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MLB Power Rankings: RSVPs to October

Sep 20, 2013, 1:45 PM EST

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

The drama is over for the Red Sox and Dodgers, who have officially secured playoff spots. The stakes are much higher in the NL Central, which houses three of the top eight teams in baseball, and in Washington, where the Nats are basically teetering on the tiniest of margins in their quest for the second wild card.

Here’s how Nationals Insider Mark Zuckerman, Nats writer Chase Hughes, and I see the rest of the league shaking out:

1. Boston Red Sox (93-61; LW: 1) – Hughes: Retooling on the fly as the Red Sox did almost never works, no matter the sport. I guess we have our outlier.

2. Atlanta Braves (90-62; LW: 2) – Hughes: Atlanta’s lost nine of their last 14. Their schedule is easy until the playoffs, but they picked the wrong time to cool off.

3. Detroit Tigers (89-64; LW: 6) – Zuckerman: Verlander might wind up their No. 3 starter in postseason. Maybe even No. 4!

4. Oakland A’s (90-63; LW: 7) – Roney: Back-to-back AL West titles looks extremely likely; I would argue that each title was a surprise, and the repeat is one of the most unlikely in recent memory.

5. St. Louis Cardinals (89-64; LW: 4) – Zuckerman: Remaining schedule: 3 vs. Brewers, 3 vs. Cubs, 3 vs. Nats. Keeps them frontrunners to win Central.

6. Los Angeles Dodgers (88-65; LW: 3) – Roney: The Dodgers probably celebrated clinching the West by acting like fifth graders leaving school on the last day before summer because they were in last place on July 1. I’d jump in my neighbor’s pool too.

7. Cincinnati Reds (87-66; LW: 8) – Zuckerman: Assuming they reach the playoffs, Billy Hamilton is going to be a huge X-factor for them.

8. Pittsburgh Pirates (88-65; LW: 5) – Zuckerman: After a surprising slip-up vs. Padres, now face huge series vs. Reds this weekend.

9. Washington Nationals (82-71; LW: 12) – Hughes: With 82 wins and nine games left, how many will the Nats finish with on the year? St. Louis snuck in with 88 last season.

10. Tampa Bay Rays (83-69; LW: 11) – Hughes: They are also starting to slip, that could open the door for the Orioles.

11. Cleveland Indians (83-70; LW: 13) – Zuckerman: They’ve won 11 of 16, and now they finish with Astros, White Sox and Twins. Look out for the Tribe!

12. Texas Rangers (83-69; LW: 9) – Roney: Know why the Rangers are falling? Too many ex-Cubs — I believe they have four. Bad juju.

13. Baltimore Orioles (81-71; LW: 15) – Hughes: Their next four games will probably decide their season as they travel to Tampa Bay to play the current AL Wild Card holding Rays.

14. Kansas City Royals (80-72; LW: 14) – Zuckerman: It’s been a really nice season in Kansas City, but it appears they’re going to come up just short.

15. New York Yankees (80-73; LW: 10) – Hughes: Andy Pettite is retiring and probably means it this time. Right? We’ll see.

16. Arizona Diamondbacks (77-75; LW: 16) – Roney: Loved Brandon McCarthy’s response to the Dodgers’ celebration: LA earned it. You don’t want them dancing on your turf, then make sure you win.

17. Los Angeles Angels (74-78; LW: 17) – Roney: The Angels are going to miss the playoffs for the fourth straight season. Instead of Scioscia or DiPoto, my vote: Fire whoever signed Hamilton, even if that’s owner Arte Moreno.

18. San Diego Padres (71-81; LW: 20) – Roney: I was super excited to see that the Padres are facing the Dodgers starting today, but then equally disappointed to find that Ian Kennedy won’t be pitching. I think the Dodgers are probably glad for that.

19. Philadelphia Phillies (71-81; LW: 18) – Hughes: It’s going to be an interesting offseason in Philly. I’m not sure they will rebuild, but they probably should.

20. Toronto Blue Jays (70-82; LW: 19) – Hughes: With all their pitching problems this year, I bet watching Jose Fernandez’ rookie season had to hurt.

21. San Francisco Giants (71-82; LW: 22) – Roney: This is probably Tim Lincecum’s final week-plus in a Giants uniform. Remember when he and Brandon Webb were as good as it got on the mound?

22. Colorado Rockies (70-84; LW: 21) – Roney: Not a great first go-round for rookie manager Walt Weiss. Be interesting to see if Jason Giambi one day makes them regret their decision.

23. New York Mets (68-84; LW: 25) – Hughes: Matt Harvey and the Mets seem confident he can rehab in lieu of Tommy John surgery. It seems like a smart move to just have the procedure, but what do I know?

24. Seattle Mariners (67-86; LW: 23) – Roney: Thanks to my own East Coast Bias, I’ve somehow overlooked the plethora of talented young pitching in Seattle — enough to rival any team in the league.

25. Milwaukee Brewers (68-84; LW: 26) – Zuckerman: Was it really only 2 years ago they were within a game of the World Series? Feels like an eternity.

26. Minnesota Twins (65-87; LW: 24) – Zuckerman: Ron Gardenhire has 12 years at the helm. But 3 straight losing seasons could mean end of the road.

27. Chicago Cubs (64-89; LW: 27) – Zuckerman: They’ll play a role in determining NL Central champ: Final 6 games vs. Pirates, Cards.

28. Chicago White Sox (60-92; LW: 28) – Zuckerman: Going to wind up with their worst record since 1976. At least they haven’t worn shorts this year.

29. Miami Marlins (56-97; LW: 29) – Hughes: Dealing with injuries this year, and stuck in that lineup, Giancarlo Stanton still has 23 home runs. He’s got 116 and he’s only 23.

30. Houston Astros (51-102; LW: 30) – Roney: The last time the Astros made the playoffs, their best player was Roger Clemens. That was six managers ago.

  1. Eugene in Oregon - Sep 20, 2013 at 2:04 PM

    Nats 9th in MLB? Well, unfortunately, they still use W-L record and have those pesky leagues to determine who makes the playoffs.

    • NatsLady - Sep 20, 2013 at 3:30 PM

      Yeah. Earlier in the season you can look at Power Rankings for recent performance, perhaps to predict which teams can move up or down in the standings–but they are pretty meaningless at this point.

  2. Section 222 - Sep 20, 2013 at 2:46 PM

    SI has the Nats 7th. Talk about a meaningless exercise.

  3. NatsLady - Sep 20, 2013 at 3:25 PM

    Yes, there have been years where 87 or 88 wins would have gotten the 2nd wild card. This isn’t one of them in the NL. StL already has 89, and Pitt already has 88, Cincy is at 87. We HAVE to get to 90 or 91. If we do, and still don’t make it, well, that’s an unusual year, because 90 or 91 would make it most years (but not every year).

    OK, JZ has to win tonight. If Stras can’t go tomorrow, then it’s back to Haren/Roark/Ohlendorf and Davey CAN’T make any mistakes like he did on Wednesday. Detwiler should go about four innings in Florda (maybe LESS) and get his butt into the bullpen. I don’t understand the Florida thing–have him throw batting practice here. Worry about whether he can start next season next season. When you see Haren/Roark/Ohlendorf in the “rotation” you KNOW you are going to need innings from the bullpen.

    • Section 222 - Sep 20, 2013 at 3:39 PM

      Very good point NL. Why have we heard so much about whether Det will start another game? If he’s healthy and he can help from the bullpen, he should be here. It’s pretty clear Davey doesn’t have much confidence anymore in Abad or Krol. So Det could be of use.

      After his layoff, I wouldn’t be surprised if we need bullpen innings in a Stras start too. JZnn is really the only starter we can rely on to go deep at this point. But this is September and we have a whole bunch of guys in the bullpen. So use them Davey! And have them ready to come in if someone falters. There’s just no reason to leave a guy in one batter too long as this point.

      • jd - Sep 20, 2013 at 3:53 PM


        Absolutely. I think Davey has had a poor overall year. If there was such a thing as WAR for managers his metrics wouldn’t be very good.I think when all is said and done this team will have under performed by 5 – 8 games.

      • NatsLady - Sep 20, 2013 at 4:27 PM

        Well, the Nats are outperforming their Pythagorean (s/be 79-74). Sometimes that is taken as a criterion of manager performance. I’ve very dubious, because, even this late in the season, Pythagorean varies depending on the type of team and season–and the Nats were in a deep hole because of poor offense/good pitching in the first part of the season.

        It’s true that Davey has cost us several games. But I think if you were calculating WAR, you would also have to figure he has gained some games also. When you look at the really, really stupid moves other managers make, you can see Davey is far from the worst. I’ll be glad when he goes, but be careful what you wish for. This clubhouse seems hard-working and scandal-free (that may be more a tribute to Rizzo and Werth, and the players policing themselves, who knows?).

        Here is what we see of Davey:

        (1) In game tactics/game management; management of platoons, off-days, etc.
        (2) Public statements.

        On public statements I would give him a C- at best, but really, once you get used to his style, you pretty much have to blow it off. He has a big ego.

        A third key component that we as fans don’t see is how he handles teaching/player relations/influence on roster management. For example (as above)–is it Rizzo who is determining Det’s return, and thinking of next year, or has Davey more-or-less forgotten about him in his game planning. You have to feel if Davey said, Mike, I really need that power LH reliever, can you push Det forward, he would get that.

        On in-game tactics, obviously we remember the ones that didn’t work (starter left in too long, pinch-runner not used, bunts, bullpen, etc) but I’d have to go back to individual games because a lot of times stuff Davey called for DID work, or you could see it would have worked if executed.

        His two greatest weaknesses on in-game tactics–as I see it–are (1) getting greedy for one more inning out of a starter; and (2) for some reason, maybe fatigue, missing routine late-game moves.

        On line-ups, you would ask why did he/does he stick with guys in slumps for so long (particularly ALR) but that’s a judgment call. Fans tend to have a lot less patience than coaches.

  4. NatsLady - Sep 20, 2013 at 4:34 PM

    And, the leaving the starter in too long (or a couple of times, not long enough)–I think part of that is Davey doesn’t like to overuse the double-switch.

    In general, the double switch means you are taking a regular out and putting a lesser player in (except Lombo/Rendon). Davey has his eye on how the line-up is turning around. Many, many times that works, he is able to replace the pitcher with a pinch-hitter exactly when the pitcher’s spot comes up and avoid the double switch.

    What we are asking for this late in the season is maybe for Davey to forego that and manage like an AL-game–take the starter out when it’s the optimal time to take him out and let the double-switches fall where they may.

    • NatsLady - Sep 20, 2013 at 4:41 PM

      Continuing (then I have to leave for the game)===>

      Yes, he could and probably should have taken Ohlendorf out after five innings, or at the very least, after the first HR. But if he had, and if the bullpen had successfully protected the 2-1 lead on Wednesday, would the bullpen have been able to protect the 3-2 lead yesterday?

      The problem was created by the OFFENSE not scoring runs in either game (and also the double-header, neither game of which was easy, because it was 1-0 in the nightcap most of the game). That many close game, it’s easy for us to say, let the bullpen give you four innings (on Wednesday) but what is the impact for the rest of the games, there being no off-day until next Thursday?





As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...

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