MLB: Midseason AL Player Report Card

Justin Verlander Leads Impressive AL Pitcher Crop

With most MLB teams reaching the midpoint of their respective seasons this week, it’s a great time to access the half-year performances of players who are having awesome, All-Star-worthy campaigns – and to acknowledge those who might not be playing to their full potential. For this article, we’ll focus on pitchers in the American League for our AL Player Report Card

Plenty of big-name arms who were expected to have dominant seasons, such as preseason Cy Young favorite Gerrit Cole and Framber Valdez, have fully lived up to the billing while others, like Lucas Giolito and José Berríos, have struggled. Others, namely Justin Verlander and Nestor Cortés Jr., have surprisingly pushed themselves into Cy Young’s contention. The MLB injury report has also dampened the performances of some top guys, which is always an unfortunate component of such a long season.

Justin Verlander and Framber Valdez

We’ll start with the Houston Astros’ top two starters, each of whom has played a big role in Houston building a massive lead in the AL West. As a two-time former Cy Young winner (and former MVP), Verlander hasn’t exactly risen from nowhere to post a 2.03 ERA and minuscule 0.832 WHIP. But, considering that he had pitched just six innings since the 2019 season due to Tommy John surgery, it’s incredible what the 39-year-old has been able to do.

He’s not on pace to hit his season over for strikeouts (217.5) but he already has 10 wins (preseason over/under was 12.5) and is probably the leader in the clubhouse for the AL Cy Young Award. That’s a major surprise because he was just +2500 to take home the MLB wins title before the season.

With Verlander and Valdez’ efforts so far, the Astros’ aces certainly get an “A” on the AL player report card. Valdez has followed up a very impressive 2021 season — and up-and-down postseason — with a 2.67 ERA in 101 innings. Valdez has become one of baseball’s best groundball pitchers and, with Houston’s stellar infield defense, that tendency has translated into a lot of run prevention success. He was +2000 to lead MLB in wins before the season so, like Verlander, Valdez turned out to be a great value bet.

Gerrit Cole and Nestor Cortés Jr.

Essentially every member of the New York Yankees’ starting rotation could be included as a positive surprise because the Yankees have been baseball’s best team, by far, and because the rotation has been the predominant reason for New York’s torrid start to the season; but, we’ll focus on the expected ace, Gerrit Cole, and the underdog ace – Nestor Cortés Jr. – for now.

Cole was one of the AL Cy Young frontrunners before the year and had the best odds to lead MLB future odds (+600). Plus, he has a $300+ million contract which pays him to be among the league’s best pitchers year in and year out.

In 2022, Cole has lived up to his lucrative salary and, while he definitely hasn’t been unhittable, his sub-3.00 ERA and 1.007 WHIP certainly play. Interestingly, though, Cole is not on pace to eclipse either his over in strikeouts (255.5) or wins (15.5).

Of course, a lot can change down the stretch of the season but, at least until now, Cole’s strong pitchers haven’t translated into a ton of wins or as many strikeouts as predicted.

As for Cortés, he has struggled a little bit in recent starts but still boasts a very impressive 2.44 ERA, sub-1.00 WHIP, and 2.4 bWAR. He was only expected to be rotation depth help for the Yankees yet he has turned into a mainstay whose funky delivery and strong command have continued to baffle hitters.

Even though he pitched well in 2021, Cortés wasn’t featured on the vast majority of betting boards across gambling markets before the season. That’s why bet on MLB can be so frustrating (or rewarding): You never know who will step up.

Lucas Giolito

The 2022 season has been a very disappointing one for the Chicago White Sox and the same can be said for Chicago’s ace, Lucas Giolito. After finishing in the top 11 of AL Cy Young voting for the past three seasons, Giolito’s ERA is almost five as he has given up 2.5 more hits per nine innings (while also issuing more walks). His strikeout rate has improved but… with so many more baserunners, he’s allowing a lot more damage.

So, Giolito probably gets a C or D on the AL player report card. It won’t be easy for him to reach either his strikeout (214.5) or win (13.5) over and it looks nearly impossible for him to be the MLB wins leader despite being just +2000 in that category before the season. The White Sox need him to turn his season around and revert back to the dominant out-getter he has been in previous years.

José Berríos

While the Toronto Blue Jays haven’t been as underwhelming as the White Sox, the Blue Jays have gotten even less from their expected ace: José Berríos. After heading to Toronto at the 2021 trade deadline from the Minnesota Twins, Berríos has pitched in line with his career numbers and finished ninth in AL Cy Young voting.

This season, however, has been ugly. He has a 5.72 ERA and has allowed the most earned runs (53) of any starter in the AL. His walks are up, his strikeouts are way down (to a career-low 7.2 per nine innings) and he’s giving up 10.5 hits per nine innings. It would take a miracle for him to lead MLB in wins (+1400 odds before the year) or to reach his strikeout and/or win over. He has half a season to right the ship but, as of right now, things have been bleak for Berríos.

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