Originally written July 18, 2012 on The GM's Perspective:
The first half of the 2012 season has not been what we’ve expected.  After all the hype surrounding the Miami Marlins and Albert Pujols, neither are living up to expectations.  Pujols is having the worst offensive season of his career and it’s truly an odd experience hearing fans boo him after a double play ground out or a weak pop fly.  The Marlins signed Jose Reyes, Health Bell and Mark Buehrle during the Winter Meetings and were supposed to be the team that displaces the Philadelphia Phillies from their throne in the NL East. Instead the Heath Bell has been a disaster as their closer. His ERA of 6.00 is ridiculous, opponent’s are batting .290 off him and he’s given up more earned runs this year already than last year. Buehrle is his usual reliable self, but a .500 record is not what was expected. Reyes on the other hand isn’t lighting up the stat sheet either. He’s batting .270, more than 30 points below last year, and his slugging and on-base percentage is nearly 50 points below his career average. Not what the fans expected, and in the end really makes their new stadium look even worse.  Instead of the Marlins dominance, the upstart Washington Nationals and their plethora of young talent are really putting the screws to the rest of the Eastern division. Bryce Harper, MLBs LeBron James, is holding his own against Major League pitching. He does not look out of place, has faced the best in Roy Halladay, plays a mean outfield, got plunked for really no reason, and coined a catchphrase “That’s a clown question, bro” that caused a commotion, the likes we haven’t seen since “Get off my mound”.  The “Freak” Tim Lincecum, once regarded as one of the best pitchers in the game is struggling and all signs point to it only getting worse. Not since his rookie year, has Lincecum had an ERA over 4.00. This year it’s over 6.00. His fastball velocity is nearly 4 mph slower than it was in 2007 and after two recent performances where he looked very familiar to his former Cy Young self, he was hit hard again.  Jose Bautista, the heart and soul of the Toronto Blue Jays, is leading the home run race again. Batting below .250 and getting off to an atrociously slow start, Joey Bats had a June to remember bashing 14 home runs and tallying 30 RBIs.  The Jays are still struggling, not really living up to expectations in an AL East that could have both Wild Cards, but take Bautista off that team, and baseball in Toronto could go by way of the Expos. When you think about it, Jose Bautista could be the most important player the Jays have had since their World Series championship teams.  And what can you say about R.A. Dickey? The guy has been absolutely lights out for the Mets this year. A former first-round pick, 18th overall in 1996, Dickey has been more or less a journeyman pitcher throughout his career. He has seen some moderate success in the past couple years winning 11 and eight games but this year Dickey and the knuckleball have taken the world by storm. At 12 and one, a 2.40 ERA and a WHIP at an unbelievable 0.93, he is the leading candidate to start the All- Star Game and rightfully so.  Teams like the Cleveland Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates continue to surprise the baseball world. The Indians are second place in a rather dull AL Central division and the Pirates are actually leading the NL Central. The biggest surprise in all of this might be A.J. Burnett and his nine wins. For someone who seemed to wilt under the bright lights of New York, Pittsburgh might be the perfect place to get back on track. By the way, the Pirates have the best home record in the game!  That’s it for now, but with the Home Run Derby on deck and the All Star Game and the second half to follow, the excitement will continue, and so will the surprises. Who knows, at the end of the regular season we might see the Pirates in the playoffs… Devon is the Founder and Executive Director of The GM's Perspective. He is a former professional baseball player with the River City Rascals & Gateway Grizzlies. Currently, Devon is a Manager at a financial institution in Northern Ontario Canada, and can be reached at devon@thegmsperspective.com. You can follow The GM's Perspective on Twitter and Facebook. His full bio can be seen here. **Devon is available for hire or freelance opportunities**

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