CineSport—The Red Sox and Phillies are in last place and two players who can’t even legally drink in the U.S. are All-Stars. The 2012 MLB season has definitely been a memorable one so far.
Changing of the Guard: The Pirates are leading the NL Central at the All-Star break and look to make the postseason for the first time since 1992. Meanwhile, the Orioles are currently in line to make the playoffs for the first time since 1997.
After a terrible tenure in pinstripes, A.J. Burnett has won nine straight decisions with the Pirates to bring his record to 10-2, nearly matching his 11 win total from 2011. James McDonald has earned 9 victories on the year so far with a stellar 2.37 ERA, which is the fifth best in the league. They have become one of the best starting pitching duos in baseball.
After hitting just .259 last year, All-Star OF Andrew McCutchen’s .362 AVG is tops in the majors so far in 2012. At his current pace he will match his homerun and RBI totals from last year with about 40 games to go.
McCutchen is finally living up to his 6 year, $51.5 million contract. McCutchen, 2B Neil Walker, OF Garrett Jones, 3B Pedro Alvarez and the rest of the Pirates’ offense have done just enough to go along with their excellent pitching to be successful so far this season.
The Orioles are surprising everyone and currently find themselves in the second wild card spot with a 45-40 record.
While All-Star OF Adam Jones, 1B Chris Davis and All-Star C Matt Wieters have all been having good years at the plate, Baltimore’s bullpen is the main reason why this team has been doing so well.
The Orioles’ bullpen ERA of 2.75 and 30 saves are both tops in the American League.
Their best relievers include Luis Ayala (2.48 ERA), Matt Lindstrom (2.50 ERA) and Darren O’Day (2.57 ERA) who have been tackling the middle innings. All-Star closer Jim Johsnon (1.21 ERA) leads all of baseball with 26 saves.
This is a vast improvement from last season, when their 4.18 bullpen ERA was the second worst in the AL.
Freshman Phenoms: Every few seasons, a rookie will burst onto the scene and immediately affect their team, but what Mike Trout and Bryce Harper have been doing this season is far more valuable than that.
Harper is hitting second in a lineup which is currently leading the NL East. He is second among NL rookies in runs and third in hits after being called up at the end of April. At age 19, he became the youngest position player in All-Star game history and is in a tight race with the Diamondbacks’ Wade Miley for the NL Rookie of the Year Award.
Trout just doesn’t lead all rookies with his .341 AVG and 26 steals, he leads the entire American league. His numbers are good enough that he has a chance to become only the third player to win both the MVP and Rookie of the Year Awards (past winners: Fred Lynn and Ichiro).
He has rejuvenated an Angels’ team that was 7-14 when he was called up and has gone 41-24 since then. The Angels are 2.5 games in front of Baltimore for the first Wild Card and four games behind the Rangers in the AL West. He is essentially a lock for AL Rookie of the Year, barring a disastrous second half.
Led by a slew of young talent, the Indians are in the thick of the AL Central race. Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Carlos Santana and Asdrubal Cabrera (25, 25, 26 and 27-years-old respectively) have accounted for nearly 40 percent of the team’s homerun total and 45 percent of their RBI.
Rookie Zach McAllister has posted seven solid starts for the club, never giving up more than four earned runs in a start. While third-year reliever Vinnie Pestano leads the Indians with a 1.75 ERA.
If starters Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Masterson and Derek Lowe can improve their starts in the second half, the team should be able catch up to the White Sox for the division lead.
Pitching Dominance: The record for the most no-hitters in one season is seven (1990, 1991), but there were five in the first half alone of the 2012 season. Phillip Humber (perfect game), Jered Weaver, 6 Mariners pitchers combined, Johan Santana and Matt Cain (perfect game) all threw no-hitters in a season highlighted by extremely low ERAs.
There are two starting pitchers with ERAs south of two (Weaver and Ryan Dempster) and 16 starters with ERAs under three. Seven starters boast a WHIP below one and 20 have posted at least 100 strikeouts.
AL Cy Young Candidates include Weaver (10-1, 1.96 ERA, 73 SO, .90 WHIP), Chris Sale (10-2, 2.19 ERA, 98 SO, .95 WHIP), C.J. Wilson (9-5, 2.43 ERA, 88 SO, 1.16 WHIP) and Justin Verlander (9-5, 2.58 ERA, 128 SO, .95 WHIP).
NL Cy Young Candidates include R.A. Dickey (12-1, 2.40 ERA, 123 SO, .93 WHIP), Johnny Cueto (10-5, 2.39 ERA, 91 SO, 1.16 WHIP), James McDonald (9-3, 2.37 ERA, 100 SO, .97 WHIP) and Matt Cain (9-3, 2.62 ERA, 118 SO, .96 WHIP).
Will the Nationals and Pirates continue their impressive runs? Could 20-year-old Mike Trout really win the AL MVP? How many more no-hitters will we see? The second half of the seasons gets underway on July 13th.
Washington Nationals rookie outfielder Bryce Harper has been named to the 2012 All-Star Game replacing Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton. The 19-year-old slugger is batting .283 with eight home runs, 25 RBIs and 42 runs in 61 games this season. Harper will be the youngest position player ever to appear in an All-Star game in MLB history. The former number one overall pick will be the fifth rookie in this year's All-Star Game setting a major league record. For more coverage of the MLB All-Star Game, stay right here with CineSport.