The Yankees and Phillies are ace in the first half, the defending champions Rangers fail and the messy curve of the NL changes

Last season, the D-backs with a rather young roster won 84 games and the pennant. After some targeted off-season strikes that brought in names like Jordan Montgomery, Eugenio Suárez and Joc Pederson, the club was expected to take a step forward in 2024. So far, that hasn’t happened. However – recurring theme ahead – the low bar for National League competition means the Snakes are still very relevant despite disappointing results. Grade: C
So far, the Braves haven’t lived up to expectations, but those expectations were sky-high. They’ve been hit hard by injuries, and last season’s offensive juggernaut significantly underperformed. The result is a significant deficit in the NL East, but they are still on track to win the top 90. Category B- The O’s are coming off 101 wins and a division title in 2023. Given the very impressive young core in place, they should once again be among the best in the league. That’s exactly what they are so far. Right now, they have one of the best run differentials in MLB. The players are doing their part, and it’s now up to general manager Mike Elias to address the thinning rotation behind ace Corbin Burnes before the trade deadline. Grade: A- The Sox have achieved a solidly above .500 record, relevance in the standings and a solid run differential despite a light roster of stars (Rafael Devers is the notable exception) and after playing a difficult schedule thus far . Grade: B+ Craig Counsell’s first season at Wrigleyville didn’t go well. The offense and bullpen were particularly disappointing. The only thing that saves them from a lower rating is the fact that they remain in the wild card race in the Netherlands. Grade: C- The Sox were a bad team in 2023 and they leaned into the rebuilding process. As such, it’s no surprise that they’re terrible again. What is unexpected is the extent of their struggles. This write-up finds them on the verge of 120 losses, which would tie the modern record set by the 1962 Mets. Keep in mind that this list could get even worse after the trade deadline. Rating: F The front of the rotation has been a real strength for Cincy this season. Although some of the shine has come from Elly De La Cruz’s hot start, he still provides significant value. It’s been an average season for the Reds so far, but it’s enough to be relevant on the senior circuit. Grade: C Yes, the Guards have played the weakest schedule in MLB so far, but that’s no reason to dismiss their great work to date. They have outscored the opposition by over 100 runs and currently have the best record (and largest division lead) in all of baseball. Unlike many recent Cleveland teams, this year’s model under rookie manager Stephen Vogt has been helped, not hindered, by the offensive attack. Rating: A+ The Rockies have recorded 103 losses in 2023, and their rate has been slightly worse so far in 2024. In that sense, have expectations somehow been met? This remains a completely rudderless organization. Grade: C- Detroit wasn’t really expected to be in contention in 2024, but a step forward was a reasonable ask. This has not happened so far, as their winning percentage has declined slightly. Additionally, they are in fourth place in a division that includes the White Sox, and Spencer Torkelson’s continued failure to get going remains a major concern for the organization. Grade: C- It’s tough to go from appearing in seven straight ALCS to being a “possible futures seller” in such a short time, but the 2024 Astros are flirting with such an arc. The rotation was hammered by injuries and the Astros got terrible production from the left field and first base batting positions. Grade: D KC has come back down to earth since the calendar turned to June, but overall they are still far exceeding expectations after a 106-loss campaign in 2023. Bobby Witt Jr. has become a true superstar. The challenge now is to reverse June’s slide and stay in playoff contention as the summer deepens. Grade: A- The Halos under first-year manager Ron Washington are of course not a good team, which is exactly what we thought they would be. They lost 89 games in 2024, then saw Shohei Ohtani sign a $700 million pact with the rival Dodgers. Plus, Mike Trout hasn’t played since April 29. This is a largely desperate organization right now, and they’re in danger of recording the franchise’s first-ever 100-loss season. Maybe they’ll get something for Tyler Anderson at the deadline? Grade: C- Are the Dodgers, with their star-filled roster, as dominant as we thought? Not quite, but they still had an impressive season, especially considering the injuries. They have the NL West locked down and they could end up having another 100 win season. Will Shohei Ohtani win MVP in a year without pitching? Very probably. Category B The Marlins have always been candidates for regression in 2024 based on how much they outperformed their point differential in 2024. But to this extreme? A 100-loss season seems likely, as does a deep and lengthy rebuilding process. Grade: D The rotation is without Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser and Wade Miley. Craig Counsell is missing at dugout and David Stearns is no longer at receiver. Still, the Brewers have built up a comfortable lead in the NL Central. Grade: A The Twins are quietly lurking in the AL Central, perhaps ready to make a strong push for the flag in the second half. Carlos Correa’s bounce-back season has a lot to do with it, and Royce Lewis continues to produce like an MVP when healthy. The Guardians’ excellent first half of 2024 is worth noting, but Rocco Baldelli’s club is far from being buried. Category B- It looked like a transitional year for the Mets under new lead decision-maker David Stearns, and it could end up being exactly that. Again, though, the National League in 2024 is relevant for almost every team, so the Mets find themselves with plausible postseason plans. They will be one of the more interesting teams to watch before the trade deadline. Category B- As of this writing, the Yankees have lost three straight series (that two-gamer against the Mets doesn’t count as a real series), but the body of work has been deeply impressive. Currently, they are on pace to achieve 105 wins. That would be their highest total since 1998. The addition of Juan Soto was a great targeted strike from general manager Brian Cashman, and the rotation has been top-notch even while getting almost no innings from the reigning league winner. ‘AL Cy Young, Gerrit Cole. Grade: A The A’s are on track for a third straight 100-loss season, but at the same time, they’re on pace to slightly improve on last year’s record. One of their best young hitters, Tyler Soderstrom, seems to be reaching the next level. Financial backer John Fisher remains the worst and most miserable owner in sports. Grade: C+ The Phils are in the discussion for best team in baseball at the midterms. This is largely thanks to a dominant rotation. You know Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola. This year, however, Ranger Suárez and Cristopher Sánchez have hit their stride thus far, giving the Phillies frontline rotation depth that is the envy of almost every other MLB team. On the other side of things, Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Alec Bohm and Kyle Schwarber have led what has been a top-tier offensive attack thus far. Rating: A+ Look, I hate to repeat variations on “they’re still in the NL wild-card race” so many times, but you can thank the NL wild-card race for these layoffs. Regardless, the Pirates are still in the NL wild-card race. The Buccos aren’t scoring runs at an acceptable rate, but they have a big young frontcourt in Paul Skenes and Jared Jones. Grade: C On the one hand, the Padres weigh just .500, as they were throughout the disappointing 2023 campaign. On the other hand, they are in playoff position, and they got there despite trading Juan Soto and losing the reigning NL Cy Young winner (Blake Snell) and their lock closer (Josh Hader) to free agency. Category B- The Giants once again got into the fight, and once again, it seemed to have gotten away from them. Injuries have been costly, sure, but the reality is that the Giants seem unable to regain strong relevance in the standings since that 107-win campaign in 2021. This roster continues to be undone by its lack of star power. Grade: D+ The M’s offense remains a liability, but this young rotation is one of the best in the game (and a tremendous organizational asset). The surprising struggles of the Astros and Rangers have helped matters, as Seattle boasts one of the biggest division leads of all. They have been seeking their first division title since 2001. Grade: B+ The Cardinals have made improvements from the depth of their 91-loss season in 2023, although that doesn’t necessarily mean success. The rotation overhaul has been largely successful, but what was supposed to be a solid offense hasn’t been so far. They only cost 0.500, but, again, that’s enough to matter in the Netherlands. Category B- The Rays have managed to overcome owner Stuart Sternberg’s refusal to do his job for so long, but is this impressive run coming to an end? Among AL teams right now, only the White Sox, Angels and A’s have a worse run differential. Grade: D A disrupted rotation and a surprisingly average offense have undermined the defending World Series champions thus far. This rotation is starting to get healthier, and that could prompt a run soon enough. For now, however, the Rangers are considered a surprising failure in 2024. Rating: F The Jays are in the discussion for the most disappointing team of 2024. After losing their playoff spot in three of the last four seasons, the Jays had designs on a third straight trip to the postseason. As of this writing, however, SportsLine gives them just a 3.4% chance of making the playoffs. That’s because Toronto is in last place and about to experience its first losing season since 2019. Rating: F Yes, the Nats are just under .500 as of this check-in, but that’s good enough for absolute relevance in the NL wild-card race. This in turn comes as a pleasant surprise in the nation’s capital. The rotation outside of Patrick Corbin has been encouraging. Grade: A-

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