Second Half Preview: AL East

Baltimore Orioles
What Went Right: Most everything? Adam Jones had a first half worthy of MVP votes, Matt Wieters has been one of the better backstops in baseball (as usual). Jason Hammel has been a huge surprise after being brought over from the Rockies this winter. Wei-Yin Chen has been remarkably good since coming over from Japan in the offseason. The bullpen has been phenomenal.

What Went Wrong: The rest of the offense has been the pits, led by the iron-gloved Mark Reynolds (whose few bright points are diminishing this season). Jake Arrieta has an ERA over 6.00 despite a 4.01 FIP, thanks to a sub-60% strand rate. Brian Matusz and Tommy Hunter have been awful. Nick Markakis has only played in 50 games. JJ Hardy has been a disappointment. Brian Roberts has played on 17 games, and been awful.

Best Case Scenario: Despite being five games over .500, this team is on the downswing. Finishing above .500 would be a success, but for that to happen, Jones and Wieters need to continue to power the offense while Hardy, Reynolds, and a healthy Markakis can put some things together to support them in the lineup. The bullpen can just keep doing what they're doing, and the rotation really needs some support after Hammel and Chen. Chris TIllman had an encouraging start on Wednesday, and he could be a solid arm for them (finally).

Worst Case Scenario: This season could keep going down the tubes in a hurry if Jones starts to regress. He's been the highlight of this team, and if he struggles, look out. The rotation also has potential to fall apart, as Hammel could turn back into a pumpkin in the second half. The bullpen also lacks a dominant arm, and their success seems to be like walking on eggshells.

Key Player: Nick Markakis. He had a .785 OPS in the first half with eight homers, but hasn't played since the end of May. He'll be back on the team after the All-Star Break, and he really needs to start hitting in this Orioles offense, which has essentially been kept afloat by two players all season.

Boston Red Sox
What Went Right: After getting slaughtered with injuries, the Red Sox have rebounded rather nicely. They have eight one win hitters on their team, and all-world DH David Ortiz continues to lead the team. Daniel Nava and Ryan Sweeney have been pushed into full-time duty due to injuries, and have done reasonably well. Felix Doubront has been a surprise in the rotation, and relievers Franklin Morales (now starting), Scott Atchison and Vicente Padilla have exceeded expectations.

What Went Wrong: So. Many. Injuries. Carl Crawford, Cody Ross, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia, and Clay Buchholz have all spent time on the DL this season. Adrian Gonzalez has taken a huge step back offensively. Jon Lester and Josh Beckett have had awful luck, and have ERAs nearly a run higher than their FIPs. Mark Melancon had a disastrous start to the year, but has worked his way back to a reasonable level since. Daniel Bard's conversion to the rotation was an unmitigated disaster. Closer Andrew Bailey hasn't thrown a pitch this year.

Best Case Scenario: All of Boston's players on the DL come back in the next six weeks or so, and the Sox go on an insane push to the playoffs. They
also need their rotation to get it all together, because it's been a rough year for them.

Worst Case Scenario: The Sox continue to get nothing from their hurt players. The rotation continues to suck wind, and guys like Daisuke Matsuzaka just aren't effective for the rest of the year.

Key Player: Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez hasn't missed a game this year for Boston, and has just a .745 OPS with six homers. That…is not what the Red Sox had in mind when they gave Gonzalez a nine figure contract last year after bringing him in from San Diego. If Gonzalez doesn't kick his ass into gear and hit at least 15 homers with a .900 OPS in the second half, I can't see the Red Sox making the playoffs.

New York Yankees
What Went Right: Robinson Cano is the best second baseman in baseball, and the best player on the Yankees, by far. Curtis Granderson is still smashing homers like it's no one's business. Andruw Jones has turned into a fantastic bench bat. CC Sabathia is still awesome, and the rest of the rotation has largely followed suit all year. The bullpen has been pretty damn good, led by Rafael Soriano.

What Went Wrong: Brett Gardner has been hurt all year, which has turned Raul Ibanez into a starter in the outfield, where he is struggling. Derek Jeter started off hot, but has cooled considerably since. Alex Rodriguez looks nothing like a former All-Star, and Mark Teixeira is right there with him. Mariano Rivera blew out his ACL, and is out for the year. Sabathia and Andy Pettitte are both hurt, forcing Freddy Garcia to the rotation.

Best Case Scenario: The Yankees are playing like the best team in baseball right now, and this extremely veteran bunch is on their last legs for a long-term run. If the Yankees can avoid injury and get Sabathia and Pettitte back soon, I don't see how they don't win the division.

Worst Case Scenario: If Cano gets hurt, the Yankees are screwed. He's been extremely durable over his career, so that doesn't seem like much of a possibility. I think the only other more dispensible Yankee hitter is Granderson, who is a key option up the middle that the Yankees wouldn't be able to adequately replace. The worst case scenario seems very, very far-fetched.

Key Player: Mark Teixeira. He normally has really shaky starts to the year, and an .807 OPS with 15 homers isn't really awful….but look at the money he's making. Tex is expected to OPS north of .900 with 35 bombs. The Yankees have been really good offensively, but they really lack a second fiddle after Cano. Teixeira needs to step up and be that guy.

Tampa Bay Rays
What Went Right: Matt Joyce has continued to mash as a regular starter. The rose is still not off of the Ben Zobrist bloom. David Price and James Shields have combined to make a fantastic 1-2 punch, and closer Fernando Rodney has gone from off the scrap heap to the All-Star Game, in typical Rays fashion.

What Went Wrong: Evan Longoria hasn't played since the end of April with a torn hamstring. Desmond Jennings has taken a huge step back from his partial rookie season of 2011. Carlos Pena's power has fallen off, and he looks nothing like he used to with the Rays. BJ Upton continues to disappoint offensively. Matt Moore hasn't dominated like many expected coming into the year. Jeremy Hellickson is having a chat with the regression angel after a first half that saw his ERA sit two full runs under his FIP.

Best Case Scenario: Longoria comes back healthy, and his return sparks the offense into a frenzy, leading to Jennings and Upton getting on base a ton and Pena smashing homers like crazy. Moore gets his control in line and starts taking souls, and the Rays make the playoffs again.

Worst Case Scenario: Longoria doesn't come back until it's too late to make an impact, and the Rays just can't muster up enough offense without him. The Rays move a couple of pieces at the trade deadline, notably Rodney, Upton, and Shields, and they slink to under .500 for the first time in quite awhile.

Key Player: Evan Longoria. Longoria is a transcendent player for the Rays, but he's had injury issues in his career. He was off to a fantastic start in April before getting hurt, and if he can retain that form when he comes back, he could possibly rev the Rays' proverbial engine.

Toronto Blue Jays
What Went Right: The offense is awesome, led by mashers Jose Bautista, Colby Rasmus, and Edwin Encarnacion. Brett Lawrie has been a demi-god on defense. Casey Janssen and Darren Oliver have been excellent in the bullpen.

What Went Wrong: Their pitching has been a disaster, mostly due to injuries by the boatload. Only Henderson Alvarez and Ricky Romero haven't missed starts, and they've been underwhelming. Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar have been disappointing up the middle, and JP Arencibia and Adam Lind have also struggled.

Best Case Scenario: I don't even know what to put here. If the Blue Jays keep hitting, they can at least win some games…but without healthy/good starting pitching, they're not contenders. I really don't even know where they would get those pitchers, either. I guess a .500 record would be the best case scenario considering the circumstances.

Worst Case Scenario: Simple: they stop hitting. If Toronto's offense goes quiet, they become a truly putrid team. And if that happens, I wouldn't be surprised to see guys like Escobar, Johnson, and Encarnacion get moved, and then the team would get even worse.

Key Player: Brandon Morrow. Morrow's strained oblique has really screwed the Jays over. He was having a fantastic year prior to the injury, and Toronto really needs a top of the line pitcher like him right now. His rehab is progressing, but the Jays could really use him sooner rather than later. If he's going to miss another month…this season is done.

Joe Lucia

About Joe Lucia

Joe is the managing editor of The Outside Corner and an associate editor at Awful Announcing. He lives in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and is smack dab in the middle of some of the best (and worst) sports fans in the country.

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