2013 Regular-Season Grades for All 30 MLB Teams
There are still a few days left in the 2013 MLB regular season, and the playoff picture is still not fully sorted out at this point, but the fate of most teams and their overall performance this season have already been decided.
Each team entered the season with different expectations, whether it was looking to earn a playoff spot, a young up-and-coming club looking to make waves or a rebuilding team making necessary moves and laying the groundwork for the years ahead.
With that in mind, here is a look at my regular-season grades for all 30 MLB teams, with the grades not necessarily reflecting their records, but instead, their performance relative to expectations.
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The Orioles' magic in close games last season carried them to the postseason, as they were 29-9 in one-run games and 16-2 in extra innings. This season, however, they're just 18-31 in one-run games and 8-7 in extra innings and they find themselves out of the playoff picture as a result. Chris Davis' breakout has been a nice story, but their lack of consistent starting pitching is something that needs to be rectified moving forward.
Boston Red Sox
After losing 93 games last season, the Red Sox have done a complete 180 this year, and with the offseason additions of Mike Napoli, Shane Victorino, Ryan Dempster, Koji Uehara, Jonny Gomes and a few others, they are now in position to finish with the best record in all of baseball. The entire chemistry of the team has changed this season, and its veteran core looks poised to carry it on a lengthy postseason run.
New York Yankees
For just the second time since 1994, the Yankees will miss the postseason, but the fact that they were even able to remain in contention into September this season was impressive. Despite a patchwork offense that was riddled by injuries and a pitching staff that struggled to get consistent quality starts, they hung around into the final weeks of the season. While the team is likely in for some big changes in the years ahead, it showed a lot of perseverance this year.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays' decision to deal James Shields for prospect Wil Myers dominated the headlines in the offseason, and rightfully so, as Myers has been a huge addition to the team's offense. The under-the-radar additions of James Loney, Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar have been equally important in the team's success this year, though, and the offense as a whole has been improved. Rookie Chris Archer has stepped into Shields' spot, and the duo of Alex Cobb and Matt Moore have gotten better, leaving the Rays looking better now than a year ago.
Toronto Blue Jays
After acquiring what seemed like an entirely new team in the offseason, the Blue Jays entered the year with lofty expectations as a sexy pick to win it all. They got off to a slow start, though, and aside from a short midseason run sparked by Jose Reyes' return from injury, they were never able to string together enough wins to stay in contention in the AL East. They'll have roughly the same group back next season and could certainly turn things around, but this season has been a huge disappointment.
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Chicago White Sox
The White Sox played above their heads in 2012, finishing just three games behind the Tigers in the AL Central, but they crashed back to earth this season with their most losses since 1976. The trades of Jake Peavy and Alex Rios were the start of what will likely be a full-scale rebuilding process for the team. However, there is still a lot of work to be done, and the returns it got in those deals did little to add to a core that has little to rebuild outside of Chris Sale.
Many expected the Indians to be sellers in the offseason, and while they did deal outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, they also aggressively bought in free agency, highlighted by the additions of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, and added a new manager in Terry Francona. That bolstered offensive attack, coupled with the resurgence of Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson atop a surprisingly productive rotation, has the Indians in prime position for a postseason berth.
Grade: A+ (B+ if they don't make the playoffs)
Winning the AL Central was not exactly the cake walk some expected it to be for the Tigers, but they locked up the title nonetheless and look like a dangerous team heading into October. Max Scherzer has enjoyed a breakout season and leads a staff that goes four deep on frontline arms even with Justin Verlander not pitching at his normal level.
The offense has benefited from the additions of Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez, while Miguel Cabrera remains the best hitter on the planet and would have had a real chance at a second Triple Crown if not for a groin injury that has plagued him in the second half.
Kansas City Royals
With a new-look starting rotation fronted by offseason additions James Shields and Ervin Santana, the Royals entered the season with legitimate expectations of contention, but struggled to a 43-49 record in the first half. Their offense turned things around in the second half, though, and they made a legitimate run at an AL wild-card spot. While they'll miss the postseason yet again, they will finish with a winning record for the first time since 2003 and look to be headed in the right direction.
The future is incredibly bright in Minnesota, as Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano rank as two of the best prospects in all of baseball, but the 2013 season has been a long one. The offense has had little in the way of production outside of Joe Mauer and surprise slugger Brian Dozier. The rotation, meanwhile, has once again been a major issue, as its 5.25 ERA from its starters ranks dead last in the majors.
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As the rebuilding continues in Houston, the Astros have posted a third straight 100-loss season, but they have done what needed to be done by rebuilding the team from the ground up. Trading Bud Norris was necessary, and they got a decent return for him. A talented young farm system is also getting closer to making contributions in the majors.
From a financial standpoint, one report had them walking away from the season with a $99 million operating income. While the accuracy of that has been called into question, the team has nonetheless made some shrewd financial decisions since the new ownership group has taken over the team.
Los Angeles Angels
A year after spending big to sign Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, only to come up short of the postseason, the Angels opened up their wallets again this past offseason and inked Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million deal. The results were more of the same, as Hamilton struggled and the Angels pitching staff behind C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver was nothing short of a disaster. With the money they have invested in their roster, they'll remain in win-now mode, but they have a lot of questions to be answered.
The A's were among the biggest surprises of 2012, and they proved that performance was for real this season, as they again made a late-season push to capture the AL West title. After a solid season last year, Bartolo Colon has been a legitimate Cy Young candidate this season, and the young rotation behind him has stepped up once again. The offense again lacks a true household name, but it continues to pile up runs, and Bob Melvin plays the matchups as well as any manager in baseball.
The offseason acquisitions of Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse and Raul Ibanez have kept the Mariners from finishing last in the American League in runs scored for a fifth straight season. However, they have an eye on the future and have seen a number of their high-end prospects make a big-league impact this season. The emergence of Hisashi Iwakuma alongside Felix Hernandez in the rotation, and the experience those prospects have gained, makes this season a success for Seattle.
The Rangers entered the season with lowered expectations following the offseason departures of Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Koji Uehara, among others. Instead, they came out of the gates hot, and in the middle of May, they were 27-14 with a seven-game lead in the AL West. They looked to be safely entrenched in a postseason spot heading into the final month of the year, but a 10-15 September has left them on the outside looking in for an AL wild-card spot.
Grade: C (B if they make the playoffs)
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It's been an interesting season for the Braves, as they were expected to battle the Nationals for the NL East title, but instead have run away with it thanks to Washington's struggles. They've looked unstoppable at times, rattling off a 19-4 stretch at the end of May and 14 wins in a row at the end of July into August. However, they have also been as streaky as any team in the league offensively outside of Freddie Freeman. The young rotation has held its own, and the bullpen anchored by Craig Kimbrel remains one of the best around.
After spending big in an attempt to make a run at contention heading into 2012, the Marlins did a complete 180 this past winter and sold big. The result was the worst record in the National League, but they did a great job stocking their farm system with high-end young talent and the future looks bright. As for the big league team, Jose Fernandez turned in a phenomenal rookie season as a 21-year-old and already looks like one of the best arms in the game and a legitimate building block for the future.
New York Mets
This coming offseason could be a big one for the Mets, as they have a decent crop of young talent and a ton of money to spend in free agency. Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler look like they'll anchor the staff for years to come, and a good season from top prospect Noah Syndergaard certainly adds his name to that mix as well. Getting some offensive production from the outfield, and really from anyone outside of David Wright and Daniel Murphy remains the biggest need moving forward.
A 24-16 finish to the 2012 season pulled the Phillies to .500 on the year and gave some hope that they could once again contend in 2013. Instead, the aging offensive core looked even older (aside from Chase Utley) and the starting rotation was a mess behind Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. A breakout season from Domonic Brown bodes well for the future, but they are definitely in a transition between contender and rebuilding.
After adding Denard Span and Dan Haren in the offseason, the Nationals did not appear to have any real holes in their roster heading into the season, and they were a popular pick to come out of the National League. Instead they struggled early and sat just a game over .500 at the All-Star break with a .241 average and just 3.8 runs scored per game. A 29-11 stretch at the end of August and into September made things interesting in the NL wild-card race, but in the end, they fell short of a postseason spot and their season can't be called anything but a disappointment.
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Success in Year 2 of the Theo Epstein era was not going to be measured in wins and losses for the Cubs, but instead by how the team continued the rebuilding process and handled its various trade chips. The stalled progression of core pieces Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo is troubling, but the team did a great job moving Matt Garza, Alfonso Soriano and Scott Feldman for a solid return at the deadline. Its farm system has quickly become one of the best in baseball, and the addition of top draft pick Kris Bryant has made it that much better.
The Reds won 97 games in 2012 to claim the NL Central title comfortably and then filled a glaring need in the offseason with the acquisition of Shin-Soo Choo for the top of the lineup and in center field. They have spent the bulk of the season chasing the Cardinals and Pirates in the NL Central, but look to be in as good a position as any team in the NL to make an October run. Mat Latos and Homer Bailey have been fantastic atop the staff, the bullpen has been solid and Joey Votto and Jay Bruce anchor a solid offensive attack.
The Brewers' signing of Kyle Lohse in free agency showed they thought they had at least an outside shot at contention this season, and why not after finishing 2012 with the highest-scoring offense in the NL and nearly playing their way into the postseason with a late run. Instead, the starting pitching struggled mightily and the bullpen faltered early. The offense was weaker after Corey Hart and Aramis Ramirez were injured, and Ryan Braun's suspension was a dagger to the fanbase. The breakouts of Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura were nice, though.
After back-to-back second-half collapses, the Pirates finally made it over the hump this season and will be playing in October for the first time since 1992. A more balanced offense behind Andrew McCutchen has helped back a terrific starting rotation that features bargain signing Francisco Liriano in the role of staff ace and top prospect Gerrit Cole and a vastly improved bullpen. The present and future look awfully bright in Pittsburgh.
St. Louis Cardinals
Despite the loss of Kyle Lohse in free agency and Chris Carpenter, Jaime Garcia and Jason Motte to injuries, the Cardinals have still managed to be one of the better pitching teams in the league this year thanks to guys like Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, Joe Kelly, Trevor Rosenthal and Kevin Siegrist. On the offensive side of things, they have been in a league of their own from a clutch-hitting standpoint, batting a ridiculous .330/.401/.461 with runners in scoring position.
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With a 50-45 record at the All-Star break, the Diamondbacks had a 2.5-game lead in the NL West and looked like they had a real shot at making the playoffs. A breakout first half from Patrick Corbin helped keep them in contention, but he's fallen off since and the rotation as a whole has been a disappointment in the second half. Slugger Paul Goldschmidt has emerged as one of the top run producers in the game, and this team looks to be in a good position long-term.
The Rockies offense once again ranks among the best in all of baseball, as a healthy Troy Tulowitzki has returned to form and Michael Cuddyer has enjoyed a terrific second season in Colorado and looks to be in a good position to win the batting title. They were among the biggest surprises of the first part of the season, and while Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge De La Rosa have been solid, the pitching staff as a whole has a 4.44 ERA and has again held the team back.
Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers were as many as 9.5 games back on June 21 when they were 30-42, but they made a remarkable turnaround sparked by the return of Hanley Ramirez from injury and the call-up of Yasiel Puig. The signings of Zack Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu have given the team arguably the best rotation in baseball, and the superstar talent in the lineup has really come together in the second half. Expectations were high entering the year, and after its dreadful start, it now looks poised for a lengthy postseason run.
San Diego Padres
A 10-2 stretch in June pulled the Padres to 36-34 on the season and just one game back in the NL West, and while they fell off from there, they remain a team on the rise. A lack of frontline starting pitching remains their biggest weakness, and they bought low on Ian Kennedy at the deadline in hopes he could be that guy. With a deep farm system and a solid young core, they may not be too far from contention, but they are missing impact talents and will have a big decision to make regarding Chase Headley.
San Francisco Giants
With essentially the entire roster returning and a full season of Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro to help improve the offensive attack, the Giants looked poised to make a run at defending their title entering the season. Instead, the offense was again sub-par for much of the year and the pitching staff that had been the hallmark of their success fell off precipitously. They'll have to fight to avoid a last place finish this season and have some big decisions to make in the coming offseason.