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3 Up, 3 Down
by ASA - 06/08/2007
The last edition of 3-Up, 3-Down focused on pitchers who were either leading their teams to victory or hurling their teams to losses. This weekâ€™s edition will keep the same basic format but will instead focus on teams either winning big or losing even bigger.
These lists donâ€™t factor in overall records but will instead concentrate on how teams are currently playing. Hereâ€™s a look at whoâ€™s up and whoâ€™s down:
St. Louis Cardinals: Much was made of St. Louisâ€™ sluggish start to its defense of the World Series crown. The Cardinals are showing signs of turning things around, though, and are still in the running in the weak NL Central Division. They have won six of their last eight games and are just 5.5 games back of division-leading Milwaukee. An improved offense has keyed the turnaround as St. Louis has averaged 6.8 runs per game in its last six wins. Many of the Cardinal regulars struggled early in the year but most of them â€“ led by Albert Pujols â€“ have returned to their previous form. With ace Chris Carpenter expected back soon, St. Louis could once again be a force to be reckoned with.
Chicago White Sox: The White Sox were third in all of baseball in runs scored last year but havenâ€™t been able to duplicate that feat this season. Chicago is among baseballâ€™s worst in almost every offensive statistical category. The Sox are last in both team batting average and OPS and are 27th with less than four runs per game. The primary culprits have been the usually steady triumvirate of Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye and Joe Crede. All three hit at least .283 with 30 home runs last year but none of them are hitting better than .232 this season. These struggles have led to 10 losses in Chicagoâ€™s last 12 games and a greater distance behind Cleveland and Detroit.
Oakland Aâ€™s: Pitching is the name of the game and no team is doing it better than the Aâ€™s right now. Oakland has ridden great starting pitching to wins in five of its last six games and seven of its last 10. The Aâ€™s are third in all of baseball in ERA and WHIP and are fourth with 38 quality starts in 59 games. The rotation has been especially tough as of late. Oakland has allowed three or fewer runs in nine of its last 10 games and is allowing an average of just 1.6 runs per game over its last eight contests. Oaklandâ€™s top five starters all own ERAs of 3.60 or less and are showing no signs of slowing down.
Cincinnati Reds: The notion of the NL Central being wide open has been discussed since Opening Day but the Reds are putting that idea to rest. Cincinnati is just 5-11 in its last 16 games and has lost four of its last five outings. The Reds are now 10.5 games back of division-leading Milwaukee and donâ€™t appear to have the pitching necessary to get back into the race. Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo carried the rotation last year but neither has recaptured that magic this year with both owning ERAs over 4.00.
NL West: The NL West Division has taken a lot of abuse over the years over its awful performance but itâ€™s turning the tables on the naysayers this season. Three teams are over .500 and Colorado and San Francisco are just two and three games below .500, respectively. Combined, the NL West is 163-136 on the season, by far the best record of any division in baseball. Pitching has been the primary factor behind the Westâ€™s success as San Diego, Arizona, Los Angeles and San Francisco are all in the top six in baseball in ERA.
AL East: The roles have been reversed this season as the once powerful AL East has fallen on hard times while the NL West has jumped to the forefront. Boston is running away with the NL East with a 10-game lead over second-place Toronto as the rest of the division is all below .500 on the year. Obviously the Yankees are the biggest disappointment of the division but Toronto, Baltimore and Tampa Bay were all expected to improve on last year. Factor in Bostonâ€™s inauspicious beginning to its West Coast road trip and the AL East is looking like the American Leagueâ€™s weakest division.