July 4th weekend marks the halfway point in the season and I wanted to look at the top stories of the first half and going into the second half and reveal my first half awards.
- The division races are not close. The American League East is the only division that is separated by less than 5 games. Two division already see the leaders with at least an 8 game lead. I believe the second half will see two more races become close like the A.L East. I would be surprised if the American League East did not come down to the final week of the season because every team in the division has a serious flaw. Right now the Nationals have a 5.5 game lead in the National League East but both the Nationals and the Mets have been streaky this season. The Mets have a dynamic pitching rotation that has not quite clicked this season and are due to make a run. The other division that I think is still up for grabs is the American League Central. The Indians used a 14 game win streak to propel themselves into first place but Detroit and Kansas City are still in striking range to make a push at the division.
- Clayton Kershaw’s health. This week Kershaw went on the disabled list with a herniated disk in his back and will likely be out until after the all-star break. Kershaw may be the most valuable player in all of baseball. When he pitches, the Dodgers are 14-2. When he is sitting in the dugout, the Dodgers are 33-35. I do not like their rotation besides Kershaw. Kenta Maeda has had a strong first half with a 2.82 ERA but the more games he pitches, the more scouting reports teams can build against him. In my opinion, their rotation is full of 4 and 5 starters. If Kershaw is not healthy in the second half, the Dodgers could easily find themselves out of the wild card race.
- The trade deadline will be interesting. This year there are so many teams that are already out of contention. That means that there could be more teams that are willing to trade some of their trade chips than most seasons. There will not be any aces on the trade deadline but guys like Rich Hill, Julio Tehran, and Sunny Gray could help some rotations if teams are willing to part with prospects. A lot of chips will depend on the New York Yankees and if they decide to become sellers at the deadline. Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman could help bolster some bullpens like the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers. Some hitters that could be dealt are Melvin Upton, Ryan Braun, Jonathan Lucroy, and Carlos Beltran. I also think the Minnesota Twins would be smart to listen to offers on Eduardo Nunez. Nunez is having a huge season and is hitting .322/.348/.491 with 11 home runs and 18 stolen bases. The Twins are having a disappointing season and should be trying to restock for the next few seasons.
- 1st half Award Winners:
A.L. ROY: Nomar Mazara: .287/.337/.433
A.L. CY: Chris Sale: 14-2, 2.93 ERA, 8.9 K/9
A.L. MVP: Jose Altuve:
N.L. ROY: Corey Seager: .303/.362/.536
N.L CY: Clayton Kershaw: 11-2, 1.79 ERA, 10.8 K/9
N.L MVP: Kris Bryant: .277/.367/.564, 23 HR
In my pre-season picks, I took the Giants over the Rangers in the World Series. I feel pretty confident about that pick at the midway point in the season.
Being a Red Sox fan I will always have a special place in my heart for Dave Roberts but last night Dave Roberts almost cost the Dodgers the game against the Mets and the series.
I do not know why he would take Kershaw out of the game in the 8th inning to bring in another lefty. Kershaw was brilliant again last night as he only gave up 1 run in 7 and 2/3 innings. Roberts decided to take Kershaw out with Curtis Granderson coming to the plate. Granderson is a left-handed hitter and lefties are hitting .136 against Kershaw this season. Granderson led off the game with a double off of Kershaw and then grounded out and struck out. Now the announcers on Sunday night baseball were talking about fatigue and that his pitch count was at 114. If Roberts took Kershaw out because he was at 114 pitches, that is an absolute joke. Kershaw is by far the best pitcher in baseball and I think he has proven himself by now. If Kershaw would have thrown 120 pitches to get Granderson, so be it. Roberts decided to go to the left-hander Adam Liberatore. I don’t care if lefties are hitting .138 against him, there is no way I would take out Kershaw to bring in another lefty to face Granderson. NO WAY!
Now the only way I would have even considered taking out Kershaw last night was to put in Kenley Jansen. Jansen has been excellent against both righties and lefties this season and encourages his manager to use him for more than one inning. I liked the shot of Jansen shaking his head as he went to sit down in the pen after Liberatore gave up the game-tying triple. So many people believe in playing matchups but in moments like last night, I want my best versus their best.
Luckily for Roberts and the Dodgers, the Dodgers retook the lead in the 9th inning on an Adrian Gonzalez 2-run single. I hope Roberts learned his lesson and next time leaves Kershaw in the game.
My biggest take away from this weekend is that every time I begin to buy that the Seattle Mariners are for real, they have a weekend like this past weekend. The Mariners were swept at home against the Minnesota Twins. The Twins came into the series with only 12 wins on the season. The Mariners even had their ace on the mound in Felix Hernandez and he got bombed in the 3rd inning as he gave up 5 runs Friday night. Miguel Sano and Joe Mauer led the way for the Twins in the series as both of them homered in every game in the series. Now every team in baseball is going to have a bad weekend and get swept. But the fact that the Mariners got swept by the worst team in the American League is a problem. These are the type of series that you circle on a schedule and believe you can begin to build some momentum going into the next week. Now they have the task of trying to rebound from a difficult weekend and luckily they welcome the San Diego Padres into town. I am going to have to see a lot more of the Mariners this year before I buy stock in the Mariners.
- Jake Odorizzi pitched into the 7th inning with a no-hitter before Starlin Castro hit a 2-Run Home Run to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead. Teams who have had pitchers throw 1-hitters this season are 3-3. I guess if you only get 1 hit, make it count like the Yankees did on Sunday.
- Dodgers are 10-1 when Clayton Kershaw pitches and 17-23 when the other starters pitch.
- Dallas Keuchel beat the Los Angeles Angels and got the win for the first time since April 15th. Now wins do not tell the entire story but his 7 starts in between wins looked like this: 6 ER, 5 ER, 5 ER, 2 ER, 8 ER 3 ER, and 7 ER. The Astros rotation has been awful this season and the Astros need Keuchel to start pitching like the guy who won the CY last season.
- The White Sox are in trouble. After a strong April, the White Sox are no longer in 1st place in the American League Central. Their bullpen blew 3 straight leads, leads of 4, 6, and 2, as they got swept by the Kansas City Royals. I would be worried if I were a White Sox fan right now.