All-Star Break Surprises

Andrew McCutchen is leading the majors in hitting with a .362 average at the All-Star break.

Andrew McCutchen  who has been surprisingly good this season has steadily improved from month to month. He hit .302 in April, .360 in May, .370 in June and is hitting .517 so far in July. McCutchen is hitting a smoking hot .400 with runners in scoring position. He has hit 18 home runs while driving in 60 runs. Left handers have not fared well against McCutchen, with him hammering them for a .455 average.

His .414 OBP is 4th in the majors, while his .625 slugging percentage is second best in the majors and is only trailing  Josh Hamilton who has posted a .635 mark. His 1.039 OPS is only bettered by Joey Votto with a 1.087 OPS. McCutchen also leads the majors in total bases with 193. He is on a pace for a 30-30 season with 14 stolen bases and 18 home runs.

Mike Trout leads the AL in hitting with a ,341 batting average and also leads in stolen bases with 26.  He has a chance of being AL batting champion and AL Rookie of the Year in 2012.

Adam Dunn should be AL Comeback Player of  the Year with his 25 home runs and 61 RBI at the All-Star break, after hitting only 11 home runs and driving in 42 in the entire 2011 season.

Trevor Plouffe the Twins third baseman has hammered 19 home runs in only 66 games, in the first half of the 2012 season. Last season he hit only 8 in 81 games. The big difference though is that he homered every 35.8 at bats in 2011, but is homering every 12.1 at bats this season.

Carlos Diaz is hitting .350 at the All-Star break and has hit 13 home runs. His previous high in home runs was 9 in 2009, so he has already surpassed that number and could wind up, with as many as 25 home runs.

Melky Cabrera who has turned out to be a late bloomer, after five years with the Yankees and a year with the Braves is on his way, to posting 200 hits in two consecutive seasons, for the Royals in 2011 and for the Giants in 2012. He already has 119 hits this season and is hitting .353, for the second best batting average in the majors.

The White Sox made a brilliant move, by converting reliever Chris Sale to a starter and have been rewarded, as Sale is second in wins with 10 and second in ERA with a 2.19 mark.

David Price could be an AL Comeback Pitcher of the Year candidate, posting a league high 11 wins with 4 losses after compiling a 12-13 record in 2011.

Yu Darvish with a 10-5 record could be the AL Rookie Pitcher of the Year.

Pedro Alvarez a candidate for NL Comeback Player of the Year has been a big part of the Pirates resurgence in 2012, with 16 home runs and 50 RBI’s at the All Star break. Alvarez struggled last season with only 4 home runs 235 at bats. He is only hitting .231, but his average is improving month to month. Alvarez is homering every 15.9 at bats in 2012.

Wilin Rosario of the Rockies leads NL rookies with 14 homers and in RBI with 36. Bryce Harper leads in batting average among rookies, with at least 200 at bats with a .282 mark.

Wade Miley of the Diamondbacks leads in wins, for NL rookie pitchers with 9 and in ERA with a 3.04 mark.

R.A. Dickey who is tied for the NL lead in win with Gio Gonzalez, with each pitcher posting 12 wins is the favorite to be NL Comeback Pitcher of the Year. Dickey compiled a record of 8 wins and 13 losses in 2011.

Tim Lincecum has to be the biggest negative surprise of the 2012 season. His 3-10 record and 6.42 ERA, at a time when the Giants were counting, on him to anchor their starting rotation has been a huge disappointment. Worst of all his numbers are even worse in July with an 0-2 record and 17.55 ERA for the month. Lincecum has pitched 6.2 innings in those two starts, allowing 13 earned runs and 16 hits and batters are hitting .444 against him this month. He has issued a walk every other inning this season.

Surprise Teams of 2012

The Pittsburgh Pirates are by far the biggest surprise of the season. They only need 33 wins to post their first .500 season since 1992. They hold a fragile one game lead over the Cincinnati Reds and a two and-a-half game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central. The Pirates have allowed only 313 runs this season, which is second best in NL behind the Washington Nationals with 290 runs allowed.

The Washington Nationals have been in Washington eight years now, since leaving Montreal and this could be the second Nationals team to post a .500 record, in that eight year span. The Nationals hold a four game lead over the Atlanta Braves and a four and-a-half game lead over the New York Mets in the NL East. The Nationals have jelled this season as players like Ian Desmond, who hit only 8 home runs and drove in 49 in 584 at bats in 2011 has already hit 17 home runs and drove in 51 in 344 at bats in 2012. Adam LaRoche is on a pace for a 30 home runs and 100 RBI season. Bryce Harper only has 8 home runs and 25 RBI, but it has to be remembered that he only batted six times in April. Stephen Strasberg has pitched well in his last three starts, but has three losses to show for it. The Nationals scored one run in one of those losses, while scoring two runs in another loss.

Chicago White Sox are not a complete surprise, but when considering, that they finished in third place in AL Central last year and 16 games out of first place, then they do qualify as a surprise team. The White Sox have meshed a good offense with a good pitching staff, to hold a three game lead over the Detroit Tigers. The offense has been helped with the resurgence of Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham, who all had subpar seasons in 2011. Jake Peavy who won only 7 games in 2011 already has 7 wins at the All-Star break in 2012. Converting Chris Sale from a reliever to a starter has improved the starting pitching rotation, along with rookie Jose Quintana stepping in, to replace the injured John Danks and has pitched extremely well.

The season starts up again on Friday and it will be interesting to see which surprise teams hold onto their leads and which teams fall by the wayside. Pirates and Nationals have a lot of younger players, who are not used to playing meaningful games in August and September, so they will be tested when it comes down to crunch time.

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