All right, the All-Star Break – also known as the unofficial mid-way point to the Major League Baseball season – is upon us, with the Mid-Summer Classic scheduled for Tuesday, July 10 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, MO, with home field advantage in the World Series at stake for the National and American Leagues.
Let’s not waste any more time; here’s the state of L.A’s two MLB teams as of this mid-way point:
LOS ANGELES DODGERS
Record: 47-40, First place in the National League West, 1/2 game in front of the San Francisco Giants.
That the Dodgers are in first place at this All-Star break is quite the minor miracle, particularly considering that they’ve not only spent much of the season without the services of their best hitter, Matt Kemp, due to a hamstring problem, they’ve also been without their other key hitter, Andre Ethier, for quite some time due to a strained ribcage.
Not to mention the fact that Dee Gordon, who leads the league in stolen bases, is out until August with a damaged thumb.
Manager Don Mattingly has done a very good job keeping this team together with the proverbial gum and string, at times batting James Loney, who hasn’t set the world on fire at the plate all year, in the cleanup spot. Bobby Abreu and Juan Rivera, while showing that their best days are behind them, have done a good job holding the fort nonetheless.
Don’t be surprised if Loney and 3rd baseman Juan Uribe, who can be officially be declared a bust due to his .194 average, are gone by the trade deadline as the Dodgers are planning to try and upgrade their offense at 3rd and 1st base.
Chris Capuano, with his 9-4 record and his 2.91 earned run average, has been the real ace of the pitching staff as Clayton Kershaw is a mere 6-5 and Chad Billingsley – well, I’ll be blunt – has sucked.
I think his 4-9 record and 4.30 ERA, which includes him losing his last five starts, qualifies for the Charlie Brown Award here.
The good news is, the Dodgers’ 3.43 ERA among their starters is second best in the majors behind only Washington, and they should be at full strength by this coming weekend as Kemp and Ethier are both expected to return.
Bottom Line: Kemp and Ethier will undoubtedly help get the Dodgers back to their early season form, when they were as much as 7 1/2 games in first place and had the best record in baseball. As such, because there is no clear-cut favorite in the N.L. West, I expect the Dodgers to be right there in September – especially if guys like Loney and Billingsley improve their numbers by leaps and bounds.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS
Record: 48-38, Second place in the American League West, four games behind the Texas Rangers.
At the beginning of this season, everyone said that these Angels would be in a dogfight with the two-time defending American League champion Rangers for the division title if not comfortably in first place due to the addition of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, as well as the influx of good young talent like Mark Trumbo.
Well, after that bad 6-14 start they called up some 20-year old kid named Mike Trout, and they haven’t looked back as they have been on a tear for pretty much the last two months, including shutting out a good Baltimore Oriole team the past two games in Anaheim.
It’s safe to say that the T & T kids – center fielder Trout and left fielder Trumbo – have more of less carried this team as Trumbo leads the Angels in home runs (22) and runs batted in (57), while all Trout has done is lead the league with a .341 average while hitting 12 homers and driving in 40 runs.
If Trout doesn’t unanimously win Rookie of the Year honors, then that award has lost what little credibility it had when it failed to give Trumbo the honors last year; in fact, don’t be surprised if, the way things are going, Trout gets some Most Valuable Player votes.
Oh, and by the way: Pujols has come on strong like the elite hitter he is after that horrible start, hitting 14 homers with 51 RBIs while raising his average nearly 70 points since late April.
The pitching? Jered Weaver, with his 10-1 recored and ERA in the low 2’s with a no-hitter to boot, should be the frontrunner for this year’s Cy Young Award while C.J. Wilson has been as good as advertised, winning nine games with an ERA of under 3.00.
If it wasn’t for Ervin Santana and Dan Haren getting the team’s Charlie Brown award for their sub-par performances, the Angels would clearly be in first place now.
Bottom Line: As was said, this A.L. West is all about two teams: the Rangers and these Angels as they will be in a fierce fight for the division title; I wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up in a one-game playoff at the end. Make sure to get tickets for the games where they will be facing each other, because they will likely be potential classics.