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Circling the Bases as Baseball Nears Its Midpoint

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The All-Star break has typically been used to separate up baseball’s first and second halves. While that has all the time been misleading — teams often mess around 90 games in the primary half, leaving only 72 for the second half — it’s much more extreme this season because the All-Star Game won’t be held until July 19, the newest it has been played in a full season since 1977.

As teams should reach their actual midpoint of 81 games early next week, it’s an excellent time to go searching the majors for essentially the most intriguing plotlines to a season that had seemed in jeopardy of not being played as recently as early March.

A take a look at this season’s E.R.A. leaders shows a brilliant future for the sport. Shane McClanahan, 25, a second-year starter for the Tampa Bay Rays, was leading all starters with a 1.77 E.R.A. through Thursday. Sandy Alcantara of the Miami Marlins was second at 1.95 — he’s only 26. Seven of the highest 10 were under 30, the youngest of which, Alek Manoah of the Toronto Blue Jays, is a serious contender for the American League Cy Young Award at 24.

After which there’s Justin Verlander. Coming off a two-season stretch by which he pitched a complete of six innings due to injuries, Verlander, the 39-year-old ace of the Houston Astros, was third within the majors with a 2.03 E.R.A. and was the primary pitcher this season to succeed in 10 wins. Perhaps most impressively, the second oldest lively player within the majors was fourth in innings pitched. That will be a surprise for many aging pitchers after a protracted absence, but in some way makes perfect sense for Verlander, a throwback starter who has topped 200 innings 12 times.

Aaron Judge just keeps hitting home runs. Judge, the Yankees’ supersize slugger, placed an infinite bet on himself this off-season, turning down a $213.5 million contract extension, and has proceeded to have what’s looking like a profession season. Through Thursday he was hitting .286 with 29 home runs and 59 runs batted in while leading his team to the most effective record within the majors. Barring catastrophe, it looks like Judge’s bet pays off.

The query is how significantly better things could get from here. Through Thursday, he was keeping pace with Babe Ruth’s 1927 season (29 home runs in his first 75 games) and was just off the pace of Roger Maris’s 1961 season (30 in 75). Whether you select to view Maris because the legitimate single-season record-holder or not — everyone with greater than his 61 homers in a season has been connected to performance-enhancing drugs — the indisputable fact that Judge has a likelihood of breaking the Yankees’ franchise mark is reason enough to get excited.

The Albert Pujols Farewell Tour is wreaking havoc on the record books, and galvanizing quite just a few smiles, even when the aging slugger was only hitting .198 through Thursday.

Pujols had chipped in 23 hits, passing Eddie Collins and Paul Molitor to maneuver as much as ninth on the profession list. He had added 39 total bases, passing Willie Mays for third place. And with 40 games played, he had passed, in succession, Dave Winfield, Barry Bonds, Cal Ripken Jr. and Mays to maneuver into eighth. If he were so as to add one other 40 games within the second half of the season, he would leapfrog Stan Musial, Eddie Murray and Ty Cobb as well, ending fifth on that profession list.

Unfortunately, Pujols’s goal of being the fourth player with 700 home runs looks like it is going to remain out of reach. He’s 17 short and doesn’t have the playing time, or the consistency, for that to be realistic.

The most beneficial reliever in baseball is just not his team’s closer — at the least not officially. Through Thursday, Clay Holmes, a breakout star for the Yankees, had put together a 0.49 E.R.A. in 36⅔ innings, with 38 strikeouts, and he led all major league relievers with 2.0 wins above alternative. Despite that, he could soon lose his interim gig ending games because Aroldis Chapman, a fireballing left-hander whose salary is 16 times higher than Holmes’s, is on the verge of coming back from the injured list.

With Chapman, 34, eligible without spending a dime agency this off-season, and Holmes, 29, just entering his arbitration years, the Yankees appear to have a succession plan in place — that worked out well when Mariano Rivera arrived within the waning days of John Wetteland. But the subsequent few months might be awkward if Holmes continues to outpitch Chapman, but is doing it through the eighth inning.

Paul Goldschmidt of the St. Louis Cardinals and Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels each had 4.2 wins above alternative through Thursday, while Manny Machado of the San Diego Padres and Shohei Ohtani of the Angels each had 3.9. Those superstars were all looking up at Tommy Edman, a middle infielder for the Cardinals, who was somewhat inexplicably leading all position players with 4.5 WAR, in accordance with Baseball Reference.

Edman’s stat line doesn’t jump out. He was hitting .271 with a .341 on-base percentage and .401 slugging percentage. He was 19 of twenty-two in stolen base attempts, had hit seven home runs and he was leading his league in just one standard category: runs scored, with 58.

But WAR includes defense, and Edman has been putting on a show, leading the majors with 2.1 defensive WAR due to a reasonably incredible 11 defensive runs saved in 43 starts at second base and one other 5 in 30 starts at shortstop.

The Athletics have been increase and tearing down teams for generations. Going back to 1901, they’ve won 100 or more games 10 times, capturing nine World Series titles, but they’ve lost 100 or more games 16 times.

This 12 months’s club appears destined to make it 17 100-loss seasons, and while that’s hardly surprising considering their off-season fire sale, the best way they’re doing it’s notable. Through Thursday, they were 8-28 at home, putting them on pace to lose 63 games at Oakland Coliseum, which might shatter the record for home losses of 59, which is shared by the 1939 St. Louis Browns and the 2019 Detroit Tigers. Even the lowly 1962 Mets only lost 58 at home.

Softening the blow — or potentially being a cause for it — is the indisputable fact that not many individuals have been there to see those losses. The A’s are dead last within the majors with a median attendance of 8,358 fans per game. That will be the bottom average within the majors since 2001 and it is almost 1,000 fewer per game than Oakland’s Class AAA team, the Las Vegas Aviators, drew in 2019.

The Yankees have been the most effective team in baseball this season, each in record and run differential, and for much of the 12 months they were joined at the highest by the Mets, who had cruised along as the highest National League team despite injuries to pitchers Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom.

A recent downturn on offense, nonetheless, has the Mets fading. They’ve already been overtaken by the Los Angeles Dodgers for the most effective record within the N.L. and the Atlanta Braves are attempting to sneak up and steal the N.L. East title once more.

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