The Pittsburgh Pirates took three of four games in PNC Park over the weekend against the Cardinals, and cut the Cardinals lead in the NL Central down to 2.5 games at the all-star break. The Pirates won back-to-back games on Saturday and Sunday in extra innings, when they entered the bottom half of the inning trailing. On Sunday, they overcame a 5-3 deficit in the bottom of the 10th innings against Trevor Rosenthal (who entered the game 26/27 in save chances with a 0.86 ERA). The Pirates finished the first half winners in 11 of the final 13 games.

St. Louis Cardinals 56-33 –
Pittsburgh Pirates 53-35 2.5 GB
Chicago Cubs 47-40 8.0 GB
Cincinnati Reds 39-47 15.5 GB
Milwaukee Brewers 38-52 18.5 GB

Chicago Cubs

cubs

The Cubs may be 8.0 games back in the division at the all-star break, but calling the Cubs first half anything other than a success would be a mistake. New manager Joel Madden has helped lead the young Cubbies to seven games over .500 at the break, and if the season ended today they would still be playing. The Cubs hold a 1.0 game lead over the New York Mets for the second wild card spot. The Cubs have legitimate shot to end their six year playoff drought.

Anthony Rizzo (163 wRC+, 3.4 fWAR) and Kris Bryant (134 wRC+, 3.4 fWAR) have been the 1-2 offensive punch that Cubs fans have been hoping and praying for. As great as they are, they are just the beginning of the powerful young Cubs lineup. Top prospect Addison Russell (82 wRC+, 1.1 fWAR) and Jorge Soler (92 wRC+, 0.4 fWAR) have shown promise at times, and another top prospect currently at AAA, Kyle Schwarber showed his potential when briefly called up for DH duties. The Cubs will hope Starlin Castro (64 wRC+, -0.5 fWAR) can bounce back in the second half.

Jake Arrieta (2.80 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 3.0 fWAR) has been one of the best pitchers in baseball. Jason Hammel (2.86 ERA, 3.06 FIP, 2.2 fWAR) and Kyle Hendricks (3.55 ERA, 3.32 FIP, 1.9 fWAR) have been nice compliments in the rotation to Arrieta, while Jon Lester has turned around a tough start to put together a solid first half (3.59 ERA, 3.14 FIP, 2.3 fWAR). Rondon, Grimm, Russell, Motte, and Strop all have ERA’s under 3.03 in the Cubs pen.

Player of the 1st Half: Kris Bryant: .269/375/.466, 12 HR, 8 SB, 134 wRC+, 3.4 fWAR
Biggest Surprise: Jason Hammel: 17 GS, 2.86 ERA, 3.06 FIP, 9.12 K/9, 1.56 BB/9, 2.2 fWAR
Biggest Disappointment: Starlin Castro: .249/.285/.323, 5 HR, 64 wRC+, -0.5 fWAR

This Week: 

  • Fri (7:35), Sat (7:10), Sun (5:05) at Braves

Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers went 5-17 in April, and their season was pretty much finished a couple weeks into the season. They finished the first half strong, winning 13 of their final 19 games.

Injuries, injuries, and injuries are what killed the Brewers. They may not have been good enough to compete with the Cards, Bucs, and Cubs anyway, but they certainly wouldn’t be 18.5 GB at the deadline if they stayed healthy.

The Brewers may decide to make some moves at the trade deadline, but first they have may have to figure out who will be their GM. Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel thinks the Brewers will be making a GM move soon.

Player of the 1st Half: Adam Lind: .293/.377/.516, 15 HR, 143 wRC+, 2.1 fWAR
Biggest Surprise: Taylor Jungmann: 7 GS, 2.15 ERA, 3.27 FIP, 0.39 HR/9, 0.9 fWAR
Biggest Disappointment: Kyle Lohse: 18 GS, 6.29 ERA, 4.92 FIP, 1.75 HR/9, 0.1 fWAR

This Week:

  • Fri (8:10), Sat (7:10), Sun (2:10) vs Pirates

Pittsburgh Pirates

bucs

For a second consecutive season, the Pirates got off to a slow start. The Pirates were 18-22 on May 21st, and their best hitter Andrew McCutchen had a .636 OPS in the first month of the season. The Pirates recovered quickly, and after winning 11 of their final 13 games in the second half, they find themselves right in the NL Central race, and with a comfortable 6.5 game cushion for a wild-card spot.

Andrew McCutchen went from a player fans were worrying about early in the season, to once again being one of the best players in the game. McCutchen has got help fom Starling Marte (121 wRC+, 2.2 fWAR), Francisco Cervelli (118 wRC+, 1.9 fWAR), Neil Walker (115 wRC+, 1.9 fWAR), and Jung-ho Kang (109 wRC+, 1.0 fWAR).

While the Pirates have got some nice contributions on the offensive side, their real strength has been their starting pitching. The Pirates starters rank second in the MLB in ERA (3.05) and FIP (3.20). The Pirates top three starters have been as good as it gets: A.J. Burnett (2.11 ERA, 2.76 FIP), Gerrit Cole (2.30 ERA, 2.74 FIP), and Francisco Liriano (2.99 ERA, 2.98 FIP).

Player of the 1st Half: Andrew McCutchen: .300/.398/.508, 12 HR, 5 SB, 153 wRC+, 3.6 fWAR
Biggest Surprise: A.J. Burnett: 18 GS, 2.11 ERA, 2.76 FIP, 7.54 K/9, 0.30 HR/9, 2.8 fWAR
Biggest Disappointment: Gregory Polanco: .231/.308/.332, 3 HR, 79 wRC+, 0.4 fWAR

This Week:

  • Fri (8:10), Sat (7:10), Sun (2:10) at Brewers

St. Louis Cardinals

cards

The Cardinals have dealt with injury after injury, but somehow find themselves once again leading the NL Central. The Cardinals have done so with their incredible depth. The Cardinals don’t have a single player in the top 9 in the NL Central in fWAR. The Cards show why a couple stars aren’t as good a great collective group.

The Cardinals starting pitching has been the best in baseball. Their 2.82 ERA is the absolute best. They have been lead by Lance Lynn (2.90 ERA, 2.79 FIP), Michael Wacha (2.93 ERA, 3.07 FIP), Carlos Martinez (2.52 ERA, 3.46 FIP), and John Lackey (2.99 ERA, 3.45 FIP). They have all picked up the slack for their injured ace Adam Wainwright. Trevor Rosenthal (1.49 ERA, 2.32 FIP) has been terrific at the end of the Cardinals bullpen too.

Player of the 1st Half: Lance Lynn: 2.90 ERA, 2.79 FIP, 9.53 K/9, 0.56 HR/9, 2.4 fWAR
Biggest Surprise: Kolten Wong: .283/.374/.439, 9 HR, 10 SB, 119 wRC+, 2.3 fWAR
Biggest Disappointment: Yadier Molina: .286/.325/.361, 2 HR, 90 wRC+, 1.5 fWAR

This Week:

  • Fri (8:15), Sat (7:15), Sun (2:15) vs Mets

 Nick’s Power Rankings

  1. St. Louis Cardinals

  2. Pittsburgh Pirates

  3. Chicago Cubs

  4. Milwaukee Brewers

  5. Cincinnati Reds

(all teams stayed the same)


Top Players of the 1st Half

Batter: Todd Frazier, Reds : .281/.335/.583, 25 HR, 8 SB, 150 wRC+, 4.0 fWAR

Pitcher: Jake Arrieta, Cubs: 17 GS, 2.80 ERA, 2.72 FIP, 9.11 K/9, 3.0 fWAR

2 Responses

  1. sultanofswaff

    IMO, Rizzo has been the best hitter in the division so far. I’m gonna take a moment to say I told you so to everyone who thought the Cubs were the next Murderer’s Row. Russell’s lack of walks and the team’s high strikeout totals have been weighing them down. Soler/Castro/Fowler should come back up, but their starting pitching will hit a wall because their starters except for Lester haven’t pitched 200 innings.

    Does anyone else get the sense that the Cardinals are whistling past the graveyard? It seems like they’re starting to show some cracks. Statistically, I’ve read that they’re due for some regression in the 2nd half. I suppose that goes for the Pirates pitching as well so it should be a tight race. My money is on the Bucs.

    Remember when Votto looked like a man possessed at the plate the first couple weeks of the season. Where did that guy go?!??

  2. redsfan06

    Based upon the 1st half results, it looks like pitching is still an important component to building a winning team.