TheSportsNotebook’s MLB coverage for Memorial Day will be a soundbite-oriented overview of the entire league, as we run through each division and sum up all thirty teams in one sentence…
NY Yankees (30-19): Outstanding pitching has kept the Yankees going while their starting lineup is decimated by injuries.
Boston (31-20): The Red Sox are playing steady and consistent, with the emergence of leftfielder Danny Nava being the X-factor the team needed.
Baltimore (27-23): Chris Davis leads a potent offense that’s covering for closer Jim Johnson, who keeps coughing up save opportunities.
Tampa Bay (25-24): It’s the offense that outpacing the pitching in Tampa Bay, as they wait for David Price to get healthy and effective.
Toronto (21-29): The starting pitching trio of R.A. Dickey, Mark Buehrle and Josh Johnson has ranged from disappointing to disastrous.
Comment: I picked the Yankees to win a division where no one would exceed 90 wins at the start of the season, and for the AL East to sweep both wild-card spots. There’s not a lot of reason to change course, although the complete collapse of Toronto makes it likely than one or two teams will be able to break the 90-win barrier. I’ll stay with Tampa and Baltimore to be those teams, given that if Johnson and Fernando Rodney get things figured out, each team will move up quickly.
Detroit (28-20): An extraordinary offense that leads the league in runs scored while playing in a pitcher’s park is the best of this team’s many virtues.
Cleveland (27-22): A pleasant surprise thanks to their lineup and bullpen, but how long can you win giving at-bats to Jason Giambi and innings to Steve Kazmir?
Chicago White Sox (24-24): The White Sox keep hanging around and waiting for the offense to help out a high-quality pitching staff.
Kansas City (21-26): KC has slumped badly of late, because Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are early leaders in the race for most disappointing young players.
Minnesota (19-28): They’re in a slump, the injuries have piled up and the rebuilding with young players is in full force.
Comment: Detroit was my preseason choice to run away with the division and win the World Series. The former pick was pretty chalk and now that the bullpen is looking stabilized, I think it’s only a matter of time before the Tigers put some distance between themselves and the rest of the AL Central. I’m not buying on Cleveland because of their pitching, and for the same reason, I expect Kansas City to at least get back in the wild-card discussion.
Texas (32-18): In spite of all the injuries to the starting pitching, the Rangers keep plugging in replacements and have turned out the staff with the American League’s best ERA.
Oakland (28-23): The A’s have started to play well of late, and if their starting pitching returns to form another second-half surge could be in the offing.
LA Angels (23-27): Josh Hamilton has found his power stroke and the Angels have started to win some games, but have they again waited too long to get started?
Seattle (21-29): Justin Smoak is another disappointing everyday player and the Mariners’ inept offense is letting the King Felix-Hisashi Iwakuma 1-2 punch in the rotation go to waste.
Houston (14-36): Second baseman Jose Altuve is a deserving All-Staron a team that’s as bad as preseason reviews said they would be.
Comment: At the start of the season I said Texas was overrated and headed for a sub-.500 year. I’m repenting on that. Oakland and LAA will be in the playoff conversation and have some runs ahead of them, but the Rangers are going to get their veteran pitching back from the disabled list this summer and there will be no September collapse in Dallas this year.
Atlanta (30-19): A big start from Justin Upton in the everyday lineup, a good start from Mike Minor in the rotation and replenishment in the bullpen have kept the Braves playing steady baseball.
Washington (26-24): The offense has been lousy, Jayson Werth being the big culprit and the starting pitching has to kick it up just a notch, starting with Gio Gonzalez.
Philadelphia (24-26): Philly is really fortunate to be close to .500, but they’ve brought up some young pitchers and the worst may be past.
NY Mets (18-29): An immensely disappointing starting rotation past Matt Harvey is the reason the Mets are below expectations.
Miami (13-37): We knew the Marlins were bad, but one game worse than the Astros?
Comment: I’m staying with Washington as the pick win this division, as I think they’re shortcomings are getting too much attention in the media. They’re only 4 ½ games out and I think Atlanta’s overachieved. I’ve liked Philadelphia all year, and I’m going to stay a little stubborn on this point. The coming weeks are crucial for the Phils if they’re going to make a move.
St. Louis (32-17): The lineup is producing and the starting pitching has elevated to a new level, although a recent run of injuries make the coming weeks a testing time in St. Louis.
Cincinnati (31-19): Cincy can hit for power, they have starting pitching and Aroldis Chapman owns the ninth, but they need to put runners in base and get the middle relief straightened out.
Pittsburgh (31-19): A great bullpen is carrying a solid pitching staff, and now the Pirates just need Andrew McCutchen to go from good to MVP-caliber again.
Milwaukee (19-29): Starting pitching has been absolutely awful, making the Brewers one of baseball’s big early season disappointments.
Chicago Cubs (19-30): Given the Cubs were considered on a par with the Marlins, this record isn’t bad, and now they have Matt Garza back.
Comment: St. Louis was my preseason choice to make the World Series and I feel even more confident about that today than when the pick was originally made. Cincinnati is a playoff team that will continue to challenge for the NL Central. I’m not ready to buy on Pittsburgh—after last September, they have to prove it to me for a full year before I’ll ever buy in again. I expect the Brewers to move back to respectability, but the early hole is too deep.
San Francisco (28-22): Buster Posey is delivering another MVP-worthy season,as it’s the offense winning games while the Giants wait for the pitching to click again.
Arizona (28-22): Rookie starting pitcher Patrick Corbin has been brilliant, the most noteworthy part of a season that’s been quietly consistent.
Colorado (27-23): The Rockies have hung in longer than I thought thanks to their offense and enough pitching to get by.
San Diego (22-27): When you’re seventh in the National League in runs and 13th in ERA while playing in Petco Park, how big would be the chasm between pitching and hitting be in a normal park?
LA Dodgers (20-28): Something not getting nearly enough play is that in spite of their struggling offense, the Dodgers are fifth in the NL in on-base percentage. So if they key hits come, the wins will too (okay, that was two sentences).
Comment: Arizona was my preseason choice and I like the way it’s shaping up. I am impressed with the way San Francisco kept winning in spite of a slow start from Matt Cain. Now the ace is pitching better, and I’d move the Giants ahead of the Phillies—my preseason #2 wild-card—in the playoff discussion.
OVERALL: As alluded to above, I had Detroit and St. Louis as my World Series teams when the year began, and that holds firm. The only playoff picks that have changed would be to replaced Texas over LAA in the AL West and San Francisco over Philly as the opponent for Cincinnati in the wild-card game.