- Of the five best teams in baseball, the American League has four of them. What will that mean once the playoffs begin?
The end of the regular season is firmly in sight, only a handful of teams have a shot at the playoffs, but everybody has a couple weeks to go! What else is there to look out for? Take a look at our latest Power Rankings!
TIER SIX: CELLAR DWELLERS
30. Baltimore Orioles (41–104)
To become baseball’s worst team in half a century, Baltimore would have to go 2–15. Is it likely that they’ll be that bad the rest of the way? No. But with this team, should you put it past them? Definitely not.
29. Kansas City Royals (49–96)
The Royals’ bullpen is a disaster zone, but consider how much the bullpen has improved over the last few months! Their worst-in-baseball first-half 5.45 ERA has dropped to a second-half 4.57. They’ve gone from baseball’s lowest strikeout rate to… well, still baseball’s lowest strikeout rate, but at least it’s now above 20%! The situation is bad, but it could always be worse.
28. Chicago White Sox (57–89)
Flamethrower Michael Kopech will undergo surgery and miss all of 2019; Eloy Jimenez isn’t in the major leagues; Lucas Giolito is the worst starting pitcher in baseball. So it goes.
27. Miami Marlins (57–87)
For all the pieces that the team stripped away last offseason, there was one that couldn’t be moved: the home run sculpture, the gaudiest and most glorious of any ballpark fixture, which is classified as a public art installation and was surrounded by too much bureaucratic red tape for Derek Jeter & Co. to tear out over last winter. Alas, that may no longer be the case:
I haven’t gotten a full confirmation on it per se, so file this under “opinion.” I believe one of the orders of business when the Marlins season ends is removal of the HR sculpture. Say your goodbyes, 8 home games left.— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) September 4, 2018
Farewell, sweet prince.
26. San Diego Padres (59–88)
In the last century, there have been 84 teams with an on-base percentage at or below .300. Among them: 2015 Padres, 2016 Padres, 2017 Padres, and, now, the 2018 Padres. The power of consistency!
TIER FIVE: COULD BE WORSE, I GUESS…
25. Texas Rangers (62–84)
There are eight pitchers who have started seven or more games for the 2018 Rangers. Not one of them has a sub-4.00 ERA. There are, however, three of them above 6.50.
24. Detroit Tigers (59–87)
James McCann: the worst-hitting catcher of the last decade? Not quite, but there’s still time for him to make it so. His 59 OPS+ is by far the worst of any catcher this year, and it’s the third-worst of any catcher with at least 400 PAs since 2008. The man to beat here is 2009 Dioner Navarro, with a 54 OPS+, which is probably out of reach, but hey, a guy can dream.
23. New York Mets (66–78)
The Mets named Peter Alonso their minor league player of the year this week. They did not call up Alonso, who had a .941 OPS in Triple-A. They did get in a public spat with him over their decision not to do so. The Mets!
22. Cincinnati Reds (63–84)
Joey Votto does not, for once, lead baseball in walk percentage. (Though he’s close—third, at 18.1%.) But he does have an opportunity to stand out in a related capacity. He can become just the second first baseman in the last quarter-century to finish with an on-base percentage higher than his slugging. His numbers there are currently .421 and .422, respectively, meaning that this will likely come down to the wire. Which is cool, because goodness knows there aren’t any other reasons to watch this team down the stretch.
21. Minnesota Twins (67–78)
Until a month ago, Robbie Grossman had been having the worst season of his career. His plate discipline, typically his greatest strength, had mysteriously deteriorated. But over the last month? Grossman has swung at fewer pitches outside the zone than anyone else. He’s had baseball’s second-highest walk-to-strikeout ratio. He’s been, by far, the best hitter on the team—which isn’t saying particularly much on this team, but, hey, it’s still saying something.
TIER FOUR: MEH
20. Toronto Blue Jays (65–80)
Two weeks ago, Rowdy Tellez was no one, so far as baseball defines being someone. He was a 23-year-old prospect with no glove, a big-bodied first baseman who’d crushed Double-A in 2016 and stumbled at Triple-A in 2017 and floated somewhere in the middle in 2018. He was a September call-up, and he was on a team with nothing to play for.
Tellez played his seventh major league game on Wednesday. He hit his seventh major league double.
19. San Francisco Giants (68–79)
The Giants have now lost 11 in a row, their longest losing streak since they moved to San Francisco. Even Year Magic really is dead.
18. Pittsburgh Pirates (72–73)
Remember a month ago, when this team was just four games out of a playoff spot? Yeah, it feels like a lot longer than a month ago.
17. Los Angeles Angels (73–73)
You’ve already heard Shohei Ohtani’s recent bad news—that surgery is recommended to repair the ligament in his pitching elbow. But have you realized just how good his recent good news is? Over the last month, Ohtani’s been the best hitter in the American League, with a 1.283 OPS. You just can’t keep the man down.
16. Washington Nationals (74–72)
Juan Soto has been electric since his first moments in the majors. (Quite literally, if you’ll recall—he homered on the first pitch of his first start.) But he’s been especially electric over the last few weeks. His September OPS is 1.171—and, no, his 20th birthday still isn’t for more than a month.
TIER THREE: A-OK
15. Philadelphia Phillies (74–71)
A month ago, Philadelphia was in first place in the NL East, with playoff odds hovering around 70%. Since then? They’ve gone 9–20. Their pitching staff has posted a 4.92 ERA, the worst in the National League, and their hitters have struck out more than those of any team but San Diego. Their playoff chances have plummeted to less than 3%. They’ve already surpassed last year’s win total, and this year wasn’t ever supposed to be their year, but this ending is still rough.
14. Seattle Mariners (79–66)
If Philadelphia’s fall from grace sounds rough, just look at Seattle’s:
13. Arizona Diamondbacks (77–69)
Over the last two weeks, Arizona has lost ground in a tight NL West. In response, they’ve shaken up their bullpen: Brad Boxberger is gone from the closer’s role, replaced by a committee that includes Yoshihisa Hirano. His name might not be familiar, but it’s worth remembering. The 34-year-old came over this winter from Japan, and thanks to the strength of his splitter, he’d posted a 1.88 ERA entering the save attempt on Wednesday. During which he, uh, allowed a brutal two-run walk-off dinger against key division competition in Colorado. But still!
12. Tampa Bay Rays (80–65)
On August 5, Tampa Bay was 56–56—which meant that it was doing better than most people had predicted. If .500 was exceeding expectations, though, the team’s recent performance has positively eclipsed them. The Rays have won 24 of their last 33 games. Their 2.89 ERA in that time is the best in baseball. And, alas, they’re still way, way, way out of the playoff picture.
11. St. Louis Cardinals (81–65)
After nearly four months on the disabled list with elbow inflammation, Adam Wainwright made his return this week. The veteran’s first start wasn’t particularly encouraging—four runs allowed, including two dingers, in five innings of work against Pittsburgh—but he adds some variety to a rotation that’s lately been heavy slanted toward the young (Jack Flaherty, Austin Gomber, John Gant, Luke Weaver).
TIER TWO: BEST OF THE REST
10. Atlanta Braves (82–64)
In a baseball world so captured by the young talent of Ronald Acuña, Jr. and Ozzie Albies, do not sleep on their teammate Johan Camargo. (He’s slightly older than that pair, sure, but 24’s still young enough to help put Baby in Baby Braves.) The third baseman has five home runs in the last two weeks, with a 1.093 OPS that’s made him one of the hottest hitters in baseball in that stretch.
9. Colorado Rockies (80–65)
The Rockies claim a negative run differential, having been outscored by their opponents by two runs. No National League has outperformed their Pythagorean record more—by that, they “should” have won eight fewer games. Their offense is below average, with a 90 OPS+, and their pitching isn’t substantially better. Yet here they are, in first place.
8. Los Angeles Dodgers (79–67)
The Dodgers last missed the playoffs in 2012. That 86-win team finished in second place— slipping out of first in late August, never to return, after a frustrating up-and-down season. This Dodgers team is currently projected to win a bit more (89, according to FanGraphs), but man, they feel mighty similar.
7. Cleveland Indians (82–64)
Josh Donaldson’s Cleveland debut wasn’t anything flashy: 0-for-4 at the plate, with nothing remarkable to speak of in the field. It’s hard to tell just how meaningful that acquisition will be—due to a calf injury, the third baseman hadn’t played in more than two months before this week, and he’d been struggling at the plate even before his injury. If Donaldson bounces back to peak form, though? An infield that pairs him with Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor could be downright terrifying.
6. Milwaukee Brewers (84–63)
Here’s a somewhat weird one: Milwaukee is just a game out of first place in the NL Central, and they led the division for most of the first half. Yet they have a losing record for intradivision play! They’re 31–33, and that’s after taking two of three this week from the Cubs. Pittsburgh, more than anyone, has had their number, winning 9 of 13. If they want to recapture first place, the Brewers will probably need to change that in their three games against the Pirates this weekend.
TOP-TIER: CREAM OF THE CROP
5. Chicago Cubs (84–61)
The Cubs haven’t had a great week. First, they spent some time in a hell of extended rain delays in soggy Washington; after returning home, they lost two of three to Milwaukee, which cut their division lead down to just one game. This weekend’s series against Cincinnati should be an opportunity to regroup—if not, they could be in trouble.
4. Oakland Athletics (89–57)
The A’s have been the hottest team of the last two months, and yet it still feels a little crazy to ask if they can catch the first-place reigning champion Astros. If they’re going to do it, though? This is the perfect time. Just three games back of Houston, Oakland is riding a six-game winning streak, and its upcoming schedule is stacked with teams who are out of contention (Rays, Angels, Twins).
3. New York Yankees (90–56)
Aaron Judge’s return is reportedly on the horizon, more than a month after he was sidelined by a fractured wrist. How much of a difference can he make? Well, even after missing six weeks, he still easily leads the team in WAR—by nearly an entire win, 5.1 to Aaron Hicks’ 4.3.
2. Houston Astros (92–54)
The Astros don’t have a chance to catch the Red Sox for the game’s best record. But they do have a chance at claiming one of the best records in modern baseball history by run differential. After Wednesday’s win over Detroit, they’d outscored their opponents by 242. Now, that’s still a few steps off the pace of the 1998 New York Yankees, who had the best run differential of any team since 1960, at 309. In order to match that, Houston needs to outscore its opponents by an average of 4.2 runs per game for the rest of the season. But that’s within reach! The Astros do have four games left against the Orioles, after all.
1. Boston Red Sox (100–46)
The Red Sox last won 100 games in 1946, on a team led by Ted Williams and his 1.164 OPS. They reached the 100-win milestone again on Wednesday, with a 1-0 win over Toronto. Unless they meet with total collapse down the stretch, they look set to break the franchise’s all-time win record of 105, set in 1912; FanGraphs currently projects them for a win total of 109.
The postseason is drastically different from what it was all those decades ago, of course, but just for kicks? The 100-win 1946 squad lost the World Series. The 105-win 1912 version won.