While the official first “half” won’t end until the All-Star Break, 50% of the 2019 MLB season is complete. It’s safe to say the first half of the season was better for some than others.
The 100-win plateau has always been special for teams. This season could see a record number of teams reach it. Conversely, it can just as easily see a record number of teams lose 100 games. We’d say that the plethora of bad teams is causing attendance to shrink. Unfortunately, the numbers tell us that might be a bigger problem.
As we look at the last three months, these were the biggest winners and losers from the first half of the 2019 MLB season.
All stats and records accurate through play on Wednesday, June 26.
Winner: MLB’s best winning like never before
We’ve seen three MLB teams win 100 or more games seven times (including both 2017 and 2018). This year, we could see four. That has never happened. The Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees, and Houston Astros are all on pace to reach 100 wins. That would also mark the second straight year in which three AL teams reached 100 wins. Until 2018, that had never happened in either league. The single-season record of 116 wins held jointly by the 1906 Chicago Cubs and 2001 Seattle Mariners is probably safe. Still, we have a chance to see something unprecedented atop the MLB standings.
Loser: Umpires becoming even more buffoonish
We’re in an era where having robot umpires are possible. They may soon be necessary. Too many umps continue to make themselves the center of attention as much as they possibly can. Joe West and Angel Hernandez are primary culprits, though there are others. As frustrating as that is, umpires have done that for decades. Now, they’re taking to social media, making pleas for sympathy that read like something written by an eighth grade boy who just got dumped by his first girlfriend.
Winner: Christian Yelich putting up video game numbers
Yelich won the NL MVP in 2018 thanks largely to an otherworldly second half, when he hit .367/.449/.770 with 25 home runs in 256 at-bats. As good as Yelich is, it appeared impossible that he could enjoy that kind of success again. Appearances are often deceiving. This season, Yelich is sitting at .332/.426/.723 with 29 home runs. Going back to the All-Star Break last year, a stretch that covers less than one full season (530 at-bats and 138 games), he’s hitting .351/.438/.750 with 54 home runs, 121 runs scored, 130 RBI, and 27 steals. Not a bad stretch of baseball.
Loser: Mickey Callaway overwhelmed in Queens
For most of the last two seasons, Callaway has struggled to handle his job as manager of the New York Mets. After a loss to the Chicago Cubs on Sunday, it hit a boiling point. Callaway (and pitcher Jason Vargas) went on a profanity laced tirade at a reporter. At least some fans want him fired and it actually feels like that would be more of a favor to him than anything. It’s hard to imagine Callaway and the Mets doing anything on the field that would save his job for 2020. That’s going to make the rest of the season very interesting and potentially more dramatic.
Winner: Twins enjoying dream season in Minnesota
Dating back to when they were the original Washington Senators, the Twins franchise has won 100 games in a season only once. That will likely change this year. Thanks to a deep and powerful offense, as well as a solid top-to-bottom pitching staff, Minnesota has been one of MLB’s best. Also, unlike the other top teams, the Twins were not expected to do anything more than maybe compete for the second Wild Card spot in 2019. The Cleveland Indians entered 2019 heavily favored to win their fourth straight AL Central title. Clearly, the Twins had other plans.
Loser: Anyone who likes compelling division races
The NL Central is close. The first-place Cubs are only six games ahead of the last place Cincinnati Reds. The other five divisions are a different story. As a matter of fact, Cincinnati is closer to Chicago than the second place teams are in three of those divisions. In the other two divisions (the NL East and NL West), the lead is 5.5 games. If you’re hoping to see some exciting playoff races in September, your focus will largely be on the Wild Card races. The other races don’t figure to feature a lot of drama.
Winner: Cody Bellinger turning into superstar
In an ordinary season, Yelich would be the clear frontrunner for NL MVP. In 2019, he may not even be the favorite. That’s thanks to Bellinger. The Dodgers superstar is hitting .354/.452/.711 with 26 homers, 64 runs scored, 63 RBI, and eight steals. He’s also struck out only 49 times, which is a decent pace for anyone in today’s game, especially someone with that much power. As if that wasn’t enough, Bellinger plays Gold Glove-caliber defense, for good measure. Bellinger’s talents have always been obvious. He’s just been a little raw. That’s changed a lot this season.
Loser: MLB attendance problems continue
In 2018, the average MLB game drew 28,840 fans. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred noted the drop (from 30,042 in 2017) and acknowledged his concern. Unfortunately for Manfred, the average MLB attendance has dropped even more to 27,603 in 2019. To compare, in the final three years of the last decade, the average attendance was 32,785 in 2007, 32,543 in 2008, and 30,324 in 2009. We can pick on a team like the Tampa Bay Rays, who draw small houses despite being good and might end up splitting time between Montreal and St. Petersburg. Focusing on them too much, though, only dodges the problem. The overall drop is an alarming trend across MLB.
Winner: Yankees keep winning no matter who’s in uniform
New York was dealt a tough blow on Wednesday when it was revealed that Giancarlo Stanton was headed to the IL again. Stanton has played in only nine games. Aaron Judge recently returned from an injury that cost him more than two months. Luis Severino, last season’s ace, has yet to throw a pitch. That really only scratches the surface. Despite that and scores of other injuries, they’re 52-28. As we’ve seen, New York is one of many teams enjoying a great season. The Yankees, though, deserve special mention. They have dealt with countless injuries in 2019 but haven’t been fazed by them.
Loser: MLB’s worst losing at tremendous clip
Only once (2002) have four MLB teams lost 100 games. The Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Detroit Tigers, and Toronto Blue Jays are all well “above” a 100-loss pace. The Miami Marlins are just off of it. Meanwhile, the San Francisco Giants and Mariners are both on pace to lose more than 90 games. Given that they’ll likely deal at least some of the few top-tier players they have, it wouldn’t be surprising to see them hit 100 losses by season’s end. If they do, they’ll have plenty of company. MLB’s worst are every bit as bad as its best are good.