An analysis and prediction by Nash Walker
WAR – Wins above replacement – This stat measures a player’s total contribution to their team. A WAR above 0 indicates that this player helps their team win. Cody Bellinger leads the MLB (6.6).
OBP – On-base percentage – This stat measures a player’s ability to reach base safely. Mike Trout (.453) and the Boston Red Sox (.345) lead the MLB in OBP.
OPS – On-base plus slugging – This stat measures how well a player or team can reach base, and with how much power they possess while doing it. OPS is widely considered to be the best stat when evaluating hitters. Minnesota has the highest OPS in 2019 (.833), while Miami has the worst (.655).
ERA – Earned run average – This stat measures how many runs a pitcher allows over a full game. The Rays have the best ERA in 2019 (3.35), while the Orioles have the worst (5.61).
Batting Average – This stat measures the percentage at which a player or team hits the ball without getting out. Minnesota and Boston lead the league (.272), while San Francisco trails (.230).
The Minnesota Twins are performing miraculously through 89 games. This division has been dominated by the Cleveland Indians and the Twins haven’t finished in first place since 2010.
Minnesota grabbed Nelson Cruz, C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop and Marwin Gonzalez during the winter. These bats, with the help of Max Kepler and Eddie Rosario, have slugged 166 home runs – the most in MLB history before the break. Minnesota is on pace for 302 home runs, 102 wins and a division title.
The Twins sent two pitchers to the All-Star game with Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi, who average a 3.17 ERA and sport an 18-9 record. Catcher Mitch Garver hits a home run in 8% of at-bats, and shortstop Jorge Polanco is hitting .312 with an .882 OPS.
The Indians got off to an awful start and trailed the division by nearly 12 games before June. Injuries and ineffectiveness have riddled this once-incredible roster. Jose Ramirez is striking out, hitting less and failing to get on.
Cleveland sliced the gap the last three weeks and have won their last six. Minnesota leads by 5.5 games. The clubs are playing 13 times after the break, with the first series this weekend in Cleveland. The Tribe is expected to get four-time Cy-Young winner Corey Kluber back from a fractured arm, and starting pitcher Danny Salazar will make his return after shoulder surgery.
Rounding out the AL Central are the White Sox, Tigers and Royals with sub .500 records. Chicago seemingly has the brightest future since rookie outfielder Eloy Jimenez has emerged with 16 home runs. Pitcher Lucas Giolito is one of three representatives at the mid-summer classic with an 11-3 record in 17 starts.
Prediction: The Twins hold on for the division. The Indians snag the wild card.
After 108 victories and a World Series ring, the Boston Red Sox are limping into the break. MVP Mookie Betts’ batting average is .272, down 74 points from .346, and Chris Sale is sporting the highest ERA of his career at 4.04.
The diamond in the rough is Rafael Devers. The 22-year-old is batting .324 with a WAR of 3.6. The Sox open the second half against the Dodgers, and finish July with the Yankees and Rays. They sit two games from Tampa Bay in the Wild Card race.
The Red Sox are tied for the best batting average in the MLB (.272), and also lead in runs scored (509). J.D. Martinez still has an OPS north of .900.
If Chris Sale and David Price return to form, they can absolutely make a run in the second half. Lefty Eduardo Rodriguez and veteran Rick Porcello round out the staff that has a 4.59 ERA (17th).
The Yankees lead the East by nine games with a potent lineup. Gary Sanchez, Gleyber Torres and Luke Voit shined in the first half sans Giancarlo Stanton (knee) and Aaron Judge (oblique). If it weren’t for Mike Trout, many believe second baseman D.J. LeMahieu would be in the lead to win MVP with a .336 average and a .900 OPS.
The Yankees pitching staff is in question. Masahiro Tanaka allowed 12 runs in his last 13 innings and Domingo German strained his hip and returned on July 3rd to throw 80 pitches. James Paxton struck out 11 Rays while allowing two runs on Sunday. Paxton alternates poor outings with dominance. J.A. Happ holds the highest ERA and allowed 20 home runs in 89.2 innings. Don’t be surprised if the Yankees make a run for Scherzer, DeGrom or Syndergaard.
20-year-old phenom Vladimir Guerrero Jr. radiated in the Home Run Derby but is hitting a measly .249 for Toronto with 8 home runs in 225 at-bats (3.5%). The Blue Jays trail the Yankees by 24.5 games.
The Rays jumped out to an early lead while showcasing Austin Meadows. Since June 1st, Tampa Bay is 17-19. Charlie Morton is as reliable as they come, but Cy Young winner Blake Snell has not been. The lefty is 5-7 with a 4.7 ERA in 18 starts.
Baltimore is on pace to win more games this year. That is positive. The negative is they win 3 of every 10. The O’s rank at or near the bottom in every category. One bright find is John Means. Despite pitching at Camden Yards, the left-hander has given up just 9 home runs and his WHIP is barely above 1. Notre Dame product Trey Maninci has an .868 OPS and a .291 batting average for the Orioles, while utility infielder Jonathan Villar has 17 stolen bases.
Prediction: The Red Sox could get back to their supremacy, but this Yankees lineup is as powerful as any. If the Rays can fix Snell and hit more homers, they can give New York a race. I don’t see the Yanks conceding, especially if they trade Clint Frazier for an arm. New York wins by 8 games.
The Houston Astros are strong. Ace Justin Verlander says the baseballs are juiced, yet his WHIP is a suffocating 0.81. Third baseman Alex Bregman has a .927 OPS, and superstar Jose Altuve has returned from a hamstring strain. Gerrit Cole is striking out everyone (1.46 per IP) and the Astros are comfortably leading the West.
However, they aren’t perfect. They lost seven straight in June and were swept by the Reds (41-46). Consistency is key, and the third starter is a question mark. Brad Peacock was serviceable in May but has faltered lately, allowing 16 runs in his last 20.1 innings (7.96 ERA).
Billy Beane has Oakland 1.5 games out from the playoffs. The team is built around Matt Chapman, Khris Davis and Stephen Piscotty. Chapman ranks seventh in the MLB in WAR (4.3) and remains one of the best defensive third basemen. Evenly balanced with power, Oakland will be in the hunt. Khris Davis has his lowest OPS at .737. If Davis can return to form, the Athletics are dangerous.
The Rangers were expected to finish at the bottom of the West but sit admirably in third. The surprise has been Hunter Pence, who is enjoying a career year. Pence was voted into his fourth All-Star game and his first since 2014. Pitcher Mike Minor is 8-4 in 18 starts. Outfielder Joey Gallo has 20 homers and an OPS of 1.060. Gallo homered in the All-Star game on Tuesday. Outside of Gallo and Pence, this lineup struggles. Minor should continue to excel, but a nine game deficit is difficult to overcome.
Mike Trout is making his case to be the greatest player ever. Trout hit .400 in his last 5 games and his .453 OBP is the best in the majors. The Angels have dropped 6 of their last 10 and All-Star Tommy La Stella to a leg fracture. Los Angeles is 12.5 games from first.
The hottest team for the first week was the Seattle Mariners. They started 13-2. They are 36-53 since. Edwin Encarnacion is gone to New York, and the Mariners find themselves at the bottom of the pack.
Prediction: Houston takes the division by two games.
Wild Card Prediction:
(5) Cleveland over (4) Oakland.
Cleveland benefits from a weak division and slips into Oakland. Fiers faces Bieber and the Tribe finds a way on the road.
(1) Minnesota over (5) Cleveland.
Cleveland takes it to five but the Twins win at Target Field.
(2) New York over (3) Houston.
In a rematch of 2018, the Yankees use newly acquired starter Jacob DeGrom to win in five and advance.
(1) Minnesota over (2) New York.
Minnesota homers their way to the World Series, their first since 1991.
Edited by Emma Moloney | firstname.lastname@example.org