MLB League News: 2012 Team Performance Grades
Pablo Sandoval of the world champion San Francisco Giants
With the Hot Stove League in full swing, it is a good time to hand out 2012 performance grades for every MLB team. Which deserve to be ranked at the top of the class and who has to go to summer (or winter) school?
It is easy to grade each team's performance by looking at their record and final place in the 2012 standings. However, teams should be evaluated on more than just wins and losses. Just because the Pittsburgh Pirates finished with a losing record for the 20th straight season, it does not mean they deserve an F. The Pirates may deserve a good grade for simply existing in a market which makes it hard for them to compete.
The New York Yankees may not be as easy to grade as some might think. While it is true that every season New York does not win is considered a failure, the fact that they made the post season again means that they are doing something right.
If it sounds like some of these teams have been graded on a curve, then it is because they are. How someone rates is based on the perception of who is grading them. Everyone has their own criteria and I am no exception.
Since the AL lost the All-Star Game and World Series, we will start with them and then move to the NL. The order will be East, Central and West.
So, for better or worse, here are the grades for all 30 MLB teams with short explanations as to why they got them. The only thing missing is the red ink.
The Orioles are finally relevant again. After 15 years of missing the post season they won 93 games and earned a wildcard birth. Baltimore defeated the defending AL champion Texas Rangers in the first ever wildcard playoff before losing to the New York Yankees in the AL Divisional Series three games to two.
Buck Showalter finished second in voting for AL Manager of The Year and probably should have won it.
New York Yankees
The Yankees are expected to make it to the World Series every year. This season, they did not and everyone considered them to be failures. The truth is, whenever a team makes it to the playoffs, then their season is a success.
New York's bats went silent in the post season and they were lucky to get as far as the AL Championship Series. For beating a good Orioles team in the AL Divisional Series, they get an above average mark.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays play in an area where people could care less about baseball. How else to explain the attendance numbers for a team that competes for the post season every year? One could make the case that more people outside of Tampa know about the Rays then those who live there.
For the simple fact that the Rays win in a city that hardly acknowledges them they deserve a good mark. Tampa battled Baltimore and New York right down to the last week of the season and won 90 games.
Boston Red Sox
The first mistake they made was firing Terry Francona as manager. The second was hiring Bobby Valentine to replace him. There was no silver lining in 2012 for the Red Sox. They were bad on and off of the field.
Toronto Bue Jays
We have been waiting for them to take the next step and they have yet to do so. The Blue Jays seem to be trying to do things right. They are improving, but still have a ways to go. The only thing stopping them from being a complete failure in 2012 was that the Red Sox were worse.
The Tigers made their second trip to the World Series in seven years under manager Jim Leyland. They boast the first Triple Crown Most Valuable Player since 1967 in first baseman Miguel Cabrera. The Tigers success has done a lot to help a struggling Detroit economy.
Detroit won the AL pennant. That's about as good as a team can do.
Chicago White Sox
The White Sox brought in Robin Ventura to replace Ozzie Guillen as manager. Ventura led Chicago to a second place finish behind the Tigers. The White Sox seemed to be a more relaxed team in 2012 under Ventura and much improved.
Kansas City Royals
The Royals are up against it as a small market team. They can not buy the best talent and often lose any home grown stars to teams in major market cities. The fact that finishing third in their division is considered a successful season is all one has to know about their plight. Kansas City finished with more wins than the Red Sox. When was the last time that happened?
The Indians have a history of being bad and are right now. Three of the last four seasons, Cleveland has won less than 70 games. This year they won 68.
The Indians fired manager Manny Acta late in 2012. He was replaced by former Cleveland catcher Sandy Alomar, Jr. This was a good move as Acta has not had a very successful career as a manager in Cleveland or with the Washington Nationals.
The Indians do have talent and play in a nice ballpark. However, four years of losing means that something is not right. The only thing to do is assess them honestly.
Three years ago, the Twins were a playoff team. Since then they are 129-195. In 2012 they were 66-96. How can a team managed by Ron Gardenhire and with Joe Mauer be so bad? Thirty games below .500 is failure.
The AL West champions came out of nowhere in 2012. Manager Bob Melvin guided the young A's to 94 wins. Oakland swept a season ending three game series to wrest the title from the Texas Rangers. The only blight on the A's season was letting the Tigers come back from down two games to win three straight and beat them in the ALDS.
Texas faded badly late in the 2012 season and let the Athletics beat them out for the AL West title. Then the Rangers lost to the Orioles in the wildcard playoff.
Despite the fact that they won 93 games and made their third consecutive post season appearance, Texas did not get it done when it counted most.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Angels signed first baseman Albert Pujols to a huge contract, but it was not enough to get them to the post season. Pujols struggled early and Los Angeles was never able to catch the Rangers. The A's passed them as well and won the West.
The Angles may be better next season, but we are grading them on this past one.
The Mariners always compete. However, they just don't seem to have enough talent to get them over the hump. In a division with Texas, Oakland and the Angels, Seattle will have to figure out a way to beat them.
The team did get a gem of a pitching performance from Felix Hernandez as he threw a perfect game in August. That was the high point of the season.
The Nationals had their best season ever in 2012. They won an MLB best 98 games and finished first in the NL East. Washington boasted the NL Rookie of the Year and Manager of the Year along with one Gold Glove winner and three Silver Slugger winners.
The Nationals lost in the NLDS to the St. Louis Cardinals, but it does not put a damper on what they accomplished. The Nats made baseball relevant in D.C. again and that alone earns them a high mark.
The Braves made it back to post season play in 2012. They battled the Nationals to the final weekend before losing the NL East.
Atlanta lost in the first ever NL wildcard game to the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Phillies were a disappointing 81-81 in 2012. Injuries to key players caused them to fall behind in the NL East race and they were never able to catch up. But Philadelphia showed their potential on occasion, especially in a three game sweep of the Nationals in August.
Age and injury hampered the Phillies in 2012. This is an average record and deserves an average grade.
New York Mets
The Mets are rebuilding. They have been for over a decade without success. New York does have some stars in third baseman David Wright and pitcher R.A. Dickey won the NL Cy Young Award.. They just don't have enough.
In 2012, the Mets finished fourth with a 74-88 record. New York plays in a very competitive division, but this is no excuse for their bad play.
Does this grade have to be explained? Miami did everything in 2012 to make the team relevant in south Florida. They hired Ozzie Guillen to manage. They signed high priced free agents. They opened a new stadium. All of this was to create buzz and win games.
The buzz was gone by week one and things have only gotten worse. The Marlins finished 69-93 and last in the NL East. Guillen was fired and seemingly half of the team was traded to Toronto.
Miami is a mess from top to bottom.
The oldest team in baseball is winning again. Cincinnati has made two trips to the post season in the last three years. The Reds won 97 games in 2012, second only to the Nationals. Cincinnati did this despite losing their best player, Joey Votto, for a good part of the year.
In the post season, Cincinnati could not close out the San Francisco Giants and lost in the NLDS. There is no shame in losing to the world champions.
St. Louis Cardinals
Despite making another trip to the post season, St. Louis had an up and down year. The Cardinals finished 88-74 and only the addition of a second wildcard team allowed them to make the post season.
However, once St. Louis got into October, they made the most of it. The Cardinals were one win away from beating the Giants in the NLCS, but, like Cincinnati, could not close the deal. St. Louis did make a valiant effort at defending their 2011 world's championship and this raises their grade.
Milwaukee lost first baseman Prince Fielder to the Tigers in free agency and watched him go to the World Series. Meanwhile, the Brewers hung tough before fading in September. Milwaukee finished 83-79. This was good enough to finish above .500, but not good enough to be relevant in October.
The Pirates had a measure of success in 2012. They were above .500 as late as September 18 before finishing 79-83. Center fielder Andrew McCutcheon thrilled fans with his bat and glove.
Until they were eliminated from playoff contention, Pittsburgh played competitive baseball. They deserve a little extra for effort.
The Cubs were terrible for the second year in a row. They went 61-101. Chicago was never in the race for the playoffs. They lost on opening day to the Nationals and kept right on losing. The Cubs finished the 2012 season simply because they had to.
The Astros are headed to the AL West in 2013. After four straight losing seasons in the NL Central this may be a much needed change.
The Astros have finished with 55 and 56 wins the last two years. This means they lost more than 2/3 of their games. This is down right awful. There was even talk of letting Roger Clemens pitch a game this season.
There is no way to spin this one. The Astros are just bad. New manager Bo Porter gets nothing but sympathy from me.
San Francisco Giants
They beat out a Los Angeles Dodgers team predicted to win the NL West. They came from the brink of elimination to win three straight games from the Cincinnati Reds and win in the NLDS. They repeated this effort to beat the defending world champion St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. Then they swept the Detroit Tigers to win the World Series.
What more can any team do?
Los Angeles Dodgers
In May, there was talk of the Dodgers winning it all. By August, Los Angeles had become so desperate that they made a blockbuster trade with Boston that brought Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford to Southern California.
None of this was enough to earn the Dodgers a place in the post season. Instead, Los Angeles had to watch their bitter rivals, the Giants, win it all.
The Diamondbacks took a step back in 2012. A year after winning the NL West, Arizona won 13 fewer games and finished 81-81.
The Diamondbacks just never got it together in 2012. In this way, they were similar to the Phillies and deserve the same grade.
San Diego Padres
The Padres were the fifth best team in California. There is nothing wrong with that when you consider that the Giants, Dodgers, Athletics and Angels are the competition.
However, San Diego was the only team out of this group that finished with a losing record. Guess someone had to.
No matter how you spin it 76-86 is not good, but the Padres did the best they could.
The good news is that the Rockies did not lose 100 games. The bad news is that they did not win 70. Colorado finished 64-98.
It is hard to say how bad the Rockies were, because no one saw them play. But no one has to see you take a test for you to fail. Last place is last place.