MLB All-Star Break Grades: American League

Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated

*Records and statistics are as of Sunday, July 7th at 5:00 pm EST.*

As the midsummer classic convenes for its annual playing in Cleveland, each team will have played roughly 85-90 games in the 162-game marathon. The American League’s first half was a mix of dominant teams, basement-dwellers, fringe contenders, and everything in between. A few teams have established themselves as the dominant forces in the AL. Without further adieu, here are the grades I am giving each team.

AL East

Image result for yankees vs raysPhoto Credit: CBS Sports

Baltimore Orioles – F [27-62, 30.5 GB in AL East]

We start with the team with the worst record in Major League Baseball. The Orioles, who lost 115 games last year, are nearly on pace to reach that mark again this season. There is not much to say here rather than how bad this team has played, and the difficulty of their Chris Davis’ contract situation. Their bright spot was back-to-back 13-0 wins against the Indians, becoming the first team to win consecutive shutouts by that margin. My theory is the Indians were simply saving success against Baltimore for the Browns.

Boston Red Sox – B- [49-41, 9.0 GB in AL East]

The Red Sox’ offense looks strong at the midway point of the season. In fact, they hold a .273 team batting average, tied with Minnesota for the best average in the majors. The pitching is a different story. Boston’s 4.60 team ERA ranks 18th in the majors, and they were shellacked in the London Series against the Yankees. Rafael Devers’ .324 batting average ranks sixth in the majors. Teammate Xander Bogaerts ranks T-8th in extra-base hits with 46. I would expect the defending champions to compete for a Wild Card spot in the second half as they have the offense to do so.

New York Yankees – A+ [57-31, Leads AL East]

The Yankees have sustained injury after injury yet they keep winning and have the best record in the American League. Not only do they already have a powerful lineup, but they went and picked up Edwin Encarnacion from Seattle. DJ LeMahieu is hitting .336, the third-best average in all of baseball. The Yankees have scored the 3rd-most team runs in the MLB with 503, and have the 2nd-most team RBI with 479. The pitching staff has put together a 4.17 ERA, 9th-lowest in the majors. Playing the Yankees is almost guaranteed to be a slugfest and they are clearly never out of a game. This team is a near lock for a playoff berth and may be a favorite to reach the World Series. If you hate the Yankees, then know that they have the 3rd-most defensive errors in the league with 65.

Toronto Blue Jays – D+ [34-57, 24.5 GB in AL East]

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has been the biggest highlight of the Jays’ season as they are rebuilding and bound to be sellers at the deadline. This is just the cycle of being a contender a few years back. The Blue Jays struggle in both hitting and pitching. The offense struggles to get on base (an essential in the movie “Moneyball”), with a .301 on-base percentage which is 27th in the MLB, while the pitching has a 4.96 ERA, ranking 24th.

Tampa Bay Rays – B+ [52-39, 6.5 GB in AL East]

Regardless of management considering splitting time with Montreal in future seasons, the Rays got off to a blistering start, but will need some work to get back to the top of the AL East. The highlight for the Rays has clearly been the pitching staff, which holds a lights-out 3.35 ERA, the lowest in the MLB. Charlie Morton has made 19 starts and leads the starting pitching with a 10-2 record and a 2.32 ERA. Hitting-wise, the Rays have struggled a bit, with only 413 runs scored and a .253 team batting average. Austin Meadows has had a break-out year, with a .289 batting average, adding 12 home runs.

AL Central

Image result for twins vs white soxPhoto Credit: Sox Machine

Chicago White Sox – C+ [41-44, 13.5 GB in AL Central]

The White Sox have seen great production out of their exciting young stars. Jose Abreu is developing into one of the young superstars of the game, batting .273 and hitting 20 home runs. Tim Anderson has also contributed a .317 average and at least one memorable bat flip. Yoan Moncada is hitting .308 with 16 homers. On the other side, pitching has been the weak point for the Sox, as they have the 5th-highest team ERA at 5.08 and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.14, which is the 3rd-lowest in the majors. In the end, the White Sox are not a team to overlook this year, and could be a playoff contender in the near future.

Cleveland Indians – B [50-38, 6.0 GB in AL Central]

The Indians in the first two months not only struggled, but were simply boring to watch. They would fall behind by a run or two and it felt like the game was over at that point. Since falling to 26-27 on May 27, the Indians have rebounded nicely and have closed the first-place gap with Minnesota. The pitching staff has been strong once again and Brad Hand has been an elite closer this season, only blowing one save in 24 attempts and boasting a 2.17 ERA. The offense, which was a major concern over a month ago, has picked up since June, and both Francisco Lindor and Carlos Santana are hitting over .290 on the season. Oscar Mercado has been an exciting young prospect as well.

Detroit Tigers – F [28-57, 26.5 GB in AL Central]

Just know that the Tigers have scored the fewest runs in the league and they will be sellers at the deadline. Also, the Tigers went 5-20 in June.

Kansas City Royals – F [30-61, 27.5 GB in AL Central]

Kansas City has a long way to go in their rebuild and do not have much to be excited about this year. Whit Merrifield has been a bright spot for Kansas City, hitting .306 with 11 home runs and 44 RBIs. The Royals’ 5.08 team ERA ranks 27th in the MLB.

Minnesota Twins – A+ [56-32, 1st in AL Central]

Even after a recent slide has trimmed Minnesota’s lead in the division, the Twins have shown how the right offseason moves will pay dividends. The offense has put up a .273 average which is tied for the league lead, while hitting 166 home runs, an MLB record prior to the All-Star break. Leading the power for Minnesota are Max Kepler with 21 home runs and Eddie Rosario with 20. The Twins also do not strike out a lot, only striking out 707 times at this point of the season, 4th-fewest in the league. Minnesota also has the 6th-best team ERA at 3.98, with Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi pitching their way to a 3.00 and 3.15 ERA, respectively. The race between Minnesota and a resurgent Cleveland team for the division title will be one to watch.

AL West

Image result for angels mourn tyler skaggsPhoto Credit: Reuters

Houston Astros – A [56-33, 1st in AL West]

Despite a seven-game losing streak in June and some key injuries during the season, the Astros still look incredibly strong going into the All-Star break. Michael Brantley has proven to be a valuable pickup in the offseason, batting .318 with 12 home runs and 46 RBI. With Brantley, Jose Altuve, and Carlos Correa hitting 2-4 in the order, the Astros will be unstoppable and will win the AL West again. The major team strength of the Astros has been the pitching, with a 3.80 team ERA, despite giving up the 5th-most home runs in the majors at 135. Houston is once again a difficult team to play on any given day.

Los Angeles Angels – C [45-45, 11.5 GB in AL West]

First and foremost, the Angels are going through a tough time with the death of pitcher Tyler Skaggs. I hope his family, friends, and the Angels’ organization are coping well with this sudden loss. This was a sad week for all of baseball.

Mike Trout has been well…Mike Trout, hitting .300 with 26 home runs and 63 RBI. The Angels’ as a whole have been decent offensively, with a team average of .258 (10th in MLB) and a total of 447 runs scored (12th). Pitching has been the weak point with a team ERA of 4.87, 21st in the majors. Also, Cody Allen was designated for assignment by the club after a difficult start to the season.

Oakland Athletics – B [49-41, 7.5 GB in AL West]

The A’s struggled to open the season, going just 15-21 in their first 36 games. However, Oakland has rebounded to finish the first half 34-20 after the tough start. Oakland is not necessarily known for hitting, batting just .246 as a team, but they have hit 142 home runs as a team, tied for sixth in the league. The A’s team ERA of 4.06 is good for seventh in the majors and Frankie Montas’ 9-2 record with a 2.70 ERA has been a major boost for the pitching staff. One area of concern for Oakland would be the 16 blown saves by the Athletics’ bullpen, tied for 6th-most in the majors.

Seattle Mariners – D [39-54, 19.0 GB in AL West]

The Mariners’ first 15 games saw a 13-2 start, the best record in the MLB, and some were wondering if they can make a run at the playoffs (the Mariners have not made the playoffs since 2001, the longest drought in the MLB). Since then, the Mariners’ season can be described as a mid-season tank. Jay Bruce and Edwin Encarnacion have been traded for prospects and yet another rebuild has begun. I think it’s safe to say that Seattle fans are looking forward to when the Seahawks begin their season.

Texas Rangers – B [47-42, 9.0 GB in AL West]

The Rangers have been a bit of surprise as they were not expected to do much this year but are in contention for the Wild Card as the season shifts to the second half. Texas has taken advantage of a hitters’ ballpark and scored 481 runs, 6th-most in the majors. Elvis Andrus has had a strong year, batting .307 and stealing 19 bases as well. On the pitching side, watch out for Mike Minor, who has a 2.54 ERA in 18 starts, and a 5.8 WAR.

In unrelated news, congrats to the US Women’s National Team for winning their second consecutive World Cup!

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