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MLB Power Rankings: Races picking up steam

Sep 13, 2013, 2:06 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

My, what a difference a year and a few beards can make.

One season after winning just 69 games, the Boston Red Sox have all but locked up the AL East crown, leading the division by 8.5 games with an 89-59 record. The Braves, too, have nailed down a division crown — meaning the real drama is in the NL Central and surrounding the AL wild card, where a half-dozen teams can claim legitimate designs on the postseason.

Here’s how Nationals Insider Mark Zuckerman, Nats writer Chase Hughes, and I see the rest of the league shaking out, with just more than two weeks of regular-season baseball left to play:

1. Boston Red Sox (89-59; LW: 3) – Zuckerman: How good has Koji Uehara been? He’s retired 34 straight batters. That’s a perfect game, plus another 2 1/3 innings!

2. Atlanta Braves (88-58; LW: 1) – Zuckerman: Note to whomever faces them in October: Do not — repeat: DO NOT — take too long rounding the bases if you hit a home run.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers (86-60; LW: 2) – Hughes: Both Yasiel Puig and the Dodgers have slowed down lately, but they are so far ahead in the NL West they can coast to the finish line.

4. St. Louis Cardinals (85-61; LW: 7) – Roney: Matt Carpenter for NL MVP? He won’t win, but he’s got a better case than you’d think, at first blush.

5. Pittsburgh Pirates (85-61; LW: 5) – Roney: They’ve tossed off the ghosts produced by the past 20 years of futility, when they went from back-to-back NLCS appearances. How cool would it be to bookend that stretch with another NLCS berth?

6. Detroit Tigers (84-62; LW: 4) – Roney: Noted glove man Jose Iglesias continues to punch above his weight class at the plate, batting .292 for the Tigers since his trade from the Red Sox.

7. Oakland A’s (85-61; LW: 8) – Hughes: The A’s are up 3.5 games on Texas in the AL West and start a three game series with them tonight. This could be the Rangers’ last chance if they want to win the division.

8. Cincinnati Reds (83-64; LW: 9) – Roney: Will Joey Votto be worth $25m a year if he only hits about 25 home runs and drives in around 80 runs each season?

9. Texas Rangers (81-64; LW: 6) – Hughes: Texas has lost eight of ten, but still holds on to an AL Wild Card spot. With the Yankees surging, however, it may not be for long.

10. New York Yankees (79-68; LW: 11) – Zuckerman: Are they really going to wind up making the playoffs? After everything they’ve gone through, really?

11. Tampa Bay Rays (79-66; LW: 10) – Zuckerman: Very uncharacteristic of a Joe Madden-managed club to be collapsing like this down the stretch.

12. Washington Nationals (77-69; LW: 15) – Zuckerman: Oh, if only they had turned it on in, say, mid-July instead of mid-August. Who knows what might have been.

13. Cleveland Indians (78-68; LW: 12) – Roney: The Indians have the easiest road to the wild card of any of the remaining contenders — though I’m not sure they’ll inspire much fear if they do make it to October.

14. Kansas City Royals (77-69; LW: 14) – Roney: You don’t set out to draft a dominant eight-inning reliever when you have the No. 1 overall pick, but Luke Hochevar’s renaissance in the bullpen is nice to see.

15. Baltimore Orioles (77-69; LW: 13) – Zuckerman: Major-league-worst 16-26 in 1-run games this season. Funny how that stuff balances out.

16. Arizona Diamondbacks (73-72; LW: 16) – Hughes: They may be just a .500 team this season, but they have a franchise player in Goldschmidt to build around and two talented young left-handers in Corbin and Miley.

17. Los Angeles Angels (70-76; LW: 17) – Hughes: For as great as Mike Trout was last season, you can make the argument he’s been even better this year. His OPS is 40 points higher than it was then.

18. Philadelphia Phillies (68-78; LW: 20) – Zuckerman: Note to Ruben Amaro: Just give Ryne Sandberg the full-time job now. He’s earned it.

19. Toronto Blue Jays (67-79; LW: 19) – Zuckerman: Will play two exhibition games against the Mets in Montreal next March. Magnifique!

20. San Diego Padres (66-79; LW: 22) – Hughes: A pending free agent, Chase Headley picked a bad time to have an off year.

21. Colorado Rockies (67-80; LW: 18) - Hughes: Pitcher Jhoulys Chacin has quietly put together a very nice season. The 25-year-old has a 3.09 ERA through 183.1 innings.

22. San Francisco Giants (66-81; LW: 24) – Hughes: Yusmeiro Petit sure came out of nowhere, but the Giants insist he’s legitimate and could be in their rotation next season.

23. Seattle Mariners (65-81; LW: 23) – Hughes: Even Raul Ibanez isn’t hitting now. It’s been a long season in Seattle.

24. Minnesota Twins (63-82; LW: 25) – Roney: Via Sports Illustrated, an interesting bit of trivia I picked up this week: Joe Mauer is one of only two players to have broken up three no-hitters in the ninth inning.

25. New York Mets (64-81; LW: 21) – Zuckerman: Citi Field was a ghost town this week. Imagine what it could be like next spring if Matt Harvey has Tommy John surgery.

26. Milwaukee Brewers (63-82; LW: 26) – Roney: Jean Segura, one of the most exciting players in the game through the first few months of the season, has gone ice-cold since August 1: .247 average, .272 OBP, and just 9/17 on stolen base attempts.

27. Chicago Cubs (62-84; LW: 27) – Roney: Theo Epstein snagged Daniel Bard off waivers from Boston recently. Bard, once a closer-in-waiting in Beantown behind Papelbon, has completely lost himself — once again — after failing as a starter last season.

28. Chicago White Sox (58-88; LW: 28) – Roney: Adam Dunn is just 33, and stands only 63 home runs short of 500.

29. Miami Marlins (54-91; LW: 29) – Zuckerman: If nothing else, they found an ace to build their staff around next year and beyond.

30. Houston Astros (50-96; LW: 30) – Hughes: A rotation headed by Mark Appel and Jarred Cosart next season could be decent. Anything would be better than Houston’s current staff.

  1. Eugene in Oregon - Sep 13, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    Discussion question: Nats’ record in the AL would put them only 2.5 games out of the Wild Card. But they’d have two teams in front of them and be tied with two others. Would you rather be in that situation or — as they are — next-in-line but 5.5 out?

    • Hiram Hover - Sep 13, 2013 at 3:02 PM

      You’d have to take the current AL scenario, no?

      The Os and the Royals are the two AL teams whose records match the Nats. Coolstandings has Os at a 5.3% chance of making the playoffs, and Royals at 12.4% chance. Nats are at 2.7%, and note that their remaining opponents have about the same winning % as the Royals (.505 in our case, .502 in theirs).

    • NatsLady - Sep 13, 2013 at 3:46 PM

      Good question. I think I’d take the AL situation, even with all the teams clogging up the road. It will probably take fewer wins to grab a WC. In other words, we are at 77 right now. I think 87 will tie it for the WC, because there are so many teams and they play each other (except Cleveland).

      OTOH, it would be very unexpected for 87 to tie in the NL. Cincy would have to go 4-11, and that seems remote.

      Let’s say 89 ties it (and that still means Cincy goes 6-9 or Pitt/StL go 4-12). We would have to go 12-4 minimum.

      In the AL I think we could tie with 10-6. Then you play the tie-game to get to the play-in game.

      Hopefully I did the calculations correctly.

      • NatsLady - Sep 13, 2013 at 3:49 PM

        A while ago I looked back to 1985 to see how many wins it would take for the second Wild Card. I don’t have the scrap paper, but about half the time 87 wins took a WC in at least one of the two leagues. There were only a couple of years where it took more than 90 in both leagues.

      • NatsLady - Sep 13, 2013 at 3:59 PM

        Of course, I’m fully expecting that we’ll end with 93 wins (16-0), aren’t you?… So–won’t be a problem unless Cincy goes 10-5. If Cincy goes 10-5 however, they could be in a tie for the Central Division–this gets really complicated. Four teams at 93-69…

  2. Hiram Hover - Sep 13, 2013 at 2:50 PM

    Note to whoever faces them in October: Do not — repeat: DO NOT — take too long rounding the bases if you hit a home run

    Me, I’m thinking the Barves are due for some karmic payback, and get eliminated from the playoffs on walk off homerun.

    • ArVAFan - Sep 13, 2013 at 3:04 PM

      From your lips to the baseball gods’ ears!

    • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 13, 2013 at 3:49 PM

      DING DING DING DING DING DING!!!!

    • Section 222 - Sep 13, 2013 at 4:25 PM

      Beautiful! Hopefully hit by a pitcher who has never hit one before, or a 20 year old phenom. Off Craig Kimbrell.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 91 64 --
ATLANTA 76 79 15.0
NEW YORK 76 80 15.5
MIAMI 74 81 17.0
PHILADELPHIA 71 85 20.5
x-Clinched NL East title
Through Sunday's games

NL PLAYOFFS STANDINGS

W L GB WCGB
x-WASHINGTON (4) 91 64 --
y-LOS ANGELES 89 67 2.5
y-ST. LOUIS 87 69 4.5
-------------------------
SAN FRANCISCO 84 71 7.0 --
PITTSBURGH 84 71 7.0 --
MILWAUKEE 80 76 11.5 4.5
x-Clinched division title
y-Clinched playoff berth
Through Sunday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
MON: OFF
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
THU: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
FRI: Marlins at Nats (DH), 1:05 p.m., 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Marlins at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Marlins at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
Full season schedule

Mark joins Rob Carlin and Joe Orsulak every Thursday at 4 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet for a half-hour show on the Nats, Orioles and rest of MLB. Re-airs Thursdays at 11:30 p.m., Saturdays at 9 a.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.

ON THE RADIO

As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2014 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 1:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

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