We are a little over halfway through the 2013 Major Leagues Baseball season and as we pause for the all star break it’s an excellent time for teams to assess where they are and whether they need to do anything to improve their team for the stretch run or whether it is time to look ahead to next year.  I thought we would use today’s blog to take a look at where we are and where we are headed in terms of the division races. 

The two teams with the best record in baseball reside in the National League Central where the St. Louis Cardinals have a one game lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The Pirates have been no more than three games behind the Cardinals for almost the entire year.  They have been very quietly and for the most part cheaply building one of the best teams in baseball in Pittsburgh over the past several years as the Pirates have slowly been improving each year.  This team has climbed from the very bottom of the standings and has gone from being one of the worst teams in all of baseball to being one of its best.  They have a small core of veteran leadership but for the most part are made up of young players who want to win and a manager and a general manager who have been patient with them and let them find their way. 

We have certainly talked extensively about the Cardinals in this blog and although I don’t know that I expected them to play as well as they have and have the record they have but I did expect them to be right where they are at this point in the season.  I thought going into the season that the Cincinnati Reds would be their main competition and that could still happen but for now anyway the Reds are in third place and haven’t been able to play consistently well for a long enough period of time to move past the Pirates or the Cardinals.  At this point it looks like the Pirates and Cardinals are locked in a fight to the finish for the NL Central title.  The team that doesn’t win the division will most likely be one of the teams playing for the wild card birth in the playoffs.  The other teams in the NL Central are too far out of it to be any sort of a factor at all.  The Cubs and Brewers have already started looking ahead to next year when thigs aren’t looking much better for either one of them. 

After an impressive season last year the Washington Nationals regurned to reality in a major way this year and are below .500 and trailing the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.  None of the teams in this division have looked particularly impressive thus far but the Braves appear to be locked into first place and I will be surprised if that changes.  The Phillies and Mets along with the Nationals could make it interesting but I really don’t see things changing from where they are now.  The Miami Marlins started looking ahead to next year a long time ago. 

In the NL West things are getting very interesting.  The Los Angeles Dodgers came into this season with baseball’s highest payroll but didn’t play like it for most of the first half of the season.  The Dodgers battled serious injuries to key players earlier in the year and are still not out of the woods yet as far as that is concerned but they have appeared to right the ship in the last few weeks and are playing baseball close to the level they were expected to be at going into the season.  They still trail the Arizona Diamondbacks but they look poised to make a move and overtake the Diamondbacks in the coming weeks.  The defending World Series champions San Francisco Giants have looked anything but and have not played well nor gotten good pitching for most of the year.  The Colorado Rockies surged early but fell off quickly and the San Diego Padres have done as much as they can with what they have which isn’t much. 

Over in the American League the Kansas City Royals find themselves in the middle of the pack in the Al Central which is where they have been since mid May and where they will most likely remain.  The Al Central is not a particularly good division as none of the teams have played all that well.  The Detroit Tigers are leading the division and have been for almost the entire year but I think they would consider their record to be a disappointment and they have played below expectations.  The Cleveland Indians are in second place with the Royals in third.  The Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox have records well below .500 but are not very far from the Tigers and are still very much in the race. 

The Boston Red Sox are leading the AL East with the Baltimore Orioles in second and the Tampa Bay Rays in Third.  The New York Yankees find themselves in fourth place and may find it hard to make a move to get themselves into the playoffs.  The Yankees have been riddled with major injuries all year and their aging roster is starting to show some major cracks.  The Toronto Bluejays had high hopes going into this year and spent quite a bit of money improving their team over the off season but it has done very little to help them and they are near the point where they will need to start looking ahead to next year. 

The Al West has been a dogfight all year between the Texas Rangers and the Oakland A’s.  The A’s have developed into one of the best teams in baseball and have a young nucleus of players anchored by a couple of veterans and are a fun team to watch.  I especially enjoy watching them when they aren’t playing the Cardinals.  The Rangers have some holes in their offense and on the mound but are still a good team despite losing Josh Hamilton to division rival the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  Speaking of the Angels, they may very well be the biggest disappointment of the year as their big money players Albert Pujols and the newly acquired Josh Hamilton have not even come close to living up to expectations.  Their pitching has been sporadic at best.  The Seattle Mariners are in next to last in the Al West and will most likely stay there.  The Houston Astros are so far into last place that nobody can find them. 

The July 31 non waiver trading deadline looms which should make for an interesting rest of the month.  Some teams like the Cardinals, A’s, probably the Pirates, and maybe the Red Sox can win with the players they have right now.  The other teams with a chance to contend for playoff berths have major holes they will need to try to fill.  Just about every team could use pitching help with the Cardinals and A’s being the only ones who probably don’t fall into that category.  The Cardinals need more offense out of the shortstop position but Pete Kozma has begun to show signs of providing that.  I really don’t have a sense of how active things could get trade wise as the month progresses but there are several teams looking to build for the future and perhaps part with pricey free agents or high end contracts but it’s unclear at this point how many takers there will be.  Only time will tell as the trade market develops. 

We’ll be back on Friday with our regular blog looking ahead to all this weekend’s sports action as baseball returns from the all star break, the British Open gets underway, NASCAR continues its season and whatever else comes our way.  Thanks so much for reading this blog and please check out all the other excellent blogs on this site.

Have a wonderful Wednesday!