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Marty’s Musings: All Star break time

Take a breather while we assess some of the first-half news.

Padres celebration

Welcome to “Marty's Musings,” my weekly column of numbers summarizing the past week in Major League Baseball. I am your guide to an analytic look at the previous week in MLB and a preview of some of this week's starting pitching matchups.

In this week’s Musings, we take a look at the first half of the season. Two AL East rookies put on a show so far this year, while the Dodgers made their move in a competitive NL West. Meanwhile Jose Altuve continues to lead the Astros as they run away with the AL West.

News in Numbers

3 Straight scoreless starts for Clayton Kershaw before his complete-game, two-earned run victory over Kansas City on Sunday. Over 19 starts in the first half, Kershaw posted 159 strikeouts to only 22 walks. His 132 ⅓ innings lead all of MLB.

3311 — The Houston Astros record on the road. No other team in baseball has more than 26 victories on the road, and the Astros' success outside Houston has helped position them with a 16.5-game lead over the second-place Angels and Rangers.

5/5 Andrew Benintendi went 5-for-5 on Tuesday night and launched two home runs against the Baltimore Orioles. Benintendi would be the clear front-runner for the AL Rookie of the Year if not for human-home-run-masher Aaron Judge.

30 — Home runs by the aforementioned Aaron Judge, who has burst onto the scene to become one of the Yankees‘ stars in just half a season of play. He has already set the record for most homers by a Yankees rookie, a mark set by Joe DiMaggio, who hit 29 in 1936.

1 — Team left that has not been shut out this year: the New York Yankees. The Bronx Bombers are having an excellent season, though the latter part of June and early July has set them back a bit. New York is second in hitting fWAR, behind only the Astros.

5 — Consecutive three-hit games for Jose Altuve, who is taking his streak into the All Star Break. He is the first player to get three hits in five straight games since George Brett did it in six games in 1976.

3 — Games in eight days that saw the Blue Jays give up at least 12 runs. In last Sunday’s series finale against Boston, the Jays lost 15-1 as Chris Sale breezed through Toronto’s lineup. On Friday, the Astros crushed them in a 12-2 loss only to follow up two days later with a 19-1 drubbing on Sunday. Toronto has been one of the most disappointing teams in baseball to date, and sit in last place in the AL East, 8.5 games behind Boston and six games under .500.

23 — Comeback wins for the Dodgers, who lead the NL West by 7.5. The West was incredibly competitive in the first half, with unexpected surges from both Colorado and Arizona. LA has taken command in the division and are well-positioned going into the second half.

1.298 — Andrew McCutchen’s OPS over the past 30 days. Cutch started the season off slowly, but since June, has been one of the best hitters in the game. As the trade market heats-up later this month, it will be interesting to see if the Pirates move him. Much may be decided by McCutchen himself, who may or may not waive his no-trade clause, particularly to a team that wants to stick him back in a corner outfield spot.

-0.7 — fWAR for Reds starters through the first half of the season. The Reds are the only team with a negative value coming out of their rotation. The second-worst Twins and White Sox are quite a bit better, having amassed 2.1 WAR.

18 — Changeups thrown by Alex Wood in his seven inning shutout of the Diamondbacks last Wednesday. On those 18 changeups, he generated seven outs and zero hits. Wood has been a strong backup to ace Clayton Kershaw in Los Angeles.

0 — Strikeouts for Mariners hitters on Thursday night. Despite making lots of contact, the Ms lost to the AThletics 7-4. This is the first and thus far only game of 2017 where a team did not strikeout at least once.

178 — Strikeouts for Chris Sale over the first half. It is the most strikeouts by a pitcher before the All Star break since Curt Schilling’s 186 Ks in 2002.

Matchups to Watch

Tuesday, July 11

American League All Stars v. National League All Stars, 8:00 ET

There are some usual names on the list of starting pitchers available to toss in the ASG this year including Chris Sale, Max Scherzer, and Zack Greinke, as well as some surprise names including Jason Vargas and Ervin Santana. The AL won the last four games in a row, but this is more about fun match-ups, celebrating the game, and reenergizing before the second half.

Thankfully, this one doesn't count.

Thursday, July 13

Jon Gray (COL) v. Jacob deGrom (NYM), 7:10 ET

The Rockies came out blazing but have taken a significant step back in the NL West, being outpaced by both the Dodgers and DBacks. They go up against the hurting Mets who came into the season expecting to play for a wildcard, but have quickly become irrelevant in the NL East. Jacob deGrom is one of their only bright spots. Before he gave up four solo shots to the Cardinals on Friday, he had put together a four-game streak where he gave up zero or one run in each.

Saturday, July 15

TBD (NYY) v. Chris Sale (BOS), 4:05 ET

The Yankees slipped a little bit down the stretch of the first half, but have an opportunity to immediately gain some ground on the Red Sox, who stumbled into the break on a 1-4 skid of their own.

Sunday, July 16

Chris Archer (TB) v. TBD (LAA), 3:37 ET

The Rays managed to pull ahead of the Yankees and took three out of four in their first-half series finale against the Red Sox. Their ace closes out their series in Southern California. Mike Trout should be back for the start of this series as well.

***

Steven Martano is an Editor at Beyond the Box Score, a Contributing Prospect Writer for the Colorado Rockies at Purple Row, and a contributing writer for The Hardball Times. You can follow him on Twitter at @SMartano