Here’s the entire list of things we know for sure about the playoff contenders in the National League: The Los Angeles Dodgers are good.
The Dodgers are No. 1 in our weekly MLB Power Rankings again (that shouldn’t be a spoiler, they’re easily the best team in baseball these days). But after the Dodgers, what do we know about the NL?
• The Braves look like the team-to-beat in the NL East, but they’ve got question marks too.
Plenty of teams in the NL mix need help, particularly with starting pitching, where the Braves, Brewers and Phillies should be shopping.
What it all means is that these contenders have some things to figure out before Wednesday’s MLB trade deadline. Who will make the bold move to stand out? Who won’t do enough?
We’ll see — until then, here’s how I see all 30 teams in MLB this week.
THE TOP 10
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (69-38; last week: 1)
Looking at the Dodgers through the scope of the trade deadline only helps the notion that they are the most complete team in MLB right now. They need some relief pitching, sure — and frankly, who doesn’t this time of year — but otherwise, they’re in quite good shape.
2. Houston Astros (68-39; last week: 3)
You can virtually say the same thing about the Astros. They have needs, but they’re not one of these teams trying to keep it together. They’re pretty solid. The Astros need a starting pitcher and they’ll likely go get one. But given the potent 1-2 of Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole, and their stacked lineup, the Astros sit in a better place than anybody else in the AL.
3. New York Yankees (67-38; last week: 2)
The Yankees are coming off a weekend that can’t be called anything other than a disappointment. They lost three of four to the Red Sox. They lost CC Sabathia, further showing their need for starting pitching. And they watched the Mets acquire Marcus Stroman. The Yankees *need* rotation help. They’ve got just a few days to get it now.
4. Minnesota Twins (64-41; last week: 4)
The Twins’ offense is still a monster. They were the first team to hit 200 homers this year. But they should be careful about summer doldrums. So far, they’re just 11-11 in July, their worst month so far. They’ve started to address their bullpen needs by trading for Sergio Romo, but they’d be wise to bring in more pitching help to fend off the Indians.
5. Cleveland Indians (62-43; last week: 6)
Watch out, AL, here come the Indians. Actually, they’ve been on their way for the past two months if you hadn’t noticed. They’re 34-14 in June and July, closing the gap in the AL Central and becoming much more of a player in the AL postseason chase. Entering play this week, they’re just two games behind the Twins in the AL Central.
6. Atlanta Braves (62-44; last week: 5)
The Braves are here, but with some reservations. They’re the second-best team in the NL after the Dodgers these days, but even that isn’t a one-thousand percent sure thing. After an amazing June, July was good enough for them but lately they haven’t quite been on fire. They’ve lost series to the Royals (!), the Brewers and split with the Nats. They took two of three from the Phillies over the weekend, which is commendable. Their lineup is strong, even though they lost Nick Markakis to injury. What they really need is pitching — and the window is closing to acquire that pitching.
7. Boston Red Sox (59-48; last week: 9)
The Red Sox have ascended to their highest ranking since that horrible start. They’ve punctuated that by taking three of four from the Yankees and two of three from the Rays this past week. They’re also close to surpassing the Rays in the AL East standings.
8. Oakland A’s (60-47; last week: 8)
The A’s are having another one of those seasons where the sum of the whole is seemingly better than the parts. Sixty wins at this juncture is quite respectable for a team whose best active starting pitcher is Mike Fiers. After their walk-off win Sunday, slugger Khris Davis proclaimed that his team was going to the playoffs. He could be right.
9. Tampa Bay Rays (60-48; last week: 7)
There’s reason to worry about the Rays. Their record is good, but since June 1, they’re actually 25-28. Until they beat the Blue Jays twice over the weekend, they’d lost three straight series to the Red Sox, White Sox and Yankees.
10. Milwaukee Brewers (56-51; last week: 11)
The NL Central is, as always, a bit of a mystery. There’s no standout team at this point among the Brewers, Cubs and Cardinals. St. Louis has surged back to respectability in the standings, but only after beating up on the Pirates and Reds. So we’ll give the Brewers the nod this week for best of that bunch, given they just beat the Cubs two out of three. Having Christian Yelich also doesn’t hurt. Milwaukee is another team that needs starting pitching, and given the state of the Central, they’d be wise to move quickly.
11. Chicago Cubs (56-49; last week: 10)
12. St. Louis Cardinals (56-49; last week: 14)
13. Washington Nationals (56-49; last week: 12)
14. Philadelphia Phillies (55-50; last week: 13)
15. San Francisco Giants (54-52; last week: 15)
This next pocket of teams also doubles as the rest of the NL playoff contenders. Your NL wild-card teams are probably among this bunch (if the Cubs or Cardinals don’t win the NL Central). The Nats have fully rebounded to contender-level these days while the Phillies need a boost heading into August. For the Giants, we’re watching the same thing as everybody else: Madison Bumgarner and if he stays or goes. S.F.’s wild-card chances seem legit as of today, but there’s no telling yet whether this was just a hot month or a testament of their true talents.
IN THE MIDDLE
16. Los Angeles Angels (55-52; last week: 16)
17. Arizona Diamondbacks (53-53; last week 17)
18. Texas Rangers (53-53; last week: 19)
19. New York Mets (50-55; last week: 22) 4-3
20. San Diego Padres (49-56; last week: 19)
The Angels aren’t quite the surprise story that the Giants have been recently, but they’re hanging in those AL wild-card standings. The D-backs, Rangers and Padres all look like their best days are behind them at this point. And the Mets, after trading for Marcus Stroman, it’s tough to say what they’re thinking — but they may be setting themselves up for the future more than the present.
IT’S NOT LOOKING GOOD DOWN HERE
21. Colorado Rockies (49-57; last week: 21)
22. Cincinnati Reds (48-55; last week: 23)
23. Seattle Mariners (46-63; last week: 25) 6-1
24. Chicago White Sox (46-57; last week: 24)
25. Pittsburgh Pirates (46-59; last week: 20) L7
Nothing has changed down here with the Rockies, Reds and White Sox, who are just maintaining their levels of mediocrity. The Mariners are hot, having won five in a row and six of their last seven — but we’re not falling for that again. The Pirates, meanwhile, have lost seven in a row.
26. Miami Marlins (40-63; last week: 28)
27. Kansas City Royals (40-67; last week: 27)
28. Toronto Blue Jays (40-67; last week: 26)
29. Baltimore Orioles (35-70; last week: 29)
30. Detroit Tigers (30-71; last week: 30) L6
You’d think it couldn’t get any worse for the Detroit Tigers, but oh yes, it has. The Tigers have lost six in a row and have just three wins so far in July. The rest of baseball’s group of cellar-dwellers look quite respectable by comparison. Even the Orioles won three games since last Thursday.
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