Nearly every MLB team still has some sort of mathematically real though perhaps not entirely bonafide shot at a playoff appearance. And that means, of course – Yes! – even the Seattle Mariners remain in the postseason hunt.
With the rest of the sports universe dust not even remotely close to settled, following a Trade Deadline – for the first and last time arising then elapsing with the NBA and NHL playoffs still in full swing – that felt like fever dream in San Diego and Seattle, and a desert mirage in New York, Atlanta, and Chicago; where most baseball writers may have once believed themselves wise to anticipate titanic upheavals.
All of this and more took place just several nights before a full moon, and the eternally wild pressure cooker that is baseball in September rolling around.
So now it’s high time we delve into a fresh ration of subjective, and frenetic hot takes, and another illustrious and fun swerve through conjecture with some all new MLB Power Rankings. Onward!
1. Los Angeles Dodgers: Still top dogs in baseball. I’m frankly shocked they find ways to lose. They’re 8-2 in their last 10. They look untouchable. As of this paragraph’s composition, ESPN gives them the one and only official, guaranteed, 100% chance at a playoff spot. Pre-coronavirus, Los Angeles was scheduled to host this season’s mid-summer classic. Would’ve been extra fun to host baseball’s extra elaborate and self-celebrating long weekend considering there were many cosmetic upgrades made to the outskirts of what was already a gem of the third oldest ballpark in the country. Although, one door shuts and another opens, right? Who wouldn’t trade an All-Star Game for a World Series under California sun and moon and palm trees? LA still leads baseball in ERA, Home Runs and Wins, but now sit second to their division rival, the mercurial Padres in RBIs. The Dodgers have one flaw thus far, as of Wednesday, their team batting average is .241, which ranks fourteenth in baseball. Always room for improvement, I expect this to change soon. One final note: they have the best run differential in baseball, plus 93, which sits at something of a gulf’s worth of distance more than the next nearest ball club, the Indianas, sitting at plus 48. Mookie Betts has 12 home runs through Wednesday.
2. Tampa Bay Rays: The surprise juggernaut of the AL saw their current scorching six game win streak end with a fresh ration of fireworks in the Bronx Tuesday evening as both benches cleared following Aroldis Chapman’s 101 MPH fastball buzzing up the back of pinch-hitter Michael Brosseau’s helmet in the second to last time these two squabbling, and well-known-for-chirping squads will meet before what may go down – please, let this happen, Baseball Gods!- in the playoffs, should they meet again. Their bullpen has the second highest average fastball velocity, 94.2 MPH, even though in their post-defeat, and bench-clearing presser, manager, Kevin Cash (kind of a rogue, flyweight boxer’s name, no?) threatened to retaliate in kind for Chapman’s inaccuracy, unleashing vengeance, and proceeding to holler, “The last damn thing I’ll say on it is, ‘I got a whole damn stable of guys who all throw at least 98 MPH,’” to not un-casually win this weird season’s most ironic comment of the year so far. He’s gotta be bluffing, right? Anyway, baseball is ripe for irony, now, always and forever. Case and point: After the Cash smear job, Yankees manager, Aaron Boone – Cash as well – was suspended more total games, 1, for his stud closer, Chapman’s alleged brush back pitch, than Astros players, Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman received for verifiably cheating last year, combined.
3. Oakland Athletics: Aside from a positive Covid-19 test before their upcoming four game set against the red-hot M’s, Bob Melvin and company were doing nearly everything right, and have been virtually flawless from the jump. The AL West front runners have the third best ERA in baseball. A bullpen that’s bulletproof is usually one still pitching in a League Championship Series. The A’s added some key pieces at the Trade Deadline, including former Angels 2B, Tommy La Stella.
4. San Diego Padres: Seismic upheavals out west! And the biggest jump in these power rankings since last week! Short story time: last year, Manny Machado took the not actually awarded but still, unofficially, and metaphysically, bat-S$&* cake for my absolute personal favorite amateur fan captured video rant of the season, when a Dodgers fan heckled Machado to no end, about SD’s current run of woe. To which, Machado yelled, “We’re gonna win a championship before you guys do!” Alright, so, at the time the video was shot, this jab seemed, to put it decently, far-fetched? Well maybe not so much anymore! The Padres went from “Sham Diego” back to their first fun nickname, “Slam-Diego” and maybe even sprouted some extra words worth repeating, because in bolstering their bullpen tremendously, they have become, at least to me, the all-new “Slam-The-Door-Diego.” Friars GM, A. J. Preller, pulled more than a few strings to exact something that can only be described as a stunningly incisive, true-to-form Jerry Dipoto impersonation – and because these teams share a Spring Training facility in Peoria, AZ, maybe we should have seen this coming all along? – at the Trade Deadline; even doing a deal with the M’s for Seattle’s best hitting catcher in years, Austin Nola. Preller literally bet the farm (system) to go All-In on his Win Now philosophy. Published the day after the feathers stopped flying, a columnist for the San Diego Tribune wrote, I’m paraphrasing, in short, This was just how Preller envisioned an ideal trade haul for years. Back to me: now THAT is the type of magical baseball thinking I can get behind. They clobbered the Angels, 11-4 Wednesday.
5. Chicago White Sox: The hottest team currently at the top of the best pennant race in baseball, they have more than a good shot at taking the hotly contested AL Central crown this year. These current South Side Sox have the fifth best run differential in baseball, at plus 37. They snagged veteran center fielder Jerrod Dyson from the lowly Bucs to back up the rest of an alarmingly talented battery that still boasts baseball’s best batting average and third most home runs and hits.
6. Atlanta Braves: This current Braves squad is the first in franchise, and baseball history to have two players with consecutive three home run games. Adam Duvall pounded three to follow up on Marcell Ozuna’s stunning display. Ozuna’s three moonshots amassed six RBIs Tuesday evening in Boston to claim an all too oddly vacant back section of the mythical nearly out of the park, Fenway center field bleachers; and a spot John Buccigross on SportsCenter called, “Jim Rice territory!” to become the first – before Duvall seconded the feat less than twenty four hours later – National League player with three homers in one game at Fenway since Jim Tobin performed the same feat all the way back in 1942. Props to the neon green arm sleeve Ozuna flaunts as well. Lookin’ fly! Fun fact: though part of the AL when it happened, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were the last two players to do what Ozuna and Duvall pulled off this week in BeanTown.
7. Minnesota Twins: With the best fielding percentage in baseball, having only committed 10 errors through Wednesday’s 27th game, it was former Mariner, Michael Pineda and the bullpen that held back the division leading White Sox, stifling the South Side’s sluggers to fewer than 3 runs for the first time in more than a week, on what was already a very odd, off night for the “Bamba Squad.” If the Twins can win the division, and they’re in great shape to do this, with the boost of home field advantage in the first round of the playoffs that will allow the top seed in each matchup three consecutive home games, and because the Twins are 13-4 at Target Field this year, now tied for the best home record in baseball, with Oakland, things may go much better for them than in years past, one might say, smashingly; because former Mariner, Nelson Cruz still owns a share of the home run lead in baseball at 13, with Tatis and Voit.
8. New York Yankees: With a flair for the unwieldy and unprecedented, reliever, Miguel Yajure became the first player in history to wear jersey number 89 in any regular season game. The only thorn in their pinstriped sides, apart from the persistent injury bug thus far – and the positive Covid19 tests earlier – was actually more of a barb because the Rays were 7-1 against this beast of a team before Chapman brushed back those pesky upstart boys from Florida. Chapman received a 3-game suspension after the errant fireball. Not the best of news, considering the red-hot Blue Jays are closing in on the second spot in the Al East. Although I do expect the Bronx Bombers will soon turn on the jets and then go on to win something like sixteen or seventeen of their final twenty once Chapman returns from his suspension. The last time Chapman returned from an extended absence – see Covid19 positive test – his fastball velocity was up several MPH. So here is a low hanging fruit of a prediction: the Yankees will finish with the AL East’s best winning percentage. They’re 2-9 against the Rays, and 18-6 against the rest of baseball.
9. Cleveland Indians: All three teams near the top of the AL Central have a better than 94% chance to reach the playoffs as of Tuesday evening. The Tribe look mostly good to great leading this rust belt cadre with baseball’s second best ERA, second most Saves and Strikeouts and most Quality Starts and best WHIP, heading into eight straight games against the atrocious Royals and sputtering Brewers. I don’t imagine anyones sees Tito’s side simmering anytime soon either. Maybe this baseball franchise curse-breaking specialist can go full shaman come deep September to remedy another more than one half-century’s worth of unsuccessful baseball seasons in Ohio?
10. Toronto Blue Jays: Let’s call them the Bombastic Buffalo Blue Birds for fun, shall we? This is a great baseball team. Lots of momentum. They’re reminiscent of those scrappy Joe Maddon Tampa Bay Rays teams of old, or the actual new look Rays this year, and now seem primed, and well-armed – they plucked three underperforming but high-potential starting pitchers in Taijuan Walker, Robbie Ray and Ross Stripling – to gear up for what might just be the best bet for a feel good and deep postseason run, despite a wonky shapeshifting roster of assorted odds and ends.
11. Chicago Cubs: Both Ian Happ and Kyle Swarber have already slugged ten home runs this season. Yu Darvish continues to deal. His ERA for a few days was the best in baseball, until Bieber threw a gem against K.C. and reclaimed his top spot. But this bullpen seems like it may never rise beyond mediocre, and could perhaps become something of a major liability down the stretch. Former lights out closer, Craig Kimbrel is not explicitly tipping his pitches, yet, but still something’s woefully off, wrong, because he’s getting rocked quite regularly. His ERA sits over 10. Yikes. Maybe the Cubs could repeat history and make a last minute trade for Aroldis Chapman, again? Oh…whoops. (*Inserts wildly inconsistent, Chicago native, Kanye West presidential campaign staff reference about missing vital deadlines*). Chicago required 11 innings to dispatch with the atrocious Pirates, 8-7, Tuesday evening. All things considered – like Jayson Heyward’s OPS, the second best on the team at .947 – their 22-14 record seems good enough…for now.
12. Philadelphia Phillies: As of Wednesday, they’ve won three straight, and eight of their last ten. Does anyone remember what I said about this team heating up? I predict they’ll wind up in the top ten before next week. They’re third in baseball in OBP, fourth in slugging percentage, eighth in both runs and batting average, but trending up in both categories. Watch out for Bryce Harper.
13. Houston Astros: Despite the third best fielding percentage in baseball, the only part of this squad I respect is Dusty Baker. That’s all I have on these unapologetic cheaters right now.
14. Detroit Tigers: They have the fifth best fielding percentage in baseball. Plus the longest current winning streak in baseball, with 6 straight as of Wednesday. Hard to see how they leapfrog the rest of the red hot AL Central. But stranger happenings are taking place all across baseball. Who knows? Maybe they sneak in the back door at the end of September…like a tiger.
15. St. Louis Cardinals: They scored 6 in the top of the first in a game where former Seattle Mariners utility player, and now power hitting, Brad Miller (Weird to imagine, I know, right?) drove in 7 during a devastatingly Alfred Hitchcockian-level red bird onslaught and swarm Tuesday night to ultimately dynamite former Cy Young favorite, Sunny Gray’s ERA, before the final, 16-2 culminated in their third straight win. Paul Goldschimdt is swatting a sterling .353, and the Cards had a 58% chance of making the playoffs, going for the full blown Cinci sweep Wednesday. Not half bad for a ballclub playing far too many, more than any other team, double headers this season.
16. Seattle Mariners: The future is bright. Seems their starting pitching gets better every day. They still lead baseball in stolen bases. Plus, the latest Dipoto prospect haul was nothing short of extraordinary. New additions Trammell, France, Torrens, Rodriguez, and several more, all look sensational. They’re 7-3 over their last 10. Stud reliever Yohan Ramirez, has 103% more horizontal break on his slider than the MLB average. And Marco Gonzales, in his last 3 starts is 2-0 with a 2.14 ERA in 21 innings of work punctuated by 22 K’s and 1 Walk. He also, at one point, retired 21 straight hitters. But in the potentially ameliorative though excruciating offloading of baseball’s most efficient and prolific offensive catcher, Austin Nola, right before the deadline, Dipoto signaled to those of us emphatically “True To The Blue” although the future is bright, he does not expect us to qualify for the ultra expanded playoffs. Prior to the postponed series in Oakland, ESPN gave the M’s only a measly 1.2% chance of a postseason appearance.
17. San Francisco Giants: Forced to not only blink twice, I had to double take, before yelling at my dog, Who are these guys?! Then Scott Van Pelt said, “I hope no one was swinging freely with a three-oh count,” before regaling us at home with the details of these nascent G-Men, amidst their ostentatious walloping of the feckless and sad rolling stone Rockies, Tuesday, posting their franchise’s second largest margin of victory ever. 23-5; and not before Alex Dickerson’s ninth inning double had him tie Willie Mays’ franchise record for 16 total bases in a single game.
18. Milwaukee Brewers: Before the season began, I said Josh Hader would finish second in the NL Cy Young race. Through Wednesday, he made his 12th straight hitless appearance, and he still has not given up a single run. Both the Padres and Dodgers were rumored to have made serious proposals for the Brew Crew’s star bullpen horse. Nothing came of it. Kind of how the Brewers are playing right now. Despite Hader’s brilliance, they have the 29th best team batting average, wallowing at .215, and somehow they still have managed to string together 16 wins through Wednesday. The next 10 games will be huge, ESPN gives them just south of a fifty-fifty shot at reaching the postseason. The Brewers rank third in baseball in punch outs, with 368.
19. New York Mets: Tough time to be a fan of the Metropolitans. “Terrific” Tom Seaver, the greatest Met in franchise history, passed away at 77. Hats off, and RIP to one the best, most dominant pitchers of all time. Hank Aaron once said, more less, no other pitcher intimidated him more on the mound. Fun fact: Seaver inducted Seattle Mariners legendary broadcaster, Dave Niehaus into the Hall of Fame. The Mets rank fifth in baseball in punch outs, with 338.
20. Miami Marlins: Dead even with the Phillies on Wednesday, the, “Wait, who’s that guy?” heavy Florida fish are finding odd ways to win, and doing it regularly too. For instance, 14 of their 16 victories have taken place on the road this season.
21. Cincinnati Reds: Who knows what this team thinks of itself? The rest of us have no idea either. They moved virtually no one at the Trade Deadline. Their only stellar team statistic of note is opponent batting average, they rank fourth in baseball, largely in part to Trevor Bauer’s previous and continuing excellence on the bump. Bauer was a prime piece many baseball writers assumed would help assist some other new playoff contender down the stretch. Perhaps the Reds’ ask for Bauer was just too high, or, maybe it’s best we quote an old fantasy sports snatch of sage wisdom: “Sometimes the best move is no move at all.” Bauer gave up more than three earned runs in back to back starts for the first time all season just this past week.
22. Washington Nationals: Despite two of their stars, before games finished Wednesday, leading baseball’s batting average race, Trea Turner at .368 and Juan Soto at .355, the Nats are nothing if not floundering far more often than a team that might eventually reach the playoffs. Despite the injury bug decimating large chunks of this roster, already combatting vacancies at most of their starter spots from last season, their is no easy way to defend how they lost 5 in a row, and are 2-8 over their last 10, punctuated by a series loss to the squalors Bo-Sox.
23. Colorado Rockies: Their communications staff released a Tweet following their abysmal loss to the Giants Tuesday night. The Tweet read, “We typically have positive and encouraging words when tweeting the final score after losses. Or some kind of clever approach. Not tonight. We lost 23-5. It sucked. Good night.” If anyone was seeking an emblem for the vibe after falling from the mile-high of an 11-3 opening record to their mid-season rock slide 5-16 since, this is definitely it.
24. Baltimore Orioles: The tumble for Baltimore continues uninhibited. Even the sluggish Mets got everything they wanted from the O’s, although the New York bats did not erupt until late Wednesday, as they dropped a four spot on the Baltimore bullpen, before the final, 9-4. They have a 2.9% chance of reaching the postseason, sitting behind the Rays, Yankees and Blue Jays.
25. Arizona Diamondbacks: They have the second best fielding percentage in baseball, and not a whole lot else going for ‘em. Can snakes cry? Maybe. They shipped off diamond in the rough, Starling Marte, a sign they know it’s all over but the shouting. They’re 1-9 in their last 10. And yet they still have around a 10% chance of earning a postseason spot. Although, I don’t expect them to compete for much of anything. They have the same road record as the Pirates, 5-13.
26. Kansas City Royals: Every team in their division has a winning record. The race at the top of the division is the best in baseball. No one on their staff has recorded a single Quality Start. They’re 26th in OBP. They traded away the once great, but struggling this year, Trevor Rosenthal, plus Brett Phillips for a prospect at SS, Lucius Fox, which can only mean one thing: retreat, surrender, tanking, hopelessness and despond. It’s brutal out there, and it won’t get better any time soon for K.C. They’re packing it in early.
27. Boston Red Sox: They scored three in the first against the Braves Wednesday evening before allowing a second Braves slugger to clobber three home runs in a single game. They’re dead last in the AL East.
28. Texas Rangers: They rank fourth in baseball in stolen bases with 30. And that’s about it for good news at the ballpark that hosts the former Washington Senators. The Rangers have lost 13 of their last 16.
29. Los Angeles Angels: This entire roster will go down as one of the biggest flops of the season. And once regaled as the Japanese Babe Ruth, because he threw mid-nineties fastballs and could wallop all hanging breaking stuff into the bleachers behind every field, in any direction, without fail, the now very flawed Shohei Ohtani, is hitting .189 this year, and will not throw another pitch for the busted Halos the rest of the way. He is, without question, their spirit animal. Rumors are circulating the organization has fallen behind on their promised payments to their minor leaguers as well. I would love to know, maybe someone has heard something from somewhere, if someone has or will find a way to work in a livid, Anaheim Angel Rally Monkey cartoon before the year is done. One final note, Mike Trout is hitting a pedestrian .268. Also, after being tied at three apiece going into the eight, the Padres dropped a whopping 8-spot on the Angels bullpen during what eventually became Wednesday night’s 11-4 southern California smackdown.
30. Pittsburgh Pirates: By far the best looking city ballpark background in the country is not enough inspiration for this hapless squad to reach anything of substance. Their best starting pitcher currently has an ERA of 5.50. ESPN says they have a 0.1% shot at the playoffs. But at least the Bucs have announced a fun, and Jackie Robinson Day inspired way to honor another one of baseball’s color barrier shattering legends; they’ll all wear jersey number, 21, to celebrate Roberto Clemente Day, Wednesday, September 9.