We’re at the midway point of the 2017 MLB Season. What it means is that not only do we get a chance to watch the Mid-Summer Classic, the MLB All-Star Game, but we also get a chance to revisit the first half of the MLB Season.
Because of that, instead of listing all 30 MLB Teams on this week’s Power Rankings list, I’ve only listed the Top 5 in each league. Hence we are presenting our mid-season American League power rankings. I’ve also broken up the Power Rankings list so that each league gets its own blog. This will be the format going forward. Why? The MLB Playoffs consists of 5 teams from each league.
In this blog, it’s all about the current 5 American League Playoff contenders.
Mid-Season American League Power Rankings
Mid-Season American League Power Rankings – Current Top 5 Playoff Contenders
1. Houston Astros 60-29
Houston has been the most consistent team in both the American League and National League since the beginning of the season. No team has been as solid all around as the Houston Astros.
There’s a huge reason for that. The Stros are ranked first in 4 offensive categories: runs per game, batting average, on base percentage plus slugging percentage, and total home runs. Houston averages 5.92 runs per game. The batting average is .289 per game. The ops is .855. The total home runs is 148.
Questions for Second Half of the Season
Although Houston averages 5.92 runs per game, their runs come in bunches. For example, they scored 19 against Toronto on Sunday, July 9. The true average might be lower, much lower, than 5.92 per game. Why? If you take out the anomalies, each game with total runs scored above 10, the average runs per game could fall to around 4 to 5.
Houston allows 3.93 runs per. If the average is around 4 to 5, Houston allows closer to what they average on offense per game. That’s not a great sign.
Houston also ranks 21st in quality starts with 36. Houston’s pitchers haven’t produced as many quality starts as a team with 60 wins should have produced.
Will Houston’s rotation produce enough quality starts for the Astros to win the MLB Playoffs?
2. Boston Red Sox 50-39
The Red Sox have played their best baseball in the past month. Like Houston, there is a main reason why.
Boston ranks second in MLB with 51 quality starts. Boston starters usually pitch great games. When the rotation does that well, it makes it easy for the bullpen.
The bullpen is the second reason why the Red Sox have taken over the AL East Division. The bullpen ranks third in MLB. It has a 3.08 ERA. It also has a 15-8 record. The bullpen bails out Red Sox starters in non-quality starts.
Question for Second Half of the Season
The Red Sox look good, right? Not so fast. Although Boston is ahead in the AL East, they haven’t responded against AL East teams. Here’s what I mean:
They split a 4-game series with the Baltimore Orioles in early June. The Red Sox went 1 and 2 versus the Yankees in mid-June. They swept the Toronto Blue Jays, but just last week they went 1-3 straight up against the Tampa Bay Rays.
If Boston can’t beat teams in their own division, how are they going to win the division? Also, in regards to Boston’s quality starts, Chris Sale’s quality start percentage is 83.3%. Rick Porcello’s is 63.2%. David Price’s is 66.7%.
Can Boston survive with only Sale providing quality starts?
3. Cleveland Indians 47-40
Finally, the Tribe has taken over the AL Central Division. Earlier in the season, the AL Central was one of the toughest divisions in baseball. Not so anymore. Cleveland now has the top ranked bullpen in MLB. The Tribe’s relievers have a 2.84 ERA. The bullpen has allowed only 3 stolen bases on the season. That’s close to phenomenal.
Corey Kluber is working towards another Cy Young. His WHIP is a masterful .99. His ERA is a very good 2.80.
Questions for Second Half of the Season
The bullpen is only 10-10 in 2017. What it means is that Cleveland’s relievers are often put into an untenable situation. That’s not good. It helps to have a great bullpen, no doubt, but if the bullpen has nothing to work with, if it always must bail out the starters, you won’t win the MLB Playoffs.
There’s another big question regarding the Tribe. Did the Tribe take over the AL Central because they’re that much better than Minnesota, Detroit, and Kansas City? Are those teams bad? Will Kansas City continue its ascension and take over Cleveland?
Lots of questions regarding last year’s AL World Series participant.
4. New York Yankees 45-41
New York is only 3.5 games behind Boston in the AL East. The Yankees have a great OPS at .794. That ranks third in MLB. They also average 5.55 runs per game. That ranks second in MLB. Not only that, but it’s hard to see anyone in the American League winning MVP outside of Aaron Judge. Judge has hit 30 home runs. He also has a 3.29 batting average.
Questions for the Second Half
Masahiro Tanaka’s ERA is 5.47. Michael Pineda? His ERA is 4.39. The good news is that CC Sabathia’s ERA is 3.81. Luis Severino’s ERA is even better at 3.54. The bad news is that Houston bats .333 versus Severino. The Yankees would face Houston in the AL Divisional Playoffs if the postseason were today with a win in the AL Wildcard Game. Houston only bats .182 versus CC.
The problem with utilizing CC is that he rarely pitches over 6 innings. The Yankees bullpen has a 4.04 ERA. Will it be good enough to fill in for Sabathia versus a team that hits like the Houston Astros?
Will Severino, Pineda, and Tanaka get it together? These are huge questions involving the New York Yankees. If the rotation doesn’t come together, it’s going to be tough for NYY to catch the Red Sox in the AL East.
5. Minnesota Twins 45-43
At the MLB All-Star Break, Minnesota is half a game ahead of Kansas City in the AL Central Division. The Twins are only 2.5 games behind Cleveland in the AL Central. Minnesota has stuck around even though their batting line-up and starting rotation isn’t nearly as formidable as Cleveland’s.
How? Minnesota’s stuck around because their top 2 pitchers, Jose Berrios and Ervin Santana, are pitching lights out. Berrios, a 23-year-old from Bayamon, Puerto Rico, has a 3.53 ERA. His WHIP is 1.08. His win and loss record is 8-2.
Santana, a 34-year-old, 12-year veteran, has never been better. It’s amazing, but Ervin Santana is having a career season at the mound. His ERA is a terrific 2.99. His WHIP is 1.08. He’s 10-6 straight up.
Questions for the Second Half
First, Minnesota’s bullpen isn’t very good. The Twins’ relievers have a 4.90 ERA. Opposing batters have hit 135 home runs against Twin relievers. That ranks third in MLB behind Cincinnati’s bullpen at 146, and Seattle’s bullpen at 137.
What’s the batting average versus Minnesota’s relievers? How about .271. The OBP is .337. Only Detroit and Cincinnati, the New York Mets, and Baltimore have a worse bullpen on-base percentage. Minny’s bullpen has allowed 428 earned runs.
Cincinnati at 439 and Baltimore’s BP at 431 are worse. But, those are the only 2 teams with bullpens that have allowed more earned runs than the Twins.
That’s not all. The biggest question about Minnesota isn’t whether the bullpen holds up. The biggest question is whether Santana and Berrios hold up.
Berrios might already have a tired arm. He pitched 8 innings on June 15. He pitched 8 innings on June 21. In his last 3 starts, he hasn’t pitched over 6.1 innings. On June 26, he pitched 6.1 innings versus the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox beat Minny 4 to 1. He got only 5 innings versus KC on July 1. KC beat Minnesota 11 to 6.
On July 7, Berrios pitched 6 innings. The Twins beat the Orioles 6 to 4 because Baltimore’s bullpen is worse than Minnesota’s.
Santana has thrown the 9-inning complete gem here and there. But, in between the 9-inning gems, he’s had trouble making it to the fifth in recent games. On June 30, the Royals shelled Ervin for 5 earned runs off 8 hits in 5.l innings.
That’s the big question. The bullpen is a mess. We know that. Will Berrios and Santana hold up in the second half of the current MLB Season? If they don’t, the Twins are toast because Minnesota’s relievers aren’t going to bail out Berrios and Santana on days those guys don’t last at least 8.