May MLB Standings Analysis

The 2024 Major League Baseball (MLB) season has already seen a lot of movement and surprises in the standings as the second full month of the 162-game marathon campaign begins.

While expected postseason contenders Baltimore Orioles (23-11), Los Angeles Dodgers (23-13), and Atlanta Braves (20-12) are off to good starts, other talented clubs such as the San Francisco Giants (15-19), Houston Astros (12-22), and Arizona Diamondbacks (15-20) are scuffling, increasing the gap between them and the teams at the top of their respective divisions. Then there are the Oakland Athletics (A’s), who are doing surprisingly well (17-18) despite all the odds stacked against them on and off the field.

Analyzing the MLB Standings After a Month

Teams Doing Well 

As of early May, the group expected to be elite has lived up to their billing. The Orioles and New York Yankees (23-13) look set to battle it out for the American League (AL) East division title, as do the Braves and Philadelphia Phillies (23-11) in the National League (NL) East. Out West, the superstar-laden Dodgers already have a multi-game divisional lead. In contrast, the American League West remains congested with the defending champion Texas Rangers (19-16) dealing with many pitching injuries and off to a semi-slow start, currently sandwiched between the elite pitching of the Seattle Mariners (19-15) and the surprising A’s. 

Teams Surprising

Through their first 35 games, the Oakland/Sacramento/Las Vegas Athletics seem to be turning the tide and playing competitive baseball, a welcome sight for the remaining fans of this team, who have endured back-to-back 100-loss seasons with management unwilling to invest in reinforcing the squad’s roster. Winners of six games in a row at the time of writing, the team has managed to prevail by scoring enough runs to support a solid pitching staff anchored by one of the best late-inning duos in the league, right-handed flamethrowers Lucas Erceg and Mason Miller, the latter emerging as one of the game’s best closers and the team’s likely All-Star representative. As the season continues, will this team with so many parallels to the fictional team in “Major League” continue providing winning memories in its final season in Oakland, or is its early-season success a flash in the pan?  

The A’s are not the only team off to a surprising start. In 2023, the AL Central division was arguably the weakest in the league; it has been the opposite in the first couple of months of this season. Both the Cleveland Guardians and Kansas City Royals have played well so far. Rookie manager Stephen Vogt has led the first-place Guardians to an impressive 22-12 start, despite losing ace pitcher Shane Bieber to Tommy John surgery after his second start of the season. They are two-and-a-half games ahead of the Royals, who won a franchise record 17 games in April thanks to a strong first impression from free-agent pitcher Seth Lugo and stellar play from their three best players–catcher Salvador Perez, shortstop Bobby Witt Jr, and left-handed pitcher Cole Ragans. Not to be forgotten, the reigning division champion Minnesota Twins (19-14) just rattled off 12 straight wins to vault up to a tie for second place with the Royals.

Teams Underachieving 

1) Houston Astros

The Astros have dominated their division and league for the last half-decade, transforming from perennial losers to a juggernaut club featuring superstars Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, and Yordan Alvarez. The team has made seven straight appearances in the AL Championship Series and four trips to the World Series, in addition to making national news for good and bad reasons. Their success started in 2017 when the franchise’s first championship was tarnished by a cheating scandal that sent shockwaves through the sport. They rebounded, making it to the World Series in 2019 and 2021, but coming up short both times.

Not to be denied, the Astros won the Fall Classic in 2022 against the Phillies to give longtime manager Dusty Baker a World Series title at last. In 2024, Baker’s successor Joe Espada has the club off to a dreadful start as they have a big hole to climb out of if they want to reach the playoffs for an eighth straight season. The team’s normally solid pitching staff has performed horribly, forcing the bullpen to eat up a lot of innings. Also, they have dealt with many injuries as future Hall-of-Famer Justin Verlander began the season on the injured list and fellow starter Cristian Javier is almost ready to return. For the Astros to improve, they need consistent pitching, Bregman to heat up at the plate, and more production from first base as slumping starter José Abreu accepted a minor-league demotion.

2) San Francisco Giants

The Giants, looking to contend in a tough division, made sweeping changes this offseason, bringing in new manager Bob Melvin and a horde of free-agent players, the biggest names being third baseman Matt Chapman, left-handed pitcher Blake Snell, and South Korean international free-agent Jung Hoo Lee. Through 34 games, the team’s widespread changes have resulted in a similar-looking Giants team. Snell only pitched in three games before getting hurt, Chapman is by and large the same type of player he has always been, and power-hitter Jorge Soler has failed to provide the large-scale offensive impact the team was hoping for when they signed him this past offseason. Right now, the Giants are struggling, dropping series at the Boston Red Sox and Phillies, and the A’s appear to nowadays have more momentum than their cross-bay rivals.

3) Arizona Diamondbacks

The 2023 NL champion Diamondbacks’s slow start boils down to starting pitching injuries and their best player’s slow start. The club addressed key needs this offseason, strengthening their lineup and pitching staff. However, their first major offseason addition, left-handed pitcher Eduardo Rodrìguez has yet to make his team debut due to an injury suffered in preseason. Additionally, the club’s co-aces Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly are hurt. Lastly, the Snakes do-everything outfielder Corbin Carroll is off to a sophomore slump after winning the NL Rookie of the Year award and leading his club’s postseason run last year. This team will be primed to make a run once its pitching staff is back to full strength and Carroll turns it around to help Ketel Marte power the offense.

Although it is still early in the season, May often sees some separation as the contenders and pretenders become clearer heading into the Summer. Will that be the case or will the standings remain tight as the weather warms nationwide?

Main Image: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

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