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Marty’s musings: All Star break edition

The All Star break is here, and five of the six divisions are well-in-hand. 

Philadelphia Phillies v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Welcome to ‘Marty’s Musings’, my weekly column of numbers summarizing the happenings in the baseball world. I am your guide for taking an analytic look at the news and notes throughout the game, and highlighting this week’s key pitching matchups.

This week we take a look at some of the surprises of the first half, preview the All Star Game festivities, and mourn the loss of young Angels’ pitcher Tyler Skaggs.

All this news and more in this week’s Musings.

News and Notes

27 - Years of age for late Angels’ pitcher Tyler Skaggs. Skaggs never showed up to the team bus in preparation for Monday’s game against the Rangers, and shockingly, team representatives found him unresponsive in his Texas hotel room. Tyler’s all-too-early death shocked the baseball world and put a cloud over the entire Angels team. Police ruled out foul play and suicide, though the cause of death is still unknown to the public.

60 - Extra base hits for Pirates slugger Josh Bell, who is having a true breakout season in Pittsburgh. He set the NL record for most extra-base hits before the All Star break, overtaking Albert Pujols’ previous record of 58. In 88 games, Bell has already posted an fWAR of 2.8.

166 - Team home runs by the surprising Twins, who set the record for most total home runs by any team in the first ‘half’ of a season. Minnesota has ten players with double-digit home runs, led by Max Kepler (21) and Eddie Rosario (20). The Twins lead the American League Central by 5 ½ games over the Indians.

2010 - The last time the San Diego Padres were .500 at the All Star break. Coming off a 3-1 four-game set against the division-leading the Dodgers. The 90-win Padres missed the playoffs by a game, finishing two games behind the Giants for the NL West pennant. Though they won’t be catching the Dodgers, this team looks like they have turned it around with some key strategic signings and promotions of young stars.

4 ½ - Game lead the NL Central leading Cubs have over the last-place Reds. The entire division is separated by fewer games than any other division’s first-and-second-place teams, making the Central the most competitive division going into the break. While few expect that the Pirates or Reds will overtake the Cubs and Brewers, Chicago and Milwaukee have not broken away from the division as most other divisional leading teams.

30 - Home runs hit by Mets’ rookie Peter Alonso. Alonso is one of the few bright stars in Queens, as the Mets have struggled on the field, as they’ve ‘earned’ more blown saves than saves, and off of it, with both managerial scuffles with the press and a GM who recently threw a temper tantrum. Alonso will participate in Monday night’s home run derby.

1998 - The last time three players had 30+ home runs entering the All Star break. Cody Bellinger matched Alonso’s 30 homers, while Christian Yelich leads the league with 31. In 1998, four players hit 30 prior to the All Star break: Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr., and Greg Vaughn.

5/30 - The most recent day that Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco pitched in a game. He announced this week that he was diagnosed with leukemia last month, a shocking development that has put his career on hold. We wish him and his family the best as he continues treatment and the road to recovery.

Matchups to Watch

Monday, July 8

MLB Home Run Derby, 8 ET

It’s a young party at this year’s home run derby, as breakout star Josh Bell will be joined by rookies Pete Alonso and Vlad Guerrero Jr. With Christian Yelich having to back out due to a back injury, Matt Chapman replaces him in the bracketed event.

Tuesday, July 9

National League All Stars v. American League All Stars, 7:30 ET

The annual tradition is upon us again, with Hyun-Jin Ryu taking the hill as the starter for the NL. The AL starter has yet to be announced, but skipper Alex Cora has his pick of Justin Verlander, Lucas Giolito, Gerrit Cole, and others.

Thursday, July 12

TBD (MIN) v. Mike Clevinger (CLE), 7:05 ET

Wasting no time in the second-half, the Indians will play host to the team they have struggled to keep-pace with all season. The three-game set kicks off Friday night.

Saturday, July 13

TBD (HOU) v. Mike Minor (TEX), 8:05 ET

Minor made the all-star team but ended up withdrawing and not making the trip. He’s had a heck of a year, and is a potential trade deadline candidate, though if Texas keeps overachieving, they could be buyers instead of sellers, lining themselves up for a wildcard spot.

*All pitching matchups as of Sunday night’s pitching probables

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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