Early-Season Approval Ratings for All 30 MLB Teams

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistMay 8, 2014

Early-Season Approval Ratings for All 30 MLB Teams

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Fans of any sport tend to react and overreact to anything and everything surrounding their favorite team, and Major League Baseball is certainly no exception. Whether that fan reaction is justified is another story though, as it is a long season.

    What follows is a look at my take on the early-season approval rating of all 30 MLB teams, based on how they have performed in the early going and how they look for the long term.

    I've given a quick overview of each team's performance so far this season, then assigned each team with a presidential-style approval rating on a scale of 100 percent. Then things are summed up with a quick paragraph on whether I feel the fans' perception and approval of the team so far is appropriate.

    This will obviously be largely based on expectation versus performance so far this season, and considering there will always be detractors, you will not see an approval rating higher than 80 percent on the slides that follow.


    All stats courtesy of MLB.com, unless otherwise noted.

Arizona Diamondbacks

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    David Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Team Overview

    The league's worst starting pitching, currently sitting at a combined 5.45 ERAhas derailed any hopes the Arizona Diamondbacks had of contending after a busy offseason of wheeling and dealing.

    With the demotion of Mike Bolsinger, the team looks to be headed for its ninth different starting pitcher on the young season. Without a bona fide staff ace, things may not get much better moving forward.

    Paul Goldschmidt remains a positive, as he's one of the game's most talented hitters, and shortstop Chris Owings is off to a nice start in his rookie season. Outside of that though, there has not been much for fans to get excited about in Arizona.


    Approval Rating: 1 percent

    Fans are right to be displeased with the way the Diamondbacks have kicked off the year, and the presence of Goldschmidt is the only thing that keeps this from being a full shutout.

Atlanta Braves

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Team Overview

    The Atlanta Braves' phenomenal starting pitching was the talk of the league to start the season, but as that has started to level off a bit, their wildly inconsistent offense has dominated the headlines.

    They still have one of the game's budding young superstars in Freddie Freeman, and when streaky hitters like Justin Upton and Evan Gattis are hot they're as good as anyone. It's just a matter of avoiding teamwide slumps like the one they've been suffering through of late.

    On the pitching side of things, the rotation that was a concern leaving spring training is now a strength with the returns of Gavin Floyd and Mike Minor, and they have the enviable problem of too many viable starters.


    Approval Rating: 60 percent

    There's certainly reason for concern, but the Braves offense was a roller coaster of hot and cold last year as well, and things worked out all right. With the Nationals dealing with injuries and clear weaknesses for the division's other three teams, they still look like the team to beat in the NL East.

Baltimore Orioles

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    Ann Heisenfelt/Associated Press

    Team Overview

    The Baltimore Orioles offense is again a plus, and the signing of Nelson Cruz looks like one of the biggest bargains of the year. With Manny Machado back, they should be even better moving forward, both offensively and defensively.

    The starting rotation remains a trouble spot though, and the slow start from newcomer Ubaldo Jimenez has done little to quell the concerns of the fanbase.

    Chris Tillman is a solid starter, and Jimenez generally gets better as the season goes on, but, big picture, the rotation does not look good enough for this team to legitimately contend for a title. Still, they are off to a good start, and currently sit atop the AL East.


    Approval Rating: 60 percent

    Some point to the perennial slow start of Jimenez and the impending arrival of Kevin Gausman as a sign that the Orioles pitching will get better in the months ahead, and make them serious contenders. Others see the same holes that the team dealt with last year, and another season coming up just short in the talented AL East.

Boston Red Sox

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    Winslow Townson/Associated Press

    Team Overview

    After pulling off an impressive worst-to-first turnaround last season, and capping things off with a World Series title, the Boston Red Sox have gotten off to a slow start in 2014.

    What was the highest-scoring offense in baseball last season has felt the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury atop the lineup, and sorting out the leadoff spot remains a major to-do. Production from left field and center field in general has been an issue, and they will likely have to deal with a slightly less dominant offense this time around.

    The pitching looks strong though, and should they run into injury problems, they have an impressive stable of young arms waiting in the wings that should be able to pick up the slack. Jon Lester is a bona fide ace, and he's pitching for a new contract, so expect big things from him all year.


    Approval Rating: 40 percent

    This is a different Red Sox team than we saw last year, and one that will rely much more heavily on their pitching. Their early-season results are not great, but there is no reason to panic yet, as the talent is still there to defend their AL East title.

Chicago Cubs

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    Uncredited/Associated Press

    Team Overview

    We are now in year three of the Chicago Cubs' rebuilding efforts under Theo Epstein and Co., and looking to avoid a fourth consecutive 90-loss season with an eye on taking a big step forward in 2015.

    At this point, they still have a roster made up largely of placeholders, as they wait on reinforcements from their impressive farm system. That could mean another last place finish in the NL Central, but could also make for an exciting second half as a number of youngsters get called up.

    The early-season success of Jason Hammel gives the team an attractive trade chip come July if he keeps it up, and nice starts to the year from Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Jeff Samardzija are all huge positives after the trio suffered through down seasons last year.


    Approval Rating: 33 percent

    There are plenty of positive takeaways from the start of the season for the Cubs, and those with an eye on the long term know that this was meant to just be another rebuilding season. Still, until they put a winning product on the field, it's hard to be too pleased with the organization.

Chicago White Sox

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Team Overview

    Having not made the playoffs since 2008, the Chicago White Sox finally began rebuilding last season with the trades of Alex Rios and Jake Peavy, and they continued adding young talent in the offseason after a 63-99 finish last year.

    The team's offense has been a huge surprise this season as the highest-scoring group in the American League at 5.11 runs per game, and Cuban defector Jose Abreu is leading the way after winning AL Player of the Month in April.

    On the other hand, the starting rotation is in flux behind ace Chris Sale, who is on the disabled list. The bullpen has started to round into form after a rough start to the season, but the pitching staff as a whole does not look to have enough horses for this team to make a run to the playoffs. 


    Approval Rating: 65 percent

    Considering the White Sox just began rebuilding last season, and were viewed as a work in progress entering the season, their strong start has been a pleasant surprise for the fanbase. Even if they start to fall off recordwise, the offense should be fun to watch all season, and Abreu is the real deal.

Cincinnati Reds

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Team Overview

    After another early postseason exit last year, the Cincinnati Reds cut ties with manager Dusty Baker and promoted pitching coach Bryan Price to the post in hopes of putting together a serious run at a title before the team's current window of contention closes.

    They are off to a slow start this year, due in part to a number of injuries to the likes of Mat Latos, Tony Cingrani, Aroldis Chapman and Jay Bruce, among others. They have a talented roster, and it's fair to say they're not playing up to their full potential at this point.

    Chapman is expected to return at some point this weekend, which should help shore up what has been a shaky bullpen. Getting the offense going is another story though. With the Milwaukee Brewers looking legit and the St. Louis Cardinals having yet to hit their stride, the Reds have their work cut out for them in the NL Central.


    Approval Rating: 40 percent

    There is plenty of reason to be concerned about the Reds slow start, but there is also a boatload of talent on this roster. If they can just keep their heads above water until they're fully healthy, they should still be able to make some noise.

Cleveland Indians

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    Jason Miller/Getty Images

    Team Overview

    When the Cleveland Indians lost Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir in free agency, some thought the starting rotation could be a serious issue for the team this year. Others pointed to the emergence of Corey Kluber and vast potential of Danny Salazar as reason enough to think everything would be OK.

    The staff has been slow to round into form, and they are still sorting out the No. 5 starter spot, but that is by no means their biggest concern. Instead, it's their offensive struggles that have them off to a disappointing start.

    They are currently hitting just .232/.312/.357 as a team and averaging just 3.85 runs per game. Michael Brantley is the only regular hitting over .270, and no one has an OPS over .780. The key trio of Carlos Santana, Nick Swisher and Asdrubal Cabrera are hitting .215 or lower.


    Approval Rating: 25 percent

    After a surprise run to the playoffs last year, the Indians entered 2014 with some legitimate expectations, but they currently find themselves in last place in the AL Central. It looks like the pitching staff will be fine, but their offensive struggles are a serious concern. They have the talent, but they need to turn it into production quick, or risk falling out of it early.

Colorado Rockies

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Team Overview

    Pitching wins championships, but a top-tier offense goes a long way in helping you get that far, as the Boston Red Sox showed everyone last season. The season is still young, but as things stand right now it's the Colorado Rockies who have staked claim to having the league's best offensive attack.

    The team enters play on Thursday with a ridiculous .310/.356/.509 line as a team. That's an .866 OPS as a team, a mark that only 19 individual players surpassed last season. A healthy Troy Tulowitzki is looking like an early MVP candidate, and the team is putting up an eye-popping 5.97 runs per game.

    The pitching is still middle-of-the-road, but is improved from the past few years, and should get a shot in the arm with the return of ace Jhoulys Chacin. Whether they can pitch enough to seriously contend for a title is a legitimate question, but their offense should keep them in the hunt for a postseason spot as long as they stay healthy.


    Approval Rating: 80 percent

    The Rockies are playing good baseball right now, and that offense is a lot of fun to watch. Pessimistic fans will point to an unproven rotation lacking a true staff ace, and they're not wrong, but this team looks like they have a chance to surprise if they can stay healthy.

Detroit Tigers

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Team Overview

    Not many teams start the offseason viewed as legitimate title contenders for the year ahead, then proceed to trade two players like Prince Fielder and Doug Fister before the start of spring training. For the Detroit Tigers, it was a necessary transition if they hoped to retain both Miguel Cabrera and Max Scherzer.

    To this point the deal has worked out, as Ian Kinsler has been an upgrade atop the lineup and Drew Smyly has more than held his own in a move to the rotation. The offense has some holes, but they are still scoring enough runs to back their fantastic rotation, even with Cabrera off to a slow start.

    The only real concern at this point is the bullpen, which currently ranks 28th in the MLB with a 4.97 ERA. New closer Joe Nathan has not been the shutdown closer they expected, and the absence of Smyly in a setup role has been felt as well. Perhaps the recent signing of Joel Hanrahan can help turn things around, but for now it's a legitimate area of concern.


    Approval Rating: 80 percent

    After a bold offseason, the Tigers are again looking like the team to beat in the AL Central. The bullpen is enough to knock the approval rating down, and the lack of production at shortstop is worth noting, but as a whole this team looks to be one of the AL's best once again.

Houston Astros

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Team Overview

    There may be no team in the history of baseball that has undergone a more drastic rebuild than the one the Houston Astros have undertook the past few seasons.

    The big league club is still a work in progress, but in the early going they have shown some signs of improvement. Granted they are not going to contend this season, but they may be able to avoid a fourth straight 100-loss season, and that's a step in the right direction.

    The bullpen is a mess, and the rotation is still a work in progress, but the lineup has shown some flashes this season. Top prospect George Springer has already been called up, and he'll likely just the first of a handful of promising young players to debut this year.


    Approval Rating: 50 percent

    Springer has struggled early, and his success is important for the fanbase, as he represents what the team has been working toward. A number of promising youngsters will likely debut this year, and they need to show something to get the fanbase excited for the future.

Kansas City Royals

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    Team Overview

    Were it not for their first-half offensive struggles last season, the Kansas City Royals may very well have made the playoffs for the first time since 1985. The addressed their two biggest offensive needs with the additions of Omar Infante and Nori Aoki this offseason, but they are off to a slow start at the plate once again.

    They are currently averaging an even 4.0 runs per game, and key hitters like Alex Gordon, Billy Butler and Salvador Perez are all hitting below .260. They have also managed an MLB-low 14 home runs, with Mike Moustakas (.152 BA) leading the way with four.

    The rotation is solid, and the emergence of rookie Yordano Ventura and addition of Jason Vargas has more than offset the loss of Ervin Santana in free agency. The bullpen looks like it should be an asset once again as well, as the foursome of Aaron Crow, Kelvin Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland is awfully good.


    Approval Rating: 55 percent

    It's tough to see the team go through the same offensive struggles that plagued them last year, but there's a lot to like about the Royals pitching staff. One has to think the hitting will come around at some point with a talented lineup. Still, expectations were higher than a sub-.500 record at this point.

Los Angeles Angels

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    John Minchillo/Associated Press

    Team Overview

    Relative to the previous two winters when the team shelled out big bucks for the likes of Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson and Josh Hamilton, it was a somewhat quiet offseason for the Los Angeles Angels, but it may very well have been their best in years.

    The back of the starting rotation finally looks stable with the additions of Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago in the Mark Trumbo trade, and Skaggs has a chance to be a real difference-maker in his first full big league season. The bullpen is an issue once again, but things have stabilized a bit since Joe Smith has taken over closer duties from Ernesto Frieri.

    Offensively, they currently rank second in the AL with 5.09 runs per game, and that's without the injured Hamilton. They are again getting an MVP-caliber season from Mike Trout, and Pujols is looking more and more like the superstar of old.


    Approval Rating: 65 percent

    The record is not great at this point, as they sit a game below .500, but there's a lot to like about the Angels' chances of contending. It all starts with their improved rotation. If they can shore up the bullpen, and continue to hit like they have, there is no reason they can't contend in the AL West.

Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Team Overview

    One of the favorites to win it all entering the season, the Los Angeles Dodgers have done nothing to make fans think they can't make a run at a title this season, though their path through the NL West may not be quite as easy as it was last year.

    Getting Clayton Kershaw back healthy gives them perhaps the best starting rotation in all of baseball, as Zack Greinke and Dan Haren have been a terrific one-two punch in his absence and Josh Beckett is healthy and contributing.

    Outfielders Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford continue to turn in subpar production, especially considering their price tags, and the catcher position is a clear weakness, but the offense should have no problem scoring runs as long as they stay healthy.


    Approval Rating: 75 percent

    There is really no one thing you can point to on the Dodgers as being an issue. They have not played their best baseball yet by any means, and their 6-9 record at home certainly needs to improve, but they look to be in just as good of a position as expected a little over a month in.

Miami Marlins

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Team Overview

    The Milwaukee Brewers, Chicago White Sox and Colorado Rockies have certainly exceeded expectations in the early going, but it's fair to say that the Miami Marlins early-season success is the biggest surprise of all.

    After losing 100 games last season, the Marlins were not overly busy this past offseason, adding a few complementary pieces to their offense after ranking dead last in runs scored last season. But for the most parts it's been their incumbent talent that has led the way.

    A fully healthy Giancarlo Stanton has been raking so far in the middle of a vastly-improved offense, and the foursome of Jose Fernandez, Tom Koehler, Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi all have ERAs under 3.00 through their first seven starts.


    Approval Rating: 80 percent

    The Marlins are playing great baseball right now, there's no other way to put it. A 2-10 record on the road, compared with 17-5 at home, is certainly a red flag but they have been fun to watch and the fanbase has to be pleased for the time being after a rough 2013 season.

Milwaukee Brewers

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Team Overview

    The Milwaukee Brewers have come back to earth a bit after opening the season 20-7, as they've gone 2-6 over their last eight games. But they still have the best record in the National League and they look like they could be legitimate contenders.

    The starting rotation is solid top-to-bottom, and Wily Peralta looks to be on his way to a breakout sophomore season at 4-2 with a 2.17 ERA through his first seven starts. The bullpen is also one of the best in the business, and closer Francisco Rodriguez is a perfect 14-of-14 on save chances with a 0.00 ERA.

    Offense has been the issue during their recent slide, and a lot of it has to do with the fact that Ryan Braun is currently on the shelf with an oblique injury. Position-player depth is a serious area of concern for this team, as they really don't have anything in the way of viable replacements should a key player go down for an extended period of time.


    Approval Rating: 65 percent

    The Brewers have had their fair share of skeptics all season, just waiting for them to regress back to expectations, and this recent rough patch has done little to dissuade them. The lack of depth is a serious concern, but if Braun can stay healthy they have the pitching to be legitimate Wild Card contenders at the very least.

Minnesota Twins

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    Orlin Wagner/Associated Press

    Team Overview

    On the strength of a surprisingly productive offense, the Minnesota Twins finished the month of April at 12-12, but as their offense has started to level off they have come back to earth.

    Outside of Joe Mauer, who is making the full-time move to first base this season, there is really no star power in their lineup. However, guys like Chris Colabello, Kurt Suzuki, Jason Kubel and Trevor Plouffe all helped the team get off to a hot start.

    With the offense slowing, their complete lack of starting pitching has taken center stage once again, as their retooled rotation looks not more viable than last year's. Their starters currently have a 5.29 ERA, just a tick above their MLB-worst 5.26 mark last season, as newcomers Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes have done nothing to make them a better staff.


    Approval Rating: 20 percent

    After the team handed out the two largest free-agent contracts in team history to Nolasco and Hughes, there was some hope that their rotation could at least be passable this season, but instead they look disturbingly similar to last season's train wreck of a staff.

New York Mets

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    Alan Diaz/Associated Press

    Team Overview

    Another team that got off to a surprisingly hot start, but has leveled out since by going 3-7 over their last 10 games, the New York Mets have some glaring holes that will likely keep them from contending this season.

    The offense, which added the likes of Curtis Granderson and Chris Young in the offseason, is currently hitting just .225/.300/.332 and averaging just 3.97 runs per game. Granderson has been as big a culprit as anyone, hitting just .175, while superstar David Wright is off to a slow start as well with a .673 OPS.

    The one-two punch of Jon Niese (1.82 ERA) and Dillon Gee (2.52 ERA) has been terrific, but the rest of the rotation has been hit-and-miss and the bullpen is a patchwork group of unknown youngsters and past-their-prime veterans.


    Approval Rating: 40 percent

    The hot start was nice, but the Mets' issues have been exposed here over the past couple weeks, and they look to be headed for another losing season. The future remains incredibly bright though, and the pitching staff could be one of the best in the business by next season.

New York Yankees

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Team Overview

    No one was busier than the New York Yankees this past offseason, as they added Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann to their offense, inked Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka and said goodbye to superstar second baseman Robinson Cano in free agency.

    After managing to eek out 85 wins with a roster that was decimated by injury last season, the team is undoubtedly more talented top to bottom this year, and they are off to a nice start, tied with the Baltimore Orioles atop the AL East.

    The lineup has managed to stay relatively healthy, which is saying something given their age, and it's the rotation that has been the biggest issue. Tanaka has been great, and Hiroki Kuroda remains a solid option, but CC Sabathia has been terrible and Ivan Nova is lost for the season to Tommy John surgery. Right-hander Michael Pineda is the X-factor, as they will need him to come back strong from suspension and a back injury.


    Approval Rating: 60 percent

    It's been said time and again, and it still feels like lazy analysis to me, but the Yankees just know how to win games. If this team can get by with their rotation for the time being and avoid significant injury, they may be the favorites in the AL East as things currently stand.

Oakland Athletics

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Team Overview

    Coming off back-to-back AL West titles, the Oakland Athletics were hit hard by injuries this spring, as they lost starters Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin for the year to Tommy John surgery. That on top of the fact that Bartolo Colon left in free agency, and was replaced by Scott Kazmir.

    It has not been an issue though, as they are currently tied for the AL-lead with 23 quality starts, with Sonny Gray (4-1, 1.91 ERA), Jesse Chavez (2-1, 2.47 ERA) and Kazmir (4-1, 2.64 ERA) all off to fantastic starts.

    The offense continues to be one of the best in the American League, despite an obvious lack of star power, as they currently rank sixth in the league at 4.74 runs per game. That's despite the underperforming trio of Josh Reddick, Daric Barton and Eric Sogard seeing significant playing time.


    Approval Rating: 70 percent

    The lack of an established closer is a bit of a worry, and there are holes in the offense and at the No. 5 starter spot, but the A's again sit atop the AL West standings. They look to be in a great position for their third straight division title.

Philadelphia Phillies

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    Matt York/Associated Press

    Team Overview

    The Philadelphia Phillies opted against rebuilding this offseason, despite the fact that by all indications their window to legitimately contend for a title had closed a couple years ago and their veteran core was only getting older.

    They are actually off to a better start than expected, with Chase Utley, Marlon Byrd and Carlos Ruiz leading the way offensively and veteran starters Cliff Lee and A.J. Burnett anchoring the rotation while Cole Hamels continues to work his way back to form.

    However, the bullpen is a mess and the lineup has been below average outside of the aforementioned trio. They might have enough to stay competitive and make a run at a winning season, but it's hard to picture this team making a serious run at the playoffs.


    Approval Rating: 33 percent

    Shortsighted fans will look at the Phillies' decent start to the season and think they have a chance to compete, and that they made the right decision not blowing things up. Long term though, they are just another year away from legitimate contention by opting against starting the rebuild this year, and a complete overhaul of this roster is not far off.

Pittsburgh Pirates

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    Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    Team Overview

    After finally breaking a 20-year playoff drought last season, the Pittsburgh Pirates entered the 2014 season with some modest expectations, as they had a good young team on the way up and were in a position to be perennial contenders.

    The season is still young, but so far they have not looked the part of a contender, as they currently sit six games under .500 and there is a laundry list of issues.

    The bullpen that was so dominant last year is just 6-of-15 on save chances, the offense is once again struggling to provide adequate support for superstar Andrew McCutchen and the loss of veteran A.J. Burnett in the rotation has been felt.


    Approval Rating: 25 percent

    After getting a taste of winning last year, the fanbase can't be happy to see the team struggle the way they have in the early going. The inevitable call-up of Gregory Polanco could provide a spark, but the pitching staff has to figure things out, because the offense is not going to be able to pick up the slack.

San Diego Padres

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    Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    Team Overview

    Many analysts, myself included, pointed to the San Diego Padres as a team in position to perhaps take a step forward this season and maybe surprise some people in the NL West. Not necessarily to make a run to the playoffs, but perhaps a winning season.

    Instead, they currently sit at 15-20 due in large part to the worst offense in baseball, as they are hitting .215/.266/.326 as a team and averaging a meager 2.6 runs per contest. Key hitters like Chase Headley (.186 BA), Yonder Alonso (.162 BA) and Jedd Gyorko (.153 BA) are all off to terrible starts.

    On the pitching side of things, the rotation has been decent thanks to the trio of Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy and Tyson Ross, and the bullpen currently ranks second in the MLB with a 1.95 ERA. Until they start hitting though, the pitchers are in a tough spot.


    Approval Rating: 20 percent

    Starting pitching has been the biggest issue for the Padres in recent years. Now that they have a halfway decent staff, the offense has fallen off the face of the earth. There is some good young talent here, but until they start producing the Padres look to be taking a step backward.

San Francisco Giants

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Team Overview

    With essentially the same team returning from their World Series title run in 2012, the San Francisco Giants entered last season with lofty expectations, only to find themselves battling to avoid a last-place finish when the pitching faltered and the offense was unable to pick up the slack.

    Their focus this offseason was mainly on retaining their own in-house talent, with the two major additions being left fielder Michael Morse (.926 OPS, 8 HR, 24 RBI) and right-hander Tim Hudson (7 GS, 4-2, 1.99 ERA), who have both been terrific.

    The offense as a whole has picked things up this year with a healthy Angel Pagan leading the way, the rotation looks solid provided Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong can find some consistency and the bullpen is currently the best in baseball with a 1.81 ERA.


    Approval Rating: 80 percent

    The Giants look primed to contend once again this season. With perhaps the best offense they have had since the days of Barry Bonds and Jeff Kent, the pitching staff does not need to be as overpowering as in years past.

Seattle Mariners

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    Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

    Team Overview

    After featuring one of the league's worst offensive attacks for the past several seasons, the Seattle Mariners opened up the payroll this offseason and signed the market's top bat in Robinson Cano, while also adding Corey Hart and Logan Morrison.

    They opened the season 7-13, including an eight-game losing streak, but they have been one of baseball's hottest teams of late at 8-2 over their last 10. There are certainly still some holes in the lineup, and the rotation is still awaiting a healthy Taijuan Walker, but they have some momentum right now.

    Offensively, they are still not a powerhouse by any means, as Cano is the only regular hitting over .260, and he's managed just one home run so far this season. If they can keep throwing the ball well though and finding ways to score runs, they could make things hard on the rest of the AL West.


    Approval Rating: 55 percent

    On a player-by-player basis the production has not been great, but fans have to be happy with a 17-16 start to the season. Their projected rotation has yet to all be healthy at the same time, so their best baseball may be ahead of them if they can manage to keep finding ways to score.

St. Louis Cardinals

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    Jason Getz/Associated Press

    Team Overview

    Entering the season, the St. Louis Cardinals looked like the most complete team in baseball top to bottom. While they have not set the world on fire so far at 18-17, they still look to be in great shape to make another run at the NL pennant.

    Their pitching is elite, as they rank second in the MLB with a 2.95 team ERA, and Adam Wainwright (6-2, 2.02 ERA) remains one of the game's true staff aces. Their bullpen is loaded with young, power arms and the best is yet to come for Michael Wacha and Shelby Miller in the rotation.

    The offense has been the issue so far, as they are hitting just .248/.312/.365 as a team and averaging 3.63 runs per game. Allen Craig (.202 BA, .577 OPS) has gotten off to a particularly slow start, but the team as a whole has started to pick things up of late.


    Approval Rating: 70 percent

    There is no reason for the Cardinals to panic over their relatively slow start, and the fanbase knows that. The offense will pick up eventually. With their pitching staff and tremendous overall organizational depth, they are still the favorite to win the NL Central and the team to beat in the National League.

Tampa Bay Rays

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    Brian Blanco/Associated Press

    Team Overview

    My pick to win the AL pennant this season, the Tampa Bay Rays have stumbled out of the gates. The starting pitching depth that has been a staple of their franchise has been put to the test, a test they have not exactly passed with flying colors so far.

    With Matt Moore lost to Tommy John surgery and both Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson also on the disabled list, the team has turned to the likes of Erik Bedard and Cesar Ramos to fill out the staff. Making matters worse, incumbents David Price (4.44 ERA) and Chris Archer (4.91 ERA) are not exactly dominating.

    Offensively they look solid, as their 4.24 runs per game are right in line with the 4.29 mark they put up last season. Sluggers Evan Longoria and Wil Myers are both off to somewhat slow starts, too, so the offense figures to get better moving forward.


    Approval Rating: 35 percent

    Getting Cobb back healthy and both Price and Archer pitching like they're capable of is paramount for this team, as they rely on their starting rotation as much as any team in baseball. It's been a tough first month, but the talent is still there, and it's not time to panic just yet.

Texas Rangers

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    Team Overview

    There were no shortage of injuries to the Texas Rangers roster this spring, as Jurickson Profar, Geovany Soto, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison all started the season on the DL. And Yu Darvish had his first start pushed back, setting up up the unlikeliest of Opening Day starters in Tanner Scheppers.

    Many expected them to limp through the first month of the season due to their pitching, but instead they currently sit at 17-17 and just 2.5 games back in the AL West. With a healthy Harrison and the return of Colby Lewis, alongside the trio of Yu Darvish, Martin Perez and Robbie Ross, the rotation has rounded into form nicely.

    The offense, on the other hand, is still a work in progress with guys like Donnie Murphy and Robinson Chirinos currently penciled into the everyday lineup, and newcomer Prince Fielder (.226 BA, .678 OPS) off to a very slow start.


    Approval Rating: 60 percent

    All things considered, the Rangers could be a lot worse off than they are right now, and once they get to full strength this may be one of the best teams in the American League. It will just be a matter of getting healthy and staying healthy, as they look to unseat the Oakland A's atop the AL West.

Toronto Blue Jays

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Team Overview

    There may have been no bigger disappointment last season than the Toronto Blue Jays, who completely overhauled their roster and spent millions for what wound up to be a one-win improvement over 2012.

    They were among the quietest teams in baseball this past offseason, opting against adding a big-name starter despite the rotation's struggles last year behind veterans Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey, instead opting for a strong return to health from guys like Drew Hutchison and Brandon Morrow.

    The offense has been solid again this year, and may actually be better with Melky Cabrera looking like an All-Star once again. The rotation is still a question, but is undoubtedly improved over last year, and the bullpen (4.94 ERA) looks like the bigger issue at this point.


    Approval Rating: 50 percent

    The Blue Jays currently sit at 17-17, and look like a better team than last year overall. Provided they sort out their bullpen and find five guys that can consistently turn in quality starts, they have the offensive firepower to make some noise in the AL East. They do still look to be on the outside looking in as far as contending is concerned.

Washington Nationals

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    Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

    Team Overview

    If the Toronto Blue Jays were not the biggest disappointment of 2013, it may have been the Washington Nationals, as they were a sexy pick to win it all after posting the best record in baseball the previous season, but a first-half slump left them sitting at home come October.

    They have dealt with some big injuries in the early going this year, with Bryce Harper on the shelf until July following thumb surgery and both Ryan Zimmerman and Wilson Ramos also sidelined. Despite that, and the fact that offseason addition Doug Fister started his season on the DL, they still find themselves tied atop the NL East.

    As long as they can keep their head above water with Harper on the sidelines, something they had trouble doing last year, they should be in position to contend for the division title once they get healthy.


    Approval Rating: 60 percent

    There's nothing wrong with a 19-15 start, especially considering they have not been at full strength for much of the year, and this team looks to have a good chance of avenging last year's struggles. Still, the injuries are concerning, and Harper has to stay on the field for this team to have a chance at making a title run.


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