It is such a beautiful and pivotal time in the 2021 MLB season. The Dodgers are in San Francisco attempting to wrest control of the NL West from the Giants while the Yankees clash with Tampa Bay in a must-win series to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros, and Chicago White Sox are the top-3 World Series favorites in that order.
The landscape has shifted a lot in the past 30 days. At the beginning of July, neither the Brewers nor Giants were big World Series favorites and now they are each in the top 6. The Yankees playoff odds have decreased while the Tampa Bay Rays have put themselves in a great spot to reach a 2nd-straight World Series.
If you missed any of the terrific MLB action in July, get your fix here before proceeding into August.
The largest division lead in the National League – held by Milwaukee over 2nd-place Cincinnati. The Milwaukee Brewers were in a tight 4-team race in June but have emerged as the Central’s clear #1 team with a terrific end to June and above-.500 play in July.
The Brewers are just 10-8 in July, which is not great, but is more than enough to maintain their already-large lead in a very soft division.
The only team playing better than Milwaukee this month in the Central is the Cincinnati Reds. Cincinnati is 12-7 during July, which means they only closed the gap by a game and a half. At this pace Cincinnati, will not catch Milwaukee by season’s end.
Milwaukee is the 2nd-most winningest team over June and July, sporting a record of 29-16 and profits of $675. These wins have shortened Milwaukee’s moneyline and made it harder for the team to turn profits. In the month of July, a 10-8 record was not enough to profit as the Brewers were given average moneyline odds of (-140) and lost just under $200 this month for their backers.
FiveThirtyEight projections give Milwaukee an 87% chance to hold on to win the NL Central. These are the best odds to win the division of any team in the National League.
The American League has a couple of teams with better division odds in Milwaukee, which will be addressed in a future section.
31-year-old Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman has posted a league-best Off of 13.2 in the month of July.
Freeman is showing off the total package at the plate this month – with a .426 average, knocking 6 balls over the fence, driving in 14 of his teammates, scoring 17 runs, and even stealing 2 bases.
Freeman’s success comes in large part due to his excellent plate discipline. In the month of July, Freemans strikeout percentage is just 12.0% while his walk rate is 15.7%. It is exceptionally rare to find a hitter who walks more than he strikes out, especially if he hits for any type of power.
Freeman’s July BABIP is .434 which is extremely elevated. A high BABIP indicates that a player is getting a little bit lucky with an abnormal amount of hits to fall. This does not take away anything from Freeman’s power numbers or his plate discipline, it just means that his .426 average is a little bit fluky.
Before July, Freeman was hitting .261 on the season. Freeman’s 2021 average is now .292. His career average – including the month of July – is .295.
22-year-old Washington Nationals outfielder Juan Soto is picking up where teammate Kyle Schwarber left off – mashing an MLB-high 8 July home runs.
Soto has an Off this month of 12.3 – the 2nd-highest of any hitter in baseball.
Soto is having an amazing month in all facets from the plate. His batting average is .364, he has hit 8 home runs, driven in 19, and scored 18 times. His walk rate this month is an amazing 20.2% (3rd-best among qualifying hitters this month) while he is striking out just 11.9% of the time.
All hitters should be studying what Freddie Freeman and Juan Soto are doing this month plate discipline-wise. Each of these tremendous hitters are not forcing it at the plate and are waiting for their pitch. While it may be frustrating to constantly be pitched around, these hitters are staying within themselves and pouncing on their opportunities.
The Chicago White Sox hold the largest division lead in baseball – a whopping 8.5 games ahead of 2nd-place Cleveland.
The White Sox are tied for the best record in the month of July for an AL Central team with Detroit at 11-8. The Tigers have improved their record all the way to 47-54 but are still 12.5 games back of Chicago.
FiveThirtyEight projections give the White Sox a 96% chance of winning the AL Central. This is as much of a lock as you can get in professional sports, especially this early in a division race.
At 58–40 the White Sox have the 4th-best record in the American League but are the beneficiary of playing in the weakest division in baseball. In the AL West, Chicago would be in 2nd place. In the AL East, Chicago would be 3rd.
The White Sox have played winning baseball all season long and are typically pretty decent favorites every night. In July, the White Sox were (-130) moneyline favorites and ended up eeking out a very small profit with their 11-8 record.
1-4 is the combined July records of the Minnesota Twins 2-best pitchers – Jose Berrios and Kenta Maeda.
As a lifelong Tigers fan it gives me great joy to write about how miserable the Minnesota Twins are right now.
Maeda is having an excellent month of July – posting the 5th-highest WAR among all qualified Major League pitchers. His ERA and XFIP are both sub-3 on the month while he is posting a K/9 above 12 with a walk rate at about 1.5.
Maeda is the Twins’ number-2 starting pitcher but is throwing like their ace this month. Jose Berrios is younger and has more potential but can’t match Maeda right now.
Berrios sports an ERA in the mid-3s with decent K/9 and BB/9 numbers. He deserves better than he has fared in the win-loss department this month as he is a tough luck loser of 3 games without a single victory.
The fact that the Twins’ 2 best pitchers have a win rate of 20% this month speaks volumes about how horribly Minnesota is playing right now.
The Twins have sunk all the way down to last place in the dreadful AL Central with a record of 42-58. Minnesota is 9-12 in the month of July and has lost their backers $361 on the moneyline despite ever-shortening odds as the team continues to lose.
Both Vegas and myself had the Twins slated for a 2nd-place finish in the AL Central but right now Minnesota can’t even handle Kansas City or Detroit.
Minnesota does have some fire power on their roster and loyal Twins fans are still holding out hope that the team can embark on a miraculous playoff run – but that scenario is growing more unlikely by the day.
At the beginning of the month Minnesota was 13.5 games back of the lead in the AL Central. they are now 17 back of the White Sox and 14 games back of the Oakland Athletics for the 2nd Wild Card spot in the American League.
I didn’t even have to consult the FiveThirtyEight projections on this one, I can confidently state that the Minnesota Twins have a less than 1% chance of reaching the postseason in 2021.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have won the fewest games in baseball this year with a record of 31-70.
About a month ago, Arizona was on pace for one of the worst records ever. They are at least now about the 30% win mark which is still laughable but will at least keep them out of the record books.
The 1962 New York Mets set the all-time worst season record in the 162-game era – winning just 40 games and losing 120 for a 25% win rate. Their excuse was that this was the first season ever for the Mets franchise.
Although Arizona is playing dreadfully terrible baseball, having your win rate begin with a 3 just looks much better in the standings.
The number of players in the MLB this season with 10 home runs, 14 stolen bases, and a .800 OPS.
The first 5 should not surprise you too much – Shohei Ohtani, Fernando Tatis, Ronald Acuna, Trea Turner, and Cedric Mullins.
The 6th player on this list is Tigers rookie center fielder Akil Baddoo. Baddoo is in the middle of a productive series against the Minnesota Twins and is still in the conversation for Rookie of the Year honors in the AL.
Baddoo was the 74th overall pick back in 2016 by the Minnesota Twins. His progression through the minor leagues was very slow and Baddoo still found himself in A-ball as late as 2019.
The Twins did not protect Baddoo and the Tigers snatched him up in the Rule Five draft, forcing them to put an A-ball player on their 2021 Major League roster for the entire 2021 season.
Baddoo found himself in an amazing opportunity – going to a team without much outfield depth and unable to be sent down. He was given a fair shot to compete in Spring Training and performed very well – hitting .310 with 5 home runs in 24 games.
The rookie had earned himself regular at bats by the first week of the season and turned in one of the best first weeks for a rookie in MLB history.
Baddoo’s career began with a first-pitch home run and got better from there. After two games, Baddoo had slugged 2 home runs and tallied 5 RBIs.
Through his first 4 games, Baddoo was hitting .455 with 2 bombs and 7 RBIs (including a walk-off single). He even notched an outfield assist in left field.
Baddoo quickly earned the full-time center field job in Detroit and has been holding his own throughout the entire season.
Baddoo’s walk rate of 10.3% is extremely good and his Minor League numbers indicate that this is not a fluke.
Throughout Rookie and A-ball, Baddoo averaged a BB% high in the double digits. 10.3% is actually a little low for him.
A 22-year-old with power, speed, and a good eye at the dish is definitely a reason for optimism and excitement in Detroit as the franchise looks to emerge from a half-decade rebuild.
Angels utility man David Fletcher has posted the 8th-best Off in the Major Leagues during the month of July while walking in just 1.3% of his plate appearances.
Fletcher has a very Vladimir Guerrero Sr.-esque approach at the plate where he swings at everything and is extremely aggressive. Cubs shortstop Javier Baez and White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson are both well known for being free swingers and not walking much. Fletcher has taken this idea and applied it on the West Coast.
Fletcher is the epitome of a singles hitter. He has just 2 home runs this month – his only 2 of the season. His batting average in the month of July is .403, with a .410 on-base percentage, and a slugging percentage of .584.
The relatively low discrepancy between his batting average and slugging percentage indicate that Fletcher is not getting many extra base hits. Much of Fletcher‘s approach relies on the fact that he is very good at making contact – he strikes out in just 9% of plate appearances.
Many hitters get the “all or nothing” label because they either hit a home run or strike out. Fletchers’ version of “all or nothing” means he either hits a single or hits the ball at somebody and gets out. With a walk rate of 1.3% and a K% of 9.0% – Fletcher puts the ball in play in just about 90% of his plate appearances.
The fact that Fletcher’s batting average and on-base percentage nearly mirror each other is kind of amusing. It is the lowest discrepancy between batting average on-base percentage in the entire league this month and illustrates how little David Fletcher walks or gets hit by the pitch.
There is an internet fad to semi-jokingly proclaim that David Fletcher is the GOAT. While Fletcher is not going to win any MVP awards or make the Hall of Fame, he does excel at his own ultra-aggressive style of hitting – one that is extremely difficult to replicate with any success.
Brewers starting pitcher Corbin Burnes is continuing his Cy Young-contending season with a 3-0 record of the month of July and a sub-one ERA at 0.99.
Unfortunately for Burnes, Mets ace Jacob deGrom sort of has the Cy Young locked up already. This does not take away from Burnes career season. His record on the year is 6-4 with a sparkling ERA of 2.12 and an ultra-low WHIP of 0.90.
Burnes is also quite the strikeout artist with a very good K/9 rate of 12.88 – which ranks 2nd in the National League (behind deGrom, of course).
Corbin Burnes and the rest of the Brewers staff are the fuel behind the Brewers’ exceptional run through the months of June and July – which have put them out in front of the pack in the NL Central by 7 games.
When we picked Divisional All-Star teams during the break, all 3 starting pitchers from the National League Central were from Milwaukee (Burnes, Woodruff, Peralta).
The average fastball velocity during July by Indians reliever Emmanuel Clase – tops in the MLB.
Clase has endured a horrible month of July but has lit up the radar guns regardless. Clase has lost 3 games for Cleveland and posted an ERA of 6.14.
Clase is the only pitcher to average over 100 MPH on his fastball this month. Clase and Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks are the only 2 pitchers in baseball to average a triple-digits fastball on the season. Hicks has not pitched since May, however.
The hardest-throwing starting pitcher of July is the Marlins Sandy Alcantara. Despite the fireworks when Alcantra takes the mound, he has walked over 5 batters per 9 innings and has a lofty ERA of 4.15 this month.
Jacob deGrom is also a flamethrower. The 2-time Cy Young winner is averaging a 98.4-MPH fastball this month. deGrom is an example of a pitcher who throws ridiculously hard but is also effective. deGrom has an ERA of 3.21 on the month with a K/9 of 15.43 and 0 walks in 14 innings … 0 walks!
The Tampa Bay Rays have posted the league’s best record in the month of July at 13–5.
Average moneyline odds of (-140) this month have not stopped the Tampa Bay Rays from becoming the most profitable team in the league. Rays moneyline bettors are up $740 in July alone.
Entering the month of July, Tampa Bay was 13 games over .500 and 3 games back of the Boston Red Sox in the AL East.
Today, Tampa is 20 games above even, just 1 game behind the Boston Red Sox and nestled securely in the top Wild Card spot in the American League.
Tampa is 4 games ahead of the Oakland Athletics in the Wild Card race. The next closest team is the Seattle Mariners who are 2.5 games behind Oakland. The New York Yankees are next, 1.5 Games behind Seattle.
Tampa has their sights set on an AL East title, but they can take solace in the fact that the New York Yankees pose the biggest threat to catching them from behind and New York is quite a ways back and still struggling to string together wins.
FiveThirtyEight projections put Tampa at 95 wins this season. The Rays have a 49% chance to win the AL East with a 90% chance to make the playoffs in any capacity.
Some will dismiss the Rays’ 2020 World Series appearance as a fluke, but Tampa has been one of the top teams in the American League for the past 3 seasons and needs to be taken seriously as a pennant contender.