Five Storylines Entering Baseball's Second Half of the Season
As the 2019 MLB All-Star Game and All-Star break are now behind us, the second half of the baseball season starts to take shape. Here are a few things to look out for in the second half of the 2019 MLB Season.
Houston is killing off the intentional walk
If the Houston Astros continue on this current pace, they could become the first team in baseball history to give no free passes for the entire regular season.
To their credit, the Astros have been slowly killing the free pass since last season. Their last intentional walk came last year on August 17 against the A’s when manager A.J. Hinch gave Jed Lowrie the free pass so Héctor Rondón could face Khris Davis in what became an extra-innings loss. They called for four intentional walks in all of 2018.
For what it’s worth, Houston isn’t the only team killing the free pass. This season, there’s just been an average of 0.17 intentional walks per game, a downward trend from the 0.19 set in 2016 and 2018. And none of these numbers are related to the new rule to no-pitch intentional walks.
The Majors are currently on pace for just 820 intentional walks this year, down from 1,200 a decade ago.
Christian Yelich’s incredible season will continue in historic fashion
Christian Yelich is becoming a monster in Milwaukee.
He’s had a stellar first half to 2019, building off of an awesome 2018 campaign. He’s hit a Major League-leading 31 home runs entering the All-Star break, with a .433 on-base percentage, a major league-leading .707 slugging average, and 1.140 OPS – incredible numbers for someone who also missed nine games due to back issues that also took him out of the Home Run Derby.
At his current rate, Yelich could become baseball’s first player to hit 50 homers and steal 30 bases if he stays healthy.
There have been several players to have 30-30 seasons, a few 40-40, but no 50-30.
Larry Walker came closest to the historic mark in 1997, coming a home run short of reaching the mark. He hit 49 home runs with 33 steals in that season for the Rockies. Alfonso Soriano is the most recent player to make a run at the mark, but also came short on home runs, knocking out 46 homers while stealing 41 bases.
Those who have surpassed the 50 home run mark came short in steals. Alex Rodriguez blasted 54 homers out in 2007 but came six steals shy of the mark with just 24 stolen bases that season.
60 home runs again? Maybe…
Giancarlo Stanton hit 59 home runs in his last year with the Marlins in 2017, however, we haven’t seen a 60-home run campaign by several players in the same way we did back at the turn of the millennium. And we certainly haven’t seen anyone surpass 60 home runs since the likes of Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, and Sammy Sosa were all taking swings (although we kind) of now know how.
Regardless, it’s a bit of a shot (no pun intended), but with the seasons that Milwaukee’s Christian Yelich, the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger, and the Mets’ Pete Alonso are having, 60 could be possible.
Although Alonso has to deal with the curse of the Home Run Derby in his potential chase for 60, Yelich and Bellinger are both halfway to the 60 home run mark, hitting a major-league leading 31 and 30, respectively. In a season that is seeing historically more home runs than ever before, 60 is once again in play.
New faces in new places?
The end of July marks baseball’s trade deadline. This year’s deadline could see a few big names and even recent All-Stars get traded as buyers look to make a playoff push while others begin their rebuild.
Two of the biggest names are 2019 All-Star pitcher Marcus Stroman of the Toronto Blue Jays and former World Series MVP, Giants southpaw Madison Bumgarner. Both pitchers are on selling teams ready to rebuild.
Teams like the Tigers, Marlins, and the Mets are all expected to be sellers this month.
The Yankees could make a big move for either of the two, if not anyone else, with the number of trade chips they have in their depth. They are looking for someone to bolster their rotation for a potentially deep run in October.
Mickey Callaway leads managers who are on the hot seat
The Mets are an absolute trash fire this season. Nobody can argue that, and manager Mickey Callaway has been to blame. The Mets are possibly worse this year than last year where they won just 77 games. They haven’t recorded a winning record since reaching the World Series and the NL Wild Card in 2015 and 2016, respectively.
No major league manager has been fired yet, but as we get closer to the end of the season, those tough moves will be made. On the hot seat along with the Mets’ Callaway is Nationals manager Dave Martinez, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler, and Cards manager Mike Shildt.