As the summer approaches, both basketball and hockey come to an end, prompting sports fans to turn to the lone sport that remains ongoing: baseball. Come late-June, the weather gets warmer and the baseball season heats up with it. It is during the summer where baseball fans begin to get a clear view of which teams and players are for real and which ones are not.
So without any further ado, here is Baseball (italicized) For (italicized) Dummies, (italicized) a guide that will briefly describe each team and their performance up to this point in the season as well as their best players. Hope you enjoy!
Lets start in the American League East division:
New York Yankees
Current record: 27-17
Best players: Masahiro Tanaka (Pitcher), Aaron Judge (Outfielder), Gary Sanchez (Catcher)
The spin: When you combine their abundance of young talent in the minor leagues with the amount of money they will be able to spend in a loaded 2018 free agency class, the Bronx Bombers were not expected to be legitimate contenders until the 2019 season. Well, newsflash: baseball’s most recognized franchise has exceeded expectations while providing plenty of indication that they are already for real. 25-year-old rookie sensation Aaron Judge is a monster at 6-foot-7, 282-pounds and is tied for the league-lead in home runs. New York’s best pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka has struggled so far this season, but his past will tell you that he should turn it around. All told, the Yankees have been a great story thus far, as they are filled with players playing at their best. Only time will tell if they can keep it up.
Current record: 25-20
Best Players: Manny Machado (Infielder), Zach Britton (Pitcher), Adam Jones (Outfielder)
The spin: Baltimore is not a great pitching team; to put it in perspective, The O’s have allowed the 19th most runs out of 30 teams in Major League Baseball. However, they manage to stay competitive thanks to their offense, which ranks 7th in home runs. Even without much production so far from their best player, Manny Machado, the Orioles have received power contributions from some of their other big bats like Chris Davis, Adam Jones and Mark Trumbo, who led the league in home runs a season ago. Additionally, Zach Britton, who finished 4th in Cy Young voting as a closer last year, has been sidelined for most of this season with a forearm strain. Once they get Britton back and Machado starts to play like himself, The Orioles have the potential to be dangerous.
Boston Red Sox
Best Players: Mookie Betts (Outfielder), Chris Sale (Pitcher), Xander Bogaerts (Infielder)
The spin: After giving up a tremendous amount of young talent to acquire star pitcher Chris Sale from the White Sox, Brian Cashman, General Manager of Boston’s archrival New York Yankees, compared the Red Sox to baseball’s version of the Golden State Warriors. Oddly enough, both Cashman and those who agreed with his analogy have thus far been proven wrong, as the seemingly stacked Boston Red Sox have had to fight to stay above .500. Regarding Boston’s pitching, Sale has been great, but reigning Cy Young award winner Rick Porcello has struggled and David Price is still yet to pitch this season. The lack of power from Red Sox hitters has also hurt the team, as although they sit 2nd in team batting average, they serve as the league’s caboose in home runs. However, despite all of their struggles so far, it is still far too early to count Boston out.
Tampa Bay Rays
Best Players: Corey Dickerson (Outfielder), Chris Archer (Pitcher), Evan Longoria (Infielder)
The spin: Tampa is a small-market team and has always had trouble keeping up with its AL East counterparts. This year started off the same way, but a red hot Corey Dickerson has helped keep them in the fold up to this point. After a rough year last year, Rays’ top pitcher Chris Archer seems to be back to his old self for the most part. Even with the face of their franchise, Evan Longoria, underperforming, Tampa Bay has enjoyed nice contributions from the aforementioned Dickerson, but some smaller name guys as well, including Logan Morrison and Tim Beckham, to keep them in conversation.
Toronto Blue Jays
Current record: 21-26
Best Players: Josh Donaldson (Infielder), Jose Bautista (Outfielder), Marcus Stroman (Pitcher)
The spin: The Blue Jays have been one of baseball’s best teams for last few seasons now. Even after losing slugger Edwin Encarnacion to the Indians, Toronto still has one of the best rosters in the league. I know what you may be thinking… if Toronto is so good, then why is their record so bad? The answer to that simply is INJURIES. (italicized) The Blue Jays have been eaten alive by the injury bug, losing two key pitchers in Aaron Sanchez and J.A. Happ as well their best player, Josh Donaldson. Toronto’s 21-26 record actually speaks to how good they can still end up being this season after a 6-17 start. Once the Blue Jays’ injured players come off the shelf, there is no doubt that this team can still compete not just for a spot in the postseason, but a run in it.
Now we move onto the American League Central Division:
Current record: 25-18
Best Players: Miguel Sano (Infielder), Ervin Santana (Pitcher), Max Kepler (Outfielder)
The spin: Wow. I am writing this on May 25th and the Minnesota Twins are in first place in the A.L. Central. I say this because Minnesota is easily one of the most surprising if not the most surprising team in all of baseball. Lacking heavily in the experience department, this is a team that was thought of to be years away from contending. However, thus far, the inexperienced, youthful core of players could be on the rise a whole lot quicker than almost anyone could have ever expected. It is still early though, and we certainly see teams every year that start off hot, but then fade off as the season progresses.
Current record: 24-21
Best players: Corey Kluber (Pitcher), Francisco Lindor (infielder), Michael Brantley (Outfielder)
The spin: The defending American League champions have came out of the gate a little slow to start the season, but that certainly does not mean they cannot turn it around. On May 15th last (italicized) year, (italicized) the Indians were 17-17. Fast-forward six months and they were a team that had just come up short in Game 7 of the World Series. They have had to deal with injuries and struggling players so far, but Cleveland is a sleeping giant that once awakened, can be absolutely unstoppable.
Current record: 22-23
Best players: Miguel Cabrera (Infielder), Justin Verlander (Pitcher), J.D. Martinez (Outfielder)
The spin: Detroit’s lineup has plenty of talent, but has underperformed. Their pitching staff has struggled to the surprise of few because of a dangerous lack of talent both in the rotation and the bullpen. As the talent on their roster continues age, Tigers management has made it clear that their time to win is now. However, after missing the playoffs two years in a row and struggling to get over the .500 mark this year, many expect Detroit to move some of their older, established talent at the trade deadline in an effort to replenish their pedestrian farm system and build toward the future.
Chicago White Sox
Current record: 20-25
Best players: Avisail Garcia (Outfielder), Jose Quintana (Pitcher), Jose Abreu (Infielder)
The spin: After starting off 15-12, a 5-13 skid has caused the ChiSox to fall to 4th place in the A.L. Central. They are in full-on rebuilding mode and there is nothing wrong with that. All that means is that for this year and perhaps two or three years more, the boys from the south side of town will not be competitive. But after the trades of Chris Sale to the Red Sox and Adam Eaton to the Nationals, the White Sox have a darn good farm system and a future to look forward to.
Kansas City Royals
Current record: 19-27
Best Players: Eric Hosmer (Infielder), Danny Duffy (Pitcher), Salvador Perez (Catcher)
The spin: This team won the World Series just two years ago and now has the worst record in the American League. It is funny to think about because that 2015 team is almost the same exact team as the one they have now. Yes, since they won the World Series they have lost super utility man Ben Zobrist to the Cubs and budding star pitcher Yordano Ventura in a tragic accident, but it is hard to believe that those two guys make this (italicized) much of a difference. The Royals simply are not hitting and their pitching as a team has been nothing short of average. It will be interesting to see what Kansas City does at the trade deadline, as many of the team’s most valuable players are set to become free agents this offseason. There is no way that the Royals will be able to retain them all.
Lets continue to the American League West Division:
Current Record: 31-16
Best players: Carlos Correa (Infielder), Dallas Keuchel (Pitcher), Jose Altuve (Infielder)
The spin: Houston is young, but they are absolutely stacked. After a down year that saw them miss the postseason in 2016, the Astros are hungry, as shown by their 31-16 record, which is the best in the majors. From top to bottom, they really do not have any holes, although it probably would not hurt to add some talent in the starting rotation or depth in the bullpen, which they may do at some point via trade. With the extremely talented young core of players they have in addition to one of the best farm systems in baseball, Houston could be a very tough out this (italicized) postseason and more postseasons to come.
Current record: 24-23
Best Players: Adrian Beltre (Infielder), Yu Darvish (Pitcher), Elvis Andrus (Infielder)
The spin: The Rangers are the hottest team in baseball right now. Like Toronto, Texas got off to a very slow start despite being one of the most talented teams in the game. Arguably their best player, Adrian Beltre, has not even seen the field yet due to injury and they are still waiting on star infielder Rougned Odor to come into form. Yu Darvish has been great on the mound for Texas, but Cole Hamels, the team’s most consistent starting pitcher, continues to miss time with an oblique injury. All told, when Texas is healthy and rolling on all cylinders, they are another team capable of doing some serious damage.
Los Angeles Angels
Current record: 25-24
Best players: Mike Trout (Outfielder), Albert Pujols (Infielder), Andrelton Simmons (Infielder)
The spin: The Angels have as a whole do not have a talented roster. Their lineup, for (italicized) the (italicized) most (italicized) part, (italicized) will definitely not scare you if you are an opposing pitcher and their pitching staff has no one special on it. However, they sit a game above .500 in very (italicized) large part to the undisputed best player in all of baseball, Mike Trout. The two-time American League MVP keeps the Angels relevant and is the only thing that makes a team laden of washed up veterans worth watching. In regards to the Halos future, their farm system is regarded as the worst in all of baseball. So unfortunately for Trout, the best player of this generation, he may never know what it is like to play for a contender; as long as he is a member of the Angels at least.
Current record: 21-25
Best players: Jed Lowrie (Infielder), Sonny Gray (Pitcher), Khris Davis (Outfielder)
The spin: Sonny Gray has bounced back on the mound after a down season last year. Khris Davis continues to just slug home runs. Starting pitcher Andrew Triggs has came out of nowhere. Infielder Yonder Alonso has enjoyed a revelation of a season and Jed Lowrie keeps quietly being consistent. All of this is great for Oakland, but it probably will not be enough to compete with the best of them. The A’s play a rather bland style of ball. They will never wow you with superstar talent because of their perennially low budget, but they have put together some very competitive teams in years past. While this year might not hold a postseason birth in store, we will see what the future holds.
Current record: 20-27
Best players: Robinson Cano (Infielder), Nelson Cruz (Outfielder), Kyle Seager (Infielder)
The spin: On paper, Seattle’s lineup is straight up filthy, but injuries and early season struggles have forced the Mariners into the middle of the pack statistically. Their pitching staff has been terrible, as their ace, Felix Hernandez, has not been “King Felix” for about two years now. To make matters worse, he is currently injured. As for the rest of the rotation, a lack of talent mixed with severe underperforming has certainly contributed towards putting the M’s in the basement of A.L. West; a place many did envision them being in at any point of the season. It is not all bad for the Mariners; however, as infielder, Jean Segura, acquired in a trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the offseason, has played extremely well thus far.
Now we move onto the National League, starting with the National League East Division:
Current record: 28-17
Best players: Bryce Harper (Outfielder), Max Scherzer (Pitcher), Ryan Zimmerman (Infielder)
The spin: Before outfielder Adam Eaton suffered a season-ending knee injury, it would have been very safe to say that the Nationals had the best lineup in all of baseball. The same can still be said without Eaton, as even in the star outfielder’s absence, the Nats rank 1st in baseball in just about every single offensive category. Washington’s pitching is good, not great, solely because of their bullpen’s dismal incompetence. The Nationals are good; I mean World (italicized) Series (italicized) good, but they will only go as far as their bullpen allows them to go. I would be very surprised if they did not make a move for a relief pitcher around the deadline. They made one last year by acquiring Mark Melancon from the Pirates, only to see him leave for the San Francisco Giants in free agency. Boy, are they missing him right now.
Current record: 20-24
Best Players: Freddie Freeman (Infielder), Matt Kemp (Outfielder), Julio Teheran (Pitcher)
The spin: By no means are the Braves expected to compete this season and they wont. They are 2nd in the N.L. right now because all of the division’s teams have been playing poorly. Despite a 20-24 record being nothing other than unimpressive, Atlanta is unlikely to even keep up a pace this good, especially because their best player and one of the game’s best players, Freddie Freeman, suffered a broken hand in a game against Toronto on May 17th. While the Braves will not compete this year, the future is certainly bright, as Atlanta boasts a consensus top-2 farm system in baseball with some promising young talent already up in the major leagues.
New York Mets
Current record: 19-25
Best players: Noah Syndergaard (Pitcher), Yoenis Cespedes (Outfielder), Jacob deGrom (Pitcher)
The spin: The Mets have perhaps been the unluckiest team in baseball this season. They have an unbelievable amount of injuries, including serious ones to their two best players. It seems like as soon as you think it cannot get any worse for the Mets, it actually does. In addition to all the health issues, New York has received a great deal of bad attention for pitcher Matt Harvey’s off-the-field-antics. For a talented team expecting to make a run this year, this season has been the exact opposite of what the Mets and their fans thought it would be.
Current record: 16-29
Best Players: Giancarlo Stanton (Outfielder), Christian Yelich (Outfielder), Marcell Ozuna (Outfielder)
The spin: Despite having one of the best young outfields in baseball, the Marlins have been unable to overcome the loss of pitcher Jose Fernandez in a boating accident last September. On the field, Fernandez almost always gave Miami a chance to win and when he wasn’t pitching, his presence in the clubhouse seemed to be enough to help the Marlins as well. Without Fernandez, the Marlins’ rotation has struggled, and when you combine a scuffling rotation with a lack of producing bats, you have a losing team.
Current record: 15-29
Best players: Aaron Altherr (Outfielder), Odubel Herrera (Outfielder), Maikel Franco (Infielder)
The spin: The Phillies are perhaps in more of a rebuilding mode than any other team in the game. When you combine both their current young talent in the majors with the young players they have in the minors, the future may very well hold good things in store. Additionally, Philadelphia will have as much money as anyone to spend in free agency over the next few offseasons.
And onto the National League Central Division:
Current record: 25-21
Best players: Ryan Braun (Outfielder), Eric Thames (Infielder), Travis Shaw (Infielder)
The spin: If the Minnesota Twins are not the most surprising team in all of baseball, then it is definitely the Milwaukee Brewers. The Brew Crew find themselves 1st in the N.L. Central ahead of quality teams like the Cubs and Cardinals. Milwaukee has been a great story, but it is hard to see them staying ahead of some of the other teams that currently sit behind them in their division. However, the Brewers are another one of those teams with the potential to have a very bright future, as their farm system sits in the top-10 in just about every list of farm system rankings.
St. Louis Cardinals
Current record: 23-20
Best Players: Matt Carpenter (Infielder), Mike Leake (Pitcher), Yadier Molina (Catcher)
The spin: After a rocky start, the Cardinals are right back into the swing of things. Even as Matt Carpenter, Dexter Fowler and Randall Grichuk continue to struggle at the plate, guys like Jedd Gyorko, Kolten Wong and Aledmys Diaz have helped keep the boat afloat. Also worth noting is Tommy Pham’s performance while filling for outfielder Stephen Piscotty when he was out with a hamstring injury. Asuming Piscotty gets going, the Cardinals lineup could be as good as any, even without any superstar players. Combine those bats with the Cards’ capable pitching staff and St. Louis has themselves a contender.
Current record: 24-21
Best players: Kris Bryant (Infielder), Anthony Rizzo (Infielder), Jon Lester (Pitcher)
The spin: The defending world champions are still yet to find their groove. Even if they are not quite as strong a team as they were last season, they are still better than what their record suggests. Look for the Cubs to get going and certainly compete not just for their division, but also for another World Series crown.
Current record: 22-24
Best players: Joey Votto (Infielder), Zack Cozart (Infielder), Eugenio Suarez (Infielder)
The spin: Cincinnati started hot before a 3-9 skid dropped them to 4th place in N.L. Central. Led by perennial all-star and former N.L. MVP Joey Votto, the Reds’ offense has not been the team’s problem; Cincinnati’s Achilles heel has been their pitching. With an insufficiency of quality arms on their staff, Cincinnati is a team that could very well fade further and further away from contention as they already have over the last few weeks and counting.
Current record: 21-26
Best players: Starling Marte (Outfielder), Gerit Cole (Pitcher), Josh Harrison (Infielder)
The spin: This season has been a nothing short of a doozy for Pittsburgh, a team that many thought would be competitive. Instead, Starling Marte got hit with an 80-game suspension for using an illegal substance. After that, pitcher Jameson Taillon was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Even more unfortunately for the Prates, this is all happening as outfielder Andrew McCutchen, the face of the franchise just two years ago, follows up his career-worst season with an even worse season this year. And it does not stop there; outfielder Gregory Polanco is struggling. Pitcher Tyler Glasnow is struggling. Infielder Jung-Ho Kang still is not even allowed back into the United States after not being granted a visa following his third DUI in South Korea since 2009. Since I have been so busy lsiting the negatives for Pittsburgh, I might as well point out some positives; Taillon is making his way back and young infielder Josh Bell has looked good at times. We will see if the Pirates can right the ship (pun intended), but if they can’t, we may see some players walk the plank at the trade deadline in late-July.
Last but not least, we head to the National League West Division:
Current record: 31-17
Best players: Nolan Arenado (Infielder), Charlie Blackmon (Outfielder), D.J. LeMahieu (Infielder)
The spin: As of right now, the Rockies of the best record in the National League. They have started well before and disappeared, but there is something about this Colorado team that looks a bit different. For starters, they brought in Ian Desmond, who just got healthy and should certainly help an already potent offensive team. Rookie pitcher Kyle Freeland has been solid as has veteran infielder Mark Reynolds. What leads baseball fans to believe that the Rockies’ success is sustainable this year is that Colorado is winning without the usual contributions of all-star outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and young infielder Trevor Story. One can only imagine that CarGo will start hitting as he always does and when that happens, Colorado could be a legitimate threat in the National League.
Current record: 29-19
Best players: Paul Goldschmidt (Infielder), Zack Greinke (Pitcher), A.J. Pollock (Outfielder)
The spin: So far the Diamondbacks have made a complete 180 from last season’s year to forget. Paul Goldschmidt is playing better than ever and the D-Backs as a whole are playing great ball. Even though A.J. Pollock just went down with a groin injury, continued production from guys like Jake Lamb, Chris Owings, David Peralta, Brandon Drury and Yasmany Tomas will definitely be enough to keep them rolling. Arizona’s pitching has also been a pleasant surprise, as in addition to Greinke’s bounce back season, starters such as Patrick Corbin, Robbie Ray and Taijuan Walker have been solid for the most part while the bullpen has also been adequate. Arizona has been fun to watch and with the way they have been playing, the weather may not be the only thing hot in the desert this summer.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Current record: 27-20
Best players: Clayton Kershaw (Pitcher), Corey Seager (Infielder), Cody Bellinger (Outfielder)
The spin: The Dodgers are one of the most talented teams in baseball and have not been playing poorly, yet they sit 3rd in their division. That is because so (italicized) far (italicized), the N.L. West has been the best division in baseball. It will be very interesting to see how the West plays out, as the Dodgers will seemingly be in the race all season and while the Rockies and D-Backs have started strong, it remains unclear as to whether either team is for real or not. The Giants may also have a run in them as well.
San Francisco Giants
Current record: 20-28
Best players: Buster Posey (Catcher), Madison Bumgarner (Pitcher), Brandon Crawford (Infielder)
The spin: What a difference a dirt bike ride makes, am I right? If you have no idea what I am referring to, let me explain. Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco’s best starting pitcher, sprained his throwing shoulder in a dirt bike accident back on April 20th. He is set to miss months. San Francisco is a light-hitting team, so losing a their best pitcher was obviously a catastrophic blow to the ball club. It remains to be seen how the Giants, who have had plenty of success in recent years, respond to not having Bumgarner for an extended amount of time. Things started out rocky, but after winning eight of out ten before going cold again, San Francisco at least showed that they are still capable of turning it on if they can find it for good. If Bumgarner’s injury proves too great a task to overcome, you still cannot expect San Fran to go down without a fight.
San Diego Padres
Current record: 17-31
Best players: Wil Myers (Infielder), Manuel Margot (Outfielder), Hunter Renfroe (Outfielder)
The spin: The life of a San Diego sports fan is rough; the Padres stink and the Chargers just left town. At least San Diegoins, no, San Diegons, yeah, San Diegons, can hit the beach to cope with their stress. The Padres are close to the bottom in most team hitting and pitching statistics; however, surprisingly enough, they are right in the middle of the pack in home runs. While the Padres are not good and almost definitely will not get any better this year, they have a consensus top-5 farm system, which allows fans to be optimistic not about this season, but rather the seasons ahead.
So that is it for Baseball (italicized) For (italicized) Dummies (italicized). I hope you feel much more informed about baseball after reading. Finally, in the words used by Yankees’ broadcaster Michael Kay after every home run, “see (italicized) ya (italicized)!”
*Records correct as of the 25th May 2017