MLB Power Rankings: Which playoff races have the most potential to heat up in September?

We've made it, gang. There is only one month remaining in the MLB regular season. A lot of the playoff races seem like a foregone conclusion -- and, to be clear, some are -- but let's take a look back at last season to see how things can turn. 

Here are where some of the races stood heading into September last season and where then ended up. 

AL West

The Astros only had a 1 1/2 game lead over the Athletics. They would end up cruising to a six-game cushion. 

NL East

The Braves had just a two-game lead over the Phillies with the Nationals 7 1/2 games out. The Braves would end up winning by eight games ... over the Nats. The Phillies ended up 10 games back. 

NL West

I had actually forgotten until this exercise, but would you believe the Diamondbacks had a one-game lead last year at this time? The Dodgers were one back and the Rockies were 1 1/2 back. Hell, the Giants at 6 1/2 back were within striking distance. We'd end up getting a one-game playoff here between the Dodgers and Rockies with the Dodgers (again) winning the division. The D-Backs ended up 9 1/2 back with the Giants a whopping 18 1/2 out. 

NL Central

The Cubs had a 3 1/2 game lead over the Cardinals and four-game lead over the Brewers. The Cubs and Brewers would end the official regular season tied with 95 wins and the Cardinals were seven games back. The Brewers won the one-game playoff, but, man, look at how much things turned in September in this one. Let's make sure to apply that when looking at this year's NL Central race and realize that neither the Cubs nor Brewers are out of it yet.

NL wild card

When the calendar turned last year, the three best NL records were in the Central. The third-place Brewers were the second wild card and had a 2 1/2 game lead over the Dodgers. The Rockies were three out, tied with the Phillies. The Cubs and Rockies would square off in the game, with the Cardinals and Diamondbacks falling out of playoff spots completely. 

Apply of this to 2019 and we could see some things turn. 

  • The NL Central is far from over with the Cubs and Cardinals having seven head-to-heads left, which also means we can't yet count out the Brewers. 
  • The Nationals and Braves also have seven head-to-head matchups yet, which means we can't yet give up on the NL East race. 
  • The Twins and Indians have six games left, so the AL Central is still very much up for grabs. 
  • There's been some separation in the NL wild card race, but we've seen crazier things than someone from the group of the Phillies, Diamondbacks, Brewers, Mets or even Giants to take out either the Cubs or Nats (or Braves ... or Cardinals ... see above!) for a spot. 
  • Don't you dare sleep on the Red Sox in the AL wild card. Again, see everything that went down last year. 

We've got a month left. It might seem like that isn't much, but a ton can happen in one month. Buckle up. It's gonna be a bumpy one. 

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Biggest Movers
2 Red Sox
3 White Sox
1 Yankees The Yankees have had 12 players hit at least 10 home runs. That ties the record, set by last year's Yankees. Edwin Encarnacion has nine. Cameron Maybin has eight. Even Austin Romine, with six, is in striking distance. This is outrageous. 199-53
2 Astros In 2016, Carlos Correa played in 153 games. Other than that, his career high is 110. This was supposed to be his fourth full season, so we're getting to the point that it's becoming a thing. 199-53
3 Dodgers Since I made a power rankings comment about Hyun-Jin Ryu's possibly historic ERA (1.45), he's been decimated with an 11.05 ERA in his last three starts. Sorry about that. Sometimes I don't realize the capability of my own powers. --98-54
4 Twins The Twins have eight players with at least 20 homers. That's already a record. Marwin Gonzalez is within striking range of making it nine with no other team in history having more than seven. 193-58
5 Braves It's been a mixed bag for Mike Foltynewicz since he returned, but I feel like there have been more encouraging signs than discouraging ones. He needs a big month, because their playoff rotation it ultimately better with him than without. 193-59
6 Nationals The Nationals have won 19 of their last 24 games. --83-67
7 Cardinals If you could bet on things like this, the Cardinals being in first place with Kolten Wong leading in WAR heading to September feels like it would've paid pretty huge. 184-67
8 Athletics Khris Davis is hitting .221. I don't think he can possibly get to .247, so the streak will end at four seasons. 191-61
9 Rays This Brandon Lowe news sucks. He could have won AL Rookie of the Year without injury. 189-63
10 Indians Carlos Carrasco coming back is one of the feel-good stories of the year. Get it, Cookie. 188-63
11 Cubs I will never understand Joe Maddon's fascination with Albert Almora. He hit .224/.283/.327 in Iowa (the Pacific Coast League average slash line is .277/.354/.478, by the way) and immediately starts and hits sixth when rosters expand. --82-69
12 Red Sox Rafael Devers had 10 doubles in 10 games and followed it up with seven double-less games. #Baseball 279-71
13 Mets Noah Syndergaard had allowed 11 earned runs with a 1.82 ERA in his previous nine starts, but then coughed up nine earned runs in three innings against the Cubs. #Baseball 178-73
14 Phillies In Bryce Harper's disappointing season, he's gonna end up with his second-highest home run total and career high in RBI. People just have zero perspective with him. 177-72
15 Brewers Jordan Lyles has a 2.51 ERA in six starts since the Brewers acquired him. --82-69
16 Diamondbacks The Snakes went 8-19 last September. If they reverse that, they'll be in the postseason a year after losing/trading their two best position players. 177-75
17 Giants They could still technically make a run, but man did that hot July hurt them over long term. At least they didn't give up Austin Meadows and Tyler Glasnow for Chris Archer, though. (Sorry, that'll never get old to me). 173-78
18 Rangers Here's how much defense matters when it comes to catchers: Jeff Mathis is the Rangers' most-used catcher this year. He has an OPS+ of less than 15. --74-78
19 Angels I'm so looking forward to all the mental gymnastics involved in arguing against Mike Trout for MVP coming this month. --68-83
20 Padres Nice to see Chris Paddack back on track. The kid allowed just one run in seven innings with eight strikeouts against zero walks last time out. When they take the kid gloves off next season, look out. 268-83
21 Reds Trevor Bauer in six starts with the Reds: 8.40 ERA, 1.70 WHIP. Good thing he only wants one-year contract offers when he hits free agency. --71-81
22 Pirates Archer ERA update: 5.19. He has a shoulder injury, too. Good trade! 265-86
23 White Sox I know we've discussed it before, but Lucas Giolito's year over year transformation is one of the most extreme in baseball history. Just an amazing breakout. 365-86
24 Mariners I wonder if Kyle Seager has rebuilt his trade value. He's been killing the ball. He hit .323/.417/.699(!) with eight doubles, nine homers and 25 RBI in August. He's due $19.5 million next season and $18.5 million in 2021, so the Mariners would likely have to eat money, but this is something to think about. We know Jerry Dipoto loves making trades. 163-88
25 Blue Jays Dreaming on the power potential of Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Lourdes Gurriel over here and smiling while I'm at it. --60-91
26 Rockies This is a brutal team. Just brutal. One year ago they ended their 162-game schedule tied with the mighty Dodgers. Wow. --66-86
27 Marlins The Marlins are headed for their third 100-loss season in franchise history. They haven't had a winning record since 2009 and haven't made the playoffs since 2003. --53-98
28 Royals JORGE! JORGE! JORGE! JORGE! 156-96
29 Orioles The Orioles are going to lose well over 100 games and still are going to be an improvement from last year. 149-102
30 Tigers Spencer Turnbull is a good example of how foolish it is to judge pitchers solely on win-loss record and yet, many people still do it. --45-105
CBS Sports Writer

Matt Snyder has been a baseball writer with CBS Sports since 2011. A member of the BBWAA, he's now covered every World Series since 2010. The former Indiana University baseball player now lives on the... Full Bio

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