Two of the biggest surprises in the first half of the 2019 MLB season are the Minnesota Twins and San Diego Padres. The first place Twins lead the AL Central with 53 wins, or second most in the American League and although the Padres (42-42) are only playing .500 ball, they’re holding their own against a stacked NL West and a mere two games out of the Wild Card.
Everyone expected the Padres to move out of the basement in the NL West with the addition of All-Star Manny Machado, but they exceeded expectations with 42 wins through the midway point of the season. Several bookmakers set the Padres win total at 75 games and they’re on pace to break those initial estimations.
The Cleveland Indians were the team to beat in the AL Central and many Twins fans hoped they could compete for a Wild Card spot. Instead, the roles were reversed. The Twins jumped out to a hot start and opened up an 8-game lead over the Indians.
Twins: No Respect
The Minnesota Twins (53-30) are the Rodney Dangerfield of the MLB this season. Despite having 53 wins, the AL Central leader is not mentioned in the same breath as the Houston Astros and New York Yankees.
The first place Twins have the second-best home record in the American League at 26-14. They’re not bad on the road either (27-16) with the second-best away record in the AL.
The long ball has been kind to Minnesota. Eight players have at least double-digit home runs with two players currently at 9.
Max Kepler leads the team with 21 homers, followed by Eddie Rosario’s 20. Rosario is third in the AL with 60 RBIs.
Jorge Polanco hit 11 dingers and he’s leading the team with a .320 average. Polanco is third in the AL in batting average.
Jake Odorizzi (10-3) is one of five players with at least 10 wins. He is fifth best in the AL with a 2.73 ERA. He also boasts a 1.07 WHIP and whiffed 94 batters. Kyle Gibson (8-4), Jose Berrios (8-4), and Odorizzi combined for nearly half of Minnesota’s victories through the first half of the season.
Padres: Yates Splitter and Machado Effect
The San Diego Padres struggled against the NL West with a 16-18 record against the red-hot LA Dodgers and gritty Colorado Rockies, who were a Wild Card squad last October. The LA Dodgers are running away with the division title. They were the first team to win 50 games and they’re on pace to crack 60 by the All-Star Break.
The Dodgers hold the biggest lead and only double-digit lead in baseball. The Colorado Rockies are 12 games behind in second place, while the Padres sit 14 back in third place.
Despite being so far out of first place, the Padres are still in the thick of the NL Wild Card. They’re just 2 games behind in a semi-tight race.
Bookies set the original win total at 75 games. The number jumped to 78 or so when Manny Machado finally signed with the team during Spring Training.
Thus far, Machado got off to a slow start and he’s only hitting .276 with 20 home runs and 57 RBI. Fanmill Reyes and Hunter Renfroe lead the Padres with 24 home runs, but they’ve been benefiting from having Machado in the lineup.
Kirby Yates went from a washed-up journeyman reliever to the best closer in the NL. Yates mastered a splitter and batters have been unable to hit it.
“He’s one of the few guys in the game that can throw the split for a strike or a ball when they want,” said manager Andy Green. “That’s a tough pitch to command. It kind of tumbles on you. He commands it.”
Yates leads the majors with 27 saves. He also has a 1.27 ERA and 0.85 WHIP. At age 32, he got named to his first All-Star team.