As the trade deadline has come and gone and October isn’t far off, the playoff races are surprisingly volatile. In the last edition, the Dodgers seized the top spot from the Astros for the first time this season, and since then have dominated baseball like no team ever has before. On the other end, the seemingly-invincible Astros have become vulnerable, as the Red Sox and the streaking Indians are closing the gap on the AL’s top team. The Twins have surprisingly worked themselves into playoff contention again, while the Rays have nosedived out of the postseason picture. With not much ball left to play, this MLB season will only get more interesting as fall nears.
- Los Angeles Dodgers (88-35, 1st NL West): Previous edition: 1
The Dodgers were one of the most active teams in the trade market this season, bringing in Yu Darvish and Curtis Granderson to reinforce the league’s best roster. Los Angeles lost just three games in the month of July, and is well within range of breaking the single-season record for wins. The brilliance of Alex Wood (14-1, 2.41 ERA) has kept the Dodgers cruising while Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish have been on the DL, but with Wood placed on the DL himself yesterday, LA could be in trouble.
2. Washington Nationals (74-48, 1st NL East): Previous edition: 3
The Nationals needed bullpen assistance badly, and solved at least some of the problems by the trade deadline by bringing in Twins All-Star set-up man Brian Kintzler and Oakland closer Sean Doolittle. However, stints on the DL from Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg could spell trouble, though Gio Gonzalez has been untouchable of late. The veteran hurler has won his last five starts and has given up just three total runs in those games.
3. Houston Astros (76-48, 1st AL West): Previous edition: 2
With a 12.5 game lead on the rest of the AL West, the Astros playoff position is almost ensured. Nonetheless, a 7-12 record in the month of August, including a five game skid where they were swept by a hapless White Sox squad, is cause for concern. Jose Altuve has been his usual ridiculous self, as his .362 batting average is 21 points higher than the next closest player.
4. Cleveland Indians (69-54, 1st AL Central): Previous edition: 7
With both a nine and six game winning streak in the past month, the Indians are one of the hottest teams in baseball. Jay Bruce was brought in through trade to give the outfield a boost, though the Tribe’s pitching has been the heart and soul of the team. Corey Kluber and Andrew Miller are continuing to show why they are some of the best in the game, though Trevor Bauer’s recent pitching has been one of the spark plugs of Cleveland’s run.
5. Boston Red Sox (71-53, 1st AL East): Previous edition: 6
With big names like Dustin Pedroia and David Price on the DL, the Red Sox have been buoyed by the play of Andrew Benintendi and Chris Sale, as well as the trade for San Francisco infielder Eduardo Nunez. The Sox have lost just 4 times in their last 18 games, allowing them to gain a little ground on the Yankees. Benintendi has had an especially hot bat as of late, batting .375 with six home runs in the month of August.
6. Arizona Diamondbacks (68-57, 3rd NL West): Previous edition: 5
The Diamondbacks are starting to slide, having dropped 9 of their last 14 games. Robbie Ray’s DL stint has brought down the D-Backs’ rotation, though Paul Goldschmidt’s offensive firepower is keeping Arizona from falling out of playoff position. The five-time All-Star is leading the team in all major offensive categories, and is tied for third in the NL in WAR.
7. Colorado Rockies (68-56, 2nd NL West): Previous edition: 4
The Rockies are still four games ahead of the Brewers in the hunt for the NL wild card spots, but the wheels are starting to fall off for Colorado. The pitching staff has been thin of late, but the inspiring return of Chad Bettis from testicular cancer and Jon Gray from injury should give the Rockies the boost they need in order to finish out the season strong.
8. Chicago Cubs (66-57, 1st NL Central): Previous edition: 8
With a 2.5 game lead over the Brewers in the NL Central, the Cubs are still vulnerable. The rotation was bolstered at the trade deadline by the North Siders’ acquisition of Jose Quintana, and with Jake Arrieta dominating once again (1.75 ERA in August), Jon Lester’s injury isn’t as big of a loss. However, Willson Contreras was mashing before an early-August hamstring injury, and the Cubs could use their star catcher for the playoff push.
9. New York Yankees (66-57, 2nd AL East): Previous edition: 9
Aaron Judge, arguably the biggest story of baseball in 2017, has been making headlines for the wrong reasons of late. The young superstar outfielder set the MLB record with most consecutive games with a strikeout, and his batting average has sunk to a pitiful .169 in the month of August. If the Yanks want to be a threat in the playoffs, Judge will need to adjust to how pitchers are dealing with him currently.
10. Milwaukee Brewers (65-61, 2nd NL Central): Previous edition: 10
Buyers instead of sellers at the trade deadline for the first time in recent memory, the Crew brought in Mets second baseman Neil Walker to give Milwaukee a solid contact hitter at the top of the lineup. Versatile infielder Travis Shaw has taken over from Eric Thames as the Brewers top offensive threat, and is leading the team in batting average, home runs and runs batted in.
11. St. Louis Cardinals (63-61, 3rd NL Central): Previous edition: 19
Going from 24th two months ago to 19th in July and now 11th, the Cardinals are finally playing like the playoff squad they should be. The Cards had a burst of offense earlier in August, scoring double digits three times and getting at least six runs seven times during an eight game win streak.
12. Los Angeles Angels (64-61, 2nd AL West): Previous edition: 17
The Angels have survived Mike Trout’s injury and are still somehow in playoff contention. Despite missing 44 games this year, Trout has batted .332 with 26 home runs and 60 RBIs, again proving his status as a once-in-a-generation player. A player to watch is 1st-year pitcher Parker Bridwell, who is 7-1 with a 2.92 ERA since carving out a rotation spot in June.
13. Minnesota Twins (64-60, 2nd AL Central): Previous edition: 13
The surprise team of the American League, Minnesota is somehow in wild-card position despite having a roster full of relative unknowns. Phenom pitcher Jose Berrios has cooled of since his hot start to the season, and is carrying a 4.84 ERA in August. The Twins will have a tough stretch upcoming as Miguel Sano’s injury will hinder their offense.
14. Texas Rangers (62-62, 4th AL West): Previous edition: 15
Despite having the fifth-best run differential in the AL with +37, the Rangers have ground to make up if they are to secure a playoff berth, though their trade of Yu Darvish will hurt them in the short term. Joey Gallo has come to epitomize the modern-day slugger, as he has swatted 35 home runs despite his batting average hovering around the Mendoza Line.
15. Seattle Mariners (64-62, 3th AL West): Previous edition: 16
Bringing in Yonder Alonso through trade will give the M’s another big bat in the middle of the lineup along with Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz. The 37 year-old Cruz continues to defy age, as the DH is batting an ungodly .409 with 10 home runs and 21 RBIs in the month of August.
16. Kansas City Royals (62-61, 3rd AL Central): Previous edition: 12
Still relying on the core of the team that brought KC a World Series title a few years ago, the Royals’ quality of play has fluctuated greatly as of late. Adding Trevor Cahill was supposed to give their rotation depth, but the underwhelming hurler is on the DL. Jason Vargas’ slide is worrisome, as Kansas City’s ace has carried an ERA of 7.08 in August.
17. Miami Marlins (60-62, 2nd NL East): Previous edition: 23
Despite rumors that the Marlins would be dealing beloved slugger Giancarlo Stanton, Miami held on to their superstar outfielder and the move paid off with a burst of power. Stanton’s 46 home runs easily are pacing the league, and his offensive onslaught has been the spark plug for the Marlins sitting just 6.5 games out of the Wild Card.
18. Baltimore Orioles (61-64, 3rd AL East): Previous edition: 20
Often overlooked when discussing the power hitters of Baltimore, second baseman Jonathan Schoop has had a dominant year for the O’s. His .302 average, 27 home runs and 93 RBIs are all leading the team, which has been held back by a regressing Mark Trumbo and poor pitching.
19. Tampa Bay Rays (61-65 , 4th AL East): Previous edition: 11
The Rays have suffered a precipitous drop in this edition of the rankings, as they went from contender to being just a game out of last place in their division. Promising young hurler Jacob Faria’s abdominal strain has forced the team to place him on the DL, which will likely continue the Rays’ skid.
20. Pittsburgh Pirates (60-65 , 4th NL Central): Previous edition: 14
Another team that suffered from post-All Star Game blues, the Bucs have won two of their last nine games and are trending downwards. Gerrit Cole was touted as an ace-in-the-making, but with a 4.18 ERA on the season and a 5.13 ERA in August, he may not be the player Pittsburgh expected him to be.
21. Toronto Blue Jays (59-65, 5th AL East): Previous edition: 25
With key contributors Troy Tulowitzki, Russell Martin and Aaron Sanchez on the DL for large parts of the season, a talented Blue Jays squad has been rendered hapless. Justin Smoak has been a revelation, however, as his .291 average blows his career mark of .234 out of the water and he has 33 homers to boot.
22. Atlanta Braves (55-68, 3rd NL East): Previous edition: 18
The Braves have outplayed expectations this year, as their team has consisted almost entirely of past-their-prime veterans. However, Atlanta needs to see more from Dansby Swanson, as the former #1 pick has batted .221 and hit only six home runs this season.
23. San Diego Padres (55-69, 4th NL West): Previous edition: 26
The Padres are batting a collective .234 on the year, and don’t have a hitter batting over .270. While young prospects like Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe are getting a lot of playing time, their learning curve has been steep.
24. New York Mets (54-69, 4th NL East): Previous edition: 21
Selling Curtis Granderson to the Dodgers after the trade deadline was a sign that the Mets could be on the verge of a fire sale just a year after a playoff appearance, though they hung on to ace Jacob deGrom. With Matt Harvey, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler all on the DL, the future looks bleak in New York.
25. Detroit Tigers (54-69, 4th AL Central): Previous edition: 22
It looks like Miggy has finally lost his battle against Father Time. The former Triple Crown winner showed no signs of slowing down last year as he batted .316 with 38 home runs, but with a .258 average and 13 home runs in 2017, the sun appears to be setting on the legend’s career.
26. Oakland A’s (54-71, 5th AL West): Previous edition: 26
The low-budget A’s sent off most of their remaining talent at the trade deadline, including their ace Sonny Gray. Though Khris Davis continues to enjoy a mid-career power outbreak, the A’s are years away from sniffing the playoffs.
27. Cincinnati Reds (53-72, 5th NL Central): Previous edition: 27
Dealing away Tony Cingrani, the Reds further depleted one of the league’s worst pitching staffs. It is a shame that Joey Votto, whose .314 average, 32 home runs and 87 RBIs would make him an MVP candidate on a contending team, has to waste his prime for the punchless Reds.
28. San Francisco Giants (51-76, 5th NL West): Previous edition: 29
Madison Bumgarner has pitched well in his return from his dirt bike injury, though the Giants have are a whopping 34 games out of first place in the division. Trading away Eduardo Nunez was San Francisco waving the white flag on the season, though with Bumgarner and Buster Posey, there is hope for the future.
29. Chicago White Sox (48-75, 5th AL Central): Previous edition: 28
The rebuilding project continues in the South Side, as the White Sox dealt away veterans Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle to the Yankees to acquire prospects. While the immediate future doesn’t look good, the White Sox could dominate baseball a few years down the road.
30. Philadelphia Phillies (45-77, 5th NL East): Previous edition: 30
Very few positives are happening here. With the “future of the franchise” Odubel Herrera and Aaron Altherr both on the DL, the Phillies aren’t posing much of a threat to opposing teams. After dealing Pat Neshek, the bullpen is just as nameless as the rest of the roster.
Statistics as of the morning of Tuesday, August 22nd. Statistics courtesy of ESPN.com