A long-standing phrase in the baseball lexicon has been that we can’t really judge a team until we’ve seen 40 games. It makes sense and lines up with all the “it’s early” talk we’ve been painstakingly enduring here to this point. Now that the league is right around the 40-game mark — some have a few more games played, some have fewer — I see a pretty fun likelihood: There is no clear-cut No. 1 team.
We have seen some total dominance in recent years that we aren’t seeing right now. Remember the 2016 Cubs? How about the 2017 Astros and then the Dodgers. Last season, I had the Red Sox, Yankees and Astros as an easy top three in whatever order every single week by now.
This time around, it’s a lot more crowded at the top.
Who is No. 1? I see six possibilities and they all have a legitimate claim.
The Rays have sat in the No. 1 spot more than any other team since the season started, they sit in first place in the AL East and have the second-best run differential in baseball.
The Yankees are only a half-game behind the Rays and just won two of three in Tropicana Field. They’re also presumably getting reinforcements back from the injured list and having more talent on the way is always a plus.
The Twins have the best record, so obviously they have an easy claim to say they are the best team in baseball. There isn’t really much more explanation needed.
After a 2-5 start, the Astros returned home and went back into crush mode. They’ve gone 24-10 since. They also sport the best run differential in baseball.
Similar to the Astros, the Cubs started 3-8 and have gone 21-6 since. They have the best NL run differential despite having played five fewer games than the Dodgers.
Those Dodgers are as deep and talented as any team in baseball. They lead the majors in wins (27). Among these six, they have the best record against .500 or better teams at 16-11 (the Cubs are second at 14-10).
I don’t see a strong argument for any other team for the top spot. These six are so close to me that I went on CBS Sports HQ Sunday afternoon with my top five — before any of the teams above had finished their respective games — and had a totally different order. That’s how close they are. One game — well, to be honest, it’s who wins series (singular this time) that swung some things — is determining how I order these six after around 40 games.
Maybe someone like the Phillies, Brewers or even Red Sox stake a claim at some point moving forward, but for right now, this group of six is the clear-cut cream of the majors.
Order them however you want. There’s no wrong answer here. This is how they shake out for me.