The 2012 Midseason Report Card

Our annual look at the best, worst and most unexpected during the first half of the 2012 major league season.

By Eric Gouldsberry, This Great Game
Posted July 2, 2012

This Great Game Opinion.

Every year before the all-star break, Ed and I take a step back, see the forest for the trees and take stock on who’s flying, dying and not trying hard enough within big-league baseball. Not surprisingly, the year has been full of surprises—from the fine performance of everyone in the AL East to the implosions in Philadelphia, Detroit and Miami. Nobody at the start of the year heard of Wade Miley or Mark Trumbo or Lance Lynn, and how does the Washington Nationals—who just a few short years ago were desperate for any starting pitcher—now own the majors’ best team earned run average?

Below is our commentary on the first 81 or so games of the year, starting with midseason honors followed by a team-by-team breakdown of some of the more interesting developments seen so far. (Note: All statistics are based on those accumulated at the end of play on June 30, 2012.)

AL East
AL Central
AL West
NL East
NL Central
NL West

Mid-Season Honors

MVP
Ed’s pick: AL, Josh Hamilton; NL, Joey Votto
Eric’s pick: AL, Josh Hamilton; NL, Joey Votto

Hamilton’s electrifying May alone has earned him our honor; Votto has been the most difficult out (as his major league-leading .476 on-base percentage clearly shows) while leading the Reds into first place.

Cy Young Winner (Best Pitcher)
Ed’s pick: AL, Jered Weaver; NL, R.A. Dickey
Eric’s pick: AL, Jered Weaver; NL, R.A. Dickey

Even with an injury that cost him three weeks, Jered Weaver has put up some of the AL’s most impressive numbers; in the NL, we both embrace the white-hot knuckleballing of Dickey.

Rookie of the First Half
Ed’s pick: AL, Mike Trout; NL, Bryce Harper
Eric’s pick: AL, Mike Trout; NL, Wade Miley

We frown more on the eligibility requirements that keep Trout a rookie for 2012 (he batted 120 times in 2011) than his performance this season, which has been borderline-MVP. Harper has cashed in on similar promise in the NL and Ed likes that, but I think the out-of-nowhere efforts of Miley are more worthy of being distinguished.

Manager of the First Half
Ed’s pick: AL, Buck Showalter; NL, Don Mattingly
Eric’s pick: AL, Buck Showalter; NL, Davey Johnson

Once again, agreement on the AL side with the overseeing of Showalter at surprising Baltimore; Ed likes the work of Mattingly in Los Angeles that’s propelled the Dodgers to the front of the NL West race, while I think Johnson’s stewardship with the first-place Nationals has been more impressive.

Biggest Surprise (Team)
Ed’s pick: AL, Baltimore; NL, Los Angeles
Eric’s pick: AL, Baltimore; NL, New York

Hands down, the Orioles get lauded here with an astonishing start in a very difficult division; in the NL, Ed gives his Dodger Blue love to Los Angeles while I thought nothing of the Mets to start the year—but there they are, above the .500 mark midway through in another tough pack of teams.

Biggest Disappointment (Team)
Ed’s pick: AL, Boston; NL, Philadelphia
Eric’s pick: AL, Detroit; NL, Philadelphia
Finally, disagreement from the TGG guys on the AL. Even with the Red Sox above .500, Ed shakes his head in disappointment; I give thumbs down to the Tigers, who should be walking away with the AL Central, but reach their 81st game fighting for third place with low-budget Kansas City. In the NL, we both dishonor the beat-up (but still underachieving) Phillies.

Biggest Surprise (Player)
Ed’s pick: AL, Joe Mauer, Minnesota; NL, R.A. Dickey, New York
Eric’s pick: AL, Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto; NL, Chris Capuano, Los Angeles

Perhaps the fact that Mauer has been relatively healthy is surprise enough for Ed to pin him with this medal, while he also likes the startling start for Dickey at New York; I’m impressed with the career year Encarnacion is posting while surprised over the efficiency (and durability, so far) of the oft-fragile Capuano.

Biggest Disappointment (Player)
Ed’s pick: AL, Adrian Gonzalez, Boston; NL, Rickie Weeks, Milwaukee
Eric’s pick: AL, Adrian Gonzalez, Boston; NL, Tim Lincecum, San Francisco

There’s agreement on Gonzalez, who’s putting up far less power numbers at bandboxed Fenway Park than he ever did at elephantine Petco Park; the two differ on their NL disses, with Ed frowning over the rotten start of Weeks while I just can’t understand the trials and tribulations of two-time Cy Young Award winner Lincecum.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles
What Jumps Out: The Orioles know how to run at home (21 steals in 25 attempts), but not on the road (8 of 21).

In the Spotlight: The rotation. There was much concern over the state of the Orioles’ starting pitching (and trust me, that’s hardly a new story in Baltimore), but the results have been mixed—a good sign considering how everyone at Camden Yards braced for another blow-up on the mound. Bringing the positives are first-year Orioles Jason Hammel (boy, are the Orioles ever happy they made that trade for Jeremy Guthrie) and Wei-Yin Chen.

Best of Show: If the rotation had been a traditional flop in Baltimore, the bullpen was even worse. So how is it that Oriole relievers lead the majors with a 2.62 earned run average? Even a position player (Chris Davis, who threw two shutout innings at Boston and picked up a win) is feeling it on the mound in relief for the O’s.

Messed of Show: Jake Arrieta was given the Opening Day nod and lived up to the expectation by tossing seven shutout innings, but he’s since 2-9 with a 6.00 ERA.

Boston Red Sox
What Jumps Out: How ye loves his offense: Clay Buchholz is 8-2 despite a bloated 5.53 ERA.

In the Spotlight: Carl Crawford—if only he could find it. After a rotten first year with in Boston with a big-time contract, the once-energetic outfielder has been slow to recover from wrist surgery and is still rehabbing his way back to the majors.

Best of Show: David Ortiz continues to ride the career roller coaster back towards the top, in the midst of a third straight year with clear improvement in his offense. He’s on pace for his first 40-home run season since 2006.

Messed of Show: Hitting at Fenway Park, in this lineup, was supposed to be so easy for Adrian Gonzalez that perhaps even he thought he could phone it in. With just six homers, he’s been misdialing.

New York Yankees
What Jumps Out: A look at the sensational work by the team’s closer—and finding out it’s not Mariano Rivera. (The impostor is named below.)

In the Spotlight: All eyes were on Michael Pineda to pick up a thin rotation after an impressive rookie effort in Seattle last season. Instead, they have to look elsewhere; Pineda wont be back until 2013 as he recovers from reconstructive shoulder surgery.

Best of Show: The Yankees cleverly collected on Rivera’s insurance policy and watched with joy as Rafael Soriano, lost as a set-up man for Rivera last year, is back in his element (17 saves, one blown, 1.84 ERA) now that the all-time saves king is out for the year.

Messed of Show: Compounding the pain of the Pineda trade, the Yankees gave up catcher Jesus Montero because they felt Russell Martin would hang around and produce. But Martin has been struggling on the low side of the Mendoza Line (.200) all year.

Tampa Bay Rays
What Jumps Out: The Rays have used ten players at the cleanup spot this season.

In the Spotlight: Matt Moore was given an eight-year, $40 million deal on the basis of just five appearances (most of it promising) at the end of last year. Is he thus far living up to the promise? At 4-5 and a 4.15 ERA, the jury is firmly out.

Best of Show: What has saved the Rays over the past several years is their uncanny ability to plug anyone into the closer’s role and turn them into gold. Fernando Rodney is the latest in line to enjoy the fruits of the ninth, saving 22 of 23 opportunities with a stellar 1.04 ERA after struggling the last two years at Anaheim.

Messed of Show: Hopes for a new and improved Carlos Pena after a year away in Chicago have diminished as the veteran slugger appears to be on pace for the same, wretched pack of numbers (including a sub-.200 average) that drove him away in the first place.

Toronto Blue Jays
What Jumps Out: Five starting pitchers end the season’s first half on the disabled list, with all but one of them (Brandon Morrow) expected to miss much of or all of the second half.

In the Spotlight: Colby Rasmus lost the armwrestling match in St. Louis with manager Tony La Russa and put up awful numbers after his trade to Toronto late last year. Has the once-promising outfielder come around? On pace for 30 homers and 100 RBIs, we think so.

Best of Show: This may be the career year Edwin Encarnacion has been seeking after seven years in the bigs; his 22 homers and 55 RBIs are already close to setting personal bests. Perhaps the move to first base after years of mucking it up at third base has taken the pressure off him.

Messed of Show: Let’s face it folks: The Adam Lind of 2009 (.305 average, 35 homers, 114 RBIs) ain’t coming back. Neither might the Lind of 2011 (.251-26-87) given his paltry .197 average and five homers so far in 2012.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox
What Jumps Out: Really, Adam Dunn, are you on pace to strike out 260 times this year?

In the Spotlight: Maybe Dunn, who had one of the worst years ever by a major leaguer in 2011, doesn’t care about the K’s or his cringing .213 average so far in 2012—but when you’re also on pace for 50 homers, 120 RBIs and 130 walks, perhaps the White Sox don’t care, either.

Best of Show: Chris Sale has never disappointed since making his major league debut in late 2010 just months out of college, and his evolution continues as one of the top AL starting pitchers (9-2, 2.27 ERA) in his first year in the rotation.

Messed of Show: The downward spiral of Kosuke Fukudome from instant all-star to the waiver wire is complete. The 35-year-old Japanese native may have to look for employment on the other side of the Pacific after a dud of a start (.171 average, no homers, no steals) with the White Sox.

Cleveland Indians
What Jumps Out: Opponents are hitting .300 against the Indians with runners in scoring position.

In the Spotlight: Can one-time Indian stars Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner finally stay healthy and return to their former form of lore? Of course not. Sizemore hasn’t played once this year due to back problems while Hafner has put up modest-at-best numbers—but also missed a month with knee issues.

Best of Show: Chris Perez blew an Opening Day save but hasn’t tripped up since, saving 23 straight opportunities to lead the majors.

Messed of Show: Josh Tomlin put together a neat little season in 2011 but has been all messed up so far in 2012, having won just three of 12 starts with a deplorable 5.85 ERA.

Detroit Tigers
What Jumps Out: The Tigers are playing sub-.500 baseball in this division?

In the Spotlight: Prince Fielder hasn’t turned up the power too much since signing on to bat behind Miguel Cabrera in what many believed would become baseball’s scariest one-two punch at the plate. But with a .294 average and 52 RBIs, you really can’t complain.

Best of Show: Justin Verlander sails along, near or at the top of the AL charts in wins, strikeouts, innings, WHIP (walks and hits allowed per inning) and batting average allowed.

Messed of Show: Ryan Raburn had developed into a reliable part-timer-plus over the past three years, but he’s suddenly lost it this season—hitting .179 with a single home run.

Kansas City Royals
What Jumps Out: The Royals’ two best starters by ERA (Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy) are out for the season.

In the Spotlight: Jonathan Sanchez was traded, one-up, from the Giants for outfielder Melky Cabrera, who’s on his way to the All-Star Game—while Sanchez (1-4, 6.80 ERA and 40 walks in 46 innings) continues his bad habit of walking himself into one jam after another, often without safe escape.

Best of Show: While one Jonathan bombs on Kansas City’s reclamation front, another thrives in ex-Dodger closer Jonathan Broxton (20 saves, 2.05 ERA), who’s surprisingly impressed in place of the sidelined Joakim Soria.

Messed of Show: See Jonathan Sanchez above.

Minnesota Twins
What Jumps Out: Only two pitchers (Scott Diamond and Nate Blackburn) have as many as two wins when starting.

In the Spotlight: Justin Morneau, perhaps baseball’s most beat-up active ballplayer, has displayed flashes of his old pre-pain brilliance but overall is still struggling with a .239 average (though with ten homers, six more than all of last season).

Best of Show: Joe Mauer, almost by default with few others at Target Field rising to the occasion (though we’ll throw a bone to first-year Twin Josh Willingham). Mauer’s .325 average is right on cue with his career mark, but his three homers are nothing to write home about.

Messed of Show: Too tired workhorses, Carl Pavano and Jason Marquis, are a combined 4-9 with a 7.33 ERA; Marquis has been released, Pavano’s struggling to recover from shoulder pain.

AL West

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
What Jumps Out: The unreal numbers of rookie reliever Ernesto Frieri: A 0.00 ERA, six hits allowed and 40 opponents struck out in 23 innings.

In the Spotlight: It’s been a mixed bag for the Angels’ two major free-agent pickups this past winter, Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. Pujols suffered through a nightmarish start at the plate before returning to his old ways; Wilson, on the other hand, has hardly disappointed with a 9-4 record and 2.36 ERA.

Best of Show: Besides Frieri above, Mike Trout has put on a thunderous display in his second year at the major league level (he’s technically a rookie because he fell just shy of the generous 130 at-bat limit to retain official first-year status), making a very legitimate bid to be a starting outfielder for the AL All-Star team.

Messed of Show: How many more years do the Angels have to pay $24 million to Vernon Wells? (The answer, for those who want to know, is two after this season.) Wells’ .244 average and six homers (with just 12 RBIs) in 38 games before going down with a ligament tear in his hand is so undeserving of a player making top-ten wages.

Oakland A's
What Jumps Out: Only three everyday players hitting above .230.

In the Spotlight: Cuban rookie Yoenis Cespedes and aging veteran Manny Ramirez were hoped to give the A’s some spark both on the field and at the gate. Cespedes leads the team with a .283 average and has added nine homers, while the Ramirez experiment ended at Triple-A Sacramento when he asked for his release.

Best of Show: Josh Reddick (18 home runs) has made the offseason trade that sent closer Andrew Bailey to Boston look not only good, but prescient—given that Bailey (thumb surgery) has yet to throw a pitch for the Red Sox.

Messed of Show: Chronic closer Brian Fuentes (6.84 ERA, three blown saves in eight opps), must be edging in on a major league career record for most times losing the closer’s role.

Seattle Mariners
What Jumps Out: A pathetic .199 average and .290 slugging percentage at home, both figures easily baseball’s worst.

In the Spotlight: For now, the Mariners certainly have gotten the better of the deal that brought them Jesus Montero from the Yankees for Michael Pineda. Montero’s .253 average and eight home runs are nothing for Mariner fans to lose their minds over, but at least he’s playing.

Best of Show: Charlie Furbush is showing that the Mariners didn’t so do bad on another trade (the one that sent Doug Fister the other way to Detroit late last year); he’s been a rock in the bullpen with a 4-1 record, 1.82 ERA and an opposing batting average of just .134.

Messed of Show: Blake Beavan and Justin Smoak. Okay, so not all trades work out in the Mariners’ favor. These two guys came from Texas for Cliff Lee (remember Lee in a Mariner uniform?) and are still slipping gears attempting to fulfill future promise; Beavan holds the Mariners’ worst ERA among starters while Smoak is barely hanging over .200 with fair power.

Texas Rangers
What Jumps Out: The Rangers have issued just two intentional walks all season long.

In the Spotlight: The early returns on heralded Japanese import Yu Darvish are in, and they’re pretty good; Darvish is on pace for 20 wins and over 200 strikeouts. Only the walks (a projected 100 for the season) are an issue.

Best of Show: Despite cooling off of late, there’s no doubt that Josh Hamilton is having a banner year; if he can maintain his overall effort through September, a second MVP will be his.

Messed of Show: Scott Feldman. A 2-6 record and 6.13 ERA won’t cut it for Texas patriarch Nolan Ryan, who knows a thing or two about good pitching. (And by the way, those two free passes we mentioned up top? Feldman.)

NL East

Atlanta Braves
What Jumps Out: The Braves don’t like Mondays: They’re 0-10 on the first day of the workweek.

In the Spotlight: After a disappointing sophomore effort in 2011, Jason Heyward is revving back to rookie form, hitting .272 while on pace for 25 homers, 80 RBIs and 20 steals.

Best of Show: Like a good closer, Craig Kimbrel brushed away the bad memories of last season’s regular season finale and is having a second superb season, saving 23 of 24 opportunities with a 1.50 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 30 innings.

Messed of Show: Last year, we made Jair Jurrjens our pick to start the All-Star Game; this season, the oft-injured hurler is struggling just to stay in the Atlanta rotation—with one win and a 6.07 ERA in six starts.

Miami Marlins
What Jumps Out: Those female dancers wearing bikini bottoms, body paint—and very little else—at the Clevelander Club behind the left-field fence at new Marlins Park.

In the Spotlight: Attendance at Marlins Park. Can a team that attracted crowds you could literally count at Whatever-That-Stadium-Is-Now-Called bring in and maintain a strong fan base at its new ballpark? So far, the Marlins are averaging 28,250 tickets sold per game (that doesn’t mean they’re all showing up, nudge-nudge), which sounds nice but is ranked 18th out of 30 in the majors. A first-year ballpark these days deserves better.

Best of Show: So maybe Eric was carried away in picking Giancarlo Stanton to win the NL MVP award, but he’s clearly the Marlins’ biggest threat, on pace to hit 38 jacks with 103 RBIs. Okay, so maybe Stanton is the favorite to win the Home Run Derby instead.

Messed of Show: What happened, Gaby Sanchez? One of the team’s more reliable (if not explosive) bats has gone missing all year, scuffling about with a pair of homers and a .194 average. Even a three-week relegation to the minors hasn’t helped.

New York Mets
What Jumps Out: A major league-worst 4.98 bullpen ERA.

In the Spotlight: Johan Santana has made a worthy return to the mound—highlighted by the Mets’ first-ever no-hitter on June 1—after missing the 2011 season to recover from Tommy John surgery.

Best of Show: Duel honors to David Wright, having a brilliant year to date with a .355 average, nine homers and 50 RBIs, and R.A. Dickey, the phenomenal knuckleball artist who’s baffling everyone but his catcher this year.

Messed of Show: If it’s not one thing, it’s another for Jason Bay, who just can’t seem to get it started with the Mets—and he’s been trying now for three years. A series of injuries have limited Bay to 22 games and a .187 average.

Philadelphia Phillies
What Jumps Out: Thirteen starts, zero wins for Cliff Lee—all in spite of seven quality outings. In fact, he’s the first pitcher in baseball history to string 12 straight games of six or more innings without a victory.

In the Spotlight: Vince Worley surprised last season as a rookie rotation fill-in, and although his 4-4 record pales next to 2011’s 11-1 mark, his 2.92 ERA this season is actually an improvement over last.

Best of Show: Catcher Carlos Ruiz got robbed of All-Star Game votes from fanatical San Francisco fans punching Buster Posey’s name and others defaulting to perennial starter Yadier Molina; with a .358 average, 11 homers and a terrific record gunning down opposing basestealers, he’s clearly tops in the NL through 81.

Messed of Show: Phillie manager Charlie Manuel once punked Ken Kendrick by telling the young pitcher he’d been traded to Japan. But after Kendrick’s start (2-8, 5.35 ERA), Manuel’s beginning to wish he hadn’t been joking.

Washington Nationals
What Jumps Out: Supersonic reliever Henry Rodriguez has thrown nine wild pitches in 21 innings.

In the Spotlight: The post-Tommy John era for Stephen Strasburg has been quite pleasing for D.C. fans, as the young fastballer has put together the stuff (9-3, 2.81 ERA, 122 strikeouts) for easy Cy Young Award consideration.

Best of Show: It’s not just Strasburg; the rest of the National rotation (Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez, Ross Detwiler and Edwin Jackson) has also delivered and given the majors the best team ERA going.

Messed of Show: Imagine how good this team would be with a healthy Ryan Zimmerman, who’s struggled from the start in part due to a sore shoulder.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs
What Jumps Out: The Cubs have blown eight of 12 save opportunities on the road.

In the Spotlight: Anthony Rizzo has been all but anointed the Chosen One by Cub fans, all the more so given the Cubs’ wretched start. Finally, some 75 games into the season, Rizzo was called up for duty at the big-league level; for the Cubs’ sake, let’s hope Rizzo doesn’t fizzle like he did in his first shot at stardom last summer in San Diego.

Best of Show: Never mind the plain 3-3 record, Ryan Dempster has been one of the league’s best on the mound, posting a 2.11 ERA far more deserving of a better record than what his teammates have been able to give him. The Cubs are very likely looking at him at this point as nothing more than trade bait.

Messed of Show: Geovany Soto is a long way from his Rookie of the Year performance of 2008, hitting an embarrassing .172 in 36 games.

Cincinnati Reds
What Jumps Out: Only one pitcher (little-used Bill Bray) with an ERA above 4.42.

In the Spotlight: Mat Latos, considered the prime component of a big offseason trade between the Reds and Padres, has a nice record (7-2), but his 4.42 ERA leaves much to be desired; his 17 homers allowed are one more than he has given up in each of his previous two seasons.

Best of Show: Hitting .350 with power and patience, Joey Votto could join the very short list of players to collect 200 hits and 100 walks in the same year.

Messed of Show: It does appear that Scott Rolen (.184, three homers) is hitting the end of his baseball road after 17 seasons.

Houston Astros
What Jumps Out: Six hitters on pace for well over 100 strikeouts.

In the Spotlight: Carlos Lee, practically the lone familiar name in the Astro lineup, is lacking the power (five homers) but hitting well enough at .285 that he still could be moved by Houston at the trading deadline, if not sooner.

Best of Show: Second-year shortstop Jose Altuve (.309 average on 88 hits, 12 steals) has really come into his own and is good enough to start for the NL All-Star team—if only people outside of Houston knew who he is.

Messed of Show: Okay, so Chris Snyder is a part-time catcher playing on his third team in three years. But a .184 average will likely make if four teams in four years.

Milwaukee Brewers
What Jumps Out: Zack Greinke hasn’t lost a game at home since coming to Milwaukee at the start of 2011.

In the Spotlight: Could Ryan Braun maintain his excellence after overcoming the loss of teammate Prince Fielder and the stigma of alleged steroid use? (Answer below.)

Best of Show: Ryan Braun. Hitting .313 and on pace for over 45 homers, 115 RBIs and nearly 30 steals. He’s doing just fine, thank you very much.

Messed of Show: Rickie Weeks, on the other hand, has not been fine, at all; he’s more likely to reach 200 strikeouts than a .200 batting average.

Pittsburgh Pirates
What Jumps Out: The Pirates have thrown out only six of 67 attempted basestealers.

In the Spotlight: Tormented veteran pitcher A.J. Burnett came to Pittsburgh to try and bolster a young staff—and even after overcoming a freak spring training mishap that stalled his season debut, he’s still 9-2 with a fine 3.31 ERA at the midway point.

Best of Show: This looks to be the year that the highly touted Andrew McCutchen, on pace for a .340-30-100 season with 30 steals, is finally breaking out into superstar form. (Here’s even better news for fans of the Bucs; McCutchen’s locked up in Pittsburgh through 2018.)

Messed of Show: Clint Barmes, the Pirates’ second highest-paid player, is giving them nil value for his $5 million at the plate—hitting just .198 with four walks and 55 strikeouts.

St. Louis Cardinals
What Jumps Out: Ten wins for Lance Lynn, who came into the season with one career victory.

In the Spotlight: Adam Wainwright’s return to the mound after a year off with Tommy John elbow surgery hasn’t been what he had hoped; he’s 6-8 with a mediocre 4.75 ERA, showing only flashes of the Wainwright who arguably was the NL’s best pitcher in 2010.

Best of Show: If Carlos Beltran (.310, 20 home runs, 61 RBIs) keeps this up, it will easily result in the best year in an already productive career—and his first-year presence has more than eased the loss of Albert Pujols among the Redbirds’ faithful.

Messed of Show: After two strong seasons to start his career, pitcher Jamie Garcia has taken a wrong turn with a shaky 3-4 record, 4.48 ERA and a stay on the disabled list with a strained throwing shoulder.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks
What Jumps Out: A very steady lineup with almost everyone hitting somewhere between .270 and .300.

In the Spotlight: Trevor Cahill (6-6, 3.67 ERA) was brought in from Oakland to strengthen a promising rotation and has yet to light the NL on fire—but then again, he hasn’t gone ice cold as he did for the bulk of last season with the A’s.

Best of Show: Wade Miley (9-4, 2.87 ERA) was not projected to be part of that starting rotation, but after Josh Collmenter bombed to start the year, he got the shot and is looking like someone who can give Bryce Harper a run for his NL Rookie of the Year moolah.

Messed of Show: After pitching with ace-like efficiency over the last two years, Daniel Hudson has collapsed under the weight of a rotten start and, worse, the recent revelation that he’ll need Tommy John surgery. He finishes the year with a 3-2 record—but a badly bloated 7.35 ERA.

Colorado Rockies
What Jumps Out: Opponents are hitting .300 against them—.280 at sea level.

In the Spotlight: Jamie Moyer earned the number two spot in the rotation at the age of 49—and showed his age with each successive start until the Rockies finally released him at the end of May. He’s now trying to latch on with Toronto.

Best of Show: Carlos Gonzalez may be Clark Kent on the road (.276 average, five homers) and Superman at Coors Field (.390, 12), but his overall performance is nothing to complain about.

Messed of Show: The Rockies traded Jason Hammel to Baltimore for Jeremy Guthrie and man, they’ve been kicking themselves in their hindsights ever since. With a 6.56 ERA, Guthrie has all but encouraged the Rockies to demote him to the bullpen and give birth to Jim Tracy’s disastrous four-man rotation concept.

Los Angeles Dodgers
What Jumps Out: The record $2.1 billion shelled out by Magic Johnson and Company to overpay for this ballclub.

In the Spotlight: The Dodgers were counting on second-year shortstop Dee Gordon to bring the same spark (if not better) as last season—but his average is 80 points lower and he remains a defensive liability.

Best of Show: Matt Kemp (.355 average, 12 homers and 28 RBIs in 121 at-bats) has been baseball’s most dangerous hitter—when his hamstring has allowed him. He’s been so good, he’ll make the starting roster of the All-Star Game despite missing half of the season; without him, the Dodgers have been just another .500 team.

Messed of Show: Juan Uribe is following on the heels of Jason Schmidt as yet another ex-Giant bombing in Dodger Blue. (Conspiracy theory, anyone?) Eight million dollars a year should buy you far more than a .205 average and one home run by midseason.

San Diego Padres
What Jumps Out: A .162 average with runners in scoring position and two outs.

In the Spotlight: A once-mighty bullpen of Luke Gregerson, Mike Adams and closer Heath Bell has long since been overhauled, but for the better? The Padres’ 3.63 ERA and ten blown saves among relievers are far from wowing.

Best of Show: Even though he got a late start, Carlos Quentin hasn’t found voluminous Petco Park to be a problem, hitting .311 with seven homers in just 27 games. He should enjoy it while he can, because he’s likely gone via trade by August 1.

Messed of Show: Cameron Maybin was one of the few guys holding a very weak offense together last year; this season, it’s the other way around. Maybin leads the team with 16 steals, but he’d have a lot more if he wasn’t batting a weak .204.

San Francisco Giants
What Jumps Out: Four everyday hitters (Melky Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and Angel Pagan) hitting at or over .300; is this really your father’s Giants of 2011?

In the Spotlight: After having his season cut violently short early in 2011 in a home plate collision, Posey is showing little signs of rust, headed for a .300-20-80 campaign and a starting spot in the All-Star Game.

Best of Show: Stolen from Kansas City, Melky Cabrera has won over Tony Bennett’s heart and a whole lot of others in San Francisco with his exceptional, aggressive play (.350 average on a major league-leading 109 hits), giving rise to a group of guys dressed like milkmen (they’re called “Melkmen,” get it?) roaming AT &T Park in his honor.

Messed of Show: Tim Lincecum (3-8, 5.60 ERA) has endured through one long strange funk, continually snakebit by the big inning despite the fact that he has no physical pain or loss of velocity. A major hiccup or the end of a reign?


Outguessing the Mayans: Our 2012 Baseball Picks This Great Game's fearless forecasters sort out the ups, downs and sideways to deliver their picks for baseball's 2012 regular season.


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