Baseball halfway report

Nationals, Pirates most compelling teams so far in 2012

NL West – This looked to be a Dodgers cakewalk until Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier went out on the DL, gutting the heart of the order.

Suddenly rendered punchless, L.A. surrendered the edge by the end of June as pitching-rich San Francisco, also getting a big year from a revived Melky Cabrera, caught up with, among other things, four straight shutouts, setting the stage for another great chapter in the eternal Dodgers-Giants rivalry.

Arizona is trying to hang around, too, relying on its bats and home-field advantage in a way Colorado used to do. The current Rockies are a mess, though, having gambled and lost on an aging roster – a contrast to San Diego’s plan to build for tomorrow, whatever the short-term pain.

AL East – The Yankee inevitability is setting in, New York having ably survived the loss of Mariano Rivera, and the hitting, top to bottom, is so lethal that the Yanks should get by even without Andy Pettite or CC Sabathia for a while.

There are signs that Baltimore’s magnificent start is waning, but any sort of post-season contention is a plus for the once-dormant Orioles. Tampa Bay need its pitching to be great until Evan Longoria returns to have any chance.

Buried by a terrible April, the Red Sox were quite good in May and June, but still have catching up to do. Toronto is, if nothing else, a headache and spoiler as long as Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion keep mashing like this.

AL Central – Welcome to the “Someone Has to Win This Division” portion of our program. In the best position are the White Sox from the South Side, with added pop from Kevin Youkilis to join a revived Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko.

That differentiates Chicago from Cleveland, as the Tribe simply hasn’t scored enough runs to make anyone believe they’re long-term viable. Detroit simply hasn’t fired, but any second-half revival gives the Tigers a good chance in this bastion of mediocrity.

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