With 40-some games in the can, we’re already a quarter of the way done with the 2016 regular season. If you’re a glass-half-full kind of person, that means we still have about 120 games of Bryce Harper, Nolan Arenado, and Manny Machado doing magic. If you’re more the glass-half-empty type, it means that a month and a half of baseball seems to have flickered by in the blink of an eye. If you’re an Atlanta Braves fan, I’m so very, very sorry.
This month we have a slow, terrible car crash going on in Anaheim (blasted LA traffic, am I right?), a stupefying run from one of the league’s very worst teams, and an ongoing shortstop saga that is nowhere near resolving itself. One again, brought to you in Taylor Swift packaging, because why not?
All stats and records through Monday, May 24’s games
“I Knew You Were Trouble” Tier
30) Atlanta Braves (12-32, -72 Run Differential)
29) Minnesota Twins (11-34, -83)
28) Cincinnati Reds (15-31, -94)
27) Los Angeles Angels (21-25, -16)
26) San Diego Padres (19-26, -38)
25) Oakland Athletics (20-27, -48)
24) Milwaukee Brewers (19-26, -38)
It’s sort of hard to understand what the Angels were planning on doing this season after a winter in which they scraped the last gooey bits of talent from their farm system and gave it away for a shortstop whose ability to hit can generously be described as “he’s trying his best.” The moves they were making indicated a team trying to compete. Outside of Mike Trout, however, the Angels lineup was mostly terrible, and it was clear that the team was going to need huge years from every member of its middling pitching staff.
That’s not what has happened! Instead, everyone either got hurt or was Jered Weaver. Aging CJ Wilson hasn’t pitched yet this season, and both Andrew Heaney and Garrett Richards are trying to avoid the inevitable by seeking alternative treatments that will almost certainly result in Tommy John surgery anyway. To make matters worse, that shortstop they wanted so desperately, Andrelton Simmons, will miss six weeks after tearing a ligament in his thumb. The prospect of trading Mike Trout seems at once to be an impossible choice and also the only way for Los Angeles to avoid being the worst team in baseball for a very, very long time.
“Everything Has Changed” Tier
23) Houston Astros (18-28, -32)
22) Arizona Diamondbacks (21-26, -15)
21) New York Yankees (22-22, -13)
20) Detroit Tigers (23-22, -2)
It is extremely difficult to find sympathy for the Yankees and their fans, who are struggling through the prospect of being a legitimately bad baseball team for the first time in a long while. Over the past two decades, the Yankees have missed the playoffs fewer times than most teams have made the playoffs, and have always thrown money around at will to collect other teams’ dearly beloved superstars. Such behavior intensifies the schadenfreude once the fall finally comes. Compounding the issue is the Yankees’ sort of gross offseason acquisition of noted terrible human person Aroldis Chapman, and the even grosser red-carpet treatment he got when he made his debut earlier this month. If Yankees fans need help coping, they can check my guide to living with a bad baseball team, but if you’re looking for a sympathetic shoulder to cry on, look elsewhere.
“Wildest Dreams” Tier
19) Philadelphia Phillies (25-21, -34)
What in literally all of creation is going on here? The Phillies were supposed to be capital-T Terrible. And they kind of are! Their -34 run differential is the seventh-worst in the league, worse than those of the Angels, Diamondbacks, and Astros. As a team, they rank 28th in the league with a .652 OPS, and in a world in which the Braves are rightfully relegated to Triple-A, the Phillies would rank last in home runs (34). By Pythagorean Win-Loss, they should be 19-27, and ranked squarely in the high 20s, where they belong. How are they doing this?
The answer is simple: wizardry. Someone in the Phillies organization is an actual wizard from actual Hogwarts Goddamn School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Teams simply do not win close games at the rate Philadelphia is winning them this season: since 2000, no team has a one-run winning percentage higher than .550 or lower than .450. Those games are toss-ups and they will always be toss-ups. Unless you are a fully graduated, top-of-the-class, former Prefect from Ravenclaw house, like one of the Phillies players, because then you go 14-3 (.823) in such games. The Phillies have played more one-run games than any other team this season, and yet only Texas has lost fewer such games. It’s May 25th, and yet the Phillies are just a game behind the Pirates for the second Wild Card spot. Accio playoffs!
“We Are Never Getting Back Together” Tier
18) Miami Marlins (23-22, -2)
17) Toronto Blue Jays (22-25, -4)
16) Colorado Rockies (21-23, -11)
15) Kansas City Royals (24-21, -4)
14) Tampa Bay Rays (21-22, +13)
The unnecessarily long saga of Jose Reyes’ suspension seems to be near its end. The Rockies don’t particularly care; the Trevor Story era has begun, and it’s going pretty well. Would they be so keen to be rid of Reyes if Story weren’t raking? Who knows.
Meanwhile, Rockies fans are enjoying the absolute hell out of the continued struggles of Troy Tulowitzki, who has failed to produce anything near his former All-Star numbers since trading in his Rockies purple for Toronto’s royal blue. The Blue Jays still boast one of the league’s top offenses, even with their star shortstop clinging to the Mendoza line. But with Story in the fold, the Rockies are well rid of both Reyes and Tulo.
“Out of the Woods” Tier
13) Cleveland Indians (24-20, +33)
12) Texas Rangers (26-20, +9)
11) Los Angeles Dodgers (24-23, +22)
10) Pittsburgh Pirates (25-19, +19)
9) St. Louis Cardinals (24-22, +42)
8) San Francisco Giants (29-19, +13)
The NL West was truly wild for a couple weeks, with the entire division hanging around .500, and–for a short time–being led by those dang Rockies. I appreciate the steady routine that comes with the Giants winning the World Series every other season. It’s soothing, and it also helps me remember to schedule my biennial trip upstairs, before I retreat back to my mother’s basement for another two years.
7) Baltimore Orioles (26-17, +23)
6) Seattle Mariners (27-18, +44)
5) Chicago White Sox (27-20, +26)
4) New York Mets (26-19, +29)
3) Washington Nationals (28-18, +53)
2) Boston Red Sox (28-17, +71)
1) Chicago Cubs (30-14, +118)
There were plenty who saw the Red Sox as winners this offseason, as the team spent big to bring in David Price while swinging trades for bullpen aces Craig Kimbrel and Carson Smith. Their pitching looked elite, but it’s actually been their bats that have led the Red Sox to an AL-best +55 run differential. While Price and Clay Buchholz have both struggled to 6.00+ ERAs, and Carson Smith got a late start to the year after a spring injury, the offense has carried Boston, scoring more runs than any other team in the league. Youngsters Mookie Betts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Xander Bogaerts have all been as good as advertised, and Hanley Ramirez is enjoying a huge bounce-back season. Everyone’s favorite punching bag, Pablo Sandoval, is on the shelf for the rest of the season after a shoulder injury. In his place, the Red Sox have found themselves a nice player and good name-haver in Travis Shaw, who’s hitting .329/.400/.573 with 21 extra-base hits. Perhaps this will be the year long-suffering Boston sports fans will finally get the sports championship that has eluded them for nearly 15 months.
Travis Sarandos is a baseball writer and a very ranky ranker. You should follow him on Twitter.