With the 2017 MLB season nearing the halfway point, it’s a good time to assess the current standings. The surprises (Rockies, Diamondbacks, Yankees) and disappointments (Mets, Cubs, Cardinals) may not finish where they started, but have certainly made things more interesting. The dominant play of the pre-season title contenders (Astros, Nationals), meanwhile, has been exactly what we expected, but no less exciting. There’s still plenty of baseball left, but here’s how the divisions stack up thus far.
6. National League East (N.L. East) Division
The N.L. East has been a disappointment, as the Nationals (42-27) are the only team currently worth watching. Washington has serious postseason aspirations and appears on the right path. The Mets (31-37), meanwhile, have brought the division down with them, making what should have been a good race a snoozer. New York still has hopes it can close the gap once it gets healthy, but it might be too late by then. Philadelphia (22-46) is in full-on tank mode, and while Atlanta (31-37) and Miami (30-37) are not technically out of it, their Wild Card dreams are as realistic as Philly’s. The N.L. East may produce just one winning ball club in 2017.
5. American League West (A.L. West) Division
The A.L. West race has been similar to that of the N.L. East, with the Houston Astros (46-34) riding an 11-game lead over the second-place Texas Rangers (34-34). That said, while the Astros boast the best record in MLB, there’s still hope for the rest of the division, as both the Rangers, Angels (36-37) and Mariners (34-37) are within striking distance (2.5 games or less) of a Wild Card spot. Even the last-place Athletics (31-38), who just completed a four-game sweep of the Yankees, are still in contention. It appears unlikely that the A.L. West will place two teams in the playoffs considering the strength of the A.L. East, but there’s still a shot.
4. American League Central (A.L. Central) Division
The defending American League champion Cleveland Indians (36-31) have not gotten out to the start they envisioned, but have been playing better baseball as of late (7-3 in their last ten games). We expect the Tribe to continue to recover and make another strong push. The surprise of the A.L. Central has been the Minnesota Twins (34-33), who got out to a hot start, but have since cooled off (3-7 in their last ten). The White Sox (31-37) have also been a pleasant surprise, giving this division a competitive boost that will help Cleveland in the long term. While Minny has been pretty good, we expect the Royals (33-35) and/or the Tigers (32-26) to overtake them in the next few weeks as these veteran squads hunt down Wild Card berths.
3. National League Central (N.L Central) Division
The N.L. Central was baseball’s deepest division in 2015, but was only a one-horse race last season due to the dominance of the 103-win Chicago Cubs. This year, the defending champs are off to a lackluster start (34-34), giving the rest of the Central a shot. Milwaukee (38-33) has capitalized off of Chicago’s mediocre play, taking a 2.5-game division lead. The Cubs should overtake them soon, but Milwaukee will still be a serious Wild Card contender. The Cardinals’ (31-37) rotation was a strong point early on, but has been a mess in the past 25 games (5.76 ERA). St. Louis could make this a three-team race if it can ever get its bats and rotation in-sync. Pittsburgh (31-38) is not out of it, but the next few weeks will determine if it is a buyer or a seller at the trade deadline. Cincinnati (29-39) fans would have a better time checking out next year’s draft prospects than watching any more Reds games this year.
2. American League East (A.L. East) Division
The emergence of the first-place Yankees (38-29) has boosted the A.L. East, making this season’s race one of the best in recent memory. The Baby Bombers have lived up to their billing at the plate, but questions remain about New York’s starting rotation. The Yankees will likely add another arm at the trade deadline, but still need Masahiro Tanaka to pitch like his typical self to seriously contend in 2017. Boston (39-30) has been playing better as of late (7-3 in its last ten) and still looks like the division’s top World Series contender. Tampa Bay (37-35) and Baltimore (34-34) are in the thick of the Wild Card race and could give the division three playoff teams. By season’s end, the A.L. East very well could be the best division in MLB. Right now though, the edge goes to the N.L. West.
1. National League West (N.L. West) Division
While Los Angeles (44-26) was the N.L. West team with pre-season World Series expectations, it has taken a backseat to the upstart Colorado Rockies (46-26) and Arizona Diamondbacks (44-26) thus far. All three teams have been dominant at home, but Colorado has been great (25-13) away from Coors Field, too. As fun as the Rockies and Diamondbacks have been, the jury is still out on their contender statuses. If they’re the real deal, this division race will be the best in all of MLB. More likely is one of those two comes back to reality and falls to the middle of the pack while L.A. takes control of the division. San Diego (28-42) and San Francisco (26-45) fans should enjoy their summer days away from the ballpark in 2017.