MLB Power Rankings: Evaluating the best postseason races down the final stretch
The Indians are making things interesting in the AL Central while the Mets are jockeying for one of the wild-card spots
We've reached the Dog Days of August, gang. The trade deadline is nearly two weeks in the rear-view mirror and we can start to get a good idea as to which races will end up being the most exiting. That list will not include the AL East, AL West, NL West and probably not the NL East. Let's take a look at the best races for postseason spots. If we wanted to throw the NL East into the mix, consider that No. 5.
4. Indians, Twins fight for AL Central crown
If this moves in the direction it has been lately, the Indians will run away with the Central. That's why this ranks fourth and not higher.
At the end of May, the Indians were a game under .500 and 10 1/2 games out of first. That should be an automatic win for the Twins, but something happened. Since then, the Indians have gone a ridiculous 43-18, which is a 162-game pace of 114 wins. The Twins have a winning record since then, so this is less of a collapse and more the case of a team just getting stupid hot over an extended stretch and stealing the thing.
Still, the Twins are a good team and six head-to-heads remaining on the schedule. This could go down to the final day of the season, in which case I will have ranked this race too low.
3. Cubs look to hold off Cardinals, Brewers in NL Central
I would accept the argument that this should be higher since there are three -- maybe four, as the Reds are only seven out -- teams involved instead of two like the next entry, but there's also a chance the Cubs hit their stride and make the last few weeks boring. They are the clear best team here and just need to figure out why they have been so awful on the road. Maybe the big comeback on Sunday knocks something loose. As things stand, though, the Cardinals are just two out and the Brewers are 2 1/2. The Cubs and the Brewers play seven more times, the Cubs and Cardinals play seven of the last 10 games of the season, including closing with a three-gamer in St. Louis. The Cardinals and Brewers play nine more times. This might be incredible.
2. Second wild-card spot in AL down to Rays, A's
For now, this looks like a two-team race with the Rays having a one-game lead over the Athletics. Unfortunately, they don't play each other again this season, but they are neck and neck and neither figures to fall apart. There's also the chance the Red Sox surge their way into the picture (they are seven back). The Red Sox do have a four-game series remaining against the Rays.
Also, bonus points for the possibility of either the Twins or Indians falling back and making this about both wild card spots.
1. Both NL wild-card spots up for grabs
Hoo boy are there possibilities here. We've have to root for maximum chaos, right? The Padres are six games back and there are six(!) teams between them and a playoff spot. The Reds are five back and there are five teams in the way. The Giants are 3 1/2 back with four teams in the way. And so on! The Nationals in the top spot are only a half-game better than the Cardinals, who hold the second wild card. The Brewers are only a half-game back, the Mets are a game back while the Phillies and Diamondbacks are both within a series.
The chances of this coming to fruition are outrageous, but what if there was a five-way or six-way tie when the season ended? That would be amazing -- and a complete mess. We can root for the mess together, right? Let's do it!
Previous rankings: Week 18 | Week 17 | Week 16 | Week 15 | Week 14 | Week 13 | Week 12 | Week 11 | Week 10 | Week 9 | Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1 | Preseason | Offseason|
|1||Astros||The Dodgers rarely badly miss on trades, but in front of the 2016 trade deadline they acquired reliever Josh Fields from the Astros for ... Yordan Alvarez. That's a blowout Astros win.||--||81-46|
|2||Dodgers||Hyun-jin Ryu is now down to a 1.45 ERA. The last time a pitcher who qualified for the ERA title had a full-season ERA under 1.50? Bob Gibson's 1.12 ERA in 1968. That's it.||--||83-44|
|3||Yankees||Gio Urshela entered the season with a career .315 slugging percentage. He's slugging .572 right now.||--||83-44|
|4||Indians||Remarkable. Just remarkable.||1||74-52|
|5||Braves||Shane Greene, Mark Melancon and Chris Martin have combined for a 10.50 ERA so far with zero saves and two blown saves.||3||76-52|
|6||Twins||Oof. A 2-5 week and now they are tied for first. That's rough. You know what isn't rough? They have 13 games all against the White Sox and Tigers from Aug. 19 through Sept. 2.||2||77-50|
|7||Rays||Manager Kevin Cash claims lifting Ryan Yarbrough with two outs in the ninth and a one-hit shutout was matchup-based. I guess we have to take him at his word, but the way the front office operates, I wouldn't be surprised if the move was related to keeping Yarbrough from getting a shutout into his eventual arbitration hearing. That would be awful if that were to be the case.||--||74-54|
|8||Cubs||As the injuries to late-inning relievers mount, keep an eye on Rowan Wick. In 15 2/3 innings, he has a 1.72 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 19 strikeouts. He looks the part, too.||1||67-58|
|9||Athletics||Khris Davis is hitting only .228 and I think it's safe to say the streak of hitting .247 will end at four. Quite a run, though.||3||72-53|
|10||Mets||We can't say they are only beating up on bad teams now, as they took two of three from the Nats. The Mets are on some kind of run. They've won 15 of their last 17.||4||65-60|
|11||Cardinals||It's hard to tell if they are back on track, as beating the Pirates isn't exactly a feat these days.||1||67-57|
|12||Nationals||Joe Ross hasn't allowed an run in his last two starts (11 1/3 innings) while only having given up four hits. This is a great sign for the Nats in case they get into the divisional round of the playoffs, because the best version of Ross would be a fine fourth starter behind the Nats' trio of studs.||1||69-57|
|13||Brewers||Jordan Lyles wasn't a sexy addition in front of the trade deadline, but he's been excellent at keeping runs off the board through his first three starts.||4||64-62|
|14||Red Sox||They have managed to safely put themselves into "need a ridiculous run" territory.||2||67-60|
|15||Diamondbacks||With Carson Kelly and Alex Avila playing so well, the Diamondbacks have gotten more value out of their catcher position than any other NL team, per baseball-reference.com's wins above average.||--||64-64|
|16||Rangers||Man, I miss Joey Gallo. So do the Rangers.||3||62-65|
|17||Giants||The Giants are 27-11 in one-run games.||1||63-63|
|18||Phillies||On June 8, the Phillies won and moved to 10 games over .500 with a two-game lead in the NL East. They've gone 23-31 since then and it feels like this mediocrity (if it's even to that level) is what we're gonna see the rest of the way.||2||65-60|
|19||Reds||What a gut punch of a loss Sunday, when it looked like the Reds were gonna take three of four from the Cubs.||1||60-66|
|20||Angels||They crawled to within four games of a playoff spot just a few weeks ago, but have gone 4-12 since.||1||63-66|
|21||Padres||Francisco Mejia is hitting .600 with two doubles and two homers in his last seven games.||1||59-67|
|22||White Sox||It was a good, 4-3 week, though wins against the Tigers (and they had three of them) almost shouldn't even count at this point.||1||57-69|
|23||Blue Jays||A 4-3 stretch against the Rays and Yankees is pretty damn impressive.||1||52-76|
|24||Rockies||This group's propensity for losing streaks is a pretty big surprise. They snapped a five-game losing streak Sunday. They've had six losing streaks of at least four games.||3||58-69|
|25||Mariners||The Mariners have lost eight of their last nine. This came after a six-game winning streak.||--||54-74|
|26||Marlins||The Isan Diaz homer with his parents being interviewed live was one of the feel-good moments of the season.||--||45-80|
|27||Orioles||Course correction: I should have had the Orioles above the Royals last week and getting beat up by the Yankees and Astros isn't anything to be ashamed about.||2||41-86|
|28||Royals||Mike Moustakas holds the franchise record with 38 home runs (2017). Jorge Soler has 35 on Aug. 12. The Royals are the only team to have never had a 40-homer guy and that's gonna change this season, which is pretty cool.||--||45-82|
|29||Tigers||There was a time when it seemed a sure bet that Miguel Cabrera would get to 500 home runs. He has 473 right now and I'm not sure he was 27 left in him. He has hit three in his last 12 games, though, so maybe he does get there.||1||37-86|
|30||Pirates||The Pirates have now gone a pathetic 4-24 since the All-Star break. They are playing like the worst team in baseball history. Fire everyone and start a rebuild under a new regime.||3||52-74|
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