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Looking at the bright side for struggling teams

14 of the 30 MLB teams are under .500 this season. That’s about what’s expected in the long run. 17 teams have a negative run differential. Again, not a huge deal. Some teams have more reason for concern than others. For example, if you’re the 15-20 LA Angels with a -13 run differential, you’re probably a lot more confident in your team’s ability to rebound in the second half than say, the 10-24 Minnesota Twins with a -66 run differential. Today, I’m going to give each team that is either under .500 or has a negative run differential three things that they should be happy about this season with their teams.

Arizona Diamondbacks, 15-20, -14
1) Chris Young leads the team with five homers, 1.5 fWAR, and a 1.397 OPS…despite not playing in nearly a month
2) Reliever David Hernandez has struck out more than 12 batters per nine innings this year, while walking slightly more than two per nine
3) I hated the Jason Kubel signing this offseason, but his .850 OPS is exactly what the team was shooting for when they signed him 

Boston Red Sox, 15-19, +2. 
1) David Ortiz has a 1.026 OPS this year, and looks insanely good at the plate at age 36
2) Three relievers not on Boston’s Opening Day roster, Junichi Tazawa, Andrew Miller, and Clayton Mortensen, have combined to allow just one run in 20 2/3 innings, while striking out 21 and not walking a soul. Of course, only Miller is currently on Boston’s active roster
3) Felix Doubront has exceeded expectations, and been the best Red Sox starter of the year. He has a 4.46 ERA (but a 3.48 FIP), and has struck out 37 in 38 1/3 innings, which leads the team

Chicago Cubs, 14-20, -20
1) The  top three members of the Cubs rotation have been awesome, as the highest ERA among Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza, and Ryan Dempster has been Samarzija’s 2.89 mark. All three are also striking out a batter per inning
2) Bryan LaHair has been absolutely phenomenal after finally getting a shot in the majors, OPSing 1.107 with eight homers
3) Starlin Castro has continued to do what he’s done since debuting: hit. He has a .786 OPS and 12 stolen bases as the Cubs’ leadoff hitter this year 

Chicago White Sox, 16-19, -1
1) Jake Peavy has been awesome, wiht a 44:7 strikeout to walk ratio and a 1.89 ERA
2) Adam Dunn is showing that his 2011 season was just a blip on the radar, as his .993 OPS and 11 homers indicate
3) Alejandro de Aza built upon his solid finish to the 2011 season with an .815 OPS, three homers, and a double digit walk rate this season 

Cleveland Indians, 18-16, -16
1) Second baseman Jason Kipnis is living up to his hype as a top prospect, with an .838 OPS, and team-leading totals of six homers and six stolen bases
2) Relievers Vinnie Pestano and Nick Hagadone have been freakishly good, combining for a 1.48 ERA in 24 1/3 innings with 30 strikeouts and seven walks
3) Asdrubal Cabrera, fresh off a contract extension, is third among all shortstops in baseball with a .906 OPS

cargoColorado Rockies, 13-20, -17
1) After a shaky start, Carlos Gonzalez is back to hitting like an MVP candidate, OPSing .928 with seven homers and six steals
2) Reliever Rex Brothers has struck out more than 12 batters per nine innings, but a near .500 BABIP is the reason for his ERA being twice that of his FIP
3) At age 38, Todd Helton has an .805 OPS, four homers, and more walks than strikeouts 

Detroit Tigers, 17-17, -6
1) Austin Jackson has been the team’s best player, OPSing .907 with four homers and six steals, and a two fWAR season already in the books
2) Drew Smyly has been a revelation since winning the fifth starter spot in Spring Training, with 34 strikeouts and ten walks in 34 innings, and a 1.59 ERA
3) Justin Verlander is still awesome with a 2.47 ERA and 2.45 FIP 

Houston Astros, 15-19, +6
1) Jose Altuve looks like the pure hitter that he was last year in the minors, hitting .323 with an .842 OPS 
2) Wandy Rodriguez has a 1.99 ERA and has averaged nearly seven innings a start
3) Reliever Wilton Lopez hasn’t walked a hitter in 21 1/3 innings while striking out 16 

Kansas City Royals, 13-20, -24
1) Mike Moustakas turned the awesome switch on, and has an .885 OPS and four homers this season
2) Despite questionable peripherals, Jonathan Broxton has only blown one save this season and has a 1.42 ERA
3) Alcides Escobar has a .774 OPS and is finally hitting like a major league regular

Los Angeles Angels, 15-20, -13
1) Despite getting shelled last night against the Rangers, Jered Weaver continues to be fantastic, with a 2.83 ERA and a 49:10 strikeout to walk ratio
2) Mike Trout has played in just a baker’s dozen games, but has an .899 OPS, good for second on the team
3) Even though he’s awful defensively, Mike Scioscia has been forced to play Mark Trumbo every day because of his 1.013 OPS, six homers, and 16 RBI, all of which lead the team 

greinkezMilwaukee Brewers, 15-19, -29
1) Zack Greinke has struck out more than a batter per inning, and has a 1.84 FIP
2) Ryan Braun has swept the PED controversy under the rug, OPSing 1.022 with ten homers and five stolen bases
3) Milwaukee’s catcher tandem of Jonathan Lucroy and George Kottaras has been unbelievable. Lucroy has an .859 OPS as the starter, while Kottaras has a freakish 1.156 OPS as his backup and the Brewers’ top bat off the bench 

Minnesota Twins, 10-24, -66
1) Free agent signee Josh Willingham has been a monster, homering seven times and posting a 1.023 OPS this year
2) After just two starts, Scott Diamond has been the team’s best starter, throwing 14 scoreless innings
3) Despite a 5.14 ERA, Glen Perkins is striking out nearly 11 batters per innings out of the bullpen

New York Mets, 19-15, -17
1) David Wright is looking like he’s going to be worth a big contract, staying largely healthy and OPSing 1.080 this year witih more walks than strikeouts
2) Johan Santana looks close to his former Cy Young winning self, posting a 2.92 ERA, 2.44 FIP, and a shade under ten strikeouts per nine innings
3) Kirk Nieuwenhuis was called up early in the year, and has played well enough to stay as a starter after Andres Torres’s return to the lineup, OPSing .817 with a double digit walk rate

Oakland Athletics, 18-17, -11
1) Josh Reddick has been the best offseason acquisition for the team so far, with an .874 OPS and eight homers
2) Starter Brandon McCarthy is off to a great start with a 2.56 ERA and 3.21 FIP, and has done a great job keeping the rotation steady
3) In just 11 games with the A’s after being released by the Tigers, Brandon Inge has an .845 OPS, four homers, and 17 RBI

Philadelphia Phillies, 16-19, -5
1) Carlos Ruiz has been unbelievable, and the team’s best hitter. He’s striking out less than 10% of the time, has six homers, and a .949 OPS
2) Joe Blanton has been the team’s third best starter this year, with a 3.24 ERA and 2.53 FIP
3) Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels have been dominant, combining for an 8.24 strikeout rate, 1.85 walk rate, and a 2.78 ERA

Pittsburgh Pirates, 16-18, -22
1) Veterans AJ Burnett and Erik Bedard have quietly been fantastic, combining to strike out over a batter per inning. Burnett’s FIP is 3.01, and Bedard’s is 2.44
2) Pedro Alvarez is actually providing a little bit of value, homering seven times in 30 games to give him a .762 OPS
3) James McDonald may have finally tapped his potential, pitching to a 2.42 ERA and 2.89 FIP in seven starts 

headleySan Diego Padres, 12-23, -29
1) Chase Headley has a .774 OPS, and his four homers are twice that of the player in second in homers on the team (Nick Hundley, with two)
2) Starter Anthony Bass has struck out nearly a batter per inning, and has a great 3.23 ERA on the season
3) The two men who have served as San Diego’s closer this year, Huston Street and Dale Thayer, have struck out 20 while walking two in 16 2/3 innings 

San Francisco Giants, 17-17, -5
1) Melky Cabrera has continued to evolve into a great hitter, OPSing .900 as the key piece of the Giants offense this year
2) Matt Cain is responding to his large contract extension with his usual good pitching: a 2.28 ERA and 2.96 FIP in 51 1/3 innings
3) Nate Schierholtz is staking his claim to an every day role in the Giants’ lineup with an .806 OPS this year

Seattle Mariners, 16-20, -8
1) Second year third baseman Kyle Seager has performed extraordinarily well, with an .804 OPS and four homers, which are tied for the team lead
2) Felix Hernandez has a 2.29 ERA, and has struck out just shy of a batter per inning. He’s still awesome
3) Starter Jason Vargas has been a solid arm behind Hernandez, with a 2.79 ERA and 3.52 FIP on the season 

So this goes out to all of the teams who I’ve mentioned today…your records might not be where they want to be right now, but there are still reasons to watch this year. Don’t give up, something could happen tomorrow, and you could be a contender in short time.

Joe Lucia

About Joe Lucia

Managing editor of Awful Announcing. News editor of The Comeback. Managing editor of The Outside Corner. You guessed it - not actually Frank Stallone.

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