81 games gone, 81 games to go: A Mid-Season Review of Major League Baseball
Hello there baseball fans!
As we reach the halfway point of the MLB season, I thought I would take a pause and look to see where the dust has settled through 81 games of the regular season. I will be giving a run down of the six current playoff teams and talking about some surprises and disappointments so strap in everyone!
Let’s start with the American League and see how the early season playoff race is going:
1 Seed: New York Yankees: 59-23
All rise for the current one seed in the AL, the New York Judges… uhm... Excuse me, the New York Yankees. Aaron Judge has been on a tear in his final year of his current deal with the Yankees, as the 6’ 9” outfielder has mashed 29 home runs in 294 at-bats, six ahead of fellow AL outfielder Mike Trout. It hasn’t just been Judge who has carried the hitting core, as Giancarlo Stanton and the one of the many 2021 trade deadline acquisitions in Anthony Rizzo have mashed baseballs, as they have hit 20 and 22 home runs respectively. However, Aaron Judge and the rest of the hitting core aren’t the only reason why the Yankees have baseballs best record. The Yankees' pitching staff has been other worldy as they hold just a 2.90 era, just .01 behind the Astros. It has been the trio of former Pittsburg Pirates pitchers that have led the charge in starters Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon (thank you for being on my fantasy team) and the new closer for the pinstripes, Clay Holmes. Holmes has been a revelation in the Bronx, as before arriving, he came in with a career ERA of 5.57 in 119.2 innings with the Pirates. In the two years since arriving to New York at the trade deadline last year, Holmes has an ERA of 0.97, including 0.49 this season (7 earned runs in 37 innings). Cole is having his best season with the Yankees since he signed a nine year 324-million-dollar deal in 2020, as he has tossed 93.1 innings and only allowing 2.99 earned runs. Lastly in Taillon, he is having a much better season in year two in the Bronx, as he as dropped his ERA from 4.30 to 3.32. The Yankees are real powerhouse not only in the AL but in the entire league.
2 Seed: Houston Astros: 54-28
I hate to say it, but the Astros are still damn good. Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman are still key contributors to a deadly Astros lineup, Altuve still hitting .280 and Bregman is third on the team in RBIs with 40. While these two are still raking at the plate, the Stros are led by a new generation of star hitters in Kyle Tucker and Yordan Alvarez. Alvarez has easily been the best hitter for Houston, as he leads them in all major hitting categories with a line of .310/.406/.645 to go along with 23 bombs and 56 RBIs. The Astros front office has done a tremendous job of acquiring talent and keeping it in house. As of June 6 they signed Alvarez to a 6-year 115-million-dollar deal (19.17 million per year), a true bargain for the 25-year-old star. Not to be out done, Tucker looks to be on pace for a career year as he is currently hitting .258 but already has 16 long balls and 53 runs driven in, after hitting 30 home runs and 92 RBIs last season. The pitching staff has been electric this season, as they are leading the league in ERA at 2.89. Leading that incredible stat is none other than the old man himself, Justin Verlander. After missing all of last season with Tommy John surgery, the 39-year-old has a career low 2.09 ERA, good for fourth in the league (2nd in the AL). The Astros are on another run to capture an AL West championship for the fifth time in six seasons as they have a 13.5 game lead over the Mariners who sit at 40-42.
3 Seed: Minnesota Twins: 47-38
One of the most surprising teams in all of baseball has been the Minnesota Twins. After being predicted to finish fourth with a record of 77-85 by Sporting News, the Twins have shot up to the top of the AL Central. The Twins are a really balanced squad as they are 10th in runs scored and 7th in ERA. Starting with those bats, Byron Buxton is finally healthy as he has already played more games this season (62) than he has in 2021 (61), 2020 (39), and 2018 (28) and he is absolutely raking. While the average is down at .226, Buxton still leads Minnesota with 22 home runs and 40 RBIs and is still roams center field like a beast.
What has been a revelation for the Twins has been 4th year first basemen Luis Arraez who is having a career season as he is hitting a career high .348 and leads the Twins in on base percentage (.422) and hits (93). While those two hitters are a couple of standouts, Minnesota has a balanced lineup with five players over 30 RBIs. Free agent signing Carlos Correa is having a solid year as he is hitting .291 with 9 home runs.
Moving on to the pitching staff, it's kind of surprising how well they have been able to perform this season considering none of the pitchers in the current rotation were on the Opening Day roster. In the off-season they traded for Sonny Gray and Chris Paddack, signed Chris Archer and Dylan Bundy to rebuild the pitching after trading Jose Berrios to the Blue Jays. Rookie Joe Ryan rounded out the rotation to begin the year. Still without Kenta Maeda after getting Tommy John Surgery in the off-season, the staff was dealt another blow as after just five starts, Paddack would go down with an injury that required Tommy John surgery, ending his first season in the Twin Cities. Even with so many losses, the rest of the staff has stepped up to take what was the fifth worst pitching staff last season, to number seven in the league. Archer and Devin Smeltzer have been solid depth pieces for the rotation and while Bundy had a rough May and June (5.56 combined ERA in those months) he's eaten up 70 innings for the staff. The two stars of the rotation have been Gray and Ryan for the Twins, as Ryan leads the staff with six wins and 60 strikeouts, while Gray has a 2.47 ERA in 11 starts this season (54.2 innings).
While they may not be a true "title contender," like Houston or New York, if they can stay and get healthy, they could be a very dangerous playoff team.
4 Seed: Tampa Bay Rays: 45-37
Baseball's new "Moneyball," team is still thriving on a player payroll of just 83 million dollars. But hey, why change when its been working as they have won 90 or more games in three of the last four seasons (2020 they were on pace but they only played 60 games, 40-20 record), made the playoffs in the last three and made a World Series. This iteration of the Rays is a very strange one, as while they are top ten in the league in ERA (3.31) some of their other team stats don't seem very conducive to a team that is in a playoff hunt. They are tied for ninth in the league in home runs allowed, have the fifth worst offense, just ahead of the Royals, Pirates, A's and Tigers and they are 11th worst fielding team (.984 fielding percentage) and have the 12th most errors in the league (47). While this may be the case, you have to look to other stats to show how the Rays have put themselves in a position to grab the top Wild Card spot. They are fourth in stolen bases and only give up 1.14 walks/hits per inning, also good for fourth in the league.
Arguably, the main player for this record would easily be Shane McClanahan. The 25-year old lefty from Cape Coral, Florida is probably the front runner for the AL Cy Young award at this point. After a solid season in 2021, gaining a 10-6 record with a 3.43 ERA, McClanahan has become dominant, toting around an ERA below 2.00 at 1.74 with 133 strikeouts and a WHIP of just 0.81. I don't think that if you asked even the most knowledgeable or diehard baseball fan they would have seen this type of season coming from McClanahan. Although we probably should have because basically any pitcher that has either been traded to or came through the Rays farm system ends up becoming an ace level, if not top three starter in a rotation.
The Rays will need to add to the hitting core if they wanna keep up with the rest of the teams in the AL East, but if their pitching (more specifically McClanahan) can continue to be elite, they can compete with anyone in the AL.
5 Seed: Boston Red Sox: 45-37
The other most hated team in the AL East, the Boston Red Sox are interesting case to look at. When you take a look at their league rankings, you would think that they would much closer to challenging the Yankees for the division crown. They currently lead all of baseball in batting average at .261, 9th in runs, and 6th in ERA (3.57). However, they have lost some games and series they probably shouldn't have, including losing three of five against the Orioles (37-44) at the end of May, and more recently, losing two of three in Wrigley to the Chicago Cubs (32-48). What makes it more strange is that before that series, the Red Sox had gone 20-6 in the month of June and had won seven in a row before losing two of three to Toronto. What I really think has been their undoing has been two major pieces, the lack of power hitting and injuries. Currently, the Red Sox sit 22nd in the league in home runs with just 75, while their division counterparts in the Bronx Bombers have hit a league high 133 (no I am not making that number up). Rafael Devers and Trevor Story have lived up to the billings as they have combined for 30 of those long balls, but the rest of the power hitters have been struggling. Former AL Silver Slugger J.D. Martinez has only hit eight home runs and 33 RBIs with a hitting line of .306/.376/.483 in 271 at bats. For context, in 2020 while only getting 211 at-bats in 54 games, Martinez hit seven dingers and had 27 RBIs. The same could be said for Xander Bogaerts, who only has six long balls and 31 RBIs in 76 games. Again, going back to 2020, Bogaerts had 11 home runs and 28 RBIs in 54 games. Going to injuries, while they stayed relatively healthy early on in the year, once July hit they have been ravaged by the injury bug. The Sox currently have five players on the 10 or 15 day IL and three on the 60 day IL including Chris Sale, James Paxton, Matt Barnes, Rich Hill, Kike Hernandez and Nathan Eovaldi. They look to get all of these players back later this month and heading into August so hopefully things will start to shape up in Bean town. While the pitching may improve, they will need to add to the hitting core ahead of the August 2nd trade deadline.
6 Seed: Toronto Blue Jays: 45-38
Baseball's only Canadian team is in an absolute dogfight in the AL East, with the Yankees, the Rays and the Red Sox ahead of them. Things started off well in April for the Blue Jays, they had a 14-8 record and had just taken three of four from the Red Sox. However, from May 1 to the writing of this article, Toronto has played just over .500 in baseball (30-29). The issue has definitely not been the hitting core, as they are top 5 in batting average (.257), home runs (104), on-base percentage (.325), and slugging percentage (.433). Valdimir Guerrero Jr continues to send baseballs into outer space as he has 19 homers and 53 RBIs, both good for first on the team. Bo Bichette, George Springer and off-season trade acquisition Matt Chapman have really made this a deadly lineup as they have a combined for 38 home runs and 118 RBIs. The main downfall for the Blue Jays has been their pitching staff as a whole. The whole group has an ERA 4.10 and it's even worse in the bullpen as they are the ninth worst at 4.34 ERA, just ahead of Arizona and Oakland. Jose Berrios has struggled in his first full season north of the border, carrying an ERA of 5.72 while giving up 17 home runs in just 83.1 innings. Yusei Kikuchi hasn't been much better as he carries a 4.74 ERA while surrendering 36 free passes to batters. Out of the pen, Trevor Richards and Julian Merryweather have really struggled for the Blue Jays as Richards had an ERA of 11.25 in seven appearances in June, while Merryweather struggled in May, giving up five runs in just four innings of work. Merryweather has bounced back in June as he only gave up two runs in 4.2 innings of work. While the Jays have had their issues in pitching, that's not to say that it's been all bad. 2nd year starter Alex Manoah is having a Cy Young type season as he has a record of 9-3 with an ERA of 2.33, while racking up 97 strikeouts. Free agent pick-up Kevin Gausman has been solid in his first season with Toronto, holding a 6-6 record with a 2.86 ERA and a 6.3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In order for the Blue Jays to make any noise this postseason, Berrios is going to have to return to his form after being traded to Toronto last season and I think they will need to add to the bullpen at some point, otherwise it will be another failed season in Canada's capital city.
Most Disappointing Team: Chicago White Sox: 38-41
What an abject disappointment the 2022 Chicago White Sox have been. A team that projected to run away with the AL Central, they find themselves 6.5 games behind the Twins and 4.5 games outside of the last wild card spot. It's honestly sad to see when you take a look at he bigger picture for the White Sox. They missed the playoffs every year for a decade (2009-2019), getting close in 2010 (88-74) and 2012 (85-77), but feel just a few games short each time. From 2013-2018 they were normal residents of the bottom of the AL Central, losing 95 and 100 games during that strecth. From 2012 to 2018 they saw division rivals Detroit and Cleveland make the World Series in 2012 and 2016, while also watching Kansas City make two World Series, winning one in 2015 and could have easily won in 2014. Then the fruits of the rebuild started to flower in 2020, with Jose Abreu and Tim Anderson built on their strong 2019 season, but where now complemented by free agent pick up Yasmani Grandal and bundle of young players in Luis Robert, Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez. However it wasn't just the hitting core that had a good mix of veterans and young players, the pitching staff was flush with talent, as Lucas Giolito recovered from a horrible 2018 season to go 4-3 with eight quality starts. Dallas Keuchel of all people had a Cy Young type season boasting a 1.99 ERA with 42 strikeouts in 63.1 innings (the Cy Young that year of course went to division rival Shane Bieber in Cleveland). The White Sox made the playoffs alebiet as a 7 seed in an eight seeded COVID playoffs. They did lose in four games to the Oakland A's but it was clear they would be back. The Sox won the division in 2021 with a three headed monster in starters Dylan Cease, free agent pickup Lance Lynn and Giolito. Jose Abreu had an MVP type season, hitting 30 bombs and 118 RBIs while showing an impressive hitting line of .261/.351/.481. Ultimately they fell short in the playoffs again as they lost in four games to the Houston Astros in the ALDS. Things have really fallen off for Chicago as Giolito has regressed to a 4.10 ERA, Lance Lynn is currently injured and the hitting core has fallen off as they are tied for 22nd in the league in runs and 27th in home runs (62). The Sox have been through a lot this season, between Josh Donaldson calling Anderson "Jackie," to the constant inetptude from Tony LaRussa, it has been a trying season on the South Side. LaRussa needs to be fired in order for this team to reach their full potential and for Sox fans I hope it happens soon.
Most Surprising Team: Minnesota Twins
I did already talk about them earlier but they are easily the surprise team in the AL. I may honestly root for them for the rest of the season considering the story they have right now. So many injuries, an unexpected signing of Carols Correa, they are so compelling and they are a feel good story. At least for my AL team, go Twins.
And now let’s take a look at the Senior Circuit (aka the National League):
1 Seed: Los Angeles Dodgers: 52-29
Wow, I'm so surprised that the LA Dodgers are the best team in the NL (total sarcasm). The boys in blue and white have continued their dominance for yet another year in the National League, holding the top spot as we near the All-Star break. Their offense is as strong as ever as they rank 2nd in runs, 4th in doubles, 7th in batting average and 8th in home runs. This lineup is absolutely loaded and nearly gives the "Murders Row," Yankees a run for their money; Will Smith, Freddie Freeman, Max Muncy, Gavin Lux, the old man Justin Turner, Trea Turner, Chris Taylor, Cody Bellinger and a pretty decent player in Mookie Betts (Thank you for falling to me in my Fantasy Draft). Trea Turner continues to be a hitting and on-base menace as he is hitting .307 with an OBP of .355. Betts is still the incredible five-tool player at 29 years-old with 18 home runs, 42 RBIs, six stolen bases, a fielding percentage of 100% and a total Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 3.0. Cody Bellinger is starting to return to his former form with 11 home runs, 31 RBIs and nine stolen bases. Bellinger has also knocked around 14 doubles after only hitting 19 in the previous two seasons combined. Then's there Freddie Freeman, on the field he's been his normal amazing self, he's played every single game (80 as of the writing of this article), he's on pace to hit over .300 for the sixth time in seven seasons (crazy to think about) and he's hit 10 long balls while driving in 50 runs.
Off the field is a different story as during the weekend of June 24 the Dodgers made their first trip to Atlanta, Freeman's old team where he had finally won the World Series after playing 12 seasons for them. According to reports, during that weekend Freeman found out that the Braves had offered a similar deal that the Dodgers did while Freeman was a free agent. Problem was is that Casey Close, Freeman's agent (at the time) never told him about the offer and so Freeman signed with LA. What breaks my heart about this whole thing is that Freeman never knew about the offer until he made his return to Atlanta. So in response, Freeman fired his agent and if this is all true I don't blame him in the slightest. I really feel for Freeman, from everything I've seen it really wanted to stay in Atlanta and when the Braves perceived that Freeman would not be returning, they traded for the Oakland A's lefty hitting first basemen Matt Olson and gave him an eight-year 168-million-dollar extension for the 28 year-old.
Other than this really sad situation, the Dodgers have kept on trucking looking for their second World Series in three seasons.
2 Seed: New York Mets: 51-31
This is something that I'm going to have to get used to, the New York Mets being good. I know they made the World Series in 2015 (I hate you Daniel Murphy), but outside of that I've always chalked them up to baseball's equivalent to the New York Knicks. But hey there's a reason why they have the fourth best record in baseball and are still in a dog fight with LA for the top spot in the NL. You would think that the reason the Mets are so good are because of the two-headed montster in the rotation between Max Scherzer and Jacob DeGrom. The truth is that both of these guys really haven't played this season, with Scherzer missing for almost a month and DeGrom yet to make a start this season due to a stress reaction in his right scapula that caused inflammation. While Taijuan Walker (2.86 ERA) has had an impressive season to replace Marcus Stroman who left for the Cubs in free agency (thank you for him by the way) it's been the Mets bats that have shined the brightest in NYC. The Mets hitters have propelled them to a 2.5 game lead over the defending World Series champions as they rank 4th in batting average (.256), 6th in runs, and are 7th in hits. Pete Alonso is having an MVP type season for New York, as he leads the league in RBIs (69), tied for fifth in home runs (22) and is hitting with a line of .272/.352/.537. Fransico Lindor is enjoying his time in the big apple as in his second season after leaving Cleveland, hitting .244 while sending 13 baseballs yard and driving in 57 runs in just 80 games. Lindor had 20 homeruns and 63 RBIs in 125 games all of last season.
The Mets are 5-7 in their last 12 games but I think once everyone gets healthy the Mets will start to pick things back up and duke it out with the Braves for the NL East title.
3 Seed: Milwaukee Brewers: 47-37
Ah the team that actually hangs Wild Card game appearance banners in their stadium and claims they are the "big brother," to the Chicago Cubs. I repeat Wild Card game appearances in 2008, 2019 and 2020. In those games they lost to the Phillies in the NLDS (2008 was before the Wild Card game existed) and then the eventual World Series champions in two years in a row; the Nationals in 2019 and the Dodgers in 2020. I just have a few things to those people, before you talk any smack, make a World Series during the time where the internet existed and so you could even read this article. Also, make sure to actually show up to games when "little brother," comes to town. I think I might have reached the point where I hate the Brewers more than I hate the Cardinals as a Cubs fan and that is saying a lot.
My rational hatred for the Brewers aside, they are still tops in the NL Central. In terms of run production they are around the same from where they were last year, as they sit eighth in runs and fourth in home runs (115). The problem for the Brew Crew is that they cannot hit for average, as the leader among qualified hitters, Christian Yelich is hitting just .251 with Andrew McCutchen hitting .249. and as a team they rank 23rd in the league (.236). They are also in the bottom half in on-base percentage and have struck out fifth most times so far (729). The Brewers need to add someone who can get on base effectively and just set the table for the power hitters littered throughout this lineup.
The Brewers bread and butter is still their pitching. As squad, Brew City sits 10th in the big leagues with 3.77 ERA. Corbin Burnes may rack up another Cy Young award for the second year in a row as he sits 8th in the league in ERA at 2.20 (which is wild to think about) and third in strikeouts with 134 while only giving up 26 walks. While the rest of the roation has been just ok, with Eric Lauer and Brandon Woodruff have sub four ERAs, the bullpen has more than picked up the slack with Devin Williams, Hoby Milner, Brad Boxberger and closer Josh Hader. Although Hader has blown two saves in a row agaisnt Cubs this week so...
The Brewers are in a somewhat close race with the Cardinals three games back and who knows, with the Cubs winning four straight series they could make things interesting in the second half of the season. However, realistically I expect Milwaukee to duke it out with St. Louis for the division crown and if the Brewers can lock up a guy who hits for contact and gets on base, they could make a run like they did in 2018 to the NLCS (and lose to a better team ;) )
4 Seed: Atlanta Braves: 49-34
The defending World Series champions are still as good a team as they were last year, if not better. The offense has been fantastic for Atlanta because as of now they sit 4th in runs, 2nd in home runs, 10th in average and are the best slugging team in baseball at .443. Dansby Swanson and Austin Riley have really stepped as stars of this Braves hitting core as Swanson leads the team batting average, on-base percentage and hits, while Riley brings the power as he leads the Braves with 21 home runs (tied for 8th in baseball) and 51 RBIs. Matt Olson has been as good as advertised from his time in Oakland as he is hitting .252 with 12 long balls and 47 RBIs. Ronald Acuna Jr. has also finally returned from his ACL injury as he has hit nine home runs in 190 at-bats.
Not to be out done, the Braves pitching staff has been rock solid for ATL. They currently sit 9th in the majors in ERA at 3.70 and have had a lot of swing and misses from opposing hitters as they lead all of baseball with 787 strikeouts. The Braves starters have been really good for the most part as while Charlie Morton and Ian Anderson have struggled a bit, carrying a 4.34 and 5.09 ERA respectively, the other three starters have been lights out. The ace of the staff Mac Fried (Jewish legend) has been on an absolute tear racking up a 9-2 record in 17 starts with a 2.52 ERA and 100 strikeouts to 17 walks.
Kyle Wright and Spencer Strider have been solid in support as well as Wright has 10 quality starts in his 96 innings of work this season, while Strider has an ERA of 2.87 in his seven starts. However, the discussion about the Braves pitching would not be complete without talking about the four headed monster out of the bullpen with A.J. Minter, Will Smith, Collin McHugh and the new closer in Kenley Jansen. Each of these pitchers have an ERA under 3.60, with Minter at an unreal 1.80 ERA (7 Earned runs in 35 innings). As for Jansen, while the ERA doesn't look incredible (3.58), he has been lock down for the Braves in the ninth inning as he has gone 20-for-24 in save opportunities this season. The Braves could have a real shot of repeating as the champs, but they will have a tough road of just getting through their own division, let alone the rest of the league.
5 Seed: San Diego Padres: 47-36
The fact that the San Diego Padres are even in spot where they are just six games back of the Dodgers considering their circumstances is incredible. It starts off with losing thier young phenom shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. to a wrist injury in spring training after getting in a motorcycle accident, with no timetable for his return. Then during the season they have had to put three pitchers and an outfielder on the 60-day IL including Drew Pomeranz, Pierce Johnson and Austin Adams. Then you take a look at their hitting numbers and it becomes more insane that they are in a playoff spot as they rank 17th in batting average, 25th in home runs, 27th in stolen bases and are 26th in slugging. However, there has been one man who has put the Padres franchise on his back: Manny Machado. The Miami native has having an MVP type season as he sits eighth in the league in batting average (.319), ninth in OPS (.915) and ranks eighth in the league in WAR at 3.9. Machado leads the Padres in all major batting categories and is only one of two players with more than 10 home runs on the team (Luke Voit has 10).
While the hitting outside of Machado hasn't gotten compltely off the ground, the Padres pitching has been firing on all cylinders (for the most part). While on the season they rank 5th in ERA (3.60), tied for first in quality starts (43), 23rd in home runs allowed (79) and sixth in total strikeouts (735), they haven't been up to that same standard as of late. In their last 12 games they have allowed 4 or more runs in 7 of them and have gone 3-9 (all wins came when allowing two runs or less). Joe Musgrove looks to be a favorite in the NL Cy Young award race, carrying a 8-2 record, a 2.25 ERA and WHIP of just 0.95 (Again, thank you for being on my fantasy team). Yu Darvish and Sean Manaea (who came to San Diego in a trade with Oakland) have been really solid as the number two and three starters for the Friars as they are replacing Blake Snell's prodcution. Snell has had a rough season, making one start in April before going on the IL and then was rocked in the month of June as he had an ERA of 6.20 while only working more than five innings twice. He did have a solid first start on July 1 against the Dodgers in which he pitched five innings of one run ball while getting 12 strikeouts to just four walks. Hopefully for the Padres, Snell can keep up this production and make San Diego's pitching staff a true dominant force in baseball. They also need to add a little more power to the lineup and as much as I would hate it, Wilson Contreras to the Padres would be a good fit. Good defensive catcher who also currently leads all catchers in baseball with 13, which would be the most on the Padres right now as a team (But please as a Cubs fan don't let this become real).
6 Seed: Philadelphia Phillies: 43-39
There is actually a tie by winning percentage for the six seed between Phillies and Cardinals but through certain tie-breakers, Philadelphia is slotted as the six seed as of the writing of this article. The feel I get from the Phillies is that they are very average team in both hitting and pitching. They pretty much rank in the top 10 to 15 in all major categories this season. However, there has been one thing the Fightin' Phils have been really good in over the last two weeks: in the bullpen.
That is what has really propelled the Phillies into the Wild Card spot as just two weeks ago they sat 2.5 games out of the last playoff spot. The Phillies had just lost four of five games after winning five in a row. Since then while they are only 6-5 in the 11 games, they have only given up five or more runs just twice in that span. Brad Hand and Seranthony Dominguez have brought what was normally a horrible Phillies pen into a good one as they have ERAs of 2.16 and 1.80 respectively in a combined 55 innings of work. The main issue has been consistency and that doesn't help when Bryce Harper gets injured but the Phillies have had two games in the last 11 where they have scored more than 11 runs but have also had three games in which they scored two or less runs. If they can find any sort of consistency they have a real shot to do some damage this postseason.
Most Disappointing: San Francisco Giants: 41-39
After winning 107 games and capturing the NL West crown, the San Fransico Giants are just middling at 41-39 and one game out of the final Wild Card spot. Before the season they were projected to finsih in second place in the NL west and go 90-72, but here they are just two games over .500. They have some pretty decent hitting stats as they sit 9th in on-base percentage, 16th in slugging, 12th in home run, and 11th in runs. Joc Pederson has brought a huger power presence after Kris Bryant left for Colorado in free agency (although he just hit his first home run of the season in July). Pederson has 17 home runs and 41 RBIs while hitting a respectable .269 for San Fran. They are a pretty balanced offense but just like Milwaukee they cannot hit for average as they rank 22nd in the league in that category.
However, unlike Milwaukee they just don't have the pitching to mask their hitting problems as they sit 21st in the league in ERA at 4.08 and have yet to record a shutout all season. Carlos Rodon and Logan Webb have been a solid 1-2 punch out of the rotation but they are missing that ace they had in Kevin Gausman last year. Things haven't been much better as the bullpen as a full group they have an ERA of 4.30. The Giants are stuck in the middle between a mini-retool and being competitive and this is the result. It will be a few years before the Giants are back to the World Series contender like they were last year.
Biggest Surprise: Sandy Alcantara
I'd thought I would switch things up for the NL surprise. Rather than talk about a team I would live to give some shine to someone who I think isn't talked about enough and if you read the header you know exactly who I'm talking about. Sandy Alcantara has been probably the best pitcher in baseball this season. Even with guys like Tony Gosilin and Shane McClanahan with lower ERAs, Sandy is just better. Alcantara is the only pitcher who has pitched over 100 innings (123.1, the most in baseball) and has an ERA under 2.00. Alcantara holds a 9-3 record which is only one of two pitchers in the top 10 not on a playoff team (Logan Gilbert has 10 wins for Seattle). Alcantara also sports a WHIP of just 0.91 which is just one of five pitchers who have pitched over 100 innings and have a WHIP under 1.00 (Aaron Nola, Alex Manoah, Miles Mikolas and Corbin Burnes are the others). Oh, and Alcantara can do stuff like this.
He is doing all of this after going 9-15 last year with a 3.19 ERA and when I saw this pitch I was amazed that something like this is even possible and I have become a big fan of his and I will be on the Sandy Alcantara Cy Young bandwagon from here on out.