2 Cinderellas and a Pumpkin

Jim assesses the first half off the baseball season for the Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Cincinnati Reds

There's a tradition in baseball, that if you're a contender in the standings on the Fourth of July, you will also be a contender in the home stretch of the season in September.

Incredibly for area baseball fans, The Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds and Pittsburgh Pirates are among the front runners in their divisions. We're reaching the half way point of the season, so its time to pass out some midterm grades.

 Cleveland Indians: A

The Cleveland Indians are the surprise team of the American League this season. The Tribe got off to the hottest start in baseball to open up a big lead in the American League Central. They cooled off, thanks in part to some injury problems, but they've bounced back to regain the division lead again from the Detroit Tigers.

The Indians are led offensively by Asdrubal Cabrera, who is having an All Star Season.

But the strength of this team is the pitching staff. They've got some good young arms in both the starting rotation and the bullpen.

Josh Tomlin and Carlos Carrasco could each have 10 or better victories by the all star break, and closer Chris Perez has 19 saves and has been tabbed for the American league All Star squad

Pittsburgh Pirates: B+

Nobody, but the most hardcore Pirates fan, could have predicted that the Pittsburgh Pirates would be within 1 and a half games of the lead in the National League Central on July 4..

After having set a record for consecutive losing seasons dating back to 1994, the Pirates are actually getting noticed for how they're playing , and not just for how good their ball park looks.

All credit to manager Clint Hurdle. He took over a Pirates squad in which losing was ingrained as part of the team culture. The losing mentality can be placed at the feet of the front office. Time after time burgeoning Pirate stars were traded away for "prospects"

The future is now as far as Hurdle is concerned. He's getting the most out of his young team. Andrew McCutchen is developing into a promising young star, and hopefully he will be allowed to blossom as a member of the Pirates in the coming years.

Kevin Correia is the ace of the rotation with 11 victories. While closer Joel Hanrahan earned an All Star game invitation with a perfect 25 for 25 in save situations.

The Pirates are a young team that is starting to believe in itself, and that bodes well for the future. If not this year, down the road.

Cincinnati Reds: C-

While the Cincinnati Reds reached the 4Th of July just 2 games out of the lead, they're being graded on stricter basis due to their National League Central Division title from a season ago.

The Reds made some good moves during the off season, tying up some of their young stars to multi-year contracts, and bringing in some veterans for depth on the bench.

But this year's Reds team has been consistently inconsistent.

When they're hitting well, the bullpen can't hold the lead. When they're pitching well, the lineup can't produce any runs. The Reds have gone from having the best record in 1 run games a year ago, to having the worst record in the same category this year.

The Reds have the talent, they have to hope they find the chemistry that made them a champion last year, or they will return to the ranks of also rans.

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