MLB Mid-Season Grades!

I know, I know – I haven’t written anything in a looooooong time. I’m sorry! Life sometimes gets in the way of the things we love, including sports blogging. Even though the last month has been a bit chaotic for me, I am still finding time to watch lots and lots of baseball, because what good is life if you cannot find the time to watch baseball?

Anyway, we are nearly at the All-Star break, which means instead of me getting to go see the game in Miami (and live out my fantasies of being Jane Villanueva from Jane the Virgin), I will be sitting here in New Jersey grading each MLB team. We are halfway through the season, which means we have a pretty good idea of who these teams are and what they are capable of. There have been plenty of surprises this season, so let’s not waste anymore time!

Here we gooooooooo…

AL East

Baltimore Orioles – C+. Injuries and poor pitching seem to be doing the Orioles in this  year. As a team built around power-hitting and a good bullpen, the O’s need to figure out how the keep their good players healthy. Might I suggest bubble wrap? They have a terrible rotation and a terrible farm system and a lot of key players heading into free agency. This means it could be a tough stretch for O’s fans the next few years…

Boston Red Sox – B. Boston gets a “B”, and not just because their city starts with a B. This team was supposed to have a cake-walk to the top of the AL East this year, but with only a few games left until the All-Star break, they are sitting 3.5 games ahead of the Yankees. The AL East may have every team within 5 games of being .500, but shoot dang they are mediocre right now! It seems like every team has been bad this past month, and as much talent as Boston has, they should be doing more to take advantage of this opportunity. They will still probably win the division, but who knows if they will make a deep post-season run.

New York Yankees – B+. The Yanks, by everyone’s standards, have over-achieved this year by a lot. Which, of course, means that things can go from great to awful in a New York minute. They were flying high in April and May, only to crash back down to earth in June. With Dellin Betances looking *gasp* human, and the issue of having an average rotation (at best), the Yankees could end up flopping the rest of the season. But fear not, becasue Aaron Judge will come save us all and perhaps win the Triple Crown, Rookie of the Year, AND MVP. The Baby Bombers look like the real deal, so the next few years should be super fun.

Tampa Bay Rays – B-. Here’s the thing – the Rays have actually not been bad this year. Their slugging percentage is 8th in the majors, which is very good, but all other stats put them solidly in the middle-of-the-pack. My dad inadvertently summed up the Rays season very well last night by saying “I kind of forget about the Rays”. They never seem to make any noise because they are neither good enough to be talked about or bad enough the be excoriated.

Toronto Blue Jays – C-. Toronto is in a tricky spot because they are not a great team, yet they are still within five or so games of a Wild Card berth. This team has been disappointing all year and I see no silver lining for our Canadian friends up north. Many of the stars on this team are set to hit free agency within the next year or two, and a lot of their crew is older. Perhaps the Jays will be sellers at the deadline. After all, they killed their farm system in 2015 so they could contend. Some retooling is needed for this team, but gosh they were a lot of fun to watch the last few years.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox – D+. The Sox are officially in rebuilding mode – they made that perfectly clear when they traded Chris Sale to the Red Sox, and as of today, they traded Jose Quintana to their cross-town rivals. No one was expecting much from the White Sox this year. However, they got a lot of great prospects from the Quintana trade and they are putting themselves in a position to be very good in a few years. But, until then, it’s not gonna be pretty.

Cleveland Indians – B. By last year’s standards, Cleveland has not been very good. But by the baseball standards, they are doing fairly well. They are still a good team and they have benefited from being in a weak division. You know it’s bad when the 45-43 Twins are your toughest competition…Is Cleveland just tired from their World Series run last year? Maybe. Or are they just an average team this year? Possibly. Cleveland is a mystery, but they should be better in the second half of the season. Plus, their twitter is still the most entertaining of all the team accounts and that goes a long way.

Detroit Tigers – D+. Besides Justin Verlander’s upcoming wedding to Kate Upton, do the Tigers really have anything to look forward to? Nope. Nada. This is a team that should be sellers at the trade deadline, but they are silly so they probably will convince themselves somehow that they can compete. They can’t. They are old and cannot even compete with the mediocrity in their division. Hey Tigers – SELLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL.

Kansas City Royals – C. The longer they are removed from their World Series title, the more that 2015 squad looks like a flash in the pan. But! The Royals were rolling right before the All-Star break, so who knows! Maybe they will pull something out of their butts and get themselves into contention for the post-season, but I will believe it when I see it.

Minnesota Twins – B. We got treated to a show courtesy of Miguel Sano during the Home Run Derby, going toe-to-toe with resident baseball wunderkind Aaron Judge for the crown. But as awesome as Sano is, it is not rational to think the Twins can compete with Cleveland in the latter half of the season. They need pitching help, but I think it would be silly to give up great prospects for a win-now kind of move. They are ahead of the rebuilding curve, so they should not give up those good prospects for pitching they won’t need when they are sitting on the couch in October.

AL West

Houston Astros – A+. The Astros have been the darlings of the MLB this year and rightfully so. This is what they have been aiming for during their rebuilding and all of their patience is paying off. They have the best record in the AL and look like serious contenders for a World Series title. I know, it sounds crazy, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them and the Dodgers duking it out in the fall classic.

Los Angeles Angels – C-. Aside from the Astros, the AL West really stinks. Currently, the Angels are the best of the stinkiest teams, which is not a great complement for an injury-riddled team lingering a few games below .500. Their superstar, Mike Trout, has been injured for much of the first half and will return after the All-Star break. Their rotation is questionable at best and it’s a team that seems unwilling to improve and salvage their years with baseball’s best player. It’s a shame that Mike Trout is on a team that sucks.

Oakland A’s – F. Oh, Brad Pitt where art thou? The A’s have been awful and should hopefully be selling their butts off at the trade deadline. Maybe they would be better if they had a new stadium…

Seattle Mariners – C-. Every year I keep thinking to myself “maybe this will be Seattle’s year” but then it never is. Their new GM is making moves like crazy to make them better, but the team still seems just on the outskirts of the post-season. And soon enough, Robinson Cano’s massive contract is going to become a problem (don’t believe me? Look at every other massive contract ever). Will it ever be the Mariners’ year? I have no idea.

Texas Rangers – C. The Rangers are realistically not going to make the post-season this year. So, should they listen to offers on their best players? Honestly, yeah maybe they should. I think Rangers would like to think they are buyers at the deadline, but they can’t compete this year. The AL East is probably going to produce the at least one of the two Wild Cards and the Rangers are just not as good.

NL East

Atlanta Braves – C+. The Braves have been in full-on rebuild mode and gosh darn it they are loaded with phenomenal prospects. They have also out-performed my expectations for this year, not that those expectations were terribly high to begin with. However! The first half of the season has shown that the Braves dark days are probably behind them and that brighter days are ahead.

Miami Marlins – C. No one expected it to be easy for the Marlins this year. Not even a year removed from the death of their biggest star, Jose Fernandez, the team has been able to play average baseball. The turmoil of his death has been hard enough to deal with, but the distraction of having their team being bid on by who knows how many parties is not helping anyone. The future of the team seems to be in limbo and the product on the field has reflected that. But I gotta give the Marlins and the city of Miami some credit: they put on a fantastic All-Star game and were phenomenal hosts for the All-Star break activities.

New York Mets – C-. Woe is the long-suffering Mets fan! In the most Mets-style move possible, they teased their fans with a few good seasons, then took a downturn in 2017. Injuries are largely to blame – their rock-star rotation hasn’t been able to pitch together once this year because someone has been injured (or suspended – I’m looking at you, Matt Harvey). The Mets have a dearth of problems that could have probably been avoided – the staff seems to not do what they can to prevent injuries, the players are making dumb choices on and off the field, and the front office won’t hire a very smart, qualified, lovely human being (me).

Philadelphia Phillies – F. Poor Philly fans. This year’s team is even worse than most people expected and there is no sugarcoating the fact that they have been the worst team in baseball. They will be sellers at the deadline, hopefully getting a few good prospects for the few good players teams would want. This team is several years away from being good, but slowly and surely they will get there. It’s just going to be painful.

Washington Nationals – A-. Were it not for the Dodgers and Astros, the Nats would be the talk of the town. Once again, they have proven themselves to be a very good team, but also once again, they have proven that their bullpen sucks donkey butt. But they have an excellent rotation, anchored by the ever dominant Max Scherzer, and when their middle line-up is healthy, they are unstoppable.

NL Central

Chicago Cubs – C-. Oofta. That’s really all I have to say about the Cubbies. Oofta. Their offense isn’t hitting and their pitching has been off all season. They did get a boost with the trade for Jose Quintana, but their bats better step it up. They are below the MLB average in runs and since their pitching has not be great, that’s a huge problem. Is it a World Series hangover? Perhaps. The Cubs are talented enough to turn it around, but let’s be honest – we have been waiting for them to turn it around all year.

Cincinnati Reds – D. Anyone else forget the Reds were a team this year? Yeah, same. Look, the Reds are bad, and they best be thanking their lucky stars that Philly is worse than them. Their rotation is basically a flaming can of garbage, save for Scott Feldman, which means he is probably gonna be traded. Good times in Cincy…

Milwaukee Brewers – B+. The Brewers may not be a super good team, but they have played well enough to be first in the NL Central. Yes, their competition this year is not good, but they have been able to take advantage of the sub-par quality of their division. They are a few good pitchers away from making a strong post-season push, so it will be interesting to see what they do at the trade deadline.

Pittsburg Pirates – C-. Sadly, the Pirates are probably not going to be making the post-season. And they probably won’t be making it to the post-season in the next few seasons. So what’s a team to do? If they don’t start playing better, they would be wise to trade Andrew McCutchen and/or Garrit Cole for some very good prospects. If they do start playing better, they will probably hang on to them and try to make a run their surprisingly weak division.

St. Louis Cardinals – C. The Cardinals have been very…un-Cardinal-ish. This team has been nothing but stunningly average all year, and frankly, that’s weird for me to say. As long as I can remember, they have been – for the most part – a stronghold on the NL Central. No team has been as consistently good as them over the last 10-15 years or longer. But alas, this year the Cards just don’t look as good. “The Cardinal Way” is not getting them where they need to be. With the Cubs not doing so hot, the Cards could make a push for a division title, but it will be tough.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks – A. THE DIAMONDBACKS ARE GOOD THIS YEAR! THIS IS NOT A DRILL! But…the farm system is still a mess and there is not a lot of depth in the minors. So basically, there can’t be any major injuries. BUT! This team is so good and so much fun to watch. Paul Goldschmidt is the obvious first-half MVP and the rotation is FINALLY not sucking eggs. Maybe this year is a fluke, but I am going to enjoy every bit of it.

Colorado Rockies – A. If I told you at the beginning of the season the NL West would be best division in baseball, would you believe me? No, probably not. I am not surprised the Rockies are hitting so well, but I am very surprised that their pitching has been solid, too. The Rockies, for the first time in years, are a lot of fun to watch. I haven’t enjoyed watching this much since the Todd Helton days! This whole division (sans Padres) has been so fun to watch.

Los Angeles Dodgers – A+. The Dodgers are the best team in the National League and it’s not even close. Yes, the Nationals could give them a run for their money, but the Dodgers are just flat-out playing dominate baseball this year. They have the likely NL Rookie of the Year in Cody Bellinger and the always dominate Clayton Kershaw. Their rotation is stellar and their position players are hitting so well. This team will be hard to beat.

San Diego Padres – D-. Yeah the Padres suck again. The sky is blue. Grass is green. All of these are facts, my friends. But the good news is that the Padres have acquired a lot of really good prospects through a bevy of trades, so their future is looking pretty good. This year though, it’s gonna be tough. But hey, at least the fans in San Diego have the best weather, right?

San Francisco Giants – F. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA THE GIANTS SUCK THIS YEAR AND IT MAKES ME SOOOOO HAPPY. Sorry sorry, I got carried away there. As a life-long D-Backs fan, it warms my cold heart to see the Giants doing so horribly. They are last in the division and at this point, should just sell and sell fast. Get rid of as much as you can and acquire as many prospects are you can. The Giants will figure it out in the 2020s, but the dynasty is over, folks.