Top-heavy American League slugging it out and other takeaways from first half of MLB season

Jay Asser 18:38 16/07/2018
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Mookie Betts has led the Red Sox to the best record in the majors.

The MLB season has reached the halfway point with the All-Star break, giving us a chance to catch our breath and look back at how the first few months have unfolded.

From dominant teams to standout players, there’s been no shortage of interesting storylines and performances.

Here’s a look at the biggest takeaways from the season up to this point.

Blistering pace

Between the Boston Red Sox, Houston Astros and New York Yankees, the American League is absolutely loaded at the top.

At 68-30, Boston have set a new record for wins before the All-Star Game and are just slightly off the pace for the single season record of 116.

And yet, they’re only 4.5 games up on the New York Yankees in the AL East as their rivals have put together almost an equally-strong first half with a 62-33 record.

Out West, the defending champion Houston Astros sit at 64-35 and lead the majors with a plus-188 run differential, looking like the monster everyone expected.

The Seattle Mariners aren’t on the same level as the threesome, but their mark of 58-39 is still better than any record in the National League.

The absurdity of strength in the AL means the playoffs should be a bloodbath, while it’s possible either the Red Sox or Yankees could see their season come to an end in the Wild Card Game.

Machado sweepstakes

Machado

Even though the AL appears to have three favourites to win the World Series, the NL could get stronger soon if Manny Machado is traded.

It’s really more of a ‘when’ than a ‘if’, with the Baltimore Orioles ready to move the star shortstop in order to net assets before he walks away in free agency next offseason.

However, those circumstances also mean that whichever team trades for Machado may only be getting a rental for half a season. That makes him a risk, but one that could be worth taking for an NL team looking to separate itself in a wide-open field.

According to reports, the Philadelphia Phillies, Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers are the teams most in the mix to land Machado, who could be a game-changer in a season he’s batting .315 with 24 home runs and 65 runs batted in.

Having that kind of bat in the middle of a lineup may make all the difference between a team reaching the playoffs and having a deep postseason run, or being on the outside looking in when the regular season comes to an end.

Ohtani lives up to the hype

Despite injuries hampering him through the first half of the season, Shohei Ohtani has more than lived up to the billing – no small feat considering the fanfare that surrounded him coming into his rookie year.

It hasn’t been enough to lift the Los Angeles Angels as they trail the Astros by 14 games in AL West and look out of the running for the playoffs, but the Japanese star has become must-see TV anytime he’s on the mound or at the plate.

If he can stay healthy, Ohtani has the chance to be more of a consistent force in the second half and finish with some impressive numbers. It will be hard to take your eyes off of him.

Don’t forget about Trout

Speaking of consistency, Mike Trout’s unwavering greatness shouldn’t be taken for granted, especially this year when he could end up having one of the greatest seasons in history.

The Angels’ outfielder is currently worth 6.8 wins above replacement, which puts him on pace to finish close to 11.0 for the season. Only 20 times in history has a player managed that, with no one having accomplished it since 2002 when Barry Bonds hit .370 with 46 home runs and 110 RBIs.

Trout’s personal best came in his second year back in 2012, when he batted .326 with 30 home runs, 83 RBIs and 49 stolen bases while playing excellent defence.

As baseball’s version of LeBron James, Trout continues to make greatness look easy.

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