Which teams have come on in the second half?

September 10, 2014

The baseball season is a marathon. When teams like this year's Athletics get off to fast starts and gain sizable leads in their divisions, it is easy to take for granted that they are clearly among the best teams in baseball, even if their recent play does not support the assertion.

To see which teams have played the best baseball lately, let’s take a look at team performances in the second half of the season. First, here are the hypothetical playoff teams if the season started after the All-Star Break:

Hypothetical Playoff Teams Based on 2nd Half Records
Playoff Spot Team W L Pct
NL West Los Angeles Dodgers 28 19 .596
NL Central St. Louis Cardinals 28 20 .583
NL East Washington Nationals 30 19 .612
Wild Card Miami Marlins 26 22 .542
Wild Card Pittsburgh Pirates 26 22 .542


The hottest teams in the NL have all needed their recent winning ways to enter the playoff mix. The Dodgers were 10 games back for a time in June but are currently ahead in the West. The Cardinals went from three down in the Central to four and a half up in the last month thanks to the Brewers' collapse, which has also aided the Pirates’ efforts to control a Wild Card spot. The Nationals have been on top for longer than either the Dodgers or Cardinals after seizing control of the East from the quick-starting Braves in June. The Marlins have gained four and a half games on the Braves, as well, and now loom in the Wild Card race.

The hot NL teams may not have been the leading teams earlier this season, but they generally match up with the preseason favorites. The AL is another story.

Hypothetical Playoff Teams Based on 2nd Half Records
Playoff Spot Team W L Pct
AL West Los Angeles Angels 31 18 .633
AL Central Kansas City Royals 31 17 .646
AL East Baltimore Orioles 32 17 .653
Wild Card Seattle Mariners 28 20 .583
Wild Card Cleveland Indians 27 21 .563


Of the five teams with the best second-half records in the AL, only Cleveland reached the postseason in 2013. Baltimore and Los Angeles are comfortably ahead in their divisions, so they practically guarantee new teams will reach the playoffs. The Royals currently lead their division by a game over the Tigers. Oakland’s fast start to the season has them hanging onto a Wild Card spot, but they are in a heated race with Seattle and whichever Central team fails to win the division. Cleveland, New York, and Toronto are still in the hunt, as well.

The offensive leaders of the second half feature some of the teams with the best records as well as a few surprises:

2nd Half Runs per Game Leaders
Team Runs per Game
Minnesota Twins 4.71
San Francisco Giants 4.70
Detroit Tigers 4.60
Baltimore Orioles 4.47
Washington Nationals 4.47


The Minnesota Twins may not have been your first guess as to which team has had the best offense in the second half, but they lead all teams in runs per game. The Twins do not have a star hitter, but they have had solid production throughout their lineup. In particular, rookies Kennys Vargas and Danny Santana have come up and contributed. Both players have hit over .300 with power in the second half.

The other teams on the list—the Giants, Tigers, Orioles, and Nationals—are more in line with expectations. The Tigers are currently half a game out of the Wild Card and one game back in their division. The other three teams would make the playoffs if the season ended today.

Finally, here are the best pitching teams in the second half:

2nd Half ERA Leaders
Team ERA
Seattle Mariners 2.70
Tampa Bay Rays 2.75
Cleveland Indians 3.00
Baltimore Orioles 3.01
Los Angeles Angels 3.02


Seattle has enjoyed historically good run prevention all season with starters Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma in the top 10 in ERA among qualified starters in the AL and Chris Young and Roenis Elias in the top 30. Meanwhile, the Rays have put their slow start behind them and are right on the Mariners’ heels in ERA over the second half. The rest of the top five is rounded out by another three AL teams. No NL teams made the list.


COMMENTS (1 Comment)

I'm not sure what your point is here. The teams that have played the best baseball are ahead?
9:51 PM Sep 10th
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