So, this is kind of odd and maybe doesn't mean anything at all, other than a reminder that baseball seasons are 162 games, so don't overreact to first-half stats: Mike Trout leads all major league position players in WAR.
Wait, that's not the odd part. The odd part is the next best nine position players in WAR are also American League players. Heck, three of those top 10 didn't even make the All-Star team yet -- Andrelton Simmons (seventh), Matt Chapman (ninth) and Eddie Rosario (10th). The first National League player who shows up is Lorenzo Cain at No. 11.
Now, that's using Baseball-Reference WAR, which uses defensive runs saved as its defensive metric, and DRS tends to give some higher fielding values than UZR, which FanGraphs uses. So looking at FanGraphs ... and the top eight players in WAR -- and 13 of the top 20 -- are still American Leaguers.
The pitching leaders are more evenly split, although if you dig deep enough, 15 of the top 25 pitchers in Baseball-Reference WAR are American Leaguers. Now, WAR isn't the end-all method for evaluating All-Stars, but it seems pretty clear that, at least in the first half of 2018, the American League has the better All-Stars, or at least the better list of superstar-type All-Stars. I mean, Trout, Jose Ramirez, Mookie Betts and Francisco Lindor could all be chasing 10-WAR seasons. That doesn't even include J.D. Martinez, who could be chasing a Triple Crown. And that still doesn't include Aaron Judge or Jose Altuve, two of the biggest stars in the game.
Meanwhile, some of the biggest NL stars haven't matched the best in the AL. Bryce Harper is an All-Star starter despite his .218 average. Clayton Kershaw has missed time with injury, and Corey Seager is out for the season. Giancarlo Stanton, last year's NL MVP, is in the American League. Joey Votto, last year's MVP runner-up, is an All-Star, but has just eight home runs. Kris Bryant is on the DL. Anthony Rizzo is hitting .244 and slugging .407. Buster Posey is an All-Star and still a good player, but he's on the decline.
So maybe it's just one of those weird seasons in the National League. That gets to the next question: Is the American League then the better league? Here's where we get to an interesting answer: Maybe not -- even though the AL has won interleague play for 14 consecutive seasons, including a somewhat decisive 160-140 margin in 2017.
But the AL isn't winning in 2018. The NL currently leads interleague play 91-79 through 57 percent of the interleague schedule. The last time the NL won interleague play was 2003, when it went 137-115, and it was helped that season by two abysmal teams in the AL. The Devil Rays went 63-99, including 3-15 in interleague play, while the hapless 43-119 Tigers went 4-14 in interleague play.
The AL has three terrible teams in 2018 in the Orioles, Royals and White Sox. The Orioles and Royals have a chance to be historically awful, as both are on pace for more than 110 losses. The White Sox aren't much better, on pace for 108 losses. Those three teams have gone a combined 13-28 in interleague:
White Sox: 4-11
The Orioles and White Sox, however, don't have many interleague games. The Orioles have two against the Mets and one against the Phillies, while the White Sox have two against the Cardinals and three against the Cubs. Meanwhile, some of the AL's best have more interleague games to play: the Red Sox have 12, the Astros 12, the Indians nine and the Mariners have 15.
Much of the remaining interleague action concerns the AL West versus the NL West -- the two divisions have 60 games remaining against each other. The AL West is 53 games over .500 outside of the division, while the NL West is six games over. It would seem that, even with the awful tanking teams in the AL, that the final tally for interleague play remains up in the air.
Still, the NL is clearly much improved -- the depth across the league is showing up even as its stars have slumped or hit the DL. The Phillies and Braves have recovered from their own tanking years and have become playoff contenders. They're a combined 14-11 in interleague after going 14-26 last season. The Pirates and Reds have struggled within the NL, but they're a combined 18-4 in interleague as they've beat up on the AL Central -- although neither team has played Cleveland yet (the Reds have two series with the Indians).
Something else has happened, as well. I've written before that a major reason for the AL's superiority since the mid-2000s came as a result of the rest of the league trying to keep up with the Yankees and Red Sox. The success of those two teams forced the other teams to field better teams. That's now happened in the NL, with the 103-win Cubs of 2016 and the 104-win Dodgers of 2017.
Of course, the separation between the leagues doesn't matter as much as it did when Pete Rose was crashing over Ray Fosse in the 1970 All-Star Game or Lee Mazzilli was sending this 10-year-old Mariners fan home disappointed in 1979. The All-Star Game no longer determines home-field advantage in the World Series like it did from 2003 to 2016. For now, however, we do have an American League and a National League and can at least pretend that a heated rivalry still exists.
So, which is the better league? The AL has the edge in superstars and has the three strongest teams in the Red Sox, Yankees and Astros. The NL has the edge in depth and interleague play. Who do you have?