Traditionally, baseball pundits have said that it’s not worth looking at the MLB standings until at least Memorial Day. There’s some logic to this: in a league where almost every team will both win and lose at least 50 games during the season, it takes a while to separate short hot and cold streaks from the indicators of long-term success.
With Memorial Day having passed us by on Monday, this is as good a time as any to see how the 2018 MLB season is shaping up. Several compelling storylines are shaping up as we head into the dog days of summer, and the following a just a few of the surprises, disappointments, and performances fans will want to track over the months to come.
1. Haves and Have-Nots
Take one look at the MLB standings, and something quickly becomes apparent: there are some very good teams, as well as some terrible squads who are already effectively out of contention. While this is always the case, the difference seems particularly stark this year, showing that there’s less parity in MLB than in any year in recent memory.
The Yankees, Red Sox, Astros, and Brewers are all on pace to hit 100 wins, while the Reds, Marlins, Orioles, White Sox, and Royals are on track to lose at least 100. If that keeps up, this could lead to some of the most lopsided divisional races in years – along with highly anticipated playoff meetings between teams with gaudy records.
2. Trout vs. Betts
The hottest debate in baseball is all about who should win the AL MVP award. The two leading candidates appear to be two-time MVP Mike Trout and Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, and both have ardent supporters.
Traditional stats favor Betts, who leads the major leagues in batting average and OPS. But Trout does lead the league in homers, and Baseball References pegs his overall performance at 4.9 Wins Above Replacement – a mark that puts him on the pace for a season that could go down as perhaps the greatest of all time. While one of the two could pull away and make this an easy choice, this race could end up splitting writers on ideological and generational lines.
3. Upside Down NL East
When the season began, the Washington Nationals were supposed to run away with the NL East, with only the New York Mets posing any sort of a challenge to them. But the Nationals have struggled with injuries, and the Mets have floundered after a historically strong start.
On the other hand, the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies have both been pleasant surprises. The two clubs are now in a virtual dead heat with Washington for first place in the division, though oddsmakers like William Hill still think the Nationals (4/7) are the favorites to win the division over the Braves (4/1), Phillies (5/1), and Mets (10/1).
4. Disappointing Dodgers
The Los Angeles Dodgers came into this season as the defending National League champions, and one of a few “superteams” that were expected to be serious World Series contenders. But the 25-29 Dodgers have failed to get anything going this season, underperforming in almost every aspect of the game and suffering a slew of injuries, including the loss of Corey Seager for the season. At 16/1, The Dodgers are still considered a contender to win a title this year, but they’ve slipped well behind the leaders and will have to pick things up considerably just to make the playoffs.