The majority of MLB teams have now passed the halfway mark of their 2020 regular season schedule. In a 60-game season, the sample size remains small, but we’re also entering the home stretch, making this a perfect opportunity to evaluate performances to this point.
We’ve examined mid-season award winners, so let’s now take a shot at grading each team based on its performance to date, taking into account preseason expectations.
Note: All stats and rankings are accurate through Aug. 25 games.
Baltimore Orioles: A-
The Orioles have fallen back down to earth after an unexpected 12-8 start to the season. That said, just two games under .500 and still very much in the playoff hunt is a great place to be 30 games in for a team projected for the fewest wins in baseball prior to the season. Outfielder Anthony Santander has been a big part of an offense that ranks fourth in the AL in slugging percentage and fifth in OPS.
Boston Red Sox: D-
What a disaster the Red Sox have been in 2020. Only the Pirates and Angels have a lower winning percentage than Boston, who’s team ERA of 6.05 is easily the worst in baseball. Poor seasons to date from Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez, two of the big three bats in the team’s lineup, haven’t helped matters either.
New York Yankees: B+
Health was really the biggest question going into the season for the Yankees, as there’s no doubting the team’s high-end talent and depth. The injury bug has bitten again, with Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, DJ LeMahieu, Gleyber Torres, James Paxton and Zack Britton among those spending time on the IL. The team has dropped its lead in the division to the Rays but still figures to be one of the toughest matchups in October.
Tampa Bay Rays: A
The Rays, too, have battled significant injuries this season, with 10 pitchers on the IL and five of those declared out for the season. Despite this, the team has posted the fifth-best ERA in the American League and trails only the Astros in runs scored among AL teams. As of this writing, Tampa Bay is second in baseball in wins (21) this season, trailing only the Dodgers and A’s (22). Second baseman Brandon Lowe and his league-leading 1.073 OPS is a big reason for that.
Toronto Blue Jays: B+
Charlie Montoyo’s team entered the season with a roughly 30% chance of making the playoffs, per FanGraphs. With an above .500 record as they approach the midway point, that number is now nearly 66%. Despite a significant hole in the rotation behind Hyun Jin Ryu, an injury to Bo Bichette and a slow start from Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the Jays find themselves in a nice position heading into the stretch run.
Atlanta Braves: B+
Mike Soroka’s season-ending injury left a massive hole atop the Braves rotation, one that’s been filled remarkably well by Max Fried. The left-hander is tied with the Indians’ Shane Bieber for the best ERA in baseball (1.35) among qualifiers. In a division that’s been surprisingly uncompetitive, Atlanta has a clear edge and has performed about as well as you could expect to this point.
Miami Marlins: A-
Despite being two games over .500 as they approach the midway mark, the Marlins aren’t getting much love from Fangraphs, which gives the team a roughly 30% chance of making the postseason. I don’t really disagree with that assessment, but this is about performance to-date, not expected performance going forward, and there’s no denying that Don Mattingly’s team has vastly exceeded expectations.
New York Mets: D+
The most optimistic general thing I can say about the Mets right now is that in a crowded NL field, the team remains just a game back of a playoff spot. It’s really been a Mets kind of year already, highlighted (or more accurately, lowlighted) by the team’s inability to put competent starters on the mound with any regularity behind Jacob deGrom. I will say that the team’s offense has been undoubtedly solid to start the year.
Philadelphia Phillies: D
I wrote it in my most recent power rankings, and I’ll write it again: the Phillies have been wasting the incredible talent of Bryce Harper and free agent to-be J.T. Realmuto, who are both in the midst of sensational seasons. The team’s 7.52 bullpen ERA remains on pace to be one of the worst in MLB history, but at least it’s trending in the right direction now. Joe Girardi’s team is not far out of the playoff picture with this year’s expanded postseason field, but many were expecting the Phillies to finally reach another level in 2020 and that has certainly not happened so far.
Washington Nationals: C-
The defending World Champions just haven’t been able to get anything going in 2020. Stephen Strasburg’s season-ending surgery has been a big blow to the team’s greatest strength, its rotation, and the Nats simply haven’t shown the offensive ability to help overcome that, particularly without Anthony Rendon. It’s not been horrible, but the Nationals’ play to date hasn’t given many much confidence that a repeat is in the cards.
Chicago White Sox: A
Let’s briefly look at my three preseason questions for the White Sox. 1) Is this team ready to contend now? Yes, the White Sox entered Aug. 27 just a half game back of the division lead and trails only the Dodgers in home runs hit this season. 2) Can Lucas Giolito back up his breakout campaign? It appears so. After a rocky start, the 26-year-old has surrendered zero earned runs while striking out 26 and walking two in his last two starts (including the first no-hitter of 2020). 3) How high is the ceiling for the team’s young outfielders? Very high. Eloy Jimenez is tied for third in baseball with 10 home runs and Luis Robert has impressed greatly in his rookie season.
Cleveland Indians: B
The Indians’ pitching staff has been every bit as good as expected in 2020, with a team ERA (2.86) that trails only the Dodgers. On the flip side, the offensive concerns I had about the team were certainly warranted, as Cleveland’s .667 OPS ranks 28th in MLB. Overall, though, the Indians are a virtual lock to make the playoffs and with a great pitching staff, a lot is possible.
Detroit Tigers: B+
2020 was always going to be the continuation of a rebuild for the Tigers, a chance to help determine which players the organization wants to make building blocks moving forward. Yet here we are at the midway point at Detroit is only two games back of a playoff spot. The team’s hot start was pretty fluky, so I don’t expect any incredible run, but I’ve got to give credit where credit is due given the low expectations for this team.
Kansas City Royals: C
The Royals have been essentially as advertised in 2020. As the team continues its rebuilding efforts under first-year manager Mike Matheny, it’s not really wowing in any regard but still holding its own.
Minnesota Twins: A-
It hasn’t been all smooth sailing for the Twins, who’ve battled their fair share of injuries and seen their formidable offense slow in recent weeks. Veteran Kenta Maeda and rookie Randy Dobnak have helped power a pitching staff that’s been one of the best in baseball, though. Minnesota remains one of the top teams in the American League.
Chicago Cubs: A
I’ll be the first to admit that I had serious doubts about the Cubs coming into the season, particularly with regard to the rotation. Entering play Aug. 27, Cubs starters have posted the fifth-best ERA (3.81) of any National League team. Yu Darvish is one of the frontrunners for NL Young and the team’s other starters have all held their own. The team’s offense has surprisingly been around league average, but there’s no real reason for concern on that front. David Ross has certainly passed the test so far in his first year at the helm as the team looks likely to win the division for the first time in three years.
Cincinnati Reds: D
I had such high hopes for the Reds coming into the season, picking them as my NL Central winners. Cincinnati has two of the frontrunners for NL Cy Young in Trevor Bauer and Sonny Gray, but the team’s offense has been surprisingly poor, scoring the fourth-fewest runs in MLB. The Reds are now looking up at the Brewers, Cardinals and Cubs in the division standings. It’s not the first half anyone was expecting.
Milwaukee Brewers: D+
After key players Mike Moustakas and Yasmani Grandal left via free agency, the Brewers decided to fill the void with a depth approach instead of high-end players. It’s an approach that hasn’t paid off, as Milwaukee’s on-base percentage and slugging percentage are both in the bottom five of all MLB teams. That lack of star power all extends to a rotation that’s largely devoid of high-end talent behind Brandon Woodruff.
Pittsburgh Pirates: D-
The Pirates have the fewest wins in baseball, but I can’t just fail them because no one was expecting anything other than a last place finish in the NL Central. It has been pretty ugly for Derek Shelton’s team though, with 2019 All-Star Josh Bell still below the Mendoza line for the season. Pittsburgh is near the bottom of the pack in both team ERA and runs scored.
St. Louis Cardinals: B
The first important thing to note with the Cardinals is that while most teams have reached or are nearly at the 30-game mark, St. Louis has played just over a third of its schedule due to COVID-19 postponements. And while they haven’t exactly lit the world on fire in their schedule thus far, the team’s 3.46 ERA ranks second in the NL behind only the Dodgers.
Houston Astros: B
The preseason AL title favorites got off to a really rocky start but have since righted the ship despite injuries to a ton of bullpen arms as well as key players like Justin Verlander, Roberto Osuna and Alex Bregman. Given the circumstances, Dusty Baker and Co. have done a solid job of pulling things together, though the Astros still trail the A’s by a significant margin in the division standings.
Los Angeles Angels: F
The first — and only — failing grade of this exercise goes to the Angels, who entering play on Aug. 27 had posted the second-worst winning percentage of any major league team behind only Pittsburgh. There were so many reasons for optimism toward the Angels in 2020, from Shohei Ohtani’s return to the mound to the addition of Anthony Rendon and Joe Maddon at the helm. But rotation concerns proved valid, as the team has posted a 6.34 starters ERA, and hardly anything else has gone right either.
Oakland Athletics: A+
From one extreme to the other, we go from an F to an A+ with the Athletics, who as of this writing are tied with the Dodgers for the most wins in baseball. Oakland’s pitching staff has posted the third-best ERA in the game while its offense has also been above average. And in typical A’s fashion, the team already has four walk-off victories. Just past the halfway point of their schedule, the Athletics have a 100.0% chance of making the playoffs according to Fangraphs. Not too shabby.
Seattle Mariners: C+
The Mariners have been pretty bad this season, but they haven’t been horrible, and the expectations were never all that high. One of the lone bright spots has been AL Rookie of the Year frontrunner Kyle Lewis, who looks like he could be a key piece of Seattle’s future.
Texas Rangers: D+
The Rangers were one of those teams that I began to consider as potential playoff contenders when it was announced that the postseason field would be expanding this season. The team’s preseason playoff odds jumped from 14% to 36% with the change, but after truly abysmal play in recent weeks, those odds now sit at just 4%. Not great.
Madison Bumgarner’s first season with the D-backs has not gone according to plan, as the veteran left-hander struggled to a 9.35 ERA through four starts before hitting the IL with a back sprain. Collectively, Arizona’s 5.25 ERA is the fourth-worst in MLB. The team’s offense, which I was high on heading into the season, hasn’t made up for its pitching deficiencies, either, posting below league-average marks in most key areas.
Colorado Rockies: B-
It’s been an interesting season for Bud Black’s team, which got off to an unexpected 11-3 start before dropping 12 of its next 17 contests. The net result is a slightly above .500 record and playoff spot in the 2020 season as of now, so a B- seems appropriate all things considered.
Los Angeles Dodgers: A+
Simply leading the NL West is not what earned the Dodgers the second and final A+ of this exercise — this was the team with the best preseason odds to win the World Series, after all. The reason for this grade is not that the team has been really good, it’s that the team has been astronomically good. The Dodgers got off to their best 30-game start in nearly 40 years and currently lead baseball in home runs, runs scored and team ERA. Dave Roberts’ team is the best in baseball by a notable margin.
San Diego Padres: A
The Padres have emerged as one of the most exciting teams in baseball this season thanks to the sensational play of the current NL MVP front-runner, 21-year-old shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. But from Manny Machado to Jake Cronenworth to Chris Paddack, there’s plenty of additional reasons to be excited about this team as well. We all knew the potential for the Padres to succeed was there, Jayce Tingler’s club has delivered in a big way. Entering Aug. 27 action, the team ranked second in runs scored and third in homers in baseball this year.
San Francisco Giants: B
The expectations for the Giants were not high by any means, so a record just shy of .500 around the midway mark should certainly be considered a success. Outfielder Mike Yastrzemski looks like a bona fide star with a 1.013 OPS and 20 extra-base hits this season, tied for the second-most in the majors.
Photo by Arturo Pardavila III / Flickr