- Logan Kaufman
How Things Are Looking In The AL
Now that almost half of the MLB has completed half of the season, it's about time to reflect and look at who has excelled in the first half as well as who has some work to do to make the playoffs.
To start things off we have the American League Central, also known as the undoubtedly best division in Major League Baseball. The AL Central appears to be filled with previously slacking teams, but this season they have come to play. With a combined win percentage of over .550 the division is easily pulling their weight in the American League, as well as making a strong case to be the best division in baseball. The Twins are leading the way and are one of only four teams in the entire MLB to have won at least 20 games thus far. Assuming that the team leaders Nelson Cruz and Kenta Maeda remain healthy, this team could become the team to beat in the American League. If you focus on the Twins roster deeper than their two stars, you will notice that over half of the team has an on-base percentage of over .300. That being said, this team is extremely dangerous, not to mention that they still have slumping Josh Donaldson who is likely to catch fire soon. The two teams tied for second in the division are the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox. Both teams are sitting at a 19 and 12 record, while also boasting the fifth-best records in the MLB. To wrap things up in the division, the troubled Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals are in 4th and 5th Place. Both teams are well under a .500 record and would have to play extremely well in the second half of the to even have a shot at making the playoffs. All in all, the AL Central is an extremely strong division that will likely become stronger in the coming years. With both the Tigers and the Royals experiencing a rebuild, it's only a matter of time before the entire division has a winning record.
Moving on to the American League West, which is probably the worst division in baseball. Although they were considered one of the best divisions last season, the first 30 games of this season have not treated them well. The Angels are 12 games under a winning record and far out of playoff standards, while the Mariners and Rangers are just a couple of games ahead of them. It's almost unfair to include the Oakland Athletics in a discussion about the AL West because the Athletics have worked their way up to displaying the second-best record in the MLB. Sitting at a comfortable 22-10, the Athletics have had very few bumps in the road besides losing their hottest player to a suspension after he started the first fight of the season. Trailing the Athletics are the Houston Astros, who are not quite living up to expectations this season. It's hard to say why, but for the first time in the last 4 years, the Astros are not on pace to have above a .617 win percentage for the season. This number may not seem significant, but in a 162-game season, a .617 win percentage achieves 100 games won. The reasoning behind the Astros being at only a .548 win percentage this season is unknown. It could be the firing of manager AJ Hinch, the unfortunate injury to All-Star third baseman Alex Bregman, or maybe even the fact that they don't have helpful technology in their jerseys anymore. It's very questionable what it is that is holding the Astros back from being great, but what is not questionable is whether or not they will make the playoffs. They are comfortably in second place in the division ahead of the third-place Mariners by over 5 games. I think it's needless to say that this division only has a couple of real contenders this season.
The final division in the American League is the American League East. This division actually feels a little bit out of whack considering that the Orioles aren't in the last place spot for the first time in four seasons. What is even crazier is that the Red Sox are in the last place spot for the first time since 2015. The Red Sox are miserable with a 10 and 21 record, while at the same time being almost 11 games out of first place. There's not much to look forward to for the Red Sox as they most likely will not make the playoffs and they'll have to dread the decision to let Mookie Betts go for the next 10 years. The Orioles are 4.5 games in front of the Red Sox in fourth place. Despite fourth-place being not too good, the Orioles are playing better than they have in the last 4 years. They even have a legitimate playoff opportunity and are showing signs of coming out of a long rebuild. Sitting right in the middle of the division is the temporarily relocated, Toronto Blue Jays. The Blue Jays have managed to maintain a steady winning record, with the disadvantage of playing all their home games in Buffalo. To no one's surprise, the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees are the top two teams in the division. The Yankees have just under a .600 win percentage but that is likely to change once they get their Sluggers Gleyber Torres, Giancarlo Stanton, and Aaron judge back from injury. At first place in the division with the third-best record in the MLB are the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays have had a fantastic season and are looking to be a real threat come playoff time.
Now it's time to review each team's playoff chances. We can start by easily eliminating the Red Sox, Tigers, Royals, Mariners, Rangers, and Angels. Those 6 teams would require a miracle, as they all have under a 10% chance to make the playoffs. The Athletics, Astros, Indians, Twins, White Sox, Yankees, and Rays all have above a 97% chance to make the playoffs and can basically be guaranteed spots in the postseason at this point. With those seven spots taken, there is only one remaining playoff position. Considering that the Orioles and Blue Jays are the only two teams left in the American League, they will most likely be the two teams fighting it out for that second wild-card spot.
In conclusion, the American League has been somewhat inconsistent this season. Each division has big surprises whether it be an unexpected first-place team or an unexpected last-place team. Although the season is only halfway complete, it's fair to say that the playoffs look set beside the last wild-card spot. The wild card position is likely to go to the Blue Jays or Orioles but it is too early to guarantee that one of those teams will take the spot. Perhaps the Red Sox will recover their consistent offense from previous seasons or the Yankees will take a fall down the standings, with their main sluggers on the IL. With only 30 games to go in the season, the playoff race begins, and the real World Series contenders will arise!
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