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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.