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MLB underreported first-half stories: The dominance of Edwin Diaz, Christian Walker’s livewire bat and more

MLB is in the middle of the season, which means the charts are starting to take shape during the summer baseball doldrums. While some teams will always dominate the headlines — the ever-competitive Dodgers and MLB-best Yankees — others are making serious waves (albeit more quietly).

A few stories have gotten their fair share of noise throughout the year. Despite his excursion on the injured list, Yordan Alvarez is rightly recognized as one of baseball’s preeminent hitters. Elsewhere, Sandy Alcantara has catapulted himself into the Cy Young conversation with his stellar season.

But what about the rest of the league? The regional nature of baseball can make it difficult to take note of what’s going on in the league, especially with uncompetitive teams.

With the trade deadline approaching, now is the time to take notice of some of these players, along with incredible performances buried in very good teams.

Here are some of the least-reported stories from the first half of the 2022 MLB season.

MORE: 2022 MLB All-Star roster

Edwin Diaz’s shutdown dominance

Mets closer Edwin Diaz is just a cog in the machine this year. The Mets go into the break 2.5 games ahead of the Braves in the NL East with a 58-35 record.

While certain players are rightly credited with their hot start, e.g. B. All-Stars like Jeff McNeil, Pete Alonso and Starling Marte — along with pitchers like Carlos Carrasco — will bury others in their roles.

One of those pitchers is the superstar Closer Diaz, acquired in the trade that sent Jarred Kelenic to Seattle. Diaz, an All-Star himself, has shown some of the best things in baseball this year. He has 20 saves on 23 occasions and a 1.69 ERA.

Diaz’s baseball savant side is blood red, and he ranks in the 99th percentile in MLB in expected ERA, expected batting average, expected slugging percentage, puff percentage, and strikeout percentage.

Diaz has become an everyday closer, and the Mets’ 14-9 record in one-run games is no fluke. Despite some ferocity early in his MLB career, his fastball-slider combination is one of baseball’s most unbeatable 1-2 shots when on.

While the Mets’ success as a team is well-documented, Diaz was a major reason they endured a series of pitching-staff injuries throughout the season. While the middle of the bullpen sometimes struggled, Diaz was generally able to slam the door when the Mets had come into ninth by a margin. More importantly, he’s gotten better over the season, which will be huge for a potential Mets playoff push.

MORE: Mets and Nationals: Partners in a Juan Soto trade?

Christian Walker & Josh Bell’s closing bids

It’s a little unfair to lump these two together, but they do have sister seasons in a way. Both are first basemen for underperforming teams and both will likely be dangling as trading options by deadline.

Bell, of course, is overshadowed by Juan Soto in Nationals trade talks, but he’s writing a stellar season for Washington. The first baseman, who made the 2019 All-Star Game with the Pirates, batted .311 with 13 home runs in the season. Bell has a one-year contract with the Nationals, so it was offered as a pre-season swap option, but it’s becoming an expensive lease when a team moves in that direction.

Bell’s main flaw, however, is that he often puts the ball on the ground when a player hits the slot he was supposed to hit. About 50 percent of his touch this season is on ground, and he leads MLB in ground-in-doubles games at 18.

With that in mind, Walker could be a strong option for a team looking for a power slugger. With two more years of arbitration, the team that traded for him would have more control, and he’s hitting groundballs about 40 percent with 22 home runs in the season.

Although Walker’s average is significantly lower, his pop and power are a great fit for a team that needs some life in their lineup. Power-punching first basemen aren’t uncommon, but a team like the Guardians could well make a game for a player like Walker if they’re stuck in a bidding war for the likes of Bell or Jesus Aguilar. With Franmil Reyes struggling at plate, a second power bat could get Owen Miller out of first base rotation, leaving Josh Naylor and Walker at first base and DH on the move.

While that might fit, the overriding point is that both players deserve a playoff push chance. It will really come down to whether teams value touch in a loan deal or power and control.

MORE: 2022 MLB draft winners and losers: Orioles benefit from high picks, Rays puzzle with range

Luis Arraez’s breakout season

Like Diaz, yes, he’s an all-star. Yes, he starts talking. But Luis Arraez should get credit for the way he earned his .338 average.

Its advanced metrics aren’t mind-blowing. His average exit velocity is mediocre, his hard shot percentage is on the low end, and he doesn’t shoot the ball up often. But he follows an age-old adage on the plate: hit it where you aren’t.

In a league that has become increasingly aware of player tendencies, Arraez remains elusive. He hits the ball in the middle about 40 percent of the time, he pulls the ball 27 percent of the time, and he goes in the opposite direction 33 percent of the time. As a left-hander, it makes the shift against him untenable as he has to be treated like a right-hander at the plate.

Arraez’ nickname “La Regadera” fits in this sense. It means “the shower,” and Arraez’s spray chart reflects this.

Arraez has become the twins’ not-so-secret weapon. He’s one of the most difficult players to beat, his approach is consistent and most importantly, he knows how to handle any type of pitch that’s thrown at him. It’s an increasingly rare trait in today’s game, and he deserves all the accolades he gets this season.

The Curious Case of Logan Gilbert

Another player resisting analysis? The Mariners’ Logan Gilbert.

Much like Arraez, results-based stats favor him. His ERA is 2.76, he’s 10-3 a year, and if you watch him day in and day out, his “stuff” looks right.

Like Arraez, modern stats aren’t so kind. His .235 batting average is the third highest among pitchers in the top 20 in ERA, and his percentile ranking among MLB pitchers is, in a word, cool.

Does that make Gilbert’s first half a fluke? Hardly. But it definitely makes him hard to figure out. Among the Mariners’ young pitchers, he is the one who has achieved the most positive results.

Gilbert will be a pitcher to watch in the back half of the season. He has become one of Seattle’s most reliable starters day in and day out, but if he outperforms, the numbers will bear that out. For now, Mariners fans can tout him as an all-star snub. Other fans, meanwhile, can point out how he “should” perform this year.

How bad is the NL Central?

With the way the NL Central is being covered, you’d think the Cardinals would run away with the division. And that’s because the players are in St. Louis. Paul Goldschmidt has gotten MVP enthusiasm since Manny Machado missed time through injury, while Nolan Arenado and Tommy Edman are among the NL’s best in WAR.

MORE: The Orioles are good again, and their elite defense is a big reason

In reality, the Cardinals are just six games over .500 at 50-44, a half game behind Milwaukee in the division. Her run differential, amazingly, is sixth in the MLB at 65. But the Cardinals are 24-14 against the NL Central while they are 26-30 against the rest of the MLB.

The Brewers similarly cannibalized a bad division. They are 28-19 against NL Central and 22-24 against the rest of the league. They have the second-worst record of any division leader, only better than the Twins, and to make matters worse, Josh Hader is struggling to go into the break.

The Pirates, Cubs and Reds know their lot; They’re bad teams trying (at different paces) to get better. But the top of the division should be worried about their struggles against the rest of baseball. AL Central’s struggles are well known and documented. The NL Central will have to prove themselves in the second half of the season.

The Championship of Martin Perez

After a few years on the road, Martin Perez returned to his Texas roots this year. The southpaw earned the first All-Star nod of his career when he achieved a 2.68 ERA on the season. He is also one of six pitchers this season to throw a full game shutout, along with Michael Wacha, Walker Buehler, Reid Detmers (no-hitter), Hunter Green and Chad Kuhl.

Perez has amassed a 7-2 record for Texas this season, and much like Gilbert, his expanded stats page is hardly something to get too excited about. However, unlike Gilbert, there is a clear correlation between a stat and its success: its ability to miss kegs. Perez may not miss a ton of bats, but he doesn’t find the middle of them either.

Perez’s strikeout-to-walk ratio is better than 3-1, and he already has a player of the month this year. make no mistake Perez was not a representation pick (he was the only Ranger to make the All-Star Game before Corey Seager was later added). He earned his lot this year, as did the others listed above.

Written By

Dave Gallo is a pioneering sports analytics expert, renowned for his revolutionary work in AI-driven sports simulations, projections, and advanced statistical analysis. With a profound passion for sports and technology, he crafts cutting-edge computer models that accurately predict outcomes. Dave's game-changing insights have reshaped strategy, player evaluation, and decision-making across various sports. His dynamic presentations make complex analytics accessible and inspiring, ensuring his legacy as a visionary in sports analytics. Check out Dave's Pick Record.

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