to achieve 3,000 hits in a career we debate if he can be associated with some of the great Yankees such as: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, Joe Dimaggio, Yogi Berra and Reggie Jackson. Jeter has carried the Yanks to 5 World Series Championships, has 12 All Star appearances, 5 gold gloves, is batting .312 for his career, and continues to beat the Red Sox. Yes, the Yankees havent been a super power like they were in the hay day but Jeter has been their captain. In my opinion Jeter will defiantly go down as A Yankee and in 50 years he will be put in the same sentence with Ruth, Mantle, Dimaggio, Gehring, and others.

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