We’re past the Major League Baseball All-Star break, with every team having played about 90 games, so it’s safe to say we’ve learned a lot about all 30 teams. We have seen some surprises, such as the incredible start from the San Francisco Giants, the resurgence of the Boston Red Sox and the inability of the AL preseason-favorite New York Yankees to find consistency.
But in looking at the standings, it’s clear every division leader has earned its status. Handicapping baseball in 2021 has been a challenge for most bettors, though, because starting pitchers have been more dominant than usual, bullpens have been as inconsistent as ever and key injuries have popped up time and again. It’s time to take a quick look at where we stand as bettors and try to get a jump on the second half of the season.
Though the season is long, with peaks and valleys throughout, most teams typically believe that the periods just before and after the break are critical for second-half momentum. Here is a look at some teams playing either good or bad baseball:
White Sox: Chicago has ballooned its lead in the AL Central to eight games by winning 10 of its past 13. The offense has exploded in that stretch, putting up at least four runs in each game, while averaging 8.1. On their current five-game winning streak, the White Sox have scored 37 runs.
Reds: Cincinnati finished the first half by winning a critical four-game series in Milwaukee, sweeping the final three games and trimming its deficit in the NL Central to four games. The Reds are on a 9-2 surge that surprisingly has been fueled by great pitching, with the staff allowing just 2.6 runs per game during that stretch. The red-hot Reds get the Brewers again right out of the break with a three-game set, this time in Cincinnati.
Rockies: The Rockies’ postseason chances were written off a month or so ago, but backers have been rewarded with their recent play. They are on a 9-4 run, allowing just 2.7 runs per game during that span. That 9-4 surge has included four underdog victories and three shutouts.
Dodgers: With a winning percentage of .615, the Dodgers went into the All-Star break on a 12-4 run. Like the Reds and Rockies, Los Angeles has gotten great pitching during the surge, allowing just 2.9 runs per game. Of course, a lot more is expected from the Dodgers’ staff than from those other teams. Los Angeles still trails the Giants by two games in the NL West, and will need to continue its strong play to take over the division lead.
Twins: A four-game winning streak isn’t much to brag about. But with the way the Twins have underperformed in 2021, perhaps it is the start of something bigger. During its four-game sweep of the Tigers, Minnesota put up 30 runs, certainly an encouraging sign.
Phillies: With the injury to Braves star Ronald Acuna Jr., the recent skid by Washington and the Mets’ season-long offensive struggles, the NL East seems up for grabs. The team making the biggest move in the latter part of the first half was the Phillies, who went 7-3 in their past 10 games while scoring 6.9 runs per game. They topped the 10-run mark three times during that spurt, perhaps indicating they are poised to be a major factor in the stretch run.
Giants: Despite injuries to big-name hitters, such as Buster Posey and others, San Francisco scored 54 runs in a 7-2 surge to close the first half. The Giants were inarguably the surprise team of the first half and they carried the NL West lead into the break.
Rays: Tampa Bay’s stretches of good and bad play have been astounding, and they have had numerous streaks on both sides of the ledger. At one point, the defending AL champs won 11 straight games. They also lost seven in a row. Heading into the break, Tampa Bay went on a 6-1 surge, allowing just 2.3 runs per game.
Orioles: At times in the first half of the season, the Orioles’ rebuilding plan seemed to be taking shape. But now is not one of those times, as they went into the break on a 1-7 skid, allowing 7.5 RPG and the bullpen sporting a 6.75 ERA. This slide came right after one of Baltimore’s best series in years, a three-game sweep at AL West leader Houston.
Cubs: Chicago has played listless baseball of late and went into the break on a 2-13 slide, falling out of the division lead by eight games. The Cubs’ pitching staff has completely unraveled during the skid, allowing 7.0 RPG.
Royals: At one point in April, the Royals were 14-7 and leading the AL Central. Since then, they have gone just 22-46 to fall to the bottom of the division, 18 games out of the lead. They closed the first half on a 3-15 skid, in which the pitching staff allowed 6.8 RPG.
Nationals: Washington has been up and down like a roller coaster in the first half, and Nationals fans can only hope they are back at the loading station, ready to make another run. The team closed the first half on a 2-8 skid, allowing 7.0 RPG and ceding five runs or more in nine of the 10 games.