Monday, May 13, 2013

What A Difference Ten Games Makes

The key to any professional Baseball team is to get off to a good start and try to maintain a consistent pace throughout the season. Now that is often easier said than done since many factors can undermine a good start such as injuries, inefficient play and difficult scheduling. For this post, I wanted to look at four MLB teams whose place in the standings have changed significantly in the last ten games.

The Cleveland Indians
The Indians were sitting at .500 with a 13-13 record before they ripped off 8 wins in their last 10 games to take the lead in the American League Central with a 21-15 record. They've been led by a power surge in the homerun department and much improved starting pitching specifically from Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir. The team that got shellacked by the Yankees earlier this season seems to have gotten their act together. Whether they stay that way or revert to their previous form remains to be seen.

- Team Report on the Cleveland Indians from Yahoo! Sports
- The Cleveland Indians page from Yahoo! Sports

The Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox had the best record in the league at 20-8 before they ran into a brick wall called the Texas Rangers. Going into that series the Red Sox had won 8 out of their last 10 games and seemed to be running optimally on all cylinders. What happened in the next 10 games includes a three game sweep by the American League West leaders Rangers, dropping three out of four to the Minnesota Twins at home and dropping two or three to the seemingly reawakening Toronto Blue Jays. The slide has left the Red Sox in third place in the American League East with a 22-16 record.

I think Manager John Farrell says it best:
"I think we've got a number of guys dealing with frustration right now. There's no question about it...The key for us is maintaining our level of preparation and our work routine. Those are the two things that we can control."
The Red Sox go into a pivotal series against division rival Tampa Bay Rays who are owners of a 6-game winning streak and are 7-3 in their last 10 games.

- Team Report on the Boston Red Sox from Yahoo! Sports
- The Boston Red Sox Page from Yahoo! Sports

The St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals are sitting atop the National League Central with a 23-15 record after ripping off 8 wins in their last 10 games behind solid pitching by starters Adam Wainright, Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn and Jamie Garcia. The Cardinals seem to be the pace setter in a seemingly three team race in the National League Central. Both the Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates are close to the Cardinals and are playing very good baseball sitting only two to three games behind the Cardinals.

The Cardinals have a stretch where they play against under .500 teams (Mets, Brewers, Padres and Dodgers) they can add more distance within the division.

- Team Report on the St. Louis Cardinals from Yahoo! Sports
- The St. Louis Cardinals Page from Yahoo! Sports

Atlanta Braves
The Braves struggles are more than just in the last 10 games. After ripping off a 12-1 start to the 2013 season, the Braves have gone 9-15 since to sit at 21-16. They are barely hanging on to first place in the National League East. The Washington Nationals have seemed to have gotten a bit more consistent (with the exception of Stephen Strausberg) by playing good ball in the last 10 games of their own.

The seemingly explosive Braves offense just seems to be unbalanced these days. In the last three games against the San Francisco Giants, the Braves only scored 4 runs while giving up 23 to a team that really isn't one of the most dynamic when it comes to scoring many runs. It seems that the hits and runs just seem to come from a handful of players. Justin Upton has slowed down, B.J. Upton is struggling mightily, Dan Uggla still seems to not be able to find his form in Atlanta, Jason Heyward's bat is missed in the lineup. The return of Brian McCann and his hot bat might help to spark the Braves' offense but the pitching also needs to step up and stop giving up so many runs. Braves Manager Fredi Gonzalez says it best:
"We haven't been real fun to watch right now. What did we score? Four runs the past couple games. They have a good club, and any time we made a mistake they took advantage. We haven't gone deep into a game with our pitching, and we haven't been scoring runs. They're a good team."
The Braves have a decent stretch against the surprising 21-17 Arizona Diamondbacks, the Dodgers, Twins and division rival Mets. Can the Braves rediscover the energy that caused them to run roughshod over the league to start the season or will they continue to struggle going into the month of June.

- Team Report on the Atlanta Braves from Yahoo! Sports
- The Atlanta Braves Page from Yahoo! Sports

Sisco Kid