This is Part 2 of the series that began Wednesday, setting up the second half by talking about all 30 teams—but using just one word per game played for each. You can read Part 1 for a more extensive introduction to the concept. Let's jump right in.
Anaheim Angels (47-45)
This team was projected to be a loser even with Mike Trout, but have kept their heads above water despite his wrist injury. Billy Eppler’s eye for an opportunity has netted the team some really athletic players who provide value even when they're not hitting, and some of them have stepped up and hit a bit more than was expected. Whether we can expect that to continue is unclear, but we know that Trout will be back very soon. Their pitching staff is a patchwork, but lately it's a really nice one.
Arizona Diamondbacks (53-36)
Gone are the days when being committed to modern analytics meant playing plodding, boring baseball. The new, savvy bosses in Arizona have their club running the bases more aggressively and successfully than any team in recent memory. They're also enjoying the benefits of good defensive work from their catchers, for the first time in three years. Both of those changes seem sustainable, and are certainly valuable. It's the very impressive starting pitching and the strong hitting (despite underwhelming depth and some risk in both areas) that give me pause.
Colorado Rockies (52-39)
We've seen them survive two dud free agent signings, because one of them got hurt (making room for the triumphant return of Mark Reynolds) and one of them never mattered. They've thrived so far on the strength of their young pitchers, but they're asking those guys to pitch without getting extra days of rest more often than just about any team in baseball. More than variance, their first-half success feels like a credit card spending spree, and now that the bill is coming due they seem to be a bit short.
Houston Astros (60-29)
No team in baseball has more weapons. No team can match that machine-like offense, and none can better withstand injuries to key players. That said, they could use a clearer third starting pitcher, someone who can make Brad Peacock’s breakout feel more like icing on the cake and less like the secret ingredient of the cake itself. Another challenge during the second half: figure out what their Death Lineup is. The Cubs found one late last year and rode it to their World Series title. It's a synchronicity thing.
Los Angeles Dodgers (61-29)
It's surprising that they owe as much of their success to Chris Taylor, Cody Bellinger, and Alex Wood as to Corey Seager, Logan Forsythe, and Clayton Kershaw, but the overall state of affairs shouldn't shock anyone. Andrew Friedman was one of the best at amassing quality depth long before he got to run a team willing to invest $250 million per year in its roster. No team turns a higher percentage of ground balls into outs, a testament to Friedman’s other strength: keeping his team on the cutting edge, tactically.
Oakland Athletics (39-50)
Look, I'm not absolving Billy Beane for the Josh Donaldson deal, but Franklin Barreto and Kendall Graveman have both flashed the kind of talent that made him willing to pull that trigger. Unfortunately, some guys about whom one could rightfully have been more optimistic have found ways to disappoint. The DFA of Stephen Vogt felt like the final nail in the coffin of those delightful, inexplicable, unfulfilled 2012-2014 A’s teams. The young talent on hand now suggests the possibility of duplicating that kind of run in the near future.
San Diego Padres (38-50)
On October 29, 2015 they hired Andy Green, a young guy who had proven his feel for the job in the minors. A year and a half in, they look brilliant. Hiring a manager for his managerial profile, instead of for his name value as a former player, is an increasingly rare bit of common-sense genius. In San Diego’s case, it's helped them establish an identity and put together some good runs—despite deficient talent that hasn't allowed them to contend. Green is a Manager of the Year candidate.
San Francisco Giants (34-56)
While they're bad, the Giants aren't this bad. The Madison Bumgarner dirt bike accident sort of captures their season in a single frame. Johnny Cueto has gone off the rails and might be hiding an injury. Brandon Crawford hasn't been himself. The general vibe around the Giants is that it might be time to break up the band—or at least to let that band be broken up naturally. On the other hand, maybe a fresher team can lay a foundation for the future. Bumgarner’s return should set the tone.
Seattle Mariners (43-47)
Any team whose roster starts with Kyle Seager, Jean Segura, Robinson Cano, Mitch Haniger, Nelson Cruz, James Paxton, Felix Hernandez, and Edwin Diaz is going to be competitive. Being more than that, though, requires a non-calamitous supporting cast for those players, and so far the signs that Seattle can assemble such a crew are few and far between. They're a spectacular defensive team, but they rely on good sequencing to score, and their pitching staff is an only slightly better version of the Twins’. Scott Servais would rather be scouting.
Texas Rangers (43-45)
If we can't count on Jonathan Lucroy to be a good defensive catcher, truly nothing lasts. The rest of the Rangers’ problems were more predictable. Too many of their key players lack the most important offensive skill. They're dynamic, but not young, and they don't have enough old-player skills to overcome that lack of youth. They seem to always be battling injuries to key players, but that's because those key players tend to be quite old, have been signed at a discount because of their fragility, or both.