1/4 Post Review: NL NorthLast season we saw a 63 game difference between 1 & 4, so how are things going this season?
1. Tacoma: 24-15, .615%, expected: .610
A. Well, what can you say, Sandberg's juggernaut continues to dominate and they're playing right where you'd expect them, from the lead.
B. The Toyotas are built on pitching, having allowed just 150 runs and just enough offense to give them breathing room. Currently they're at a +41 advantatge in runs scored. With a team WHIP of 1.26 & ERA at 3.43, it's pretty easy to see why they've been so successful. They have two elite SP's in Sergei Roskos and Matt Person and just enough depth in the rotation, coupled with a dynamite pen to withstand the terrible injury of Nick Scott, who was on his way to perhaps being the best pitcher on the squad. Albert Izturis has been outstanding as a setup fireman type. Davey Portugal leads the offense and should be an All-Star. I think I'd also give him the Barry Bonds treatment and just walk him all the time. The Toyotas, despite a decent .983 team FP, seem to be out to prove that defense is optional, as they have committed 18 - plays already, against just 2 + ones. Based on past results, they sure have something figured out.
C. Well, I'd expect them to finish right where they are now, in first. I think their pitching, despite the FA losses and injuries, remains a strong point. I also think their hitting will come around a bit more, making for a very dangerous club.
2. Milwaukee: 20-19, .513%, expected: .523
A. The Sturgeon are also playing about where you'd expect them.
B. The Sturgeon are built on offense, having scored 215 runs already. Only two other NL clubs have scored more. Their pitching remains suspect though, as only three NL teams have allowed more runs. They are a power team, having homered 66 times and featuring a team Slug % of .456. There really are no easy outs with the Surgeon, as their primary 8 either hit for average or power. Sometimes both, as in the case of Jung Masaoka. Their 1 & 2 SP's are pretty good, but 3 - 5 need to pick it up. The BP is kind of the same, some real nice arms, but also some guys who need to get it going. Milwaukee also not a great defensive team , with 14 - plays against 5 + one's, and a .983 FP . C. Last season they played .500 ball and so far they're outpacing that by just a bit. I think the key issue they face is the pitching depth. If some of those arms can begin to contribute, they could then challenge for a WC spot.
3. Toledo: 19-20, .487, expected: .541
A. They're about two wins below expectations.
B. We saw Toledo as an 86 win team in Detroit last season. So far, the move has been tough as they've under performed. An ok offense pairs with solid pitching & a really porous defense. 19 - plays to 1 + play so far. Despite that, their pitching has really excelled so far, with a 1.31 WHIP & and a very good 3.63 team ERA. This is a staff that can show off two potential All-Stars in Jacob Matsuzaka and David Villalona. A 3rd SP, Brandon Giolito could push for an All-Star berth if he gets hot. I may kill for their BP (kidding). They really have four arms down there that could be legit All-Stars, including three with sub 1 WHIP's. Toledo seems to be following the current trend in baseball - just get the game to the pen around the 6th with a lead and it's over. Jayson Perez and Andy Fischer drive the offense as both play key defensive positions as well.
C. Did I say I really like their pitching? That alone should keep Toledo hanging around as a threat. The key to me is the defense. If they can make enough plays to support that pitching, then I think Toledo's in the WC hunt. If not, then I think they'll fade down the stretch.
4. Chicago: 18-21, .462, expected: .429
A. About 1 win better right now. Either way it's a fantastic improvement over last season's .296.
B. They played for the top draft spot last season and an ownership change gets to reap those rewards. While improved, they have a ways to go to get back to the top. They can score a bit and pitch a bit, but neither are reliable. Their defense excels though, which may be why they're playing slightly better than expected. 15 + plays against 6 - ones, and a team FP of .990. Pretty strong. They're led by Tommy Simms, Jesus Rodriquez, and Darren Rauch on offense. SP's Tommy Loaiza, Yunesky Ethier, and Sam Stickland make for a really nice 1-3. Dante Suzuki's been great out of the pen.
C. They're moving in the right direction and with a few more pieces, could challenge for the WC.
Overall: This is Tacoma's division. Everyone else is playing for a possible WC. That 2-4 placement is also much closer than last season as any of these three teams could finish 2cd, and contend for that WC. The Sturgeon have the offense and and bash, but not much pitching depth. Toledo's pitching is fantastic and should keep them around. Chicago is much improved and is heading in the right direction. Should be a really interesting division.
Tomorrow: AL East!