How they rank: July 14

How they rank, with a focus on players hoping the second half of the season is better than the first. Last rankings in parentheses; stats through Thursday’s games:

  • 1. L.A. Dodgers (3): Hyun-Jin Ryu’s comeback from shoulder surgery has been less than successful. Ryu has thrown 15 home runs in 72.2 innings, or one every 4.8 innings; he threw one every 14.9 innings before his injury.
  • 2. Houston (1): Alex Bregman deleted his Twitter account after responding to one fan’s suggestion that the Astros should have traded Bregman when they could in a package last offseason for Chris Sale: “I forgot I shouldn’t give flees on the nutsack of society the time of day.” If only Bregman could delete his lackluster .258/339/419 stat line. Oh. And give him an E for spelling to go with the six he’s committed in the field. Guessing English wasn’t his major at LSU.
  • 3. Washington (2): Tanner Roark was the Nats’ second-best pitcher last year, winning 16 games, pitching 210 innings and putting up a 2.83 ERA that was .77 better than more heralded Stephen Strasburg (3.60). Now Roark isn’t even the second-best reliever in MLB’s worst bullpen. Roark’s 5.27 ERA isn’t as good as the Nats’ bullpen’s 5.20.
  • 4. Arizona (6): Patrick Corbin is tied for the team lead in starts with 18, which prompts a question: Why? Since the start of 2016 he’s 11-22 with a 4.97 ERA and a home run allowed every 6.25 innings. There comes a point where it’s not a slump but normalcy.
  • 5. Boston (7): Rick Porcello won last year’s AL Cy Young, but this year he’d be up for the Chris Young Award, if only there was one (Chris Young, the Princeton-educated pitcher, was finally released by the Royals last month when his ERA hit 7.50). Porcello, who led the AL in wins last year with 22, leads it in losses this year with 11, and it’s not because of a lack of run support. He’s allowed 147 hits, 19 of them home runs, in 119.1 innings, and opponents are batting .298 and slugging .502 against him, compared to last year’s .230 and .367. If only Kate Upton’s boyfriend Justin Verlander wasn’t so bad himself, she’d ask for a recount.
  • 6. Milwaukee (8): Jonathan Villar led the NL in stolen bases last year with 62, hit 19 home runs and had an .826 OPS, not too shabby for a middle infielder. This year he’s had his job stolen from him. First Orlando Arcia moved him off shortstop last season. Then Eric Sogard, who missed the entire 2016 season to injury, moved him off second base.
  • 7. Cleveland (10): The Indians won the AL Central by eight games last year, but lead by just two-and-a-half at the break. They may have added a bat in free agent Edwin Encarnacion in the offseason, but they lost second baseman Jason Kipnis’ to injury and ineffectiveness. He’s hitting .232 with a .693 OPS and is back for his second stint on the DL with a hamstring injury.
  • 8. Colorado (6): The Rockies spent $70 million on Ian Desmond and moved him to first base. It’s hard to decide which was worse. Desmond has hit like the middle infielder he used to be, but without the power — four 20-homer seasons — he used to have. He’s at .283 with 5 homers and a .709 OPS, and Coors Field, which was supposed to enhance his power, has restricted it. He has one homer and one walk in 92 home plate appearances.
  • 9. N.Y. Yankees (4): Injuries have limited Aroldis Chapman to 20.2 innings, but competence, or lack thereof, has his ERA at 3.48 and his OPS against at .643. Three times in his career Chapman hasn’t allowed as much as a hit every two innings; this year he’s given up 20. The Yankees aren’t paying him $17.2 million for that.
  • 10. Tampa Bay (12): Brad Miller hit 30 home runs for the Rays last year; he’ll be lucky to get 30 extra-base hits this year. Injuries have limited Miller to just 45 games, but he’s hitting .209 and slugging .338. He hit his third homer of the season on Sunday, just in time to take four days off.
  • 11. Chicago Cubs (11): Johan Quintana has pitched better than his 4.49 ERA indicates — his FIP is 4.01 — and it needs to show, considering the price the Cubs paid to get him. The Cubs hope the wind is blowing in at Wrigley when Quintana starts; their new acquisition has thrown 14 home runs in 104.1 innings.
  • 12. St. Louis (20): Remind us again why the Cardinals moved Matt Carpenter from third base and/or second base, where he was a superior offensive player, to first base, where his .827 OPS is ninth in the NL? It doesn’t help that Carpenter’s .237 average is 42 points below his career norm.
  • 13. Texas (19): Rougned Odor has more home runs than walks (17/14) and more strikeouts than hits (88/76). Odor is hitting just .220 and has a .673 OPS, despite the 17 homers. Maybe next time Jose Bautista slides into second, he might lead with those stats rather than his chin.
  • 14. Kansas City (27): Shortstop Alcides Escobar will be a free agent after this season, and every day the price goes down more. He’s hitting .226 and slugging .306 with a .548 OPS. That makes his postseason of leading off for the 2015 world champion Royals with a .293 on-base percentage seem like his offensive zenith.
  • 15. Minnesota (13): The Twins were worried whether Jorge Polanco could handle shortstop defensively, but he’s been better than replacement level, if not by much (0.5 of defensive WAR). They should have worried about his bat. After hitting .282 and slugging .424 in 245 at-bats last year, he’s hitting .224 and slugging only 99 points more in 263 at-bats this year.
  • 16. Miami (21): Nobody does sell-offs like the Marlins, which means when third baseman Martin Prado rebounds, it will be for another team. A career .292 hitter, Prado is hitting just .262 with a .666 OPS, and is due $28.5 over the next two seasons. If the Marlins had a motto, it would be, “Let someone else pay.” 
  • 17. Seattle (15):  Felix Hernandez might still be The King, but this year it’s been of the home run ball, not the strikeout. Hernandez has thrown 11 in 50.2 innings, which explains a 4.44 ERA which is his highest in 11 years. Royalty isn’t what it used to be.
  • 18. L.A. Angels (18): At two years and $15 million, infielder Luis Valbuena seemed a free-agent bargain coming off a .260/357/459 season for the Astros. Valbuena is at .185/267/318 this year, or bad enough that Pablo Sandoval says he’s giving free agent busts a bad name.
  • 19. Pittsburgh (25): Chad Kuhl had a 2.75 ERA and allowed a walk every 4.2 innings in four minor-league seasons. The plate must have shrunk in the majors. Kuhl is walking a batter every 2.4 innings and has a 4.96 ERA to show for it.
  • 20. Atlanta (24): Dave Stewart was fired as D’backs GM, for among other transgressions, trading shortstop Dansby Swanson after taking him with the first pick of the 2015 draft. Swanson is batting .221 and slugging just .324 this year, which might get Stewart some satisfaction, if not another management job.
  • 21. Baltimore (9): Zach Britton was the best reliever in MLB last year, but this year’s he’s pitched just 12 innings and allowed 16 hits. The Orioles hope he pitches more like last year — 0.54 ERA, .430 OPS — if only to get a better return for him when they trade him.
  • 22. Toronto (16): Opponents batted .203 off Marco Estrada in his first two years as a Blue Jay, when he led the AL each season in fewest hits allowed per nine innings. That average has spiked 63 points this year, and combined with 17 home runs allowed, so has Estrada’s ERA, all the way to 5.17.
  • 23. Detroit (17): Pitchers have finally figured out how to get Miguel Cabrera out: wait until he ages. A .319 lifetime hitter, Cabrera at 34 is hitting just .264 and has only 26 extra-base hits. Just three seasons ago he had 52 doubles; he’ll be fortunate to get half that many this year.
  • 24. N.Y. Mets (23): Twenty-one-year-old Amed Rosario, batting .327 in AAA, said he’s “100 percent ready” for the major leagues and everyone agrees except GM Sandy Alderson. He insists the Mets play Jose Reyes, batting .215 with a .284 on-base percentage, at shortstop. Reyes is 100 percent ready for a second half of 0-for-4s.
  • 25. Chicago White Sox (22): The White Sox would love to trade third baseman Todd Frazier, if only he wasn’t hitting .213. Frazier has 30 extra-base hits, but just 27 singles in 268 at-bats. His plate discipline — 47 walks vs. 67 strikeouts — is the best it’s ever been. Perhaps he should swing at more pitches.
  • 26 Cincinnati (14): Jose Peraza, once the most hyped of prospects, almost lived up to it last year, batting .324 in a half season with the Reds. He’s barely slugging that much this year at .334, and hitting 70 points less, a Billy Hamilton like .254.
  • 27. Oakland (26): Hard to believe John Axford once led the NL with 46 saves (2011) or had 25 saves as recently as two years ago. He may not be able to save his career this season: he’s 34, has a 6.30 ERA and .879 OPS against.
  • 28. San Francisco (28): The Giants spent $220 million after 2015 on pitchers Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija and in 2017 they’re a combined 10-17 with a 4.54 ERA and 37 homers allowed in 229.2 innings. Too bad they didn’t offer either an opt-out.
  • 29. San Diego (29): Catcher Austin Hedges has 13 homers, but just 30 singles in 239 at-bats. His .218 average is 108 points less than the .326 he hit last year in AAA, which can’t all be Pacific Coast League inflation.
  • 30. Philadelphia (30): The Phillies hoped to rebuild around third baseman Maikel Franco, which explains their 34-53 record. He’s hitting .217, slugging .384 and laying a cracked foundation for the future.
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