Every team has already breached the halfway point of the 162-game season or will within the next few days, which feels like an appropriate mark to pass around July 4. Even if the fireworks have subsided in your neighborhood—at least I hope they have, for your sake—there are still plenty set to go off in the second half that could upend the playoff picture. Let’s have a look at where things stand with roughly 50% of the season in the books.
30. Washington Nationals (LW: 30)
Last week, the Nationals exercised the contract options of GM Mike Rizzo and manager Dave Martinez for the 2023 season. That came as a bit of a surprise to me, even though a decision had to be made on their statuses for next year by the All-Star break, given Washington has a winning percentage of .395 (the equivalent of a 64-win pace) since its 2019 World Series win. You have to wonder if Juan Soto’s relationship with Martinez—and Rizzo’s relationship with Soto’s agent, Scott Boras, with whom he’s long had a productive relationship—played into that decision. Locking up Soto should be priorities No. 1, 2 and 3 for the Nats at the moment since the immediate future looks bleak. Washington’s loss to Miami on Monday dropped the club to 1–12 against the team directly above it in the NL East, where a third consecutive last-place finish seems likely.
29. Oakland A’s (LW: 29)
Oakland’s decision to option Cristian Pache to Triple A on Thursday represents yet another speed bump for the former top prospect, who was acquired from Atlanta in the Matt Olson trade. Among the 222 players with at least 200 plate appearances this season, the 23-year-old ranks last with a 23 wRC+, meaning he’s 77% worse than the average MLB hitter. That’s an unplayable figure, even for a player with Pache’s defensive chops and for a hopeless, non-contender like the A’s.
28. Cincinnati Reds (LW: 28)
Brandon Drury set a new career high with his 17th home run Monday against the Mets, tying him for second place among third basemen (behind only Atlanta’s Austin Riley). He’s a virtual lock to be the Reds’ All-Star Game representative, and he’s perhaps even more of a lock to be out of Cincinnati by the trade deadline.
27. Kansas City Royals (LW: 27)
Vinnie Pasquantino, called up after Carlos Santana was traded to the Mariners last week, unleashed a home run against Detroit on Friday for his first major-league hit. With a 112.7 mph exit velocity, it ranked as Kansas City’s hardest-hit homer of the season. It also wasn’t initially ruled to have cleared the outfield wall, and Pasquantino appeared to have been thrown out at second. Certainly a moment he’ll never forget.
26. Pittsburgh Pirates (LW: 25)
The Pirates have scored the fewest runs of any National League team this season. Despite that, in June they became the first team in MLB history to have three players with a three-homer game in the same month, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Jack Suwinski, Bryan Reynolds and Michael Perez all accomplished the feat, with Reynolds and Perez doing so on the last two days of the month last week. What a weird sport this is.
25. Chicago Cubs (LW: 26)
In his first game after being activated from the IL on Monday, Seiya Suzuki ripped a go-ahead, inside-the-park home run off of Josh Hader in the ninth inning. It was quite the triumphant return. Now, did Cubs closer David Robertson proceed to blow it in the ninth before Chicago lost in the 10th on a walk-off homer by Victor Caratini? Yes. But Suzuki’s mad dash around the bases will be the moment Cubs fans remember years from now.
24. Detroit Tigers (LW: 23)
Tarik Skubal has crashed back to earth after his stellar start to the season, allowing 23 earned runs in 23 innings with 14 walks and 20 strikeouts over his last four starts. That’s caused his ERA to shoot up nearly two full runs to 4.06. But he’ll still likely be heading to Los Angeles in a couple of weeks for the All-Star Game since Detroit doesn’t have a more viable candidate.
23. Colorado Rockies (LW: 24)
Unfortunately, after a promising start from the pitching staff, it’s been more of the same in Denver this year. Austin Gomber, the headliner in the return for Nolan Arenado, was relegated to the bullpen in June after an unsightly start to the season. Even after two mediocre (at best) appearances out of the pen, he was given another shot at starting last week after struggling rookie Ryan Feltner was demoted. Gomber managed to pick up the win against Arizona, but it wasn’t overly impressive as he allowed four runs (including two homers) in 5 ⅔ innings with just two strikeouts. Colorado will have to settle for him and his 6.53 ERA, though, as Antonio Senzatela’s move to the injured list with shoulder inflammation thins out the Rockies’ options even more.
22. Arizona Diamondbacks (LW: 22)
Arizona’s rotation has been quite good this year following the hire of ex-Astros pitching coach Brent Strom, as Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, Madison Bumgarner and Zach Davies all own ERAs under 4.00. But the fifth spot has been an issue, and Dallas Keuchel doesn’t appear to be the answer after getting roughed up by the Tigers (league-worst 3.0 runs per game) and the Rockies in his first two starts for the Diamondbacks.
21. Baltimore Orioles (LW: 20)
You may have heard that by going 14–12 in June, Baltimore completed its first winning month since August 2017. The debut of Adley Rutschman coinciding with that accomplishment is fitting, but one aspect of the team that may not be getting enough credit for the Orioles’ respectability its its relief corps, which has been the best in baseball this season by wins above average and led all relief units in fWAR last month.
20. Chicago White Sox (LW: 21)
Just when the White Sox seemed to finally be playing better ball after sweeping the Giants in San Francisco, on Monday they found an unprecedented way to TOOTBLAN themselves into a triple play, turn manager Tony La Russa into an unflattering meme and blow a prime chance to gain a game on the division-leading Twins. Despite the talent on this roster, the Pale Hose just don’t seem like a postseason outfit this year.
19. Los Angeles Angels (LW: 19)
The Halos took two of three last week against fellow fringe contenders in the White Sox, then were outclassed in a weekend sweep by the Astros. Houston especially took advantage of a matchup against Michael Lorenzen, who has allowed 16 earned runs over 11 innings with nine walks and 11 strikeouts in his last three starts. His ERA has shot up from 3.45 to 4.94 over that span.
18. Texas Rangers (LW: 16)
Texas endured one of its worst losses of the season in Baltimore on Monday. Veteran lefthander Matt Moore plunked Jorge Mateo with the bases loaded in the 10th for a walk-off HBP, an embarrassing enough ending. But the Rangers wouldn’t have even been in extra innings if Joe Barlow hadn’t blown a save in the ninth, and Barlow may not have blown the save if first baseman Nate Lowe hadn’t committed a Bill Buckner-esque play in the sixth, allowing two runs to score. At least Marcus Semien continued his resurgence with a go-ahead home run in the ninth.
17. Cleveland Guardians (LW: 14)
The Guardians have played 10 games over the last eight days, including a five-game set against the Twins they won 3–2 getting outscored by 12 runs. They proceeded to get swept in a pair of doubleheaders against the Yankees and Tigers, though, with a win over the Bombers sandwiched in between to emerge from the gauntlet 4–6. Their next 17 games are against the three teams below them in the AL Central, so this could be the stretch for Cleveland to close the gap against Minnesota.
16. Miami Marlins (LW: 18)
Will the Marlins be buyers or sellers at the deadline? On one hand, Miami has used a five-game winning streak to get within four games of a wild-card spot. On the other, the Marlins’ record against teams not named the Nationals, whom they just swept, is a rather dreadful 26–39.
15. Seattle Mariners (LW: 17)
In launching a monstrous home run against the Padres on Monday, Julio Rodríguez became the fastest player in MLB history to hit 15 home runs and steal 20 bases, doing so in 81 career games. He also became one of the rare players to reach the top terrace of the Western Metal Supply Co. building in San Diego.
14. San Francisco Giants (LW: 9)
The Giants are a league worst 3–11 over their last 14 games. The most concerning aspect of that has probably been the competition it’s come against, as five of the six teams they’ve faced during the skid have losing records, including the hapless Reds, Tigers and Pirates. San Francisco must upgrade its defense somehow, as Fangraphs currently grades it as MLB’s worst defensive team, by far.
13. Philadelphia Phillies (LW: 15)
The Phillies are a team of extremes. Among the 11 positions comprising the nine hitting positions plus starters and relievers, Philadelphia ranks in the top eight of wins above average in six of those groups, in the bottom seven in four of them, and in the 15 spots between those two outer quartiles just once (second base). The result is, naturally, a middling group with some obvious spots to upgrade ahead of the trade deadline: namely the bullpen and outfield—and if Dave Dombrowski wants to be daring, the left side of the infield.
12. Toronto Blue Jays (LW: 11)
The Jays dodged a bullet with Kevin Gausman’s ankle X-rays coming back negative, as they pretty clearly need more from their pitching staff—Toronto owns the worst pitching staff of any team in playoff position according to wins above average. Jose Berrios and Yusei Kikuchi discovering how to keep the ball in the park would help, as they both rank in the top five of home run rate among the 113 pitchers with at least 60 innings. The Jays, currently mired in a four-game losing streak, have a chance to right the ship ahead of the All-Star break as just two of their 12 games before then are against winning teams.
11. Tampa Bay Rays (LW: 13)
The Rays didn’t have a great week, going 3–5 against a trio of playoff contenders in Minnesota, Toronto and Boston. But Shane McClanahan held up his end of the bargain, holding the Blue Jays’ powerful lineup to three hits and one run over seven innings with 10 strikeouts. The 25-year-old southpaw, who leads the majors in strikeouts (133) and ERA (1.74), would almost certainly win the AL Cy Young if voting was held today, and could follow in the footsteps of David Price and Blake Snell as Tampa Bay’s third winner of the award in the last 11 seasons (oddly, both of the previous winners are lefties, too).
10. Boston Red Sox (LW: 8)
Michael Wacha’s ERA has remarkably not climbed above 3.00 at any point this season after the 31-year-old appeared to be on his way out of the league, if not at least to someone’s bullpen, after three consecutive poor campaigns with the Cardinals, Mets and Rays. But the Red Sox seem to have fixed their former World Series foe. Boston clawed back into the AL playoff picture with a 20–6 record in June. Boston’s 13 remaining games before the All-Star break, all of which are against the Rays or Yankees, could determine if it ends up there in October.
9. Minnesota Twins (LW: 10)
As the MLB leader in batting average and on-base percentage, Luis Arraez has an argument as the biggest snub from the second round of MLB All-Star fan voting. He just keeps hitting, and came through with the go-ahead single in the 10th inning of Minnesota’s wild win over the White Sox on Monday. The Twins are the only AL Central team with a positive run differential, and do so comfortably at +47.
8. St. Louis Cardinals (LW: 6)
Nolan Arenado had quite the weekend in Philadelphia. On Friday, he hit for the cycle for the second time in his career. Then, he was the first of four Cardinals to hit consecutive home runs in the first inning of Saturday’s contest, helping St. Louis become the first team in MLB history to do so in the opening frame. After St. Louis had squandered leads of 5–0 and 6–5 in that game, he then delivered a game-winning tater in the ninth. Arenado’s Saturday heroics were especially appreciated since the Cardinals lost the other two games of their series against the Phillies.
7. Milwaukee Brewers (LW: 12)
Brandon Woodruff was dominant in his first two starts off the injured list last week, a welcome sight for the Brewers since their rotation has been sneakily unreliable behind Corbin Burnes. Woodruff limited the Rays and Pirates to one earned run in 11 innings with 18 strikeouts and zero walks. With Freddy Peralta still a ways away from returning, Milwaukee needs Woodruff to be in top form to hold off the Cardinals, who have scored more and allowed fewer runs than the Crew.
6. San Diego Padres (LW: 5)
The Padres claimed only their second win in 16 tries against the Dodgers on Sunday after forcing a blown save out of Craig Kimbrel to salvage one game in a humbling four-game set. They’ve still been outscored by their rivals, 84–32, in that 2–14 stretch against them. San Diego should be more competitive against their rivals once Fernando Tatís Jr. is back in the fold, but it seems like the gap between the two won’t be completely closed by his return.
5. Atlanta Braves (LW: 7)
The Braves went 21–6 in June, their most wins in a month since moving to Atlanta in 1966, to cut New York’s lead from 10.5 games on June 1 to the current gap of 3.5 games. Spencer Strider (1.9 fWAR) and Michael Harris II (1.5 fWAR) currently lead NL pitchers and hitters in fWAR; the last pair of teammates to do that in either league over a full season was Aaron Judge and Jordan Montgomery for the Yankees in 2017.
4. New York Mets (LW: 4)
New York’s 7–4 victory over Cincinnati on Monday marked the first time Buck Showalter’s offense had scored more than five runs in a game since June 20, a 10-game stretch during which the Mets averaged 2.9 runs per game, a worse figure than what’s been produced by Detroit’s MLB-worst offense. That may not matter so much after the Mets have their Big Two back; Max Scherzer returns Tuesday against the Reds, while Jacob deGrom looked excellent in his first rehab start—striking out five of the six batters he faced—and seems primed to return after the All-Star break.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers (LW: 2)
The two most experienced hitters in Los Angeles’s lineup have been leading the way lately. Justin Turner—team-best 1.093 OPS the past 15 days—has overcome a slow start that sure seemed like a permanent decline, while Freddie Freeman—right behind Turner with a 1.073 OPS over the same span—hasn’t let his Atlanta-related emotions distract him from the task at hand. That, of course, is winning the World Series, and Fangraphs still gives the Dodgers the highest odds to do so at 15.7% even though they haven’t looked quite as dominant as they have at times during the Dave Roberts era.
2. Houston Astros (LW: 3)
The Astros got their biggest comeback victory of the season against the Royals on Monday to continue a seven-game winning streak, overcoming an early 5–0 deficit to win 7–6 thanks to Yordan Alvarez’s walk-off homer. Alvarez now boasts a 201 wRC+, which means he’s literally been more than twice as good as the average MLB hitter. No one has recorded a wRC+ of at least 200 in a full season since Barry Bonds did in 2004. The Astros should thank their lucky stars (pun intended) that he and Jeremy Peña escaped serious injury in their scary collision last week.
1. New York Yankees (LW: 1)
Sure, the Yankees lost three of their five games against the Astros over the last couple of weeks. But they also haven’t lost a series against any other team since losing a rubber match against the White Sox on May 22. They still have the best record in MLB by 5.5 games and are on pace to set the regular season wins record. And they are still the scariest team in the sport, even if Houston’s pitching staff proved it could pose problems in October.
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