The Major League Baseball (MLB) season is nearly 80 percent complete, and this has been described by many as the “craziest” baseball season ever.
Prior to the season, the MLB implemented a series of new rules. These new rules included a universal designated hitter, a runner on second base to begin extra innings, and a minimum of three batters faced by a pitcher in each plate appearance. Another new rule that has changed up playoff seeding is that now there will be 16 teams in the playoffs.
At the moment, the Tampa Bay Rays, Chicago White Sox and Oakland Athletics are the top seeds in the American League (AL) while the Los Angeles Dodgers, San Diego Padres and the Atlanta Braves sit atop of the National League (NL). Surprisingly, however, the two best teams in the American League, the New York Yankees and Houston Astros, are at the bottom of the AL playoff race while the reigning World Series champions, the Washington Nationals, are the third-worst team in the NL.
Junior, business management major, James Higgins said that these were not his only surprises this year. Higgins said that his biggest surprises were how good the Miami Marlins have been and how disappointing the Los Angeles Angels have been.
“A hot start and a sense of urgency among its young team to make the playoffs for the first time since 2003 is why the Marlins are so good. Not only that but the Starling Marte addition has also been huge,” Higgins said. “For the Angels, the health of Ohtani on the mound, along with lackluster performances from people aside from Anthony Rendon, Mike Trout, and Dylan Bundy, have been the reason that the Angels have been so bad.”
The Marlins finished with a winning percentage of .352 last season but currently have a winning percentage of .523. The Angels were expected to be legitimate World Series contenders after adding Anthony Rendon, Julio Teheran, and their future Hall of Fame manager, Joe Maddon. However, the Angels have a winning percentage of .417.
Aside from surprising teams, Higgins added that there have been a handful of surprising and disappointing players. Those players have had an impact on their teams.
“For me, Mike Yastrzemski, Teoscar Hernandez, and Daniel Bard’s performances are awesome. However, I have been so disappointed in Javier Baez and Andrew Benintendi,” Higgins explained.
Mike Yastrzemski is currently a National League MVP candidate, as he is hitting .287 with 9 HR and 32 RBIs. Fans who read into advanced analytics have been high on Yastrzemski because he has a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 2.2. This means that, if you took Yastrzemski off of the San Francisco Giants, they would have 2.2 fewer wins than they have right now.
Teoscar Hernandez and Daniel Bard are two candidates to win the Comeback Player of the Year award. Last season, Hernandez hit .230 with 26 home runs, and he had a WAR of 1.2. This year, however, Hernandez is hitting .308 with 14 home runs and a WAR of 1.5. Bard, on the other hand, has not pitched in the MLB since 2013. Bard missed time with Tommy John surgery then was not pursued by any team when he was a free agent. However, Bard announced that he was making a comeback in February, and, since making the comeback, he has posted a 3.60 Earned Runs Average with 25 strikeouts in 20 innings.
For Higgins, his World Series prediction is the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. the Tampa Bay Rays. However, it will be close for the Rays if they can make the World Series.
“I give the edge to the Rays because of their lethal rotation,” Higgins said. “Blake Snell, Charlie Morton, and Tyler Glasnow have all been unbelievable this season. Additionally, Brandon Lowe and those guys can put up runs to support the staff.”
As for the Dodgers, the team currently sports the best record in baseball at 33-14. The Dodgers have been led by their superstar outfielder Mookie Betts, who in his first season is hitting .301 with 15 home runs. Higgins thinks that Betts will win the National League MVP award, edging out San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr.
The MLB playoffs are slated to begin at the end of September, and things are slated to change from now until then.