I feel like every week we discuss how weird 2020 is, but I also think the perspective is necessary. It is Sept. 7. The playoffs will be in high gear one month from now, yet the St. Louis Cardinals have still only played 32 games. How messed up is that?
Since we were deprived of baseball for months, I've enjoyed having it back so much. Many aspects. Every aspect. All the aspects!
Perhaps the thing I've loved the most is watching the "potential" breakthrough teams make good on it. My high school coach used to say "potential means nothing." It's true. The Nationals were "potential" contenders this season. The Rangers, Angels and Reds were "potential" contenders. What has that meant?
What can you even say about this team? They are off-the-charts fun. We knew Tim Anderson was going to be a big reason here and we suspected youngsters Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert would be, but how about veteran slugger Jose Abreu throwing himself into the MVP conversation? Even if there's backslide from the aforementioned players, Yasmani Grandal and Yoan Moncada are capable of picking it up. On the pitching side, Dallas Keuchel and Lucas Giolito are pitching like dueling aces and Dylan Cease provides a third starter for the playoff rotation.
We've been on them for a while, but it's for good reason. Fernando Tatis is ahead of schedule as an MVP candidate, Manny Machado is making good on his contract and Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers are rejuvenated. The pitching staff -- especially after the trades pulled off for Mike Clevinger and Trevor Rosenthal -- will settle prior to October. There's potentially (uh oh) a dominant playoff rotation and back-end bullpen here. And the offense is among the best in baseball.
Cavan Biggio is an on-base machine. Lourdes Gurriel is prone to exploding in any given game. Teoscar Hernandez is legitimately one of the best power hitters in the game -- and so few casual fans know this. Of course, Hernandez was injured over the weekend, but hopefully we get him back soon (on this note, let's mention that I'm not a Blue Jays fan; people occasionally ask me about when I say "we" like this. I mean baseball fandom. I'm one of you and I think a player like Teoscar is good for us because he's so fun, so I say "we"). Bo Bichette is hitting .361 with a .672 slugging and he's nearing a return. Yes, they've been winning without that. They also have a dude slugging in the .500s named Rowdy. I mean, c'mon. It's also possible fickle pitchers like Robbie Ray and Taijuan Walker can hold it together for a month behind Hyun-Jin Ryu to make a studly playoff rotation. Get excited, Toronto (and Buffalo).
As for the rankings themselves, let me tell you, deciding on number one was excruciating.
|Make sure you're noticing the Clayton Kershaw Renaissance.||--||100-62|
|They are a combined 13-3 against the Yankees and Red Sox. Imagine getting in a time machine and telling that to a Devil Rays fan.||--||99-63|
|I suppose we're back to being overly worried about Chris Paddack. Let's just remember he's 24 years old and the A's hit lots of guys hard.||2||82-80|
|Big week coming. The A's have nine games before we discuss them again in this space. Five of those come against the Astros.||1||50-112|
|Shane Bieber has struck out at least eight in every single start this season. He ties Bob Feller for the franchise record with nine straight starts to open a season.||5||76-86|
|On Aug. 15, the White Sox were swept in a doubleheader against the Cardinals, who were returning from weeks off due to COVID-19 outbreak. The Sox dropped to 10-11. As it turns out, that was the low point of the season. They've been on a warpath since then.||2||61-101|
|It took Freddie Freeman 233 career home runs to get a grand slam. His next home run? Grand slam. You've gotta love sports and their inherent ability to constantly bombard us with random awesomeness.||1||104-58|
|Huge bounce-back week after a six-game losing streak. Still, after starting 10-2 they are in for a fight just to avoid being one of the two AL wild cards. Tough division.||4||87-75|
|Three weeks ago, the Jays entered play with a 7-11 record. Now they are a serious contender with just a few weeks to go. They also have to play the Yankees 10 times and have a four-game series with the Phillies.||2||89-73|
|The five-game series agaimst the A's starting on Labor Day gives the Astros a legit shot at the division title despite being 5 1/2 games out after just 15 games.||1||90-72|
|Last week I pointed out how many doubleheaders the Cardinals have left and how it'll be tough for them. I believe there are residual effects, but it's worth pointing out that the Cards are now 6-4 in their twin bills to date.||4||71-91|
|We aren't far off from "Yu Darvish or pray for rain" territory. Even Kyle Hendricks has a 4.61 ERA since his opening day shutout.||5||83-79|
|They won 10 of 11 before losing two to the Mets, but one of those was Jacob deGrom and that's totally understandable. As the old saying goes, "you can't win them all." The schedule the rest of the way is favorable. They will be finish anywhere from 2-6 in the NL seeding, in all likelihood. Not bad after the terrible start.||--||90-72|
|They are now closer to missing the playoffs entirely than winning the AL East. This isn't quite how they drew it up. What an absolute mess.||8||82-80|
|Perhaps quietly, but across the board Nolan Arenado is having the worst year of his career, save for when he was a 22-year-old rookie.||1||59-103|
|There is so much to love about Corbin Burnes this season, especially him finally breaking through as a quality starter. That gives the Brewers two (along with Brandon Woodruff) reliables moving forward to build around.||1||92-70|
|Six against the Cubs and Cardinals this week will tell us a lot. The Reds haven't shown themselves as a team to be taken seriously yet, but I wouldn't give up on them, either.||1||82-80|
|Pedro Severino ... can rake? What is this sorcery? He served as DH in the cleanup spot on Sunday and it wasn't his first time. He was a career .221/.299/.360 hitter before this season, slated to be a career backup catcher (which is a good gig, to be clear, but it's not what he is this year).||4||101-61|
|Surely the Giants fans have designs on the eight seed, right? Nothing to lose whatsoever, but there's a small chance they bounce the one-seed Dodgers. What a dream scenario that would be in The Bay.||1||79-83|
|Here it comes, guys. The Marlins have NINE games this week against the Braves and Phillies. If they somehow come out still contending, they are here to stay. This week is the season.||--||84-78|
|Jacob deGrom is not Tom Seaver. He'll never be Tom Seaver. He is, however, in a Seaver-like run for these three years.||--||75-87|
|Fresh off the injured list, let's not ignore the good signs from possible late-bloomer Dylan Moore. There have been lots of good signs from him all season.||1||88-74|
|Through last Tuesday, the Tigers won eight of 10 and had climbed above .500. In a season like this, the possibility of them making the playoffs actually seemed plausible. Then the actual true talent of the roster set in. It can happen on a dime. It did here. HOWEVER, they still have six games left against the Royals and a good number against the teams in the Central above them. You never know.||4||78-84|
|It might be under the radar because of how many of his teammates are bad (this isn't a Mike Trout comment, which is an upset!), but Dylan Bundy is having a hell of a season.||6||73-89|
|I never get everything right (psst: No one does in anything), but I'll accurately take credit for calling the Nats as the biggest bust in the NL this season.||--||71-91|
|Remember how quickly J.D. Martinez became a superstar slugger? He wasn't very good, the Astros cut him and then he just exploded with the Tigers. It was a bit jarring. That's almost as fast as he fell apart. He only has four home runs right now? "Just Dingers?" Nope. Not anymore.||2||78-84|
|One of the funniest stats in baseball this year is Zac Gallen being just 1-0. He's one of the best pitchers in baseball and plays for such a bad team that he's had seven no-decisions and just one victory. The zero losses is truly a badge of honor.||--||84-78|
|Ke'Bryan Hayes is a second-generation player, has an 80-grade first name and had an excellent debut week for the Pirates.||1||76-86|
|I seriously typed this Sunday before he came in and had a bit of a meltdown: "Josh Staumont update: 0.54 ERA, 30 strikeouts, 16 2/3 innings. If you haven't found time to watch him yet, wake up." I guess in 2020 we can't have nice things, right?||3||56-106|
|At least fans don't have to watch this crap in person? I'm just trying to find a silver lining here.||2||90-72|