We are just over halfway through the baseball season with the final few series before the All Star break coming up, so I thought this was a good time to talk about how teams have been playing lately, featuring the main team I focus on, the Angels.
I’ve been trying to write this for a little while, but one reason I don’t blog more about baseball is it never takes a break. You can want to write about a recent development, such as a no-hitter or winning streak, but if you wait a few days, the same pitcher could have had a disastrous start since then or the team you were going to write about could have lost a few games in a row. So often when I’m thinking of a baseball topic, I just give up before I get around to writing it.
The main focus of this will be performance since June 11, so if I don’t mention something different, assume that to be the time frame.
Anyway, thankfully the Angels won last night (with three runs in the bottom of the ninth to spoil what could have been a complete game win for Adam Wainwright), so they are now one of the best two teams in baseball since June 11. The other team is the Pirates, both 14-6 over that span. Not too long ago, the Pirates swept the Angels, so in reality, the Halos have been playing even better than the record indicates. The other losses during that span were one apiece to the Cardinals, Yankees, and Mariners (whom the Angels were only able to beat 3 out 4). This included a 6-0 road trip against Detroit and Houston.
One thing I found interesting is that among the teams 12-10 or better during this stretch, only 3 of the 11 are currently in playoff position. Those teams are the Pirates, Red Sox, and A’s. The Angels just so happen to be playing the Red Sox at home tonight and will be trying to get revenge for the 2-1 series loss in Boston in early June. That was during the lull between winning streaks.
After consecutive sweeps of Seattle and Kansas City in late May, the Angels were only 4 games under .500. They lost almost all the ground they had gained in early June before this most-recent stretch of games. Their current position of 3 games under .500 (attained on Tuesday and then again last night) had previously not been reached since April 23, when the Angels won 3 of 4 after an atrocious 4-10 start.
There are a few teams that are also trying to chase Texas and Baltimore for the wildcard and have kept the Angels from climbing above a tie for 7th in the wild card standings, including Cleveland (14-7) and Toronto (13-8). There is now a group of 6 teams within 6 ½ games of the Orioles.
In the National League, by contrast, only a single team (Washington, 6 games back) is within 6 ½ of Cincinnati, the #2 wild card team in that league. One reason for that is that other than Pittsburgh, the hottest teams in the NL are the Dodgers (12-8) and the Marlins (13-7), but the Marlins are still 20 games under .500, worst in the NL. The Dodgers, as well as the Phillies and the rest of the NL West, are still not completely out of the wild card picture though, all within 10 games back. The Nationals, Cubs, and Mets are the only teams apart from Pittsburgh, Miami, and Los Angeles who are even playing above .500 (barely) during this stretch.
Other than Miami, the Angels have had the biggest jump in winning percentage in major league baseball, improving by nearly 7 percentage points, clearly better than Cleveland and Toronto, which each improved by about 4 ½ percentage points.
I definitely think the Angels-Red Sox is the inter-divisional series to watch this weekend, but Yankees-Orioles, Indians-Tigers, and Rockies-Diamondbacks could have a lot of bearing on who is going to be in playoff position going into the All Star break.