Coming out of the All-Star break, it’s important to remember that the half-way mark of the season is a transitional time for every team in Major League – whether they are front-running looking to turn up the heat on the division, or a middling club looking to make a late-season push.
With the NL Central being the strange and wonderful division that it is this year, another look around the teams that Milwaukee is going up against has proven to be a wonderful exercise in understanding the business of baseball.
Pittsburgh Pirates (48-37, 1st, – )
The Pirates start the second half of the Major League season as your NL Central leaders.
I know, right?
But the truth is, there aren’t a lot of serious baseball minds that didn’t see this one coming. The Buccos have a ton of talent and have built around it with some nice free agency pieces. It’s hard to tell if they can keep up the pace after finishing the second half 8-2 in their last ten games, but they have a great home record and one of the best bullpens in baseball – all pieces in an equation that usually leads to the playoffs. Here’s what our good friends at Rum Bunter have to say about their whirlwind season so far:
“Guess what? WE’RE IN FIRST PLACE!”
“How can we get even better?”
“Why is Bob Ryan hatin’ on the Pirates?” [Ed.’s note: Ryan IS a douche. Solidarity, bros.]
“Not only are we good, but we’re thrifty, too.”
All good things for Pittsburgh. And we have to play them, too.
Cincinnati Reds (47-38, 2nd, 1.0 GB)
Cincinnati finds themselves – like the rest of the Central – somehow looking up at Pittsburgh. The Reds have won six of their last ten and ended the first half on a three game winning streak, but still have work to do to put away the Buccos and the rest of the division in the second half. We looked over at Blog Red Machine. to figure out what they were thinking. Here’s what we got:
No one is thinking about rookie Todd Frazier. But they should be.
No one should be thinking that Cincy is in the market for Juan Pierre. Yet.
The Reds can win this division. Here’s how.
Joey Votto is great. Always. (No link for this, but how could they not be thinking it?
St. Louis Cardinals (46-40, 3rd, 2.5 GB)
St. Louis will not go away. They have had struggles with injuries, but through it all have forced themselves to be part of the discussion in terms of winning the division – thanks to their positional depth and pitching prowess. The Red Birds won their last two games going into the break, and six of their last ten to hang on two and a half back of the surprising Pirates. The staff of Redbird Rants has this primer for you going into the second half:
Allen Craig is someone to watch.
Chris Carpenter’s injury is a setback, but not a major one.
Cardinals All-Stars were great, in case you weren’t watching.
There’s a lot to look forward to in the second half.
Chicago Cubs (33-52, 5th, 15.o GB)
The Cubs, and their wunderkind new GM Theo Epstein, have made it very clear that anyone donning
the Blue and Red in the Northside is open to be moved. While the team won seven of its last ten games going into the break and climbed halfway out of the cellar, it is clear that most – if not all – of the victories in 2012 will be of the moral variety. Here’s what the staff of Cubbies Crib had to say on the topic:
Everyone – or at the very least a third of the teams in baseball – are looking to snag Ryan Dempster before the deadline.
Don’t forget that Chicago is trying to sell off Garza as well.
They are none too pleased with the pick up of Ian Stewart at third base.
Dale Sveum does not like Chris Volstad very much.
Houston Astros (33-53, 6th, 15.5 GB)
The ‘Stros hold the dubious distinction of being the only team in the Central going into the break with a loss. In fact, they are the only team in the division with a losing record in their last ten games, going 1-9 over the final stretch into the All-Star Break. It’s enough to make you go crazy if you’re a Houston fan, but the folks at Climbing Tal’s Hill are trying to make sure cooler heads prevail. Here’s how:
They bid an even-handed farewell to Carlos Lee.
They look forward to Brad Mills-less future.
They get ready to bid farewell to Wandy Rodriguez.
They lament the struggles of Jordan Schafer.
They question the future of Altuve, their diminutive star.
They look forward to a (hopefully) better second half.
Milwaukee Brewers (40-45, 4th, 8.0 GB)
The Brew Crew is middling right now, but they have shown some improvement at the end of June and beginning of July, winning a few series and going 6-4 in their last ten. It’s not great, but it’s keeping them out of the basement and slightly in the race for a Wild Card and a dark horse for the division. You know you can always keep your browser tuned here for Brewers news, but here’s the scuttlebutt from the rest of the Brewers Blogging Nation:
Do yourself a favor, go to Brew Crew Ball and check out their out their series SELL OUT! A Symphony in twenty parts. It might be one of the best looks at a team’s trading block that I’ve ever seen. No kidding.
Brian Anderson NEVER updates his blog. Get it together, BA.