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Power Rankings: Nationals, A's among best surprises in a season full of them

by | Baseball Blogger

Here we are. The last day. Game 162. It has been one helluva ride, but another thing it has been is a season full of surprises.

We're probably about to see the first Triple Crown since the Beatles were together. We may see a 37-year-old who entered the season with a career record of 41-50 become the first knuckleballer in baseball history to win a Cy Young Award. A guy coming off a broken leg looks poised to win the NL MVP. Chase Headley has power numbers that dwarf Justin Upton's. Cubs reliever James Russell has more wins than eight-figure starter Cliff Lee.

And what about the early glimpse into the future we've gotten? After spending the first month in the minors, Mike Trout is a legitimate AL MVP candidate and Bryce Harper has become only the second man in baseball history to hit at least 20 homers in a season while still being a teenager. Giancarlo Stanton missed about a month after having knee surgery and is still going to finish second in the National League in homers.

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On the team front, how about this nugget? Three of the four teams with a payroll north of $150 million are going to miss the playoffs, while the Oakland Athletics (29th in payroll), Washington Nationals (20th), Baltimore Orioles (19th), Cincinnati Reds (17th) and Atlanta Braves (16th) are in. Yes, half of the playoff teams come from the bottom half of the payroll standings.

The Angels and Marlins were offseason darlings, and both will be watching the playoffs from home. The A's and Orioles appeared to be stuck in rebuild mode, and they're taking part.

The Rangers were alone in first place since April 9 until late Tuesday evening, when the A's pulled into a first-place tie.

How about the Braves getting eight starts out of Ben Sheets? Or seeing Kris Medlen emerge as an ace?

What about the Reds thriving in the absence of perennial MVP candidate Joey Votto?

Let us not forget the Jamie Moyer (temporary) return.

And on and on ... what a year.

What will the next month bring? There's no telling. We've been surprised far too many times this season to act like we know what will happen.

On a personal level, I know this: At least I'll stop getting emails telling me neither the Orioles nor the Athletics will make the playoffs.

Thanks for reading the Power Rankings all season. Please feel free to contact me via email with comments: matt.snyder@cbsinteractive.com.


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