Starting Nine (Week of July 2)

There’s a new top dog in town this week and I’m not sure they’ll be giving up the position any time soon. The All-Star game looms and the season is officially over halfway home. Let’s take a look at this week’s Starting Nine.

#9. Cincinnati Reds 45-39 (+5000/+9000) - The young Reds squad added veteran Joey Votto back to the fold this week. They continue to hang around even as the Brewers heat up. Last Week’s Rank: 9th

#8. Milwaukee Brewers 45-39 (+1000/+2500) - The Brewers roared back on top in the NL Central this week. When healthy, they have one of the best starting staffs in the league and have a veteran lineup. Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

#7. San Francisco Giants 46-38 (+950/+2000) - The Giants have won eight of ten and proved in their sweep of the Dodgers in LA last weekend that they can hang with the big boys. The Giants will likely be looking for a starter at the deadline. Last Week’s Rank: 6th

#6. Miami 48-37 (+1500/+3500) - The Marlins’ lineup is healthy again and they continue to get strong pitching from all starters not named Sandy Alcantara. The sweep in Atlanta did give them an idea on how far they still have to climb. Last Week’s Rank: 8th

#5. Arizona Diamondbacks 50-35 (+1100/+2500) - Arizona moved into the second half of their schedule still on top in the West and they don’t appear willing to go away. Last Week’s Rank: 3rd

#4. Texas Rangers 50-34 (+550/+1200) - Texas is still in front in the AL West and bolstered their bullpen with the addition of Alondis Chapman this week from the Royals. Last Week’s Rank: 4th

#3. Baltimore Orioles 47-29 (+1300/+2800) - The Orioles move up to this spot almost by default with very few of the frontrunners playing quality baseball. Last Week’s Rank: 5th

#2. Tampa Bay Rays 57-30 (+225/+475) - It has been a mediocre stretch for the Rays including another 3-3 week this week. They have been knocked off the top spot for the first time this season in the Starting Nine. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#1. Atlanta Braves 56-27 (+160/+340) - The Braves finished a dominant June and kept things going with two wins more to start July. All this without their top two starting pitchers. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

AL/NL MVP Candidates:

Let’s look at the favorites to win the major awards in MLB as we sit halfway through the Month of May.

Top-five AL MVP Candidates

#1. Shohei Ohtani (-1400) - This could be turning into a one-man race as Ohtani continues to put together his best offensive season in his walk-year for the Angels. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#2. Corey Seager (+3000) - Seager earned the starting nod as the AL SS and continues to put together his best offensive season for the AL West leaders. Last Week’s Rank: 3rd

#3. Wander Franco (+3500) - Franco’s spot here could be fleeting. The Rays' ability to stay on top will be critical to his MVP candidacy. Last Week’s Rank: 3rd

#4. Vlad Guerrero Jr. (+6500) - Bank on an MVP candidate from the Blue Jays at your own peril. The Jays remain one of the most confounding teams in baseball. The talent is up and down the lineup and a solid starting rotation and yet, they get swept at home by a struggling Red Sox team. Last Week’s Rank: 5th

#5. Aaron Judge (+7000) - If you are someone that wants to load up on a long shot, I present to you 2022 MVP Judge. If Ohtani falls off, Judge is the most likely player to dominate down the stretch if he can return healthy. Last Week’s Rank: 4th

Top-five NL MVP Candidates

#1. Ronald Acuna Jr. (-140) - Like Ohtani in the AL, the NL MVP race at the moment is Acuna vs. the field. He is putting up historic offensive numbers as the season turns toward the all-star break and could very well become MLB’s first-ever 40/60 homer/steal player. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#2. Corbin Carroll (+2000) - Pity Carroll who could be an MVP favorite in any other year save for the historic run by Acuna. He is still a prime player to slide into the #1 spot should Acuna falter. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#3. Freddie Freeman (+1200) - Freeman will likely fall victim to his own consistency this year. He has excellent numbers, including leading the NL in doubles, but doesn’t have eye-catching numbers for a Dodgers team that has underperformed. Last Week’s Rank: 3rd

#4. Luis Arreaz (+2200) - His quest for .400 will keep eyes on Arreaz this season and, as long as the Marlins are contenders, he’ll be a contender for the MVP. Last Week’s Rank: 4th

#5. Fernando Tatis Jr. (+4500) - I’m sticking with Tatis in this fifth spot despite his growing odds. He is the closest thing to Acuna in terms of overall talent and the Padres could take off at any time. Last Week’s Rank: 5th

Top-three AL Cy Young Candidates

#1. Shane McClanahan (+1000) - The Rays cautiously placed him on the IL with his back issues. He still leads the league in wins and is top ten in WAR and strikeouts. His health is the only reason for his odds jumping up. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#2. Nathan Eovaldi (+1000) - Eovaldi has been the ace of the first-place Rangers’ staff this season. He’s second in wins, first in innings, and third in WHIP. Depending on McClanahan’s status, he could also end up being the all-star game starter. Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

#3. Framber Valdez (+200) - Valdez remains the odds-on favorite for the AL Cy Young. Like McClanahan, however, he missed his last start. He hasn’t got the wins that McClanahan or Eovaldi have, but he trumps them in nearly every other category. Last Week’s Rank: 3rd

Top-three NL Cy Young Candidates

#1. Clayton Kershaw (+270) - The 3-time Cy Young award winner is back on top this week as other contenders falter. He is tied for the lead in wins, 3rd in WAR, and sixth in ERA in the NL. He’s also shown the consistency that has been missing in recent years. Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

#2. Logan Webb (+1500) - Webb often flies under the radar as one of the best pitchers in the NL but the numbers don’t lie. He is second in innings pitched, second in quality starts, and sixth in WAR for the improving Giants. Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

#3. Zac Gallen (+200) - Gallen remains a heavy betting favorite but I have him third thanks to his less-than-stellar home and road splits. He has been the best pitcher in baseball at home this season with an 8-0 record and 1.50 ERA. On the road, however, he’s just 2-3 with a 5.08 ERA. Too wide a margin for me to give him the nod as the favorite. Last Week’s Rank: 3rd

*All odds courtesy of

By Mark Ruelle

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Mark Ruelle

Mark has been a sports fanatic since childhood. He is also an avid follower of sports analytics and has used it in his own betting analysis for over two decades. Now we have Mark on our team here at Stat Salt. He holds degrees in marketing, broadcasting, and English and uses this vast array of assets to dissect and analyze game matchups. Mark will provide you with a wide variety of statistics to consider and a strong opinion in each matchup that he covers. Please follow him daily for an up-to-the-minute analysis of all the important games.