Top News
Indian-origin doctor charged with causing patient's death  ||   Won't allow Bharat to become 'Hindu Rashtra': Owaisi  ||   PM Modi: People of Haryana have decided to bring BJP back to power  ||   Half a dozen women activists including sister and daughter of Farooq Abdullah detained during protest  ||   Abrogating Article 370 a decisive step for peace in Kashmir: Amit Shah  ||   Learn from bureaucrats, netas investment ideas, ways to recover project cost, Nitin Gadkari tells NHAI  ||   Maharashtra polls: BJP promises 5 crore jobs in 5 years, demands Bharat Ratna for Savarkar  ||   Fourth Democratic debate, impeachment inquiry, tax deadline: 5 things you need to know Tuesday  ||   There is concern over inherent dangers in 'nuclear brinkmanship': Indian diplomat  ||   Necessary for us to have technologically updated force, says Navy chief  ||   India's security vulnerabilities are going to be 'much more greater' in times to come: NSA Doval  ||   Article 370 abrogation decisive battle for peace in Kashmir: Amit Shah  ||   Next war will be won through indigenised weapons systems: Army chief  ||   5 ways the Trump impeachment inquiry will loom large at Tuesday's Democratic debate  ||   Hours after mobiles restored, SMS services blocked in Kashmir  ||   PM should attend to work, have less photo ops: Kapil Sibal  ||   Koregaon Bhima case: HC refuses bail to three activists  ||   Assailing Columbus, VR for seniors, otter attack: News from around our 50 states  ||   Barry Sanders, Clay Matthews, Tony Dungy among those upset over refs in Packers-Lions game  ||   Sears and Kmart closing more stores in late 2019 and early 2020. Is your location closing?  ||            

MLB's burning second-half questions: The return of the 60-home run season?  3 Months ago

Source:   USA Today  

If it’s mid-July in Major League Baseball, that means it’s polarity time.

Four teams are well on their way to 100 wins. Five others are almost guaranteed to lose 100 games, with another half-dozen pondering if dreaming on the second wild card berth is worth staying in.

Yet while so many of the same old faces will play well into October (Dodgers, Yankees, Astros, Cubs, rinse, wash, repeat), there’s intrigue to be had, even if you must look beyond the standings for most of it.

With that, a glance at four questions that will play their way to resolution as the All-Star break gives way to the trade deadline, summer’s end and eventually, October:

Hard to imagine, but we’re more or less desensitized to the 60-home run season. Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds combined to post six of ‘em between 1998 and 2001, with Bonds’ 73-homer fusillade in 2001 still standing as the single-season record.

A lot has changed since then.

That unprecedented era served to tamp down our fervor for the big home run season. Does anyone recall Giancarlo Stanton’s march to 60 home runs in 2017? (He fell one short).

In this year of unprecedented slugging – the home run record across the big leagues will be obliterated for the second time in three years – the haze of individual exploits tend to get lost.

But let’s pause a moment to appreciate Christian Yelich.

The Brewers right fielder enters the second half with 31 homers, currently on pace for 55. That puts him a tick ahead of Cody Bellinger (53-homer pace) and Pete Alonso (54), the latter perhaps facing a “rookie wall” in his first 162-game campaign.

As for Yelich, perhaps this will be his new normal. Yet at 27, he may be at the height of his powers, with a perfect storm of hitting acumen, physical condition and yes, home ballpark aiding his cause. It appears only Bellinger can prevent him from a second consecutive MVP award.

No, he won’t come close to Bonds’ 73. But perhaps we shouldn’t be too cavalier about him joining Stanton in producing a top-10 all-time dinger season – or doing him one better and blasting a Ruthian 60.

The work they’ve done is dazzling. The work ahead is daunting.

The Minnesota Twins bashed a major league-high 166 home runs – with 10 players hitting at least 10 – in the first half. Only the Boston Red Sox have matched them in runs scored. They’re on pace to win 102 games and have outscored opponents by 116 runs – and their closest AL Central competitors, the Cleveland Indians, have a mere plus-27 run differential.

Yet, the Indians lurk just 5½ games behind them.

So while it’s tempting for the Twins to bask in their first-half successes, it’s hard to ignore the three-team division champs.

“I know the Indians are a pretty good team. They won the last three years," All-Star shortstop Jorge Polanco told USA TODAY Sports. "But our mind is to try to keep playing good, all the way.”

If this division is won at the trade deadline, it might be advantage, Minnesota. While the Twins did not indulge in midseason signees Dallas Keuchel and Craig Kimbrel, their upward cycle and the measured aggression of chief baseball officer Derek Falvey make them likelier to add before July 31 than the Indians, who left gaping holes in the outfield and bullpen before the season.

Within the lines, the teams still have four more meetings – including the second-half lid-lifter Friday in Cleveland and home-and-home series in September.

The Indians cut their deficit in half in just three weeks.

“That’s going to be the biggest part for us – every time we play them, we’re just going to have to win the series,” says Indians closer Brad Hand. “Maybe it has been more pressure on them, with the lead that they have, and then we’re coming, we’re coming, closing the gap a little bit.”

It can get a lot closer this weekend.

When Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon signed contract extensions worth a combined $368 million, they forfeited the chance to prove their hitting greatness was not tied to playing home games at Coors Field.

Their old Colorado Rockies teammate D.J. LeMahieu did get that chance this season – and he’s shattering any notion his average has anything to do with altitude.

LeMahieu is making his two-year, $24 million deal with the New York Yankees look like a bargain: He’s leading the AL in batting, at .336, and his .900 OPS has him firmly in the MVP conversation.

And now he has a chance to make history: The first player to win undisputed batting titles in both leagues.

LeMahieu led the NL with a .348 average for the 2016 Rockies and takes a 12-point lead over Houston’s Michael Brantley into the second half. While batting average has been devalued in favor of advanced metrics, it over time remains a useful tool to measure a hitter’s acumen.

It’s clear LeMahieu can rake just about anywhere.

“I keep getting a lot of Coors Field questions,” he says. “I’m excited to hit somewhere other than Coors Field, for sure.”

With every stomp around the mound, every devastating fastball or knee-buckling slider, through a broken nose and poor run support and all else that dare get in his way, Max Scherzer only burnishes his case as the most dominant pitcher of his generation.

And barring injury, he’s a virtual lock to pull off a pitching feat not seen in 17 years.

Scherzer hits the All-Star break with 181 strikeouts, putting him on pace to strike out 329. After punching out 300 last year, he now has a chance to become the first pitcher to post consecutive 300-strikeout seasons since Randy Johnson in 2002.

Johnson did it in five consecutive years, so it would seem unlikely that Scherzer, who turns 35 on July 27 could equal that run. Then again …

“If he won the Cy Young the year before, he wants to win the Cy Young with 100% of the vote next year. If he strikes out 10, he wants to strike out 15,” says White Sox All-Star starter Lucas Giolito, Scherzer’s teammate in Washington in 2016. “Hypercompetitive. It is impressive to watch. It is just the way he’s wired.”

With the NL lead in innings (129⅓), strikeouts and home runs per nine innings (12.6 and 0.6) and Fielding Independent Pitching (2.00), Scherzer might still be climbing toward his apex.

More News
About Us Terms & Conditions Disclaimer
Advertise Contact
register and win

NRIS.COM is one of the premier NRI website that provides a range of resourceful services to Indian expats residing in the USA. Visiting the site you will find comprehensive information related to restaurants, casinos, pubs, temples, carpool, movies, education, real estate, and forums. The simple and easy to navigate format allows NRIs to gain information within a fraction of a second. Moreover, advertising through its column of Indian free classifieds in USA allow businesses to improve visibility of their brand.

TX NRI's Chat (0 Users Online)