We've now seen just over one quarter of the 2015 Major League Baseball season (note: Don't call it the quarter pole, lest horse racing enthusiasts correct you on what the term actually means!). While we're bound to see things change the rest of the way -- we're still going to see surprise hot streaks and collapses, just as we do every season -- it's around this point that we can start to get an idea of what teams are legitimate contenders and which are not.
Thus, I'm going to subjectively group the teams and this isn't the same as the rankings, because I'm looking at things like the ability to make in-season additions from the farm or via trade, being injury-prone, lacking depth, having depth and, oh, educated guesswork. Within the categories these aren't in any particular order.
Definitely contenders: Cardinals, Royals, Dodgers, Nationals;
Probably contenders: Astros, Giants, Tigers, Cubs, Pirates;
Maybe contenders? Mets, Angels, Rays, Yankees, Mariners, Orioles, Red Sox, Padres, Indians, Blue Jays … White Sox?
Probably not contenders: Rangers, Braves, Diamondbacks … White Sox?
Not contenders: Brewers, Athletics, Marlins, Phillies, Reds, Rockies;
Some of the placement is due to divisional competition (hello, AL East) and obviously things can change. Think back to the 2012 Oakland Athletics and my guess is I'd have pegged them as a "probably not contender" on June 1 when they fell to 22-30. They'd end up with a historic rise to the top of the AL West.
Oh, wait, I only listed 29 teams. We have one more.
I have no idea: Twins.
Everything about this roster resembles a last-place team or maybe fourth-place -- even if a good one in a tough AL Central. They were the worst team in baseball in the first week, getting their teeth kicked in during a 1-6 start. Since then, though, they've been one of the best teams in all of baseball. Historical trends bode well for teams being nine games over .500 at this point in the season, too.
Of course, we can go both ways. Just last season at around this point, eventual playoff teams in the A's, Tigers, Angels and Giants were at least seven games over .500. They weren't alone, though, as the Brewers and Braves were the other two at least seven over through 45ish games. The Blue Jays were also in first place at the time. So it's not a hard-and-fast rule.
I'm inclined to believe the Twins are going to be like the latter three teams and fade away as the season progresses, but they've been playing great baseball for all but the first week of the season and history has shown that their chances of keeping it up aren't bad. If nothing else, they cannot be ignored right now.
Please feel free to contact me with comments either on Twitter (@MattSnyderCBS) or via email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Just remember that if we disagree one of us is either stupid or biased, probably both. It isn't likely to be me, either.