We have reached the halfway point of the 2015 MLB season as the All-Stars convene tomorrow night in Cincinnati. Here is a summary of what has occurred so far.
At the beginning of July, one game separated the Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees and the Toronto Blue Jays for first place. Less than a fortnight later, the Yankees have grabbed the reins of the AL East by winning 7 out of 10 games this month while the O’s, Rays & Jays have struggled in July, with Baltimore going 3-8 and Tampa Bay & Toronto going 4-8. The Yankees now have a 3 ½ game lead over the Rays. Still, the Rays, O’s & Jays aren’t out of the running by a long shot. Nor are the Boston Red Sox who have gone 6-4 in July and have a 15-9 record since June 16th and are only 6 ½ games out of first place.
The Kansas City Royals own the best record in the AL with a 52-34 mark, including an 8-4 mark so far in July. But after a mediocre June, the Minnesota Twins have also gone 8-4 this month and are only 4½ back of the Royals and if the season were to end today would have one of the two AL Wild Card spots. The Twins took three out of four games this weekend from the Detroit Tigers, who finish the first half with a .500 record and 9 games back of the Royals. The Tigers, who were expected by many to win the AL pennant, must be the biggest disappointment in the junior circuit. Meanwhile, the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox are tied for the cellar, with both teams 11 games back of Kansas City, although the Chisox are 8-3 so far in July. Still, both the Chisox and the Tribe have a lot of ground to make up in the second half assuming they aren’t sellers on the July 31st trade deadline.
The Houston Astros led the AL West for nearly three months until yesterday, when they were overtaken by the Los Angeles Angels. Since Jerry DiPoto’s abrupt resignation as GM, the Angels have won 7 of 10 games while the Astros have lost 8 of their last 11 games and lost their last six games going into the All-Star Break. Still, they would have the other AL Wild Card spot if the season were to end today. Given their relative youth one must wonder if the Astros have peaked and have now begun to fall back to earth. Meanwhile, the Texas Rangers, who were so spectacular in May, have lost 8 out of 10 games in July to fall under .500. The Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s tread water at the bottom of the division, 7½ & 8½ games back of the Angels, respectively.
The Washington Nationals, behind the pitching of Max Scherzer and the slugging of Bryce Harper, lead the NL East, but the New York Mets are only two games back. After playing sub-.500 ball in May and June following a spectacular April, the Mets are 7-4 in July. They will be competitive in both the NL East & NL Wild Card races. The Atlanta Braves have been going one step forward, two steps back. The Braves reached the .500 mark on July 7, but have lost five in a row to fall seven games back of the Nats.
Not only have the Miami Marlins lost Giancarlo Stanton, but they have now lost Dee Gordon, who was elected to start the All-Star Game, to a dislocated thumb. It’s going to be a long summer in Miami, but not as long as in Philadelphia. The Phillies are 2-10 in July and own MLB’s worst record at 29-62, 21 games back of Washington. All Phillies fans have to look forward to are the prospects they get for Cole Hamels, Jonathan Papelbon, and Ryan Howard.
While the St. Louis Cardinals still have the best record in MLB, they have gone 4-8 so far in July. At the beginning of the month, the Cards had an 8 game lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Bucs have gone 10-2 in July and have closed that gap from 8 to 2½ games. Much of this was result of the Pirates taking 3 out of 4 games from the Cardinals, which included back to back walk off victories in extra innings.
Even if the Pirates don’t win the NL Central, they are firmly ensconsed in the NL Wild Card, with the Chicago Cubs occupying the other spot. There can be little doubt that Cubs manager Joe Maddon has the likes of Kris Bryant and Addison Russell playing well above their experience.
Reds fans can look forward to hosting the All-Star Game and little else. With the Reds 15½ games back of the Cardinals, I wonder if we will see a fire sale in Cincinnati at the end of the month. I wouldn’t be surprised if Johnny Cueto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, and even Joey Votto are in new uniforms by month’s end. The Milwaukee Brewers are 7-4 in July, but 18½ games back of the Cardinals they are still dead last in the NL Central.
After a .500 June, the Dodgers have won 7 of 11 in July and enjoy a 4½ game lead over the San Francisco Giants who continue to play the mediocre ball they played in June following a sensational May. The team I would look out for in the second half is the Arizona Diamondbacks. They reached the .500 mark on July 8, but were swept this past weekend by the Mets. Still, the D’Backs have exceeded expectations so far in 2015 and if I were part of the Dodgers organization I would be more worried about the D’Backs than the Giants.
The San Diego Padres, on the other hand, have been the NL’s biggest disappointment. The off-season additions of Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, Derek Norris, Will Myers, and James Shields simply haven’t borne fruit. Ten games back of the Dodgers, the Padres are only marginally better than they were a year ago. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Colorado Rockies, who have won their last four games, soon overtake the Padres and jump out of last place in the division.
Although I will be watching the All-Star Game tomorrow night, I will not be watching the Home Run Derby. It is the same reason as I had five years ago and his name is Chris Berman.
Traditionally, the host city of the MLB All-Star Game alternates between the AL & NL. However, this year’s All-Star Game in Cincinnati will be the first of four straight All-Star Games to be hosted in National League parks. San Diego, Miami, and D.C. will host the next three mid-summer classics.
Is MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred avoiding certain AL parks such as Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field, which has never hosted an All-Star Game, Oakland’s O.Co Stadium, which hasn’t seen an All-Star Game since 1987, and Toronto’s Rogers Centre, which last hosted the mid-summer classic in 1991?
I suspect this is the case because the Trop is an eyesore and is on artificial turf, as is the Rogers Centre. I also cannot help but wonder if Manfred has a bias against Canada. O.Co Stadium is pretty ugly as well. Although the question with the A’s is if they will move out of Oakland. It’s unlikely they’ll go to San Jose because of objections by the Giants. Still, I wonder if the A’s are looking to move. In which case, it makes little sense to showcase Oakland to a national audience.
If Manfred does award the All-Star Game to an AL city in 2019 I believe it will be at Camden Yards in Baltimore, which last hosted the All-Star Game in 1993.
Finally, here is my 2015 All-Star Game prediction: AL 7, NL 5. All-Star Game MVP: Brock Holt, Boston Red Sox.