Which team has been the best surprise this season?
Well, not too much of a surprise here. Staggering to realize that just two years ago, the Orioles lost 110 games, the same number as the Diamondbacks. Last year, they improved by a whopping 31 victories, but that was still only enough to get them fourth place in the meat-grinder which is the American League East. Pre-season expectations were muted. Some expected regression predicting the team to have a losing record. But instead, Baltimore is currently on pace for 99 wins, which would be their best mark in over forty years, since 1980. They have not made the post-season in longer than Arizona, since 2016, and haven’t won a playoff game for even longer, since 2012. Both streaks may well end this year.
The Reds have had a nice turnaround, considering they lost 100 games in 2022. For them even to be in the conversation for a wild-card is impressive. However, they have been outscored by 20 runs so far, and I’d not be surprised to see them fading down the stretch - much like the sheen on Elly de la Cruz. I’d not hard to improve on 100 losses. I think the Rangers have probably been a better surprise in my mind. They’re on pace for 96 wins, a 170 point increase in win percentage, which is both bigger than the Reds (133 points), and starting from a higher baseline. I never find the Cubs a pleasant surprise, and the Mariners are 11 points down on last year, so I’m not sure who voted for them...
Who is the best team in baseball right now?
Again, this is probably not too difficult a question, with the Braves possessing the best record in baseball, and the biggest run differential, outscoring their opponents by an average of 1.7 runs per game. This means they are on pace to have a differential of +281 runs by the end of the season. The only team above that in the past twenty years are the Dodgers last season who ended with +334. However, it is worth noting that the Texas Rangers are at +195, although they sit two games back of the Orioles (a mere +58) in the standings. The Dodgers, with an 11-game winning streak, have also narrowed the gap considerably on the Braves, and are four back in the battle for the #1 seed in the NL.
As for the Rays, it’s amazing to think that at the end of the first month of the season, the two best records in the majors belonged to them (23-6) and the Pirates (20-9). Now, the Rays are looking at a wild-card spot, and the Pirates have fallen off the grid entirely. Indeed, after being the best team in the NL through April, they have been the WORST team in the league from May on. Their 34-58 record is three games below that of the Rockies. The Rays at least have still posted a winning record, going 50-44. But it definitely feels like they have been coasting, after winning their first thirteen contests of the season.
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