Kansas City Royals
Wait, did I just see the Royals on ESPN? I have caught myself thinking this more already than any other season in recent years. Dayton Moore and the Royals have finally gone all in for this 2013 season. With a huge trade for James Shields, the Royals were finally able to go from being one of the worst starting rotations in the history of the MLB to one of the better rotations in the AL. To go with a better rotation, they Royals have offensive threats that could contribute to a rare winning season.
The biggest X-factor this season is health. The Royals have invested so much this season, so if James Shields or Salvador Perez gets injured, fans can kiss this season goodbye. Concerning health, the major statistic I see is which starter pitches the most innings. Last year, the starters went just six innings too often. Though the bullpen was dominant, the relievers were typically worn out. The Royals trade for Shields has given Kansas City a workhorse. It has also given the Royals and Ned Yost options for their rotation and bullpen.
The starting rotation is bound to be better this year than last, but by how much? As I said earlier, the inning the starters consume will show the specific talents the Royals have in the bullpen. Right now, here is how I see the starting rotation shaping out:
1. James Shields: 15-10, 3.52 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 223 Ks, 58 Walks in 227.2 Innings
2. Ervin Santana: 9-13, 5.16 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 133 Ks, 61 Walks in 178 Innings
3. Jeremy Guthrie: 8-12, 4.76 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 101 Ks, 50 Walks in 181.2 Innings
4. Wade Davis: 3-0, 2.43 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 87 Ks, 29 Walks in 70.1 Innings
5. Luis Mendoza: 8-10, 4.23 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 106 Ks, 59 Walks in 166 Innings
Remember when I said they Royals will have options this season? Well, what should the Royals do with Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen? I have always been a huge believer that the best way to motivate and get the best out of players is through pure competition. I hope Ned Yost has made it clear that no one’s starting spot is a lock. Mendoza has been pitching extremely well so far this offseason and spring training. While this does not matter too much, it does show that he is coming in ready to compete for a job. This season, the Royals will have something they have not had since they traded away Zack Greinke. The Royals will once again have a pitcher with whom they will expect a win no matter what in James Shields. “Big Game James” actually thrives off of pitching in games against the best teams and will get his opportunity in the Royals opener against Chicago White Sox. Plus, Shields will bring playoff experience to the staff.
The Royals’ bullpen has been the strongest part of the team because of young prospects coming in and producing immediately. Greg Holland and Aaron Crow are the “Leaders of the Relievers”. Both can come in with confidence that they will get the team out of any jam. The 5 players below are current locks on having a spot in the rotation due to how they have fared in the majors so far. Holland will close and Crow will be the set-up man just like last year. With Luke Hochevar being put in the bullpen, the relievers are starting to form a complete group.
Greg Holland: 7-4, 16 Saves, 2.96 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 91 Ks, 34 Walks in 67 Innings
Kelvin Herrera: 4-3, 2.35 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 77 Ks, 21 Walks in 84.1 Innings
Tim Collins: 5-4, 3.36 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 93 Ks, 34 Walks in 69.2 Innings
Aaron Crow: 3-1, 3.48 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 65 Ks, 22 Walks in 64.2 Innings
Louis Coleman: 0-0, 3.71 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 65 Ks, 26 Walks in 51 Innings
Nate Adcock, Will Smith and Everett Teaford are all fighting for one spot in the bullpen and it will most likely be this way the entire season. Will Smith did a better job than most expected last year as a starter but did not perform at a high enough rate to retain his role in the rotation.
The Royals will not intimidate opposing pitching staffs with their power, but will with their ability to run the bases, hit for contact and situational hitting. The biggest difference from last year to this year’s offensive attack is having Salvador Perez healthy. Along with Perez, look for Alex Gordon and Billy Butler to carry the load for this lineup For the most part, Gordon and Butler have been consistent. I expect Butler to finally jump into the thirty home run club and be the sole member from the Royals. Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas could both take major strides this year as well. Hosmer should benefit immensely from playing with the USA team because he gets to see how the best players prepare themselves on a daily basis. I do not expect Perez to hit in the .300’s but around .280 mark. Though the Royals may lack strength in power, they more than make up for it in their athletic youth.
Alex Gordon (LF): .294/.368/.455, 14 HR’s, 72 RBI, 93 Runs in 161 Games
Alcides Escobar (SS): .293/.331/.390, 5 HR’s, 52 RBI, 68 Runs, 35 SB’s in 155 Games
Eric Hosmer (1B): .232/.304/.359, 14 HR’s, 60 RBI, 65 Runs, 16 SB’s in 152 Games
Billy Butler (DH): .313/.373/.510, 29 HR’s, 107 RBI, 72 Runs in 161 Games
Mike Moustakas (3B): .242/.296/.412, 20 HR’s, 73 RBI, 69 Runs in 149 Games
Salvador Perez (C): .301/.328/.471, 11 HR’s, 39 RBI, 38 Runs in 76 Games
Jeff Francoeur (RF): .235/.287/.387, 16 HR’s, 49 RBI, 58 Runs in 148 Games
Lorenzo Cain (CF): .266/.316/.419, 7 HR’s, 31 RBI, 27 Runs, 10 SB’s in 61 Games
Chris Getz (2B): .275/.312/.360, 17 RBI, 22 Runs, 9 SB’s in 64 Games
Come September, I expect the Royals to finish at 79-83. Lorenzo Cain’s health will be crucial as this team aims to achieve a winning record. With major injuries to any of the starting lineup, the Royals winning chances diminish because they do not have the depth to plug another player in without a great drop off. Furthermore, the Royals do not have the pieces or money to make trades to improve the roster in the middle of the season. The Royals are all in this year and pitching will tell the story for the Blue Crew.
This is what the Royals starting rotation looks like:
1. Jeremy Guthrie
2. Luis Mendoza
3. Bruce Chen
4. Luke Hochevar
5. Will Smith
With this rotation, it is hard to believe the Royals finished 3rd in the central division. While Jeremy Guthrie pitched extremely well in the later half of the season, he does not deserve to be an ace on any pitching staff. To be honest, Mendoza, Chen, Hochevar, and Smith would be lucky to even be the fifth starter for the Giants or Tigers. To reach the World Series, a team must have quality starting pitching.
Justin Verlander, obviously, is the Tigers’ most dominant pitcher. Also, the Giants rely heavily on Matt Cain in a win or go home game. While both teams have other outstanding pitchers, none make an impact as much as these two aces.
Every time Verlander or Cain step foot on the mound, their respective team knows they should win the game. If either team is
able to score 3 runs, they will win the majority of the time. Another huge aspect of the pitchers’ importance to their teams, besides the mental aspect, is the number of inning they stay out on the mound. Both pitchers are number one and two in innings-pitched for the postseason. This allows the teams’ managers to be able to save relievers for future games. In addition, the pitching rotation in games usually goes in this order, Verlander – Benoit – Valverde OR Cain – Affeldt – Romo. This scenario gives both teams an excellent chance of winning every time.
To compliment these two dominant aces, both teams have strong 2-3 pitchers. The Tigers have Max Scherzer, a right-handed pitcher who won 16 wins in 2012 and is currently 1-0 in the playoffs. Scherzer averages 11.1 strikeouts per 9 innings. The Giants also have a strong second pitcher in Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner is a lefty that stands tall at 6’5”. Bumgrarner was the second man in the rotationf or the whole season and will now be used in the bullpen. He won 16 games during the regular season but is 0-2 this postseason. With his struggles this postseason, Barry Zito replaces him in the order as he starts game one in the series. If the Royals somehow made it to the World Series, they would have Luis Mendoza as their second pitcher. Mendoza finished the season with a record of 8-10. Mendoza actually surprised people with his solid season and his ERA of 4.23. He will never be a dominant pitcher, but he has had enough success this season to get him a spot on next year’s rotation. While they have Mendoza signed until 2017, Guthrie is a free agent this offseason. The Royals are faced with a hard decision of whether to pay Guthrie, with the risk of him struggling like he has before, or to let him go altogether.
While every team in the 2012 playoffs had a better starting rotation, I still feel the Royals have the strongest bullpen. Crow and Holland have been lights out for two consecutive years. Kelvin Herrera stepped up big this year with a very respectable 2.35 ERA and 77 strikeouts. Another nice surprise was Tim Collins who recorded 93 strikeouts. Collins maintained an ERA of 3.36. The bullpen was the brightest area for the Royals all season long.
In the end, I see the Giants winning because of the momentum they are riding. The fans in San Francisco have been an essential part to the Giants’ success in the postseason. The Giants rally when they are in a hole, and they know how to battle adversity. Also, Buster Posey will jump out of the postseason slump he has been in. A major key is how Bumgarner and Zito pitch.
As the 2012 season winds down, the Royals will end with yet another disappointing season. Going into this year, tons of optimism surrounded this team. With the likes of Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas entering their full first year in the bigs, Danny Duffy, Luke Hochevar and Bruce Chen in the rotation after finishing off the 2011 season on a strong note. Expectations then dropped off during the first home stand of the year; with the Royals losing their first 10 games. Trying to dig out of a big hole, the Royals got as close as 4 games under .500. After an abysmal July, the Royals are poised for another losing season. To transition a negative into a positive lets look at the upside for 2013, by position.
After signing Salvador Perez to an extension, he is the future. The question was, after knee surgery, how was he going to come back. His numbers do not lie, .313 8HR and 17 RBI’s in 37 games. Let me enlighten you with this, in 76 career games in the major leagues, Salvador is hitting .323/.350/.507. Healthy I think is an understatement.
After a very successful first season in the majors, the highest of expectations were carried by Eric Hosmer coming into this season. After his rookie year his number read .293/.334/.465 with 19 homers and 78 RBI’s in 128 games. Hosmer has disappointed this season so far going .228/.299/.353 with 10 homers and 49 RBI’s. There’s no question that Hosmer is the first baseman of the future, with a great ceiling. Hosmer looks to snap this slump before the end of this season, but hopefully the sophomore slump will just be a sophomore slump.
Billy Butler is an under-average first baseman with a great, consistent bat. He will primarily play DH, like he always has. (See Designated Hitter)
The biggest question going into next season is the question of second base. With Chris Getz having a great 2012 season, I would expect to see him starting in 2013. But with Christian Colon’s recent promotion to AAA and Johnny Giavotella playing a little 3rd base in the minors, I fully expect to see Colon in the 2nd base spot sometime next season barring an injury or an unproductive beginning of the year. Maybe a trade will happen this offseason to open this position up a little more. With the bad defense from Giavotella, and the recent surge in the bat of Getz, look for Chris Getz to begin 2013 as opening day 2nd baseman, but Colon not far behind
MOOOOOOSEE!!! A fan favorite around Kauffman Stadium is the Royals now and future 3rd baseman. Moose has had a good, not great, but good second year in the majors. His numbers are around .256/.306/.451 with 18 homers and 54 RBI’s. Not only has he shown his bat, but for an ‘average’ third baseman, he sure knows how to flash the leather. For the Royals to be a successful team, Moose has to be the player everyone saw in the minors.
Biggest surprise of 2013 is Alcides Escobar’s bat. His numbers are at .297/.337/.404 with 4 homers and 39 RBI’s. Firmly placing himself in the #2 hole in the lineup. Escobar, as well, is an outstanding defensive shortstop. If he can keep up his hitting he could put himself in a few All Star Games.
Alex Gordon at the beginning of the season lost his swing. Maybe because he has been moved up and down and up and down the lineup. Recently, put back in the leadoff spot and has hit better than .300. If Alex Gordon can keep the bat going like the second half of this season, he could stay in that leadoff spot and be very productive. It also does help out his case that he is a gold glover and has a rocket for an arm.
Lorenzo Cain, brought in to be the everyday center fielder, went on the DL early in the season. During his rehab he had a long setback. Since coming back from the DL, Cain has been the player that everyone thought he would be. Showing his average, power, speed; also showing his defensive skills we saw flashes of in the very short time at the beginning of the season. Hitting in the 3 hole is not in Lorenzo’s future here in KC, but he could be a great 2 hole hitter or somewhere in the bottom to provide a spark.
Wil Myers. No question that he has killed minor league pitching. With Jeff Francoeur blocking him here in the majors (or supposedly blocking him. I don’t know how someone as bad as Francoeur has been this season can block anyone.) Wil Myers has shown scouts everything they need to see and when Myers joins the major league roster in September, he won’t be leaving.
Billy Butler has proven that he is an elite hitter in this league. This year already passing his career high in home runs and still going. Billy has proven over the past few year that he can consistently give you a .290 average, 18+ home runs, 85+ RBI’s and help the team win. This year he is showing his power, playing 113 games he had 24 home runs and 73 RBI’s with a .302 average. Billy is KC icon (Ask Robinson Cano) and will be the leader of this team for years to come. Clint Robinson may start the season in the majors, providing some pop off the bench and to provide Butler or Hosmer with a day off.
Projected 2013 Opening Day Lineup:
1. Alex Gordon – LF
2. Alcides Escobar – SS
3. Mike Moustakas – 3B
4. Billy Butler – DH
5. Salvador Perez -C
6. Eric Hosmer – 1B
7. Wil Myers – RF
8. Lorenzo Cain – CF
9. Chris Getz – 2B
Dayton Moore can strikeout or hit a homerun in free agency this year. He does not have the history of wowing anyone, yet hes never had this much major league ready talent. Every year he seems to surprise everyone with a less than stellar free agent signing. This offseason, I would like to see Dayton Moore ink a guy like Shawn Marcum, a guy with Kansas City ties. If we went off past signees, we would see a guy like Jair Jurrjens. Here’s where I see the rotation looking like.
1. Shawn Marcum – Free agent signee, Kansas City native, now best pitcher on the Royals
2. Bruce Chen – And yet again, there he is.
3. Luke Hochevar – Never know what your gonna get.
4. Jake Odorizzi – Having a good year in the minors, should be a little higher, but Dayton has Luke Hochevar love.
5. Jeremy Guthrie – First full year with the club, giving his past he will get a shot.
Will Smith and Luis Mendoza are the only other players that have a shot at seeing a spot in the rotation to begin the season. Danny Duffy and Felipe Paulino will see the rotation whenever they return from surgery. Also, John Lamb could very well get a mid season look if he comes off the surgery well.
Everett Teaford – Been good as a long reliever, not so good as a starter.
Luis Mendoza – If he doesn’t make the rotation.
Aaron Crow – Down year, they might try and stretch him out to see if he can be a starter during spring training.
Tim Collins – Dominating 2012 season.
Kelvin Herrera – Looking to be lights out, he needs to upgrade his breaking ball
Greg Holland – Nasty stuff. If Joakim Soria does not recover by the beginning of the season, here is your closer.
Louis Coleman – Great stuff. Good addition to the pen
Jeremy Jeffress – His problems gone??
I could be extremely wrong on all of this. We all know that sometimes the front office does some questionable things, or just really surprising things. Who knows, Jeff Francoeur could begin the season as a Royal. All I know is, its OUR TIME….right?
Another year lost.
That is what we have seen this year, like so many other years, from the Royals. Another year of expectations not met, another year of a losing record, another year of failure. But how can it all turn around? They clearly have talent in place in a lot of areas. They have some guys who have the ability to perform next year, such as Alex Gordon in left, Billy Butler at DH, Alcides Escobar at shortstop, Salvador Perez at catcher, Mike Moustakas at third, and Lorenzo Cain in Center.
If you do a quick evaluation of this team, you will see that the Royals currently rank 9th in the AL in On Base Percentage (OBP). You will notice that we have about six regular players with league or better On-base numbers (League average is about a .320 On-base percentage) (Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, Alcides Escobar, Salvador Perez, Lorenzo Cain, and Chris Getz). If you weed out the players who don’t have above average OBP numbers (Below a .340 OBP), you only get Alcides Escobar, Billy Butler, Alex Gordon, and Salvador Perez. In order to be a winner in 2013 and beyond, we need to constantly be evaluating the team’s on-base stats, and we need to consistently have an above-average overall team OBP (at least .330). You see that teams like the Rangers, the Tigers, the Yankees, the Cardinals, the Red Sox, and the Braves (All fairly consistent winners) have high team OBP numbers. If we want to be a team like those teams, we need to focus on getting on base.
If you dig a little further (And trust me, you don’t need to dig much further to see this glaring issue), you will see that we have practically no starting pitching. We are 11th out of 14 AL teams in ERA, and if you look deeper into the stats, you will see that we do not have a single starter with an ERA+ over 100 (Which basically means we do not have a single starter who is even average). We can safely assume that Felipe Paulino and Danny Duffy (our only two starters who can be expected to have ERA+ numbers over 100) are going to be gone for at least most of the season. We can also assume that Jake Odorizzi will not immediately contribute to our starting pitching woes. The bullpen is playoff-caliber, but we need a complete overhaul to the starting rotation.
To recap, here is what the Royals need to contend next year and beyond:
1: An above average team OBP.
2: five pitchers each with an ERA+ over 90.
3: To make some shrewd moves on the market during the offseason to acquire these luxuries.
During the offseason, the Royals will have a payroll of roughly $50 Million and a budget of roughly $20 Million without any additions or subtractions.
If you take Hochevar and Chen’s salary out of the equation, we would have a salary of roughly $30 million this offseason. If you take even 1/4th of Jeff Francoeur’s salary out of the equation, we would have a budget of $33 Million.
With that money (Even if we don’t dump Francoeur) and our resources in the minors, we should have more than enough to acquire 3 starting pitchers who are at least decent, and a right handed bat at second base with a decent OBP (Jeff Keppinger is an example, or we could just call up Johnny Giavotella) to platoon at second with Chris Getz.
There are plenty of options on the starting pitching market this offseason. From top free agent targets such as Zack Grienke, Anibal Sanchez, Edwin Jackson, Shaun Marcum, and (potentially) Jake Peavy, to potential trade targets such as James Shields, Josh Beckett, Josh Johnson, and Jason Vargas, the market is the deepest it has been in years. The Royals should have no trouble finding at least a few legitimate starting pitching options.
There will be a lot more speculation as to what the Royals do this offseason, but I thought I would give you a primer for what to expect from now until Opening Day next year.
First, here’s an introduction. My name is Jack Marsh. I’m 15, and I have been writing about sports for a while now on my own (And on Royals Review) and I needed to get another outlet for my writing. Thankfully, I submitted some of my work to KC Young Guns, and they liked it. I feel very lucky to have this privilege of writing for KC Young Guns, and I really appreciate getting the opportunity to write here.
The Royals made a major trade today, sending Jonathan Sanchez (and his delightful 7.76 ERA and WHIP of 2.044) to the Rockies for Jeremy Guthrie (And his just as delightful 6.35 ERA and 1.688 WHIP). If you barely skim the trade and what we got in return, you would probably say that it was trading a bad pitcher for a just as bad pitcher. However, if you look a little deeper into the numbers, you will see that Jeremy Guthrie is a good #3 starter who simply struggles in hitter’s parks because he is a fly-ball pitcher.
Let’s start with the basics. Jeremy Guthrie is an adequate pitcher who doesn’t strike out a lot of guys (Career 5.4 Strikeouts per 9 IP), but focuses on pitching to contact and getting outs through it (40.7% Career Groundball rate and 40.4% Flyball rate). By picthing with a high Flyball percentage, you probably aren’t going to survive at Coors Field (the toughest hitter’s park/home run park in the MLB), and the stats show that he did not.
At Coors Field, Guthrie had a 9.50 ERA. Away from Coors Field, Guthrie had a 3.67 ERA. When you consider that The K is a neutral hitter/pitcher park, you can expect some improvement. When you see that his BABIP (Batting average on balls in play) is .340 at home, you can expect even more.
Considering that Jonathan Sanchez has been the lesser pitcher AWAY from Coors Field than Jeremy Guthrie, you can probably expect him to do even worse when he’s there.
If you look at the type of pitcher Guthrie is and the way he performs away from Coors, this trade could be considered a major steal for the Royals. The only down side to the trade for the Royals is having to eat up Guthrie’s $8.2 million contract.
The Royals will look to have different results with this 10 game homestand. The first homestand of the season ended with a miserable record of 0-10. If the Royals would have avoided the major skid, the teams record would be over .500. The team starts the homestand with a 3 game series against the division leading Chicago White Sox. In game one Bruce Chen continued in his slump that is destroying his ERA. Before the month of July, Bruce’s ERA was 4.5 and after his last three starts it jumped to 5.5. Luis Mendoza now leads the starting rotation with a 4.5 ERA.
The Roylas lost 9-8 in the first game of the series against the White Sox. In the gameBruce Chen struggled to get through 4.2 innings. Chen gave up 3 runs in the first innings and could not find his control walking three hitters. Chen totalled 110 pitches in the short start. Hitters seemed to comfortable in the batters box. Lorenzo Cain was the bright spot in the game. In his debut, Cain went 3-6 with a double and a RBI. Having Lorenzo Cain back in the lineup will add a major boost to the productivity. Mike Moustakas homered in the second inning off of Quintana.
Alcides Escobar was the clear MVP of the second game. Escobar clubbed two homeruns, his 4th of the year. This was Escobar’s first multi homer game of his career. The Royals shortstop now leads the majors for shortstops in batting average and OPS with .311 and .791. Along with Escobar, Chris Getz went 2-3 with a double. Francoeur, Moustakas, and Butler each added 2 hits. Luke Hochaver pitched a solid 5 innings giving up 3 runs. Greg Holland was the winning pitcher with Jonathan Broxton notching his 22 save. Crow and Mijares also got work in the game combining for 1.2 innings.
The Royals will be facing dominate Chris Sale in the third and final game of the series. Sale has been lights out with a record of 10-2 and a 2.19 ERA. Sale, an All Star, pitched 5 innings giving up 3 runs against the Royals on May 12. The Royals gave Sale his second loss of the season. Ned Yost and the Royals will be led by Luis Mendoza. Mendoza faced the White Sox last on May 13 and gave up 1 run in 5.2 innings of work. He recorded his second win of the season that game. Mendoza is currently 3-5 with a 4.5 ERA.
Greetings all. It’s been awhile since I’ve gotten the chance to sit down and write an article for this website, something I always look forward to doing and take pleasure in doing so. Between working 35 hours a week, rushing fraternities for college, and trying to get a few college credits knocked out in the process, I’ve had little time to sit down and do what I enjoy almost more than anything else: writing about sports. And boy, has a lot changed in the sports world in the last couple months. So here it goes folks.
During my 2-month hiatus, 2 sports have crowned champions. The Los Angeles Kings won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history in late May, defeating the New Jersey Devils in 6 games. The Kings playoff run was possibly the most improbable, yet one of the most impressive runs in NHL playoff history. They became the first 8th seeded team in NHL history to win a Stanley Cup.
The Kings lost just 1 game away from Staples Center all postseason, thanks in large part to the play of goalie Jonathan Quick. Quick seemed to stop everything – and yes, I mean everything – that came his way in the playoffs. Captain Dustin Brown provided the scoring, as he scored almost 50 percent of the team’s playoff tallies. The Kings proved once and for all that no matter how efficient and talented you are on offense, goalie play wins games in the postseason. Just ask the Canucks and Blackhawks, the 2 highest scoring teams in the NHL this past season. Both failed to make it out of the first round.
The NBA also crowned a champion in the last 30 days. Not to take anything away from the Stanley Cup Finals, because nothing beats playoff hockey, but the 2012 NBA Finals were probably the most anticipated and intriguing finals since the Lakers/Celtics matchup in 2008. It was Durant against LeBron, prodigal son vs. villain. Thunder vs. Heat, a final many predicted would transpire before the season even started. And after 5 thrilling, well-contested games between the Thunder and Heat, LeBron James and the Miami Heat were crowned champions. The ring less king was no more. All criticism of James, many of it being unjustified, hushed to a slow murmur rather than shouting, obnoxious television pundits over-analyzing James at every turn (see Bayless, Skip.)
The importance of the Heat’s championship should not be overlooked. LeBron finally got off the snide, Dwayne Wade wrote his ticket to the hall of fame, and Chris Bosh’s importance was finally realized by all. Not to mention the all-important 38 year old Eddie Curry getting his first championship. More importantly, Miami hoisting the trophy has ignited NBA free agency this summer.
Teams are now attempting to construct their own “big 3” in order to compete with the Heat, among others. The newly located Brooklyn Nets resigned Deron Williams and added Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace, giving them a big 3 of their own. The Lakers made perhaps the biggest splash of all trading for Steve Nash to pair him up with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, and Andrew Bynum. Los Angeles is now likely Oklahoma City’s biggest competitor out west.
The mystery still remains as to where Dwight Howard will end up. Brooklyn is maxed out on the cap, so they are no longer a possible destination. The only 2 teams in play for Howard at this point are the Lakers and the Magic. If the Lakers were to acquire Howard, they would have to give up 22-year-old Andrew Bynum in the process. That’s a risk I’d be willing to take if I were Los Angles, considering Kobe himself recently admitted his years in the league are numbered. Regardless of where Howard lands, parody in the NBA is slowly improving. Although the league is still driven by big markets, Oklahoma City has proven winning in a small market can be done.
The All Star Break is here in major league baseball, and what a first half it was. The first half of 2012 has been about complete games, young superstars, 38 year old knuckleballers, and the overachievement of several teams. 19 year old Bryce Harper, who became the youngest position player to ever play in an All Star Game Tuesday night, has the upstart Washington Nationals on top of the National League East. Harper has a rare combination of raw power, blazing speed, and extremely advanced baseball instincts for a 19 year old. However, Harper isn’t the only young stud that has made a mark on the first half of the season. 20-year-old Angels outfielder Mike Trout has also impressed the baseball community with his immense talent. A few have even made the case for Trout being the AL’s MVP.
With Trout in the lineup, the Angels have gone 38-22, overcoming newly acquired star Albert Pujols’ struggles and battling their way to a 48-38 record at the break, good for 2nd in the American League West. The Yankees and Rangers are tied for the best record in baseball at the break, and the surprising White Sox are atop the American League Central. White Sox DH Adam Dunn is the leader in the clubhouse for the Comeback Player of the Year award, slugging 25 HR’s and 61 RBI’s in the first half.
In the National League, Pittsburgh Pirates’ centerfielder Andrew McCutchen has the Buccos atop the National League Central at the break for the 2nd time in the last 29 years. If the season were to end today, McCutchen would get my vote for NL NVP. McCutchen finished the first half with a .360 average, best in all of baseball, adding 19 HR’s and knocking in 61 RBI’s. It was one hell of a first half for him and the Pirates, a team I’d like to see stay in contention deep into September.
The 1969 Mets were dubbed the “Amazin Mets” after winning their first World Series Championship in franchise history. The ’69 Mets were young, inexperienced, and were expected to be the worst team in baseball in 1969 (or so I’m told.) What does this have to do with 2012? Well, the Mets are amazin again in 2012, as they have a 46-40 record and sit atop the National League Wild Card standings. Many were picking the Mets to lose 100 games this season. Now they’re on pace for 90 wins, and if the season ended today, they’d be playing the Los Angeles Dodgers in the playoffs.
New York’s success can be attributed to 38 year old knuckle baller R.A. Dickey leading the National League with a 2.37 ERA and 137 strikeouts, and David Wright returning to his pre-knee surgery form, batting over .350 and knocking in 60 runs in the first half. This team might not be the most talented, but their character and heart are second to none.
I haven’t even mentioned Matt Cain and Philip Humbers perfect games, Josh Hamilton’s 4-homerun game, Robinson Cano being mercilessly booed at the HR derby, and Johan Santana’s no-hitter, the first in Mets history. It’s been an exciting first half on the diamond. Why not expect more of the same in the second half?
Outside of hockey, basketball, and baseball, 26-year-old Webb Simpson won his first major championship, hoisting the U.S. Open crown at famed Olympic Club. The win was not surprising in the least to golf fans, but more surprising was Tiger Woods’ collapse on Saturday and Sunday. Woods entered the 3rd round with a 2 shot lead over the field, a lead nobody thought he would yield at a major. Woods went on to shoot 8 over on Saturday and Sunday, finishing an underwhelming tie for 29th.
Rodger Federor won his 7th Wimbeldon Championship this past weekend, a win that bolted him into conversation for the best men’s tennis player in history.
Looking ahead, the 2012 Summer Olympic games are set to begin in London within the month. Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte should represent the U.S. well in the pool, Tyson Gay looks to become the most decorated runner in U.S. history at the summer games, and the “new dream team” will attempt to bring home the gold behind LeBron James and Kevin Durant. The summer Olympics are always enjoyable to watch, and I recommend you tuning in the mellifluous voice of one Bob Costas and enjoying the games. Not to mention training camp beginning for most teams in the next 4 weeks. Those crisp fall Sunday afternoons are right around the corner.
Most people think summer is the death for sports. Unless you’re a baseball fan, it can be a tad boring. But the Olympics should give those non-seam heads something to watch this summer. And if you’re not into the Olympic games, as I sit typing this, there are only 64 days until the Super Bowl champion New York Giants face off against the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL season opener.