It’s the midway point for Major League Baseball (MLB) and the teams have played anywhere from 86 to 90 of their 162 total games. The four-day All-Star break is a time for many players to relax and recharge before the season re-starts. The All-Star festivities is time for some players to play to the delight of the fans. Let’s revisit the first half of the year.
In the American League (AL) East, the Boston Red Sox have emerged on top with a 50-39 record. They gained ground on the New York Yankees and surpassed them by 3 ½ games. This is due to potential CY Young Award winner Chris Sales. Sales is pitching great with 178 strikeouts at the break. Speaking of great, the Yankees rookie phenom Aaron Judge is clearly the front-runner for Rookie of the Year with 30 home runs. The fact that the 25-year-old stands 6’7” and weighs 282 pounds helps his chances at winning the AL MVP award as well. Ok, it doesn’t, but that is one big dude. If only the Yankees bullpen showed up that big, they might would be in first. With all the talk of the Red Sox and Yankees the Tampa Bay Rays are right in contention to play spoiler and win the division, being only 3 ½ games out of first place. I picked the Baltimore Orioles to win the division at the beginning of the season. They are seven games out of first and have an ERA of over five for the team. That is not good news if they are going to make a run in the second half of the season.
The AL Central is led by the defending Cleveland Indians. The Indians are on cruise control with a 47-40 record. Corey Kluber is pitching well and Jose Ramirez is batting well. They have to be careful because some young pups from the north are only 2 ½ games back. Yes, the Minnesota Twins are in contention. Maybe they don’t realize they should be losing instead of winning games. When the “dog days of August” hit, then we will see if they are full blooded or not. The Kansas City Royals are three games out of first place and lurking in the weeds. They have the World Series (2015) pedigree so they are a dangerous team that should not be overlooked.
The AL West belongs to the Houston Astros. The Astros have the best record in the AL at 60-29. The closest team to them is the Los Angeles Angels, 16 ½ games back. There is absolutely nothing the Astros can do to lose this lead. Their 143 home runs are the second most hit by All-Star since the Texas Rangers hit 147 in 2005. Their team slugging percentage (.500) is second all time before All-Star, trailing the Seattle Mariners’ mark of .503 in 1996. If their batting doesn’t get you then the pitching will. They have a MLB record 895 total strikeouts so far. They are clicking on all cylinders.
The National League (NL) East is being led by none other than the Washington Nationals. They have a record of 52-36 and a 9 ½ game lead over the second place Atlanta Braves. The Nationals have pretty much won the division thanks to MVP candidate Bryce Harper and CY Young candidate Max Scherzer. What they do in the post season is the only concern for them. I must stop and give the Braves a ton of credit. They lost a MVP candidate in Freddie Freeman in May for over a month, and have managed to keep things afloat in his absence. This time last year, they were 22 games out of first place and had a record of 31-58. They are definitely trending upward but obviously not enough to beat the Nationals.
The NL Central is led by the Chicago Cubs. Sorry, I got caught up reminiscing on last year. The defending World Series Champs are looking up at the Milwaukee Brewers. Trust me, the Brewers can’t believe it either. Their 50-41 record means they have a 5 ½ game lead on the Cubs. The Cubs have the young studs to win it all but they haven’t been producing. The St. Louis Cardinals are also 5 ½ games back. They are usually postseason contenders but they too are struggling to find a rhythm. The Cubs will need to stop drinking the old celebration champagne and win the division as I predicted at the beginning of the season.
The NL West is being led by the best team in baseball, the Los Angeles Dodgers. They have a record of 61-29. They have their own rookie phenom at first base in Cody Bellinger who has 25 home runs. Bellinger and the rest of the team are a plus-163 run differential, the best in NL history for a team heading into the All-Star break. They have won an insane 26 of their last 30 games. They will have to keep up this pace because there is a team in Arizona that is ready to strike if they fall off. The Diamondbacks are 7 ½ games back with the second best record in the NL. Thanks to Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray, the team leads MLB with a 3.46 ERA. The Colorado Rockies are still in the postseason conversation, although 9 ½ games back. They have an above average batting and pitching rotation that will probably get in the Wild Card game. I picked the Dodgers to win the division, and they should for the fifth straight time.
In October, when the dust settles, I look for the Dodgers and Astros to meet in the World Series. I’ll reserve my predictions on that till then. For now, I’ll just sit back and enjoy the All-Star festivities and the second half of the season.