Midway MLB 2020

Photo by Alonzo Coston

Midway Through Major League Baseball in Season 2020


By David A. Avila

Don’t look now but Major League Baseball reached the halfway point on Sunday in this strangest of seasons.

The Los Angeles Dodgers bullied their way through July and August with a Major League best of 22 wins and eight losses so far to lead the Western Division in the National League.

A combination of pitching and hitting led by Mookie Betts has powered the stacked Dodger team to a four-game lead over the red hot San Diego Padres who have a seven-game winning streak. The Dodgers have won 10 out of 11 games.

Betts, who signed a 12-year contract with Los Angeles worth more than $300 million has proven to be worth the money. On Sunday he belted two homers to ignite the Dodgers to a total of seven four-baggers against the Colorado Rockies who led the division for a couple of weeks not too long ago. They now find themselves eight games behind after getting swept by the powerful Dodgers.

Pitching depth by the Dodgers was expected, but few thought Clayton Kershaw or Kenley Jansen would return to 2017 form.

Kershaw recently surpassed Dodger great Don Drysdale on the list of strikeouts for the franchise. Ahead is Don Sutton who is the all-time leader in strikeouts for Dodger hurlers. The southpaw pitcher Kershaw has recently regained speed on his fastball and that has made a considerable difference from last year when he rarely topped 89 miles an hour. This year 93 mph is a regular occurrence.

Jansen has also returned to All Star form with a .077 earned run average and a WHIP of 0.69. He has saved seven games so far and looks fresh and ready for battle each time he enters the game. He has plenty of help now from a loaded bullpen that features talent from the left side and the right.

Dodger pitching leads the Major League Baseball in earned run average at 2.65. The Cleveland Indians are the only other team with an ERA under 3.00 and they have a team 2.88 ERA. Other top teams in pitching are St. Louis, Minnesota and the Oakland Athletics.

Hitting-wise the Dodgers rank first in homeruns despite slow starts by Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy and Joc Pederson who all hit more than 30 homers a year ago. But they are heating up. As a team the Dodgers rank third in OPS, a stat that averages on-base and slugging percentage. The New York Yankees rank first in OPS at .819 and Chicago White Sox are second at .807. The Dodgers are third at .805. San Diego Padres rank fourth at .800.

Other Division leaders

In the American League the Oakland A’s lead the Western Division by four and a half games over Houston Astros who won the past several years. The Astros were recently swept by San Diego three games.

A big question: are the Astros really affected by the new rules against videos in the locker room? How much did they depend on them and how far did the cheating go?

Astro big guns like Jose Altuve and George Springer are just not doing it this year.

Minnesota Twins lead the AL Central Division with their powerful hitting lineup and revamped pitching staff led by Kenta Maeda. The Japanese pitcher is proving that what he did with the Dodgers is only a sample of what he can do fulltime as a regular starter. He nearly tossed a no-hitter last week against Oakland.

Tampa Bay continues to baffle oddsmakers with its array of pitching and hitting. They lead the power-packed AL Eastern Division over the favored New York Yankees. The scrappy team from Florida has always had great pitching and continues to prove they know what they are doing when it comes to picking up the right players for less money.

New York Yankees continue to suffer injuries to their big guns Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. But they are stacked and are expected to battle Tampa Bay till the last day of the season.

In the National League Central, the Chicago Cubs lead despite their offensive stars like Javier Baez and Kris Bryant still in hibernation. Behind solid pitching from Yu Darvish the Cubs have managed to stay in front of the crowded division that includes Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis and Cincinnati.

Darvish seems to have recaptured his mojo and whether it’s not tipping pitches or adjusted arm slots the native Japanese hurler doused the super-hot Chicago White Sox with a 10-strikeout performance on Sunday. He’s won five games and sports a 1.70 ERA.

Atlanta Braves continue to lead the NL Eastern Division with a balanced combination of pitching and hitting. Other teams have more powerful batting lineups or more potent pitching staffs, but Atlanta continues to blend both and that has kept them in the lead.

Perennial star Freddie Freeman continues to lead the hitting attack and has powerful backing from Ronald Acuna and Marcel Ozuna. The Braves continue to put it together and could win the division again.