MLB’s Hunt for Red (Hot) October

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By Rockin’ Reese

(NOTE: All stats are, as of the end of Saturday’s games.)

MLB – Second Half

The All-Star Game has come & passed. Now, the 2nd half of the MLB season is under way. As there is every season, there are a lot of questions that need to be answered between now & October, en route to the post-season.

There are some teams who are looking like contenders, but some ill-timing can change that in a hurry. Then again, the correct addition and/or subtraction could mean a deep playoff run, maybe even a World Series championship. So, let’s try to see, if we can separate contenders & pretenders.

MLB

Right now, the best team in MLB is the Atlanta Braves. Let’s look at their pros & cons. Their pitching leads MLB in lowest combined ERA (3.62) & fewest runs scored against (358). They’re tied for 2nd in MLB for fewest home runs surrendered (94). They’re 2nd in the National League for striking batters out (854) & tied for 2nd in the NL for least hit team (733 times).

As for batting, (1st baseman) Matt Olson leads the NL (and is 2nd in MLB) in 3 categories…home runs (30), RBIs (76), & extra base hits (50). (Right fielder) Ronald Acuña Jr. leads the Braves in hittting (with 122 hits…2nd in the NL & 3rd in MLB). He leads MLB in runs scored (82) & is tied for MLB lead in stolen bases (43).

The Braves lead the NL and are 2nd in MLB in hitting (845 hits) & RBIs (494). They lead MLB in home runs (173). They lead the NL ins runs scored (513….which is 3rd in MLB). While all of that looks good for the Braves, there are some flaws. Their bullpen has blown 13 saves, this season.

Their 3 big guns (Spencer Strider, Charlie Morton, & Bryce Elder) have given up a combined 279 hits, 34 home runs & 111 walks. They have also hit 16 batters & threw 14 wild pitches. The Braves are among the MLB leaders in hitting into a double play (78). Olson has 110 strikeouts. Barring injury or rust, this may be Atlanta’s NL and/or World Series championship to lose.

Let’s take a look at the Houston Astros. The defending World Series Champions may be only 3 games behind the Texas Rangers in the American League West, but their season has been a struggle. In hitting, they have been in the middle of the pack in hits, home runs, RBIs, & earning walks.

They are tied for 5th in MLB in hitting into double plays. In pitching, they’re middle in the pack in hits given up, home runs surrendered, & batters walked. However, there are some bright spots. Kyle Tucker has  96 hits, with 13 home runs & 60 RBIs. Alex Bregman has 85 hits, with 12 home runs & 56 RBIS.

The combined pitching of the Astros has the 4th lowest ERA (3.73) & are the 5th best team at striking batters out (869) in MLB.  They’re also the best team in the AL at forcing hitters into a double play (78…which is 3rd in MLB). The champs can use some help in all facets, but the most dangerous champion is one who flies under the radar. If Houston can make moves & suddenly get hot, at the right time, we may be able to see them repeat.

The Tampa Bays were the best team in MLB for a majority of the first half of the season. Though they have cooled off from their white-hot start, they still have the best record in the AL. Tampa’s pitching has the lowest combined ERA in the AL (3.65, which is 2nd in MLB), given up the 2nd fewest hits in MLB (712), has the 2nd most shutouts in the AL (9), & are the least scored against team in MLB (360 runs).

For an individual pitcher, Shane McClanahan’s 2.53 is the lowest ERA in MLB. As for hitting, they are tied for most home runs in the AL (140, which is 3rd in MLB), are the 2nd-highest scoring team in MLB (516 runs), & are 3rd in MLB in RBIs (493).  They’re also great runners, leading the AL in stolen bases (112…2nd in MLB).

While this is good, they do have some areas where they can improve. They’re in the middle of the pack when it comes to drawing walks. Their relief pitching has blown 17 saves. Overall, there aren’t too many weaknesses for the Rays. However, with a lot of teams in really tight races throughout the AL, Tampa may want to start developing some impact players, if they want to be a threat, when October arrives.

A surprise team in this year’s 1st half has been the Arizona Diamondbacks. They have battled back & forth with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the lead in the NL West. However, for the D-backs, they’ll need a superb effort in the 2nd half to have a chance at a post-season berth.

When it comes to strengths, their pitching has hit the fewest batters in the NL (25, which is 2nd in MLB). In hitting, they’re 2nd in the NL with fewest strikeouts (726, which is tied for 3rd in MLB). At running, they’re 2nd in the NL at stealing bases (94). While they don’t have any glaring weaknesses, there are some areas, where they could improve.

Though Arizona is in the top 10 in MLB, they could improve in 4 areas…hitting, drawing walks, run scoring, & RBIs. As for the pitching, they can cut down on run scored against them & walked batters, while improving on forcing hitters into double plays & striking batters out.

MLB

There are several other teams to keep your eyes on in MLB. In the AL, the Baltimore Orioles, Toronto Blue Jays, Minnesota Twins,  Cleveland Guardians, & Rangers are in fights for division championships, as well as wild cards.

In the NL, the Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, & Dodgers are teams to keep your eyes on. Some may falter, while others may rise. For the remainder of summer, expect a lot of teams (including some on the outside looking in) to do whatever they can to make sure their baseball season doesn’t end on October 1st.

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