The Major League Baseball season has hit the midpoint and its time to look at how things are going for the Orioles and the Phils.
The big question for Orioles fans has the team improved since last year? The answer is maybe. The record on July 4th of 2010 was 25-56 and they were 25 games out of first place. This year the record is 10 games better but with little chance of competing for a post-season spot. The good news has been in a few areas. O's Shortstop J-J Hardy has been a great addition. Hardy was hitting around 300 and has some pop in his bat, and since Brian Roberts has been out, has been a good lead-off man. Hardy is also a great defensive shortstop and warrants the Orioles inking him to a nice long term deal. O's Centerfielder Adam Jones is beginning to show why many project him as a longtime All Star. Jones has hit 283 with 13 homers, 15 doubles and 46 RBI's in the first half and could be selected for the final roster spot on the A-L All Star team. Catcher Matt Wieters was named to his first All Star game earlier this week. The 3rd year backstop is batting 262 with 7 homers and 33 RBI's. In addition he has been fantastic behind the plate and has been very difficult to run on having thrown out nearly half of the base runners who've tried to steal on him.
The biggest disappointment so far this year for the Birds has been the pitching staff. Brian Matusz started the season on the disabled list and after several poor outings of late his been sent back to Triple A. Lefty Zach Britton looked like he was going to be a Rookie of the Year candidate but has struggled the past 5 starts losing 3 of the 4 with a no decision. I expect this is more an adjustment by the league but he now has to step things up and make his own adjustments. Chris Tillman is back in the minors and Chris Jakubauskas could be heading back their after a horrible outing last night against the Rangers in which he gave up 6 runs in just 2 innings. The lone bright spot among the young starters have been Jake Arrieta. The righty is 9-5 and been the O's best pitcher so far this season.
Orioles fans are hoping that Manager Buck Showalter's tutelage will lead to a second half like last year and the Orioles finish at or near the .500 mark.
The Phillies have been baseball's best team so far this season...living up to the expectations of most experts. The law firm of Halladay, Lee and Hamels have won a combined 29 games and throw in rookie surprise Vance Worley's 4 wins and the Phils starterss have been the best in the business. No surprise that Halladay, Lee and Hamels were all named the the NL All Star squad. I expect that Halladay will be the N-L starting pitcher on Tuesday night in Phoenix.
The offense has been a bit spotty but it seems like Ryan Howard has his home run swing on and Chase Utley appears to be completely healthy after missing the first month of the season with a bum knee. Ben Francisco has played well in right with 6 homers and 31 RBI's while Dom Brown has 5 homers and 13 RBI's. Look for the Phillies to be active in trying to pursue a closer as both Brad Lidge and his replacement Ryan Madson has spent time on the D-L. The Phils are playing on a 100 win pace but only have a 4 game lead on the Braves. I expect them to be a post-season team but being pushed by the Braves will mean they will have to keep the peddle to the medal in the NL East Division race.
Baseball purests say the division leader on the 4th of July is normally makes the playoffs. If that is so then the AL teams are the Yanks and Indians with the Rangers and Angels tied for the West lead and the Red Sox the Wild Card. In the National the Phils, Cards and Giants lead their divisions with the Braves up in the Wild Card. Should be a fun 2nd half.