Major League Baseball looks different in 2023. The pitch clock has shaved about half an hour off the average game time. New rules that encourage running have boosted stolen bases by nearly 50 percent. The Mets are disappointing their fans in the spring and early summer, instead of waiting until September as usual.
We’ve reached the halfway point of the regular season, which means it’s time to uphold Ringer tradition and power-rank all 30 teams. A whole lot has changed since we last judged them before Opening Day. Let’s make like George Springer and dive in.
1. Atlanta Braves (53-27)
Preseason Rank: 2
The key question for Atlanta in the second half of the season isn’t whether the team will win its sixth consecutive NL East title, or even whether the team will finish with the National League’s best record. Atlanta is projected for 101 wins, according to FanGraphs’ playoff odds, with no other NL team’s total above 91.
Instead of competing against other teams in 2023, then, Atlanta’s stars are competing against history. Ronald Acuña Jr. is the NL MVP favorite, on pace for 38 homers and 73 stolen bases; the record for home runs in a 70-steal season is 28, by Rickey Henderson in 1986. And Cy Young candidate Spencer Strider has struck out 38.9 percent of opposing hitters; the record for a qualified starter over a full season is also 38.9 percent, by Gerrit Cole in 2019. (Shane Bieber recorded a 41 percent strikeout rate in the shortened 2020 campaign.)
2. Tampa Bay Rays (56-28)
Preseason Rank: 9
The Rays have a long-held reputation for winning with pitching and defense, but that formula isn’t the reason for their success this season. Injuries have ravaged the Rays’ vaunted pitching depth: Tampa Bay’s bullpen ranks 27th in fWAR, and the starting rotation has been shaky beyond Shane McClanahan and Zach Eflin.
Luckily, the offense has picked up the slack, posting a teamwide 126 wRC+; the AL/NL record for highest team wRC+ in a season is the Murderers’ Row Yankees with 125. (That stat is measured on a scale with 100 as the average, so a 126 means 26 percent better than average.) Individually, Yandy Díaz ranks second in the AL, Randy Arozarena third, and Isaac Paredes fourth, meaning the Rays boast the three best non-Shohei Ohtani batters in the league this season. And that tally doesn’t even include standouts like Wander Franco, Josh Lowe, or Harold Ramírez, all of whom are at least 25 percent better than average at the plate. In 2021, the Rays finished second in the majors in runs as they clinched the AL’s best record—and the offense is even better this season.
3. Texas Rangers (49-32)
Preseason Rank: 17
Challenging the Rays for both the AL’s best record and its best lineup are the Rangers, who have nine players with at least 200 plate appearances this season, eight of whom have a wRC+ of 120 or better.
Corey Seager leads the way with an absurd .345/.411/.609 slash line, but Texas has benefited from across-the-board contributions courtesy of veterans like Seager and Marcus Semien, mid-career players like Nathaniel Lowe and Jonah Heim, and youngsters like Josh Jung and Leody Taveras. The top of the pitching rotation is less fearsome with Jacob deGrom out for the year, but as long as Nathan Eovaldi retains his current form and the offense keeps bashing, Texas isn’t going to be an easy out this postseason.
4. Arizona Diamondbacks (48-34)
Preseason Rank: 21
The best team in the NL is Atlanta, led by its aforementioned MVP and Cy Young candidates. But the second-best team in the NL has its own duo worth celebrating, as rookie Corbin Carroll ranks second among NL position players in fWAR and Zac Gallen ranks first among pitchers.
The odd part about the Diamondbacks’ season is that they’re in first place in the NL West, ahead of even the Dodgers, despite lots of holes: Carroll is the only one of the team’s many young outfielders hitting well, new catcher Gabriel Moreno has struggled at the plate despite his prospect pedigree, and the rotation hasn’t clicked beyond Gallen (though at least Madison Bumgarner and his 10.26 ERA have been released). That dissonance means Arizona has plenty of ways it can theoretically improve its roster this summer; it’s easier to use a trade to jump from terrible to decent at a position than to jump from good to great. FanGraphs still has the Dodgers favored to win the division, but the Diamondbacks are going to make them earn it.
5. Baltimore Orioles (48-31)
Preseason Rank: 20
Most teams that improve by as much as the Orioles did from 2021 to 2022 regress the following season, Bill James’s “plexiglass principle” in action. But the young O’s have busted right through that theoretical ceiling, with Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, and others leading the team toward the playoffs. The future already looked bright in Baltimore; now, the present does, too.
But perhaps not quite as bright as Baltimore’s record implies. The Orioles’ BaseRuns record—an estimate of their expected record based on their underlying performance—says they should be about a .500 team; their eight-win overperformance is the largest in the majors thus far, suggesting they may soon come back to earth. And with all due respect to Tyler Wells and his .193 opposing BABIP, the team’s rotation leaves much to be desired, especially in a prospective wild-card round against other AL aces. Baltimore might need to use some of its prospect depth to swing a trade for a meaningful pitching upgrade before the deadline.
6. Los Angeles Dodgers (45-35)
Preseason Rank: 5
The Dodgers entered this season with an unusual number of holes, banking on replacing the likes of Trea Turner with internal substitutes and veteran castoffs. That approach has paid some dividends through the rejuvenation of Jason Heyward and promotion of pitching prospect Bobby Miller, but it’s also led to more stumbles and false starts (see: James Outman’s monthly splits) than is typical for the NL team with the longest ongoing track record of success.
As long as Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts, and Clayton Kershaw stay healthy, the Dodgers will still coast to the playoffs. But they’re in a real division race now, and their roster could look very different in October than it does today. Halfway through the season, it still feels like manager Dave Roberts is figuring out which players he can trust.
7. San Francisco Giants (45-36)
Preseason Rank: 15
Before the season, I wrote that the Giants ranked a fitting 15th in my rankings because they “finished 81-81 last season and enter 2023 with a mostly average lineup, a mostly average rotation, and a mostly average bullpen.” Lo and behold, they were 32-32 through 64 games. Then they swung a 10-game win streak, including six consecutive victories over the Dodgers and Padres, to zoom up the standings and in this power poll. Given various injuries afflicting the roster and a lack of reliable rotation options beyond Logan Webb, it’s difficult to imagine the Giants keeping pace with the Diamondbacks and Dodgers, but they’re in a much better position now than they were just two weeks ago.
8. Miami Marlins (48-34)
Preseason Rank: 23
What exactly are we to make of these Marlins? On one hand, they’ve managed to blend a set of incredibly entertaining characteristics: Luis Arraez’s .396 batting average, Eury Pérez’s electric start (1.34 ERA through nine games), and an MLB-best 19-5 record in one-run games. On the other hand, well, that 19-5 record means they’re 48-34 despite a neutral run differential. Through Wednesday’s games, they have a worse run differential than the Padres and Cubs, who both have 11 fewer wins than Miami. So, will Arraez’s .400 chase and Miami’s winning ways persist? In both cases, probably not. But will it be fun to watch them both try? Of course.
9. New York Yankees (45-36)
Preseason Rank: 7
Yankees fans expecting better than an 89-win pace from a team that won 99 a year ago might protest their team being ranked in the top 10, but that placement says more about the incredibly muddled standings than about New York specifically. The next four teams on this list—the Yankees, Blue Jays, Angels, and Astros—could all go in any order, as they’re all within two games of each other in the standings, with rosters full of simultaneous promise and problems.
For New York, the biggest issue is a complete lack of offense with Aaron Judge injured; the 62-home-run man was just as dynamic at the plate this season before he ran through a wall while making a catch at Dodger Stadium on June 3, and he might be out awhile longer as he recovers from the ensuing toe injury. New York is kind of the anti-Rangers, with a lineup dependent on one superb star rather than depth: Anthony Rizzo is the only other Yankee with at least 150 plate appearances and a wRC+ better than 106.
10. Toronto Blue Jays (45-37)
Preseason Rank: 8
In 2011, a young Blue Jays pitcher named Ricky Romero enjoyed a breakout campaign: He made the All-Star team, finished with a 2.92 ERA, and received downballot Cy Young consideration. The next season, though, he posted a 5.77 ERA; a year after that, he was out of the majors entirely.
That’s an ominous precedent for Toronto fans, given that Alek Manoah finished with a 2.24 ERA and a third-place Cy Young showing last season, before collapsing to a 6.36 ERA in 2023. Demoted all the way to the rookie-level Florida Complex League, Manoah allowed 11 runs in 2 2/3 innings in an outing earlier this week. Manoah has a long way to go to return to his 2022 form, but the Blue Jays could use that sort of spark: The offense is solid and Kevin Gausman leads the majors in pitching fWAR, but the Blue Jays are in desperate need of pitching depth behind him.
11. Los Angeles Angels (44-39)
Preseason Rank: 16
The Angels aren’t stuck at .500! They’re in the playoff hunt! They’ll keep Ohtani instead of trading him in July! And with those exclamations out of the way, I’m going to move on to the next team now, because Ohtani has been so extraordinary this season, he and Mike Trout actually have a real chance to reach the playoffs together, and I don’t want to jinx that possibility any more than I already have.
12. Houston Astros (44-37)
Preseason Rank: 1
Call it a championship hangover, blame it on injuries, or chalk it up to bad luck. Whatever the reason, the Astros’ first half is best characterized as—and this is an official baseball term—blah. Framber Valdez leads an excellent pitching staff, but the lineup hasn’t held up its end of the bargain thus far, as just about every key Astro has underperformed or been hurt. With an unsightly 72 wRC+ at an offense-first position, first baseman José Abreu is the biggest culprit; the longtime White Sox slugger looked like a perfect fit in Houston when he signed in free agency, but he ranks 153rd out of 154 qualifying hitters in fWAR, at 0.9 wins below replacement level thus far.
13. Philadelphia Phillies (43-37)
Preseason Rank: 6
As surely every savvy baseball pundit predicted before the season, Brandon Marsh and Bryson Stott have combined for more WAR than Trea Turner, J.T. Realmuto, Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, and Alec Bohm put together. Frankly, the Phillies are fortunate to have a winning record even though five of their top six batters (only Nick Castellanos has been spared) haven’t hit yet. Maybe the bats will wake up and Philadelphia will enjoy another second-half surge, just as it did a season ago.
14. Boston Red Sox (40-42)
Preseason Rank: 19
The poor Red Sox would be favored to win either of the Central divisions this season, but instead they’re stuck in last place in the über-competitive AL East. The best news for Boston is that two key players are exceeding expectations: Japanese rookie outfielder Masataka Yoshida, who sports a 129 wRC+, and 24-year-old pitcher Brayan Bello, who’s compiled a 3.27 ERA as he seeks to become the best homegrown Red Sox starter in years.
15. San Diego Padres (37-44)
Preseason Rank: 4
I still believe in the Padres, despite their lousy half season, because I can’t fathom how their record is quite this poor. Juan Soto has a 153 wRC+ despite a slow start. Fernando Tatis Jr. is back in the MVP conversation. Josh Hader (1.26 ERA, 37 percent strikeout rate) is as dominant as ever following an aberrant 2022. Yet the team can’t seem to gain any positive momentum and keeps sliding further behind the top three teams in the division. Don’t count the Padres out, especially because they’ve underperformed their BaseRuns record by six wins so far (tied for the second-largest gap in the majors). But they’re running out of time to make a move up the standings.
16. Seattle Mariners (38-41)
Preseason Rank: 11
The Mariners added four position players on MLB contracts this winter. Thus far, Teoscar Hernández has a 106 wRC+, after posting a 132 wRC+ over his last three seasons. The other three—Kolten Wong, Tommy La Stella, and AJ Pollock—are hitting a combined .161/.236/.245. (La Stella was waived in May.) It’s no wonder that Seattle’s offense, which is also affected by Julio Rodríguez’s sophomore slump, is holding back the majors’ second-best pitching staff by fWAR.
17. Cincinnati Reds (43-38)
Preseason Rank: 25
18. Milwaukee Brewers (43-38)
Preseason Rank: 13
19. Minnesota Twins (40-42)
Preseason Rank: 14
20. Cleveland Guardians (39-41)
Preseason Rank: 12
21. Chicago Cubs (37-42)
Preseason Rank: 18
22. Pittsburgh Pirates (38-42)
Preseason Rank: 24
23. St. Louis Cardinals (33-47)
Preseason Rank: 10
Yes, I am lumping all seven of these Central division “contenders” together, and specifically making sure to keep all of them outside the top 15—in other words, in the bottom half of the league’s pecking order. Because shame on you, Central divisions! Every one of your 10 teams has either a losing record or negative run differential—or both. They have individual bright spots, to be sure: the Reds’ thrilling rookie infield duo of Elly De La Cruz and Matt McLain; a tremendous top of the Twins’ rotation; Christopher Morel’s apparent transformation into Roy Hobbs.
But every Central team is projected for at least 79 losses, and not one has even a 1-in-30 chance of winning the World Series, per FanGraphs’ odds. At least we know early on which division winners will land the no. 3 seed, rather than a top-two record and first-round playoff bye.
In the AL Central, the Twins’ best players are all struggling at the plate, while the Guardians’ stellar rotation is once again paired with a punchless lineup outside of José Ramírez. In the NL Central, the Reds’ surprise surge to first place is worth celebrating, but even they’re on shaky ground, given their rotation injuries and less encouraging underlying stats. The Reds have outperformed their BaseRuns record by seven games, tied for second most in the majors with the Brewers—who can usually depend on their starting rotation, but have seen Corbin Burnes and Freddy Peralta regress, and Brandon Woodruff hit the injured list. And the Cardinals are one of the majors’ biggest disappointments, as strange clubhouse drama and a disastrous pitching staff have made it more likely the team will trade reigning MVP Paul Goldschmidt at the deadline than actually contend for the division title.
24. New York Mets (36-45)
Preseason Rank: 3
The Padres and Cardinals have made valiant efforts, but they can’t catch the Mets for the title of most disappointing 2023 squad. At least the Padres have solid underlying metrics, and at least the Cardinals looked more like a playoff hopeful than a legitimate championship favorite before the season. The Mets have fallen the furthest: They won 101 games last season, signed Justin Verlander (albeit to replace deGrom), and are now well below .500 with a BaseRuns record to match.
While typically solid hitters like Francisco Lindor, Jeff McNeil, and Starling Marte have all struggled to varying degrees, the true problem is the pitching staff, which ranks 29th in fWAR. Given that Oakland’s sad excuse for a rotation ranks 30th, the Mets might as well rank last. Verlander and Max Scherzer finally look mortal, Carlos Carrasco is practically unplayable, and the depth options are even worse. (Perhaps building a pitching staff out of old guys wasn’t the best idea.) If only because the rest of the NL’s wild-card contenders are so mediocre, the Mets still have a playoff shot—but the team with the majors’ highest payroll has an 88 percent chance of missing the postseason, per FanGraphs odds.
25. Detroit Tigers (35-45)
Preseason Rank: 27
Just about all of the Tigers’ young pitchers, in whom they invested so many resources, are now injured. And Riley Greene, who’s also on the injured list, is the only position player with any thump in his bat. Former no. 1 pick Spencer Torkelson has basically the same wRC+ (86) as Miguel Cabrera (84). The whole idea was for Torkelson, a fellow first baseman, to hit like Miggy in his prime, not like Miggy in his 40s.
26. Chicago White Sox (36-47)
Preseason Rank: 22
Other than a quietly excellent Luis Robert Jr. campaign (141 wRC+, 23 homers), there are almost no positives to glean from this White Sox season. They have a bottom-10 lineup and bottom-10 pitching staff, and they can’t even find their way into a division race in which the leader is below .500. It’s time for another rebuild on the South Side, I suppose.
27. Washington Nationals (32-48)
Preseason Rank: 28
A year after the Juan Soto trade, the most important development for the Nationals’ long-term outlook is that top prospect James Wood, who came to the organization in the Soto deal, has reached Double-A after tearing through High-A. At the major league level, MacKenzie Gore has turned in a solid, if walk-prone, half season, and CJ Abrams has scuffled to a 79 wRC+. Washington would surely like those other players from the Soto trade to continue to develop, but the franchise’s greatest hope is that Wood can replace Soto as a like-for-like slugging outfielder, much as Soto replaced Bryce Harper four years ago.
28. Colorado Rockies (32-51)
Preseason Rank: 29
Rockies starting pitchers have a collective 6.51 ERA this season, which is terrible even accounting for the Coors Field effect. That’s the worst mark for any Rockies staff in franchise history. Kyle Freeland has a 4.88 ERA, and Germán Márquez was at 4.95 through four starts before undergoing Tommy John surgery; every other Rockies pitcher with at least three starts is at 5.86 or higher.
29. Kansas City Royals (23-58)
Preseason Rank: 26
The biggest bright spot among the 2022 Royals’ position players was rookie first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino, who’s out for the rest of this season after tearing his labrum. The biggest bright spot among their pitchers was Brady Singer, who now has a 5.88 ERA. The only reason to watch Kansas City the rest of the way is to see if Jordan Lyles, with a 1-11 record and 6.68 ERA, can become the majors’ first 20-game loser since Mike Maroth lost 21 in 2003; no other MLB pitcher has lost 20 in a single season since 1980.
30. Oakland Athletics (21-62)
Preseason Rank: 30
Speaking of Mike Maroth! In 2003, he pitched for the Tigers, who narrowly avoided MLB’s worst-ever record with a 43-119 showing. The modern loss record is 120, set by the 1962 expansion Mets; the 2023 Athletics are on pace for a 41-121 mark. At least that finish could be close; the A’s are also on pace to be outscored by 468 runs, which would absolutely shatter the modern run differential record of minus-349, by the 1932 Red Sox. Oakland fans don’t deserve what owner John Fisher has done to their team.
Stats are current through Wednesday’s games.