Just past the halfway mark and coming up to the All-Star break, let's take a look around the league. There are some familiar story lines and a few interesting surprises:
After a few rebuilding years, Columbus has returned to prominence and leads the division by 6. The Criminals' balanced attack (note: Wilson Costello could be making an unlikely MVP bid at .340/21/72) is 2nd in the league in runs scored, but their pitching has been average. Cincy and Augusta are hanging 6 and 8 back, while Detroit is currently looking pretty good on its 70-win goal.
Cleveland is in its familiar first-place perch, but it's not dominating as in years past. It's pitching is great as usual, but the normally-potent offense has fizzled by their standards (4th in runs). Jaque Fitzgerald is having his usual great year (.324/21/52), but the rest of the lineup is under par. Despite a pitching off-year of its own and non MVP-type seasons so far from Morales and Brantley, D.C. is just 3 back. Pittsburgh is right there at 5 back; Rochester is headed for its 3rd straight cellar finish and is in full-blown rebuild mode.
Richmond and Jackson are locked in neck-and-neck battle here. The Poor Men are doing it with pitching - starters Juan Gil (9-2, 3.21) and (5-2, 2.96), and Josias Rodriguez, and closer Wiki Batista (8 saves, 2.58) lead the effort. For the Holes, LF Dennis Hewson has 24 homers and SP Johnny Collier is 6-2 with a 2.45 ERA.
Little Rock and Nashville are just 9 back but showing no signs of challenging.
Salem is threatening to lap the field - they've opened up a 10 game cushion on Portland. The Goonies' formula is positively Weaver-esque: tough pitching (3rd in Team ERA) and longballs (Escuela, Grant, Vargas and Krause are the top 4 homerun hitters in the AL). The Bar & Grillers remain in the thick of the wild card race - with roughly half the homer totals of Salem, they may be shopping for power at the deadline. Boise has fallen off last season's 85-win pace and San Diego remains in rebuilding mode.