Tuesday, November 28 2023

4. Tampa Bay Rays (58-35; 1st place in AL East)
5. Texas Rangers (52-39; 1st place in AL West)

The clubs with the two best run differentials in the entire league (Rays at +149, Rangers at +148) are each two games up in their respective divisions. Both Texas and Tampa got off to scalding starts thanks to their extremely deep lineups, before scuffling a bit into the All-Star break. These are two of the best offenses in baseball, and even though both should be further ahead of the competition given the run differentials, these fan bases still must feel pretty great about the season thus far. — Jake Mintz

6. Miami Marlins (53-39; 2nd place in NL East; 8.5 GB)

There were things to like about this Fish roster coming into the season — it just seemed they’d be destined for fourth place anyway due to the big-spending behemoths in their division. Or nah! Luis Arráez is a delight, Eury Pérez is a phenom beyond comprehension, and the team just keeps winning. The -5 run differential is a concern moving forward, but it’s also what has made the Marlins one of the most fun teams to watch in all of MLB in the first half. A 21-5 record in one-run games is absurd — we never should’ve doubted a skipper named Skip. — Shusterman

Marlins’ Luis Arráez smacks RBI single to even score in All-Star Game

10. Milwaukee Brewers (49-42; 2nd place in NL Central; 1.0 GB)

Just the fact that Christian Yelich is starting to look like CHRISTIAN YELICH again is enough reason for excitement for Brew Crew supporters. That said, if you told Milwaukee fans the Cardinals would be this horrible, they might assume they’d be running away with the division — and that is very much not the case. Still, the Brewers are set up reasonably well if they can get healthier and some of their bigger names besides Yelich start performing to their potential. They’re in a decent spot. — Shusterman

11. Los Angeles Dodgers (51-38; tied for 1st place in NL West)
12. Houston Astros (50-41; 2nd place in AL West; 2.0 GB)

We’ve grown so used to these teams casually kicking everyone’s butt and taking names in their respective leagues over much of the past decade that the standards for satisfaction for them are so high. Houston’s troubling rash of injuries on both sides of the ball and the Dodgers’ ongoing pitching woes have knocked each team down a peg from certified juggernaut status. Yet, they are both in reasonable positions to clinch division crowns by the end of the season — because of course they are. — Shusterman

‘I still think the Houston Astros are the best team built for the postseason’

18. Seattle Mariners (45-44; 3rd place in AL West; 6.0 GB)

Winning seven of nine heading into the break combined with Julio Rodríguez’s record-breaking Home Run Derby performance in front of the home crowd at T-Mobile Park certainly helped cover up an otherwise underwhelming first half for Seattle. There are still real concerns with the roster heading into the second half, but there also remains a real opportunity to stay in the mix for a return trip to October if the offense can start to match a pitching staff that has generally done its job and then some. — Shusterman

19. Pittsburgh Pirates (41-49; 4th place in NL Central; 11.5 GB)
20. Chicago Cubs (42-47; 3rd place in NL Central; 11.5 GB)

Despite being similar beneficiaries of the Cardinals’ first-half catastrophe, these two teams haven’t capitalized in nearly the same way that their rebuilding brethren in Cincinnati have. The Cubs are the better team with a better place in the standings, but rank below the Buccos in this metric due to the significantly higher expectations coming into the season. Also, the Pirates just drafted Paul Skenes No. 1 overall. I’d be pretty amped about that if I was a fan. — Shusterman

Nico Hoerner cranks solo home run to extend Cubs’ lead over Pirates

25. San Diego Padres (43-47; 4th place in NL West; 8.5 GB)
26. New York Mets (42-48; 4th place in NL East; 18.5 GB)

These two teams with sky-high expectations in spring training coming off big-spending winters just wrapped the first half with a series in San Diego in which the Padres won two of three. The parallels here are obvious: two teams who have shirked the traditional patience and restraint of modern team-building in favor of big and bold splashes in free agency and via trade, amassing high-profile players like they’re shiny Pokémon cards. We will always applaud ownership and front-office groups willing to be aggressive in star-player acquisition no matter the cost, but these clubs simply haven’t seen the results thus far. I’m more optimistic about San Diego in the second half than New York, but from where things stand now, the two belong paired together here near the bottom. — Shusterman

27. Chicago White Sox (38-54; 4th place in AL Central; 8.0 GB)

With the out-of-touch Tony LaRussa sent packing, 2023 was supposed to be the turning over of a new leaf for the Sox. Ha! This team is a dumpster fire of broken toys, a cautionary example of a rebuild gone wrong. With Chicago 16 games under .500 and eight back in the division, it’s probably time for general manager Rick Hahn to sell off whatever he can at the deadline. The window is closing. The sun is setting. If I were a Sox fan, I’d be livid. — Mintz

28. Kansas City Royals (26-65; 5th place in AL Central; 19.5 GB)
29. St. Louis Cardinals (38-52; 5th place in NL Central; 11.5 GB)

It’s been misery in Missouri in 2023 for two very different reasons. Outside of mild steps forward from hopeful franchise face Bobby Witt Jr., Kansas City’s rebuild couldn’t be going much worse. Its farm system is in disarray and the big-league team is shockingly close to as bad as an Oakland squad that was essentially constructed to lose baseball games. As for the Cardinals, a fan base that has little to no experience cheering for anything that even resembles a bad team is obviously beyond discontent if not downright furious regarding the state of affairs. In a different year, when a team wasn’t actively on the way out of town, St. Louis would be an obvious No. 30 in these rankings. — Shusterman

Nolan Arenado blasts two-run homer to put Cardinals ahead of White Sox

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