1 Sentence to Describe the Current State of Every MLB Team
The 2022 Major League Baseball season is creeping up on its halfway mark, so it's fair to say that we know a lot more about all 30 teams now than we did back on Opening Day. Enough to fill books, even.
But since nobody has time for that, let's keep things simple and describe the current state of each team in just one sentence.
The idea here was to try to sum up where each team is for somebody who hasn't paid attention to baseball all year. If that's you, hopefully you'll find it instructive. If that's not you, well, maybe you'll get something else out of this exercise.
We'll go division by division, starting in the American League East and ending in the National League West.
American League East
1. New York Yankees: 52-20
It's no fun to get no-hit, but the Yankees still have substantial bragging rights with their league-best plus-141 run differential and the best record by any team through 72 games since the 2001 Seattle Mariners.
3. Boston Red Sox: 41-31
The frustration of the Red Sox's slow start (11-20 through May 11) has long since faded, as their starting pitching (3.40 ERA) and offense (129 wRC+) have paced the club to a 30-11 record dating back to May 13.
2. Toronto Blue Jays: 40-31
Kudos to Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and the rest of Toronto's offense for finally coming around with a league-best 145 wRC+ in June, but Hyun Jin Ryu's Tommy John surgery was a big blow to a pitching staff that's been dicey outside of aces Kevin Gausman and Alek Manoah and closer Jordan Romano.
4. Tampa Bay Rays: 39-32
Though 16 different players have hit home runs for the Rays, unspectacular returns from supposed boppers like Wander Franco, Brandon Lowe and Randy Arozarena explain why runs have been hard to come by and, more broadly, why this team isn't matching the 100-win pace of the 2021 Rays.
5. Baltimore Orioles: 34-39
The Orioles are obviously still bad, but their leap to watchably bad is most noticeable when their late-inning trio of Jorge Lopez, Dillon Tate and Felix Bautista (combined ERA: 1.42) goes to work.
American League Central
1. Minnesota Twins: 40-33
Rocco Baldelli is doing the single most delicate dance in baseball right now with his management of Byron Buxton, who's staying on the periphery of the AL MVP race with 19 home runs in 53 games even as he battles persistent knee issues.
2. Cleveland Guardians: 36-31
The Guardians have easily the best contact-hitting offense and one of the most reliable bullpens despite also having the league's third-lowest payroll, so somebody should get on the horn with Michael Lewis and see if he's interested in a sequel to Moneyball.
3. Chicago White Sox: 33-37
It's easy and kinda-sorta appropriate to pin the White Sox's disappointing season on manager Tony La Russa, but it's not his fault that the injury bug has bitten basically every one of the team's core stars.
4. Detroit Tigers: 28-43
It's inexcusable that the Tigers are going backward after several years of rebuilding and in the wake of a splashy offseason, so general manager Al Avila ought to be fearing for his job right now.
5. Kansas City Royals: 26-44
It's all well and good that Bobby Witt Jr. is living up to the hype of being MLB's No. 1 prospect, yet at what point does it come down on team president Dayton Moore that three of the worst seasons in the Royals' history have happened within the last five years?
American League West
1. Houston Astros: 45-26
Even in a lineup that's getting solid-to-outstanding performances from Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, Alex Bregman, Michael Brantley and Jeremy Pena, Yordan Alvarez still towers above his peers amid a high-slug, low-strikeout campaign worthy of comparisons to peak Albert Pujols.
2. Texas Rangers: 34-36
They're more competitive than they were last year despite getting less than they expected from high-priced infielders Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, so a run at a wild-card spot might just be in the, um, cards if those two get hot for the stretch run.
3. Seattle Mariners: 34-39
"Fun differential" has abandoned the Mariners even though their run differential has greatly improved from 2021, though they can at least be thrilled about Julio Rodriguez's ascent as one of baseball's most dynamic players over the last two months.
4. Los Angeles Angels: 34-40
Between the "meh" 4.06 ERA of Noah Syndergaard and Michael Lorenzen and utter fulity from the middle of the infield, GM Perry Minasian and owner Arte Moreno dropped the ball in not surrounding Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani with better talent this past winter.
5. Oakland Athletics: 24-49
Let's just say that A's fans are totally justified in realizing that they don't deserve what ownership has done to the franchise.
National League East
1. New York Mets: 47-26
If you told the Mets back in March that they'd be leading the NL East in late June despite only getting eight starts from Max Scherzer and none from Jacob deGrom and ERAs in the 4.00s from Chris Bassitt and Carlos Carrasco, they'd take it.
2. Atlanta: 42-31
Everything finally fell into place for the defending champs amid their 14-game win streak between June 1 and 15, yet the process of proving that they can reliably win games against other competitive teams is ongoing.
3. Philadelphia Phillies: 38-35
This is still a flawed team—particularly with regard to a defense that ranks 29th in MLB with minus-26 defensive runs saved—but the Phillies' 17-6 record since the axing of Joe Girardi sure makes for compelling evidence that sometimes firing the manager works.
4. Miami Marlins: 32-38
5. Washington Nationals: 26-48
Between the declines of Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin, the uncertain future of Juan Soto and the MASN mess, whoever buys the Nationals from the Lerner family will have some kind of mess to clean up.
National League Central
T-1. St. Louis Cardinals: 41-33
Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado are dominating (combined 168 wRC+) like the Cardinals anticipated when they arranged the superstar duo ahead of last season, and there's just a different vibe surrounding this team that's different from past Cardinals clubs.
T-1. Milwaukee Brewers: 41-33
For all the problems they're having with their pitching staff, the biggest issue the Brewers have right now is that neither Christian Yelich nor anyone else has claimed the offense-carrying role that Yelich himself played so well in 2018 and 2019.
3. Pittsburgh Pirates: 29-42
The Pirates are another team that's made the leap from unwatchably to watchably bad, and even more so now that Gold Glove candidate Ke'Bryan Hayes doesn't even have the best arm on the left side of their infield.
4. Chicago Cubs: 27-45
They didn't go into this season planning on having a fire sale on the summer market for the second year in a row, but it's some comfort that they stand to do very well in potential trades of NL-best catcher Willson Contreras and reborn closer David Robertson.
5. Cincinnati Reds: 24-47
It's probably not a good sign that the most interesting parts of the Reds season thus far have been the time when the owner's son patronized fans and the other time when one of their outfielders slapped a guy over a fantasy league for a whole 'nother sport.
National League West
1. Los Angeles Dodgers: 44-26
They've thus far survived Max Muncy's and Justin Turner's cold bats and Craig Kimbrel's iffy closing routine, but they're going to need more than a few things to bounce their way while they wait for Mookie Betts (rib) and Walker Buehler (elbow) to get healthy again.
2. San Diego Padres: 45-29
If it's a question of how they've thrived without all-world shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. (wrist), it's sure helped that Manny Machado and Joe Musgrove have established themselves as the arguable favorites for the NL MVP and NL Cy Young Award, respectively.
3. San Francisco Giants: 39-32
By transitioning from a largely effortless 107-win season in 2021 to a more up-and-down grind this season, they've become a living embodiment of Bill James' "plexiglass principle," which holds that teams that improve one season are bound to decline the next.
4. Arizona Diamondbacks: 32-41
Hiring former Astros pitching coach Brent Strom has done wonders for Madison Bumgarner and the rest of Arizona's mound staff, but a full-on return to contention has thus far been held up by an offense whose .213 batting average is better only than the lowly A's.
5. Colorado Rockies: 31-41
Even after signing so many extensions, trading for Randal Grichuk and adding Kris Bryant off the free-agent market, it's almost impressive that the Rockies nonetheless still feel like a rudder-less franchise.