Phillies celebrate [608x342]
Phillies celebrate [608x342] (Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports)

Rabeya and Murshida end Bangladesh s losing streak

It has been a fun, though a bit unexpected, first half of baseball.

Aaron Judge is having yet another historic season, including an absolutely dominant June in which he hit .409 and slugged .864 with a 1.378 OPS and 37 RBIs. Entering this week, he was on pace for 56 home runs and 146 RBIs on the season. The acquisition of fellow slugger Juan Soto has surely helped Judge, as Soto bats in front of the Yankees captain and leads MLB with 77 walks and a .427 on-base percentage.

Young stars have also taken the league by storm so far in 2024. Gunnar Henderson, who would have a strong case to be the American League MVP favorite if not for Judge, is hitting .293 with 27 home runs -- and leads MLB with 6.4 WAR. Elly De La Cruz, who broke onto the scene last season as one of the most exciting players in the game, continues to showcase spectacular skills. Not only does he lead the majors with 45 stolen bases, but he has swiped more bags than five teams have in total, including the Yankees. Pirates rookie sensation Paul Skenes has been perhaps the biggest star of the first half, captivating fans with a 2.12 ERA and 78 strikeouts through his first 10 career games. All three will appear in their first career All-Star Game in Arlington, Texas, on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the White Sox got off to one of the worst starts in history and are joined at the bottom of the standings by a handful of teams -- the Rockies, Marlins, A's and Angels -- that simply can't get anything going. The Astros were as many as 12 games under .500 before slowly making their way back to relevancy. Riding a stellar bullpen, the Guardians have been a top team all season, while the Royals surprised many by coming out of the gates hot before tailing off a bit recently.

With the first half in the books, let's give all 30 teams a grade on their performance, relative to their preseason expectations.

MLB season preview: Rankings, playoff odds for all 30 teams | Predictions

 First-month grades

Jump to a team:

AL East: BAL | BOS | NYY | TB | TOR AL Central: CHW | CLE | DET | KC | MIN AL West: HOU | LAA | OAK | SEA | TEX

NL East: ATL | MIA | NYM | PHI | WSH NL Central: CHC | CIN | MIL | PIT | STL NL West: ARI | COL | LAD | SD | SF

Philadelphia Phillies: A

With the Braves scuffling, the Phillies have opened up a perhaps insurmountable lead in the National League East as they seek their first division title since 2011. The rotation has led the way, with Ranger Suarez arguably the first-half Cy Young winner, Cristopher Sanchez having a breakout season (and getting a new extension as a reward) and Zack Wheeler having another superb campaign. The back end of the bullpen has been dominant with Jeff Hoffman, Orion Kerkering and Matt Strahm all with sub-2.00 ERAs and a combined strikeout-walk ratio of 129-18. I thought about giving the Phillies an A+, but the injuries to Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber and J.T. Realmuto have exposed the team's weak bench -- although that should be easily upgraded at the trade deadline.

Baltimore Orioles: A

Gunnar Henderson on pace to match Cal Ripken as the only player in Orioles history with a 10-WAR season? Check.

Adley Rutschman on pace for his best season yet in his young career? Check.

Jordan Westburg having a breakout, All-Star-type season? Check.

Corbin Burnes leading the rotation with a Cy Young-caliber first half? Check.

Craig Kimbrel easing concerns about the closer role? Check.

It hasn't been completely smooth sailing for the Orioles -- Kyle Bradish and John Means are out for the season, and Jackson Holliday struggled in his initial stint in the majors -- but they arguably have the best offense in the majors, and only the Phillies have a lower ERA.

Cleveland Guardians: A

I didn't see this coming, and if I did see it coming, it wouldn't have been in this fashion, with Cleveland ranking among the better offenses in the league. If the Guardians were to win the division, I figured the rotation might be the difference maker, but the rotation hasn't been that strong; Shane Bieber went down for the season, Triston McKenzie is in Triple-A, Logan Allen has an ERA on the wrong side of 5.00 and Gavin Williams just returned from injury. Only Tanner Bibee has been healthy and effective from the expected rotation, although Ben Lively has been a pleasant surprise.

The key, of course, has been an absolutely dominant bullpen that is 23-8 with the lowest ERA (2.58) in the majors (although the Brewers have a slight edge in win probability added), plus the amazing Jose Ramirez. He's not an MVP candidate in a league with Henderson and Judge, but he has absolutely crushed it with runners on base and appears on his way to his sixth career top-six MVP finish. While I see a little regression coming after the All-Star break, with playoff odds close to 90%, the Guardians would have to collapse to miss the postseason.

Milwaukee Brewers: A

Only two of ESPN's 26 baseball writers, analysts and editors picked the Brewers to win the NL Central in our preseason predictions, so they earn a high grade based on success over expectations. Now, I'm not completely surprised here since I was one of those two, but there have been some players who are perhaps contributing more than anticipated. Did you have Trevor Megill and Bryan Hudson as a dominant 1-2 bullpen duo? Colin Rea running an 8-2 record? Brice Turang making an All-Star bid? Even Christian Yelich posting a 150 OPS+?

As with Cleveland, there remain major concerns about the rotation, and the Brewers should absolutely be in on any of the top starters at the trade deadline. They'll hopefully get All-Star closer Devin Williams back from stress fractures in his back, and rookie Jackson Chourio is slowly figuring things out (.897 OPS in June). If they can add a starter, I like their chances to hold on in the NL Central.

Kansas City Royals: A-

It does feel like things are starting to slip away after the Royals peaked at 39-26 in early June. They've struggled since then, other than winning three of four against the Guardians at the end of June. It's not exactly a two-man show, but it sometimes does seem that way with Bobby Witt Jr. having an MVP-caliber season and Seth Lugo perhaps the American League Cy Young favorite (11-2, 2.17 ERA). Salvador Perez and Vinnie Pasquantino have been big contributors, but the Royals will need more from the rest of the lineup, and adding a couple of relievers is a must. It will be fascinating to see where Witt ends up: He's already at 5.0 WAR, giving him a shot to challenge George Brett's single-season franchise best for a position player (9.4) in his memorable 1980 season.

Los Angeles Dodgers: B+

The Dodgers have cruised to a comfortable lead in the NL West and are right on pace for a fourth consecutive 100-win season (or fifth in a row, if you skip over 2020, although they were on pace for 116 wins that season). They've done this without really clicking on all cylinders. They lead the NL in runs despite some struggles at the bottom of the order as Shohei Ohtani has been a destroyer of baseballs all season long. With a 191 OPS+, he has a chance to establish the franchise record in that category (which is currently Mike Piazza's 185 in 1997) and certainly has a chance to beat Shawn Green's franchise record of 49 home runs. For the second half, it's all about getting Mookie Betts and Yoshinobu Yamamoto healthy and producing like they were before their injuries.

New York Yankees: B+

I know, I know: The team has looked terrible the past three weeks, including a couple of especially trashy plays over the past week when Trent Grisham lollygagged after a ball in center field and Anthony Volpe cost the team a run (in a game New York eventually lost in extra innings) when he didn't hustle home. Yankees fans are losing their minds right now, but we have to grade on the entire first half -- and they're still on pace to win 98 games. Granted, a very large percentage of this grade goes to Aaron Judge and Juan Soto. The pitching has collapsed a bit after posting a 3.06 ERA in April and 2.44 in May, falling to 5.26 in June, making the Yankees one of the most intriguing teams at the deadline. Will general manager Brian Cashman look to improve the bottom of the lineup (D.J. LeMahieu looks finished) or add some pitching depth (Luis Gil has hit a wall and the bullpen is thin)?

Boston Red Sox: B+

Not much was expected of the Red Sox in 2024 -- only two of our 26 preseason voters even picked them to make the playoffs. I was, once again, one of those two, and I said, "The Red Sox will need their rotation to stay healthy, but if it does, they can steal a wild card." I can't remember whether I wrote that before Lucas Giolito went down for the season in spring training, but the rotation has been solid enough, ranking in the top 10 in the majors in ERA. That was built on a remarkable 2.00 ERA in April, and while the group as a whole hasn't been near as good since then, Tanner Houck has been outstanding all season.

Boston has had to improvise a bit on offense with injuries to Triston Casas, Trevor Story and Vaughn Grissom, but Ceddanne Rafaela has pulled off the rare feat of moving back and forth between center field and shortstop, Jarren Duran has been an extra-base machine (10 triples already) and Tyler O'Neill has proved to be a key offseason pickup. It has put the Red Sox in an interesting position: With a strong farm system that ex-GM Chaim Bloom had done a nice job of improving, will they now use it to add at the trade deadline?

Minnesota Twins: B

The Twins are 0-14 against the Yankees (0-6), Guardians (0-5) and Orioles (0-3), but they've played well against everyone else to put themselves in a good position. They'll have to beat Cleveland in head-to-head action, but I think the AL Central will turn into a fight down the stretch. The Twins are in this spot despite issues with two key players: Royce Lewis is back on the IL for a second time and has played just 24 games (although he posted a 1.039 OPS with 10 home runs when he did play) and No. 1 starter Pablo Lopez is 8-7 with a 5.18 ERA (mostly because of a spike in home runs allowed). The key has been the offensive depth, with Carlos Correa reminding us that he's a fantastic player when healthy and Jose Miranda coming out of nowhere to hit .300.

San Diego Padres: B-

The Padres have been unpredictable, exciting and always interesting -- from the late spring training trade to acquire Dylan Cease to the early May deal for Luis Arraez to winning the craziest game of the season on Friday, when they blew a 7-2 lead in the top of the ninth only to walk it off with Jurickson Profar's game-tying home run and Manny Machado's walk-off blast in a 10-8 win over the Diamondbacks. Profar has arguably been the biggest surprise of the first half and will start the All-Star Game after being one of the worst-hitting regulars in the majors in 2023. Rookie center fielder Jackson Merrill has not only adapted nicely to moving from shortstop, but he's suddenly showing power as well, hitting nine of his 12 homers in a 16-game stretch in June. And don't be surprised if GM A.J. Preller makes another big trade to add some pitching help.

Houston Astros: B-

I'm giving the Astros a solid grade because they had every reason to pack it in back in early May, when they were 12-24 with a pitching rotation ravaged by injuries. Even as recently as June 18, they were 10 games behind the Mariners in the AL West. Now they're right back in it and probably rate as the division favorite given the trend lines. Luis Garcia has started his minor league rehab from Tommy John surgery, and they'll hopefully get Justin Verlander back after the All-Star break as he nurses a neck injury. They've also been without Kyle Tucker since June 3. The bullpen can't be any worse than it has been so far. Reports also suggest the Astros will look to be aggressive at the trade deadline. In other words: There's every reason to expect them to be even better in the second half.

Seattle Mariners: C+

It has been a roller coaster of these first three-plus months for the Mariners. Bottom line: They're in first place, so things could be much worse. On the other hand, they've nearly blown a 10-game lead ... in less than a month. In the division era (since 1969), only seven teams have blown a 10-game division lead. Besides the blown lead, this offense is unwatchable. The Mariners' self-stated goal this offseason was to cut down on strikeouts -- well, they lead the majors in strikeouts by a mile. They just went 11 games in a row striking out at least 10 times and failing to record 10 hits in any game. Julio Rodriguez's struggles remain one of the season's biggest disappointments; he somehow had a 46-game stretch in which he hit just one double. The Mariners haven't won a division title since 2001. I'm not sure that drought ends in 2024.

New York Mets: C+

Did we expect more from the Mets than .500? Not really. None of our ESPN voters picked them to win the division. None picked them to win a wild card. That was probably a little harsh, as my colleague Brad Doolittle's preseason odds gave them a 24% chance of making the playoffs. Still, the Mets being the Mets, nobody expected them to produce at their higher level of probability. They were 24-35 in early June but have turned things around. After a slow start, the offense looks formidable with Mark Vientos crushing it and Francisco Alvarez back after missing two months, while Francisco Lindor has heated up since being moved into the leadoff spot. Is there enough pitching here to chase down a wild card?

Washington Nationals: C+

The win-loss record isn't that much better than 2023, but this is a much improved team. CJ Abrams has had a great first half at the plate, Luis Garcia Jr. has shown a little pop, and MacKenzie Gore continues to grow into his front-of-the-rotation potential. Unheralded Jake Irvin has pitched even better than Gore, while rookie lefties Mitchell Parker and DJ Herz have shown promise as well. Jacob Young might be the Gold Glove center fielder. And now James Wood is up with the big league team and looks like a future star. The overall roster depth is still lacking, and none of these guys is a proven star yet, but the Nationals are heading in the right direction.

St. Louis Cardinals: C

I'm giving the Cardinals a C because of where they are in the standings, but the underlying numbers don't impress. They've been outscored by a decent margin, Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt are looking past their prime (Arenado has even slipped on defense) and the outfield offensive production has been among the worst in the majors. Unlike last year, at least the top four in the rotation have stayed healthy and Sonny Gray and Kyle Gibson have been solid offseason additions. However, if Arenado, Goldschmidt, Nolan Gorman and Lars Nootbaar start hitting, don't count the Cards out.

Pittsburgh Pirates: C

The Pirates are kind of what we thought they would be: mediocre. Except they have Paul Skenes and Jared Jones and maybe those two rookie starters are reason alone to bump this grade up a bit (although Jones just landed on the IL with a lat strain). Skenes is 5-0 with a 2.12 ERA through his first 10 starts, ranking right up there with Mark Fidrych, Fernando Valenzuela, Hideo Nomo and Stephen Strasburg for the most electric first two months we've seen from a rookie starter. Jones has a 3.56 ERA with 98 strikeouts in 91 innings. Mitch Keller gives them a third top starter.

As for the offense, Bryan Reynolds has been excellent and Oneil Cruz has had his moments, but Ke'Bryan Hayes hasn't hit at all and Henry Davis has once again failed to launch.

Atlanta Braves: C-

Obviously, the Braves are much better than many of the teams with better grades, but they're being graded against preseason expectations, which include being heavy favorites in the NL East (24 of 26 first-place votes) as well as World Series favorites (13 of 26 votes). Instead, the Phillies have pulled way ahead in the division thanks to the Braves' offense turning into a pumpkin after one of the best seasons in history in 2023. They've declined from 5.85 runs per game to 4.33, a result that goes beyond Ronald Acuna Jr.'s season-ending injury to just about every player in the lineup. The weird thing about the record is that GM Alex Anthopoulos' offseason moves have all worked out: Chris Sale and Reynaldo Lopez are All-Stars and Jarred Kelenic has been fine. The Braves just need to get the bats going.

Arizona Diamondbacks: C-

Coming off their surprise World Series appearance, it's been a mixed bag for Arizona. Ketel Marte and Christian Walker have been terrific, and Joc Pederson has raked at DH, but that's been offset by some of the disappointments and/or injuries: Corbin Carroll (OPS down 250 points), Jordan Montgomery (6-5, but a 6.44 ERA), Merrill Kelly (injured), Eugenio Suarez (OPS barely over .600), Alex Thomas (injured). The Diamondbacks have managed to stay in the wild-card race, however, and if Carroll can turn it around and Montgomery and Kelly get back, this team could still be capable of making a run just like last season.

San Francisco Giants: C-

Sixteen of our 26 voters picked the Giants to win a wild card, which was understandable after an offseason that saw them bring in Blake Snell, Matt Chapman, Jorge Soler, Jung Hoo Lee, Jordan Hicks and Robbie Ray. Or maybe it was an overreaction to a team that still had some flaws. That group has seen mixed results: Snell is 0-3 with a 7.85 ERA in seven starts, Lee injured his shoulder after 38 games and is out for the season and Soler has just 10 home runs after hitting 36 last year. But Chapman leads the team in WAR and Hicks' transition to a starter has worked out well. The key to a potential playoff: getting Snell and Ray (returning from Tommy John surgery) to make a big impact the rest of the way.

Cincinnati Reds: C-

The Reds were a semi-popular pick to make the playoffs -- which they haven't done in a full season since 2013 -- so their record is a little disappointing. They have outscored their opponents, so they've underachieved a bit compared to their underlying runs scored and allowed (they're 8-16 in one-run games). Elly De La Cruz might hit 30 home runs and steal 80 bases, so he alone makes the Reds entertaining, but the lineup just hasn't been good enough. They're playing the Rockies, Marlins and Nationals in this stretch before the All-Star break. They need to clean up, get to .500 and find more consistency on the offensive end.

Tampa Bay Rays: D+

It was always going to be a tough road for the Rays, beginning the season with four-fifths of an excellent rotation on the IL: Shane McClanahan, Jeffrey Springs, Drew Rasmussen and Shane Baz (not to mention trading Tyler Glasnow in the offseason). But the Rays are held to their own high standards no matter how long the injury list. They've overachieved just to hang around .500, but they haven't really played close to that level with a minus-65 run differential -- and it's the offense to blame more than the pitching, as they've fallen from second in the AL in runs to 11th. Tampa Bay certainly isn't out of the wild-card race, and if guys like Yandy Diaz, Randy Arozarena and Josh Lowe find their 2023 strokes, you never know -- but it doesn't feel like the Rays' year.

Detroit Tigers: D+

The last time the Tigers ranked in the top half of the AL in runs scored? 2016. Yes, once again it's another weak Detroit offense: 9th in the AL in runs scored, 12th in batting average, 12th in home runs and 14th in OBP. For every step forward (Riley Greene), there's a step backward (Spencer Torkelson), or a step off a cliff (Javier Baez). The sad part is that the Tigers made one of the best signings of the offseason in Jack Flaherty, while Tarik Skubal is a Cy Young candidate and Reese Olson gives them an outstanding trio of starters. There just isn't enough to go around those three, and the Tigers appear on their way to an eighth straight losing season.

Chicago Cubs: D

The Cubs should have made the playoffs last year and didn't. Many expected them to make the playoffs this year -- and they're in last place in the NL Central. What's going wrong? Mostly, a lot of little regressions across the roster: Nico Hoerner and Dansby Swanson combined for 9.9 WAR last season, but they're at just 2.0 WAR in more than half a season this year; Cody Bellinger has been OK but not as good; and Christopher Morel has fallen off. But there have been some big issues as well: The catchers haven't hit at all; longtime rotation stalwart Kyle Hendricks has a 7.53 ERA; and the bullpen hasn't been good (what happened to manager Craig Counsell's magic touch that he always had in Milwaukee?). Is it fixable? I think so, but they dug a big hole.

Texas Rangers: D

Will the Rangers end up going down as one of the all-time fluke World Series champions? Hey, it's possible: They were 68-94 in 2022 and are well under .500 so far in 2024. The offense, so dominant a season ago, has had a surprising collapse similar to what's happened with Atlanta. It feels like there's too much talent here to keep struggling like this, but Marcus Semien and Adolis Garcia have sub-.300 OBPs while rookies Evan Carter and Wyatt Langford haven't taken off (Josh Smith has actually been the team's best hitter). On the pitching side, Max Scherzer is back with Tyler Mahle just about to start his minor league rehab, and Jacob deGrom perhaps a month behind Mahle, which sets him up for a late August return. Will the Rangers still be in it at that time?

Oakland Athletics: D

We'll limit this assessment to on-field performance only and not everything else that is the disaster that is the Athletics organization. While this season is better than last year's 47-115 train wreck of a season, the A's are still not good and could be headed to another 100-loss season. I'm not sure that's progress to brag about. All-Star closer Mason Miller has been fun, and Brent Rooker might be an interesting trade candidate. Shea Langeliers is mashing home runs, but the .258 OBP has to improve. Other young players like Tyler Soderstrom, Zack Gelof (whose rookie season was 2023) and Lawrence Butler have all struggled, so it's hard to know what to make of the A's future. With the team set on playing in Sacramento in 2025, it's an inglorious end to 57 years in Oakland.

Colorado Rockies: D-

Well, nobody expected the Rockies to be good and they haven't been. The troubling thing is that there's no sign of progress here either, as they're matching last year's 103-loss pace. The biggest plus has been shortstop Ezequiel Tovar, who signed a seven-year, $63.5 million extension in March. He's a potential Gold Glover this year with some power, although he needs to learn to stop swinging at every pitch between Pikes Peak and Red Rocks. Nolan Jones has failed to match his big 2023 numbers, although Brenton Doyle has been a big surprise at the plate to go with his defense in center. Still, the Rockies strike out too much (most in the NL) and the pitching, even adjusting for Coors Field, remains poor.

Toronto Blue Jays: F

Think of how Blue Jays fans felt for those few joyful minutes last December when they thought they had signed Shohei Ohtani. Now think how they feel. Their team is mired in last place with perhaps a roster blow-up coming at the trade deadline: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, Chris Bassitt and Yusei Kikuchi are certainly at least trade possibilities, although maybe the front office brings Guerrero and Bichette back for one last run. The Jays haven't figured out how to get over the hump, with three playoff trips since 2020 resulting in an 0-6 record. The offense has been bad and the bullpen a mess, with bad vibes just oozing everywhere.

Los Angeles Angels: F

Nobody can be surprised by this, right? The Angels are now headed to their ninth consecutive losing season. There has been no tanking, no rebuilding here. They've been trying to win, they're not a small-market team and they've had good players. It's just been a lot of below-average baseball. Except this year, without Ohtani and with Mike Trout injured, it's been even worse than normal. Their .407 winning percentage would be the franchise's worst since 1980.

Miami Marlins: F

Let's see: Last in the NL in on-base percentage, last in slugging, last in home runs, last in walks, last -- needless to say -- in runs scored. They're also last in the NL in defensive runs saved, first (meaning last) in errors and next to last in runs allowed (the Rockies have allowed more).

The Marlins made the playoffs last year, hired a new GM and then did nothing in the offseason. My bad, they did sign Tim Anderson, who was let go after posting an OPS+ of 30, the lowest for a player with at least 240 plate appearances since Lewis Brinson and Jeff Mathis in 2019. Amazingly, their catchers have been just as bad as Anderson was. Of course, they have six starting pitchers on the IL, so even a lineup with Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Barry Bonds would have trouble overcoming that. It's a little mean to bury the Marlins because of the rotation injuries, but this position player group needs a complete overhaul.

Chicago White Sox: F-

The remarkable aspect to the 2024 White Sox is Erick Fedde and Garrett Crochet rank third and fourth in the AL in WAR among pitchers. Indeed, the White Sox made two of the best decisions of the offseason: signing Fedde after a year in Korea and moving Crochet from the bullpen to the rotation. And they're still on pace for the worst record in franchise history -- that's the 49-102 White Sox of 1932 (by winning percentage) or the 56-106 White Sox of 1970 (by losses). Now comes the big question: Will the White Sox make the trade deadline a lot more interesting by dealing Crochet and/or Fedde?