Ho hum, don’t pay any attention to the Orioles, who are one of the best teams in baseball despite playing the season under a general shroud of anonymity. The Orioles still look weak in the rotation, but that was the case before the season started. Obviously, it’s working along the Chesapeake Bay.
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After back-to-back last-place finishes, the Red Sox are back in the thick of things in the AL East. Can’t find fault in that. The only reason this grade isn’t higher is because the Red Sox’s roster, on paper, should be in first place. Not being able to gain ground on the rest of the competition means Boston is going to have to sell some prospects for win-now players.
The Jays didn’t do anything particularly poor in the first half of the season, but it remains to be seen if the 18-7 run to the All-Star break was a spurt or the way the Jays will play down the stretch.
It’s a tough division, but the Yankees are a .500 team that don’t appear to have much upside. Didi Gregorius and the strong play of CC Sabathia and Carlos Beltran are positives, but then there’s also A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, and Luis Severino. Add in a reported front-office war over buying or selling at the deadline, and you have a big problem.
It’s the worst-case scenario. Injuries decimated the Rays’ lineup and no one stepped up to fill the gaps. Usually, Tampa Bay is good for a breakout player or two. Not this year. Starting pitching has been bad, the bullpen is buckling under the pressure, and the lineup can’t seem to hit. It can only go up from here.
The Indians look on the hunt for a World Series. Despite some key injuries, the Tribe pushed to the top of a tough AL Central and gave themselves a nice cushion to work with going forward. On top of that, they can upgrade on the trade market and can feel safe in walking away if the asking prices are too high. Despite the competition, no team is in a better position to make the playoffs than the Indians.
A tremendous start, followed by a nosedive. The White Sox have leveled off, as have their faint playoff chances. The Wild Card looks like their only route into the postseason thanks to a 10-26 skid. Manager Robin Ventura enters the second half on the hot seat, and if the Sox can’t get something working early after the break, they might have to consider selling off players to replenish a depleted farm system.
While the White Sox have shown wild variance, the Tigers, who have a half-game lead on them in the AL Central heading into the second half, have been pretty ‘meh’ all year. Jordan Zimmermann has been a solid signing, but Justin Upton has been a disappointment for most of the season. If the Tigers have anything better in them, they need to show it ASAP.
The Royals have been tremendous at home, going 29-13 in the first half, but Kansas City’s road record and a poor starting rotation has the defending World Series champs chasing in the second half. Health and natural progression should start to swing KC’s way, though. The Royals did an admirable job of keeping the ship afloat, despite the tough start. That said, playoff tickets are a tough sell at the break.
The Twins started the season poorly and haven’t gotten much better. The young players aren’t showing they’re capable of playing at the major-league level, and the veterans aren’t doing much better. Add another year to the rebuilding timeline.
The Rangers are cooking with gas this season. Shortstop-turned-outfielder Ian Desmond has been a godsend, and despite serious rotation issues, injuries and a downright poor bullpen, Texas has the most wins in the American League at the break.
It wasn’t looking so hot there, but the Astros progressed to the mean in the second quarter of the year and look like title contenders once again. Thanks to Evan Gattis’ move to catcher, George Springer’s move to the top of the order (Houston is 31-13 since he was moved there), and Carlos Correa breaking out of his early season slump, Houston is back in the thick of things.
After a promising, this-might-be-the-year start, the Mariners have fallen back toward expectations. The Wild Card is still in play, though Seattle would be foolish to mortgage a bright future for a shot at a one-game playoff.
Billy Beane’s "stuff" hasn’t worked in the regular season much either. The A’s looked poised to be sellers at the trade deadline and finish below .500 again. Sonny Gray, in particular, has been a tremendous disappointment this year. There’s not much reason for optimism either, unless you’re thinking "well, it could have been worse."
Is there a way for this team to get out of the Albert Pujols contract? Because it’s weighing this squad down like concrete shoes. The team with the best player in baseball, Mike Trout, shouldn’t be this poor, yet they are. Bad pitching, inadequate hitting and little hope of adding either from within made the Angels’ first half the worst of any team in baseball.
One of the best teams in baseball in the first half, the Nationals can’t complain about much heading into the home stretch. Daniel Murphy has continued to hit the cover off the ball; Wilson Ramos is a legitimate MVP candidate; Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Joe Ross have been stellar in the rotation; and manager Dusty Baker has shown a deft touch with the bullpen. The Nats are surely playoff bound.
Injuries and wicked slumps to key players (*Giancarlo Stanton*) have made the Marlins’ first half trying, but they’re well in the hunt for the Wild Card thanks to the tremendous play of Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, Martin Prado and Jose Fernandez. Now the front office needs to avoid trading any of them before Aug. 1.
Injuries have been tough for the Mets, who at times look as if they’re shoo-ins to repeat as NL pennant winners, and other times look like a team that dramatically overachieved last year. Now that Matt Harvey is out for the year, there’s a chance some normalcy sets in — but don’t count on it. The Mets are still in the playoff hunt, so it’s hard to be too harsh.
The Phillies had an A grade after the first quarter of the season, but eventually they came back toward earth and settled in six games under .500. No one expected them to have been that high in the standings for that long. Maybe they have another great run in them yet.
The Braves are leaving Turner Field on bad terms, having posted an atrocious 13-34 record at home in the first half. They started winning a bit late as the All-Star Game approached, avoiding an F grade, but this is still one of the worst teams in baseball. They enter the second half 16.5 games back of a playoff spot.
The Cubs started the season with a run that made us wonder if they were the greatest baseball team of the modern era. They are clearly not that. They’re 28-29 since May 10. That said, they’re a lock to win the division and the team still looks every bit the part of a World Series contender. The shine isn’t as bright, but the Cubs are still shining.
The Cardinals keep cruising right along, steady as ever. They weren’t going to replicate last year’s 100-win season, but they’re still in the hunt for the Wild Card despite a load of injuries this year. That said, the Cardinals always seem to have injuries and rarely, if ever, slow down because of it. You can’t be angry at the Cardinals, but you can’t be thrilled with their performance either.
It might not feel like it, but the Pirates are still in this thing, looking down the barrel at another Wild Card game berth. The Bucs might have the best outfield in baseball, and while the rotation was up and down (to say the least) there are positives to be gleaned. A strong end of the first half could be the lead in to a second-half push.
They were supposed to be really bad. Instead, they’re just bad. If you’re expecting an F and get a C-, you won the day. It’s all about realistic expectations. The Brewers have played roughly .500 ball as of late and are 8.5 games out of the Wild Card, but that’s as far as they should travel — it’s a seller’s market. Jonathan Lucroy should fetch a tidy sum at the trade deadline, and if they can move Ryan Braun as well, it’d be a great second half.
The bullpen is one of the worst in baseball history, and the rotation is two, maybe three years away, but they did find Adam Duvall, so that’s a positive. Moving Jay Bruce at the deadline could help bolster the rebuild. Would the Reds consider moving Joey Votto as well?
The best team in baseball bounced back from a middling start to go on a 45-20 run into the break. The one-two-three of Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija is the best in baseball (sorry Cleveland), and the lineup is masterful at getting ’em on, over, and in. The bullpen is steady and the team defense is exceptional. It’s an even year, and the Giants looked poised to win another World Series.
The Dodgers should be better than they are, but they’re still in the playoff hunt, so it’s not all that bad. Corey Seager has been spectacular, but the bats need to improve in the second half. It’s scary to think where this team would be without the otherworldly Clayton Kershaw.
The Rockies weren’t going to win the division, but was it so much to ask for a bit of Wild Card contention, even for a week or two, even after a 98-loss season? The lineup is too good to be brought down by poor pitching like this. It’s really starting to get sad. Perhaps it’s time to blow it all up and stockpile flamethrowing starters who can compete at altitude.
Another wasted year in paradise. The Padres didn’t enter this season with any hopes of winning the division, and yet they’ve still be disappointing. Outside of Wil Myers and Yangervis Solarte, there’s not much positive to talk about in the Friars’ lineup. The Padres have already turned All-Star starter Drew Pomeranz — the team’s only decent starter — into an 18-year-old prospect from the Red Sox, so the second half could be much worse than the first.
The biggest disappointment in baseball. The Diamondbacks made big moves this winter and not a one has paid off. Zack Greinke is having a good year by any other pitcher’s standard, but his ERA is more than double his 2015 number. Shelby Miller has been a disaster, posting a 5.69 ERA, with a WHIP (1.74) that’s higher than his strikeout-to-walk ratio (1.47) . If not for Paul Goldschmidt, Jake Lamb and Jean Segura, this team — already 19 games back in the division and 10 back of the Wild Card — would be in even worse shape.