Saturday, July 23, 2016

Power Rankings: Top 10 Space Movies

Space: the final frontier. It's a place full of wonder, adventure, and, of course, terror.  They say no one can hear you scream in space, but I bet that with this week's Top Ten, some wish they could've been heard.

With the upcoming release of Star Trek Beyond, I have decided to count down the top ten space movies.  As with every top ten list, some will just barely miss making the cut, and I am bound to leave some off.  You will find that on my list there will be a good variety of genres represented.  So, without further ado - "Honorable Mention" and "what I haven't seen yet time"!

What I need to see (like now): 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Sunshine, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Honorable Mentions: Serenity, The Right Stuff, Titan A.E., Total Recall (1990), Spaceballs, Pitch Black, Starship Troopers, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Star Trek (2009)

10. Guardians of the Galaxy  (James Gunn)

When this movie was first announced, I was very skeptical about whether it would be good or not, and I was totally unfamiliar of the source material.  I thought that Marvel was finally going to fail, because no movie with a talking raccoon or a tree could be good.  When I saw, however I quickly ate my words.  Guardians of the Galaxy was a pleasant surprise and actually made my Number #7 film of 2014.  This film made Chris Pratt a super star.  Pratt leads an amazing cast with the likes of  Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Lee Pace, Michael Rooker, Glen Close, John C. Rielly and Benicio Del Toro.  It also has a killer soundtrack, that reminds me of something Tarantino might use for one of his films (Pulp Fiction).  James Gunn (Super), proved that he can direct on a much bigger scale but still stay in the Marvel Cinematic Universe space.  He made this film fun and entertaining to say the least.

9. The Martian (Ridley Scott) 

Ridley Scott - who we might see again on this list - directed one of the biggest film surprises of 2015 for me.  From the first trailers that came out,  it seemed bland, and my initial reaction was  unimpressed.  I thought they showed us to much in the trailers.  I was wrong.  The film was funny and entertaining, while still giving us a story we can get behind and cheer for.  Matt Damon gives one of his best performances since Good Will Hunting.  Damon leads an all-star cast, with the likes of  Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wigg, Sean Bean, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, Michael Pena, and Chiwetel Ejiofor.  I was happy that Damon and Scott were both nominated for their respected categories at this years Oscars.  It's a beautifully shot film, and it  revitalized Ridley Scott's career.  I'm looking forward to watching this again, sooner rather than later.

8.  Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron)

Gravity isn't a film - it's an experience.  This film doesn't rely on star power, though it does star  Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, and Ed Harris.  The driving force of this film is the amazing special effects, which will blow you away.  They will make your heart palpitate as you try to catch your breathe at each close call that happen to Bullock.  Other than the effects, the other star is the director Cuaron.  He directed an amazing film with a lot of moving parts.  Gravity took home a total seven Oscars (Directing, Cinematography, Film Editing, Score, Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Visual Effects)

7. Wall-E (Andrew Stanton)

 One of the best Pixar films to date.  Wall-E is about a curious little waste collector droid who inadvertently embarks on a journey into space, one that will ultimately decide the fate of  mankind.  It seems like every time Pixar makes a film, it's gold.  Wall-E might not say much -and he doesn't have to. Pixar does such a good job making us feel what he is feeling through his expressions and mannerisms.  The animation is so crisp and fantastic, and supporting a wonderful color pallet.  The Academy also loved this film too, nominating it six times (Animated Feature, Original Screenplay, Original Score, Original Song, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing).  It picked up the win for Best Animated Feature.

6. Alien (Ridley Scott)

Ridley Scott once again makes my list, this time with a totally different type of film.  Alien, isn't only a great space film, it is a great horror film.  I still remember my first viewing - being scared and on edge.  The first time you see the xenomorph, I jumped out of my seat.  Along with the chills, we were given one of the greatest movie heroines of all-time, Ellen Ripley.  With her portrayal of Ripley, Siqourney Weaver cemented herself as one of the greatest action stars as well, especially after her second time around with the character.  It won one Oscar (Visual Effects) and was nominated for another (Art Direction) as well.  Still one of the greatest tag lines for any movies, "In space no one can hear you scream".

5. Star Wars: A New Hope (George Lucas)

George Lucas: the creator of the greatest movie universe of all-time.  Where would we all be without Star Wars?  Say what you will about him now - the man is a genius.  He gave us some of the best characters, worlds, and experiences we will all remember.  A New Hope introduced us to the timeless characters of Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C3PO.  The stamp that these characters have left on our society will forever be ingrained in our minds.  I know my child hood was formed by hokey religions, ancient weapons, a smuggler, a walking carpet, two droids, and the menacing golden lungs of the greatest Sith we all know.

4. Moon (Duncan Jones)

Sam Rockwell stars as astronaut Sam Bell, who is working on a lunar base by himself for three years.  What a trippy film that will make you think, 'what is real, and what is in my head'.  Rockwell is such an underrated actor and it's great to seem him carry a film and deliver it with flawless execution.  Kevin Spacey, on the other hand gives us one of the best voice-over performances in recent memory, maybe behind Scarlett Johansson (Her).  Duncan Jones delivers a great film, one you must check out.

3. Aliens (James Cameron)

This times it's war!  The Alien franchise makes another appearance on this 'best of' list', and it's very deserving.  Just like what he did for T2: Judgement Day, James Cameron, took a great movie and made it better.  He didn't just improve the action but made more compelling characters in the process.  Sigourney Weaver, reprises her role as Ripley, as well as enshrine her name as the most bad-ass female character ever.  She doesn't need the boys to save her - the boys need her!  Michael Biehn and Bill Paxton, also join this universe and try their hardest to take down some xenomorphs as well.

2. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner)

Like the previous film on this list, who said sequels can't bet better than the original?  Well, The Empire Strikes Back, is a far superior film than A New Hope.  It has a darker and more powerful tone, but is still grounded in the universe that George Lucas has created.  Growing up, this was my least favorite film in the original series - but what did I know, right?  As I grew, I began to appreciate it as more than just a Star Wars film, but as a work of cinema gold.  Empire is one of my favorite films of all time.  All of our favorite characters are back (Luke, Leia, Han) and we are introduced to some new ones as well (Boba Fett, Lando, Yoda).  Let's not forget to mention, Darth Vader - an iconic villain that strikes fear even in us scruffy-looking nerf herders.    

1. Apollo 13 (Ron Howard)

It's quite fitting that my number one space film would be based on an actual event.  Apollo 13, tells the daring story of how NASA was able to get the Apollo 13 space shuttle back to Earth safely.  This film is a triumph of the human spirit and the "never give up" attitude we should always have.  It's beautifully directed by Ron Howard and has some of the best performances you will see by a cast: Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton, Kevin Bacon, Ed Harris, and Gary Sinise.  This film received a lot of Academy love too, winning two Oscars (Best Sound, Best Editing) and nominated for seven others (Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Ed Harris) , Best Supporting Actress (Kathleen Quinlan), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction, Best Visual Effects, Best Original Score).  Apollo 13 is one of Almost Sideways' favorite films, and we highly recommend it to you!

Well that's my list!  What's your favorite space film?  Comment below and let me know! 

Thanks again for reading!



Friday, July 15, 2016

Year in Review: Terry's Top Ten Films of 2015

It's been a long time coming, but I have finally seen enough films to feel confident enough to write my top ten list of last year.  I try to make it a rule that I don't finalize my top ten list of the year until I have at least seen all the Best Picture nominees.  With my busy schedule, it usually takes until around now for that to happen.  As I think I say every year, it is better late than never.

To date, I have watched 28 films from 2015.  I realize probably all of my counterparts have seen that many, if not more, already in 2016 (my 2016 total right now is 3), however I have seen enough quality throughout the 2015 canon that I have no problem proclaiming my top ten of the year.  Here we go!

Honorable Mention


(dir. by Antoine Fuqua)

The Good Dinosaur
(dir. by Peter Sohn)

The Big Short
(dir. by Adam McKay)

10.  Beasts of No Nation
(dir. by Cary Joji Fukunaga)
Many people complained this year about racial bias in the Academy voting.  I think that is an unfair assessment and evaluation of the situation.  Yes, there were no African-Americans nominated in a major category this year.  However, the issue wasn't racial bias but a bias against streaming services.  The best chances African-Americans had at getting nominated was in Beasts of No Nation, a beautifully tragic film about the abduction, recruitment, brainwashing, and training of child soldiers in third world countries.  The film's star, Abraham Attah, deserved a nomination similar to Quvenzhane Wallis is 2012.  Idris Elba looked destined for his first nomination and an outside chance at winning.  At the very least, it would get the attention of the tech categories for the beautiful work of Fukunaga and his crew, showing that the first season of True Detective was a sign of the greatness to come from this young filmmaker.  However, it got no recognition.  Why?  It wasn't because of the all black cast.  It was because it was released on Netflix.  It received enough of a theatrical run to qualify for awards season, but everyone could see the film streaming online as soon as it was released.  Maybe this meant none of the important people saw it.  Maybe it meant all the moneymakers in Hollywood refused to vote for a film that refused to bring in a box office income.  Either way, Beasts of No Nation didn't get the credit it so much deserved.  Go find it on Netflix now if you haven't seen it.  It will break your heart.

9.  Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
(dir. by JJ Abrams)
Now to shift gears in the furthest direction possible from the last film, here's Star Wars, the biggest box office darling of 2015.  There is a reason it made so much money though.  It was that good.  It was a film that brought the franchise back down to earth ... or whatever planet they happened to be on.  George Lucas ruined the prequels with overuse of the digital.  JJ Abrams made it all look real again.  Sure, there are way too many parallels between this and A New Hope to ignore, however it doesn't change the fact that it was possibly the most entertaining theatrical experience of the year.

8.  Room
(dir. by Lenny Abrahamson)
This was the last film I required myself to watch before I made my list, and I am so glad I did.  This film is very similar to 2011's Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close as it explains a horrific experience and ordeal through the eyes of a child.  However, where Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close resorted to mental illness and puzzles to connect with the audience, Room stayed much more down to earth as we see possibly the most honest and genuine performance of the year, and I am not talking about Oscar-winner Brie Larson.  Jacob Tremblay's performance in this should go down as one of the greatest child performances of all time.  His unique perspective on life and the world is shown in every moment he, or his voice, is on screen.  Somehow, this heartbreaking story of abduction and captivity is made heartfelt and inspiring through both Larson's and Tremblay's performances.

7.  The Revenant
(dir. by Alejandro G. Inarritu)
He did it again.  Who, you might ask?  There are several perfectly acceptable answers to this question.  Let's start with director Alejandro G. Inarritu.  Just one year earlier, Inarritu took home Oscars for Best Director and Picture for his groundbreaking film Birdman.  Now, he goes in a completely opposite direction and tells this story of struggle and survival in the wilderness.  His keen eye for beautiful filmmaking and setting in this might be rivaled only by Ang Lee in today's Hollywood.  Now, the other very acceptable answer to my original question is, of course, Leonardo DiCaprio.  Although he may have finally been recognized by the Academy with his first Oscar for this film, he once again proves that he might go down as one of the greatest actors of all time.  He has such a natural ability to disappear into any role he plays, and not in a campy, makeup way like Johnny Depp.  Leo just simply is whoever he needs to be.  Whether it be as the "King of the World" in Titanic, a con-artist kid in Catch Me If You Can, an eccentric entrepreneur in The Aviator, an undercover cop in The Departed, a plantation owner in Django Unchained, a crooked stock broker in The Wolf of Wall Street, or a man mauled by a bear determined to survive and live in The Revenant, Leonardo DiCaprio delivers the most believable performances in any film he makes.  He is simply the best of his generation, and it is about time the Academy honored him as such.

6.  Ex Machina
(dir. by Alex Garland)
This was definitely the biggest surprise of the year.  This brilliant film by Alex Garland, who had written several screenplays but was making his directorial debut here, explored the world of true artificial intelligence.  Appearing yet again on this list, Oscar Isaac (Star Wars) and Domhnall Gleeson (Star Wars, The Revenant) star as the mad scientist and his guinea pig.  Alicia Vikander plays a robot that is very hard to recognize as such because she acts, thinks, reacts, and speaks just like a human.  It is an endlessly fascinating film that gets in your head and doesn't go away for awhile.  If you haven't seen it, do whatever you can to change that.

5.  The Hateful Eight
(dir. by Quentin Tarantino)
Why did I every doubt the master?  When I heard the plot and even saw the trailer for The Hateful Eight, it felt like a film that was bound to disappoint.  Quentin Tarantino makes films like no one else has ever even thought of.  However, a second consecutive film about a bounty hunter; this time stuck in a room for two hours with a bunch of other people?  Really?  I was skeptical to say the least.  Then I saw it and hated myself for ever thinking Tarantino could produce anything but a masterpiece.  This film's closest relative is definitely Reservoir Dogs, Tarantino's first film.  However, he also does things Tarantino has never done before.  He takes the time for long, landscape shots.  A filmmaker obsessed with dialogue let this film breathe almost more than any other film he has made.  I have said before that Quentin Tarantino has created his own genre.  The Hateful Eight shows that he is still the king of that genre he created.

4.  Brooklyn
(dir. by John Crowley)
Brooklyn is a beautiful story of love, loss, and self-discovery.  It is like a 20th century Jane Austen tale.  Saoirse Ronan is absolutely brilliant as a young Irish girl leaving everything she knows to find a new and better life for herself in America.  You know it is a good film when you are sad it ends because you want to live in these characters' lives a little longer.  I loved every minute of it.  On a side note, let's recognize the amazing year Domhnall Gleeson put together.  This is his fourth appearance in my top ten.  Few actors find enough work to put out four movies in a year.  Not only did Gleeson accomplish that, but all four films are among the very best of 2015.  Well done!

3.  The Martian
(dir. by Ridley Scott)
I have very high standards for movies in outer space, especially realistic ones.  Apollo 13 has scarred me for life.  With that said, The Martian is the closest thing to the greatness of Apollo 13 I have seen.  Matt Damon plays an astronaut left for dead on the Martian surface.  To everyone's surprise, including his own, he is still alive and must survive on Mars until someone can come get him.  Everyone made fun of the fact that this was categorized as a comedy at the Golden Globes.  Although I wouldn't classify it as such, it is quite funny.  Matt Damon and others are able to keep this potentially tragic survival story light and humorous throughout.  I normally am not a huge fan of Ridley Scott, but he really produced a masterpiece with this one.

2.  Spotlight
(dir. by Tom McCarthy)
The surprise winner of Best Picture deserved every accolade it received.  I have been a fan of Tom McCarthy's work for some time.  His unique way of telling stories in films like The Station Agent, The Visitor, and Win Win is always heartfelt and approachable, not matter the topic.  I even liked The Cobbler much more than I should have!  Now we find McCarthy's masterpiece.  Spotlight tells the true story of the investigation done by the Boston Globe surrounding child abuse and molestation in the Catholic church.  It is a heavy and depressing topic that could easily be preachy.  However, the film takes a very different approach.  It simply tells the story from the point of view of the reporters.  At no point do we "see" anything because the reporters didn't see anything.  Every character is a real person as the performances are some of the most understated and brilliant you will see on screen.  This is led by Liev Schreiber, an outsider new to the area that brings a fresh set of eyes to a topic many seemed to turn a blind eye to in the close-knit community of Boston.  It is a quiet, real, yet intense movie you cannot take your eyes off of.  Movies don't get much better than this.

1.  Inside Out
(dir. by Pete Docter & Ronnie Del Carmen)
Pixar is king when it comes to animated films.  They simply operate on a different level than every other animated studio.  Their secondary film this year made my honorable mention!  However, every now and then, they make a film that is truly a masterpiece regardless of whether it is animated or live action.  Inside Out is one of those films.  It is fun and entertaining for the kids, yet it has a message that is profound and genuine.  This film takes you inside the head of a young girl where her five key emotions (Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust, and Sadness) control her actions and attitude.  The intricate world that is built to represent her mind is a genius way to describe how our brains work.  As chaos enters the young girl's life, chaos erupts in the brain's control room as Joy must try and fix what has been broken.  Being someone who works with kids often, I had such a deeper appreciation for the immense thought and care that was put into such a story that really explores the psyche of a pre-teen better than any film I have ever seen.  When Pixar makes films like this and WALL-E, they are not only making a fun kid's film.  They are making a cinematic masterpiece that will stand the test of time.

So there's my list.  What do you think?  Check our page later this week to see what films made our site's top 5 films of 2015.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Power Rankings: Top 5 Movie Ghosts

The definition of ghost is: "An apparition of a dead person that is believed to appear or become manifest to the living, typically as a nebulous image."  So long as there have been films, there have always been ghosts and ghouls.  Ghosts can be a lot of fun, but can also very scary to see on screen. 

With the release of what's likely the most controversial movie of the year, Ghostbusters, this week's Top 5 will be about movie ghosts.  The original Ghostbusters film has to be considered one of the best comedies of all time, and I love it.  I'll admit, I wasn't too thrilled that they were going to reboot this classic film.  I will be seeing the new film on Friday, so my fingers are crossed that I'll find enjoyment in it.  So, without further ado - time for some honorable mentions!         

Honorable Mentions: Zero - The Nightmare before Christmas, Johnny Blaze - Ghost Rider, Moaning Myrtle - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,  Casper - Casper, Gusteau - Ratatouille, Ghost of Christmas Past - Scrooged, Kayako Saeki - The Grudge, Freddy Krueger - A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Twins - The Shining,  The Librarian- Ghostbusters

 Slimer - Ghostbusters (1984)

I had a hard time figuring out which ghost should represent Ghostbusters.  The Librarian was the introduction of the original Ghostbusters team.  But, who am I kidding?  It has to go to Slimer.  Slimer was not only the first ghost they busted, but he also was in the second film, as well as the TV show.  Slimer was a very fun and basically harmless ghost who loves food.  Sounds like my kind of ghost.

 Baseball Players - Field of Dreams

"If you build it, they will come."  Field of Dreams is one of the best baseball films around.  The fact that some of the best players from history come back to play the game they love is awesome.  Seeing them walk in and out of the corn field was pretty cool.  But, the most moving thing in this film was the game of catch.  If you watch it, you will love it!  

 Sam Wheat - Ghost

Sam Wheat is your average, hard working office employee - who is one day murdered.  He comes back to our world to help protect his long time girlfriend, Molly Jenson.  The reason I enjoy Sam is simply because even after death, he can only think about the one he loved.  It is pretty sad to think about what we leave behind when we die, but I enjoy his dedication and the thought of the redemption you can earn even after death.

 Betelgeuse - Beetlejuice

What a crazy character.  Michael Keaton breathes this character to life, and no other actor could have pulled it off.  He isBetelgeuse.  He's a mischievous, rude, crude, and perverted trickster of a ghost.  He seems like he would be a hoot to be around, but I guarantee you that he would be very unpleasant.  With that said, I really enjoy seeing him on the screen and laugh every time.  Arguably Michael Keaton's best role (I have it behind Birdman and maybe Spotlight).  

 Dr. Malcolm Crowe - The Sixth Sense

I guess it's to late to say, "Spoiler Alert!".  Dr. Malcolm Crowe is portrayed by Bruce Willis.  He's child psychologist that might not know what else he is.  It's a great performance in a story of discovery and love that has to be near the top of Willis's acting feats. 

Well that's my list!  What ghosts made your list and what should have been on mine?  


MLB Year in Review: 2015-2016 Wraparound Season

No sport does an All Star experience quite like baseball.  The Mid-Summer Classic is an event every year.  At a time when the Pro Bowl is constantly being reviewed and tweaked and potentially terminated, and the NBA All Star Game barely resembles the game it is honoring as scores hit 170 points, baseball's All Star Game is able to honor its game with an entire week of festivities at a time when the rest of the sports world is forced to pay attention as nothing else really is going on.  As a lover of stats, it also gives people like me a chance to look back on the season so far.

These last few years, I have used the All Star Break to review the last 12 months in baseball.  What do the stats look like if the season was measured from All Star Game to All Star Game?  I call it the Wraparound Season.  I combine stats from post All Star Break in 2015 and combine them with the stats to date this season, and we analyze.  For the hitters, I took the top 50 in hits, doubles, home runs, runs, and RBI's from post All Star Break 2015 and this season so far.  For the pitchers, I did the same thing with wins, innings pitched, strikeouts, and the top 30 in saves.  I know it's not a perfect system, however it gave me a decent sample size (152 hitters, 165 pitchers).  Without further ado, let's look at the stats!

Batting Average
Jose Altuve – HOU .339
Xander Bogaerts – BOS .332
David Ortiz – BOS .329
Francisco Lindor – CLE .324
Robinson Cano – SEA .321

Shin-Soo Choo – TEX .321

Christian Yelich – MIA .328
Daniel Murphy – NYM / WAS .320
Martin Prado – MIA .316
DJ LeMahieu – COL .314
Odubel Herrera – PHI .309

AJ Pollock – ARZ .335
David Peralta – ARZ .320
Aledmys Diaz – STL .315
Dee Gordon – MIA .310
The first thing to mention is the players offset from the top fives are those that did not have enough at bats to qualify (400 at bats).  One thing you start to notice is most of the game's top hitters are in the American League.  Don't worry, that pendulum will swing back the other way later.  In the AL, it is hard to top what Jose Altuve has done over the past few seasons.  He is a hitting machine.  Xander Bogaerts shows that his hot start this season started with a hot finish to 2015 (his batting average was actually better at the end of 2015 than it is now).  David Ortiz is having possibly the best farewell tour the game has ever seen.  He is followed up by one of the youngest players in the game that broke on the scene right around this time last season.  Carlos Correa might be getting all the fanfare as the phenom shortstop, but the stats say Francisco Lindor is actually the top young shortstop in the game.  Lastly, it is so nice to see Robinson Cano back at the top (especially as a Mariner fan).  His hot finish to 2015 has translated to a return to greatness in 2016.

The National League is a fascinating list.  You see why the Marlins have been playing so well recently with Christian Yelich and Martin Prado boasting two of the best batting averages in the league.  Yelich might be the best hitter in baseball nobody has heard of.  Their lineup will get yet another boost once Dee Gordon comes back from his suspension.  Daniel Murphy not only turned his 2015 postseason success into a big free agent contract, but he continued that success into 2016.  Then there are a couple more surprises.  DJ LeMahieu is often overlooked thanks to his power-hitting teammates, but he is quietly one of the most productive second basemen in the league.  Odubel Herrera shows the Phillies that their future might not be as far away as they once thought.  One last note here for the non-qualifiers.  A lot of people were predicting big things for the Diamondbacks this season.  Looking at players like AJ Pollock and David Peralta being too hurt to get enough at bats to qualify (Pollock is out for the season), it explains a little why they have been struggling.

Home Runs
Chris Davis – BAL 50
Nelson Cruz – SEA 46
David Ortiz – BOS 44
Edwin Encarnacion – TOR 44
Josh Donaldson – TOR 43
Carlos Gonzalez – COL 46
Nolan Arenado – COL 41
Kris Bryant – CHC 39
Anthony Rizzo – CHC 36
Bryce Harper – WAS 35

Yoenis Cespedes – DET / NYM 43
Khris Davis – MIL / OAK 40
The players set apart in these lists are players that would have made one of the lists, but their numbers are split between the two leagues.  There has been quite the power surge in the last year, especially in the American League (again, they have the best hitters right now).  Chris Davis might be the best natural power-hitter of this generation.  He strikes out a lot, but he has hit 50 home runs in the last 12 months (last year's top mark was 43).  Nelson Cruz had a hot start to 2015, and even though his numbers have leveled out a little, he and Cano (just missed the top 5) have shown that you can hit home runs in Safeco Field.  There's that David Ortiz guy again (get used to his name being at the top of these lists).  Edwin Encarnacion and reigning-MVP Josh Donaldson round out the list, reminding us all that the Blue Jays are still the most powerful lineup in the league.

If only the Rockies had pitching!  They are slowly getting better, but look what their lineup boasts.  Carlos Gonzalez and Nolan Arenado are the only NL sluggers to hit 40+ home runs in the last 12 months, LeMahieu was in the top 5 of batting average, and they have a top contender for Rookie of the Year in Trevor Story.  If only their pitching would step up a little.  The next two on the list are teammates as well.  Kris Bryant has somehow exceeded all the hype, and Anthony Rizzo has been just as prolific from the left side as Bryant has been from the right.  Last on the list is Bryce Harper, the reigning NL MVP.

Harper falling to 5th reminds me of a theme in all these lists.  Where are the big names?  Bryce Harper barely made this list, however we are missing Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew McCutchen, Jose Bautista ... I could go on forever baby.  Over the last year, there really seems to be a group of players that are living off reputation, and then there is the group of players that are producing the way the reputations warrant.

David Ortiz – BOS 137
Edwin Encarnacion – TOR 137
Josh Donaldson – TOR 126
Chris Davis – BAL 123
Adrian Beltre – TEX 116
Nolan Arenado – COL 130
Carlos Gonzalez – COL 116
Anthony Rizzo – CHC 116
Kris Bryant – CHC 113
Matt Kemp – SD 111
David Ortiz is very close to being a Triple Crown winner over the last 12 months.  It shows just how productive he has been at the age of 40.  Encarnacion and Donaldson once again show they are the anchors of the Blue Jay lineup and not Jose Bautista or Troy Tulowitzki.  Chris Davis is bound to have a lot of RBI's with as many home runs as he hits.  Adrian Beltre sneaks onto the list as he continues to put together a career that might land him in Cooperstown.

The top four names on this list look very familiar although they are in a different order.  Not enough people know just how good Nolan Arenado is.  Every contender should be doing everything they can to trade for Carlos Gonzalez before the Trade Deadline.  Rizzo and Bryant are great, however they wouldn't even make the AL list with those totals.  It is good to see Matt Kemp on the list.  He is a forgotten superstar as his career starts to wind down, however he can still be plenty productive.

David Ortiz – BOS 1.110
Josh Donaldson – TOR 1.012
Edwin Encarnacion – TOR .989
Mike Trout – LAA .976
Chris Davis – BAL .943

Shin-Soo Choo – TEX .959
Joey Votto – CIN .974
Matt Carpenter – STL .968
Bryce Harper – WAS .961
Carlos Gonazlez – COL .947
Paul Goldschmidt – ARZ .930

Yoenis Cespedes – DET / NYM .938
AJ Pollock – ARZ .930
The OPS stat (On Base + Slugging) is thought by many of the top stat people to truly measure the best hitters.  Once again, there is David Ortiz's name at the top of the list.  Once again, we also have Donaldson and Encarnacion.  I wonder who is going to pay Encarnacion after this season?  Maybe he will be David Ortiz's DH replacement in Boston.  We finally have an appearance from Mike Trout.  With as poor as his team has been playing, it makes sense that his numbers are down a little as well.  Once again, we have Chris Davis showing just how good he is.  Shin-Soo Choo does not have enough at bats to qualify.

In the NL, out of nowhere, Joey Votto pops up.  He is not in the top five in slugging, but his on-base percentage is out of this world (.453) as he is the best hitter on one of the worst teams.  Matt Carpenter pops up to show everyone that any season isn't complete without a Cardinal being a top hitter.  Bryce Harper is showing that his MVP performance last year was no fluke.  Carlos Gonzalez shows up again to remind us that the Rockies are shopping him this Trade Deadline.  Finally, we see Paul Goldschmidt make an appearance as really the only Diamondback slugger that has been healthy.  Yoenis Cespedes's numbers were split between the two leagues, and AJ Pollock did not have enough at bats to qualify.

Chris Sale – CWS 19
David Price – DET / TOR / BOS 18
Hisashi Iwakuma – SEA 17
Chris Tillman – BAL 17
Danny Salazar – CLE 16
Josh Tomlin – CLE 16

JA Happ – SEA / PIT / TOR 19
Johnny Cueto – CIN / KC / SF 18
Cole Hamels – PHI / TEX 17
Jake Arrieta – CHC 24
Zack Greinke – LAD / ARZ 21
Clayton Kershaw – LAD 21
Madison Bumgarner – SF 19
Stephen Strasburg – WAS 18
It was pretty obvious that all the best hitters are in the American League.  However, it may be even more obvious that the best pitchers call the National League home.  In fact, it isn't even close.  Most baseball minds dismiss the win as an archaic stat that no longer holds any merit.  However, I see it as showing the ability to pitch deep into a game and give your team a chance to be successful.  Chris Sale and David Price are names you expect to see at the top of this list.  Hisashi Iwakuma and Chris Tillman are not.  Appearances by Danny Salazar and Josh Tomlin (and Carlos Carrasco who led in this stat last year) show why the Indians have been so successful this season.  JA Happ, Johnny Cueto, and Cole Hamels have stats that split the leagues.

A theme you will start to notice is very few of the AL leaders would even come close to the NL leaderboard.  Jake Arrieta, although he has been struggling recently, has put up a ridiculous amount of success over the last 12 months.  Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw used to be teammates, and I bet the Dodgers were wishing they still were.  Madison Bumgarner is back stronger than ever and ready for another historic postseason run.  Last, we have Stephen Strasburg, who has started to show what all the hype around him is all about.

ERA (150 IP minimum)
Marco Estrada – TOR 2.86
Danny Salazar – CLE 2.92
Jose Quintana – CWS 3.10
Masahiro Tanaka – NYY 3.31
Josh Tomlin – CLE 3.31
JA Happ – SEA / PIT / TOR 3.20
Johnny Cueto – CIN / KC / SF 3.24
Clayton Kershaw – LAD 1.56
Jake Arrieta – CHC 1.75
Madison Bumgarner – SF 2.16
Stephen Strasburg – WAS 2.34
Jose Fernandez – MIA 2.72
Marco Estrada is not a name you expect to see at the top of a list like this, however his performance over the last 12 months has shown that he might be the ace the Blue Jays have been looking for.  Appearances from Salazar and Tomlin once again show how good the Indians are.  Jose Quintana combines with Chris Sale to be quite the duo at the top of the White Sox rotation.  Masahiro Tanaka has quietly pitched well this season.  Who knew it was possible for a Yankee to have a quiet performance?  Once again, Happ and Cueto split the leagues.

None of the AL pitchers would make this NL list.  NONE!!!  Really Clayton Kershaw?  A 1.56 ERA over the last 12 months.  Everyone only wants to talk about Arrieta, who has been outstanding, but Kershaw might go down as a top 5 pitcher of all time.  MadBum isn't that far behind either.  Strasburg is showing that he belongs in the conversation of top aces in the league.  It is great to see Jose Fernandez back on top of his game.  He came back late in 2015 from Tommy John surgery, and it's scary to think his arm isn't even back to 100% yet.

Overall ERA
Zach Britton – BAL 1.35
Wade Davis – KC 1.40
Andrew Miller – NYY 1.88
Alex Colome – TB 1.95
Sam Dyson – TEX 1.97
Hector Rondon – CHC 1.41
Clayton Kershaw – LAD 1.56
Jake Arrieta – CHC 1.75
Joe Blanton – PIT / LAD 1.81
Kenley Jansen – LAD 1.95
Not putting an innings limit on this stat lets us look at the top relievers and closers that qualified for my list in the stat.  (Sorry Dellin Betances ... get some saves or some wins and I'll consider you.)  It is pretty obvious that Zach Britton is the best lefty closer, and Wade Davis is the best righty closer.  Their ERA's show their dominance.  Andrew Miller, whether closing or setting up for Aroldis Chapman, shows why so many teams are trying to acquire him before July 31st.  Alex Colome and Sam Dyson are not names you would expect to see on this list, but their performances show they will soon be much more relevant.

Like I said, this is a reliever stat.  That's just how good Kershaw and Arrieta have been.  They have better ERA's than the best relievers that have thrown 150 innings less than they have.  It is historic dominance from those two.  With that said, Hector Rondon shows the Cubs have the 9th innning in order, but they might be having trouble getting to him.  Kenley Jansen continues to be a dominant presence in the Dodger bullpen.  And Joe Blanton ... wait, Joe Blanton?!?  How did he get on here?!?  That's right.  Joe Blanton has one of the lowest ERA's in the league.  Known his whole career as a starter, Blanton has not started a game in the last 12 months.  Instead, he has become a quiet weapon out of the Pirates' and Dodgers' bullpens.

David Price – DET / TOR / BOS 250
Chris Sale – CWS 240
Chris Archer – TB 235
Justin Verlander – DET 215
Corey Kluber – CLE 213
Max Scherzer – WAS 290
Clayton Kershaw – LAD 286
Madison Bumgarner – SF 259
Jake Arrieta – CHC 234
Stephen Strasburg – WAS 224
David Price, despite all not being quite up to the level he has been in past years, is still a dominant pitcher in the league.  Chris Sale is a pitcher no one wants to face.  Chris Archer has had a terrible first half of 2016, however he has still been striking out people.  It is so good to see Justin Verlander on this list.  He has reinvented himself now that he can no longer throw 100 MPH and made himself an effective pitcher once again.  Corey Kluber is yet another Indians' pitcher to show he needs to be considered as a top ace in the league.

Max Scherzer, at times, looks at the best pitcher in the league as he strikes out more than anyone.  More than almost any other pitcher, it feels like every start might be a no hitter with Scherzer.  The other four names on this list we have seen before as they are the best around right now.

Innings Pitched
Justin Verlander – DET 220 1/3
David Price – DET / TOR / BOS 219 2/3
RA Dickey – TOR 216 1/3
Dallas Keuchel – HOU 214 2/3
Hisashi Iwakuma – SEA 214 2/3

Johnny Cueto – CIN / KC / SF 224 2/3
Clayton Kershaw – LAD 230 2/3
Madison Bumgarner – SF 229
Max Scherzer – WAS 224 1/3
Jake Arrieta – CHC 221 2/3
John Lackey – STL / CHC 217 1/3
For some people, looking at innings pitched shows a player's durability and consistency.  For others, it might be a sign of over-work and an upcoming slump or injury.  For Verlander and Price, their history shows they can handle such a heavy workload.  It's been a few years since Verlander has been on this list, but Price is a mainstay.  RA Dickey is a knuckleballer that can throw all day if he is effective.  Dallas Keuchel might be a cautionary tale.  He was on this list last year also as he was working towards his Cy Young.  However, his stats have fallen off dramatically.  Maybe he has been overworked?  Sonny Gray is another one in this scenario.  He made this list last season, but has been hurt or ineffective ever since.  Hisashi Iwakuma is showing that the Dodgers were foolish to question his medical data, and they wish he was sitting in the middle of their rotation right now.

Not only do Kershaw, Bumgarner, and Arrieta top all the statistical categories, but they also pitch more than anybody else as well.  Kershaw is a machine, and MadBum is as durable as they come (see 2014 World Series).  However, Arrieta is one to be worried about.  I mentioned at the beginning of the year his extreme workload might lead to burnout at some point this season.  The last month or so of struggles might be a sign of things to come.  Max Scherzer belongs with Kershaw and MadBum on the list of the most durable pitchers in the league.  The veteran John Lackey rounds out the top 5.  With as old as he is, this could be a sign of concern for the Cubs as well.

Zach Britton – BAL 40
David Robertson – CWS 38
Roberto Osuna – TOR 34
Cody Allen – CLE 33
Shawn Tolleson – TEX 33

Francisco Rodriguez – MIL / DET 43
Craig Kimbrel – SD / BOS 33
Mark Melancon – PIT 49
Kenley Jansen – LAD 47
Jeurys Familia – NYM 47
AJ Ramos – MIA 45
Santiago Casilla – SF 36
Trevor Rosenthal – STL 36
Britton and Melancon topped these lists last year as well, showing their teams' success is closely tied to their closers' abilities to finish a game.  Roberto Osuna and Cody Allen are not well known names, however they anchor the bullpens for two of the stronger teams in the AL.  Shawn Tolleson is an interesting addition to this list as he has lost his job to Sam Dyson due to ineffectiveness.

Behind Melancon, there are several names of note.  Jansen continues his dominance of the 9th inning.  Jeurys Familia shows how much he contributed to the Mets and their run to the World Series last year (although he couldn't come through against the Royals).  AJ Ramos anchors a very good Marlins bullpen (I'm telling you, watch out for the Marlins in the second half).  Santiago Casilla closes for the best team in baseball.  Trevor Rosenthal is in a similar boat as Tolleson as he has recently lost his job as closer.

Now let's take a look at the top players overall in this Wraparound Season.

AL Hitters

First Name Last Name Team G AB R H 2B 3B HR 1B RBI BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG OPS
DH David Ortiz BOS 147 526 83 173 56 1 44 72 137 82 85 2 .329 .419 .690 1.110
3B Josh Donaldson TOR 158 601 137 182 39 7 43 93 126 105 125 9 .303 .407 .606 1.012
2B Jose Altuve HOU 160 652 108 221 48 6 21 146 79 54 70 36 .339 .390 .528 .917
1B Edwin Encarnacion TOR 150 556 105 164 40 0 44 80 137 81 110 4 .295 .385 .604 .989
2B Robinson Cano SEA 159 642 108 206 34 2 36 134 107 54 99 0 .321 .374 .548 .922
NL Hitters

First Name Last Name Team G AB R H 2B 3B HR 1B RBI BB SO SB AVG OBP SLG OPS
RF Carlos Gonzalez COL 156 596 107 181 28 3 46 104 116 47 148 2 .304 .355 .592 .947
3B Nolan Arenado COL 159 630 105 179 45 3 41 90 130 55 114 3 .284 .342 .560 .902
3B Matt Carpenter STL 149 554 106 160 48 7 33 72 94 90 141 1 .289 .388 .579 .968
2B Daniel Murphy NYM / WAS 151 593 91 190 47 6 26 111 109 31 59 3 .320 .354 .551 .906
3B Kris Bryant CHC 159 602 113 171 38 1 39 93 113 75 185 8 .284 .363 .545 .908
AL Starting Pitchers

First Name Last Name Team W L ERA G GS SV SVO IP H R ER HR BB K AVG WHIP K/BB K/9
Chris Sale CWS 19 10 3.78 32 32 0 0 214 1/3 199 98 90 30 45 240 .236 1.14 5.3 10.1
David Price DET / TOR / BOS 18 9 3.56 33 33 0 0 219 2/3 196 89 87 24 49 250 .229 1.12 5.1 10.2
Danny Salazar CLE 16 9 2.92 31 31 0 0 191 146 64 62 19 73 197 .203 1.15 2.7 9.3
Marco Estrada TOR 12 6 2.86 31 31 0 0 198 1/3 124 65 63 28 65 161 .172 0.95 2.5 7.3
Justin Verlander DET 13 12 3.47 33 33 0 0 220 1/3 182 91 85 23 54 215 .216 1.07 4.0 8.8
NL Starting Pitchers

Clayton Kershaw LAD 21 3 1.56 31 31 0 0 230 2/3 143 42 40 10 24 286 .171 0.72 11.9 11.2
Jake Arrieta CHC 24 5 1.75 33 33 0 0 221 2/3 137 48 43 9 66 234 .171 0.92 3.5 9.5
Madison Bumgarner SF 19 8 2.16 33 33 0 0 229 165 62 55 19 48 259 .194 0.93 5.4 10.2
Jose Fernandez MIA 15 5 2.72 26 26 0 0 159 126 52 48 10 45 218 .209 1.08 4.8 12.3
Stephen Strasburg WAS 18 2 2.34 26 26 0 0 173 119 47 45 18 39 224 .187 0.91 5.7 11.7
Relievers / Closers

First Name Last Name Team W L ERA G GS SV SVO IP H R ER HR BB K AVG WHIP K/BB K/9
Zach Britton BAL 5 2 1.35 66 0 40 43 66 2/3 43 15 10 3 16 76 .177 0.89 4.8 10.3
Andrew Miller NYY 8 2 1.88 69 0 25 28 71 2/3 45 16 15 8 15 122 .173 0.84 8.1 15.3
Wade Davis KC 4 0 1.40 60 0 27 29 57 2/3 29 10 9 3 20 62 .144 0.85 3.1 9.7
Kenley Jansen LAD 3 2 1.95 72 0 47 51 69 1/3 42 15 15 5 12 93 .168 0.78 7.8 12.1
Hector Rondon CHC 4 3 1.41 65 0 32 37 64 45 15 10 5 11 79 .190 0.88 7.2 11.1

Bring on the second half!  Below are the full stats I calculated.