First half impressions



It is hard to believe that it is already the middle of July and the All-Star break is upon us. With the break starting today, I wanted to look at some of my first half impressions of the 2018 MLB season.

  1. The Difference Between the Two Leagues

The American League and the National League are complete opposites this season. In the American League, the playoff race basically comes down to 6 teams competing for 5 spots. The top 4 records in baseball are in the American League and teams will be playing for seeding in the second half. The A.L. Wild Card teams will be interesting because the East will be a dogfight up until the last week of the season and if Oakland continues to play well, they could keep the Mariners from making the playoffs for the first time since 2001. Unlike the A.L., the National League is jam packed with teams who could win their divisions. In the East, I could see 3 teams winning the division because you cannot count the Nationals out yet. The Central looks like a 2-team race between Chicago and Milwaukee. The N.L. West is the most competitive division in baseball as there are 4 teams within 4 games. Going into the break, there are 11 teams that are either in the playoffs or within 5.5 games of a Wild Card spot.

  1. The top 3 teams are in the A.L.

Through the first half of the season, it’s clear that the Red Sox, Yankees, and Astros are the superpowers of the sport and one of them is the favorite to win the World Series entering the break. The Red Sox are steamrolling through some of the very weak teams in the A.L. and enter the break 68-30 and winners of 17 of their past 20. Despite the best first half in franchise history, the Red Sox only have a 4.5 game lead as the Yankees have been just as good going 62-33. The Yankees will be active at the deadline and if they add a starter or two, they may be the favorite to win the World Series. I intentionally left the Astros last because they are the defending champs and the team to beat in my opinion. They go into the break 64-35 and their starting rotation is leading their team with the lowest ERA in baseball (2.98). These 3 teams rank first, second, and third in runs scored in the Majors as well as first, second, and third in run differential. The 3 powerhouses still have their flaws but there is no other team that belongs with the big 3 in the sport right now.

  1. There are some brutal, non-competitive baseball teams.

Every season, there are good baseball teams and there are bad baseball teams. This season, there are still bad baseball teams, but there are some awful baseball teams. Going back over the past 5 years on this date, only two teams have failed to win at least 30 games and both were the Philadelphia Phillies (29 wins in 2015 and 29 wins in 2017). This season, there are 2 teams that are in the same league that failed to win 30 games (Royals 27, Orioles 28). It’s very possible that both of those teams will fail to win 50 games, which has only happened twice in 50+ years. The Royals and Orioles are not the only bad teams in baseball (White Sox, Mets, Tigers, Rangers) but what will these teams look like after the trade deadline? The baseball world will see a couple of teams win 100 games and one of the main reasons that will happen is due to some really poor rosters in the MLB.

  1. Once Machado goes, many will follow.

The Baltimore Orioles are one of the worst teams we have seen in a few years (look at previous paragraph) but they still have some valuable trade chips. Manny Machado is the top name on the market and many teams would love to insert him into the middle of their order. Machado has had a great 1st half (.313 / .387 / .575) and will become a free agent at the end of the season. The Orioles have received many offers and it appears the Phillies, Dodgers, and Brewers are the frontrunners to land the All-Star. It’s unclear when Machado will be dealt but once he is off the board, other teams will move on and the moves will begin to roll.

  1. The A.L. MVP Race will be WILD.

Going into the break, I think the A.L. MVP race is a 4 man race. Incredibly, the top 8 position players in fWAR are represented in the American League. I know the majority of analysts will probably say, “Give Mike Trout the award right now.” I do not want to come across as a Mike Trout hater because I am the furthest thing from that. He is the best overall player in the game but that does not mean he is having the best overall season and he is not a lock for the award going into the break in my opinion. The four are the following in no particular order:

Mike Trout: .310 / .454 / .606 / fWAR: 6.6

Jose Ramirez: .302 / .401 / .628 / fWAR: 6.4

Mookie Betts: .359 / .448/ .691 / fWAR: 6.3

Francisco Lindor: .291 / .367 / .562 / fWAR: 5.4


Any of these 4 would be leading the N.L. MVP race by a landslide. It will be fun to watch all 4 of these players in the second half and see if anyone else (maybe Mr. Altuve) will put their name in the hat.


Excited for the derby and the Mid-Summer Classic.


Orioles and Gallardo Agree


The Baltimore Orioles have signed Yovani Gallardo to a 3 year/35 million dollar deal. This is a deal that the Orioles desperately needed with their lack of rotation depth and quality. Gallardo will quickly become the ace of this team. This could be a signing that has a lot of impact in the A.L. East.

A.L. East Preview: Baltimore Orioles


The 2015 season was an up and down season for the Orioles as they finished the season .500, going 81-81, and 12 games behind the first place Toronto Blue Jays. The 2016 season will be another dog fight type of season in the American League East and the Orioles will be in the mix as they look to rebound from an average 2015 season.

Baltimore has had a fairly quiet offseason but they did resign their slugger Chris Davis to a 7 year/161 million dollar contract. They also acquired Mark Trumbo from Seattle as they hope to add some more power to an already strong lineup. This will be Trumbo’s 4th team  heading into his 7th big league season. The Orioles lost two main contributors to last years team in Gerardo Parra and Wei-Yin Chen.

The Offense:

The Orioles finished 9th in all of baseball last season in runs and 3rd in all of baseball in home runs with 217. There is no question that the lineup for the Orioles is and will continue to be the best part about this team. They basically return their entire lineup with Machado, Jones, Davis, Wieters, and Schoop. Machado is only 23 years old and had a breakout season last year hitting .286 with 35 home runs. His OBP (.359) and his SLG (.502) also were way up from a year ago. Despite only walking 24 times last year, Adam Jones put together another strong season and continues to show that he is one of the best center fielders in all of baseball. Orioles fans know what they are getting in Chris Davis. Lots of power, but a lot of strikeouts. A full season of a healthy Matt Weiters will help this not only on offense but the pitching staff. My breakout performer for the Orioles for the 2016 season is Jonathan Schoop. The 24 year old second baseman only appeared in 84 games last season but had a solid season. His .279/.306/.482 numbers were impressive and he had 15 home runs in a limited number of games. I expect a big year for Schoop if he can stay healthy and play 140-150 games.


The starting rotation has been the issue for the Orioles over the past few seasons. If there rotation is even average in 2016, they have a shot to be a good team. The problem is I would not feel confident with the group they currently have right now. Last season, they finished in the bottom half of all of major league baseball in quality starts (72). I am not a huge fan of quality starts but it does show the ability to give quality innings. The loss of Wei-Yin Chen is a significant loss. Chen in my opinion is a quiet gem because it seems like every time he pitches he is in the 6th or 7th inning only allowing 2 or 3 runs. Chen led the Orioles in innings pitched (191.1) and era (3.34). No one else in the Orioles rotation had a sub 4 era. Chen will be difficult to replace. Returning for the Orioles is Chris Tillman, the erratic Ubaldo Jimenez, Miguel Gonzalez, and Kevin Gausman. The 25 year old Gausman has the stuff to be a front end starter but needs to put it all together. The easy fix for this rotation is for the Orioles to go out and sign Yovani Gallardo to stabilize the rotation. Will they give up the draft pick to sign him?


The bullpen is a strength for this team with Zach Britton leading the way. Britton had a 1.92 ERA last season and converted 36 of 40 saves. The Orioles spent a lot of money to keep Darren O’Day giving him 4 years/36 million dollars. O’Day was tough on both righties and lefties last year which is why he got the deal he did. Adding to the pen is Mychal Givens, who is a power arm that had 38 strikeouts in only 30 innings. Lets not forget about Dylan Bundy. Bundy was one of the top prospects in baseball a few years ago but injuries have delayed his career. I don’t know if Bundy has the makeup to be a starter anymore because logging 180+ innings is no easy task. Bundy may become a valuable piece to the Baltimore pen.

Prospect to Watch:

In December, the Orioles signed Hyun-soo Kim, a Korean outfield to a 2 year/7 million dollar contract. Kim will be a 28 year old rookie that has a clause in his contract that he cannot be assigned to the minors. I believe the Orioles brought in Kim to help immediately. Kim put up good power numbers in Korea (28) home runs, but that does not mean a lot to the pitchers in America.  Kim could be a guy to watch out for since the O’s lost Parra to free agency.

2016 Outlook:

The 2016 season for the Baltimore Orioles will likely be determined by their rotation. Their offense is going to score a lot of runs. No question about that. There is a ton of home run power in that lineup and the rotations in the A.L. East are sub-par. The big question is can their rotation be average and pitch deep into games so the bullpen is not overused come August? Let’s see if Buck Showalter can lead the O’s to a postseason birth in 2016.


Spring Training Questions: AL Edition

Last week, we looked at key questions for National League teams going into Spring Training. Now, with Spring Training under way and games less than a week away, we will look at the key questions facing American League teams as they work their way towards Opening Day.

AL East:

Toronto Blue Jays – Can Jose Bautista stay healthy?

When Bautista is healthy, he is one of the most productive players in the game. In 2010 and 2011, he had a cumulative fWAR of 14.2. But wrist and hip injuries have held Bautista off the field as he has only appeared in 210 games in the last two seasons. Can Bautista get back to being a major run producer in the middle of the Blue Jays lineup?

Baltimore Orioles – Can Ubaldo Jimenez be the top of rotation arm the Orioles need?

Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, Bud Norris, and Wei-Yin Chen are solid pitchers but none of them are aces. Starters who can give their team 200+ innings in a season are extremely valuable. Tillman is the only Orioles starter from last year who surpassed the 200-inning mark. The Orioles just signed Suk-min Yoon, who could possibly provide depth to the rotation. Dylan Bundy will not be ready to make an impact until July at the earliest. This is why it was so vital for the Orioles to invest in an arm like Jimenez, a guy who has the ability and stuff to be a front of the rotation arm. Jimenez does come with a decent amount of risk, as his mechanics have led to some inconsistency that caused him to bottom out until he found some success in the second half last year with the Indians. If Jimenez can carry over his second half into this year, the Orioles will have found their guy to lead their rotation and compete for the AL East.

New York Yankees – Can Robertson take over as the closer?

The Yankees were blessed with 17 years of Mariano Rivera closing out games. Robertson has been one of the best relievers in baseball setting up games for Rivera over the last 3 seasons. Everyone knows that pitching in the 9th inning can be a completely different story, but Robertson had a 10.45 strikeout rate and 2.44 walk rate last season. Both of those statistics bode well for Robertson as he takes over for the greatest closer to ever live.  There will never be another Rivera but can Robertson take his success in the set-up role and apply it in the 9th?

Tampa Bay Rays – Will the Rays try and move David Price?

The 2012 American League CY winner is the ace of the Ray’s staff. But Price will be a free agent after the 2015 season and his best trade value would be now. It seems unlikely that the Rays will be willing to pay Price top market value but will the Rays risk the 2014 season for their future? It’s hard to imagine what the Rays rotation will look without Price but I do not believe the Rays can compete in the A.L. East without Price (though don’t count out Joe Maddon, who has done some amazing things over his years with the Rays).

Boston Red Sox – Can Jackie Bradley Jr. replace Jacoby Ellsbury?

Ellsbury was dynamic at the top of the Sox order as he was 13th in the majors in fWAR (5.8),14th in Runs Scored (92), and 1st in stolen bases (52). Ellsbury decided to join the rival Yankees for a massive contract and the Red Sox will turn to their farm system for production. It may have been a surprise to some that Jackie Bradley Jr. made the Opening day roster and started in left field on Opening day last year. Bradley Jr. struggled to consistently hit and get on base. The Red Sox are very high on this kid but they need him to step up and fill a void in Center Field.

AL Central:

Chicago White Sox – Can Jose Abreu provide power immediately?

The Cuban star was given a 6-year contract worth 68 million dollars. The White Sox had one of the worst team slugging percentages (.378) in the Majors. The 27 year-old appears to have the physical tools to be a solid big leaguer, but how long will it take Abreu to get acclimated to big league pitching? Can Abreu provide the power the White Sox desperately need to produce runs?

Cleveland Indians – Do the Indians have enough starting pitching?

The Indians decided to let Scott Kazmir go and sign with the Athletics, and did not resign Ubaldo Jimenez. They combined for 29 of the Indians 73 quality starts and pitched brilliantly down the stretch in September. The Indians saw Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister take steps forward as they both sported earned run averages under 3.85. Danny Salazar burst onto the scene late in the season and ended up starting the 1 game playoff against the Tampa Bay Rays. Can Salazar pitch a full season in the big leagues and provide the Indians with a much-needed front of the rotation starter?

Detroit Tigers – Is Nick Castellanos ready to be an everyday player?

The Tigers do not have many question marks. One question will be is Nick Castellanos ready to be an everyday player? He has shown the ability to hit and defend well in the minors but can that transition over? Miguel Cabrera was the worst defensive third baseman in baseball according to UZR (-16.8). The Tigers should be much improved defensively with Miguel Cabrera going back to first base if Castellanos can prove he is ready for the show.

Kansas City Royals – Can Mike Moustakas break through?

In 2013, the Kansas City Royals were asking the same question about Eric Hosmer. Hosmer went from hitting .232 in 2012 to hitting .303 in 2013. Moustakas is a career .244 hitter and has not provided consistent power. Moustakas is entering his fourth season in the big leagues and is running out of time to be given another season to figure things out. Eric Hosmer took a big step forward last season and the Royals need Moustakas to do the same if they want to end their streak of not making the postseason.

Minnesota Twins – Where will the Twins offense come from?

When you look at the Twins lineup, you will not see many household names. As team in 2013, they finished 25th in runs scored, 25th in batting average, and 23rd in slugging percentage. Joe Mauer is one of the best hitters in baseball and is changing positions. He will be moving to first base permanently and that may help him deal with fatigue problems in the dog days of August. However, who will be adding production around Mauer?

AL West

Houston Astros – Can the Astros young players make the jump and product in the big leagues?

The Houston Astros are a very young organization. The big question is can their young players make the jump and produce in the big leagues? Jarred Cosart is in the big leagues and looks to be a promising young arm. Cosart only started 10 games but had an impressive 1.95 earned run average. The Astros traded for Dexter Fowler in the offseason and could be a nice acquisition for a young team. Their top prospects, George Springer and Jonathan Singleton are in AAA and may not be far away. A good season for the Astros will not be in how many wins the able to achieve in 2014, but rather how their young prospects progress as they make the transition into the big leagues.

Los Angeles Angels – Can Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton get back to their old selves?

Pujols has not been the same player since he left St. Louis and last season he only played in 99 games as he dealt with plantar fasciitis. A major concern for Pujols is his slugging percentage has slowly declined over each of the past 4 years, including a career low .437 in 2013. Hamilton, on the other hand, struggled mightily in his first season in LA. He hit a career low .250 and his plate discipline was terrible as his strike out rate was almost 25 percent. If the Angels want to complete in the tough A.L. West, they need Pujols and Hamilton to get back to playing like they are capable of.

Oakland Athletics – Can Josh Reddick return to his 2012 form?

The A’s were very busy this offseason as the two-time defending American League West champs made a number of improvements. Josh Reddick was one of the big surprises in 2012 but was bothered by injuries last year as he only played in 114 games. The A’s were the 4th best run producing team in the majors, and surprisingly had the 3rd most home runs (186) in a big Coliseum. If Reddick can get back to providing power to an A’s lineup that does not have many flaws, then watch out for the Oakland Athletics in the A.L. West.

Seattle Mariners – Can the Mariners protect Robinson Cano in the lineup?

Cano signed in Seattle for 240 million dollars but the Mariners don’t have another big bat. Justin Smoak was a top talent coming up through the minors but has struggled to put everything together as he hit .238 last season. Dustin Ackley hit .253 and it may be now or never for him to produce. Corey Hart and Logan Morrison are both coming off injury plagued seasons but could provide some stability to the Mariners lineup if healthy. The question not only in Spring Training but for the entire season will be can the Mariners protect Cano?

Texas Rangers – Can the Rangers pitching hold up?

Derek Holland had a freak accident and tore his meniscus and will miss a couple of months. Holland led the Rangers rotation in innings pitched last season with 213 and the Rangers will have to find someone to replace almost half of those innings. Martin Perez is a promising young pitcher but only threw 124 innings. Will Perez be able to pitch an entire season? Alexi Ogando and Matt Harrison are coming back from injuries and could provide some depth to the Rangers rotation if healthy (and with today’s news on Harrison, that might not be likely). Yu Darvish is without question one of the best pitchers in baseball but may have to carry this staff until Holland and Harrison returns.