Tuesday, July 10, 2012

MLB Broz Mid-Season Report

By Spencer Pyke

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The actual mid-way point of the 2012 season came a few games before the All-Star Break, but every baseball fan knows the Midsummer Classic is the true half-way intermission for America's favorite past time. So far, this season has been nothing short of phenomenal, loaded with a ton of highlights, a perfect game, no-hitters, consecutive one-hitters, a league-leading knuckle-baller, two kids who can't drink beer but can steal home and rob you of a homer at the same time, and two unlikely teams leading the way in their respective divisions.

This post is pretty much a random assortment of thoughts geared towards the first half of the season and some predictionz for a second half that I hope is even more remarkable. What in life could be more enjoyable to read on a Tuesday afternoon as you get set to watch the 2012 All-Star Game?

If you're answer was not James Franco's latest Huffington Post article, we're in business.

Tricky Dickey: R.A. is one of the feel good sports stories of the year due to his life story and monstrous first half. The Bro throws a knuckle ball as his main pitch and leads the National League with 12 wins, is second in strikeouts with 123, fifth in earned run average and threw consecutive one hitters, a feat that is downright deserving of an ESPY.

I cannot praise R.A. Dickey’s success this season without making a plea to every little league coach and parent around the country:  Stop letting your child hurl curve ball after curve ball on the mound, even if it means they get shelled out there.

Youngster’s arms around the country, probably the world at this point, are being traded for success on a diamond that’s half the size of the one they dream of playing on.  Baseball is bad enough for one’s elbow and shoulder since it is not the natural movement of the arm. Add the snapping of the elbow and wrist necessary to throw an effective curve ball and you have an abundance of walking 14-year-old future Tommy John surgeries.

What does Tricky Dickey have to do with this?  If Dickey can fool big leaguers with a knuckle ball, there is no doubt in my mind the little leaguers I have coached, and seen on television, can do the same.

Instead of teaching a kid who has not fully developed a pitch that could ruin their career, for lack of a better term, teach them the knuckleball. Properly teach them a four seam, a two seam and a change up as well and they already have four pitches.  Hell, if you’re feeling crazy, teach a sinker or a splitter, that’s six different pitches. Trust me, you can fool youth league hitters with four pitches, still win and save an elbow or two. Crazy right? Kind of like Tricky Dickey’s first half numbers, and get this, the Mets are right in the running for the division title.


I was wrong, Yu is right: Like a simpleton, I left Yu Darvish off the 2012 Breakout Broz list prior to the season because I thought he would struggle against American League hitters.

Ten wins and 117 strikeouts later, I am eating my decision.

The 2012 All-Star has killed the game in his first season with the Rangers en route to leading the team in strikeouts.  Yu isn’t just one of the best on his team, but one of the best in the American League as he is third in strikeouts and tied for second in wins.  I know the Rangers offense plays a vital role in his success, but the fact that only Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez, who both have more innings pitched, are the only pitchers with more K’s illustrates his talent.

During the Home Run Derby, Josh Hamilton was quoted by NBC Sports, saying, to paraphrase, that Yu "Has adjusted to life in the locker room very well. He still gets treated like a rookie, but he has not been stubborn to his Japanese idiosyncrasies. He doesn't speak a whole lot of English, but he listens and understands very well."

The Rangers will no doubt be in the postseason and it will be interesting to see how Yu handles the pressure.  It’s World Series or bust for Texas and he will be a deciding factor, guaranteed.

Yu Darvish. No, Yu Darvish!

All about Trout: The Breakout Bro Mike Trout can’t even legally buy a drink but is putting up numbers the size of Cali in his rookie season.

Also a member of the AL All-Star team, Trout has quickly become one of the faces of the franchise with plays like this…

At the plate he murders the game even more with a team high batting average of .343, 12 homers and 40 runs batted in, all while swiping 26 bags on 29 attempts.  At only 20 years old, the New Jersey native leads the Angels in hits, 88, and on-base percentage, .393. Bro is talented beyond imagination and looks to have a prosperous future ahead of him on and off the field.

On second thought, "breakout" might have been an understatement. This kid is a certified pizza face of a player.

D.C. still Ks the G, Bucs join the party: Although it’s way too early to crown them division champs, the Nats and the Bucs deserve a shout out for leading their respective divisions at the All-Star break.  Not only are they leading their divvies, they are outright the best two teams in the National League, boasting the two highest winning percentages.

The Nats, who boast the higher win percentage at .590, have one of the top records on the road in the National League and are in first place thanks to their pitching staff.  D.C.’s dominant staff not only leads the league in ERA, WHIP and opponents’ batting average, but ranks in the League's top five in quality starts as well.

Gio Gonzalez has been nothing short of phenomenal his first season in the NL, tied with Tricky Dickey for a League-high 12 wins along with a 2.92 era and 118 strikeouts.  I'm not even going to get started on Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman’s performances thus far because this article will never end.

I got 47 problems and a pitch ain't one. Hit me!

About four and half hours north, the Pittsburgh Pirates hold a one-game lead over the Cincinnati Reds at the break. Anytime the Pirates are in contention it’s going to be a feel good story.

Much like the Nationals, their pitching staff has been vital to their success as they are near the bottom in most batting categories in the National League.  But who cares about stats when you’re in first place, I know Andrew McCutchen doesn’t, even though he leads the team in batting average, home runs, RBIs, on-base percentage, hits, triples, runs, slugging percentage and stolen bases.  Did you know the “M” in "MVP" stood for "McCuthchen?" Well, now you do. You’re welcome.

Did we forget to mention Andrew's million-dollar smile?

The story on the mound for the Bucs has to be A.J. Burnett’s 10 wins.  Add him to the list of Broz who couldn’t hack it in New York (Carl Pavano, Randy Johnson, etc.), but A.J. has had a honey badger-esque attitude this season en route to putting himself back on the map.  Unlike the offense, Burnett has not been the only success as James McDonald has broken onto the scene leading the team in ERA and strikeouts with nine wins of his own.

A.J.'s reaction when he found out he wasn't coming to New York to star in Jersey Shore.

The Nats and Bucs are in extremely competitive divisions so a postseason berth is not set in stone, but it would be great for the cities, franchises and the League if they make it.

The Bronx Bombers and The Raucous Rangers: At the Break, the Yanks and Rangers are the top two teams in the American League and that should come as no surprise if you have looked at their respective batting lineups.

The Yanks lead the league in home runs, by double digits I might add, and have slammed opposing pitchers while their own are hampered with injuries.  The bombers not only lead the league in homers but slugging percentage as well, which goes hand in hand with having the most jacks.

If you think that’s impressive, let this marinate a little bit: The Rangers, who have fallen in the World Series the past two seasons, lead the league in runs, batting average and on base percentage and boast the league’s top hitter in Josh Hamilton.  If this club is not on a mission I don’t know who is.  In slugging percentage they are a modest second behind the aforementioned Yanks, which is pretty fitting since they are the team to beat if they want to get back to the World Series.

Russell Westbrook and the rest of the NBA Playoffs postgame participants could learn a thing or two about glasses from J-Ham.

It’s not that bold to say that the American League Pennant will be won by one of these two teams, but I am not ready to hand it out just yet.  My money would be on the Yanks after they get their depleted pitching staff rejuvenated, but its baseball, and you just never know.

Jeter's having a historic year. Perhaps him, A-Rod and Robby can lift the flags one more time before Derek becomes a full-time Ford employee.

That’s enough babbling for now, here are some Predictionz for the end of the year awards.

NL MVP: Andrew McCutchen (PIT)
AL MVP: Josh Hamilton (TEX)

NL Cy Young: Gio Gonzalez (WAS)
AL Cy Young: Jered Weaver (LAA)

NL Rookie of the Year: Bryce Harper (WAS)
AL Rookie of the Year: Mike Trout (LAA)

A while back Maher predicted the Angels and Miami in the World Series.  Although it was not mine, I really liked that prediction and I am not ready to give up on it.  I may be insane, but nine games back at the break is nothing.  Miami against LA it is.

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