More than a quarter of the way through the 2023 Major League Baseball season, a few teams are still lingering higher than expected in the standings.

So, for what may be the last time before it's no longer considered early in the 2023 season, let's weigh whether eight clubs are real contenders or just fun stories.

This is a situation where neither perspective is totally invalid, so we made arguments for both. What we didn't do, though, was give equal weight to both sides. For each team, we put statistical analysis, historical precedence and good, ol' gut feeling into making the call on whether "real contender" or "fun story" carries more or less weight.

Detroit Tigers

  • Record: 22-25 (2nd in AL Central)
  • Playoff Odds: +1200

The Case for Real Contender

The Tigers? A contender? With that record?

Look, we're not saying [Tony the Tiger voice] they're great, but their winning percentage is up 61 points from last season, and they're only 2.5 games behind the Minnesota Twins in the American League Central. And their remaining schedule? It's weak sauce.

These are favorable circumstances for a would-be playoff contender, and the Tigers indeed have more good things going for them between the lines than just Eduardo Rodríguez's pitching. Namely, a defense that ranks fourth in MLB in efficiency.


The Case for Fun Story

When the St. Louis Cardinals made the playoffs in 2014, it was without much help from their offense. It produced only 3.82 runs per game.

We bring this up because that's the lowest such figure by a playoff team since MLB expanded to 30 teams in 1998. It, uh, doesn't bode well for a Tigers club that's putting up 3.66 runs per game. And that, if you can believe it, is one of their offense's more flattering figures.