With the first half of the season concluding this weekend for almost all the Major League teams this would be a good time to look back on the first half of the season. The Tampa Bay Rays and Detroit Tigers have been the biggest surprises of the 2008 season. On this date last season, Tampa Bay was 33-43 and 14 1/2 games back of the first place Boston Red Sox. Today, Tampa Bay is 47-31 and a half game behind the first place Red Sox in the AL East. Their team ERA of 3.72 is the 4th best in the AL. Rookie Evan Longoria has been a big part of their success. He leads the team in homers with 14, and is tied for team lead in RBI's with 43. Longoria also leads the team in doubles (19), total bases (127), slugging percentage (.518), and extra base hits (34). Longoria is only 22 and is already signed to a long term contract.
Detroit has been surprising in a negative way. Not many, if any, baseball pundits predicted that the dream team assembled by Detroit over the winter would start the season as one of the worst teams in baseball. They finished May with a 23-31 record and it seemed like this was going to be a lost season for Detroit. They have been 15-8 in June after a 13-17 record in May. The hitters are starting to hit, with Gary Sheffield hitting well since coming off the disabled list earlier this week. Since coming off the disabled list on Tuesday, he has 6 hits in 13 at-bats with 2 homers and 4 RBI's over his first three games.
In the pitching department, Nate Robertson has only lost once since May 18th. Justin Verlander has allowed more than two runs only twice in his last 8 starts. Kenny Rogers has lost once since May 15th. Detroit is two games under .500 and they are only 5 games behind the first place Chicago White Sox. While the White Sox will be playing the Chicago Cubs and the Minnesota Twins will be playing the Milwaukee Brewers this weekend, the Tigers will be playing the Colorado Rockies, who are 15 games under .500. So they should be able to make up some ground this weekend.
Other teams that were expected to do better are the Toronto Blue Jays, with a 38-42 record and 10 1/2 games out of first in the AL East, and the Seattle Mariners, with a 28-50 record and 19 1/2 games out of first in the AL West. The Cleveland Indians has also been disappointing with a 36-43 record and 7 1/2 games behind first place Chicago in the AL Central.
The San Diego Padres, who had been expected to battle for the NL West crown, is instead mired in last place in a very weak division in which the division leading Arizona Diamondbacks are only one game over .500 and all the other teams in the division are from six to sixteen games under .500. San Diego is 32-48 and 8 1/2 games behind Arizona. This time last season San Diego was a percentage point ahead of Arizona for first place in the NL West with a 44-33 record.
The White Sox have been a surprise this year after being 32-42 and 12 games behind the first place Tigers on this date last season. This year, they are atop the AL Central with a slim half game lead over streaking Minnesota who has won nine in a row. This year the White Sox are 43-35.
Josh Hamilton Surprise Player of the Year
Josh Hamilton, because of injuries last year, didn't really get to show how good a player he was. However, being injury free so far in 2008, he leads the Majors in RBI's at the halfway mark of the season with 76. The former No. 1 draft pick has 10 more RBI's than his closest NL challenger Adrian Gonzalez, another No. 1 pick, who has 66 RBI's. The closest challenger in the AL is Justin Morneau with 62. It will be an exciting moment when Hamilton takes the field in the 2008 All-Star game.
Edinson Volquez: Surprise Pitcher of the Year
Edinson Volquez, who until last night had not had a non quality start, was the player the Reds got in exchange for Josh Hamilton. Volquez has been the dominating pitcher of the NL, even after his horrendous start last night in Toronto. It will be interesting to see how Volquez does in his next start after being shelled last night. Sometimes a loss like this can shatter a young pitcher's confidence and can cause him to be less confident in his next start.
Interesting First Half Stats
Alex Rodriguez has only 14 homers and 42 RBI's this season after having 14 homers and 32 RBI's at the end of April last season. At the end of June last season he had 28 homers and 79 RBI's.
Chipper Jones maintained a .400 average from April 13th through June 18th, but is hitting only .328 in June.
Dan Uggla leads the Majors in homers with 23 in 283 at-bats. Last season, he hit 31 in 632 at bats. Uggla slugged .479 last season but is slugging .625 in 2008.
Rich Harden, with a 5-0 record, should be having a much better record. Despite going 29 days between starts when he was on the disabled list, Harden has started 11 games. He has given up more than 3 runs in only one of those starts and has given up more than 2 runs twice all season. He has received no decision in games which he gave up no runs in 5 innings, 1 run in 7 innings, 2 runs in 6 2/3 innings, 3 runs in 6 innings and 1 run in 5 2/3 innings. He did give up 5 runs in 3 2/3 innings, which was the only no decision game in which he pitched badly. With a team with a more powerful offense he could have 9 or 10 wins. The Oakland Athletics are 13th in hitting in the AL with a .251 average. Only the Indians are worse with a .245 average.
Alexei Ramirez is the hottest player currently as the second half closes. Ramirez is 10-for-23 in his last 6 games with 10 RBI's in his last 10 games and is tied with Jim Edmonds and Mark Teixeira for most homers in last 7 days with 4 homers. Curtis Granderson has been a big part of the Tigers resurgence lately and has hit .542 in the last 7 days.
Player's Goals in Second Half
Jason Giambi needs 19 homers to reach the 400 homers mark.
Vladimir Guerrero needs 22 for his 400th homer.
Albert Pujols needs 2 homers to hit his 300th homer at the age of 28.
Ivan Rodriguez needs 9 homers to reach the 300 homers mark.
Troy Glaus needs 13 to reach 300 homers.
Paul Konerko needs 16 to reach 300 homers.
Jermaine Dye needs 19 to hit 300 homers.
Lance Berkman needs 20 to hit his 300th homer.
Ken Griffey Jr. is the closest active player to 3000 hits with 2621 and needs 379 more hits.
Johnny Damon is the leading active player with 90 triples but is 205th on the career list.
Ken Grifey Jr. needs 65 RBI to reach the 1700 RBI mark.
Manny Ramirez needs 47 RBI's in last half of the season to pass Sammy Sosa and Cal Ripken Jr. on RBI list and have his 1700th RBI.
Gary Sheffield needs 8 RBI's to have 1600 RBI's.
Randy Johnson is 12 wins away from winning his 300th game.
Mike Mussina needs 10 wins to have 270 wins in his career and on the way he would pass up Bob Feller and Jim Palmer.
Randy Johnson needs 18 strikeouts to be 1000 strikeouts behind Nolan Ryan.
Greg Maddux needs 18 strikeouts to pass Phil Niekro on the all-time strikeouts lists and move into the No. 10 spot all-time.
Mike Mussina with 2713 strikeouts needs 91 strikeouts to pass Cy Young (2803). If Mussina pitches two more years he should pass 3000 strikeout mark in 2010.
Kenny Rogers needs 76 strikeouts for 2000 strikeouts and Andy Pettitte needs 83 for 2000 while Javier Vazquez needs 88 more strikeouts for 2000 strikeouts.