The 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star game is in the books as the second half is set to open up on Friday. This has been a busy past ten days as we have seen a shake up in the American League West heading into the All-Star Break. Follow that up with an American League 6-3 win that guarantees the American League home field advantage in the World Series.
Before we start to look at each of the three American League divisions individually we first want to start by looking at the Los Angeles Angels. The same Angels team that started off slow, fell to the bottom of the American League West division and traded off Josh Hamilton for almost nothing.
Now these Angels have climbed themselves back up the standings to take home first place in the division at 48-40. Their late success prior the All-Star break including winning seven of their last ten games while the Houston Astros played to just a 2-8 record over that stretch helped propel them to the top.
Much of the Angels success in the first half came with their powerful lineup that includes MVP Mike Trout and former MVP Albert Pujols. The Angels pitching staff has been solid all season allowing the fewest runs in the American League and second fewest in the American League.
Here is a quick American League Recap of the first half as we get set for an action packed second half.
American League East: The American League East continues to be an up and down division that now has the New York Yankees sitting in first place at the break. Much of the teams’ success came with a solid stretch including winning seven of their last ten games before the break. Add in a bad stretch that included seeing the Tampa Bay Rays play to a 4-6 record, the Baltimore Orioles to a 2-8 record and Toronto Blue Jays a 3-7 record.
Add in a Boston Red Sox team that has won six of their last ten games to move themselves within six and half games heading into the break. For now this division is the Yankees to lose as they continue to produce at the plate helping them to overcome a struggling pitching staff that has seen CC Sabathia and Mashario Tanaka struggle at times.
The team’s one big advantage is having one of the best eighth and ninth inning combination in all of baseball in Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller. Betances is 5-2 with seven saves with a 1.53 earned run average in 41 appearances. Despite missing some time, Miller appeared in 29 games picking up 18 saves and a 1.53 earned run average.
American League Central: The first half has completely belonged to the Kansas City Royals as they sit with the best record in the American League at 52-34 and in first place by 4.5 games in the Central division. The teams’ success showed up at the Mid Summer Classic as Salvador Perez, Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar securing starting spots on the American League roster.
Now the teams offense has been solid the teams’ success is still with their pitching as they currently lead the American League allowing just 317 runs. The starting pitching has been solid but the teams bullpen has been brilliant including Wade Davis, Jason Frasor, Kelvin Herrera, Ryan Madson, Franklin Morales and Greg Holland.
Out of that group Davis has been the leader picking up a 5-1 record to go with nine saves in 39 appearances. The more impressive stat is the fact he allowed just two earned runs over that stretch while pitching to a .46 earned run average.
While the Royals have been one of the hotter teams, the Minnesota Twins have been one of the bigger surprises in all of baseball. The Twins currently hold the second best record at 49-40 and currently sit in second place in the central division. Following the Twins is the Detroit Tigers who have been without Miguel Cabrera since July third after suffering an injury.
Round out the division is the Cleveland Indians at 42-46 in fourth while the Chicago White Sox sit in last place at 41-45.
American League West: In what might be one of the more surprising turn of events before the break the Angels have found a way to dethrone the Astros atop the American League West. A hot stretch that saw the Angels win fives straight games along with a seven of their last ten before the break.
While the team success picking up wins helped them move up the board the Astros struggles helped along the way. That included losing six straight entering the All-Star break after being swept by the Rays and losing three of four against the Indians. The Astros also lost the final two games of against the Red Sox putting them at just 2-8 before the break.
One of the Angels biggest key factors has been the hot play of Albert Pujols prior to the All-Star break. Pujols currently leads the American League tied with teammate Mike Trout with 26 home runs. Pujols is hitting .255 to go with 26 home runs and 56 runs batted in.
Outside of the Astros and Angels, the Texas Rangers, Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s have all struggled. The Rangers who put together a hot streak played to just a 2-8 record prior to the break while the Mariners have been one of the biggest disappointments in all of baseball at just 41-48.
Here are a few players that stood out on paper in the first half of the season in the American League.
Manny Machado, Baltimore Orioles: While Trout and Cabrera continue to put together another big season the name that has surprised us this season is Manny Machado. Machado who is coming off of two knee surgeries is hitting .298 with 19 home runs and 48 runs batted in while playing gold glove defense at third base. Machado made his second All-star appearance picking up an rbi and double after appearing in the home run derby on Monday Night.
Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros: Much of the Astros early first half success has come with their pitching including Keuchel. Keuchel currently leads the American League tied with Felix Hernandez with 11 wins while sitting just behind Sonny Gray in earned run average with a 2.23 over the first half.