How first month changes outlook for all 30 teams

Didi Gregorius and his New York Yankees added 16 1/2 wins to their projected regular-season finish and have a 56 percent chance to make the playoffs after a hot start to the year. Jason Miller/Getty Images

You can't win a pennant in April, but some believe that you sure can lose one.

"April is all about surviving," Cleveland's Francisco Lindor said when speaking to reporters on Sunday. "You don't want to fall too far behind."

Individually, Lindor did a whole lot more than survive April. His seven homers were the most he has ever hit in a month, and his OPS sits at .976. Not bad for a Gold Glove shortstop. As a team, Cleveland did more or less just survive, going four games over .500 during the opening month despite a middling offense that hasn't hit its stride.

While the end of a month in baseball has little in the way of literal impact, there is a symbolic meaning to it. Slumping teams like Kansas City talk about putting April behind them and racking up wins in May. Hot teams talk about keeping the ride going.

To check where teams stand, we're going to look at how each team's outlook has changed based on its performance in the previous month, according to a rating system that expresses a constantly updated season forecast. The system is based on who each team has played, the score of the game and where the game was played. And this time of year, the final component is each team's preseason forecast, which gradually gets phased out before disappearing altogether in June.

Teams are ranked by the change in their forecast from the previous month and divided into Risers -- teams whose forecasts have improved -- and Fallers, teams whose outlook has grown bleaker. We'll also note each team's change in playoff probability, taken from FiveThirtyEight's daily ratings.

Finally, we'll make a subjective judgment of where teams reside on the Buy, Sell or Hold scale. The assumption is that all teams start the season in Hold mode -- they want to see what they have. However, reality -- whether it comes in the form of performance or injuries -- gradually sets in, and teams will have to start charting their future course. For this first month, we're being conservative -- most teams will remain in Hold mode.

But not all ...


1. New York Yankees
Rev. Forecast: 97.0 wins | Change: 16.5
538 playoff odds: 56% | Change: 29%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

What a start for the Bombers. That revised forecast might be optimistic, especially if the starting pitching falters. But, then again, the Yankees do lead the AL in run differential by a wide margin.

2. Washington Nationals
Rev. Forecast: 102.2 wins | Change: 12.8
538 playoff odds: 88% | Change: 20%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

The last team to score 1,000 runs was the 1999 Indians. The record, during the modern era, is 1,067 by the 1931 Yankees. The Nationals went through April on pace to score 1,102 and are still on pace for 1,035.

3. Arizona Diamondbacks
Rev. Forecast: 89.3 wins | Change: 12.7
538 playoff odds: 42% | Change: 25%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

And the Diamondbacks were on pace to score 846 runs (and are on pace for 810 runs now), which seems meager after quoting Washington's pace. But it's the second-best figure in the NL for April.

4. Milwaukee Brewers
Rev. Forecast: 80.5 wins | Change: 8.6
538 playoff odds: 16% | Change: 3%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

This figured to be a wickedly entertaining team capable of long home runs and copious stolen bases but also heaps of strikeouts, baserunning errors and fielding miscues. There has been a little of all of that, a lot of runs scored, and the emergence of Eric Thames. Not a bad month.

5. Chicago White Sox
Rev. Forecast: 79.1 wins | Change: 7.7
538 playoff odds: 18% | Change: 6%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

The White Sox aren't about to go ringing up Boston or Washington about reacquiring Chris Sale or Adam Eaton, but behind the AL's best run prevention in April, the Sox have exceeded expectations. But since the team opened the season in sell mode, how long before its short-term goals change?

6. Cincinnati Reds
Rev. Forecast: 76.4 wins | Change: 4.6
538 playoff odds: 9% | Change: 0%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

Behind the emergent Eugenio Suarez, the Reds got off to a quick start but were then kind of wrecked by Thames. The Reds lost 11 of 14 at one point in April, a stretch during which Thames hit eight homers against them in seven games -- six of them Milwaukee victories.

7. Philadelphia Phillies
Rev. Forecast: 77.0 wins | Change: 4.5
538 playoff odds: 11% | Change: 4%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

If the bullpen had been better at closing out games, we might be talking about the Phillies as a sleeper wild-card contender. The Phillies' offense was solid despite a poor month for breakout candidate Maikel Franco.

8. Minnesota Twins
Rev. Forecast: 79.6 wins | Change: 3.8
538 playoff odds: 21% | Change: 7%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

Miguel Sano is a fearsome individual with a bat in his hands. If you haven't watched this rising star crush baseballs, do yourself a favor.

9. Texas Rangers
Rev. Forecast: 85.2 wins | Change: 3.4
538 playoff odds: 14% | Change: -18%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

Has any team better demonstrated the flakiness of bullpen performance? The Rangers have converted just two of nine save opportunities to date.

10. Colorado Rockies
Rev. Forecast: 76.3 wins | Change: 2.0
538 playoff odds: 34% | Change: 19%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

The Rockies' outlook has improved, but their overall forecast hasn't jumped as much as you'd expect for a team that was generally considered to be a preseason sleeper and then spent much of April in first place. Why? Even after winning 11-3 at San Diego on Wednesday, Colorado still has a minus-1 run differential. But those April wins count nonetheless.

11. Atlanta Braves
Rev. Forecast: 75.7 wins | Change: 2.0
538 playoff odds: 9% | Change: -4%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

One thing holding the Braves back is the worst rate of strikeouts per nine innings (6.7) in the majors. Given that their new ballpark is proving to be a launching pad, that's a problem. Atlanta has been outhomered 14 to 9 at SunTrust Park.

12. Baltimore Orioles
Rev. Forecast: 80.8 wins | Change: 1.7
538 playoff odds: 38% | Change: 16%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

Hey, it wouldn't be a baseball season if the Orioles weren't confounding projection systems. But enough with the beanball wars, already. It's tired.

13. Houston Astros
Rev. Forecast: 94.1 wins | Change: 1.5
538 playoff odds: 85% | Change: 24%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

The Astros have exploded out the gate despite a just-OK start from Carlos Correa and a bad start from Alex Bregman. That's pretty scary.

14. Cleveland Indians
Rev. Forecast: 91.7 wins | Change: 1.0
538 playoff odds: 75% | Change: 0%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

Banking those April wins was particularly important for Cleveland, which just put ace Corey Kluber on the DL with back trouble.


15. Chicago Cubs
Rev. Forecast: 94.9 wins | Change: -0.1
538 playoff odds: 86% | Change: 2%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

Worried about the champs? Don't be. Sure, they may have to add pitching at some point, but whatever you thought about the Cubs before the season, that's still what you should think about them.

16. Miami Marlins
Rev. Forecast: 79.9 wins | Change: -0.2
538 playoff odds: 25% | Change: -2%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

Did you see that bomb Marcell Ozuna hit Wednesday at The Trop? Home runs are not supposed to go there. The Marlins rank eighth in outfield wOBA so far, and when Christian Yelich gets going and Giancarlo Stanton goes on his next power spree, they could well move to the top by the end of the season.

17. Tampa Bay Rays
Rev. Forecast: 81.9 wins | Change: -0.2
538 playoff odds: 27% | Change: -2%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

The Rays have held their own, as expected, with solid pitching and highlight-reel defense from their outfield. Overall, Tampa Bay leads the majors with 22 defensive runs saved. But a thin offense needs more from franchise face Evan Longoria, who sports a .645 OPS.

18. Detroit Tigers
Rev. Forecast: 80.2 wins | Change: -1.0
538 playoff odds: 34% | Change: 0%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

Detroit's rotation has surprisingly been the steadiest in the American League, with a 63 percent rate of quality starts. And that's with Jordan Zimmermann scuffling.

19. Seattle Mariners
Rev. Forecast: 83.7 wins | Change: -2.1
538 playoff odds: 33% | Change: -15%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

The Mariners emerged as kind of preseason darling because, like the Rockies, so many people picked them to contend for a playoff spot. A lot went wrong that first month. Little production at first base. A disastrous string of bullpen outings. Felix Hernandez's injury. Rough April.

20. San Diego Padres
Rev. Forecast: 63.8 wins | Change: -2.9
538 playoff odds: 4% | Change: -2%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

Not sure if anyone can name any more players on the Padres roster than they could before the season, but April did have some positive developments for San Diego. Wil Myers mashed with a newly aggressive approach, and Manuel Margot looks like a keeper. But the Padres inspired my favorite baseball-reference.com query so far this season:

21. Los Angeles Dodgers
Rev. Forecast: 93.9 wins | Change: -3.1
538 playoff odds: 75% | Change: -2%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

When we raved about the Dodgers' depth before the season, it didn't mean they had to set about proving us right. Los Angeles has already had an NL-high 34 players step to the plate this season. They are tied with the Giants in that category.

22. Los Angeles Angels
Rev. Forecast: 76.6 wins | Change: -5.4
538 playoff odds: 24% | Change: 0%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

Testing your depth must be an L.A. thing. No team has used more pitchers than the Angels' 20. But perhaps the most depressing thing about the Angels is this: They rank 25th in the majors in adjusted OPS+. That's not good when your offensive starting point is Mike Trout. Despite all this, the Angels are at .500. Thank you, Mr. Trout.

23. St. Louis Cardinals
Rev. Forecast: 77.2 wins | Change: -5.4
538 playoff odds: 30% | Change: -1%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

The Cardinals managed to overcome their horrific start and remain in sniffing distance of the Cubs in the NL Central. The Redbirds put their emphasis on fixing the defense during the offseason, yet they rank 26th with minus-7 defensive runs saved.

24. Boston Red Sox
Rev. Forecast: 81.8 wins | Change: -5.5
538 playoff odds: 56% | Change: 2%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

The Red Sox's offensive mediocrity has been perplexing. They didn't profile as a big homer-hitting team without David Ortiz around but still projected to rank near the top of the majors in runs. Surely Dustin Pedroia, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley will fare better going forward, but third base is shaping up as a real black hole in the lineup.

25. Oakland Athletics
Rev. Forecast: 70.3 wins | Change: -7.2
538 playoff odds: 7% | Change: -8%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

Oakland got off to a decent start, but as the injuries began to mount, so did the losses. After a five-game winning streak that put the A's two games over .500 on April 22, Oakland has dropped seven of nine.

26. Pittsburgh Pirates
Rev. Forecast: 73.0 wins | Change: -9.4
538 playoff odds: 23% | Change: -5%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

The Pirates were only two games back of the Cubs at the end of April but had a minus-20 run differential and are four back now thanks to a two-game losing streak. Given the continued struggles of Andrew McCutchen, the terrible start by Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte's suspension, no unit in baseball has been more disappointing than the Pittsburgh outfield.

27. Toronto Blue Jays
Rev. Forecast: 74.2 wins | Change: -9.7
538 playoff odds: 11% | Change: -29%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Sell

The Blue Jays have hit .190 with runners in scoring position so far this season. The only position at which the formerly potent Jays rank in the top 10 by OPS is center field -- which is manned by star glove man Kevin Pillar. Toronto is already nine games behind the Yankees.

28. New York Mets
Rev. Forecast: 74.5 wins | Change: -11.3
538 playoff odds: 30% | Change: -21%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

Two more Mets pitchers were injured while you were reading these words.

29. Kansas City Royals
Rev. Forecast: 59.1 wins | Change: -14.4
538 playoff odds: 3% | Change: -10%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Sell

The Royals' offense has been truly painful to watch. They have the highest chase rate in the majors (31.5 percent). And when they chase on decision pitches, Kansas City hitters have hit a collective .151. Yet they keep on doing it. It's baseball's version of bad free throw shooting.

30. San Francisco Giants
Rev. Forecast: 70.4 wins | Change: -16.5
538 playoff odds: 20% | Change: -33%
Buy, Sell or Hold: Hold

One thing you might notice about these rankings is that sandwiching in the Royals at No. 29 are the two teams they played in the 2015 and 2014 World Series, respectively. Things change fast in baseball.