MLB's most shocking first-half storylines

Joe Maddon's Tampa Bay Rays haven't lived up to expectations so far this season. Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

We've reached the midway point in the 2014 MLB season, when teams are turning the corner on the 81-game mark. A good or bad week in April or May might’ve been classified as a slump or a streak, but now the sample size is big enough to draw some larger conclusions.

With that in mind, here are the eight most shocking things to me about the first half of the 2014 season:

1.It's stunning how bad the Tampa Bay Rays are

They are 33-49 and 12 games out of first place in the AL East, despite the fact that the division is relatively mediocre this year. Matt Moore was among the legions of pitchers lost to Tommy John surgery, and this undoubtedly has hurt, but the extent of the Rays’ struggles are mind-boggling. Third baseman Evan Longoria, who needs to be the anchor of the lineup, ranks 87th among all players in OPS, at .740 -- and he is the best every-day player the Rays have.

It seemed within the realm of possibility that the Rays would run out of bullpen pixie dust, or that they would have the usual struggles of a franchise that operates without much margin for error and be taken down by injuries.

But they can’t really blame injuries this season, and mediocrity has infected them almost across the board. They’re 28th in runs, they’re 16th in starters’ ERA, 19th in bullpen ERA and they’ve got the worst record in the majors.