After not playing the All-Star game last year due to Covid-19, we are once again approaching the MLB All-Star Break. A full season with new rule changes and an ever-changing playoff picture has made for an interesting return to a full season schedule. A year where a pitcher is setting record numbers at the plate, only to find his superstar teammate sidelined with a calf injury for most of the young season. A year where a Cy Young Award-winning arm has dominated almost every lineup in all of baseball. A year where routine checks of pitcher’s equipment have led to players getting naked on the mound as a sign of protest against the MLB substance checks. With how eventful the first half of the year was, we are undoubtedly in for an interesting second half. Today, we will take a look at how each team did up to the All-Star Break. Who lived up to expectations and who didn’t? We will break down each team starting with the American League. All of the stats and records you will see in the breakdown are as of 7/6/2021.
Baltimore Orioles (27-57, 5th place in AL East)
For a team that started off the season red hot with a sweep of their division counterpart Boston Red Sox, the Orioles have really struggled after their first road series victory. Holding the second-worst record in the MLB, the O’s find themselves in dead last in their heavily stacked AL East division. Their weak spot is clearly their pitching, as they have the worst ERA and WHIP (Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched) in all of baseball. Surprisingly they don’t have a problem getting on base, as the efforts of Trey Mancini and Ryan Mountcastle have made a difference. Trey Mancini coming back from successful cancer treatment has been an inspiring story, as he will continue his heroic season as he heads into the Homerun Derby in Colorado. Cedric Mullins has been an unexpected shining star for the O’s team batting north of .300 and will take the field in the all-star game next week. A talented farm system will hopefully translate into better results for the O’s in the next few years. However, so far, they are living up to the mediocre expectation.
Boston Red Sox (54-32, 1st in the AL East)
As a BIG red sox fan myself, I have to say… I sure wasn’t expecting this start. The red sox are red hot and hitting the cover off the ball in the past few games. The big three bats in the Sox order of J.D. Martinez, Rafael Devers, and Xander Bogaerts have proven to be a tough middle of the order to any rotation in baseball. Yet besides Matt Barnes being absolutely dominant out of the bullpen, Sox pitching has left a lot to be desired. Eovaldi has had a decent year, but most of it has been backed by the Sox slugging lineup. With Chris Sale’s return looming the Red Sox will likely need another arm to become a remote threat in the postseason. So far the Sox have struggled against some of the AL’s top teams like the Rays and the Astros, so it will be interesting to see what moves they make around the trade deadline.
Cleveland Indians (42-40, 2nd in the AL Central)
The loss of Fransisco Lindor brought a lot of questions to how Cleveland’s season would play out. Cleveland is always a contender in their division. The pitching would be consistent with Shane Bieber at the head of Cleveland’s rotation. But right-hander Aaron Civale (recently placed on the IL with a finger injury) surprised many by racking up a 10-2 record heading into the All-Star Break. Hitting was middle of the road with slugger José Rameríez getting the All-Star nod. Cleveland is going to need to flip their recent 1-9 record over the last ten games if they want a chance at catching the White Sox in the Central.
Chicago White Sox (49-35, 1st in the AL Central)
Pound for pound, probably one of the most dangerous lineups in all of baseball. Tim Anderson is consistently one of the most dangerous bats in the game and backed by Abreu and Moncada have controlled the AL Central so far. The cool thing about the White Sox this year is they have the pitching to back up their stacked lineup. Lance Lynn, Liam Hendriks, and Carlos Rodón have helped Chicago to the number one strikeout rotation in baseball. Did I mention they have Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel too? If the hitting is there and they stay healthy, this team will be one to watch in October.
Detroit Tigers (39-46, 3rd in the AL Central)
Miguel Cabrera is reaching the end of his Hall of Fame career. When will he hang up the cleats? A team that has been average at best finds themselves leaning on veterans to pave the way for a future of young stars. Another organization much like the Orioles where their farm system including the first baseman bomber Spencer Torkelson. One shining light for the Tigers is they have pieces they can work within the outfield. Expect the rest of the Tigers season to be a trial and error period if they fall further out of first.
Houston Astros (52-33, 1st in the AL West)
The Astros per usual, are still a problem. The Astros have four players in this year’s All-Star contest, but could easily have 7. They rank number 1 in baseball in almost every offensive stat with the exception of home runs. Yuli Gurriel is hitting well over .300 and Yordan Alvarez is finding his stride after an off-year in 2020. Not to mention José Altuve has 18 home runs leading his club. Ryan Pressly has been hovering around a 1.5 ERA for the past few weeks and has established himself as a lights-out arm in late innings. What is this team going to look like when Verlander is back? It’s a scary picture. Right now Houston is the team to watch in the second half. Will Houston be the team to ride the AL ship to the World Series? Only time will tell.
Kansas City Royals (35-49, 5th in the AL Central)
Royals had some promise going into the season, as a team that may have the hitting to be a threat in the central. But like in many other sports, defense wins games, and the Royals do not have the pitching to compete. Meeting the White Sox in the division series isn’t ideal for a team that has one of the highest combined ERA in baseball. Unfortunately, Mike Minor and Danny Duffy aren’t getting the job done anymore. Positives? Well, Salvador Perez continues to reign as the best catcher in the American League. Whit Merrifield is a star and probably one of the biggest snubs in the All-Star game. Time to get some young guys some reps and regroup for next season.
Los Angeles Angels (42-42, 4th in the AL West)
Baseball just doesn’t seem as fun when Mike Trout isn’t out there. That being said, when one door closes, another opens. Enter Shohei Ohtani. The phenom has proved to be just as good as advertised when healthy. Leading in home runs and commanding on the mound, this is something we haven’t seen in baseball in a long time. It is still yet to be seen what a Trout, Ohtani lineup looks like for a full season with both players healthy. Unfortunately for the Halos, pitching has been their vice over the past few years. If they can get two other arms to go with Ohtani, the Angels will be relevant in the postseason picture again.
Minnesota Twins (35-48, 4th place in the AL Central)
Nelson Cruz has still got it. The 41-year-old has 18 homers and is batting .306 heading into the break. Guess some things get better with age? With the numbers Cruz is posting this year, it’s a shame his team hasn’t capitalized on his impressive season so far. Byron Buxton has only played 27 games but is hitting north of .360 on the year. The twins need two things to take the division. First, they need the White Sox to play in another division. And last, they need a shutdown starter that can allow the rest of their lineup to swing away and maintain leads.
New York Yankees (43-41, 4th place in the AL East)
The Yankees sitting at fourth place in the division is not something we see every year. Injuries and a lack of pitching depth have crushed the Yankees up to the all-star break. Gerrit Cole had a fantastic start to the year but has put together some rather poor outings in recent games. Aroldis Chapman hasn’t been his sharpest of late after getting the All-Star nod, and the Yankees are looking up at a stacked East division. The Yankees will do whatever it takes to win ball games, but it might need to start with finding a replacement for skipper Aaron Boone.
Oakland Athletics (49-38, 2nd place in the AL West)
The A’s are having a really nice season so far. Unfortunately, they have the best team in the American League in their division. Matt Olson and Matt Chapman, are having decent seasons and the loss of Marcus Semien doesn’t seem to be impacting them badly. The big question will be if they can catch the Astros. Right now they have the second wildcard spot locked up. But will have to outlast a few teams in the east, to make it to the postseason.
Seattle Mariners (45-41, 3rd place in the AL West)
The question for Seattle will be when will their patience pay off with their young talent. After a few call-ups and nothing to show for it, the Mariners still lack the overall star power to be relevant. Kyle Lewis isn’t having the year he had last year and their pitching has left a lot to be desired amongst the rest of the league. Look out for the Mariners in a few years, as their young talent makes their way to the bigs.
Texas Rangers (34-53, 5th place in the AL West)
Besides Joey Gallo, there isn’t much to be excited about in Arlington. Can we also talk about how the stadium change still doesn’t make any sense? Why did they need a new stadium? Texas woes continue into 2021 and there isn’t much to look forward to in their division. They will need to find diamonds in the rough (yes multiple) if they are to move past any of the teams in their division.
Stay tuned for my National League midseason breakdown that will be coming after the All-Star Game this Tuesday. My All-Star game and Home Run Derby predictions, NL to win easily and Joey Gallo to hit a million home runs. Thanks for reading, and hope you enjoyed it.