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AL Midseason Report Cards

Schilling, Big Papi have Red Sox back in top from

Posted: Thursday July 13, 2006 4:33PM; Updated: Thursday July 13, 2006 6:22PM
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EAST

Boston Red Sox

Jonathan Papelbon is tied for the AL lead in saves with 26.
Jonathan Papelbon is tied for the AL lead in saves with 26.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
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53-33, .823 OPS (3rd in the league), 4.54 ERA (8th)

What went right: David Ortiz (31 HRs, 87 RBIs, both tops in the majors) and Manny Ramirez (24, 65) remain the most potent back-to-back tandem in the game, the heart of a deep, well-balanced lineup. Ace Curt Schilling (10-3, 3.60 ERA) is back to form, Josh Beckett (11-4, 4.75) has delivered and rookie closer Jonathan Papelbon (26 saves, 0.59 ERA) is money. A 12-game winning streak in late June and a 16-2 record against the NL helped the Sox open up a three-game lead on the Yankees at the break.

What went wrong: The bottom of the rotation proved troublesome, with David Wells and Matt Clement injured, the Jason Johnson experiment an unmitigated failure and nobody else making the grade. Hard-headed Beckett has served up 26 long balls, most in the AL. Knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (7-8, 4.05) has been only OK. Catcher Jason Varitek (.232), the weakest lineup link, is hitting 40 points below his career average.

What's next: If Jon Lester (4-0, 3.06 ERA) is as good as he's looked, the Sox have arguably the best pitching in the division and a better-than-good chance to earn their first AL East title since 1995.

Grade: A

New York Yankees

50-36, .805 OPS (5th), 4.30 ERA (4th)

What went right: Mike Mussina (10-3, 3.24 ERA) has 15 quality starts, most in the AL. Chien-Ming Wang (9-4, 4.00) has been solid too. The lineup, even short-handed, remains potent, with leadoff man Johnny Damon (.367 OBP), first baseman Jason Giambi (27 homers, 72 RBIs), boo-bird favorite Alex Rodriguez (19, 65), second baseman Robinson Cano (.325) and MVP candidate Derek Jeter (.345, .427 OBP).

What went wrong: The outfield was decimated with injuries to Hideki Matsui (left wrist) and Gary Sheffield (left wrist). Free-agent pickup Kyle Farnsworth (4.21 ERA) has flopped as a setup man. Lefty Randy Johnson (10-7, 5.13 ERA) has been unreliable, and the Yanks have scrambled for low-rotation wins from Jaret Wright (5-5, 4.23 ERA) and Shawn Chacon (4-3, 6.71 in 11 starts). They haven't swept a series since early May.

What's next: Their staff doesn't match up to Boston's, or maybe even Toronto's. But with eight straight AL East titles and a willingness to deal to make things happen, counting out the Yanks is folly. Both Matsui and Sheffield could be back before season's end, too.

Grade: A

Toronto Blue Jays

49-39, .843 OPS (1st), 4.66 ERA (10th)

What went right: Huge first halves from All-Stars Vernon Wells (.311, 21 HRs, 66 RBIs), Alex Rios (.330, 15, 53) and Troy Glaus (23 HRs, 60 RBIs) paced the Jays. Another All-Star, Roy "Doc" Halladay (12-2, 2.92 ERA), would be an ace anywhere. And the $47 million spent on closer B.J. Ryan (24 saves, 0.84 ERA) has proven to be a brilliant move.

What went wrong: A.J. Burnett has started only six games (elbow) and Gustavo Chacin (elbow) only 10. The infield defense, especially, has been terrible. An 0-6 start to interleague play left the Jays playing catch-up.

What's next: With the wild card seemingly destined to come out of the Central, the Jays will have to get great second halves from Burnett, Chacin and Ted Lilly (8-8, 4.07) and keep hitting to stay in the race.

Grade: B

Baltimore Orioles

41-49, .752 OPS (9th), 5.29 ERA (13th)

What went right: Erik Bedard (10-6, 4.28 ERA) is 5-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his last five starts. Kris Benson (9-7, 4.79 ERA) has pitched well at times, too. Corey Patterson (31 steals) is looking more like the player the Cubs wanted him to be. And Miguel Tejada (115 hits) still is a dangerous presence in the middle of the lineup.

What went wrong: Other than maybe closer Chris Ray (22 saves), the rest of the pitching staff has struggled mightily -- Daniel Cabrera has issued a league-leading 70 walks -- even with new pitching guru Leo Mazzone pulling the strings. Brian Roberts missed time with a strained groin. The O's are just 3-16 against lefties. And Tejada, probably beaten down by the losing, has become a sometimes-sullen, late-arriving used-to-be superstar.

What's next: A long second half with dwindling crowds at the once-popular Camden Yards.

Grade: D

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

39-50, .736 OPS (11th), 4.82 ERA (12th)

What went right: Carl Crawford (.319, an .880 OPS and 32 stolen bases) should have been an All-Star. Lefty Scott Kazmir (10-6, 3.27 ERA, 125 strikeouts) was one. Mark Hendrickson was OK before he was traded to the Dodgers. The same goes for Aubrey Huff, before his trade to the Astros. And Rocco Baldelli (.315, a .910 OPS) has looked good since his return from a hamstring injury.

What went wrong: A huge hole at first base has left the Rays relatively punchless in a key area. And their lightweight pitching staff is too much for a handful of still-learning players to overcome.

What's next: More trades (Julio Lugo?) and some key call-ups, including Delmon Young and B.J. Upton (who could take Huff's spot at third).

Grade: F

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