Report Cards for All 30 MLB Teams' Seasons at the 3-Quarter Mark

Karl BuscheckContributor IIIAugust 11, 2014

Report Cards for All 30 MLB Teams' Seasons at the 3-Quarter Mark

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The 2014 MLB season is rapidly approaching crunch time.

    As the campaign hits the three-quarter mark, let's take a look back at how all 30 clubs have performed. The grading criteria is simple. The expectations surrounding each team are taken into consideration. The additions and subtractions that squads made at the trade deadline are also part of the equation. 

    The most important factor is the team's win-loss record, because in the end, baseball is all about winning games and making a postseason run. It's only fitting that the playoff contenders at the top of the standings—like the Oakland Athletics and the Baltimore Orioles—earn the top marks. However, there is one last-place club that grades out decently as well. 

Houston Astros

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    The Report Card

    Slowly, the Houston Astros are getting better.

    For the first time since 2010, the Astros are on track to avoid the 100-loss plateau. The team wasn't particularly busy during the trade season, but its six-player swap with the Miami Marlins could end up paying major dividends. In that deal, the Astros picked up third baseman Colin Moran and center fielder Jake Marisnick, which led Peter Gammons to dub the move the "most underrated" trade of the season.

    Still, the fact that the Astros made zero effort to assemble a team that can actually compete on the field in 2014 is highly disappointing. For that reason, the grade remains extremely low. 

     

    The Grade

    C-

Los Angeles Angels

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    The Report Card

    In terms of wins and losses, the Los Angeles Angels are the second-best team in all of baseball. 

    At the plate, manager Mike Scioscia's squad has been downright dynamic. The club is second in MLB in runs scored. Pitching, however, has been a different matter.

    The deadline move to grab Huston Street from the San Diego Padres helped to shore up the bullpen, but the rotation has been injury-riddled and suspect. The failure to add to the team's starting staff via trade could ultimately doom the Angels to a one-game wild-card playoff. 

     

    The Grade

    B+

Oakland Athletics

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    The Report Card

    The Oakland Athletics seemingly went all-in back on July 4 when general manager Billy Beane landed Jeff Samardzija in a trade with the Chicago Cubs. 

    Of course, Beane wasn't done.

    On deadline day, Oakland shocked the rest of baseball by acquiring Jon Lester from the Boston Red Sox. Even before adding Samardzija and Lester, the team already had one of the more talented rotations in the major leagues. The question for the American League West front-runners is just how effectively it will be able to score runs—especially with Yoenis Cespedes now playing at Fenway Park. 

    Now, all sorts of pressure falls on some of Oakland's unheralded contributors. Fortunately for the Athletics, there's no one better at pulling the strings than manager Bob Melvin, the master of platoons. 

     

    The Grade

    A

Seattle Mariners

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    The Report Card

    Headlined by AL Cy Young Award favorite Felix Hernandez, the Seattle Mariners have one of the most effective rotations in baseball. That staff has made the M's a surprise contender in the wild-card race.

    Unfortunately, the team just can't score runs. Seattle ranks second-to-last in that category in the AL. Adding leadoff man Austin Jackson at the deadline certainly helps the dismal offense. The acquisition of Kendrys Morales, who owns a .539 OPS during his abbreviated campaign, doesn't. 

     

    The Grade

    B+

Texas Rangers

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    Rob Carr/Getty Images

    The Report Card

    Sitting in the cellar in the AL West with a 46-71 record, the Texas Rangers have the worst win-loss mark in the AL, and it's not even close. 

    With 12 players currently on the disabled list, there's no diminishing the role that health problems have played in the disastrous campaign. Then again, there are legitimate questions to ask about the moves the team made in the offseason. 

    Prince Fielder was a non-factor for the club before neck fusion surgery ended his season in the middle of May. Shin-Soo Choo, whom the club inked to a seven-year, $130 million deal in the winter, has been a major letdown with a .247 average. 

    With the team buried in the standings, there's also an argument to be made that the Rangers should have been bigger sellers at the deadline.

     

    The Grade

    D

Chicago White Sox

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    The Report Card

    In what has been yet another underwhelming season for the Chicago White Sox, the highlight of the year has been the historic campaign that Jose Abreu has produced. 

    The Cuban first baseman has won Rookie of the Month honors three times and earned both the Rookie and Player of the Month awards twice. As Doug Padilla of ESPN Chicago notes, no player in the history of baseball has ever swept those awards on two occasions in a single season. 

    Even manager Robin Ventura had to admit that he's been at least somewhat surprised by just how good the 27-year-old has been, as he explained in the MLB.com video above. 

    "You don't really envision the numbers that you're really seeing, but I think once you see him, it can make sense."

    On the season, Abreu has clubbed 31 home runs, which is the most in the big leagues. 

    Cy Young Award contender Chris Sale has also been a bright spot on the South Side, but overall, the 56-63 record leaves plenty of room for improvement. If the club can get out from under the rest of John Danks' five-year, $60 million deal via a waiver trade, this grade will go up. 

     

    The Grade

    C

Cleveland Indians

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    The Report Card

    The Cleveland Indians are a difficult team to peg.

    At 59-59, the Tribe are just barely hanging around in the race for the second wild-card spot. However, it's challenging to take the team too seriously as a playoff contender given that it's a .500 club.

    By far the most promising storyline of the 2014 season has been the emergence of Corey Kluber. The right-hander has produced a 13-6 record with a 2.46 ERA and has been piling up punchouts. 

    The team's trade deadline activity was also noteworthy. The front office managed to sell off veterans Justin Masterson and Asdrubal Cabrera, both of whom become free agents at the end of the season. 

     

    The Grade

    C+

Detroit Tigers

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    The Report Card

    Leave it to Detroit Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski to pull off a bombshell trade at the deadline. On the final day of July, the executive came out of left field to snag David Price in a three-team swap.

    Since the left-hander's arrival, the Tigers haven't exactly run away with the division. 

    With the Kansas City Royals on a roll, Detroit holds just a half-game edge in the AL Central. It doesn't help the situation that both Anibal Sanchez and Joakim Soria have landed on the DL, per Jason Beck of MLB.com. At least the Tigers still have Price and Max Scherzer atop the rotation. 

     

    The Grade

    B

Kansas City Royals

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

    The Report Card

    The Kansas City Royals lineup definitely isn't intimidating. With an MLB-worst 71 home runs, the Royals are easily the least powerful team in baseball. 

    However, the underrated rotation, which is anchored by James Shields, promises to keep the club in the mix for a wild-card spot or even the AL Central crown. 

    One perplexing part of the 2014 season for the Royals is that the team has actually played better on the road than at Kauffman Stadium.

    With the second wild-card spot up for grabs and Detroit struggling atop the division, 2014 could mark Kansas City's first trip to October since 1985. 

     

    The Grade

    B+

Minnesota Twins

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    The Report Card

    The Minnesota Twins are on track for a last-place finish in the AL Central.

    Manager Ron Gardenhire's club should avoid losing 96 games as it has in each of the past two campaigns, but finishing in fifth would still be extremely frustrating. The story of 2014 for the Twins has been the utter inability of the team's starters to string together quality starts. The rotation has a 4.96 ERA, which ranks third-to-last in baseball.

    Until the Twins overhaul their starting staff, the losses will continue to pile up.

     

    The Grade

    C-

Baltimore Orioles

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    The Report Card

    The Baltimore Orioles are beginning to separate from the pack in the AL East.

    The O's are the most powerful team in baseball, and that pop is coming from players all over the lineup. Baltimore has six players who have double-digit home run totals, and Nelson Cruz is setting the pace in the AL with 30 homers. 

    On the mound, though, the Orioles clearly lack an ace. With the AL East uncharacteristically weak in 2014, this season would have been the ideal time for the front office to go all-in and land a front-line pitcher via trade. 

    If the Orioles hold on to the top spot in the East and make an appearance in the postseason, the lack of a proven top-of-the rotation arm will become glaring. 

     

    The Grade

    A-

Boston Red Sox

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    The Report Card

    The Boston Red Sox aced the trade deadline. 

    With the 2014 season a lost cause, GM Ben Cherington cashed in on as many of the club's assets as possible. The trade that stands out was the one that sent left-hander Jon Lester to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The Cuban has always played his best on the big stage, and it doesn't get much bigger than Fenway Park. 

    Overall, the Red Sox's trade business allowed the reigning World Series champions to restock for yet another run in 2015. Still, the grade remains relatively low because the team's last-place record this year can't be forgotten. 

     

    The Grade

    B-

New York Yankees

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    The Report Card

    Improbably, the New York Yankees are right in the conversation for a playoff spot. 

    The Yankees are just 2.5 games out of the second AL wild-card spot, despite the fact that 80 percent of the Opening Day rotation is currently on the shelf. There's also the consideration that the team owns a minus-25 run differential, per ESPN.com

    The keys for the Yankees in 2014 have been the job that manager Joe Giradi has done in the dugout and the moves that GM Brian Cashman has pulled off in the front office. Just one example is the acquisition of Brandon McCarthy. The right-hander was terrible with the Arizona Diamondbacks, but he has posted a 4-1 record with a 2.21 ERA in six starts with New York. 

    One waiver trade could be all the team needs to take off on an October run in Derek Jeter's final season. 

     

    The Grade

    B+

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Leon Halip/Getty Images

    The Report Card

    Andrew Friedman's resume speaks for itself.

    Entering the 2014 season, the Tampa Bay Rays GM had guided the club to at least 90 wins in five of the past six campaigns. Still, the decision to jettison David Price on deadline day was baffling.

    Making the trade especially disappointing was the timing. Manager Joe Maddon's squad had climbed back from 18 games under .500 to find itself right back in the middle of the wild-card conversation. 

    Shipping out Price made plenty of business sense, but it completely undermined the Rays' 2014 season. Considering the underwhelming haul that Tampa Bay received, an offseason trade would have been a better decision.  

     

    The Grade

    D

Toronto Blue Jays

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    The Report Card

    The Toronto Blue Jays are just one of an array of teams right in the midst of the crowded conversation for the second AL wild-card spot. 

    Toronto has done an excellent job of weathering the storm over the past month, as a number of the club's most powerful bats have been on the DL. According to Jamie Ross of MLB.com, both Adam Lind and Edwin Encarnacion should be returning to the lineup this week. Encarnacion has already gone yard 26 times ,despite being out since the beginning of July. 

    One question that has yet to be answered, though, is just how much the team's lack of activity at the deadline will end up hurting the Blue Jays. 

     

    The Grade

    B

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Norm Hall/Getty Images

    The Report Card

    The torrent of injuries started for the Arizona Diamondbacks in March, when projected Opening Day starter Patrick Corbin was ruled out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and it hasn't stopped since. Currently, the D-backs have nine players on the DL.

    All the injuries have translated to a ton of losses for the NL West club. While the D-backs have actually played decent baseball on the road, the team has the worst record in all of MLB at home. 

    One positive from 2014 is that that D-backs were able to cut the team's payroll at the deadline by moving out veterans like Brandon McCarthy and Martin Prado. Those savings will be much-needed by chief baseball officer Tony La Russa as he looks to drastically reshape the roster in the offseason. 

     

    The Grade

    D

Colorado Rockies

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    The Report Card

    It's easy to forget that in the opening weeks of the season, the Colorado Rockies were actually over .500. As ESPN's Buster Olney notes, Colorado has gone 23-55 after beginning the season 23-16.

    Now, the Rockies are tied for the worst record in baseball. Colorado has been unbelievably bad on the road, where the squad is sporting an 18-41 record. For such a poorly performing team, the Rockies doing nothing at the trade deadline was unacceptable. 

    In the offseason, the front office will have to seriously consider moving out Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki as part of the rebuilding process. 

     

    The Grade

    F

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    The Report Card

    The Los Angeles Dodgers have yet to hit their stride in 2014. 

    Despite the club's uninspiring play, the Dodgers still own a 4.5-game lead in the NL West. In the last week, Los Angeles has brought in Roberto Hernandez from the Philadelphia Phillies and Kevin Correia from the Minnesota Twins to strengthen the rotation, per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com. Those minor additions aside, it's surprising that GM Ned Colletti didn't pull off any impact trades at the deadline.

    One player who has been playing like a new acquisition is Matt Kemp. Over the past month, the outfielder has connected on six home runs while posting a .325 average and a .997 OPS. 

     

    The Grade

    B

San Diego Padres

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    The Report Card

    Some teams are just unlucky.

    The San Diego Padres fit that description. The club has a better run differential than the Yankees, according to ESPN.com. But while New York is in the middle of the wild-card race, the Padres are eight games under .500. 

    Some of that bad luck is brought on by San Diego's inability to score runs. The team ranks last in all of baseball in that category and has scored 199 fewer runs than the Athletics, who lead baseball. 

    The top of the rotation has been one of the highlights for the third-place club, with Ian Kennedy and All-Star Tyson Ross both posting impressive seasons. 

     

    The Grade

    C

San Francisco Giants

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    The Report Card

    The San Francisco Giants are sputtering. After a 42-21 start to the season, the Giants have gone 20-35 since June 8.

    Injuries have played a part in that slide, but the central issue is that San Francisco just hasn't been scoring enough runs to support the team's middling rotation. 

    Unless GM Brian Sabean can pull off one of his patented August trades, the Giants won't just miss out on the NL West title, they'll miss out on the playoffs altogether.  

     

    The Grade

    C+

Chicago Cubs

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    The Report Card

    The Chicago Cubs' 2014 season has gone exactly as expected—badly.

    For the second year in a row, the Cubs are well on their way to finishing in last place in the NL Central. Admittedly, the future is looking promising at Wrigley Field. Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara have already arrived. Baez has clubbed three home runs in his first six games. 

    Plus, top prospect Addision Russell, whom the club landed as part of the Jeff Samardzija deal, could make it to the big leagues early in 2015. As Peter Gammons points out, the shortstop was the only player in Baseball America's midseason top 50 prospects list who switched teams at the deadline. 

     

    The Grade

    C

Cincinnati Reds

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    The Report Card

    The Cincinnati Reds are in a difficult spot. The team is still in playoff contention, but it's also stuck in fourth place in the most competitive division in baseball.

    The Reds have the pitching to make a climb up the standings, though. Cincinnati's starting staff has posted the second-lowest ERA in the major leagues. 

    At the plate, Devin Mesoraco has been one of the breakout stars of 2014. The catcher has 20 home runs and has connected on three grand slams. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that makes Mesoraco the first Reds player to accomplish that feat since 1993. 

     

    The Grade

    B-

Milwaukee Brewers

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    The Report Card

    The first-place Milwaukee Brewers have been one of the top surprises of the 2014 season. 

    The Brewers are not only holding off the St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds in the NL Central, but they also have the second-best record in the league. The key for Milwaukee is the team's highly dangerous lineup.

    No one has been more valuable than All-Star Carlos Gomez, who has been one of the most productive all-around players in all of baseball, with 26 doubles, four triples, 18 home runs and 25 stolen bases. 

    The only reason the team's grade isn't higher is that GM Doug Melvin failed to make a blockbuster move at the deadline. 

     

    The Grade

    A-

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    The Report Card

    The Pittsburgh Pirates were in the perfect position to make a big move at the deadline. According to Jim Callis of MLB.com, the Pirates ranked No. 1 among all contenders in terms of minor league trade ammunition. Of course, GM Neal Huntington didn't opt to deal any of those chips.

    It's possible that Huntington made the right call in playing it conservatively. Right now, the Pirates occupy the second wild-card spot. 

    Whether they are able to maintain their position in the standings will have a lot to do with how quickly Andrew McCutchen is able to return to the lineup after sustaining a broken rib. Huntington explained to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that the reigning NL MVP is making a "remarkable" recovery. 

     

    The Grade

    B

St. Louis Cardinals

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    The Report Card

    It's no easy task to grade the St. Louis Cardinals.

    The club is leading the way in the wild-card chase, but to describe the season as anything but disappointing would be disingenuous. St. Louis is eight games over .500, but the squad also has a run differential of minus-seven, according to ESPN.com

    The Cardinals added John Lackey and Justin Masterson at the deadline, but both veteran right-handers have been torched during their brief tenures in St. Louis.

     

    The Grade

    C+

Atlanta Braves

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    The Report Card

    The Atlanta Braves just can't score runs. The team ranks No. 28 in that category.

    What has kept the Braves in the race in the NL East is the pitching staff's remarkable ability to prevent other teams from scoring. 

    Aaron Harang has turned out to be one of the best low-profile free-agent pickups of 2014, but no one in the starting rotation can match the dominance of 23-year-old Julio Teheran. In the bullpen, Craig Kimbrel has lived up to all the hype. The right-hander has recoded 34 saves, and in 21 of those, he hasn't even allowed a baserunner, according to ESPN Stats & Info

    If the Braves want to make a trip to the postseason, they'll need to catch up to the Washington Nationals, as it appears that both wild-card spots will be going to clubs in the NL Central. 

     

    The Grade

    B

Miami Marlins

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    The Report Card 

    After finishing in last place in each of the past three seasons, the Miami Marlins have completely exceeded expectations in 2014. 

    The team is hanging around the .500 mark, and who knows what would have happened if Jose Fernandez hadn't been ruled out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Before the electric right-hander hit the shelf, the Marlins were an outside contender to land a wild-card spot. In Fernandez's absence, All-Star Henderson Alvarez has stepped up to become the staff ace. 

    Considering the club's recent track record, the 2014 season has been a major success for the Fish.

     

    The Grade

    B+

New York Mets

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    The Report Card

    Like the Miami Marlins, the New York Mets have also been better than expected in 2014—although to a slightly lesser extent.

    It's looking highly unlikely that the Mets will make it to the .500 mark before the end of the season, but there's still reason for optimism. Most notably, New York has a ton of talented young starting pitching, which is one of the most valuable assets a team can have.

    This grade will go up if the Mets manage to move Bartolo Colon before the end of the month. The 41-year-old has been effective in 2014, but if the team could ship out the rest of his two-year, $20 million deal, the savings could be diverted to strengthening the offense in the offseason. The right-hander picked up win No. 200 of his career August 8, which makes him just the third Dominican-born pitcher to reach that milestone (along with Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez), according to ESPN Stats & Info

     

    The Grade

    B-

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    The Report Card

    The 2014 season has been a disaster for the Philadelphia Phillies. For the first time since 2000, the team is on track to finish in last place in the NL East.

    For a club that's going nowhere, it would have been ideal for GM Ruben Amaro Jr. to move out at least a few veterans before the July 31 deadline passed. The issue was that while the club had plenty of candidates for potential deals, nearly all of them were either tied to no-trade clauses or exorbitant contracts. That combination of factors torpedoed their value on the market. 

    The worst part about the front office's inaction is that barring a miraculous rebuild in the the winter, the Phillies will be in an equally poor position at the outset of the 2015 season. 

     

    The Grade

    F

Washington Nationals

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    The Report Card

    Of the three first-place clubs in the NL, the Washington Nationals have the worst record at 63-53. Those numbers don't tell the full story, though, as the Nats actually own the best run differential in the league, according to ESPN.com

    The team also has a rotation that is built to make a serious postseason run. Doug Fister, who is pitching his first season in the nation's capital, has been dealing. The right-hander has posted an 11-3 record with a 2.49 ERA. 

     

    The Grade

    B+

     

    Note: All stats and videos courtesy of MLB.com. All salary information courtesy of Cot's Baseball Contracts on BaseballProspectus.com.

    If you want to talk baseball, find me on Twitter @KarlBuscheck.