Derek Jeter

Is Jeter reaching the end of the road?

 Jeter’s Slump

Derek Jeter got off to a fast start this year, hitting .389 with 5 homers and 13 RBI in April.  His current average is still above .300, but a steep downward trend – a .293 batting average in May and a .238 in June (through Wednesday) – should have Yankees fans a bit concerned.  This is not a young player we’re talking about – Jeter turned 38 earlier in the week.  Even worse, he’s a middle infielder – and middle infielders rarely reach age 40 with their offensive skillset intact.  Don’t be surprised if Jeter’s offensive skills start to slip away and he turns into a .240 slap hitter.

Albert’s Surge

ANAHEIM, CA - APRIL 06:  Albert Pujols #5 of t...

Albert Pujols

On the other side of the coin we have Albert Pujols.  After signing a monster deal with Anaheim in the off-season, Pujols had a horrific start to the season – unable to get his average to .200 and displaying no power at all.  After hitting .217 with no homers in April, the power returned in May when Albert hit 8 homers to go along with a .263 average.  In June, the batting average has returned, with Pujols hitting .333 with 4 homers.  When (not if) he’s able to consolidate those April and May statistics, he’s going to once again be one of the most feared hitters in the game.  even with the horrible start to the year, Pujols is on pace to hit 25 homers and drive in nearly 100 runs.  A reasonably good second half could push his homer total above 30, and I’d bet that his batting average gets close to .300 by the end of the year. 

Mike Trout

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 01:  Mike Trout #27 of the ...

Mike Trout

Pujols’s teammate in Anaheim, rookie Mike Trout, is having a tremendous season.  While Bryce Harper of the Nationals has been a highly touted player since high school, Trout slipped to the 25th overall pick in the 2009 draft, partly because of New Jersey high school players having a poor track record.  By the end of the 2010 season, he had emerged as one of the top prospects in the game.  Trout put up pedestrian numbers during a brief call-up in 2011, as is common with rookies.

This year, however, Trout has been tearing it up.  he was called up on April 28th, and has been one of the best players in baseball since his call-up – and he’s just 20 years old.  He’s leading the American league in batting average and stolen bases and showing good power for his age, with 8 homers in his first 54 games.  He’s also a terrific defender in the outfield.  Some worry that Trout won’t be able to maintain his elite speed, given his body type.  However, it’s possible that he could slim down a bit, or that he’ll simply be the exception.  In any cases, Trout is still several years away from reaching his physical peak – it should be fun to watch him improve and become an even better player.  If you’re looking for an example of Trout improving, look at his strikeout rates – 28 strikeouts in 108 at bats in May and just 18 strikeouts in 104 at bats in June.

Teams to watch

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 12:  Joel Hanrahan ...

Do you know this man’s name?

It’s been an interesting start to the season, with lots of good storylines.  Here are some teams to watch in the second half.

Phillies – The Phillies are in last place in their division.  Why are we watching them?  Well, although they are nine games behind the Nationals, they are only 5 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot.  With Chase Utley back in the lineup, Ryan Howard beginning his rehab stint, and Roy Halladay not too far away, the Phillies could very easily find a way into the playoffs.

Pirates – I was still in high school the last time Pittsburgh had a winning record.  They teased their fans last year before falling apart late in the year.  They are in contention once again this year.  Although their negative run differential suggest that they aren’t as good as their record suggests, I’d love to see them emerge with a division title.

Who do I predict as the playoff teams?  In the American League, the Yankees, Red Sox, White Sox, Angels, and Rangers.  In the National League, the Nationals, Phillies, Cardinals, Pirates, and Giants.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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