We’ll be taking a look at the most interesting takeaways every week this MLB season so check back every Sunday for our recap. Now, here’s what we learned from Week 15 in MLB:
Dodgers seem more determined than ever
The Los Angeles Dodgers are entering the All-Star Break looking like they finally have all of the championship pieces after back-to-back runner-up finishes in the World Series. The Dodgers’ roster depth and flexibility has them sitting at a 60-31 record entering Sunday, the best in baseball. The Dodgers were the first team to 60 wins this year as well, and have essentially clinched the National League West considering their 14.5-game lead on the second-place Colorado Rockies.
This past week, the team continued to be practically unbeatable at home with a 37-9 record at Dodger Stadium. That’s due in part to the fact that the Dodgers notched five straight home game walk-offs from June 21 to July 3.
Dodgers right fielder and NL MVP candidate Cody Bellinger is leading the way for this team. Bellinger, 23, is slashing .341/.437/.701 with 30 home runs, 71 RBI and leading the league in both WRC+ with 190, and WAR at 5.8. While Bellinger continues to crush the ball, Joc Pederson, Enrique Hernandez, and Chris Taylor all are showing off their versatility this season. Plus, new names like Matt Beaty, Alex Verdugo and Will Smith have garnered attention thanks to their part in the walk-off streak.
The Dodgers are ready for another World Series run, and this time, they’re hoping to achieve their goal of winning the club’s first championship since 1988.
Castillo is the Reds ace, possible NL Cy Young candidate
Cincinnati Reds right-hander Luis Castillo, 26, has found himself among the ranks of the best starting pitchers in baseball. Not only has he been the Reds’ ace this season, but his season statistics put him with the likes of Max Scherzer, Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu. And now, his success on the mound has him in the National League Cy Young conversation.
In Castillo’s last start on July 4, he picked up his eighth win on the season after allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out nine batters over 7 2/3 innings to beat the Milwaukee Brewers. He had a no-hitter until Brewers rookie Keston Hiura singled with one out in the seventh. It was the fourth time all season Castillo has done his work without allowing a single run. His 2.29 ERA is second-best in the NL behind Ryu.
It’s Castillo’s impressive changeup that gets guys out. In his July 4 game, he used the pitch to notch eight of his nine strikeouts. He uses his changeup 32.3 percent of the time, and it averages 87.2 mph. During the 2019 season, Castillo has seven games where he’s recorded at least six strikeouts with his changeup. Not a single other MLB pitcher has two outings like that this season, and all other MLB pitchers have combined for eight such games.
On the season, Castillo holds an 8-3 record in 18 games started and has a team-best-WAR of 3.7. Castillo also leads the Reds in wins, strikeouts and innings pitched. Castillo was named an NL All-Star for the first time, and he’ll have a chance to pitch in Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Cleveland.
As of Sunday, the Reds are just 4 1/2 games out of first place, despite being in last place. Castillo’s performance in the second half will certainly be a huge factor in moving up in the NL Central.
Braves‘ young core carrying them to top of division
The reigning National League East champion Atlanta Braves are once again back at the top of their division. Thanks to a young core led by rookie Austin Riley, this team’s in the top 10 for every offensive statistic, and they continue to show off their talented lineup. Mike Soroka (9-1) and Max Fried (9-4) have both been solid on the mound while Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson all are enjoying strong seasons. Just as Acuna and Albies energized the team last year as the youngsters, Riley is doing the same.
Riley, normally a third baseman, has adjusted to playing left field while Donaldson’s at third better than anyone could have expected. Riley had barely any experience at the position before he got called up to join the big-league team. Through his first 47 MLB games, Riley’s already picked up a few accolades:
To pair with Atlanta’s young studs are a solid group of veterans. First baseman Freddie Freeman is quietly having one of the best seasons of his career while former MVP third baseman Josh Donaldson, veteran catcher Brian McCann and veteran outfielder Nick Markakis all are contributing to a loaded offense. The Braves offense isn’t just good, they’re relentless. Take Thursday’s game, for example…
In the second half of this season, the Braves aren’t just going to threaten the rest of the NL East teams, they’re going to look to run away with the division.