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NL Midseason Report Cards

Mets surpass Cardinals as top club in senior circuit

Posted: Thursday July 13, 2006 4:40PM; Updated: Friday July 14, 2006 12:20PM
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EAST

New York Mets

Now in his second season with the Mets, Carlos Beltran has adjusted to playing in the Big Apple.
Now in his second season with the Mets, Carlos Beltran has adjusted to playing in the Big Apple.
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
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53-36, .787 OPS (3rd in the NL), 4.01 ERA (2nd)

What went right: Shortstop Jose Reyes (.300, 12 triples, 39 steals) has become one of the most electric leadoff men in the majors. Center fielder Carlos Beltran (.388 OBP, 25 HRs, 68 RBIs) blasted 10 of his homers in May. David Wright (.316, 20 HRs, 74 RBIs) could own the Big Apple. Catcher Paul Lo Duca (.302) has been a rock. Tom Glavine (11-2, 3.48 ERA) proved there is pitching life after 40. Pedro Martinez (.202 BAA) has pitched well, even if he doesn't always get run support. And every one of them was an All-Star. A strong bullpen (3.24 ERA, tops in the NL) and an even stronger lineup (an NL-leading 326 extra-base hits) have given the Mets a comfortable lead in the NL East that, barring an all-out choke, should hold up easily.

What went wrong: After falling and injuring his hip, Martinez missed a couple of starts late in the first half. Brian Bannister blew out a hamstring, and outfielder Xavier Nady had an appendectomy and a broken wrist, putting him on the DL. Slumping Kaz Matsui was traded to the Rockies in June. Reyes cut his finger in a headfirst slide, Beltran is hitting only .207 at home, the bottom part of the rotation (Alay Soler, Orlando Hernandez) has been sketchy and the Mets played the last two weeks of the first half a lackluster 6-8.

What's next: With question marks in the rotation (Martinez, Hernandez, Steve Trachsel), rookies Mike Pelfrey and John Maine will be relied upon heavily. GM Omar Minaya could be looking for some trades, too, before the end of the month. Whatever happens, the Mets are the best team in the NL and should cruise into October.

Grade: A

Philadelphia Phillies

40-47, .760 OPS (8th), 4.82 ERA (12th)

What went right: Ryan Howard, the NL Rookie of the Year in '05 and the Home Run Derby champ this year, continues to blossom (28 HRs, 71 RBIs). Chase Utley (.312, 16 HRs, .904 OPS) has been the steadiest hitter on the team, and free-agent pickup Tom Gordon (21 for 23 in saves, 2.17 ERA) has made the team's bullpen one of baseball's best.

What went wrong: Brett Myers' arrest for allegedly hitting his wife was a scandal the Phils handled abysmally. Trade rumors continue to pester Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell. Jimmy Rollins came into the season on a tear, but he's hitting only .259 with a .323 OBP. As good as Howard is, he also has 97 strikeouts already, second in the league. The rotation has been a mess; its 5.64 ERA is the worst in the NL. Aaron Rowand's face-first crash into the outfield fence cost him some time on the DL. And catcher Mike Lieberthal hasn't played in more than a month, nursing a hip injury.

What's next: GM Pat Gillick will undoubtedly try to move some veterans in another lost season for the Phillies. Expect to see a lot of fresh faces by the end of the summer.

Grade: D

Atlanta Braves

40-49, .769 OPS (5th), 4.63 ERA (9th)

What went right: All-Star catcher Brian McCann (.343, .406 OBP) continues to outshine roommate Jeff Francoeur, though the likeable Francoeur could be coming on; in 20 games since June 18 he's hitting .318. Edgar Renteria (.318) has rediscovered his game. Andruw Jones is back to striking out too much (75), but he has 20 homers and leads the team with 75 RBIs. Reluctant leadoff man Marcus Giles ended the first half on an 11-game hit streak (.333, .481 OBP). John Smoltz (6-5, 3.60 ERA in 19 starts) has been the most reliable pitcher.

What went wrong: A 6-21 June that included a 10-game losing streak was the worst month in franchise history and probably will spell doom for the club's chance at a 15th straight division title. McCann is hobbled with a bad ankle. Francoeur has the worst strikeout-to-walk ratio in the game. An awful start at the plate has had him playing catchup all season. But the biggest problem the Braves have is their bullpen, which has blown an NL-high 18 games.

What's next: GM John Schuerholz may still be thinking wild card, which is probably a mistake. If he is, he won't trade any veterans. But if the Braves stumble out of the gate, look for Schuerholz to offer up some names (maybe Giles, a free agent this winter) for some prospects.

Grade: D

Florida Marlins

38-48, .758 OPS (9th), 4.45 ERA (6th)

What went right: With little support in the lineup, third baseman Miguel Cabrera continues to rake (.334, 15 HRs, 61 RBIs, .432 OBP). Second baseman Dan Uggla was an All-Star too (.307, 13 HRs, 51 RBIs). Rookie shortstop Hanley Ramirez started the season on fire (.323 in May), though he has cooled off. Starter Josh Johnson (8-4, 2.21 ERA) has been very good, and lefty Dontrelle Willis (6-7, 3.94 ERA, 5-1 with a 2.67 in his last seven starts) leads the pitching staff by example. Since a terrible beginning to the season, the Marlins are 27-17.

What went wrong: That 11-31 start was a killer. Scott Olsen got into a couple of scraps with teammates, including fellow pitcher Randy Messenger. Ramirez followed his hot May with a chilly June (.190). Jeremy Hermida and Josh Willingham have done time on the DL.

What's next: More inconsistency from a young group on the rise, and some possible trades. Willis and Cabrera will be asked about, but GM Larry Beinfest seems intent on keeping them barring an offer that knocks him out of the water.

Grade: F

Washington Nationals

38-52, .746 OPS (12th), 4.88 ERA (14th)

What went right: Alfonso Soriano settled into left field and pounded the ball, cranking 27 homers, 16 of them at supposedly too-spacious RFK Stadium. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has had a couple of walkoff hits, leading the team's regulars with a .324 average with runners in scoring position. Jose Vidro has been quietly steady at second base (.301, .361 OBP), and first baseman Nick Johnson's .958 OPS (he has 14 HRs and 41 RBIs) is the best on the team.

What went wrong: Luis Ayala blew out his arm in the World Baseball Classic, and things went downhill for the Nats from there. Pitchers Zach Day and Joey Eischen were shelved for the season, and John Patterson, Tony Armas Jr. and Pedro Astacio all have had injury problems.

What's next: The Nationals will be a seller in the next few weeks, with GM Jim Bowden dangling Soriano, Jose Guillen, pitcher Livan Hernandez and anyone else who might be worth a couple of prospects. They already shipped off relievers Gary Majewski and Bill Bray in deal that netted Reds outfielder Austin Kearns and shortstop Felipe Lopez.

Grade: F

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