Posted: Thursday July 13, 2006 4:40PM; Updated: Friday July 14, 2006 12:20PM
St. Louis Cardinals
Scott Rolen has picked up the slack for the struggling Jim Edmonds.
48-39, .775 OPS (4th), 4.61 ERA (8th)
What went right:Albert Pujols has looked like the NL's reigning MVP (.316, 29 HRs, 76 RBIs, a 1.168 OPS) and Scott Rolen like the league's comeback player of the year (.331, 14 HRs, 57 RBIs). David Eckstein continues to produce at the top of the lineup (.311, .372 OBP). Chris Carpenter has been better than his record (7-4, 3.08 ERA) indicates, and the Cards, despite some pitching problems, don't have a challenger worth worrying about in the NL Central.
What went wrong: Pujols missed time with a pulled muscle in his side; closer Jason Isringhausen is tied for the league lead with seven blown saves; Mark Mulder is out with a sore shoulder; and the rotation, despite an 11-win first half from Jason Marquis (who also has allowed 20 homers), is a wreck.
What's next: GM Walt Jocketty traded to get Jeff Weaver in an attempt to bolster the rotation. We'll see. The Cards are still the class of the Central, but better halves from Marquis and Jeff Suppan (6-5, 5.83 ERA) and the return of a healthy Mulder are needed.
45-44, .793 OPS (1st), 4.78 ERA (11th)
What went right:Bronson Arroyo (9-6, 3.12 ERA) has proven you can win games in Great American Ball Park (4-1, 2.50 there). Almost as good is Aaron Harang (9-6, 3.70 ERA overall). Still, Cincy is all about its lineup, especially the outfield, with Adam Dunn (28 HRs), Ken Griffey Jr. (18) and Kearns (16) the three biggest sluggers on the team. Brandon Phillips (.306) was a great get for new GM Wayne Krivsky, and Ryan Freel (.298) is a useful utility man. Scott Hatteberg isn't power personified, but his .411 OBP is fifth among NL first basemen.
What went wrong: Dunn's a classic all-or-nothing swinger. He already has 104 strikeouts, tops in baseball. The bullpen has been leaky, necessitating a trade with the Mariners for closer Eddie Guardado. And below Harang in the rotation is a real adventure -- and not a good one. Cincinnati has allowed 121 homers, most in the league. The Reds have hung around the Central lead all season, but a 1-8 July threatens to pull them under.
What's next: Krivsky has revamped his bullpen during the break, trading Kearns and Lopez to Washington for relievers Majewski and Bray as part of an eight-player deal. If they can find the offense to make up for the loss of Kearns, this might be the spark the Reds need.
44-46, .762 OPS (7th), 5.03 ERA (16th)
What went right:Chris Capuano (10-4, 3.21 ERA) made a deserved trip to the All-Star Game. His 17 quality starts are the most in baseball. Carlos Lee (26 HRs, 73 RBIs) joined him. Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks have settled in a little, though they aren't the super rookies that everyone thought they'd be. Steady professional Bill Hall has 17 homers. All-Star closer Derrick Turnbow has more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings pitched, though he's blown six saves and has a scary 4.74 ERA.
What went wrong:Ben Sheets (shoulder) has made only four starts and thrown only 20 innings, Tomo Ohka (shoulder) only six starts and Rick Helling (elbow) only two. A lack of patience at the plate has led to 698 strikeouts, most in the league. The Brewers' longest winning streak came at the beginning of the season, when they started 5-0. Since then they're 39-46.
What's next: A lot of trade rumors have followed Lee, a free agent after the season. But if the Brewers are to break .500 for the first time since '92 or make the postseason for the first time since '82, they'll need to keep him.
43-46, .738 OPS (14th), 4.51 ERA (7th)
What went right:Roger Clemens, after flirting with a few other teams, returned to the Astros and looks in good form (2.82 ERA in four starts). All-Star Roy Oswalt (6-6, 3.15 ERA) has pitched better than his numbers show -- he threw back-to-back complete games and lost them both, then took a loss in relief to end the first half. The team would be absolutely lost without Lance Berkman (.317, 24 HRs, NL-best 79 RBIs, 1.011 OPS).
What went wrong: Outside of Berkman, Houston has struggled to drive in runs. Third baseman Morgan Ensberg has 19 homers but only two since May 26. Andy Pettitte, at long last healthy, is pitching like he's hurt (7-9, 5.28 ERA). Closer Brad Lidge, once unhittable, has given up more home runs than he did all of last year (six, to five in '05), has blown as many saves as he did in '05 (four) and his ERA has blown up to 5.79.
What's next: The Astros traded for Devil Rays third baseman Aubrey Huff, which could push Ensberg out of a job. With Huff, though, the Astros probably are set for their run. Now it's up to the lineup to score some runs and Oswalt, Clemens and Pettitte to do their things.
34-54, .720 OPS (16th), 4.86 ERA (13th)
What went right:Carlos Zambrano (8-3, 3.24 ERA) leads the league with 124 strikeouts. Opponents are hitting .200 off him. Free-agent acquisition Jacque Jones has played well enough (.306, 15 HRs, 45 RBIs), and the free agents tabbed for the bullpen, Scott Eyre and Bob Howry, have been very good.
What went wrong:Derrek Lee's broken right wrist doused any hope Cubs fans might have had. As expected, Kerry Wood and Mark Prior spent considerable time in the infirmary. After a sizzling start (5-0, 1.35 ERA), Greg Maddux is 2-9 with a 6.43 ERA. Zambrano, for all the prowess in strikeouts, also leads the league with 68 walks. The pitching staff leads the NL in walks allowed and is second in home runs given up. Meanwhile, the hitters are last in homers and total bases, last in walks taken and third in strikeouts. Juan Pierre (.321 OBP) has been disappointing as a leadoff man.
What's next: Is manager Dusty Baker on the way out? The next couple of weeks may tell. Expect GM Jim Hendry to deal what he can in the meantime, looking for pitching but settling for prospects who may pan out in '07 or beyond. Phenom Felix Pie should get a call-up.
30-60, .745 OPS (13th), 4.93 ERA (15th)
What went right: Pittsburgh put on a heck of an All-Star show. Jason Bay (.284, 21 HRs, 66 RBIs) and Freddy Sanchez (.358, 106 hits) represented the city well. Ian Snell (8-6, 4.74 ERA) has been about as good as the Bucs can manage for starting pitchers.
What went wrong: The Pirates had a six-game losing streak and then a seven-gamer -- in April. From there, nothing improved. (They lost 13 straight in June and five of their last six going into the break.) Starter Kip Wells was on the DL with a blood clot, and first baseman Sean Casey broke some bones in his back in a collision at first base and had to be shelved. The Pirates got so fed up with starter Oliver Perez (2-10, 6.63 ERA in 15 starts) that they sent him to the minors.
What's next: If anyone wants Jeromy Burnitz or Craig Wilson or Joe Randa, GM Dave Littlefield will talk. The Bucs are, once again, in retooling mode. They've been that way for 14 years now.