- The Astros are top of the class, the Orioles barely avoided an F, and more midseason grades for every American League team as we embark upon the second half of the baseball season.
School may be out for summer, but that doesn't mean we can't hand out grades. As the second half of the season dawns, we're evaluating each team's first half, less on an absolute basis—if you want that, you can always consult the standings—than relative to expectations, with some consideration as to the arc of each team's season to date. In that respect, they're not unlike our Winter Report Card series, except warmed (at least ideally) by the heat of playoff races instead of the hot stove.
(42-46, 7.5 behind in AL East, 4 behind in Wild Card): After a five-year stretch of generally overachieving, with three trips to the postseason, this year's Orioles squad is just brutal to watch. The rotation's 5.75 ERA is the majors' worst by 0.8 runs per nine, with Dylan Bundy the only one who's been at least average, while Zach Britton has missed 11 weeks due to a forearm strain. On the offensive side, Manny Machado isn't having a good season, and neither is last year’s home run leader, Mark Trumbo; just three regulars have a 100 OPS+ or better. The only thing keeping them from an F is being within shouting distance of .500.
(50-39, leading AL East): Big Papi is gone, and third base has been a sinkhole. David Price didn't debut until May 29 due to elbow inflammation, and is at odds with the media and fan base, reigning Cy Young winner Rick Porcello has been a dud and Steven Wright is done for the year due to torn cartilage in his left knee. Still, they're in first place thanks to a balanced, productive offense (4.84 runs/game, fourth in AL), the ace efforts of Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel, and a 16–9 run over the last four weeks, swinging the division lead by 7 1/2 games.
(45-41, 3.5 behind in AL East, leading Wild Card): Thanks to Aaron Judge's meteoric rise and a better-than-expected rotation, the Yankees spent the better part of two months in first place, that less than a year after their first deadline sell-off in a generation. Injuries, particularly to the bullpen, and a Gaping Vortex of Suck at first base (third base ain't so hot either), have since taken their toll, resulting in a 7–18 slide. Are they still rebuilding, or are they serious about contending this year? A 10-day road trip to kick off the second half, starting in Boston, will be telling.
(47-43, 3.5 behind in AL East, leading Wild Card): The cast may be less familiar than in recent years, but the Rays are back in contention after last year’s 94-loss season, which was their third straight below .500. All-Star Corey Dickerson and All-Snub Logan Morrison, the latter of which is riding a career-high 24 homers, lead the franchise's most potent offensive unit since 2010, while Chris Archer and Alex Cobb have bounced back from forgettable 2016 performances. With better rotation support from Jake Odorizzi and Blake Snell, they might wind up back in the postseason.
A 2-11 start, several key injuries (Josh Donaldson, Aaron Sanchez, Devon Travis, Troy Tulowitzki) and an 0-9 record when trying to get to .500 have left the Blue Jays in a hole, and while the deficit isn't insurmountable, the traffic is heavy. Barring a quick, dramatic turnaround, it appears that they'll be sellers at the deadline. They have starting pitching to offer; the question is whether they begin moving members of the league’s oldest lineup—one with only two regulars under 30 years old—with Josh Donaldson as the big prize.
(38-49, 9 behind in AL Central, 7.5 behind in Wild Card): Given their rebuilding, the record matters far less than the performance of their top trade chips, but they did well to swap scuffling Jose Quintana to the Cubs in exchange for slugging outfielder Eloy Jimenez, a top five prospect, and Dylan Cease, another Top 100 prospect. There's more to come by dealing closer David Robertson (2.87 ERA, 13.2 K/9) and effective setup men Tommy Kahnle and Anthony Swarzak, and it would help if both Todd Frazier (.250/.380/.543 since June 1) and Melky Cabrera (.317/.359/.455 since June 1) could stay hot. As for the future, Matt Davidson and first-time All-Star Avisail Garcia have played their way into it, but Tim Anderson has scuffled.
(47-40, leading AL Central): Though they appeared to be very well set up for a repeat of last year's pennant win—or more—the Indians struggled to escape the pull of .500 until mid-June. Michael Brantley is alive and well, Jose Ramirez has broken out to become an All-Star, and Edwin Encarnacion has finally heated up, but Carlos Santana, Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis, Danny Salazar and Trevor Bauer have underperformed significantly, with injuries a factor in some cases. At the end of the day (or night), they still have the great Andrew Miller-Cody Allen endgame going for them, so odds are they'll be just fine.
(39-48, 8 behind in AL Central, 6.5 behind in Wild Card): The Tigers didn't go through with their planned sell-off this past winter, but on paper they at least looked to be more competitive than the White Sox. Yeah, not so much. The rotation outside of reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Fulmer has been wretched, with Justin Verlander backsliding into mediocrity and Jordan Zimmermann doing even worse. The bullpen has once again become a dumpster fire, producing an AL-worst 5.04 ERA and 5.02 FIP. Two of the offense's four above-average contributors, J.D. Martinez and Alex Avila, will at least maximize their trade value at the deadline, but the downturns of Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Ian Kinsler look ominous.
(44-43, 3 behind in AL Central, 1.5 behind in Wild Card): Through May, they looked cooked, eight games below .500 and headed toward the inevitable breakup of the championship-winning core, as they won't be able to afford Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Lorenzo Cain. One 22–13 run later and they're back in the division and wild-card races. Right now, they don't look as though they have enough pitching in either their rotation or their once-vaunted bullpen, but we've learned the hard way about counting the Royals out.
(45-41, 3.5 behind in AL East, leading Wild Card): They've coughed up the AL Central lead they held for five weeks, and they're now 60 runs in the red, but anything is better than last year's 103-loss debacle. Byron Buxton has yet to blossom, Brian Dozier hasn't replicated last year's power outburst, and Joe Mauer is slugging .402. On the other hand, Miguel Sano has reached stardom, Jose Berrios and Max Kepler are on the rise, and Brandon Kintzler made the All-Star team from a bullpen whose most notable member is catcher/mop-up man Chris Gimenez. They may not stick around this race, but the future is looking brighter.
(60-29, leading AL West): We said this would be their year, and so far, the Astros have done nothing to disappoint us. Led by All-Stars Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and George Springer—the first trio of teammates with an OPS+ above 165 since 1895—the offense is a juggernaut. Both Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers have been brilliant, at least when available; they've combined for just 27 starts due to injuries. The Astros will need to shore up their rotation for October, but they have the pieces to do so.
(45-47, 16.5 behind in AL West, 3 behind in Wild Card): Considering that Mike Trout has missed six weeks, and that Albert Pujols and virtually every other position player besides Andrelton Simmons and Yunel Escobar has been dreadful, it's a miracle the Angels can see a wild card spot without a telescope. That goes doubly given they have a pitching staff beset by injuries, with just one starter carrying a ERA+ above 100 (Alex Meyer, who they optioned before the All-Star break), and Bud Norris somehow emerging as an adequate closer. Even with Trout about to return, however, this does not look like a squad that can stay competitive.
(39-50, 21 behind in AL West, 7.5 behind in Wild Card): The first half wasn't much fun, save for bright spots such as Sean Manaea, Ryon Healy, the still-mashing Khris Davis, and the late-blooming Yonder Alonso, whose 20 homers are more than his past three seasons combined. Already the A's have begun shedding parts, including, most surprisingly, Stephen Vogt, an anchor for their lineup and clubhouse. Will Sonny Gray, Sean Doolittle and Jed Lowrie be next?
(43-47, 17.5 behind in AL West, 4 behind in Wild Card): Injuries to four-fifths of the rotation—including the increasingly mediocre Felix Hernandez, alas—have outweighed GM Jerry Dipoto's frenetic winter makeover, though the M's have gotten great work out of newcomers Mitch Haniger and Jean Seugra as well as late-2016 acquisition Ben Gamel; the last two both rank among the AL's top 10 in batting average and on-base percentage. The good news is that they're not completely buried, but they're going to need more pitching help from outside or within to catch up.
(43-45, 16.5 behind in AL West, 3 behind in Wild Card): After back-to-back AL West titles, full seasons of Jonathan Lucroy, Carlos Gomez and Jeremy Jeffress suggested that another strong season was in order. But Lucroy, Mike Napoli and Rougned Odor have been dreadful, and their bullpen has been a mess. They've remained afloat despite early-season injuries to Adrian Beltre and Cole Hamels, but it's reasonable to expect more out of this club.