1. Philadelphia Phillies 57 34 .626 Preseason Rank: 2
Count me as one who thinks Philly has played over its head a little bit. They're obviously the class of the NL, and they'll probably end the season with a .600 winning percentage, but I think they'll have a worse second half. Getting Utley back is nice (to illustrate the sad state of that once-great offense, he's tied for 3rd in WAR in half the games played), but is Shane Victorino a 9 WAR player? I kinda doubt it, even if his BB/K is almost 1. The rotation remains ridiculous even with Oswalt hurt; still, something tells me they'll cool down and only play .600 ball the rest of the way.
2. Boston Red Sox 55 35 .611 Preseason Rank: 1
I still think this is the best team in baseball. They started 0-6 and proceeded to a 2-10 first two weeks before gathering a few wins. Then they lost consecutive series against Baltimore and Seattle. Ouch. Adrian Gonzalez is a monster, and while I didn't get the Lackey contract at the time, it makes sense now that Dice-K is hurt and can't put up his usual 7.00 ERA. Jon Lester's injury is going to be a problem if it lingers, and Beckett's performance is unsustainable, but once again, there is potential in the starting rotation, which is nice when your offense has Carl Crawford hitting 8th.
3. New York Yankees 53 35 .602 Preseason Rank: 10
So I ranked them 10th coming into the year. What of it? It was just a ploy to let Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia be above-average starters, because I knew it would happen if I let them fly under the radar a bit. The Yanks' offense has declined a bit as I thought it would, but only to 2nd in baseball as they've been one of the best defensive teams according to UZR. Since half that team is in their mid-30's, all that does is make me distrust UZR. The starting pitching hasn't been nearly as bad since they resurrected a few zombies.
4. Atlanta Braves 54 38 .587 Preseason Rank: 5
I got nothing here, mostly because the Braves are climbing high on my rankings of teams which I respect and despise. Jair Jurrjens is leading baseball in ERA thanks to some questionable peripherals, and it's masking a pretty terrible season from Jason Heyward, who all of a sudden isn't being talked about much. That's a theme here: fantastic starting pitching covering up a pretty crappy offense.
5. San Francisco Giants 52 40 .565 Preseason Rank: 3
What was I saying about fantastic starting pitching covering up a pretty crappy offense? Despite losing Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez injuring his confidence, we're okay, because Ryan Vogelsong is that awesome, and not just lucky. Get this: the Giants are 23rd in baseball in BB/9. But it's okay, because we're first with a 8.14 K/9 (only team over 8 K/9). Also, we can't hit, which might have something to do with the fact that the only player who is both good at hitting and sound of body is Pablo Sandoval (I think Nate Schierholtz is for real, but let's give him a little longer), and that's being pretty generous with "sound of body".
6. Texas Rangers 51 41 .554 Preseason Rank: 6
This is the only team I nailed in the preseason ranking, so let's just say I predicted everything about them perfectly. Close to .500 at one point, Texas has picked it up recently, which could have something to do with getting Josh Hamilton back.
7. Tampa Bay Rays 49 41 .544 Preseason Rank: 4
I don't know why so many people thought the Rays were out of it this year; I still have them as the AL WC, as I don't believe in the Yankees' pitching, but at worst they'll be above .500. Nice years from James Shields, Ben Zobrist, and Matt Joyce, plus a good bullpen rebuild.
8. Los Angeles Angels 50 42 .543 Preseason Rank: 17
9. (tie-4) Detroit Tigers 49 43 .533 Preseason Rank: 14
Justin Verlander is also in beast mode, and Jhonny Peralta has a positive UZR. Anyone who had Peralta as the midseason WAR leader among free agent position players (and 2nd overall, 0.3 behind Cliff Lee) is probably dead from a meth overdose.
Milwaukee Brewers 49 43 .533 Preseason Rank: 8
Zack Greinke currently sports a 5.45 ERA and a 2.98 FIP with a K/BB of 6, which is very 2011 Brewers. Completely unrelated, Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, and Ryan Braun are the only offense while Casey McGeehee would like to borrow some of Nyjer Morgan's .392 BABIP.
St. Louis Cardinals 49 43 .533 Preseason Rank: 15
Also dead from a meth (and heroin, and cocaine, and probably Pop Rock) overdose is anyone who had Lance Berkman 2nd in baseball with a .602 SLG. Losing Adam Wainwright hasn't hurt the Cards with newly-extended Jaime Garcia and Kyle Lohse filling his shoes.
Arizona Diamondbacks 49 43 .533 Preseason Rank: 24
Get this: a team with a great offense and solid starting pitching bounces back from a horrible year to a good season because their bullpen went from historically terrible to decent. Incredible, really, given the rock-solid consistency of relief pitchers.
13. Cleveland Indians 47 42 .528 Preseason Rank: 25
There's something cooking in the Central, but at this point I've overplayed the meth card; the Indians are the surprise contender of the year at only half game out of first place and have accelerated their timetable to this year. They have too many infield prospects; I'll take Asdrubal Cabrera to go, please.
14. Pittsburgh Pirates 47 43 .522 Preseason Rank: 28
FOOLED YOU! Actually, the Pirates are the surprise contender of the year at only one game out. To be fair, the NL Central blows and they're definitely not going to be here all year, but Andrew McCutchen is legit and Kevin Correia is an All-Star, which would be even more hilarious if he were still in SF because he could have stood next to Ryan Vogelsong for epic lulz.
Finally, the vast majority of people who thought they were the worst team in baseball can suck it.
15. New York Mets 46 45 .505 Preseason Rank: 21
Jose Reyes is an MVP candidate because hitting .354 boosts your OPS like nothing else; his power and patience really aren't that great, but a .375 BABIP helps a lot. The Mets suck, though, with injury problems and general ineptitude, but a knuckleballer as a staff ace is sweet.
16. Washington Nationals 46 46 .500 Preseason Rank: 23
Jordan Zimmermann is all the way back from Tommy John surgery, though I think they should have used the extra 'n' instead of a ligament. That Jayson Werth contract is getting a jump on the bad years as he's tied for 9th among their position players in WAR with Pudge and...Jordan Zimmermann.
17. (tie-2) Toronto Blue Jays 45 47 .489 Preseason Rank: 16
Jose Bautista is really the only thing worth talking about in Toronto. Jose Bautisa is awesome. Really, really awesome. Totally incredible. An unbelievable player. Patience, power, average, defense, the All-Star vote record, all his. Alex Anthopolous is pretty badass too.
Cincinnati Reds 45 47 .489 Preseason Rank: 9
The Reds are somehow below .500 despite being on pace for 40 WAR from their position players alone. The starting pitching is bad, but it's okay, because they've got depth, so when a bad starting pitcher gets hurt or goes to AAA, they can replace him with another bad pitcher.
19. Chicago White Sox 44 48 .478 Preseason Rank: 12
Adam Dunn is having an incredibly horrible year, going 2-64 (0.31) against lefties. Juan Pierre is also very bad. Edwin Jackson is not so bad, despite a mid-4.00's ERA, and headlines a pretty nice starting staff. Alexei Ramirez is probably the most underrated player in baseball.
20. (tie-3) Seattle Mariners 43 48 .473 Preseason Rank: 30
Perhaps I was overzealous here because of how much of a disappointment the M's were in 2010, but I still think they're crap. Ichiro is starting to look like a 37 year old instead of Pete Rose (what am I saying? Ichiro looks more like Fran Drescher than Pete Rose). Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda are looking good, and Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley should be good if Ackley can overcome his coke problem.
Colorado Rockies 43 48 .473 Preseason Rank: 11
Florida Marlins 43 48 .473 Preseason Rank: 18
The Marlins won five games in June, and two were against Oakland. They're done.
23. Minnesota Twins 41 48 .461 Preseason Rank: 7
Injuries, crappy play, and the Twins go from perennial contender to "what can we sell?" which produces a very short list: Michael Cuddyer and "Well Played, Mauer" T-shirts.
24. Los Angeles Dodgers 41 51 .446 Preseason Rank: 13
This is the Dodgers' season:
25. San Diego Padres 40 52 .435 Preseason Rank: 19
Apparently, Adrian Gonzalez was worth something like 30 wins to San Diego, because they're the same team doing the same thing and they suck now.
26. Oakland Athletics 39 53 .424 Preseason Rank: 20
Oakland's been hurt by injuries as bad as the Giants, which clearly means there needs to be more fluoride in the water, and that championship rings are some sort of life force for winning percentages.
27. Baltimore Orioles 36 52 .409 Preseason Rank: 29
Baltimore really hasn't been that bad, with J.J. Hardy tearing it up (and talking about an extension, which would be the dumbest thing ever), but AL East.
28. Kansas City Royals 37 54 .407 Preseason Rank: 27
KC is the other reason I said there's something cooking in the Central (also because the Midwest is full of meth labs) with a brief window where they thought they could contend. They weren't not wrong.
29. Chicago Cubs 37 55 .402 Preseason Rank: 22
At this point, I think either Cubs fans enjoy losing or there's going to be a mass suicide sometime in the next few weeks; there's no excuse to have a payroll that big and be the second-worst team in baseball in the worst division in baseball. Aramis Ramirez being traded back to the Pirates would be cause for a lot of alcohol-related deaths in Chicago.
30. Houston Astros 30 62 .326 Preseason Rank: 26
The Houston Astros baseball team is bad at playing baseball.
Overall, I think this list proves that I should shut the hell up about baseball. Or maybe the sport is just unpredictable. I'm going to go with the second one because otherwise I've wasted a lot of time on the computer. My favorite part is the run where I had a bunch of teams ranked in the 20s above a bunch of teams ranked in the teens (or higher), namely the Diamondbacks-White Sox bit.
1. NL East 246-211 .538 Preseason Rank: 2
2. AL East 238-210 .531 Preseason Rank: 1
3. AL West 183-184 .499 Preseason Rank: 6
4. NL West 225-234 .490 Preseason Rank: 3
5. AL Central 218-235 .481 Preseason Rank: 4
6. NL Central 257-293 .467 Preseason Rank: 5
So there's been some shakeup in the divisional rankings, with the AL West getting a lot stronger - the only real difference as it leapfrogged from 6th to 3rd and pushed everyone else down a slot - and the Eastern divisions basically stomping everyone else. Interesting that four of six divisions are below .500
If you've stayed with me this long, I salute you. For funsies, let's do a "what do you think" box and I can pretend to care about your opinions:
First-half surprise team:
Second-half surprise team:
Surprise playoff entrant:
Best record in baseball:
MVP and LVP include pitchers as well as position players.