During the lengthy Major League Baseball season, it is easy to lose track of what is going on across the league while working to follow the Baltimore Orioles.
I’ve addressed the concerns over the bullpen and the rotation, but both looked pretty good in the Orioles’ extra-inning win, particularly Brad Brach and Mychal Givens. See what some rest can do for the bullpen!
Let’s take a look at what else is going on in the American League and where the Orioles fit in.
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The best team in the American League is the Houston Astros at 29-13, which is not exactly surprising.
All of their starters are hitting over .248, with DH Carlos Beltran sitting at .248. The team can hit for power, they can hit for average, and they have some speed as well.
The Astros were expected to have a great bullpen, and that is the case. Ken Giles is the closer, Chris Devenski plays the Andrew Miller role, Will Harris has been magnificent, as has Brad Peacock. Tony Sipp also has done a good job. The big surprise in the bullpen is how much Luke Gregerson has struggled for the Astros, with a 6.89 ERA in 15.2 innings.
The question mark was always about the rotation. Well, Dallas Keuchel has returned to Cy Young contender form, with a 7-0 record and a 1.84 ERA. Lance McCullers has also been good. Charlie Morton has been surprisingly good, while Joe Musgrove and Michael Fiers have struggled, but have got plenty of run support.
The second-best team in the AL is the New York Yankees. Not much needs to be said about the Yankees, as we have a pretty good idea what they have been up to.
The Yankees have been buoyed by good starting pitching by Luis Severino, C.C. Sabathia and Jordan Montgomery, but all have pitched more toward for recently, which is not as good as what they have been.
Next best team in the AL? The Baltimore Orioles, who are half a game behind New York.
Looking at the AL East, the Red Sox are 3.5 behind the Orioles, with Tampa Bay half a game back. The Blue Jays are eight games out of first place. If not for Chris Sale, the Red Sox would be in a world of hurt.
The next best team after Baltimore is Texas. The Rangers have won 10 games in a row, behind some quality starting pitching and their potent offense.
But, the biggest surprise in the American League has to be the AL Central-leading Minnesota Twins. The Twins are a team that has the top draft pick in the upcoming MLB draft.
The Twins success can at least partially be traced to their pitching. Jose Berrios was recently called up and is 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA. Berrios is expected to be a star and had a rough 2016 season. However, he looks ready now.
Offensively, nothing sticks out for the team from the Twin Cities, although Miguel Sano has been a dominant force in the lineup.
Behind the Twins in the Central is the Cleveland Indians. The Indians are only a few games over .500 but are still one of the best in the American League. Why are they struggling?
Well, Edwin Encarnacion is hitting .204. Jason Kipnis is hitting .215. Carlos Santana is hitting .226. Three of your best hitters are struggling at the plate. A look at the pitching sees a similar theme. Corey Kluber has a 5.06 ERA. Danny Salazar‘s ERA is at 5.66. Trevor Bauer? 6.65. And Josh Tomlin, 6.86. Only Carlos Carrasco and his 2.60 ERA has done a good job for the Indians so far.
These seven players are all well below their career normals, and I would expect them to rebound toward what is expected moving forward.
So, if you want to talk about the best teams in the American League, right now it is Houston, New York, Baltimore, Minnesota and Texas. Cleveland and Boston to follow.
The Orioles continue to be one of the best teams in the American League, year in and year out. To see they are doing this without some of their best players contributing, and the pitching struggles show just how good this team can be.