|First Half Report Card: National League||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on July 16, 2008
Arizona Diamondbacks:Â Grade C-.Â When you possess first place by default, and are not even playing .500 ball you donâ€™t get a lot of credit.Â The pitching behind Brandon Webb and Danny Haren has been more than credible, but those exciting young bats havenâ€™t delivered and without Eric Byrnes to anchor the team the Dâ€™Backs have looked more like garter snakes than rattlers to the Central and East.
Atlanta Braves:Â Grade D.Â When you look at the East and realize the Braves are just 6.5 games out you canâ€™t be too hard on this injury decimated team.Â Simply put they donâ€™t have pitching although Jair Jurrigens has been a nice surprise.Â The Braves will simply fade away, and only the fact that the Mets and Phillies have not played well up until recently has kept them in the race.Â A sub .500 season seems more than likely.
Chicago Cubs:Â Grade B+.Â The Cubs are the class of the NL with a balanced hitting and pitching attack.Â If Alfonso Soriano could have avoided the injury bug the Cubs could have been sitting 10 games ahead of Milwaukee.Â The addition of Rich Harden to their staff should pay dividends and keep the Cubs at the forefront of the NL this season.
Cincinnati Reds: Grade C.Â Things havenâ€™t worked out as well as projected for the boys from Cincinnati, mainly because their young pitching hit some bumps while their offense had faced a lot of injuries.Â Edinson Volquez has been the highlight of this team while Ken Griffey Jr appears to be on the decline.
Colorado Rockies:Â Grade F.Â The defending NL champs are 18 games under .500 and look totally hapless without shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and first baseman/leader Todd Helton dealing with long term injuries.Â Â The pitching hasnâ€™t been a shadow of what it was last year when it finished 8th in the NL.Â Theyâ€™ve allowed more than a half run more per game while the offense has fallen from second to tenth in the division.Â Â The fact they are less than 10 games back speaks volumes to the lack of quality of the western division.Â This Rockies team would be challenged to beat AAA teams on a regular basis.
Florida Marlins:Â Grade B.Â Anyone that predicted the Marlins would be above .500 and just 1.5 games out of first place at the All Star break would have been laughed at.Â The Fish didnâ€™t seem to have a prayer of finishing anywhere but a distant fourth just ahead of the Nationals (and some people doubted they would even do that well), but they have been a pleasant surprise mainly based upon their offensive prowess, which has them ranked third in the NL in terms of runs scored.Â Sadly their pitching leaves a lot to be desired.
Houston Astros:Â Grade D.Â No one wants to find themselves a half game behind the Pittsburgh Pirates any time after the opening week of the season but the Astros have that dubious distinction at the All-Star break.Â Despite an MVP type of season so far from Lance Berkman the Astros find themselves 13 games off the pace.Â Â Whatâ€™s the problem?Â In a word - pitching.Â Ace Roy Oswalt has a hip injury and after that the cupboard isnâ€™t exactly well stocked.
Los Angeles Dodgers:Â Grade C-.Â Loaded with young talent and high priced free agents the Dodgers look like they should be real contenders in a tough division but instead they find themselves pretenders in the worst division in all of baseball.Â Sure they are just a game behind the Diamondbacks for the division lead but they find themselves 3 games under .500 and only in the mix because of how bad the division is.
Milwaukee Brewers:Â Grade B-.Â We expected the Brewers to be in the mix for the Central and we havenâ€™t been disappointed.Â They struggled at times early on but they have hung tough and are rolling the dice to win now by acquiring ace CC Sabathia to stand alongside Ben Sheets as a one-two punch.
New York Mets:Â Grade C+.Â Only a nine game winning streak moving into the All Star break keeps the Mets from being a C-/D+ team at this time of the year.Â They are just 7 games above .500 and seem to be a lot more under Jerry Manuel than they were under former skipper Willie Randolph.Â The ship may be righted, but the team has an awful situation in the outfield where the only healthy regular is Carlos Beltran.Â Theyâ€™ll probably be making some sort of move, looking for average if not better than average outfielders by the deadline.
Philadelphia Phillies:Â Grade B-.Â Considering that on paper the Phillies have a very limited pitching staff they have overachieved so far in posting the fourth best ERA (3.90) in the NL going into the break.Â Â However when you consider that their offense ranks second in the NL in runs scored you have to wonder why they are only 0.5 games ahead of the struggling Mets.Â
Pittsburgh Pirates:Â Grade D-.Â The Pirates are well on their way to their 15th consecutive losing season.Â On the bright side they have some talented offensive players to watch, they are half a game in front of the Astros, and they are just a few players away from being a much better team than they are.Â However those pitchers, as the Pirates see it, are already on staff, and if Tom Gorzelanny, Ian Snell or Zach Duke are ready to take a major step forward it hasnâ€™t shown in the first half.
San Diego Padres:Â Grade F.Â Â Utterly pathetic doesnâ€™t even begin to describe how the Padres have played through the first 95 games of the season.Â They are 21 games under .500 and canâ€™t hit their way out of a paper bag to support a pitching staff that has been near the middle of the pack in pitching all season.
San Francisco Giants:Â Grade C.Â For a double AA franchise the Giants are doing well to just be 15 games under .500 and seven games back, however since they are a Major League franchise and in the first year of the post Barry Bonds era, they arenâ€™t really impressing with a pace to win less than 70 games.
Washington Nationals:Â Grade C.Â Hard to argue with the Nats here - we expected them to be last and they havenâ€™t disappointed.Â Any steps forward we hoped to see them take have been derailed by injuries to players like Dmitri Young, Lastings Milledge, Ryan Zimmerman, Elijah Dukes, Nick Johnson and Chad Cordero.