Sunday, July 27, 2014

2014:Mid-Year Review

2014: The Best so far!!!

   So we are about 8 months into this wonderful year of films.  I know that I have seen some great ones and I've seen my share of duds!  I've seen about 30 movies so far and I wanted to do this best of list just to start a discussion really.  I know that there are tons of great stuff out there that I haven't got to yet, but Netflix is slow at times!  I've definitely gone to the cinema a lot this year, not just to see the big box office flicks but to see indy films too!  (Thank You TODD!!)  I will be doing this by category. I'll list them and then pick my favorite from them.
First off though here's the films I've seen so far...

22 Jumpstreet
About Last Night
Bad Words
Captain America The Winter Solider
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Grand Budapest Hotel,The
Fed Up
Fluffy Movie,The 
Lego Movie
Lucky Them
Jack Ryan:Shadow Recruit
Million Dollar Arm
Paranormal Activity The Marked One
Ride Along
That Awkward Moment
Think Like a Man Too
X-Men:Days of Future Past
Walk of Shame
Wish I Was Here

Best Actor:
Jon Favreau-Chef
Andy Serkis-Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Tom Hardy-Locke
Zach Braff-Wish I Was Here
Ralph Fiennes-The Grand Budapest Hotel

Honorable Mentions:
Jason Bateman-Bad Words
Hugh Jackman-X-Men Days of Future Past

This was rather difficult for me.  I enjoyed these five actors a lot!  I would have to say my favorite is Andy Serkis!  The guys is in a full body suit the whole time he films, and yet he still can relay the feelings of Cesar.  I thought his performance was better than the first film and I can't wait to see if they do a third one! 

Best Supporting Actor:
Tony Revolori-The Grand Budapest Hotel
Michael Fassbender-X-Men Days of Future Past
Josh Gad-Wish I Was Here
Pitobash-Million Dollar Arm
Zach Effron-Neighbors

    This one is easier for me!  I'm going with Zach Effron.  He has defiantly broken away from his old High School Musical days.  This was his best role to date and a good rebound role as well from earlier dud, The Awkward Moment.

Honorable Mentions
Samuel L. Jackson-Captain America The Winter Solider

Best Actress:
Agata Trzebuchowska-Ida
Kate Hudson-Wish I Was Here
Elizabeth Banks-Walk of Shame
Angelina Jolie-Maleficent
Julianne Moore-Non-Stop

Honorable Mentions:
Kerri Russel-Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

I went back and fourth between two of these leading ladies but in the end I'm going with the rookie here.  Agata Trzebuchowska was just amazing in Ida.  Its crazy because it's her first role as well.  She made me feel conflicted and I kept wondering what she was thinking the entire film.  I hope she does another film soon so we could hopefully see her growth.

Best Supporting Actress:
Agata Kulesza-Ida
Joey King-Wish I Was Here
Abbie Cornish-Robocop
Ellie Fanning-Maleficent
Scarlett Johansson-Chef

Honorable Mentions:
Kiera Knightley-Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit

This one is an easy choice for me.  Joey King is simple amazing in Wish I Was Here.  She's been in a lot more movies than I thought and she still just learning her craft.  I think that she could be a good break out star soon.  Only time will tell!

Best Director:
Zach Braff-Wish I Was Here
Steven Knight-Locke
Jon Favreau-Chef
Bryan Singer-X-Men Days of Future Past
Matt Reeves-Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Honorable Mention:
Wes Anderson-The Grand Budapest Hotel

All five are really deserving choices here.  All five films provided moments that will be remembered one way or another.  If it was a big budget movie or just an indy film, you have to have good direction.  All our favorites have a man in charge.  So far this year I think it's Bryan Singer.  I know that this will be the debated one here.  But think about how good the X-Men movies were when, Singer, did the first two.  Then Ratner ruined the third one and the franchise never recovered, until now.  Considering all the star power this movie had too, (Jackman, Stewart, Fassbender, McAvoy, Lawrence, Berry, McKellen, Dinklage etc) he kept things in order.   This movie garnered 1 of my 4, 4 star ratings too.

My Top Ten so far in 2014:








                                                                                          So that's my top ten!  I know there are a lot out there that I haven't seen yet!  I am prepared for this list to change! I hope it does too cause then there were some great movies!

I'm already looking forward to
1:Guardians of the Galaxay
2: Foxcatcher
3: Boyhood
4: Gone Girl
5: Birdman
6: Hunger Games:Mocking Jay Part 1
7: Interstellar
8: Sin City: A Dame to Kill
9: Nightcrawler
10: A Most Wanted Man
11: Into the Storm
12: The Hobbit 3
13 :Snowpiercer
14: Fury
15: Dumb and Dumber to

 So in closing I hope you all have fun at the movies!  Please tell me what your looking forward to!  What did you agree with me on?  What did you think I got wrong?  Let me know!!

And as always Thank You!!  Adam 

Saturday, July 26, 2014

2014 NFL Team Win Totals: Five Early Predictions

            It’s that time of the year again: The dog days of the summer, when the weather is hot, the movies are (mostly) atrocious, and SportsCenter leads its prime-time broadcast with the WNBA All-Star Game.  Meanwhile, as the faint glimmer of hope in the distant future – the football season – gets closer and closer, it’s time to start focusing on the important things in life, like betting on NFL team win totals.  Last year when I wrote this column, I went 3-2, accurately predicting Cincinnati Detroit, and Washington (the paragraph on the Redskins ending up being one of the most prescient things I’ve ever written) and missing Denver and San Francisco by a combined total of three wins.  I also wrote the 2013 column in May (the non-football months in 2013 must have been especially boring), and although writing this column days before the NFL trade deadline isn’t particularly advisable, I’m sick of hearing about stories like this.  There is only one true football, and it's Amur-cun, goddammit!
            In any event, here are five early win total predictions that, like 24-point leads, are automatic cash in your wallet (here’s an updated link via Bovada).
Indianapolis Colts (Over 9½ wins -130)
$100 bet pays $76.92

            The Colts play in the NFL’s easiest division, with the Jaguars, Texans and Titans combining for 13 wins in 2013 (Indianapolis won 11 games on its own).  Last season, they beat the Seahawks, Broncos, 49ers and Chiefs.  Somehow in spite of winning the AFC South in 2013, the Colts are straddled with the NFL’s easiest schedule in 2014, with six games against its less-than-formidable division rivals and additional games against the Browns, Giants, Cowboys, Steelers and Ravens (all .500 or below last season).  They have the NFL’s best quarterback under 30 without a Super Bowl title, the most fearsome pass rusher in the AFC (Mathis), one of the most electrifying young receivers in the game (Hilton), and the greatest kicker of all time (you know who).  They also get back a healthy Reggie Wayne and will only play one outdoor cold weather game after November – against Cleveland.  So why is this line so low?  Well, they had a lousy draft, they somehow occasionally play inexplicably poor in spite of their obvious talent, and they still have Trent Richardson on their roster.  Sorry, those aren’t big enough detractors for me.  Double digit wins here feels like low-hanging fruit, and I’d be shocked to see another team out of the AFC South reach the postseason.

Pittsburgh Steelers (Over 8½ wins -150)
$100 bet pays $66.67

            Since 1971, the Shittsburgh has never experienced three consecutive seasons without a winning record.  From 2000 to 2009, the Stealers had only three seasons with non-double digit wins; each of those seasons was followed by at least a two-win improvement. So yeah, the Steelers have a long track record with success.  That is why it seems unlikely that after two straight 8-8 campaigns marked by sloppy offensive play, injuries, turnovers and inexplicable losses to the Raiders, the Steelers will still suck (the refs won't let that happen).  But if the word “unlikely” isn’t strong enough to convince you that Pittsburgh will have a winning record in 2014, then consider the following evidence: They play only two 2013 playoff teams before Thanksgiving (including a four-week stretch against the Buccaneers, Jaguars, Browns and Texans); their ridiculously fortunate 2014 travel map; Big Ben is entering a contract season, meaning he’ll have to avoid motorcycles and loose women; the running game should be revamped, with a healthy Le’Veon Bell, Dri Archer and Big Sexy; and Dick LeBeau is finally realizing that he needs to have defenders under 35 years old.  Of Pittsburgh’s 16 losses the last two years, 11 have come by a touchdown or less and during that time, Roethlisberger still has managed a QB rating of 94.2 (in spite of seemingly countless games like these).  The guy’s won two Super Bowls, I’m still afraid of him, and a three-year stretch of zero Pittsburgh Steeler playoff appearances feels too much like . . . (wait for it) . . . fantasy football.

San Francisco 49ers (Under 10½ wins +105)
$100 bet pays $105

            This is not going to be a popular pick outside of the greater Seattle metropolitan area, but let’s look at the facts: The 49ers have had a horrific offseason.  Aldon Smith and Chris Culliver are dealing with jail sentences, Vernon Davis and Alex Boone are likely training camp holdouts as they await heftier contracts, and Navarro Bowman is still recovering from this.  Donte (W)Hitner is now on the Browns, Carlos Rogers is now on the Raiders, and Justin Smith is  returning from major surgery to his shoulder.  Frank Gore is bound to break down at some point (right?) and should Kaepernick get injured, the 49ers have all their marbles invested in this guy.  Meanwhile, San Francisco plays in the league’s toughest division and faces only four sub-.500 teams from 2013.  And I know this isn’t scientific or anything, but any time a team experiences consecutive playoff heartbreaks like these, there’s bound to be dejection and feelings of helplessness for years to follow (just ask the Buffalo Bills).  I’m not saying the run of excellent 49er teams is necessarily over, but they may have already peaked and 10½ wins feels like a lot to ask. Got it, ladies?

St. Louis Rams (Over 7½ wins -155)
$100 bet pays $64.52

            On the other hand, the Rams feel like a team finally ready to make some noise after years of unreached hype and underperformance.  Say what you will about Sam Bradford, but when he was healthy last year, he had a QB rating of 90.9 with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 14 to 4.  Remember that in 2013, the Rams beat Arizona, Indianapolis and New Orleans and should have beat the Seahawks – and this was with Kellen Clemens starting the majority of games.  Zac Stacy, Tavon Austin and Tre Mason will certainly give the offense some electricity.  Oh, and let’s not forget the most fearsome pass rush in the league, and really it’s really not even close: Robert Quinn, Chris Long, Michael Brockers and Kendall Langford – with Aaron Donald and Michael Sam added to the mix (look out, Russell Wilson).  The Rams begin 2014 with games against the Vikings, Buccaneers and Cowboys, and then from October to November the schedule is brutal; but if they can manage to stay at .500 during that stretch (and relatively healthy, needless to say), December is manageable. It’s worth remembering that Jeff Fisher only had consecutive losing seasons once while at Tennessee and now that he’s entering his third season in St. Louis, success seems bound to emerge soon.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Under 7 wins +105)
$100 bet pays $105

            It's everyone's favorite Arena Football League team!  But are we really supposed to believe that a simple upgrade at coach (from Greg Schiano to Lovie Smith) can elevate Tampa into a .500 squad?  Look at them: They just lost their best defender (Darrelle Revis) and even when he played last year, the Bucs still gave up 389 points and 4,000 yards and 30 passing TDs to quarterbacks.  And speaking of QB, Tampa will either rely on a second-year player with a 4-9 record in 2013, or a 35-year-old career backup who won three games last year with the help of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery.  Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans (who’s still recovering from a strained hamstring) should help, but the running game is still uncertain and no one knows how Jeff Tedford’s offensive philosophy will adjust to the NFL.  The NFC South isn’t great, but New Orleans still has a better offense, Carolina still has a better defense and Atlanta isn’t likely to win only four games again.  For 2014 the Bucs play the AFC North, which includes a Ravens team they haven’t beaten in 12 years and a Steelers team they’ve only beaten once all-time.  Now the truth is that seven wins is virtually attainable by any team in the NFL given the right set of circumstances (Exhibit A).  This Buccaneer team feels slightly better than last year, but they are still a major work in progress – even without the variable of injury-related setbacks – and seven wins is asking a lot, even for a coach with Smith’s solid track record.


Detroit Lions (Under 8½ wins -130)
$100 bet pays $76.92

            This is my third year of writing this column and in both 2012 and 2013, I predicted that the Lions would finish under their predicted win totals.  And lo and behold, I was correct both times – so why not make it three-for-three with this year’s squad?  My first thought here was: What drugs were they smoking in Vegas when they set this line at 8½?  Do they realize the Detroit is now being coached by a dead guy?  I suppose three years of Jim Schwartz will lead to a desire to lower the pulse on the sideline, but a working heartbeat would be an added plus (or at least a coach who doesn’t expend all of his energy in the preseason). The Lions play only four sub-.500 teams in 2014 and in classic Detroit Lions fashion, they squandered their first pick of this year’s NFL draft on an offensive skill player they don’t really need.  This summer, they haven’t addressed issues on defense that have plagued this franchise since . . . well, since forever, and their best defensive player maybe on the outs due to intensely cramped cap space (look no further than this to understand why Suh is a liability). So yes, like the Buccaneers, let’s pretend that the new regime of Caldwell and Joe Lombardi will lead to a wholesale change in Detroit – except for the fact that to place a winning bet, the Lions must win nine games instead of seven, all while playing in a division with Aaron Rodgers, Adrian Peterson and Jay Cutler.  But hey, I got no qualms with someone in Vegas making me look smart each summer.

            Thoughts?  Disagreements?  Eager to see the column where I explain why the Patriots will win over 11 games? (Sorry, there isn’t one).  Let me know below. 

Million Dollar Arm Review

                                                         Million Dollar Arm
                                 By Adam Daly

     Million Dollar Arm is film about sports agent J.B. Bernstein’s quest to overcome his competitors.  With the fear of losing his business he turns to an unusual sport, cricket.  He flies to India in hopes of turning a cricket player into a professional baseball pitcher.  He holds a competition for all the cricket players in India called, “Million Dollar Arm”. 
    So Disney is at it again.  Another year and another based on a true story sports movie.  Going into this film my only thought, and rightfully so, is this going to be just like, “The Rookie”?  Another big question I had with this film is that I had never heard of the two soon-to-be baseball players that this film was about.  Even though it’s about the search of these players the film is more focused on Jon Hamm’s character.  Hamm basically plays a really toned down version of his role in Bridesmaids, but still has the similar swagger he has in Mad Men.  
    As the movie begins, we meet J.B. Bernstein (Hamm) and his partner Ash (Aasif Mandvi) prepping to WOW a new client.  As they tried and failed, again, they realize that if they don’t think outside the box that there company will go under.  As J.B. is flipping through the channels he comes across cricket playing on TV. So he gets this crazy idea of turning a cricket player into a baseball player.  So J.B. starts to form a team to help him in this crazy plan.  He finds a pitching instructor (Bill Paxton), and ex-scout (Alan Arkin) to help with the future player. 

     J.B. and Ray fly to India and hold the “Million Dollar Arm” competition.  After a long search he finally strikes gold on not one but two players.  As Rinku Singh (Suraj Sharma) and Dinesh Patel (Madhur Mittal) win the contest they are conflicted by leaving all they know to pursue a once in a life time opportunity.  As they get to America they quickly realize that baseball is harder than they thought. 
    J.B. also has good intentions but his true colors come out.  When the opportunity of a big client comes into play, all other things fall by the way side.  Even his relationship with his tenant, Brenda (Lake Bell) takes a back seat.  His only focus is the payday he will get and not the kids he brought here to the states. 
As the day of a major league tryout comes all eyes are on Rinku and Dinesh.  Let’s just say that things don’t go like J.B. plans.  He then realizes what’s more important in his life, his relationships.  He sets up another try out with less than half of the original scouts there.  This time they pitch their hearts off!  And the rest is history.

    There are some good performances in this movie.  Suraj Sharma and Madhur Mittal do a great job relaying the emotions that their characters are going in.  Another is by Pitobash.  He plays a character who translates for the two pitchers and dreams of being a baseball coach.  He brings the humor at just the right moments that made me laugh and clap.  He also gives a very amazing monologue that put a big smile on my face.  But with the good there are also some bad ones.  Alan Arkin, though he had his moments he mostly was just there and that’s about it.  But that's typical Arkin and his humor.  Bill Paxton had a fine performance but nothing mind blowing.   Also Lake Bell and Jon Hamm’s chemistry together seemed off.  I feel weird saying this but Jon Hamm looks way better then Lake Bell and couldn't believe that they were a couple in the end.  I have always enjoyed Hamm's acting and even though this might not be his best role he makes it work like only he can!   
     A little side thing that I caught is that even though it’s a Disney movie there shouldn’t be in Star Wars jokes in it.  There was one joke in here and it totally seemed out of place.  Disney we get it you bought the Star Wars rights!  But I could also just totally be over thinking this too.
    I still enjoyed this film and my original thoughts were gone by the time it ended.  If you enjoy baseball movies and are expecting to see "Moneyball" or "For the Love of the Game" then this is not it.  I definitely think though it is one of the best sport movies that Disney has come out with.  I will be interested in seeing how their next movie will turn out.  
     Being a baseball fan it made me want to research these two players.  As I dig deeper into these players I found that Dinesh has actually already retired in 2010.  Rinku is still pitching in the minors and has made it to high AA.  Though he has fallen victim to the popular trend that's going around MLB and had season ending Tommy John surgery in 2014.  Hopefully he will make a comeback and make it to the Pirates major league team soon.
    Well in conclusion, I enjoyed this film enough to look over the character flaws and flaws it has.  The monologue at the end of the film and the conclusion brought up may rating a bit.  I give it... 
3 stars!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008) Review

Directed by 
Kurt Kuenne

            (NOTE: The following review has tried carefully not to reveal too many spoilers; however, this movie is best viewed the less familiar you are with the details of the story).
            The first word that comes to mind when describing Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About his Father is “anger.”  This is an angry, enraged film made by a passionate and obviously afflicted filmmaker who knew his subject(s) intimately.  The film recoils in fumes, recounting the life of a man who died under terrible circumstances at an age far too young and in a way no one could have possibly imagined in their wildest dreams.  The director pulls out his full artistic arsenal, repeating the footage of lies and falsities made by public officials and juxtaposing them with the images of those whose lives have been forever shattered as a result of a brutal, shocking crime.  The effect feels not too unlike if Capturing the Friedmans had been made by Errol Morris.
            The second word to describe Dear Zachary is “sadness.”  We see person after person recounting stories and details about a man they loved and admired.  We see his grief-stricken parents, trying desperately to put the pieces back together and reassemble what they have left of their own lives.  We see his colleagues at a small-town clinic in Pennsylvania, recounting his care and compassion for his patients, with speculation of what a great physician he would have been.  Like many of the most accomplished documentaries, the film is hardly a laugh-fest.
            And yet finally, incredibly, the third word to describe Dear Zachary is “inspirational.”  In spite of all the grief and anguish, a portrait emerges in Dear Zachary of a man whose selflessness and candor made those around him shine – particularly in the wake of his untimely murder.  How the movie seamlessly oscillates between those three stark emotions – anger, sadness, and inspiration – is fascinating and remarkable.  The fact that the story unweaves in a completely unpredictable fashion is a testament to that great dictum in documentary filmmaking that life is sometimes crazier than art.
            The man’s name was Andrew Bagby.  He was a physician in Latrobe, Pennsylvania.  One night in November 2001, an ex-girlfriend of his tracked him down and shot him multiple times.  Although the woman was taken into custody, her duel Canadian-American citizenship complicated the judicial process and eventually, she was released from jail on a series of cruel technicalities.  By the time she was released, she was mother to a son Andrew never met, Zachary.  What happened next, no one could have anticipated.
            If Dear Zachary had recounted only these events, it would have been considered a sober, gripping crime documentary.  But its director, Kurt Kuenne, wisely chooses to sidestep the more grisly details of the murder case.  Instead, Kuenne – a close friend of Andrew’s – chooses to embark on a cross-continental tour of sorts, compiling interviews with Andrew’s friends and relatives so that, when the project is completed, Zachary can eventually know who his father really was.  Kuenne’s travels are remarkable on several levels; first, that someone like Andrew (who died in his late 20s) could have affected so many wildly different people so strongly in his short lifespan; and second, that Kuenne so loved his friend that he willingly traveled thousands of miles (from California to Great Britain to Newfoundland, Canada) to document firsthand what these people had to say about him.  And all in the service of a child he never knew.
            Perhaps this point merits further elaboration.  You see, Andrew was a helluva guy.  He looked a little like John Belushi and had a high-pitched voice and laugh that would have carried any conversation smoothly.  He didn’t take himself too seriously, and yet you get the impression that that he cared deeply for his friends, family and job (either Andrew really was this charismatic or Kuenne is one of the great documentary embellishers of all time).  One of the most remarkable aspects of Dear Zachary is that in spite of the fact that he is never interviewed on camera except for home movies, Andrew emerges as a relatable, intimate individual who you feel you know deeply by the end of the film. 
            Of course, Dear Zachary is more than simply a laudatory elegy by Kurt Kuenne to his late friend.  While Kuenne is on the road, Andrew’s killer is released and David and Kathleen Bagby (Zachary’s grandparents) promptly cash in their retirement fund and fight for custody of their grandson.  A brutal legal battle ensues.  Events transpire that I dare not even hint at.  Throughout the ordeal, Kuenne’s camera captures how each legal setback is neutralized through the endearing spirit of Andrew’s parents and many others.
            One of the most basic principles of humanity is that good should overcome evil.  Obviously, this does not always happen.  Another principle – oft-recited in the form of clichés – is that we are incapable of knowing why things happen the way things happen.  It is a cruelty of the worst kind that someone like Andrew Bagby was murdered.  Some of the events shown in Dear Zachary demonstrate that even when you think one form of unspeakable evil cannot be surpassed, you are sometimes forced to think again.  Dear Zachary contains moments of startling rage and sadness unmatched by any documentary – really, any film – I’ve ever seen.  Seeing the film verges on a traumatic experience; the effect more closely resonates to Shoah and The War Zone than In Cold Blood or Monster.
            And yet, good does overcome evil.  The inspiration overpowers the anger and sadness.  I cannot say much more except that Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About his Father contains a powerful uplifting and hopeful message about the potential of those who have suffered through tragedy.  I doubt it was Kuenne’s intent to make a film about a murder; but as you watch the film, one gets the impression that there was no way Kuenne (like the viewer) could have anticipated the events that proceeded Andrew’s death.  Not unlike Hoop Dreams, the film spans several years and would appear to bear little resemblance to what the director’s initial imperatives were when first undertaking the project.
          Dear Zachary recalls that old cliché about how when the going gets tough, the tough get going.  Andrew Bagby was a tough, resilient and good person.  Kurt Kuenne is a good person.  David and Kathleen Bagby are good people.  When a horrible situation confronted these people, they responded to it initially with understandable anger and sadness.  But Dear Zachary shows that what separated them as good people was their ability to look past those emotions and recognize the larger gravity of the situation with patience and integrity.  An infant still needed to be cared for.  Many different people were in grief.  They had to come face-to-face with injustice and corruption while reconciling their own feelings of rage, inadequacy and helplessness (particularly Andrew’s parents).  Charles Bukowski was right when he said the difference between life and art is that art is more bearable; but at the same time, life can sometimes be so much more uplifting than art.  The Bagbys are my personal my heroes and seeing Dear Zachary was one of the most powerful cinematic experiences of my life.  

Rating: 4 stars

Thursday, July 17, 2014

MLB Year in Review: ASG-to-ASG 2014

Growing up, I watched a lot of ESPN and SportsCenter.  It was one of the primary viewing choices of my childhood.  This made this mid-July week somewhat of a downer growing up since nothing happens in the sports world outside the MLB All Star Game.  SportsCenter is always looking for interesting topics for this lackluster sports week.  Nowadays, this doesn't change the SportsCenter programming at all since all they talk about now is the NFL and LeBron James all year anyways.  When I was a kid, believe it or not, SportsCenter still considered baseball as a relevant sport worth covering.  So while baseball was taking a break, they still worked to find baseball stories to talk about.  One of my favorite baseball pieces they did every year during the All Star Break was determine who had the best last 162 games.  They would calculate stats from the last All Star Break to the current All Star Break and compare them as full season stats.  Unfortunately, SportsCenter is too busy debating the first pick in next year's NFL draft to waste time on this fascinating premise.  So I have decided to compile all these stats on my own and determine who would has had the best last full season.

Here is the process I went through.  I went through the league leaders from Post All Star 2013 stats and the 2014 first half stats.  For the hitters, I compiled the top 50 leaders in both time frames in hits, doubles, home runs, RBI's, and runs.  This gave me 160 hitters I compiled stats for from the last year.  For the pitchers, I went through the same process with wins, innings pitched, strikeouts, and saves (only calculated the top 30 in saves).  I realize this left out the always-overlooked middle reliever, but oh well.  They are always overlooked anyways so one more time won't be too tragic.  This resulted in 151 pitchers to compare.  Let's look at some top lists.
AL Batting Average
Victor Martinez – DET .343
Robinson Cano – NYY / SEA .333
Adrian Beltre – TEX .327
Mike Trout – LAA .316
Jose Altuve – HOU .315

JD Martinez – HOU / DET .322
not enough AB's

It turns out the amazingly hot starts this year from Victor Martinez and Jose Altuve actually started last season.  This is also not the last time you will see Mike Trout's name.
NL Batting Average
Andrew McCutchen – PIT .330
Scooter Gennett – MIL .325
Troy Tulowitzki – COL .323
Freddie Freeman – ATL .311
Charlie Blackmon – COL .310

Michael Cuddyer – COL .327
Casey McGehee – MIA .319
not enough AB's

Much like Martinez and Altuve, Charlie Blackmon's hot start this year was foreshadowed by a strong finish last year.  Freddie Freeman is turning into one of the best all-around hitters in the league.  Also, Scooter Gennett has to be the best player nobody has heard of.
AL Home Runs
Edwin Encarnacion – TOR 37
Brandon Moss – OAK 35
Mike Trout – LAA 34
Nelson Cruz – TEX / BAL 33
Chris Davis – BAL 31
David Ortiz – BOS 31

What I noticed from this list is most of these players have been quite inconsistent.  Either they ended last year strong or started this year strong, with the exception of Trout.  By the way, Jose Abreu almost made this list without playing at all last season.
NL Home Runs
Giancarlo Stanton – MIA 35
Paul Goldschmidt – ARZ 31
Troy Tulowitzki – COL 30
Anthony Rizzo – CHC 30
Andrew McCutchen – PIT 28
Justin Upton – ATL 28
Todd Frazier – CIN 28

There are a few players on this list that just don't get the credit they deserve.  Anthony Rizzo will be a centerpiece of the Cubs latest attempt to rebuild (which might actually work with his bat leading the way).  Also, Paul Goldschmidt is a beast.  I give him 2 more seasons before he gets traded out of Arizona so people actually recognize how good he is.
Miguel Cabrera – DET 117
Mike Trout – LAA 111
Brandon Moss – OAK 109
David Ortiz – BOS 102
Edwin Encarnacion – TOR 102

Here is the first appearance by Miguel Cabrera, which shows that he hasn't been at his Triple Crown level since pre-All Star 2013.  Also, looking at his numbers, how wasn't David Ortiz an All Star?  Also, as a Mariners fan I refuse to give Brandon Moss any credit.
Paul Goldschmidt – ARZ 109
Jayson Werth – WAS 103
Adrian Gonzalez – LAD 101
Freddie Freeman – ATL 100
Giancarlo Stanton – MIA 98

There's Goldschmidt's name again.  I was surprised to see someone like Jayson Werth putting up these kind of numbers.  No one talks about him, but he has been one of the best run producers of the last year.
AL OPS (On-Base + Slugging)
Mike Trout – LAA 1.014
Victor Martinez – DET .956
Edwin Encarnacion – TOR .952
Miguel Cabrera – DET .929
Brandon Moss – OAK .911

Jose Abreu – CWS .968
JD Martinez – HOU / DET .942
not enough AB's

OPS has become one of the top stats for a hitter's overall production so this is a great one to look at.  No one quite appreciates just how good Jose Abreu has been this first half.  He is already one of the greatest hitters in the league after just half a season.  Here you can also see just how ridiculous Mike Trout is.  Once again, he is from another AL West rival so I hate giving credit, but Trout is impossible to ignore.  Also, over the last year Miguel Cabrera hasn't even been the best hitter on his team.
Andrew McCutchen – PIT .995
Troy Tulowitzki – COL .966
Paul Goldschmidt – ARZ .950
Freddie Freeman – ATL .904
Giancarlo Stanton – MIA .904
This top five shouldn't be surprising.  If you ask anyone for the best top five hitters in the National League, these five names should be the first ones said ... unless you run into some of those ignorant idiots that try to say Yasiel Puig or Bryce Harper.
AL Wins
Max Scherzer – DET 19
Rick Porcello – DET 19
James Shields – KC 18
Jared Weaver – LAA 18
Mark Buehrle – TOR 17
How is Detroit not the best team in the AL?  They have two of the best hitters in the league and the only two 19-win pitchers in the league.  And neither of them are named Verlander.  James Shields doesn't get the respect he deserves either.
NL Wins
Clayton Kershaw – LAD 19
Adam Wainwright – STL 19
Zack Greinke – LAD 18
Jorge De La Rosa – COL 17
Hyun-Jin Ryu – LAD 17
After looking at these stats, it is hard to argue against the Dodgers having the best pitching staff in the league.  They have three of the top five in wins.  You expect Wainwright to be on this list, but De La Rosa?!?  Since when does a pitcher for the Rockies have quality stats?
AL ERA (150 IP Min.)
Hisashi Iwakuma – SEA 2.58
Jon Lester – BOS 2.62
Anibal Sanchez – DET 2.63
Chris Sale – CWS 2.71
Felix Hernandez – SEA 2.74
Even with his injury and recent struggles, Hisashi Iwakuma has the best ERA over the last year.  It's easy for him to not get the credit he deserves when King Felix had the best first half in the league this year.
AL ERA Overall
Koji Uehara – BOS 1.07
Greg Holland – KC 1.22
Casey Janssen – TOR 1.79
Zach Britton – BAL 1.82
Joe Smith – LAA 2.07
The numbers and names at the top are to be expected.  The last two names on the list might be surprising though.
NL ERA (150IP Min.)
Clayton Kershaw – LAD 1.68
Johnny Cueto – CIN 2.02
Andrew Cashner – SD 2.25
Zack Greinke – LAD 2.34
Tanner Roark – WAS 2.53
Kershaw, are you kidding me?!?  If he goes on a couple more scoreless runs, he might challenge that Bob Gibson record of a 1.12 ERA this year.  Also, stop talking about Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez, and Doug Fister.  Tanner Roark is the Nat's fifth starter and the best one they have had over the last year.
NL ERA Overall
Huston Street – SD 1.06
Craig Kimbrel – ATL 1.43
Clayton Kershaw – LAD 1.68
Jose Fernandez – MIA 1.81
Johnny Cueto – CIN 2.02
The most underrated player in the league is by far Huston Street.  He is the best closer in the league, and he doesn't even make the All Star Team.  His ERA is even lower than Koji's.  I find this whole list interesting as only two closers made the list.  The rest are the top starters including Jose Fernandez who would be challenging Kershaw in every stat category if he hadn't gotten hurt.
AL K's
Yu Darvish – TEX 262
David Price – TB 248
Max Scherzer – DET 234
Felix Hernandez – SEA 230
Jon Lester – BOS 208
This is another top five that is exactly who you would expect it to be.  No surprises here.
NL K's
Stephen Strasburg – WAS 231
Clayton Kershaw – LAD 219
Tyson Ross – SD 211
Zack Greinke – LAD 207
AJ Burnett – PIT / PHI 207
You might be surprised to see the old man, AJ Burnett, on here, of whom I heard recently from an analyst is the most overpaid player in baseball history.  At least he strikes guys out.  The other noteworthy thing here is Tyson Ross.  This is the second Padres starter to appear on one of these lists which shows that they are working their way in the right direction.  They just need some hitting.  Some familiar, Seattle?
AL Innings Pitched
David Price – TB 254 1/3
James Shields – KC 224 2/3
Justin Verlander – DET 221 1/3
RA Dickey – TOR 221
Jon Lester – BOS 216 2/3
I find this an interesting list because it shows who might be due for a disappointing second half simply for being overworked.  David Price has thrown 30 more innings than everyone else in the league over the last year.  Buyer beware for those looking to trade for him.
NL Innings Pitched
Adam Wainwright – STL 233
AJ Burnett – PIT / PHI 222 2/3
Wade Miley – ARZ 213
Zack Greinke – LAD 211 1/3
Kyle Lohse – MIL 210 1/3
Here are some great innings eaters in Wainwright, Greinke, and Lohse.  Again, I don't see how people hate on AJ Burnett.  I'm also impressed with Wade Miley as he has needed to step up and the ace after Corbin went down in Spring Training.
AL Saves
Greg Holland – KC 50
Fernando Rodney – TB / SEA 42
Glen Perkins – MIN 37
Joe Nathan – TEX / DET 32
Koji Uehara – BOS 31
Few would argue that Holland has the most dominant stuff in the AL at closer.  Looking at these numbers, it was totally justified that Glen Perkins closed out the All Star Game.  Also, for all his struggles, Joe Nathan has still racked up a respectable amount of saves.  (Honorable Mention - Addison Reed has 37 saves over this time, but has played for both leagues.)
NL Saves
Craig Kimbrel – ATL 53
Kenley Jansen – LAD 46
Huston Street – SD 42
Rafael Soriano – WAS 40
Sergio Romo – SF 39
Craig Kimbrel might be the most automatic three outs in league history.  Once again, look at the number of saves for Huston Street for a team that never reaches the .500 mark.

Looking at these stats, here are the top 5 hitters, starters, and closers ASG-to-ASG.
Mike TroutAndrew McCutchenTroy TulowitzkiVíctor MartínezPaul Goldschmidt

Mike Trout LAA 155 564 109 178 36 6 34 102 111 116 161 22 .316 .432 .582 1.014
Andrew McCutchen PIT 160 594 98 196 40 9 28 119 96 99 120 22 .330 .426 .569 .995
Troy Tulowitzki COL 151 524 102 169 29 1 30 109 82 80 99 2 .323 .412 .553 .966
Victor Martinez DET 146 554 74 190 36 0 27 127 88 55 41 2 .343 .402 .554 .956
Paul Goldschmidt ARZ 161 607 109 182 49 4 31 98 109 105 157 14 .300 .403 .547 .950
Clayton KershawAdam WainwrightMax ScherzerJon LesterFélix Hernández

Clayton Kershaw LAD 19 5 1.68 27 27 0 0 187 134 38 35 9 30 219 .193 0.88 7.3 10.5
Adam Wainwright STL 19 8 2.59 33 33 0 0 233 189 68 67 13 47 204 .213 1.01 4.3 7.9
Max Scherzer DET 19 5 2.99 32 32 0 0 211 169 73 70 18 60 234 .211 1.09 3.9 10.0
Jon Lester BOS 16 9 2.62 32 32 0 0 216 2/3 200 78 63 12 51 208 .235 1.16 4.1 8.6
Felix Hernandez SEA 13 8 2.74 31 31 0 0 210 164 72 64 9 45 230 .207 1.00 5.1 9.9
Craig KimbrelGreg HollandHuston StreetKoji UeharaKenley Jansen

Craig Kimbrel ATL 2 2 1.43 71 0 53 58 69 1/3 34 14 11 2 23 106 .140 0.82 4.6 13.8
Greg Holland KC 1 2 1.22 68 0 50 52 66 2/3 43 9 9 4 17 96 .177 0.90 5.6 13.0
Huston Street SD 3 1 1.06 60 0 42 44 59 1/3 32 7 7 5 13 62 .152 0.76 4.8 9.4
Koji Uehara BOS 7 3 1.07 71 0 31 33 75 2/3 36 9 9 6 7 98 .137 0.57 14.0 11.7
Kenley Jansen LAD 2 3 2.48 72 0 46 50 69 48 19 19 4 22 108 .188 1.01 4.9 14.1

To check out all the stats I compiled, click the link below.