Hello, readers. My name is James Kinsella. I am one of the fortunate 19 that John selected for TJR Sports. I wanted to share the article that I sent in. It isn't too relevant now that we are weeks removed from the MLB All-Star Break, but the fun of course continues.
I will be looking to do many different things with this position. I am thinking of new things that haven't really been done. That's something I always try to do, which is hard in 2013. But hey, the effort is there. I hope you enjoy!
We are at the All-Star Break of this 2013 MLB campaign. As we take a break from all the everyday excitement from the MLB, let's take a look at several fun stories throughout the league.
Who's #1 In Detroit?
One starting pitcher for the Detroit Tigers is 13-1. Another is 10-6. "One" is Max Scherzer. "Another" is Justin Verlander. In essence, Verlander is 4 games behind Scherzer in the Detroit standings, hanging out with those "other" starters. If you go by the argument that you are only as good as your last start, then things do look pretty status quo. Verlander is dominant. Still, why has Verlander not went the distance once yet in 2013, after completing 6 of his 33 starts last year? He could very well have thrown a CG, SO on Sunday, as he left the game after giving up a couple of hits in the 7th innings of a brewing no-hitter. I guess 105 pitches, the All-Star game upcoming, and a five run lead says he shouldn't complete that one. Additionally, why is Scherzer the one who took 19 starts before he left a game leaving his team trailing? Isn't that the $180 million man's job? Which one is making $20.1 million this season, and which one is making $6.7 million? Seems a bit off to me. This happens, though, and I wouldn't worry too much, Tiger fans. It isn't a bad problem to have someone challenging Verlander as your #1 arm. Will Scherzer be the opening day man next season? No, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't acknowledge that we are seeing a machine come back to Earth. Previous average has become shutdown, and previously great is suddenly pedestrian. Will Verlander reassert himself as the primary man not only in Detroit, but perhaps the American League as whole?
Argh, Pirates Almighty?
We have actually seen this episode lately. The Pittsburgh Pirates have been on top of the NL Central in July. At the break, they are one game behind St. Louis for the division lead, after slipping up a hair last weekend. Sadly, the previous episodes ended with the poor Pirates collapsing to more sub-.500 seasons. This time, one can't help but to think it ends different. What's not to like about these Pittsburgh Pirates? The Steel City should be loving baseball again, as their Buckos look to be on the winning side of a baseball season for the first time since 1992. That is 21 seasons of losing baseball. What is different about this year? The formula for success is pitching, as we have seen with recent World Series winners. The Pirates have clearly shown that, giving up the fewest runs in the majors. What will hold them back is that you still need to score runs. It is stunning that a team ranks 27th in all of the league in runs scored, and is currently 19 games over .500. This is a case where 27th beats 1st, if you are 1st in runs allowed. One has to believe that for this success continues, some more Pirates need to be getting around the bases. The story of no offense vs. great pitching is at a summit in Pittsburgh. Keep track of it and see how this story ends for the 2013 Pittsburgh Pirates.
The "Anyone's Division" Race
If you ask me, NL West is the most competitive all-around division in baseball. It is comparable to the NFL's NFC East. Each team has a chance to take the division going into the season. The last two seasons haven't been much of a down-to-the-wire race, but the NL West is the only division in which every team has played postseason baseball from 2006 until last season. Adding to that fact, each team has been in postseason play at least twice since 2005. There is some competition for you. As recent as last week, every team was bunched within a handful of games for the division lead. The Padres are quickly exiting this race after losing 13 out of their last 16 going into the break. The D'backs hold a slim lead, but are far from being able to enjoy it. Not only are the Dodgers hot on their trails, being one of the hottest teams in baseball, can you ever count out the Rockies and Giants for contention? This is a division where 85 wins could very well take it, meaning we could be going down to the wire with 3, maybe even 4 teams. This is a division that any baseball fan should appreciate when it comes to division races. While the AL east could very well have a scramble to the finish as well, this one will be more enjoyable, because a Wild Card slot will likely not fall to a team who doesn't take this division, and that makes it all the more intense when it is do or die, with a lifeline.
The Norm vs. The New
We know the New York Yankees have always been there. We know the Boston Red Sox contend year after year, sans 2012. If we go by division winners, then we have to add the Atlanta Braves and Detroit Tigers to the mix of teams that have been on stretches where there just isn't any competition. That is, until now. This 2013 has been all about opportunity. You can sit there in Spring Training, each year, knowing a team here and there that you will see in October, without much of a problem. Now, there is competition for everyone all around. The added second Wild Card makes winning your division that much more important. To not have to play into a postseason series. Now more than ever, we are seeing new faces pop up to compete for these titles as well. What are the Cleveland Indians doing just a couple games behind the clear-favorites, Detroit? The Pirates are 19 games over .500 and only one game back? The Rays storming the Red Sox, who own the best record in baseball. Those Rays are just winning. The O's are still knocking on the door, despite struggling in recent weeks. We do have the Braves, holding a comfortable 6-game lead over Washington. With the Nats schedule after the All-Star Break, we are going to find out a lot about that team in D.C. It is hard to imagine they will duplicate their impressive performance from last season. Even then, I am not ruling out a return from the Phillies. They will host the entire NL West at home in the 2nd half, which the Braves have already been able to benefit from. Six games against the easy-to-pick-on Marlins near the end means that we could see the NL East decided in the last Phillies-Braves series. Though that more attracts the title, "Norm vs. Norm", it still allows us to appreciate all the competition there is going on in baseball right now, where nobody is a sure thing to run away.
Who Will Repeat?
Of the six division champions from last season, only two are leading the way today. Those two teams only hold slim leads over very pesky rivals. Since the MLB's current six division came into play in 1995, there has only been one time (2006-to-2007) where all six divisions had a new champion from one season to the next. You don't see it often, it is hard to have happen, and it is certainly possible this year. While a possibility, it is hard to see the Indians keeping up with the Tigers. Both teams will play similar schedules in the final month of the season. They also have seven games against one another, and the Tigers own a 9-3 record against Cleveland for a reason. The Tribe don't have a run in them. They are very mediocre, and it's shown all season. They have benefitted from Detroit playing very underachieving ball. That will likely change, but if it doesn't. we may see a Cleveland Indians team squeeze it out, in what would be a remarkable season upset. It's also a real possibility for the Rangers to take back the crown from the A's. The four teams not currently leading their division for a repeat? Each of them are at least five games back, and either chasing two teams, or chasing the leader with another team; not exactly an easy task to make a comeback. Can we see something at season's end that has only been done once before?
Forget Divisions, Who Wins It All?
While winning your division is the most prestigious and rewarding in baseball than in any other major sport, it still isn't completing the job. There are a couple of Best-of-7 series situations that you have to get to. Once that point comes, only four teams remain. You can always predict and configure. More often than not, you have your favorites. While those favorites don't always win, they are still there. This season, how do you configure a favorite? The Red Sox have the best team in baseball on this day. Are they the favorite? Detroit has to be on paper, but they aren't getting championship-caliber pitching, even though they have been scoring runs. If the bats stay hot, the pitching isn't hard to improve with their rotation. Does that keep them as the favorite? Do the Pittsburgh Pirates follow the line of the Giants? Just don't let the other team score. It works. How can't they be the favorites if that continues? The Dodgers and Rays are the hottest teams going into the break. Who can say they aren't the favorites? The Oakland Athletics? The Texas Rangers? The Atlanta Braves? Can you tell me they are easy wins come postseason time?
Here's the deal. Right now, there is no clear favorite to win it all, and baseball is exciting because of it. From one day to the next, you don't know what you are going to get. It used to be a game of having money and a big market. Now aren't we seeing that more in basketball and hockey? Suddenly, I'm seeing an NFL-like parity going on here in baseball, and I personally love it. Do you? Are you having fun with this 2013 season so far? I know I am.