American League quarter-season grades
A quarter of the way through the Major League season, the sample size is large enough to pass some judgments on the league’s 30 teams and their players.
Some teams stormed out of the gate with great starts, setting themselves up for a summer of intrigue and fun.
Others, well, they’ve now reached the point of the season where tough decisions need to be made.
Every team entered this season with expectations. Compared to those standards, here are the American League’s quarter-season team grades: [National League grades can be found here.]
Baltimore Orioles: A
The O’s are hitting the cover off the ball — Mark Trumbo has been a tremendous pickup — and the pitching has exceeded expectations, resulting in the team’s first-place standing.
Boston Red Sox: A
The best hitting team in baseball hasn’t had top-level starting pitching to this point, but David Price’s inflated ERA (5.53) is almost certain to drop significantly in the coming weeks (2.71 FIP) making arguably the best team in the AL even better.
Tampa Bay Rays: B
The Rays weren’t expected to contend for the division this season, but they’re hitting with power and the pitching has held opponents to an asinine .266 BABIP
New York Yankees: C
Should the Yankees be better than this? Hard to say. On one hand, they’re the Yankees, on the other hand, this roster has .500 written all over it. Mediocrity might be staying for longer than the first two months of the season.
Toronto Blue Jays: C-
They’re still in it, but this doesn’t look like a team that can compete for a World Series this year. The Jays are playing with fire with the back-end of their rotation, especially in this division.
Chicago White Sox: A
The White Sox were on pace to be an A-plus team, but a slide over the last two weeks has turned a 6-game lead over the Indians down to a dead heat and that A-plus into an A. Chris Sale has been stellar and the team’s defense has done a 180 from last year. Though, the Sox might be a left-handed bat and a back-end starter away from being a surefire playoff team.
Cleveland is likely the best team in the AL Central this year, but it took them a while to figure that out. Shortstop Francisco Lindor might be the AL MVP leader at this point in the year (.335/.394/.443, Gold Glove defense) and Danny Salazar has been the most entertaining possible version of dominant this season (10 strikeouts per nine, four walks per nine.) The Indians have room to improve, and are a force to be reckoned with this season.
Is this team supposed to go to the World Series for a third-straight year? Even with a disappointing start, Royals are still in the hunt, but they look like a .500 team on the whole — they’re talented enough to stay in it, but don’t appear to have the horses, especially in the rotation and back-end of the batting order, to be part of the AL’s best this year.
Detroit Tigers: D+
The Tigers, like the Royals, are off to a middling start. But Detroit has shown little to no sign that they can keep up with Chicago, Cleveland, or even Kansas City as the season progresses. The starting pitching has been average at best, the bullpen has been average at best, and after some hot, unsustainable starts, the moment where Tigers’ lineup is Miguel Cabrera and little help is imminent. Even the Tigers’ fielding is average. This team, who was expected to be in the thick of things, is decidedly average and there doesn’t seem to be a chance looming in the future.
Minnesota Twins: F
The Twins were supposed to be a young, exciting, .500 team. Instead, they’re the worst team in the American League. The Twins are batting .235, while its pitching has a 5 ERA. The best thing going for the Twins this year is Abad — reliever Fernando Abad, who has a 0.59 through 18 games.
Seattle Mariners: A
When you have Robinson Cano bashing the ball and Felix Hernandez doing King Felix things, you’re going to win a good share of games. But Seattle’s overall stellar pitching has them atop the AL West through a quarter of the season — allowing 3.63 runs per game. Hisashi Iwakuma, perennially underrated, has been strong and Taijuan Walker has made the leap from prospect to top-flight starter. The M’s are played their best possible baseball early — the question is if they can keep it up.
Los Angeles Angels: B
They’re not good, but no one expected them to be. They’ve almost run out of pitchers, and Albert Pujols’ contract is more of a burden with every at-bat. That said, Mike Trout’s team could be much, much worse than a few games under .500, so marks to them.
Texas Rangers: B-
The Rangers are holding their own as they wait for Yu Darvish to return to the rotation, easily within striking distance of the Mariners in the division. Ian Desmond has been an excellent addition to the squad, and his bat has been unaffected by his move from shortstop to outfield, covering up for the slow start of Prince Fielder and the absence of Shin-Soo Choo. The Rangers could be better, sure, but even when everything isn’t clicking, they’re well positioned for the dog days.
Oakland Athletics: C
Sonny Gray’s slow start has really hampered a team that could be in the hunt for the playoffs. Without an ace, the rotation is weak, the lineup — even with the terrific Khris Davis and Danny Valencia — is pedestrian and the team defense is woeful. Those things could change, but increased firepower isn’t coming anytime soon, and for this team to be in the same boat as the Angels is a disappointment.
Houston Astros: F
The Astros were a savvy World Series pick (if I could say so myself) so for this team — which last year had one of the best rotations in baseball and unquestionably the best, most productive young lineups in the game — to be in last place and floundering is baffling. Jose Altuve might be the best player in baseball right now, but he’s getting no help — the Astros, even with Altuve’s , have a team slash line of .233/.316/.408 and a team ERA of 4.50. Turnarounds should be expected — this team is too talented to be this bad — but the Astros dug themselves a huge hole at the start of this season, one they might not be able to get out of.