Six weeks into the season, things are beginning to even out around baseball as teams regress to, more or less, what we expected from them at the beginning of the season. That’s not to say that there aren’t surprises; on the contrary, there have been plenty, as the Cubs have surged from one of the worst starts in baseball and the Mariners have fallen from their unexpected hot start. Some teams appear to be overperforming, such as the Pirates, whose -41 run differential in no way suggests their winning record, and others such as the Reds leave you scratching your head as they sit 5 games under .500 with a +30 run differential. And with all of that, we find ourselves here, surprisingly not very far from where we might have guessed we’d be at this point in the season.
After winning 9 of the last 10 games, including 6 straight, the Astros have finally started playing up to their full potential both on offense and on the mound. If Altuve can regain his early-season form and if the lineup remains healthy, few will be able to match this team’s firepower. Did we mention the stable of young talent ready to contribute in the majors? Whitley, Alvarez, Tucker, and Bukauskas are knocking on the door and ready to make an impact in September, at the latest.
The Dodgers continue to look good through the early season, with the second best winning percentage and run differential in the National League, and a comfortable four game division lead to boot. Cody Bellinger has continued to play excellently, and Hyun-Jin Ryu is beginning to look like a breakout candidate for the year. Other than some bullpen struggles, it’s hard to find a single factor at this point that indicates that the Dodgers won’t win the NL West and possibly go even further to finally make it over the hump in the World Series.
The Cubs have been incredibly hot for a full month now, with the best record in the Majors since April 8th thanks mainly to an incredible turnaround by the pitching staff. They’ve won all of their last eight series, with only one of those coming against a team that was under .500 entering the series (Marlins). Oh, and that Kris Bryant guy has been the second most valuable hitter in baseball over the last two weeks by fWAR.
Tampa Bay continues to sit atop the powerful AL East, but have fallen slightly from their perch atop the MLB as a whole. Still, their pitching has allowed the fewest runs in baseball, and the return of Austin Meadows, who was red hot until he hit the IL, should give the offense a kick as well. The impending absence of Cy Young frontrunner Tyler Glasnow certainly hurts, but the Rays should be able to power through.
The Yankees entered Monday just a half game out of first place. How? It could very well be a miracle. They still have 12 players, including multiple all-stars, sitting on the injured list, and have relied on breakout years by Gio Urshela and Domingo German to not only stay afloat, but contend for the division. The 24-16 Yankees appear to have good things ahead of them if they can bring the whole roster back to full strength.
The Twins continue to impress, holding the best winning percentage in baseball and one of the best run differentials. The impending return of Miguel Sano certainly looks to boost the offense even further, though the Twins are sitting comfortably right now with a four game lead in the AL Central as they continue to prove that 2017 was no fluke.
The Brewers currently sit in second in the NL Central, with a half game lead in the Wild Card race. They’ve played great at home, but have struggled a decent amount on the road, in part due to Christian Yelich’s incredible home-road splits this season. Their run differential isn’t dazzling at just +2, but the Brewers have been doing enough so far. They’ll need more consistency from their bullpen and the dynamic offense that carried them to the NLCS last year to really contend, especially in the NL Central.
8. Red Sox
The defending world champions have all of a sudden figured things out, as they’ve won 11 of their last 13 to pull themselves back up to third place in the AL East with a half game lead for the second AL Wild Card spot. They’re still waiting for Jackie Bradley Jr. to remember what a baseball is, but other than that the offense has rebounded, and Rafael Devers looks as good as ever. Bottom line, the power packed Red Sox are hot, so the rest of the league had better watch out.
J.T. Realmuto has been almost exactly what the Phillies acquired him for, and for the most part the rest of the roster has not. Bryce Harper leads the Majors in walks, but has been incredibly mediocre otherwise. It seems, for the most part, like the entire Phillies roster has been underperforming, which is scary for fans. They can only hope that that fact ultimately becomes scarier for the rest of the league and the Phillies go on a tear like they’re capable of sometime soon.
The Cardinals really need their pitching to pick things up. Really, they need a pickup as a team after dropping 9 games of 11 and falling to third in the contentious NL Central. Paul DeJong has continued to be excellent, but beyond that the Cardinals need their stars to begin stepping up in order to contend. Marcell Ozuna and Paul Goldschmidt are great first steps, as each has a lot of room for improvement despite double digit homers. For those two and the team as a whole, that starts with consistency.
The Friars need more from their offense. Like, a lot more. They have everything they need to contend, but an 88 team wRC+ just won’t cut it, especially if they’re looking to stick out in a deep National League. That starts with Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer living up to their big dollar contracts, and an offensive boost from the return of Fernando Tatis Jr. and Luis Urias will make a big difference as well. Pitching wise, some depth would be nice, but any major improvement truly starts with offense in San Diego.
The Braves haven’t been particularly excellent, but after three straight wins they sit in second in the NL East as the Mets and Nationals have hit skids. Max Fried and his incredible curveball have continued to impress, and Freddie Freeman has continued his consistent production at the plate. So far, the Braves have been surviving for the most part as they’re a game above .500 with a +1 run differential, but they will need to begin separating themselves from the field to make a run at the playoffs as they’re capable of.
The Indians’ offense started the year so badly that most thought they’d have to improve at some point. Now, Cleveland is making people question if they are capable of being any better with the sticks. The one bright spot so far has obviously been Francisco Lindor, who has put this offense on his back since his return. As bad as it looks, Cleveland is only a handful of games behind Minnesota, who is winning at a pace nobody thinks can be sustained. For a team that has had a problem with the injury bug, the Indians could certainly be in a much worse spot.
Pittsburgh is maybe the most confusing team in baseball, as they are one of the 15 teams with a winning percentage above .500 despite the fourth worst run differential and third fewest runs scored in baseball. Though Felipe Vasquez is second among all relievers in ERA and K% (min. 10 IP) and the Pirates staff is in the top half of the league in ERA, they can’t do enough to carry the offense when it’s such a dead weight. As they face more of their stronger division rivals down the stretch, the Pirates appear to be facing a difficult season moving forward.
The snakes continue to impress, with performances that have been about as good as fans could’ve hoped for from all of the key members of the team. Ketel Marte likely still has even more room for improvement, and if he can become a leader of the offense, the Diamondbacks truly become a threat. Like the Padres, they have a ways to go before they stick out in the National League, but they certainly have proven so far that a playoff season isn’t a ridiculous goal.
The Angels offense has started to pick up some of the early season slack, with Tommy La Stella and Kole Calhoun providing the bulk of the home run power for the lineup. While the offense will continue see a substantial boost with the return of Shohei Ohtani, the pitching will need to step up to push this team over .500.
A mediocre 4-7 record for the Mets over the past two weeks was slightly improved this weekend when they picked up two much-needed wins against the Marlins. While the rotation seemed to resolve some of its problems over this span, the offense has sputtered, leaving fans questioning the true talent of the roster. Greener pastures might be on the horizon however, as the Mets face the Nationals, Marlins, and Tigers, who combine for .372 winning percentage, over the next two weeks.
After scuffling out the gate, the Rockies have begun to turn their season around and creep closer and closer to .500. Charlie Blackmon and Nolan Arenado are once again the leaders of the offense, with Trevor Story building on his 2018 breakout. Ace Kyle Freeland will need to turn around his 5.84 ERA to give the Rockies three reliable starters and help them challenge the Dodgers for the NL West title.
Taking a look at run differential and record, the Reds are right up there with the Pirates as confusing teams, for the exact opposite reason. They’re fourth in the National League in run differential, and yet they can’t even manage fourth place in their own division. They’ve maintained great pitching, with the second fewest runs allowed in the MLB, but they need to start winning the close games for their record to demonstrate the talent on the team.
The A’s continue to be incredibly average this season, with a -7 run differential and a slightly under .500 record. They now own the first no hitter of the season for the second consecutive year, which is about all they have to brag about. They are still more than capable of putting things together to push for a Wild Card berth, but they have a ways to go in order to get there.
The Mariners have cooled down from their wild bombing spree to start the season, which is certainly a disappointment for many fans. Aside from their Crafty Lefties, the Mariners pitching is not something that many teams would desire, either. They’ve demonstrated an ability to win games, but it appears like they’re fading back into the bottom half of the league even sooner than they did last season.
22. White Sox
Though it was announced that Carlos Rodón will be undergoing Tommy John surgery this week, it was a relief to see both Reynaldo López and Lucas Giolito have solid starts in their last outings. The White Sox offense has still been their strong point with Moncada, Anderson, McCann, and Abreu all keeping their bats hot. The White Sox still sit in third in the AL Central, six games out of first place. It still seems unlikely that they’ll make a big push this season, but their best players are continuing to develop and they certainly have the talent for it.
The Rangers are one of just five teams to have scored at least 210 runs as of May 12… and one of just four to have allowed at least 210. There have been a lot of surprises in Texas thus far, namely a 12-7 record at home, but about what was expected outside of Texas, as the Rangers have managed a measly 5-14 on the road. A four game losing streak certainly doesn’t help matters.
The Nationals are wildly underperforming at this point, a statement which is hypothetically consolation for their .400 winning percentage as of May 12. While they were the first team to start three players under the age of 21 with Juan Soto, Carter Kieboom and Victor Robles, they desperately need more production out of those guys to really get their offense going. Their big name rotation has largely performed up to expectation, though a kick from the bullpen would be nice as well.
So far in 2019, the Tigers have just about kept pace with expectations. At just under .500, they pose no real threat to Minnesota or Cleveland for the division crown. However, there have been some brights spots. 27 year old Ronny Rodriguez has broken out so far in his 2019 campaign, with an OPS pushing 1.000. Outside of Rodriguez, the offense hasn’t been pretty for the most part. This team is certainly not a playoff team, but they’ve managed to keep themselves above the league bottom feeders.
One way to articulate the Giants’ struggles so far is that they don’t have a single player worth one or more fWAR after a quarter of the season. Buster Posey has returned to his defensive greatness, but has been poor offensively. Madison Bumgarner has been solid, and as many rumors have suggested he is likely to be their best trade piece come the deadline, which is probably what the majority of Giants fans are looking forward to this year.
27. Blue Jays
The Blue Jays have now seen the arrival of Vlad Guerrero Jr., and just as he has underwhelmed, so has the team as a whole. Now 8.5 games back in the AL East and in no real position to contend for a Wild Card spot after dropping 10 of 12, Jays fans are likely just waiting for Guerrero to warm up to the level that is promised by his talent.
This time around, the Royals highlights you may have missed include Scott Barlow posting 6 strikeouts in 2 innings, the first time in franchise history that a pitcher has done that. Barlow has proven himself recently as the best piece out of the Royals bullpen, however distinguished or not that is as a title. Alex Gordon also recorded his 1500th career hit with a 110.6 MPH home run against the Phillies, continuing to make himself into a viable trade deadline candidate for Dayton Moore.
The team is performing about as expected, but a couple of unexpected bright spots have emerged. Dwight Smith Jr. seems to be justifying his high draft position (53rd overall in 2011) by leading the team in HRs, only striking out 17.6% of the time, and hitting .438 with runners in scoring position. On the mound, John Means has opened a few eyes with a sparkling 2.33 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 38.2 innings, though some regression appears likely with an xFIP of 4.70.
The Marlins are on pace to win just 41 games. Last we checked, that’s very bad. They’re on a 5 game losing streak, and they haven’t won a series in three weeks. The pitching has been somewhat workable, but the offense has been utterly awful: the Marlins have scored 33 fewer runs than the next lowest scoring offense, and there are five teams in baseball who have scored at least twice as many runs as the fish.
Featured photo: Matt Marton/USA Today Sports