Driving around the bases while the baseball’s approaching the middle

The All-Star break was commonly used to separate baseball’s first and second halves. While this has always been misleading – teams often play around 90 games in the first half, leaving only 72 in the second half – this season the situation is even more extreme as the All-Star Game won’t take place until July 19. has run a full season since 1977.

With teams due to reach their de facto 81-game midpoint early next week, now is a good time to take a look around the most intriguing storylines of a season that seemed under threat not to play as recently as early March.

A look at this season’s ERA leaders shows a bright future for the game. Tampa Bay Rays sophomore Shane McClanahan, 25, led all starters with a 1.77 ERA through Thursday. Sandy Alcantara of the Miami Marlins was second at 1.95, just 26 years old. Seven of the top 10 were under 30, the youngest of whom, Alec Manoa of the Toronto Blue Jays, is a serious contender for the American League’s Cy Young Award at age 24. .

And then there’s Justin Verlander. After a two-season stretch in which he had a total of six innings due to injury, Verlander, the 39-year-old ace of the Houston Astros, was third in the majors with a 2.03 ERA and was the first pitcher this season. to reach 10 wins. Perhaps most impressively, the second-oldest active player in the majors was fourth in pitching. This would come as a surprise to most aging pitchers after a long absence, but somehow it makes sense to Verlander, a starter who has won 200 innings 12 times.

Aaron Judge continues to hit home runs. Judge, the Yankees’ giant batter, made a huge bet on himself this offseason. Refusal to renew the contract for 213.5 million dollars, and what looks like career season continues. On Thursday, he hit .286 with 29 home runs and 59 runs batted in, leading his team to victory. best result in majors. Short of a disaster, it looks like Judge’s bet will pay off.

The question is how much better one could get from here. All Thursday, he kept up with Babe Ruth’s 1927 season (29 home runs in the first 75 games) and narrowly trailed Roger Maris’ 1961 season (30 of 75). Whether you choose to consider Maris as a legitimate single-season record holder or not, anyone with over 61 homers in a season has been linked to performance-enhancing drugs. Mark is reason enough to be worried.

Albert Pujol’s farewell tour wreaks havoc on record books and inspires quite a lot of smileseven if the aging batter was only hitting .198 through Thursday.

Pujols landed 23 hits past Eddie Collins and Paul Molitor to move up to ninth on the career list. In total, he added 39 bases, passing Willie Mays for third place. And in 40 games played, he consistently beat Dave Winfield, Barry Bonds, Cal Ripken Jr. and Mays will move to eighth place. Had he added 40 more games in the second half of the season, he would have passed Stan Musial, Eddie Murray and Ty Cobb for fifth place on this career list.

Unfortunately, Pujols’ goal of becoming the fourth player with 700 home runs looks set to remain out of reach. He is 17 years old and has neither playing time nor consistency to be realistic.

The most valuable pitcher in baseball is no closer to his team – at least officially. Throughout Thursday, Clay Holmes, the Yankee’s breakout star, compiled a 0.49 ERA in 36⅔ innings, with 38 strikeouts, and he led all major league pitchers with 2.0 wins above a substitute. Regardless, he could soon lose his temporary performance, ending games because Aroldis Chapman, a fiery southpaw whose pay is 16 times that of Holmes, was activated Friday from the injured list.

With Chapman, 34, eligible for off-season freedom and Holmes, 29, just entering his arbitration years, the Yankees appear to have a succession plan in place that worked well when Mariano Rivera arrived in John’s final days. wetlands. But the next few months could be awkward if Holmes continues to outmaneuver Chapman but does so in the eighth inning.

Paul Goldschmidt of St. Louis Cardinals and Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels were 4.2 wins above substitution through Thursday, while Manny Machado of the San Diego Padres and Shohei Otani of the Angels were 3.9 wins each . All of these superstars looked down on Tommy Edman, the Cardinals’ middle infielder who, according to the Baseball Reference, somehow inexplicably led all positions with 4.5 WAR.

Edman’s statistics line does not pop up. He hit .271 with a .341 on-base percentage and a .401 slugging percentage. He was 19 of 22 in base steal attempts, hit seven home runs, and led his league in only one standard category: runs scored with 58.

But WAR includes defense, and Edman put on a show, leading the Majors with a 2.1 defensive WAR thanks to a pretty incredible 11 defensive runs saved in 43 starts at second base and another 5 of 30 starts at shortstop.

Athletics has built and destroyed teams for generations. Going back to 1901, they have won 100 games or more 10 times for nine World Series titles, but they have lost 100 games or more 16 times.

It looks like the club is destined to lose 17 100-game seasons this year, and while that’s not surprising given their off-season sell-out, the way they’re doing it is remarkable. Through Thursday, they were 8-28 at home, which would see them lose 63 games at the Oakland Coliseum, which would break the home loss record of 59 shared by the 1939 St. Louis team. Louis Browns and Detroit Tigers 2019. Even the humble 1962 Mets lost just 58 at home.

Softening the blow—or perhaps causing it—may be the fact that few people were there to see these losses. The fives take the last places in major tournaments with an average attendance of 8,358 fans per game. That would be the lowest average among majors since 2001, and nearly 1,000 fewer per game than Oakland’s AAA team, the Las Vegas Aviators, in 2019.

The Yankees were the best team in baseball that season, both in scoring and mileage differentials, and were joined by the Mets for most of the year as the top team in the National League despite injuries to Max’s pitchers. Scherzer and Jacob de Grom.

However, a recent slump in offense has seen the Mets fade away. They have already been overtaken by the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL best record, while the Atlanta Braves are trying to sneak up and steal the NL East title again.