The biggest surprises of MLB’s first half


As we await the MLB season’s resumption later this week, I believed it might be enjoyable to replicate on every thing we have seen to this point. So far, plenty of issues have unfolded the best way we thought they’d again in spring coaching, however maybe, much more, haven’t. Let’s check out among the largest surprises the primary half of the MLB season has introduced. 


(Photograph by Steph Chambers/Getty Photos)

The western world knew Shohei Ohtani was a star from the second he left Japan and joined the Angels forward of the 2018campaign. And whereas he was the AL Rookie of the 12 months that season and has been a productive a part of LA’s workforce for some time, Ohtani had by no means accomplished what he is doing proper now. The left-handed slugger at present leads the Majors with 33 residence runs, and his 70 RBI path solely Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Rafael Devers. However what makes Ohtani the percentages on favourite to win MVP isn’t just what he is doing on the plate. Each fifth day he takes the mound for the Angels, and he is blossomed into the ace of their employees. In 13 first-half begins, the right-handed pitcher has put up a 3.49 ERA with a .195 batting common in opposition to. Whereas punching out 87 hitters in 67 innings. Baseball has simply not seen this stage of two-way star actually since Babe Ruth, and it has been simply unimaginable to look at. 


2 of 20

The Yankees’ struggles

The Yankees' struggles

(Photograph by Abbie Parr/Getty Photos)

This was simply not the best way 2021 was imagined to go within the Bronx. Getting into the 12 months the Yankees had been postseason members in 5 of the earlier six seasons, and with a Tampa Bay workforce that misplaced two of their prime beginning pitchers over the winter, the AL East seemed like New York’s to lose. Nicely. They’re shedding it. On the break, the Yanks sit in 4th place and a whopping eight video games again of Boston for the division lead. Within the wild card race, they’re 4.5 behind Oakland for the ultimate playoff spot, with three different groups forward of them. New York has simply struggled to get something going, and even after an emotionally uplifting efficiency by their ace Gerrit Cole final Saturday, they adopted that up by permitting six runs within the ninth inning to humiliatingly blow a late 7-2 result in the hated Astros within the final recreation earlier than the break. 


3 of 20

How the A’s are nonetheless not being talked about sufficient

How the A's are still not being talked about enough

(Photograph by Ron Jenkins/Getty Photos)

Perpetually in baseball, there are two small-market franchises that by no means appear to get sufficient consideration for simply how good they’re. Tampa Bay and Oakland. The Rays vault to the AL pennant final fall appears to have put them slightly extra on the nationwide radar this 12 months, however how do individuals proceed to sleep on the A’s? On the break, Oakland is 12 video games over .500 and solely 3.5 behind Houston for the AL West lead. They’re additionally 3.5 away from the competitors and holding the 2nd wild card place. The A’s are doing it with a pitching employees led by relative unknowns to the nationwide viewers in Sean Manaea and Chris Bassitt, and a line-up that is gotten a profession 12 months from first baseman Matt Olsen and a rejuvenated efficiency from Jed Lowrie in his Bay Space return.  


4 of 20

The Giants proudly owning the very best document within the massive leagues

The Giants owning the best record in the big leagues

(Photograph by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Photos)

That is most likely the most important shock within the recreation in the mean time, to be trustworthy. Heading into 2021 you knew the NL West was loaded, with each the Dodgers and Padres anticipated to be the 2 prime groups within the league. The remainder of the division? Nicely, not a lot. How incorrect may which were? Led by skipper Gabe Kapler the Giants have been the very best workforce in baseball to date and it has been a full workforce effort. San Francisco has seen 19 particular person gamers hit residence runs for them in 2021, and on the pitching facet profession years from Kevin Gausman and Anthony DeSclafani have gone a good distance in the direction of retaining them atop the senior circuit. The Giants have a frightening schedule over the ultimate two and a half months, however nothing they did within the first half would point out they are not up for the duty. 


5 of 20

The Angels staying related with out Mike Trout

The Angels staying relevant without Mike Trout

(Photograph by Omar Rawlings/Getty Photos)

Possibly the Angels acquired sick of listening to the narrative of them having the very best participant within the sport however being unable to win with him. All world famous person Mike Trout went down with a calf harm on Could seventeenth, and most observers of America’s Pastime most likely assumed their season was over on that date. Nicely. Since Trout hit the IL the Angels have gone 27-22 and located a approach to preserve themselves related heading into the second half. That is largely because of the brilliance of the aforementioned Shohei Ohtani, however with Trout slated to return quickly after the break, this might be a workforce to look at. Los Angeles is barely 5.5 out of a playoff spot, and one sustained sizzling streak may put them firmly within the postseason combine. 


6 of 20

The extent of Jacob deGrom’s dominance

The extent of Jacob deGrom's dominance

(Photograph by Adam Starvation/Getty Photos)

What’s left to say about Mets’ ace, Jacob deGrom? The best-hander is the unparalleled finest pitcher in our sport and it is actually not shut. 5 runs allowed over his final 14 innings ballooned deGrom’s ERA all the best way as much as 1.08. In seven of his 15 begins although, deGrom has not allowed a single runner to attain, and along with ERA, he is additionally pacing the league in each WHIP and batting common in opposition to. deGrom is sitting out the all-star recreation this week along with his sights set on main the Mets to their first NL East crown in six years. 


7 of 20

The Braves reaching the break with a shedding document

The Braves reaching the break with a losing record

(Photograph by Todd Kirkland/Getty Photos)

Contemporary off three consecutive NL East titles this was certainly not the 2021 the Braves or their followers had in thoughts. Bit exhausting by the harm bug–Atlanta has already misplaced all of Ronald Acuna Jr., Mike Soroka, and Travis d’Arnaud for the 12 months as a result of harm. (Along with Marcell Ozuna for a complete different purpose). Their season just isn’t over by any means as they’re solely 4 behind the Mets for the NL East lead on the break, however at 44-45, Atlanta will want some reinforcements if they are going to make a critical playoff push. 


8 of 20

The mediocrity of the NL East normally

The mediocrity of the NL East in general

(Photograph by Maddie Meyer/Getty Photos)

Talking of the NL East. Most individuals agreed throughout spring coaching that this division was more likely to be essentially the most aggressive in baseball. As I simply talked about, the Braves had owned the East for a number of years in a row and had been once more robust on paper. The Mets made a ton of enhancements. The Nationals added veterans Kyle Schwarber and Brad Hand and felt they had been again to being a authentic title menace. And the Phillies actually believed they may make this division a four-team race. As an alternative, Philadelphia has been held again by a traditionally dangerous bullpen, the Nationals have struggled mightily to realize any traction, and Atlanta has misplaced a number of key items as a result of harm and had spotty play from everybody whose final identify just isn’t Acuna, Freeman, or Albies. The Mets have led this division for over two months and have had their points themselves, but when no one else can string collectively any consistency they might win the division by default.


9 of 20

The way in which the Cubs fully fell off a cliff

The way the Cubs completely fell off a cliff

(Photograph by Jamie Sabau/Getty Photos)

The place the Cubs are proper now may not signify a complete shock, however the best way they acquired there would possibly. Chicago was anticipated to take a step again in 2021 and maybe be a vendor on the deadline, however halfway by June that not their actuality in any respect. As not too long ago as June twenty second Chicago led the NL Central. Now they’re eight behind the Brewers and in 4th place. An eleven-game shedding streak primarily ended the Cubs’ postseason hopes, and now we wait and see simply what number of stars they may actually commerce away. 


10 of 20

Kyle Schwarber’s residence run tear

Kyle Schwarber's home run tear

(Photograph by Mitchell Layton/Getty Photos)

The one actual sizzling streak the Nationals had been in a position to put collectively this season got here within the second half of June, and it was nearly totally the doing of a one-man wrecking crew. Left-handed slugger Kyle Schwarber blasted a ridiculous 12 lengthy balls in a ten recreation span, tying Albert Belle for essentially the most ever in that time-frame. Sadly for each Schwarber and the Nationals, shortly after that, he went down with a hamstring harm which will preserve him out for some time. 


The breakout of Jared Walsh

(Photograph by Steph Chambers/Getty Photos)

We talked about earlier how effectively the Angels have performed even within the absence of Mike Trout, and whereas Shohei Ohtani is the first purpose why right here is one other. First baseman Jared Walsh has loved one hell of a breakout marketing campaign, and shouldn’t be ignored due to his teammates’ brilliance. Up to now in 2021 Walsh has slashed .278/.336/.556 with 22 homers and 65 RBI. He certified for his first all-star recreation and was the principle purpose why the Angels felt compelled to let Albert Pujols go in Could. 


Cedric Mullins' emergence

(Photograph by Will Newton/Getty Photos)

There have not been all that many vivid spots for the Orioles in 2021, as on the break they sit at an AL worst 28-61. However the efficiency of their younger heart fielder, Cedric Mullins, definitely tops the checklist. Mullins ditched switch-hitting this spring, and the best way his first few months of this season have gone it is honest to marvel why he did not earlier. In 88 video games he is slashed a powerful .314/.380/.541 with 16 homers, 35 RBI, 23 doubles, 16 steals, and three triples. He is turn into the kind of dynamic lead-off hitter each workforce covets, and he’ll signify the O’s this week on the all-star recreation. 


13 of 20

The Mets hanging on to first place with a comical quantity of accidents

The Mets hanging on to first place with a comical amount of injuries

(Photograph by Wealthy Schultz/Getty Photos)

Quite a lot of groups have handled accidents this 12 months. After which there are the Mets. For a lot of the primary half New York was absent all of Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, Jeff McNeil, and J.D. Davis–exactly half of their on a regular basis line-up. First baseman Pete Alonso additionally missed just a few weeks in Could, the pitching employees hasn’t even acquired to see Carlos Carrasco or Noah Syndergaard but, and the accidents did not cease there. Whereas Nimmo was out the Mets misplaced all of Kevin Pillar, Albert Almora, and Johneshwy Fargas to the IL, and needed to purchase Cameron Maybin simply to fill in in heart discipline for some time. By means of all of it New York completed the first half 47-40 and three.5 video games up within the NL East. If they’ve extra luck health-wise within the second half they need to run away with their division. 


Kevin Gausman turning into an ace

(Photograph by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Photos)

We have touched on how good the San Francisco Giants have been in ’21, and now let’s dive into one of many largest the reason why.  Former Orioles’ first-round choose Kevin Gausman has been a middling middle-of-the-rotation starter for many of his profession, however the right-hander has turn into most likely the very best pitcher in baseball not named Jacob deGrom this 12 months. In 18 stars Gausman owns a lights-out 1.73 ERA with a 0.82 WHIP whereas holding the opposition to a .159 batting common and hanging out 133 hitters in 114.2 innings. He is been the most important purpose for the Giants’ unbelievable begin, they usually’ll want him to stick with it down the stretch to complete what they’ve began. 


Daniel Camarena's grand slam off Max Scherzer

(Photograph by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Photos)

This was undoubtedly the one most shocking particular person second baseball has seen shortly. Simply final week the Padres fell behind Washington 8-0 whereas the Nationals had Max Scherzer on the bump. Sport over, proper? Mistaken. San Diego introduced younger Daniel Camarena into the sport to simply eat up innings in lengthy reduction and was compelled to let him bat with the bases loaded within the 4th. The rookie in simply his second massive league recreation promptly crushed a grand slam to tug the Friars nearer in a recreation they’d in the end stroll off within the ninth. He was greeted within the dugout by Manny Machado who put the swag chain on him and formally welcomed him to Slam Diego. Only a tremendous cool second. 


16 of 20

How good the Purple Sox are

How good the Red Sox are

(Photograph by Maddie Meyer/Getty Photos)

It was a reasonably honest guess that the 2021 model of the Purple Sox could be higher than the one which went 24-36 within the truncated ’20 marketing campaign. However I do not suppose many individuals thought they’d be fairly this good. The Bo-Sox hit the break 1.5 video games up on Tampa Bay within the AL East and simply proportion factors behind the White Sox for the very best mark within the American League. 


17 of 20

How dangerous the Twins are

How bad the Twins are

(Photograph by David Berding/Getty Photos)

Sticking with groups that conduct spring coaching in Fort Myers. Minnesota entered 2021 totally believing they’d be making a return journey to the postseason, and as an alternative, they discover themselves as most likely essentially the most disappointing vendor as we strategy the deadline. The Twins wanted a four-game profitable streak forward of the break simply to tug inside 11 video games of .500, nevertheless it will not be sufficient to maintain them from buying and selling off property. Jose Berrios, Josh Donaldson, Nelson Cruz, and others may all be carrying new uniforms in simply a few weeks. 


The emergence of Chris Flexen

(Photograph by Abbie Parr/Getty Photos)

From a person standpoint, this has been a reasonably cool growth to look at unfold. Proper-hander Chris Flexen was a 14th spherical choose of the Mets all the best way again in ’12, and his cups of espresso in New York weren’t all that promising. In 27 appearances as a Met Flexen owned an unpleasant 8.07 ERA throughout 68 innings and was in the end let go. In 2020 he latched on with the Doosan Bears within the KBO and was in a position to translate a productive displaying there into a possibility with the Mariners this spring. And boy has he taken benefit of it. In 16 begins he is delivered a 3.51 ERA in 92.1 innings, and been a giant a part of the explanation why Seattle is 5 video games over .500 in the mean time. 


19 of 20

The whole sticky stuff scandal

The entire sticky stuff scandal

(Photograph by Steven Ryan/Getty Photos)

The concept of gamers looking for some kind of an edge just isn’t in in the slightest degree shocking. However the best way this full-blown sticky stuff scandal has taken over the game is sort of surprising. We have had hitters, particularly Minnesota’s Josh Donaldson aggressively calling out opposing pitchers, a few of whom–namely New York’s Gerrit Cole –have form of put their foot of their mouth whereas speaking about it. This case just isn’t going to go away, however a minimum of from the place I am sitting, I feel the league could be effectively served to give you some kind of universally permitted substance transferring ahead. 


20 of 20

Kumar Rocker falling to #10 within the draft

Kumar Rocker falling to #10 in the draft

(Photograph by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Photos)

The primary spherical of the MLB draft was simply performed on Sunday, permitting this to simply sneak into this checklist and nonetheless be thought of as occurring within the first half. Vanderbilt right-hander Kumar Rocker was the top-ranked collegiate prospect on many draft boards heading into this NCAA season, and whereas he was handed by his personal teammate, Jack Leiter, most nonetheless felt he would go within the prime 5. Some inconsistency along with his velocity might have contributed to Rocker’s slip, however the Mets had been ecstatic to see him sitting there once they went on the clock. If he develops into the form of prime of the rotation starter many scouts suppose he will be, there are going to be a number of organizations kicking themselves over this determination in a few years. 

Justin Mears is a contract sports activities author from Lengthy Seashore Island, NJ. Enjoys being pissed off by the Mets and Cowboys, studying Linwood Barclay novels, and being yelled at by his toddler son. Observe him on twitter @justinwmears. 


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