The All-Star break has arrived, which means we've reached the unofficial midway point of the 2017 MLB season.
It's been an exciting three-plus months of baseball so far, and with so many middle-of-the-pack teams, the trade deadline should provide its usual eventfulness as teams scramble for available playoff spots.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros wrapped up the first half as clear front runners in their respective leagues, but there's still a lot of games to be played and plenty of clubs within striking distance.
As always, these rankings are fluid, and teams rise and fall based on where they were ranked the previous week. If a team keeps winning, it will keep climbing—it's as simple as that.
With that in mind, here's a look at where all 30 teams stand:
Biggest Risers Since Opening Day
In honor of the All-Star break, we're going to do things a bit differently this week, highlighting the biggest risers and fallers of the season based on the Opening Day rankings as opposed to simply looking at the past week.
Milwaukee Brewers (Up 22 Spots)
After a 73-89 finish a year ago and with a youth movement set to kick into high gear, the Milwaukee Brewers began the season in the No. 25 spot in the rankings.
They entered the All-Star break with a 5.5-game lead in the National League Central and riding a 9-2 hot streak.
Chase Anderson (6-2, 2.89 ERA) and Jimmy Nelson (8-4, 3.30 ERA) lead a starting rotation of relative unknowns that ranks seventh in the majors with a 4.07 ERA. Meanwhile, Corey Knebel (14/18 SV, 1.70 ERA, 15.9 K/9) has seized the closer's role and earned the team's lone spot on the NL All-Star roster.
Offensively, Milwaukee is averaging five runs per game behind the unheralded trio of Travis Shaw (.938 OPS, 19 HR), Eric Thames (.936 OPS, 23 HR) and Domingo Santana (.881 OPS, 15 HR), while shortstop Orlando Arcia has taken a significant step forward after a disappointing first two months.
The Brewers won't completely change course as they continue to look to the future, but their strong start has shifted the short-term strategy.
According to Jon Morosi of MLB Network, the Brewers are "prepared to buy" at the trade deadline and are targeting starting pitchers.
Minnesota Twins (Up 17 Spots)
The Minnesota Twins surprised more than a few people when they went 49-40 during the first half of the 2015 season en route to an 83-79 record and contended into the final month.
After a 103-loss campaign last year, they've again exceeded expectations by hanging around in the AL Central, with which the Cleveland Indians were expected to run away.
There are plenty of red flags, however.
First is a minus-60 run differential, by far the worst of any team with a winning record and an indication that Minnesota has played above its head.
The starting rotation is also a concern—despite the resurgence of Ervin Santana and emergence of Jose Berrios—as the staff ranks 26th in the majors with a 4.95 ERA and just 33 quality starts in 88 games.
The bullpen isn't exactly lights-out either, with a 4.83 ERA that also ranks 26th in MLB. And while the offense has been good, it's not a carry-the-team-for-long-stretches level of good.
Give them credit for masterfully walking a tightrope to remain in contention, but it's hard to envision the Twins having the legs to make a serious run at a postseason spot.
Tampa Bay Rays (Up 14 Spots)
The Tampa Bay Rays were the one team that looked like it might fall by the wayside in an otherwise stacked American League East. After all, that's exactly what happened last season, when four teams in the division had a winning record and Tampa Bay went 68-94.
This year, it entered the break four games over .500 and just 3.5 games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox.
The starting rotation has again been a strength with a 4.05 ERA that ranks sixth in the majors, and Chris Archer (7-5, 3.95 ERA, 10.8 K/9) has turned in the bounce-back season the team needed from its ace.
Meanwhile, the offense has gotten huge contributions from the likes of Logan Morrison (.931 OPS, 24 HR), Corey Dickerson (.312 BA, .903 OPS, 17 HR) and even 2008 No. 1 overall pick Tim Beckham (.760 OPS, 11 HR).
With Alex Cobb starting to hit his stride and rookie Jacob Faria providing unexpected production, the Rays have the starting pitching to hang around in the AL wild-card race.
Other Risers: Rockies (+10), Diamondbacks (+10), Padres (+10), Royals (+9), Braves (+8), Reds (+5), Dodgers (+3), Astros (+3), Angels (+3), Nationals (+2), White Sox (+1)
Biggest Fallers Since Opening Day
San Francisco Giants (Down 21 Spots)
The term "dumpster fire" might not have originated with the San Francisco Giants, but they've staked an awfully strong claim to it this season.
The starting rotation sports a 22-43 record with a 4.95 ERA and has been a mess without Madison Bumgarner, while the bullpen is a disaster again thanks to high-price free-agent dud Mark Melancon. And the offense is averaging a pitiful 3.9 runs per game.
It's genuinely difficult to find something positive to talk about with this team outside of another strong season from catcher Buster Posey.
At 22 games under .500 and 27 games back in the NL West, this ship is going down quickly, and it's time to jettison everything that isn't nailed down. According to Morosi, writing for MLB.com, only Bumgarner, Posey and shortstop Brandon Crawford will be off-limits in trade talks.
New York Mets (Down 17 Spots)
Few teams have rested on their laurels the way the New York Mets did this offseason.
They re-signed Yoenis Cespedes, Jerry Blevins and Fernando Salas, and Neil Walker returned after accepting his qualifying offer.
But the team's biggest outside addition?
Right-hander Adam Wilk entered the season with a 6.49 ERA in 26.1 big league innings. He made one start this year before being designated for assignment in May, and then he was scooped up by the Twins.
There was logic to the idea that a team mired in injuries a year ago could improve simply with better health across the board, but it was flawed logic at best and now looks like little more than wishful thinking.
New York has already used 11 different starting pitchers and 24 different pitchers overall, and while the offense, led by a resurgent Michael Conforto, has been solid, it hasn't been able to shoulder the load.
At eight games under .500 and 12 games back in the NL East, the Mets have all but sealed their fate as deadline sellers.
Chicago Cubs (Down 16 Spots)
"Everything is going to be fine. This team is way too talented not to turn things around."
That was a reasonable argument when the Chicago Cubs went 13-11 in April, and it was still a reasonable argument following a 12-16 month of May and a June in which the team showed flashes of getting hot only to hit the skids again.
At some point, though, it will become a less reasonable argument and more of a mantra for only the most faithful among the fanbase.
The defending champs entered the All-Star break two games under .500 and with a dead-even run differential that felt like an all-too-perfect embodiment of the mediocrity they've shown.
Barring catastrophic injury, it's hard to see things getting any worse for Chicago in the second half.
Then again, maybe that's just a case of me clinging to my mantra.
Other Fallers: Blue Jays (-14), Tigers (-11), Mariners (-9), Orioles (-6), Phillies (-6), Cardinals (-5), Marlins (-5), Indians (-4), Red Sox (-2), Pirates (-1)
First-Half Award Winners
AL MVP: Aaron Judge, New York Yankees
Stats: .329/.448/.691, 99 H, 46 XBH (30 HR), 66 RBI, 75 R, 6 SB
The Red Sox's Mookie Betts is a strong MVP candidate again, Jose Ramirez is having a terrific season for the Indians, and teammates Jose Altuve and George Springer are worthy of mention for the first-place Astros.
This was a pretty easy decision, though.
Judge has been perhaps the biggest story of the season's first half, as he entered the break leading the majors in OPS (1.139) and home runs (30).
His 16.7 percent walk rate is going a long way toward offsetting his 29.8 percent strikeout rate—which is still way down from the unsightly 44.2 percent mark he posted in his first taste of the majors last year.
There's always the question of how the league will adjust to a rookie, but right now, Judge is a no-brainer for AL MVP honors.
NL MVP: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona Diamondbacks
Stats: .312/.428/.577, 99 H, 42 XBH (20 HR), 67 RBI, 73 R, 13 SB
This was by far the toughest decision of the four major awards.
A strong case can be made for Charlie Blackmon, Justin Turner, Joey Votto and a trio of Washington Nationals in Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Anthony Rendon.
The question becomes who is most important to his team's success.
Blackmon shares the offensive spotlight with Nolan Arenado, and really, it's improved pitching that has been the story for the Colorado Rockies. Turner has missed time while the Dodgers didn't miss a beat. Votto plays for a team that's 10 games below .500, and there's no clear-cut most valuable player among those Nats.
So the answer is Arizona Diamondbacks slugger Paul Goldschmidt, who has twice finished second in MVP balloting.
Few players have a more complete game than his mix of average, power, speed and defense, and it's hard to see the Diamondbacks being anywhere close to 53-36 in the first half without him.
AL Cy Young Award: Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox
Stats: 11-4, 2.75 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 22 BB, 178 K, 127.2 IP, .200 BAA
Tip of the cap to Corey Kluber, Ervin Santana and Jason Vargas.
This was an easy one, though.
The Red Sox paid a steep price to acquire Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox during the offseason, and he's backed up the move with a brilliant first half.
He leads the majors in strikeouts (178), and he's tallied double-digit punchouts in 12 of his 18 starts. He also leads the AL in WHIP (0.90) and opponents' batting average (.200) and is tied for the lead in quality starts (15).
With Rick Porcello regressing significantly from his Cy Young form and David Price still searching for consistency post-injury, Sale has been as important to Boston's success as anyone.
NL Cy Young Award: Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals
Stats: 10-5, 2.10 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, 27 BB, 173 K, 128.1 IP, .163 BAA
Let's forget the other numbers for a second and focus on the 0.78 WHIP and .163 opponents' batting average Max Scherzer has posted.
We're talking historically dominant numbers, folks.
Rookies of the Year: AL: Judge, NYY; NL: Cody Bellinger, LAD
Comeback Players of the Year: AL: Vargas, KC; NL: Ryan Zimmerman, WAS
Relievers of the Year: AL: Craig Kimbrel, BOS; NL: Kenley Jansen, LAD
Managers of the Year: AL: A.J. Hinch, HOU; NL: Torey Lovullo, ARI
Stats of the Week
Let's dive into some of the better nuggets from around the league.
Judge has become a weekly staple in this section, and he made more history last week with his 30th home run of the season.
That surpassed the previous New York Yankees single-season rookie record, which was set by Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio in 1936. Next up, the leaguewide rookie record, which is held by Mark McGwire, who hit 49 homers in 1987.
Sticking with the rookie theme, Bellinger will be the youngest position player to suit up in an All-Star Game in the storied history of the Dodgers. He'll be 21 years and 363 days old.
The previous mark was set by Corey Seager (22 years, 76 days) last season.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the 43-year-old Ichiro Suzuki, who added to his impressive resume with another accomplishment Thursday night.
That single gave him 3,054 hits for his career, and he surpassed Rod Carew for the most knocks by a foreign-born player:
- Ichiro Suzuki (Japan): 3,054
- Rod Carew (Panama): 3,053
- Rafael Palmeiro (Cuba): 3,020
- Roberto Clemente (Puerto Rico): 3,000
- Adrian Beltre (Dominican Republic): 2,978
Sale entered the All-Star break as the MLB strikeouts leader with 178.
That's just the third time a Red Sox pitcher has paced the league in punchouts at midseason (Roger Clemens in 1988 and 1991) and also the most strikeouts at the break since Curt Schilling had 186 in 2002.
It's hard to believe Pedro Martinez was never tops in strikeouts during his time in Boston, but he did play at the same time as Schilling and Randy Johnson.
That's all for me. Enjoy the All-Star break, everyone!
Looking for someone to yell at about where your favorite team was slotted in the latest rankings? I'll meet you in the comments section.