I realize there's a segment of baseball fandom that looks at last season's NLCS and gets worked up. It might be anger, it might be annoyance, it might be indifference, but the reaction from that crowd is anything but positive.
You see, the Phillies were 87-75 and finished in third place in their division while the Padres were 89-73 and finished a whopping 22 games out of first place. For many baseball purists, those teams don't even belong in the playoffs, much less the bout for the pennant in the senior circuit. A good portion of the regular season was rendered meaningless, they cried!
I see both sides of it. I totally understand the fretting over the lesser importance of the regular season. There were portions of last season where the Phillies and/or Padres were totally lost and didn't deserve to even sniff a postseason series. Then they both got hot at the right time and here we were in the NLCS, watching two sub-90-win teams square off. I had a hell of a lot of fun watching the respective hot streaks and I wasn't alone.
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Speaking of being totally lost and then getting hot, hello 2023 Phillies and Padres. Their seasons have almost mirrored one another, no?
After losing their first two games, it looked like the Padres were probably fine through 12 games at 7-5. Then they lost six of their next seven games. By the time they were 18-15, again, it looked like they were probably fine and were finding their footing. Then they dropped a pitiful 11 of 13. Things seem to be a bit better, as they've gone 11-7 since then and are right within striking range of a wild card. Even better in a small sample, they just completed a 4-2 week.
The Phillies have had an even choppier ride in terms of the spurts of ups-and-downs. They were 0-4 and then 5-10 and then rebounded to get to 15-13. But then they lost six in a row. Then won five in a row. Then lost five straight. After some see-saw results and then another five-game losing streak concluded earlier this month, the Phillies are now riding high again, having won seven of their last eight to move to 32-33. They are a bit behind last year's pace, as they were 34-31 at this point in the season, but obviously that's not far off and another winning streak erases any gap there.
As things stand, neither team appears to be a threat in its respective division, but they weren't last season, either, and they still ended squaring off for the NL title when it mattered most. They are both absolutely wild-card contenders and sometimes that's all it takes. Perhaps we're headed for a repeat? Time will tell and we're sure to see a bunch of winning and losing streaks from these two teams on the way to finding out.
|Here they go again. I'll admit I'm itching to move the Rays down and it's not anti-Rays or anything like that, but instead I just like a variety here in the top spot. The Rays simply aren't allowing it. They've won eight of nine and just took two of three from the second-best team.||--||99-63|
|From April 24-26, the Rangers were swept by the Reds. Since then, they've lost just two series. No way I'm demoting them for dropping two of three to the Rays in St. Pete.||--||90-72|
|How about this divisional dominance. Ownership is probably, actually, more accurate, though. The Braves are 17-6 against the rest of the NL East.||4||104-58|
|Things might be clicking for Gunnar Henderson. Remember, he's still only 21 years old. This month, he's 11 for 24 (.458) with a double, four homers, seven RBI and six runs in seven games.||--||101-61|
|I, like many others, predicted Corbin Carroll would win Rookie of the Year this season. It seems almost in the bag already, but I'm looking higher. I'm ready to declare that he'll win an MVP at some point. The D-Backs have never had a Rookie of the Year OR MVP.||3||84-78|
|Their lineup right now looks like it's a split-squad spring training game and yet they aren't even in a tailspin.||1||82-80|
|Resetting the luxury tax (presumably to be able to make a run at Shohei Ohtani this coming offseason) appeared to be a priority this past offseason. It'll be extremely interesting to see how Andrew Friedman deals with their rotation problems leading up to the trade deadline, as a result. That is to say, they really seem like they could use help from outside the organization, but adding money that puts them over the tax doesn't seem like it's in the cards.||1||100-62|
|Tough road trip coming up for the Jays, as they'll visit the Orioles, Rangers and the Marlins for three games each.||1||89-73|
|They've now lost five of six and that offense just isn't the same without Yordan Alvarez. He's going to be out weeks, too.||6||90-72|
|The popular word to toss around here would be "unsustainable." That is, the Marlins are 17-5 in one-run games and conventional wisdom says they just can't keep winning close games at such a high rate. Sometimes, though, teams do it all season. Remember the 2012 Orioles? They heard all season their work was unsustainable and they ended up 29-9 in one-run games.||3||84-78|
|The Halos have won six of their last seven and have an opportunity to make some serious noise this coming week, facing the Rangers in Texas for four games. Then again, knowing what we know of these Angels, things could turn bad very quickly, right?||3||73-89|
|That eight-game winning streak from over a month ago is doing a lot of heavy lifting.||--||78-84|
|Negative run differential, .500 on the road, barely above .500 at home, swept by the A's in a home series ... say hello to the class of the NL Central!||3||92-70|
|It's June 12 and we've got a division leader that is exactly .500. They were under a few days ago! What a time to be alive.||3||87-75|
|Is Trea Turner waking up from his seemingly season-long slumber? In his last five games, he's 10 for 24 (.417) with a double and two homers.||5||90-72|
|Regarding the Brewers comment ... sure, if you want to say the Pirates are actually the class of the NL Central, that's fine, but they also lost a home series to the A's and don't have a substantially better resume. The weird thing is they've won seven of their last eight when they don't play the A's.||1||76-86|
|How about that Gary Sánchez pick up? He's homered five times in 12 games.||2||82-80|
|And here they come. José Ramírez has raised his slugging percentage 64 points in four games, Shane Bieber looked like his Cy Young self Sunday and the Guardians have won six of eight.||3||76-86|
|They don't have the need for an outfielder at the moment, but keep an eye on prospect Luis Matos. He's destroying the ball in Triple-A right now.||1||79-83|
|If you haven't gotten the chance to see Elly De La Cruz play yet, do yourself a favor and rectify that injustice. Amazingly fun.||2||82-80|
|They've now lost eight of 11. Also, I was absolutely floored when Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said prime Babe Ruth couldn't help them, as they aren't just one player away. He's been in charge of personnel for nearly a decade.||5||88-74|
|And now they've lost eight of their last nine, a stretch that included a sweep at the hands of the Braves. That became the first Mets series ever where they led all three games by at least three runs and still lost. It's a total mess.||7||75-87|
|Marcus Stroman has been one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball this season and almost desperately -- at least that's how it appears -- wants to stay with the Cubs long term. According to Stroman, the front office won't engage with him on extension talks. I guess that makes him a trade candidate. I have no idea what Jed Hoyer is doing.||--||83-79|
|They are now 15-11 against fellow AL Central teams and 14-27 against everyone else. Too bad the schedule changed, huh?||--||61-101|
|Two more series losses and they are now 12 games under .500 here in the middle of June. There's still time to get hot and be a player in their garbage division, but something sure seems amiss. Sixty-six games isn't a small sample.||2||71-91|
|Catcher Keibert Ruiz has gone 8 for 26 (.308) with a double and three homers in his last seven games. Continued growth from youngsters under team control for a while would make this a successful season, despite the bad record.||--||71-91|
|Remember two weeks ago when I pointed out the Tigers were only one game out of first place heading to Memorial Day? They've gone 1-11 since. If there were a such thing as a "jinx," I'd apologize. Alas, there isn't. The Tigers are just terrible.||2||78-84|
|The win Sunday snapped a six-game losing streak. Hey, teams have to work hard to stay ranked this low. There are some awful teams this season.||--||59-103|
|Word has gotten back to me that the A's were angry at me for all the negative things I've said this season. That's why they just won two road series against the top NL Central teams (even if "top" is a stretch). Sometimes, my great Power Rankings fame is a burden, but I've come to accept that. If I'm used to motivate baseball's worst team into a few victories, that's just the cost of business. Anyway, congrats on 29th place, A's.||1||50-112|
|The A's should've had the 30th spot permanently sewn up for the rest of the season. Atrocious stuff in K.C.||1||56-106|