.747 OPS (9th in the NL), 3.92 ERA (5th in the NL)
The RBI man, Carlos Lee, gets whatever ink the Brewers get (he has 76 RBIs, tops in the NL), but shortstop Bill Hall is a solid player (.280,13 homers), Lyle Overbay can hit (.274, 11 homers) and center fielder Brady Clark (.317, a .380 on-base percentage) is a fine leadoff man. Their youngsters are coming on (Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder, mainly), and young closer Derrick Turnbow throws hard and has blown just two saves (he has 17).
They've let 22-year-old shortstop J.J. Hardy play a lot but, that may have been a mistake (he's hitting .187). They'll need Weeks and Fielder because their offense is a tad on the anemic side. Ace Ben Sheets battled an inner ear problem early on and missed most of May. They've been trying to catch .500 since a seven-game losing streak in mid-April.
The Brewers aren't in position to make much of a move before the trade deadline, and they probably shouldn't anyway. Too far back, too many other teams at it. They need to concentrate on trying to avoid last season's collapse and try for their first winning season since '92.
Grade: Not passing, but not far off -- D
New York Mets(44-44)
.729 OPS (14th in the NL), 4.12 ERA (8th in the NL)
The move back to the NL has made a new man of Pedro Martinez (10-3, 85 hits allowed in 129 innings) -- or maybe he's the same old guy. Either way, the fans love him. Cliff Floyd has supplied the bop in the lineup (22 homers, 55 RBIs) and young third baseman David Wright (.281, 11 homers) is settling into a nice groove. Jose Reyes hasn't shown an ability to get on base enough (.284 OBP), but when he does, he can fly (26 steals). Kris Benson, quietly, has pitched very well (6-3, 3.65 ERA).
It takes a lot to be worth $119 million. Carlos Beltran has a way to go (.266, 10 homers, a .754 OPS). Mike Piazza has seen his better days (.260, nine homers). Tom Glavine (6-7, 4.94) and Kaz Ishii (2-8, 5.57) haven't been nearly good enough. Braden Looper has four blown saves in 24 tries -- that's not good -- and has a 3.41 ERA. That's not good, either.
GM Omar Minaya is in a buying mood -- he's making up for his Montreal days -- and he may be willing to trade right fielder Mike Cameron. Rumors are floating about swapping Glavine, too, though he'll be harder to move. A good second half could put the Mets in contention. But they've shown no sign they'll make that move.
Grade: Somehow, hanging around -- C
.751 OPS (5th in the NL), 4.51 ERA (11th in the NL)
Pat Burrell seems to be back (.283, 17 homers). Chase Utley (.303, 11 homers) took the second base job and ran with it. Bobby Abreu (.307, 18 homers) had a killer May (.396, 11 homers, 30 RBIs) that vaulted him into the NL All-Star starting lineup. Philly is the best team at getting on base (.346 OBP) in the NL. Young Brett Myers (6-5, 3.20 ERA) is probably the top starter on a shaky staff. Closer Billy Wagner, a late All-Star replacement, still throws effective heat (41 strikeouts, 41 1/3 innings, a .197 average against).
So what's wrong? First baseman Jim Thome, battling injuries and his own expectations, has been awful (.207, just seven homers). Catcher Mike Lieberthal (.231, six homers) hasn't been any better. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins, an All-Star replacement, doesn't get on base enough (.316 on-base). Outfielder Jason Michaels had a run-in with the law. And, after Myers, it's probably Jon Lieber, who started off 5-1 but has since gone 3-7 in 11 starts as his ERA jumped from 2.57 to 5.13.
If GM Ed Wade doesn't turn this team around, he'd better get his resume ready. He'll need it. A frontline starter is in order, as is another bat. Thome can help, but he's in a funk.
Grade: Disappointing, but still dangerous -- C
.730 OPS (13th in the NL), 4.34 ERA (9th in the NL)
The offense is inept, but without All-Star Jason Bay (.299, 16 homers, aq .930 OPS) and leadoff man Matt Lawton (a .379 on-base percentage) it would be dead. (Daryle Ward and Rob Mackowiak are OK, but come on.) Mark Redman is pitching fairly well (106 hits in 117 1/3 innings), and both Josh Fogg (4-4, 4.30 ERA) and Kip Wells (6-9, 4.46) are decent pitchers. Jose Mesa, somehow, has 21 saves.
The Pirates were 30-30 in mid June, but since then all sorts of things have gone wrong. Ace Oliver Perez (6-5, 6.16) has fallen apart -- and that was before he kicked the laundry cart and limped onto the DL. There are rumors that Redman is on the trade block, outfielder Craig Wilson is out with a bad finger, shortstop Jack Wilson is hitting 80 points lower than he did last season ... it's not good.
The Pirates are staying the course with manager Lloyd McClendon. They'll look for trades with an eye to building with their youth, but ... does this sound familiar?
Grade: We've been here before -- F
San Diego Padres(48-41)
.746 OPS (10th in the NL), 3.99 ERA (7th in the NL)
The pitching -- notably Jake Peavy (7-3, 3.14 ERA), Adam Eaton (9-2, 3.42, but currently on the DL), reliever Chris Hammond (5-0, 1.87) and closer Trevor Hoffman (25 saves) -- makes this strange team click. That is, when it clicks. Which isn't nearly often enough. Brian Giles is having a fine year, with a .429 on-base percentage, and Mark Sweeney (.294, six homers, a .935 OPS) is better than most realize.
The only reason the Padres are in first is because they play in the NL West, baseball's worst division. End of discussion. San Diego followed up a 22-6 May by going 15-22 the rest of the way -- and the Padres gained ground. Last weekend, they earned the dubious distinction of being on the wrong end of the first 1-0 game in Coors Field history. As a slugging third baseman, Sean Burroughs (.255) isn't. The Padres are in need of a second baseman after Mark Loretta hurt his thumb. And Eaton's finger injury is no help, either.
No moves are likely before the trade deadline, but that's OK. You get the impression that the Padres could forfeit half their games and the rest of the division still couldn't take advantage. The pitching, and just enough hitting, should sustain them unless -- gasp! -- someone else decides they want to get better.
Grade: Absolute best of the absolute worst -- C+
San Francisco Giants(37-50)
.740 OPS (12th in the NL), 4.99 ERA (14th in the NL)
Younger than his years, shortstop Omar Vizquel (.300, with 14 stolen bases and a .356 on-base percentage) is playing wonderfully. He's a true pro. Moises Alou is hitting .316 (with 12 homers). Catcher Mike Matheny is handling the pitching staff with aplomb, and young Lance Niekro (.301, 10 homers) has done well with his limited playing time. Tyler Walker was a find at closer (13 saves in 15 tries).
No Barry Bonds. Bad for the Giants. Closer Armando Benitez is gone for the year, too, with a groin injury. Also bad. Veteran Marquis Grissom is hamstrung by a hamstring. Ace Jason Schmidt (6-5, 5.01 ERA) has lost his way and his velocity. No other starter has a winning record. Oh, it's a woeful time in San Francisco.
A long, long summer is in store, though Bonds could be back -- the latest guess -- by mid-August. His chase of Babe Ruth may give San Francisco fans something to cheer about. But that will be about it.
Grade: No Barry, no spark -- F
St. Louis Cardinals(56-32)
.768 OPS (3rd in the NL), 3.41 ERA (1st in the NL)
Shortstop David Eckstein (.284, a .370 on-base percentage) pestered his way onto the NL starting lineup, with center fielder Jim Edmonds (16 homers and a .393 OBP) and third baseman Scott Rolen (.251, five homers in 50 games), a fan favorite. Unheralded Reggie Sanders provides some power (18 homers, a near-.900 OPS), too, but the strength of this team is its starting pitching. Matt Morris, Chris Carpenter, Jason Marquis, Jeff Suppan and Mark Mulder all have winning records, all have a WHIP (baserunners per inning) under 1.5 and none has an ERA over 4.34. They're all backed up by a deep and versatile bullpen that ends with All-Star closer Jason Isringhausen (25 saves, 1.78 ERA).
Rolen probably didn't deserve the starting nod in the All-Star Game. He missed most of the first half after shoulder surgery. Larry Walker's bad back is acting up. Second baseman Mark Grudzielanek started off well but hit only .229 in June. Catcher Yadier Molina was hit by a pitch on his hand late last week and could miss a week. All in all, though, little is bad.
The Cardinals have no reason to make a deal, so they'll listen, but they probably won't do anything. The Cards are the best team, without a doubt, in the NL. With Rolen back, they should roll in the second half.
Grade: Class of the League -- A
.726 OPS (15th in the NL), 3.88 ERA (3rd in the NL)
These guys are The Incredibles. Their record in one-run games (24-10) is astonishing. The fact they lead the NL East is even more so. Workhorse and All-Star Livan Hernandez (12-3, 3.48 ERA, 134 1/3 innings pitched) sets the tone, Ryan Drese has been a nice pickup (3-1, 2.90 since Texas dropped him) and All-Star closer Chad Cordero (31 saves in 34 chances) has been a revelation. Jose Guillen (.310, 18 home runs) and Nick Johnson (.320) lead an otherwise punchless lineup. Much of the credit for the success goes to the fans at creaky RFK. Already more than 1 million have shown up, and the Nats are 30-13 at home.
How this team is 16 games over .500 is the great mystery of 2005. How the Nationals have done it with their opponents scoring four more runs than they have scored (361-357) is a head-scratcher that may never be solved. Center fielder Brad Wilkerson (.271, five homers) has been disappointing, and free-agent shortstop signee Cristian Guzman is a bust (.201, .239 on-base percentage). Manager Frank Robinson has had some run-ins with his players (Zach Day and the released Tomo Ohka) and one opposing manager (the Angels' Mike Scioscia). But the Nats keep on winning.
GM Jim Bowden is a dealer. He'll do something before the trade deadline, most likely for a mid-order bat or another starting pitcher. Washington will win 89 games if it plays just .500 ball the rest of the way. A few more wins than that and the Nats should have enough to unseat the Braves.