The midway point of the MLB season always gives us a chance to reflect and try to understand how each team has performed and where they are headed. For that, we can resort to PLV, BaseRuns, Statcast, WAR, wOBA, and even wOBACON (yummy), among the myriad acronyms and systems that allow us to understand baseball at a deep level. With all those tools at our disposal, we are going in a different direction.
The crossover between Major League Baseball and the beloved sitcom The Office is closer than you might expect—after all, both featured prominent Ryan Howards, with one of them even being part of both worlds. With the help of a few classic quotes and some deeper cuts, Michael Scott and his group of co-workers present us a breakdown (or should it be a rundown?) of the 2023 season, so far.
All stats are current through the All-Star break, while playoff odds are provided by Fangraphs.
Tampa Bay Rays – 58-35, 97.5% playoff odds
For several years, the Rays have operated under the premise of outsmarting the rest of baseball and winning despite being in the lower tier of payrolls. After taking a step back in 2022, following back-to-back division titles, the 2023 version of the Rays has been the best one yet. Even after a recent skid, their unstoppable 13-0 record to start the year has given Tampa the best record in the AL all season long, having a clear path to again reign supreme in baseball’s toughest division. While their tradition of seemingly turning any reliever into Mariano Rivera has diminished and the rotation has seen a fair number of injuries, the Rays have found a way to win with a historically-good offense. Led by Yandy Diaz and Randy Arozarena, Tampa has 9 hitters with at least 200 plate appearances and an OPS+ above 100, by far the most in the majors. As the franchise’s second 100-win season looks inevitable, the Rays may act like they don’t know they are money, but they do.
Baltimore Orioles – 54-35, 70.5% playoff odds
The Orioles hit rock bottom not too long ago, losing at least 108 games over each full season between 2018 and 2021. This allowed Baltimore to use full advantage of the draft and rebuild, with it all coming together ahead of schedule last year, sporting an 83-79 record that placed the Orioles in wild-card contention through the last week of the season. With regression looming, the Orioles have found a way to over-perform their underlying numbers and remain one of the top squads in the AL. Adley Rutschman is the clear top youngling, supported by other sophomores and rookies that the Orioles have graduated this season, such as Jordan Westburg and Colton Cowser. Despite this onslaught of youth, most outlets still rank Baltimore’s farm system as the best in baseball, with several other blue-chip prospects yet to arrive in the Show. Even in the tough AL East, we should start getting used to seeing the Orioles as a playoff fixture.
New York Yankees – 49-42, 61.3% playoff odds
In terms of trying, no one can deny that the Yankees are the premier MLB franchise. Their last losing season came all the way back in 1992, with three decades that have included a golden era, several memorable moments, Hall of Fame players, and bloated payrolls. For 2023, the strategy of shooting their shot was apparent, as the team locked up Aaron Judge seemingly for life, added Carlos Rodon to be Gerrit Cole’s c0-ace and finally promoted Anthony Volpe to be their shortstop of the future. At some points of the year, the Yankees have looked unstoppable, but nothing has been the same since Judge injured his toe making a spectacular catch on June 3. New York’s offense has struggled mightily without its captain, while the rotation is full of question marks outside Cole (Rodon made his season debut on July 7). Being who they are, the Yankees are likely to add and try to patch things up at the trade deadline, but they don’t appear to be a serious threat to make a deep run at a championship. Their 14-year World Series drought would be the envy of most franchises, but it is still a point of pain for many New Yorkers.
Toronto Blue Jays – 50-41, 67.5% playoff odds
The Blue Jays entered 2023 with serious championship aspirations, based on a solid pitching staff and one of the league’s top offenses. At the break, the odds say they are more likely than not to make the playoffs, Kevin Gausman is the best AL pitcher in terms of WAR, and Bo Bichette looks primed to lead the league in hits for the third straight year. So why is Toronto so underwhelming? It is a tough question to answer, but something about the Jays looks off, to say the least. For further evidence, look at their at-bats as they were no-hit by the lowly Tigers on July 8. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. has not blossomed into the slugger once envisioned, others like George Springer, Matt Chapman, and Brandon Belt have been more solid than star-level, and the less said about Alek Manoah, the better. Toronto appears to have enough talent to turn it around and solidify its standing as a wild-card contender, but it’s fair to say they have fallen way short of expectations.
Boston Red Sox – 48-43, 30.2% playoff odds
Boston fans are famously intense and a bit dramatic. In what is shaping up to be another lost season, the general sentiment around the Red Sox tends to be pessimism, and lack of trust for the front office. Leaving aside the fact that they have a winning record and would be the best team in the AL Central, it is becoming abundantly clear that Boston is falling further and further behind their AL East brethren. Surprising seasons from rookie import Masataka Yoshida (130 OPS+) and solid contributions from the likes of Alex Verdugo, Justin Turner, and homegrown pitcher Brayan Bello have been nullified by a pitching staff with a 4.35 ERA and a bottom-third defense in terms of efficiency. Boston’s strategy at the trade deadline will speak volumes of how they see themselves in terms of contention, but it will be tough to avoid the franchise’s fifth last-place finish over the past decade.
Minnesota Twins – 45-46, 57.3% playoff odds
Despite having a clear advantage in terms of health, roster, and underlying stats, the Twins enter the All-Star break on the outside looking in for a playoff spot in the mediocre AL Central. Minnesota has been one of the toughest teams to project, even as they have the league’s lowest team ERA and the Central’s lone positive run differential, we can also point to the fact they have yet to win 5 games in a row, no comebacks of 4+ runs, and their best overall player is limited to DH due to health concerns. With the three-headed monster of Sonny Gray, Pablo Lopez, and Joe Ryan headlining the rotation and Jhoan Duran becoming a true shutdown closer, the odds suggest that the division is Minnesota’s to lose. And yet, it all points out to a close race to the finish, with the Twins making it way harder than it needs to be.
Cleveland Guardians – 45-45, 41.1% playoff odds
As has been the case throughout the last decade, Cleveland finds itself in the middle of an AL Central race, now having posted 10 straight winning seasons for the first time in franchise history. For some reason, the current iteration of the Guardians may also be the least exciting, which makes their pursuit of the playoffs a bit lackluster. To wit, they enter the break as the only team standing at exactly .500, having gone 17-19 in one-run games, with an offense ranked 25th in OPS and 27th in runs scored. Even their long-vaunted pitching has been more solid than spectacular, amid speculation that Shane Bieber could be placed on the trading block a couple of weeks from now. Regardless of their average-ness, the Guardians are still in a good spot to win the division, though they would be a lock for the less-attractive TV slots come playoff time.
Detroit Tigers – 39-50, 2.0% playoff odds
Year 9 of the endless Tigers rebuild is becoming as frustrating as the previous eight. Even as this is not the abject disaster of 2019’s 114 losses or last year’s 96-loss abomination, the 2023 Tigers continue to show that they are far from having a solid foundation and a plan. Bringing in Scott Harris as president of baseball operations may have been a step in the right direction, but the product on the field continues to suffer from the lack of progress from once-touted prospects, such as Spencer Torkelson, Matt Manning, and Riley Greene. To add insult to injury, Detroit’s farm system is ranked in the bottom half of the league by most pundits, suggesting that the road ahead will not become easier anytime soon. At least Tigers fans can marvel at some statistical extremes, such as Miguel Cabrera’s .327 slugging and Javi Baez’s .259 OBP (!!!).
Chicago White Sox – 38-54, 2.0% playoff odds
Several teams have had disappointing and perplexing seasons in 2023, making the White Sox’s performance a bit overlooked. It is still remarkable that this roster is almost out of any kind of playoff contention in the AL Central, despite having some of the division’s best players. Chicago started the season on a terrible 7-21 run, which practically rendered the rest of the year moot. Luis Robert has been the team’s lone bright spot, with his 4.2 WAR towering over the rest of the offense (no other White Sox position player is above 1.0 WAR). The White Sox have a few starting pitchers who should be attractive for contenders at the deadline; although moving Dylan Cease would be tough to swallow, it may be the best possible path forward for an organization in clear need of a reset. In many ways, it looks as if the franchise has not recovered after its brutal loss to the Astros in the 2021 ALDS.
Kansas City Royals – 26-65, 0% playoff odds
Just like the Tigers, Kansas City recently underwent a significant leadership change following years of a once-successful regime. And while it can be said that the Royals have also failed to produce a solid plan back to contention, they have also committed one of baseball’s biggest sins: they have become boring, bordering on unwatchable. Since May 30, they have gone an unfathomable 9-27 (though they won a series against the Dodgers and Rays in that span…WHAT?!), and lost their only productive hitter when Vinnie Pasquantino and his amazing homerun celebration were shut down for the season. Bobby Witt Jr.s sophomore season (.718 OPS) has been a disappointment, while Zack Greinke’s feel-good reunion has been a disaster (1-9, 5.44 ERA)—at least Jordan Lyles finally won a game. Kansas City’s farm system is rated somehow even worse than Detroit’s, and they already traded their best asset in Aroldis Chapman. At least they still have the fountains and one of MLB’s cleanest uniforms.
Texas Rangers – 52-39, 69.3% playoff odds
Following a long rebuild that included a 68-94 season in 2022, the Texas Rangers have emerged as one of the season’s top feel-good stories, with a foundation built upon several characters that were beloved by other fan bases. It all starts with the hiring of Bruce Bochy, legendary 3-time champion with the Giants, continues with other ring-bearers like Nathan Eovaldi and Corey Seager, and ends with homegrown rookies that have rounded out the roster, such as Josh Jung. Moreover, the Rangers play a crowd-pleasing brand of baseball, leading the league in runs and extra-base hits. Eovaldi is the ace of a staff full of unheralded hurlers, which has made up for the predictable loss of Jacob deGrom, who only appeared in six games before being shut down for the year. If you add that the Rangers are on a mission to unseat the Astros atop the AL West, they truly have all the ingredients to become a neutral fan’s dream to root for as the season goes along.
Houston Astros – 50-41, 65.7% playoff odds
Over the past five full seasons, not counting 2020, the Astros have won the AL West every single time, averaging 102 wins per season. During that span, they have reached the ALCS six times, with two World Series wins and two losses. When the defending champs started the season 20-19 and appeared to have fierce competition from the Rangers and Angels, there was a glimpse of the Astros finally cracking. And yet, they enter the All-Star break with a great chance to catch the Rangers and are among the AL’s top squads despite not operating at full strength. What should be scary for everyone else is that Houston is close to getting Yordan Alvarez back, and recent history suggests that they may not be shy about trading prospects to add pitching at the deadline. Doubt Houston at your own risk.
Los Angels Angels – 45-46, 10.5% playoff odds
The dissonance between the Angels as an organization and their iconic players is reaching its highest (or lowest?) point in 2023, as LA has become the center of the baseball universe despite seemingly falling out of contention yet again. Marveling at Shohei Ohtani’s exploits is a daily exercise in awe and baseball history, as the two-way sensation has taken his offensive game to an unprecedented level. Following a month of June that is hard to put into words, Ohtani currently leads MLB in homeruns, triples, slugging, and OPS, while also having 7 wins, 132 strikeouts, and a .189 opponent batting average as a pitcher. While Ohtani’s inevitable foray into free agency has already been one of the season’s top storylines, the Angels’ demise in the standings could add another layer of discourse, as trading scenarios are bound to dominate the baseball discourse for the rest of July. The Angels may not win on the field, but at least they are on everybody’s Twitter (or Threads) feed.
Seattle Mariners – 45-44, 23.3% playoff odds
After breaking the longest playoff drought in American sports, the Seattle Mariners entered 2023 with higher expectations than they’d had in a long time. An aggressive trade for Teoscar Hernandez was supposed to get the offense to a different level, along with a full season of Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez. Instead of that, Seattle has been held back by a frustrating attack that is now mostly known for its struggles with strikeouts. The Mariners have four regulars with at least 100 Ks, making them the second-worst offense in total strikeouts, and bottom 10 in terms of OBP. Even as the pitching has been steady with Luis Castillo pitching like an ace and solid contributions from George Kirby and rookie Bryan Woo, the lack of consistency on offense has been Seattle’s trademark. They have yet to secure a 5-game winning streak, while their prowess in one-run games has vanished, sporting a pedestrian 10-16 mark. The Mariners have failed to become what they wanted to be, though they could still challenge for a playoff spot if they stop striking out as much.
Oakland Athletics – 25-67, 0% playoff odds
It is amazing to think that the A’s won a division title as recently as 2020. Even with the asterisk of a shortened season, that came off consecutive 97-win seasons in 2018 and 2019, a time when Oakland was a contender despite low payrolls and a tough stadium situation. After a low point in 2022, the franchise’s first 100-loss season since 1979, ownership decided to go even lower. Oakland’s bankruptcy is not financial, but rather an unprecedented form of baseball bankruptcy, with the organization intentionally gutting the team, alienating fans, and being in cahoots with MLB to finally move the team away from Oakland. The team’s ineptitude on the field can be captured in several numbers, such as the historic -248 run differential or starting the season with 10 wins over 55 games, but it is undeniable that there is something cruel about ownership handing manager Mark Kotsay such a dreadful roster to compete over a 162-game season. As it becomes inevitable that such a proud heritage will end up as yet another soulless franchise in Las Vegas, we at least can return to the now infamous Reverse Boycott as one 2023’s most indelible scenes.
Atlanta Braves – 60-29, 100% playoff odds
The first iteration of Atlanta’s golden age, between 1991 and 2005, yielded an unprecedented dominance of the NL East albeit with only one championship to show for it. While those squads were full of future Hall of Famers and iconic players, there was still a feeling of missed opportunities surrounding the franchise. The current version of what is already becoming a new golden age for the Braves has already won a championship and is on track towards a sixth straight division title. On the field, the team has been a relentless collection of baseball talent, already lapping the field in several offensive categories and on pace towards several historic feats. Atlanta’s 169 team home runs lead MLB by a significant margin, with 7 hitters having at least 14. Ronald Acuña Jr.in particular has been impressive, with a real chance of achieving the first 40/70 season in history. While the rotation could benefit from reinforcements, the Braves have so many weapons on offense and in the bullpen, that they are primed to be a heavy favorite in any playoff series. Considering that most of their core is locked up with team-friendly contracts for the rest of the decade, the Braves could be looking at extended dominance, regardless of how much their division foes keep spending. Here’s hoping that the organization and its fans take time to appreciate it.
Miami Marlins – 53-39, 74.1% playoff odds
The Marlins are a perpetually confounding franchise. Two World Series wins despite never winning their division, ownership conducting fire sales that alienate their fan base, and that crazy sculpture in center field (RIP). Entering 2023, it seemed that their most relevant storyline would revolve around Derek Jeter leaving the team’s ownership group in 2022, as the team lost 93 games last season and was not a natural candidate for improvement. Trading Pablo Lopez out of a surplus of pitching in order to acquire Luis Arraez was an inspired offseason move, as well as moving Jazz Chisholm to the outfield, but it still didn’t look like the team had a coherent plan toward contention. And yet, here we are and the Marlins continue to astound the baseball world, almost a lock to earn their first winning record over a full season since 2009. A 21-6 record in 1-run games has led to Miami having the second-best record in the NL despite a negative run differential, which includes massive regression from 2022 Cy Young winner Sandy Alcantara. After years of throwing stuff at the wall, it looks like something finally stuck.
Philadelphia Phillies – 48-41, 55.8% playoff odds
In 2022, the Phillies took full advantage of the quirks of the new playoff format and were a couple of wins away from earning one of history’s most improbable championships. Alas, it was not to be, and Philadelphia entered 2023 with even higher aspirations, inking prized free agent shortstop Trea Turner to a long-term deal. While Turner was supposed to be the missing piece amid a top-heavy roster, the Phillies have been mostly uneven throughout the season. Kyle Schwarber has 22 homers…and a .187 batting average; Bryce Harper returned from Tommy John surgery in record time…only to see his power evaporate; Turner has 19 stolen bases and a 100% success rate…and is hitting below league average. Even with all these disappointments and many stats screaming regression, the Phillies are still in good shape to secure a wild-card spot and try to catch lightning in a bottle again. For the sake of fairness, let’s see if someone else steps up in the National League.
New York Mets – 42-48, 15.2% playoff odds
Entering the season with the highest payroll ever, expectations were sky-high for a Mets team that was supposed to challenge Atlanta for the division. The combined salaries of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer are higher than the total payroll of four organizations, as owner Steve Cohen was not shy of throwing money at every perceived need. While his ownership has been a breath of fresh air for Mets fans, the product on the field has not matched the size of the paychecks, giving plenty of flashbacks to the LOL Mets of years past. The veteran pitchers have been injured, ineffective, or both, while the bullpen clearly misses Edwin Diaz after his freak injury in the WBC. The offense ranks middle-of-the-pack in most key categories, though things are looking up after a recent long winning streak and the immediate impact of rookie catcher Francisco Alvarez (17 homers in 223 PA). The Mets still have a long way to go before having any shot at the playoffs, with at least 4 teams ahead of them in the wild-card standings. With an all-in owner, it seems likely that they will be buyers at the deadline, in what could become the most expensive disaster in MLB history.
Washington Nationals – 36-54, 0% playoff odds
The 2019 team page for the Washington Nationals is truly a sight to behold. The long-suffering franchise was able to finally break through with a championship, employing its fair share of stars and future Hall of Famers. But as ownership has vacillated between retooling and rebuilding, the memory of Howie Kendrick hitting the foul pole in Game 7 looks like the only thing Nationals fans will hold on to for the foreseeable future. The first half of 2023 has been yet another instance of a franchise in limbo, with prospects taking too much time to develop and limited hope on the horizon. Even 2022 sensation Joey Meneses has fallen back to earth, while the most significant news for Washington in 2023 could be that Stephen Strasburg may never pitch again. The team’s top hitter, Jeimer Calendario, is almost a lock to be traded, as the Nats will try to finally receive impact prospects that can become part of the next winning version of the franchise. With the way the NL East projects for the next few years, it will take a lot to see Washington back as a contender.
Cincinnati Reds – 50-41, 34.8% playoff odds
It is amazing that we are only a year and a half removed from the infamous interview in which Reds president Phil Castellini basically dared Reds fans to abandon the team. The Reds followed that up with a 100-loss season and subsequently started 2023 with only 21 wins over their first 50 games. Even in a weak NL Central, it looked like the Reds rebuild was still far away from being completed into a true contender. Six weeks later, Cincinnati has somehow become must-see TV, on the back of the promotion of top prospect Elly De La Cruz, the ever-entertaining Joey Votto, and other impact rookies like Matt McLain and Spencer Steer. The ascent of De La Cruz has been remarkable, crowned by his current exploits against Milwaukee, hitting the go-ahead run and stealing second, third, and home to manufacture another run. On the other hand, the Reds still enter the break with a negative run differential, 27th in terms of ERA, and relying on the NL’s youngest lineup to carry them through a playoff run. The odds are still against Cincinnati in 2023, but it will surely be fun to see them try.
Milwaukee Brewers – 49-42, 58.0% playoff odds
In a division full of upstarts and disappointments, the Brewers remain the steady presence, yet again in the driver’s seat toward a playoff spot. Even as 2022 saw them snap their streak of postseason appearances, the Brewers still posted a solid 86-win season and kept most of their foundation towards this season. The understated resurgence of Christian Yelich has carried the offense, as only he and catcher William Contreras have posted above-average batting lines. The pitching staff, Milwaukee’s standard for so long, has taken a step back in 2023, with Corbin Burnes posting an ERA a full run higher than in 2022, Freddy Peralta’s fastball losing most of its magic, and Brandon Woodruff placed on the IL after only contributing two starts. Nevertheless, manager Craig Counsell still has a knack for pushing the right buttons when it comes to high-leverage, as a 16-7 record in one-run games can attest. While it is never flashy, the Brewers find a way to get it done…just like a carpenter who makes stairs (?).
Chicago Cubs – 42-47, 9.4% playoff odds
In the middle of the NL Central lie the Cubs, who executed one of the most successful rebuilds in MLB history, finally won a World Series, and then slowly descended into irrelevance, where they again stand in 2023. After seasons of 71 and 74 wins, the current iteration of the Cubs is on pace for 76 wins, which sounds about right for a roster full of holes but also enough competent players to provide a solid floor. It has been nice to see a solid comeback from Cody Bellinger (128 OPS+), and the one-two punch of Marcus Stroman and Justin Steele has been one of the best pitching tandems in the NL (combined 2.77 ERA and 18 wins), but the drop-off to the weaker side of the roster is massive, especially as the Cubs are way below average in most offensive categories. While the division is faintly in play, it would appear that the best course of action will be to listen for offers on the likes of Stroman, Bellinger, and any other veteran that could attract interest.
Pittsburgh Pirates – 41-49, 1.4% playoff odds
The Pirates were the early season’s surprise squad, storming out of the gate towards a 20-8 record by the end of April. Many pundits deemed the quick start as unsustainable, and they would be proven correct as Pittsburgh slowly descended back into the pack. However, the season has also given us several positive signs for a franchise in clear need of good news. It is important to remember the Pirates have not reached 70 wins over a full season since 2018, and the 2023 team should at least get there and provide glimmers of hope for the future. Bringing back franchise icon Andrew McCutchen and see him turn back the clock has been great, but also encouraging is how the franchise was finally able to lock up Bryan Reynolds with a long-term contract and has given plenty of playing time to promising youngsters like Jack Suwinski and Henry Davis. The eventual return from injury of Oneil Cruz could provide a Reds-like blueprint as soon as 2024, in a very winnable division. The Pirates have the lowest payroll in the NL, and their fans have long been critical of ownership’s penny-pinching, but they may not have any other option but to invest in the club and finally take advantage of their youth movement.
St. Louis Cardinals – 38-52, 5.8% playoff odds
The Cardinals have long been the standard of steadiness in the NL, with only one losing season in the 21st Century and the self-appointed best fans in baseball. After four straight playoff appearances and a solid roster that includes reigning MVP Paul Goldschmidt, it all appeared set toward yet another season of the Cardinals fighting for a division title. Instead, they have fallen victim to the proverbial season from hell, which has usually been limited to other franchises. St. Louis’ demise is hard to explain only by numbers, as their BaseRuns metrics suggest they should be several wins better. Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado have experienced down seasons for their standards, but are still a formidable duo at the middle of the lineup. On the other hand, the pitching staff has been one of the worst in the league, and now there is a real possibility of Adam Wainwright not reaching career win #200 despite starting the season with 195. Many have pointed to Yadier Molina’s retirement as the tipping point for a team that was used to stability, but this season may be mostly remembered by the weird fumbling of Willson Contreras as catcher, the start-and-stop of Jordan Walker’s career, and several managerial miscues that may end up costing Oliver Marmol his job. In the end, maybe there is no lesson from all this, and the Cardinals as constructed should still be a solid contender in 2024.
Los Angeles Dodgers – 51-38, 92.1% playoff odds
Outside of a title in the shortened 2020 season, which holds an asterisk in the minds of many fans, the Dodgers have made losing in the playoffs almost an art form. With consecutive postseason appearances in full seasons dating back 2013, LA has managed to lose 4 NLDS, 3 NCLS, and a couple of World Series. All losses have left a deep mark in the fanbase, but the franchise has never wavered in its pursuit of excellence, with 2023 being no different. Despite relying on more home-grown talent and reclamation projects than usual and battling with Arizona for the top of the NL West, the Dodgers are still clearly one of the best teams in the league. Freddie Freeman has been his usual excellent self (.952 OPS and 49 extra-base hits), while Mookie Betts would be a great pick for MVP if not for the existence of Ronald Acuña Jr. The concern for the Dodgers as a potential World Series contender lies in a pitching staff with a 4.50 ERA, where most of their rotation has spent time or currently resides on the IL. Even Clayton Kershaw’s FIP is a full run higher than his ERA, which screams regression after he is activated, while Julio Urias is finally having a subpar season after years of being the quiet ace of the staff. The playoffs are a crapshoot and the Dodgers are now the favorites to win the division and earn a bye, but history has taught us that it will all probably end in painful fashion.
Arizona Diamondbacks – 52-39, 64.4% playoff odds
Coming into the season, many chose the Diamondbacks as a trendy pick to contend for a playoff spot. Given the new rules surrounding pick-off opportunities and larger bases, it seemed like a smart bet to trust a team full of young, athletic players—and the Dbacks have mostly held up their end of the bargain. Outside of veterans Christian Walker and Evan Longoria, Arizona’s lineup is full of players in their 20s, highlighted by surefire Rookie of the Year Corbin Carroll, who should even earn some MVP consideration with a .923 OPS and 26 steals in only 28 tries. Speaking of stolen bases, the Dbacks have a nearly 88% success rate, with 93 swipes in 106 tries. That speed has also translated well to defense, as Arizona is top 5 in several metrics, such as UZR, outs above average, and defensive efficiency. The pitching has fallen a bit behind, outside of Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly, which makes Arizona a prime candidate to be aggressive at the trade deadline and add a starter or two. Whoever is on the mound, he can be sure that the defense behind can run down most batted balls, as the Diamondbacks will try to sprint towards their first division title since 2011.
San Francisco Giants – 49-41, 57.7% playoff odds
The Giants had a clear plan last offseason: land a star player to become the face of the franchise. First, it seemed as if they had signed Aaron Judge (or Arson Judge, at least), only to be left at the altar. Then they pivoted towards landing Carlos Correa, signed him to a massive contract, and saw it all fall apart as his medicals revealed troubling signs of a chronic injury. Instead of wallowing with these disappointments, the front office went ahead and made a series of minor moves, such as bringing in veterans Mitch Haniger, Michael Conforto, Sean Manaea, and Ross Stripling. While none of them are major difference-makers, San Francisco’s backup plan has worked so far, with the team climbing from a tough start to become a serious contender for a wild-card spot, if not the division. The mix-and-match approach has been complemented by solid rookies like Blake Sabol, Casey Schmitt, Luis Matos, and especially catcher Patrick Bailey, who may just be Buster Posey’s heir apparent. The Giants have the resources to be aggressive at the deadline and again pursue top free agents next offseason, but at least they have again shown they can contend with an unexpected roster.
San Diego Padres – 43-47, 31.5% playoff odds
The last MLB game before the All-Star break pitted the Padres and Mets, in a battle of the two highest-profile flops of 2023. Even as San Diego won the series, their sixth win over the past eight games, and earned some positive momentum, they still have a long way to go before meeting the lofty expectations placed upon the team in 2023. The small-market franchise entered the season with the third-highest payroll in the sport, with the city of San Diego going along for the ride to the tune of over 40 thousand fans per home game. There hasn’t been much to cheer about, as the superteam consisting mostly of players who became stars playing for other teams (Xander Bogaerts, Blake Snell, Juan Soto, Yu Darvish—to name a few) has failed to coalesce into a true team, resembling a high-priced NBA squad with little chemistry. Basic stats show that the Padres are a top-10 team in terms of run-scoring and prevention, with a run differential that is better than Arizona’s and San Francisco’s, but a lack of situational performance has crushed them time and again. Look no further than San Diego’s 5-15 mark in one-run games and 0-8 record when playing extra innings. The true talent level of the roster suggests that there is still a strong chance for the Padres to go on a run and challenge for a playoff spot, but it is hard to do that when you are the only team in MLB without a winning streak longer than 3 games.
Colorado Rockies – 34-57, 0% playoff odds
Another year, another perplexing season by the Rockies, who at this point have to be considered a failed experiment until there is significant change atop their structure. Playing in the NL West is hard enough, but it becomes impossible when management has no plan and seemingly no idea of how to turn things around. To wit, Colorado has a higher payroll than seven teams currently in possession of a playoff spot, its farm system is in the bottom third in projections, and the major-league roster is bereft of impact players that could bring in attractive prospects at the trade deadline. Pitching at altitude remains a major challenge, but Colorado’s pitchers have reached a new level of disaster, with a collective 5.72 ERA that is only surpassed by the A’s. Coors Field has not even been kind to home hitters, as they are 26th in the league in homers, with only 86. Outside of Oakland and maybe Kansas City, the Rockies have become one of the most hopeless situations in MLB, as they are currently on pace to post the franchise’s first-ever 100-loss season.