THT Dartboard: July 13, 2006

Welcome to The Hardball Times Dartboard, our weekly attempt to rank all the teams in baseball. The Dartboard Factor is how many wins a team would be expected to have at the end of the season if it played a neutral schedule. Next to that, you’ll find the change in the Dartboard Factor from the previous week. An explanation of our method can be found here.

As the second half is about to begin, this week we ask one burning question for each team. Though sometimes we cheat, and ask two.

1. Detroit Tigers (Dartboard Factor = 106, +1): Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman, and Nate Robertson are on-pace for career-highs in innings; meanwhile, Kenny Rogers is 41. Will the Tigers pitchers hold up or breakdown, and will Mike Maroth‘s return to the rotation help?

2. Chicago White Sox (Dartboard Factor = 100, 0): Can Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye, who had 17 more home runs in the first half of 2006 than they did all of last year, continue to carry the White Sox offense?

3. Boston Red Sox (Dartboard Factor = 99, 0): Is Josh Beckett going to figure out his home run problem (26 in 110 innings) and perform like the second ace he was brought in to be?

4. New York Yankees (Dartboard Factor = 98, +1): Mike Mussina is on-pace to throw more innings this season with the Yankees than in any other but the first, while Chien-Ming Wang is on-pace to eclipse last year’s career-high by almost 80 innings. Will the Yankees find enough pitching by September to stay in contention?

5. Toronto Blue Jays (Dartboard Factor = 94, -3): Can AJ Burnett stay healthy in the second-half and provide the second-half boost the Blue Jays need to contend, or for all its offseason spending, will Toronto end up with just another third-place finish?

6. New York Mets (Dartboard Factor = 93, 0): Will Pedro Martinez and Tom Glavine have enough left at the end of the season to anchor the Mets playoff rotation?

7. Texas Rangers (Dartboard Factor = 89, +1): Can the underachieving Texas bats (Mark Teixeira, Hank Blalock, Brad Wilkerson) heat up enough to stave off the inevitable Oakland second-half run?

8. Minnesota Twins (Dartboard Factor = 87, -2): Much has been made of Minnesota’s spectacular young Joe MauerFrancisco Liriano battery. But will the two be able to keep up their first-half performances to give the Twins a chance to contend?

9. Cleveland Indians (Dartboard Factor = 85, -3): How many spare parts are the Indians going to trade, and what kind of young talent will they will bring in?

10. San Diego Padres (Dartboard Factor = 85, +4): Can Chan Ho Park (6-4, 4.29 ERA) not fall apart? And will Jake Peavy and Brian Giles wake up enough by then to make up for it?

11. Los Angeles Angels (Dartboard Factor = 84, +4): With Vladimir Guerrero and Adam Kennedy both playing well below their established levels, are the Angels going to get enough offense to contend in a weak AL West?

12. Los Angeles Dodgers (Dartboard Factor = 84, +1): Can Nomar Garciaparra keep hitting like this? Can anyone?

13. Oakland Athletics (Dartboard Factor = 82, -2): Which of these players will break out of their first-half slumps: Mark Kotsay (.246) Eric Chavez (.240 BA), Bobby Crosby (.238) Dan Johnson (.237)? And if they all do, is Oakland beatable?

14. Colorado Rockies (Dartboard Factor = 81, -1): The Rockies are on-pace to allow 112 runs less than they ever have before. Can the pitching staff keep it up?

Mental Health and the CBA
A particular bit of language in the latest CBA could have negative consequences for some players.

15. Seattle Mariners (Dartboard Factor = 81, -1): Can Adrian Beltre (.710 OPS overall, .998 in June) and Richie Sexson (.706 OPS overall, .858 in June) continue to turn it up and carry the Mariners to the top of the AL West, or will they both revert to their early season struggles as the Mariners fall back in the standings?

16. St. Louis Cardinals (Dartboard Factor = 81, +1): They have plenty of hitting, but can the Cardinals straighten out their starting staff (only one starter with an ERA below 5.24) in time to not miss the playoffs?

17. San Francisco Giants (Dartboard Factor = 80, -1): Barry Bonds‘ walk numbers have declined each month. When opposing managers finally figure out that he has little left, will the rest of the Giants lineup have enough firepower to keep the team in contention?

18. Cincinnati Reds (Dartboard Factor = 78, -3): The Reds have lost eight of their last nine. Can they continue to contend in a weak NL Central, or will they follow up their surprising first half with a severe second half regression?

19. Arizona Diamondbacks (Dartboard Factor = 77, +1): Will the Diamondbacks act like a contender at the trading deadline, or will they try to acquire more young pieces for a run next season?

20. Baltimore Orioles (Dartboard Factor = 75, -1): After posting identical 5.54 ERAs in April and May, the Orioles had a respectable 4.45 ERA in June. Can Leo Mazzone continue to work his magic and get the O’s pitching to where it needs to be for 2007 by the end of the season?

21. Houston Astros (Dartboard Factor = 75, -1): Even in the weak NL Central, are the Astros really contenders or are they just wasting resources that could have helped them contend next season to acquire Roger Clemens and Aubrey Huff?

22. Milwaukee Brewers (Dartboard Factor = 75, -1): How much of an impact can Ben Sheets‘ imminent return have? Enough to lead the Brewers to the playoffs?

23. Atlanta Braves (Dartboard Factor = 74, +3): Will the Braves dare to trade John Smoltz? How much will he fetch if the do deal him away?

24. Florida Marlins (Dartboard Factor = 72, 0): Is Dontrelle Willis staying or going? And will fans revolt if he is dealt?

25. Philadelphia Phillies (Dartboard Factor = 72, 0): Can Ryan Howard hit 60 home runs?

26. Tampa Bay Devil Rays (Dartboard Factor = 72, 0): How many times can the Tampa Bay front office fleece another team into trading away unneeded players for good, young prospects? And, will Delmon Young be deemed mature enough for a September call-up?

27. Washington Nationals (Dartboard Factor = 67, -2): Jim Bowden got lucky trading for Alfonso Soriano. Will he do as well trading him away?

28. Chicago Cubs (Dartboard Factor = 64, +3): When will Dusty Baker get fired? And what, if any, impact will that have?

29. Kansas City Royals (Dartboard Factor = 61, +2): What will Dayton Moore do in the offseason to get the Royals back to respectability?

30. Pittsburgh Pirates (Dartboard Factor = 60, -1): Do Pirates fans have anything to look forward to if Bud Selig doesn’t let Mark Cuban buy the team? Or can they just sign the mass suicide pact now?

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