Major League Baseball’s Most Surprising Teams at the All-Star Break

American League:

Boston Red Sox (57-37 1st place in AL EAST)

Now who saw this coming? After an abysmal 69 win season the Red Sox have completely turned it around. They only need 12 more wins to match their wins from last season. The difference between this season and last is that every player “wants to play all out” for John Farrell. Before being signed as manager this season, Farrell managed the Toronto Blue Jays, and before that he was the Sox pitching coach. Besides the improved pitching (mainly Clay Bucholtz) the Sox boast the league’s top offense. The Sox are second in the majors in batting average, first in runs scored, first in slugging and first in on base percentage. This team has a new grind it out mentality, and will be exciting to watch once October comes around. Let’s hope they continue to maintain their pace in the very competitive AL East.

 

Cleveland Indians (48-44 2nd Place AL Central)

Cleveland is another surprising team that is in contention heading into the All-Star break. Managed by former Red Sox manager Terry Francona, the team has adopted his style of play: a grind it out style, as indicated by their record and statistics. The Indians are in the middle of the pack in all categories including: hitting, pitching and fielding. Do statistics tell the tale? The Indians sit 2.5 games back of Detroit, one of the favorites to come out of the American League. One will question if the Indians will be able to remain in contention throughout the remainder of the season closely behind Detroit.

National League:

Washington Nationals (47-45 2nd place NL EAST)

After clinching baseball’s best record of 98-64 last season, even by limiting ace Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals caught the league by storm. That brought even higher expectations this year, after being seen as a contender with the additions of center fielder Denard Span, and pitchers Gio Gonzalez, Rafael Soriano, and Dan Haren. This team was supposed to be better than last year’s, so why are they only 2 games above .500 baseball?  They are in the middle of the pack in almost every hitting category, are in the top half of the league in pitching, but their defense has been dreadful. If the team gets back to their form from last year, they will be in contention for the playoffs, even playing sub-par baseball for half the season and only being 6 games back behind the Atlanta Braves who started the season on a blistering hot streak.

Pittsburgh Pirates (54-36 2nd place NL Central)

After last season’s impressive and surprising first half, the Pirates headed into the second half of the season with the playoffs in their sights. After a 2nd half collapse, the Pirates stand in the same position as last year, but this year is different. This year the Pirates have loftier expectations. The pitching has improved, and has survived their rash of injuries, yet maintained a high level of baseball throughout the first half. One of the most underrated signings this year MUST be Francisco Liriano; he has pitched great for the Pirates with a 9-3 record with a 2.00 ERA. The main question coming into the season was their offense, and who would be able to help Andrew McCutchen carry the load. Starling Marte and Pedro Alvarez have helped carry the load so far this season. The offense is in the middle of the pack in almost all hitting categories, but with the good pitching the Pirates stay in contention in the highly competitive NL Central. They lead the league in opponents average and whip. If this trend continues after the break, I expect the Pirates to make the playoffs and even contend in the National League.

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