Baseball at Memorial Day
The baseball season is divided up many different ways depending on what point a writer is making. Some will use Memorial Day weekend to examine the first quarter of the season even though technically it is several games past that point. By this point in a season you get a pretty good sense of how good a team will be for the season. Sure, some players will return from injury and others will get called up from the minors and have an impact on pennant races.
Anyways, what do we know at this point in the season?
AL East - The Boston Red Sox can start printing playoff tickets. They have a 10.5 game lead on the Baltimore Orioles. There is a lot of baseball to be played, but that is a big lead. Boston could have a losing record the rest of the way (55-56) and still win 90 games. To tie that mark Baltimore would need to win over 68% of their remaining games (77-35). Not. Gonna. Happen.
AL Central - Cleveland and Detroit have been switching between first and second place and likely will continue to do so. Both are good enough to stay near the top but neither is dominant enough to put any distance between them in the standings.
AL West - The Angels have a 4.5 game lead over the overachieving Mariners. Based on how the Athletics have made second half charges the past few years, I'm sure the Angels are more concerned about the third place Oakland team than Seattle. Oakland's chances of mounting a serious challenge will depend on closer Houston Street returning from injury quickly.
NL East - Mets have a 4.5 game lead on Atlanta. As strange as it sounds, I don't think the Braves have the pitching to hang with the Mets all year. Philadelphia is a major disappointment.
NL Central - Six teams in this division and the only winning record belongs to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brewers have good young players and no serious challengers in their division. Despite losing their last five games, the Brewers have a 5 game cushion in the standings over the Cubs. The defending World Series champs, St. Louis Cardinals at 20 wins and 27 losses are not doing much defending. The Cincinnati Reds have the worst record in baseball at 18 up & 33 down.
NL West - The Dodgers and Padres are tied for first and the Diamondbacks are breathing down their necks one game back. However, in June the 4th place Giants will watched much more closely as aging outfielder, Barry Bonds approaches the all time home run record of 755 held by Henry Aaron.
Individual leaders and notable trailers:
With a .372 batting average, 35 year old catcher Jorge Posada leads the AL. More remarkable is he has never previously batted over .290 in a season. So, the Yankees have managed 4th place with their starting catcher batting 98 points above his career average. How will they do when he reverts to norm?
On the other end of the spectrum, there are several players not hitting as well as their career history would lead you to expect. Konerko .216, Young .239, Mora .242, Dye .234, Abreu .233, Frank Thomas .226, Kendall .185, Lugo .225. If you play fantasy baseball those are guys to target for second half resurgences (except Kendall who may be done).
Todd Helton leading the National League at .357 is not that surprising since he has hit .334 for his career. That Derek Lee who sports a .279 career average is tied with him at .357 is fairly surprising especially considering he is coming off an injury marred 2006 season. The other end off the batting standings is a mix of guys who may be done (Vizquel .233, Biggio .228, Cameron .230) guys who are young and may bounce back (Everett .204, LaRoche .205, Greene .217) and a guy swinging for the fences because he will be a free agent after this season who is hitting .218.
Magglio Ordonez - I hesitated to list him as a surprise as he has always been a good hitter. However, he has had various health issue the last several years which kept him from playing like he did early in his career. Regardless, it is surprising to see him near the top in all three Triple Crown stats (2nd in BA, 3rd in HRS, and 1st in RBI). Having the very selective Gary Sheffield in front of him wearing out the pitcher is really helping.
J.J. Hardy is tied for the National League lead with 15 home runs. His previous career high was 9.
Alex Gonzalez has a well deserved reputation as a great glove guy who will contribute little on offense. Well, he is playing shortstop as advertised (his former manager Terry Francona called him the best defensive SS he ever saw), but he is also swinging a surprisingly big bat. After hitting 9 homers all of last year Gonzalez has 10 already, helping Cincinnati secure sixth place in the NL Central.