Wednesday marks the final day of May, so we're just about through two of the six months of the Major League Baseball season. Yes, mathematicians, we're about one-third of the way through the MLB season.
For many, getting through Memorial Day is the right time to start looking at the standings and taking them seriously. For me, I've made it an Official Power Rankings rule that you aren't allowed to say things like "it's early" once we get to June. There are surprises and there will be turnarounds -- both in the positive and the negative -- moving forward for sure, but we've got a nice chunk of baseball banked.
Let's zero in on the most surprising things so far and if I expect it to continue.
Twins are tied for AL Central lead
I liked the Twins to be better than last year, but how could they have possibly been as bad? They didn't even win 60 games last year. To look at the AL Central this season without a horse in the race, it seemed pretty obvious the Indians would win it. They still probably will (that would be my prediction), but kudos to the Twins for this early-season run. Ervin Santana is throwing like a Cy Young candidate, Miguel Sano is hitting the ball harder than anyone, Robbie Grossman is an on-base machine and Jose Berrios has been filthy since his call-up.
As noted, I still have the Indians taking the division, but I think the Twins can hold second place and hang around in wild-card contention (mid-80s in wins, maybe?). Sometimes that's all it takes for a successful season.
Brewers lead the NL Central
The consensus coming into the season was that the Cubs would win the division with ease. If offered a fall-back option, most people would have likely taken the Cardinals. The Pirates have recently been a contender as well. The Brewers are still in the midst of a bit of a rebuild.
And yet, the Brewers hang onto first place past Memorial Day. Thanks in part to a ridiculous April from Eric Thames, the offense has exhibited great power throughout the season while getting fine rotation work from Jimmy Nelson and Chase Anderson. Corey Knebel has settled in as closer and done an outstanding job.
Alas, I don't see this holding. The only reason the Brewers are still in first is the Cubs can't get themselves together. But they will. Even if the Cubs only win 85-88 games, it'll be enough to take the Central again. The Cardinals will finish second. The Brewers, though, continue to make progress with GM Doug Stearns' rebuild. They won 73 games last year. Let's assign them a .500 record this year, which is an eight-game improvement.
Rockies and Diamondbacks in the NL West mix
Last September, I said the Rockies were set up to be a sneaky contender this year, and nothing we've seen so far gives me any reason to change my mind. In fact, they'll get back Jon Gray in the rotation and my hunch is Jeff Hoffman builds off his last outing at some point. The Rockies would then actually have rotation depth with those two, veterans Tyler Chatwood and Tyler Anderson and then young guns Antonio Senzatela, Kyle Freeland and German Marquez. With their offense and the Greg Holland-led bullpen, that's enough to grab the top NL wild card.
Yes, I have the Dodgers winning the NL West again. Again, though, I'd pick the Rockies as the top wild card right now.
Can the Diamondbacks remain in the mix for the second one? In my estimation, yes they can. The Cardinals will be there as well and the Mets probably find a way to hang around. Arizona's success so far, though, seems real. They have a legit MVP candidate in Paul Goldschmidt and ace in Zack Greinke along with lots of other good pieces.
If someone stuck strongly to the "don't peek at MLB standings until after Memorial Day" mantra, they wouldn't have much context behind every team's record, and the above teams sitting below .500 would probably be a surprise. But there is context in all four cases.
The Jays started 2-11 and then 6-17, so them sitting close to .500 at this point is actually good news. With the team getting healthier, making the postseason for the third straight year is still a realistic possibility.
The Mets have been decimated by injuries, due in part to their poor handling of some of the injuries.
The Giants lost Buster Posey for a stretch earlier this season and then Madison Bumgarner was lost for most of the first half. Let's also keep in mind, however, that this team was 30-42 after the All-Star break last season. This wasn't wholly unpredictable, especially given the Bumgarner injury.
Of these four 2016 playoff teams, we'll say the strongest contender is the Blue Jays. The weakest from where I sit would be the Giants, though I'm not bullish on the Rangers, either. The Mets could make a late run at a wild card, but it's hard to see them climbing back into the division title race under the circumstances. If I'm forced to make a decision right now, my bet is only one team from this group makes the playoffs, and my horse would be the Blue Jays.
Feel free to contact me at email@example.com or @MattSnyderCBS on Twitter. As for this week's rankings versus the soft predictions I made above, there might look like some contradictions, but I'm ranking what we've seen, not what I necessarily expect to see moving forward.
|Starting to feel special. Of course, it's still early (I can still say this just on Wednesday. Once you are reading on Thursday it's June and this portion of the comment becomes invalid. It might even self-destruct).||--||29-31|
|Absolutely cruising right now, with wins in 11 of their last 13 games and a six-game winning streak against two should-be contenders in the Cardinals and Cubs. They've fought injury issues in the rotation and lineup so far, too.||3||43-17|
|The Rockies haven't lost a series since April 24-27. They need to take two in Seattle to salvage a split this week (yes, I'm counting the two/two home/home as one series) in order to keep that fact in place. The good news is they're far better on the road than at home.||1||26-34|
|Brett Gardner has hit nine homers in May. His previous career high for a month was seven (July of 2014). Oh, and he only hit seven homers all of last season (634 plate appearances).||1||33-27|
|I am absolutely shameless in being Team Bryce on this brawl situation.||1||26-34|
|After scoring 93 runs in April, the Red Sox have scored 155 in May, thanks to a power surge that was pretty predictable.||3||24-36|
|Robbie Ray is working on a 24 2/3 scoreless inning streak right now. He's struck out 84 in 69 innings this year. Maybe the D-Backs have a pair of aces?||3||25-35|
|From 2014-16, Trevor Bauer struck out 8.3 batters per nine innings. Before Tuesday, he was at 10.6 in 2017. Then he struck out a career-high 14, sending him up to 11.5 K/9.||2||35-25|
|You have to wonder about the psyche of an overall pretty young team giving up 11 runs in the eighth inning after they had an 8-2 lead. That result Monday could send them into a tailspin.||1||36-24|
|This sneaky contender has won five of its last seven.||6||40-20|
|Josh Donaldson and Troy Tulowitzki are back and the Jays have won seven of eight. Look out. And, sorry, geographical warriors, but the AL East is awesome. Accept it.||8||32-28|
|The Brewers have lost six of eight and still hold first place. The Central had three teams win at least 97 games in 2015 and it's awful right now.||5||29-31|
|We've got another roller coaster alert. Only a couple of huge hills, but those still count. Sometimes they are more fun. The Cardinals started 3-9. From April 17-May 14, they went 18-6. Since then, they've gone 3-10.||2||30-28|
|I've mentioned the Rob Deer/Dave Kingman All-Stars so far this season but not regarding Joey Gallo and that isn't fair. He's only 23, but look at these numbers already: .212 average, 16 homers, 73 strikeouts, 196 plate appearances The force is strong in this one.||1||22-38|
|Absolutely atrocious road trip. Just unacceptable for a team with this much talent.||3||34-26|
|Sixty percent of the rotation is a mess, Manny Machado is hitting .210 with a .292 OBP and the Orioles have lost 14 of their last 18. The 22-10 start built them up a lot of credit, but it's running out.||2||25-35|
|Albert Pujols will soon hit his 600th home run. It's had me thinking the last few days back to his prime. Holy smokes was he ridiculous. I kind of feel like this current version of Pujols is making us not appreciate it as much. We will once he retires, though.||2||26-34|
|Avert your eyes if you have a weak stomach: They have a 5.98 rotation ERA, which is obviously the worst in the majors by far. It's actually pretty amazing that they are only three games under .500 with a mark that ugly. That's Freddy Krueger level ugly.||3||31-29|
|Jose Quintana now sits with a 5.60 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. Last year at this point he was at 2.13 and 1.03, respectively.||3||35-25|
|They've lost seven of 10 and a midsummer sell-off is starting to feel like a realistic possibility.||3||23-35|
|Is the worm starting to turn? The Mets have won four of five with Steven Matz and Yoenis Cespedes returning soon.||2||26-34|
|Allow me to present the human roller coaster in one Christian Bergman. May 17: 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER May 23: 4 IP, 14 H, 10 ER May 28: 7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER||2||27-33|
|Think about how much has gone so badly wrong this season for the Bucs, and then notice they are still only 3 1/2 games out in the NL Central right now.||3||19-41|
|Had to figure the Freddie Freeman injury was gonna have a lasting effect on the offense and the Braves have scored three runs or fewer in four of their last five games.||6||35-25|
|The Royals are going to finish May with a winning record (15-13 entering the 31st), but Danny Duffy is now out a while and this is overall a pretty flawed roster. In looking at the number of free agents this coming offseason, it might be better off for the long-term good of the franchise if they start losing more games. That's just the reality.||2||26-34|
|Four straight losses and to make matters worse, Sonny Gray was shelled on Tuesday night just when it looked like he might be "back."||1||36-24|
|They've won four of five now on this current homestand to help put that dreadful stretch of baseball in the rearview, but the problem is it was so bad it's tough to recover.||1||31-29|
|Losers of six of their last eight, the Giants are dealing with questions about a nondescript reliever throwing at a marquee player based upon stuff that happened three seasons ago. Is that good?||8||29-31|
|All they needed to get right was to face the hapless Cubs. WAIT. What year is it? I'm lost, I think. (Seriously, though, the Padres have won five of their last seven).||1||37-23|
|Through 50 games, they have tied a franchise record for the worst start to a season.||1||28-32|