This is the way we should want things. It’s the start of September and there’s no clear-cut answer as to who is the best team in baseball.
The Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees are no doubt in a different class than the rest of the league. The next two months ought to crown one of them the next World Series champion, so long as October baseball doesn’t go sideways (which isn’t uncommon, so no guarantees).
While the next eight weeks should answer plenty of questions, here in the Power Rankings world there’s no time to wait. Every week is about picking a No. 1 and, to be honest, every week that seems to be getting a little tougher.
Before we get to this week’s pick, let’s look closer at just how close together the top three are:
• Their records? 90-49 for the Astros, 90-49 for the Yankees and 90-50 for the Dodgers.
• Runs scored? That’s 771 for both the Dodgers and Astros. The Yankees have scored more, but also allowed a lot more.
• Even their recent history isn’t too far off. The Astros and Yankees won five games since last week. The Dodgers won four.
So who’s this week’s top team? Take a look below for that, plus who else is in the Top 10 and how all 30 teams shake out.
THE TOP 10
1. Houston Astros (90-49; last week: 3)
When the numbers are as close as they are between the Astros, Yankees and Dodgers, sometimes you just have to defer to the eye test. Maybe the metric-loving baseball fans will scoff at getting caught up in emotion, but it’s hard to look at the Astros the last two games — Justin Verlander’s no-hitter and Gerrit Cole striking out 14 against the Brewers — and not see a team that can beat *anyone* in the league. Between Cole, Verlander and Wade Miley, they have the three best ERAs in the AL. Their offense is tops in on-base percentage, fourth in runs scored and homers. The Astros will be tough to beat.
2. New York Yankees (90-49; last week: 1)
There was nothing the Yankees did last week that necessarily hurts them here. It’s more that they don’t have a Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole ready to start a playoff series. They can definitely hit and have an uncanny pipeline of players ready to fill in for whoever gets injured. For the Yankees, it’s still about what players are healthy on Oct. 1.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers (90-50; last week: 2)
The Dodgers dropping three games to the division rival/second-place D-backs have them looking up at the two elite AL teams this week, but there’s still a very good likelihood they’re the first team to clinch their division. Their magic number is six after their win Monday against the Rockies.
4. Atlanta Braves (85-54; last week: 4)
The Braves continue to roll in the NL. They’re 54-27 since June 1, including five straight wins (albeit against the Blue Jays and White Sox) heading into this week’s rankings. The question for Atlanta hasn’t changed: Can their pitching hold up in October? Their 4.25 team ERA, which is 10th in MLB, doesn’t match their overall place in the league hierarchy.
5. Minnesota Twins (85-52; last week: 5)
The homer-smackin’ Twins have won eight of nine dating back to the last week, but we hesitate to give them too much credit for their last four series being against the Tigers and White Sox twice each.
6. Tampa Bay Rays (81-58; last week: 9)
The Rays sweeping the Indians was the big thing that shook up the Top 10 this week. The Rays would host the wild-card game if the playoffs were to start tomorrow, which isn’t a bad place to be for them.
7. Oakland A’s (78-58; last week: 6)
The Yankees got some revenge on the A’s, winning two of three over the weekend, including two one-run losses. Don’t fret too much, A’s fans: Oakland’s drop in the rankings this week can also be attributed to the Rays’ jump.
8. Washington Nationals (77-59; last week: 8)
The Washington Nationals, ladies and gentlemen. Many people left them for dead after a slow start, but they’re 53-25 since June 1. If Max Scherzer is healthy, it’s not unreasonable to believe this Nats squad could be dangerous in October.
9. St. Louis Cardinals (77-60; last week: 10)
The Cardinals have been up-and-down for a lot of 2019, but they’ve figured it out at the right time. They finished August 18-9, which brought their second-half record up to 32-16 and gives them a three-game lead in the tight NL Central entering play Tuesday.
10. Cleveland Indians (79-58; last week: 7)
The Indians getting swept by the Rays came after sweeping the Tigers, and you can take a guess which one weighed heavier in this week’s rankings. What’s most troubling about the Indians is that they’re 20-32 against teams that are .500 or better. That’s easily the worst mark of any postseason contender.
11. Chicago Cubs (74-63; last week: 11)
12. Boston Red Sox (74-63; last week: 12)
13. Milwaukee Brewers (70-67; last week: 14)
14. Philadelphia Phillies (71-65; last week: 13)
15. Arizona Diamondbacks (71-67; last week 16)
The gap between this group and the top 10 seems bigger than it’s been in a while. All the NL teams are alive and well in the postseason chase, with the Cubs holding onto the second wild-card spot. The Red Sox, on the other hand, aren’t getting much closer in the AL. The D-backs, despite recently setting a record for being one of the most OK teams in history, are hanging tough in the wild-card race. The Brewers are four games out of the second wild-card spot, but consider this: There’s only one team in MLB (the Braves) that has more wins than Milwaukee against teams with records better than .500.
IT’S NOT LOOKING GOOD
16. New York Mets (70-67; last week: 15)
17. Texas Rangers (68-71; last week: 18)
18. San Francisco Giants (66-71; last week: 16)
19. Los Angeles Angels (65-73; last week: 19)
20. San Diego Padres (64-73; last week: 21)
Remember when the Giants looked like they could make a postseason run and didn’t trade Madison Bumgarner at the deadline? Those days are not today, friends. The Mets are a more current version of that story — and their recent play suggests the postseason probably isn’t in their future either. Even though they’re only four games out of the second wild card, there are three teams between them and the second-wild-card-holding Cubs.
IT’S PRETTY MUCH A WRAP
21. Cincinnati Reds (64-74; last week: 20)
22. Pittsburgh Pirates (60-77; last week: 25)
23. Chicago White Sox (60-76; last week: 22)
24. Colorado Rockies (59-80; last week: 24)
25. Seattle Mariners (58-81; last week: 23)
Nobody on this portion of the list was expected to be particularly good, but the Rockies have to the biggest surprise of the bunch. They’re not rebuilding and have made some win-now moves the past couple years, but 80 losses in early September? A mark of 15-35 since the All-Star break? Yikes. Losing eight in a row certainly hasn’t helped that.
26. Toronto Blue Jays (55-84; last week: 26)
27. Miami Marlins (48-88; last week: 27)
28. Kansas City Royals (49-89; last week: 28)
29. Baltimore Orioles (45-92; last week: 29)
30. Detroit Tigers (40-95; last week: 30)
In the race to the bottom, the Tigers could be the first team to hit 100 losses by the time next week’s rankings come out. The Marlins are the only team of this bunch who haven’t been completely mathematically eliminated for postseason contention, which is mostly because the NL is a jumbled mess, but still ... Yeah, Jeets!
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