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2nd Half Surges
by Jim Feist - 07/08/2009
The first half of the 2009 baseball season is in the books. There were surprising winners, such as the Rangers, Giants and Marlins, a lack of hitting league-wide for the second straight season, and some surprising flops with the Indians, Cubs and Mets underachieving. Here's a look at some teams that might be active at the trading deadline or primed to make a second half surge.
Indians: Since taking the Red Sox to Game 7 of the ALCS in October of 2007, even holding a 3-1 series lead, the Indians have fallen fast and hard. The offense is very good, but the Indians have been outscored 66-32 in the eighth inning and have unreliable starters after ace Cliff Lee. They dealt C.C. Sabathia a year ago and will be sellers this month.
Tigers: The Tigers have been the opposite of what most thought they would be: Good pitching, surprisingly weak offense. Justin Verlander is back as an ace, Edwin Jackson and 20-year old rookie Rick Porcello have been huge additions to the rotation, while Armando Galarraga is beginning to get it together.
The pitching has put them in first place. Now they have to get the offense straightened out, one that was 5th in runs a year ago and 4th in home runs. "We're going to have to step it up the second half if we're going to stay in contention,â€쳌 said manager Jim Leyland. "I've been disappointed in our offense the whole first half."
Phillies: The defending champs had a big time slump in June, so much so that manager Charlie Manuel called a team meeting in Toronto during their interleague skid. Despite that slide they still remained in first place in the weak NL East. 26-year old J.A. Happ then went out and beat the Blue Jays 10-0 after that meeting.
Happ has saved the rotation of late, along with the setup/closer combo of Ryan Madson and Brad Lidge, more so than up and down Cole Hamels, Joe Blanton and aging Jamie Moyer. They should be in the market for some pitching help. The offense is not immune, with SS Jimmy Rollins ending a four-game benching last week with an 0-for-5 night that included two strikeouts, two groundouts and a pop-up. Oddly, they have a dominating road record but a weak home mark.
Cubs: With a $135 million payroll, the Cubs should be better. Ted Lilly, Carlos Zambrano, Ryan Dempster and Rich Harden anchor a fine rotation. They are first in quality starts in the majors and 4th in team ERA. The bullpen has been shaky and the offense has been a big disappointment, 27th in runs scored.
They dished out $30-million for three years for Milton Bradley, a .238 hitter. Alfonso Soriano is a nice weapon, but is struggling with a .230 average. 3B Aramis Ramirez has been out, but returns to the Cubs this week. Even he cautioned that he won't be able to turn the season around single-handedly. They should improve, but could it get ugly in Wrigley? A Chicago pole found 57 percent of respondents saying Zambrano should be moved. "Fine. Trade me to Boston," Zambrano joked.
Angels: No team had more bad luck with injuries (and tragedy) than the Angels in April. From the loss of four projected starters, including the death of promising arm Nick Adenhart, one couldn't blame the Angels if the team collectively said, "We'll sit this year out." Yet, Mike Scioscia's troops have endured with incredible fortitude to come back and take over first place.
John Lackey has put together some solid starts, kids Sean O'Sullivan and Matt Palmer have filled in well, and Ervin Santana rejoined the Angels last week saying he felt no ill effects from a recent rehab start, in which he gave up three hits, struck out seven and walked none in 3 1/3 innings. All of which is great for the Angels, bad for the rest of the AL West.
Giants: If pitching depth carries a team during the hot summer months, the Giants will be a fascinating club to watch. The emergence of 24-year old Matt Cain to team with 25-year old Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum gives the Giants the best one-two punch in the NL. Throw in veterans Barry Zito and Randy Johnson, and the Giants are loaded with arms for the stretch run. The offense, though, is terrible, 26th in runs scored. They will be looking for bats and have arms to deal, a nice plus.