What matters more this time of the year for a contender — stacking up wins or beating good teams?
The way Major League Baseball is right now, when you see two titans collide — like we did with the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers over the weekend — it feels more special. It feels almost October-like. Especially when a third of the league isn’t even trying to win this year.
Stacking wins is great if you’re in a postseason chase. Win every game you can. But what about for our weekly MLB Power Rankings? That was the crux of the debate as I pondered this week’s rankings. Should a team like the Astros, who are riding another winning streak, get more credit for beating some not-so-great teams while the Yankees and Dodgers duke it out?
And should a team like the Oakland A’s, who made a statement against the Yankees this week, get more credit for beating a good team than losing to a not-so-great one after that?
There’s no certain answer, which is what makes an exercise like Power Rankings more fun than just looking at the standings. So who’s my No. 1 this week? Yes, it’s a team that got swept earlier in the week.
Here are my picks and how I size up all 30 MLB teams.
THE TOP 10
1. New York Yankees (85-47; last week: 1)
After getting swept by the A’s on the road, I didn’t figure the Yankees were going to reclaim their No. 1 spot this week. But a good showing in L.A. against the Dodgers weighs a little more in my mind. Remember, this Dodgers team they beat had been No. 1 in these rankings for quite a while recently. Ultimately, I’m calling this week a draw. Think of it like the end of “Rocky” — Apollo Creed didn’t win, but he didn’t lose either. And much like the future “Rocky” movies, there’s much more fighting to be done between the Yankees and the other top MLB contenders.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (86-46; last week: 2)
The Dodgers could have made a statement by pounding the Yankees. It would have gone a long way to silencing those people who think L.A. will just fail again under the bright lights of October. Instead, you’re probably hearing more of that right now. I suppose it’s good it was just a regular season series then, huh?
3. Houston Astros (85-47; last week: 3)
The Astros are perhaps the forgotten team here. They’ve won four in a row and six of seven. That gets their record back in line with N.Y. and L.A., but the wins came against the Tigers and Angels. They still count, but not worth quite as much in the power rankings when the top two teams are facing each other.
4. Atlanta Braves (80-52; last week: 5)
The hottest team in baseball? They reside in the ATL. The Braves haven’t lost since last weekend when the Dodgers beat them to start their series. Since then, Atlanta has rattled off eight straight wins — including sweeps of the Mets and Marlins, and two more against the Dodgers. Most encouraging in that span is that Braves pitchers have only allowed more than three runs once.
5. Minnesota Twins (79-51; last week: 4)
The Twins keep chugging along. They’re not as glamorous or spectacular as some of the teams above them, but certainly more steady than the teams below them. They’ve never had a month where they played below .540 ball.
6. Oakland A’s (74-55; last week: 7)
I’m all about giving credit to teams doing well in big matchups, so the A’s get a bump here for sweeping the Yankees this past week. It would have been a bigger bump had they not then lost two games to the Giants. Alas, baseball is weird.
7. Cleveland Indians (76-55; last week: 6)
The Indians getting swept the Mets at this juncture hurt. Losing Jose Ramirez to injury also hurts. The Tribe rebounded to win two of three against the Royals, but the Royals are the Royals and you’ll have to look down this list quite a ways to find them.
8. Washington Nationals (73-57; last week: 9)
The Nationals once seemed like a big ol’ disappointment, but a lot can change in a few months. These days, their odds of making the playoffs stand at 97.6 percent, according to Fangraphs. In the short term, the Nats have won five in a row, including a three-game sweep of the Cubs over the weekend. They’re six games back in the NL East, so the wild card is the likely destination. However, they do have seven games left against the Braves.
9. Tampa Bay Rays (76-56; last week: 8)
The Rays went 3-4 last week against the Mariners and Orioles, which is not what you want to do this time of year against the Mariners and Orioles. This week, they’re playing the Astros and Indians, who are decidedly not the Mariners and Orioles. We might learn a lot about the Rays this week.
10. St. Louis Cardinals (71-58; last week: 10)
With the Nats sweeping the Cubs and the Cardinals doing the same to the Rockies, St. Louis has a 2.5 game lead in the NL Central to start the week, which seems like quite a bit considering how close that division has been all season. A test awaits starting today as the Cards visit Milwaukee and the third-place (but still within striking distance) Brewers.
11. Chicago Cubs (69-61; last week: 11)
12. Boston Red Sox (70-62; last week: 12)
13. Philadelphia Phillies (67-62; last week: 13)
14. Milwaukee Brewers (67-63; last week: 15)
15. New York Mets (67-63; last week: 14)
There’s not much happening here to feel good about. These are the teams who could use a hot streak or a boost as we get closer to September. This week was mostly meh all around. The Cubs got swept, so did the Mets. The Red Sox, Phillies and Brewers continue to be underachievers. If any of these teams — particularly on the NL side – want to make good on their playoff aspirations, now’s the time to get moving.
IT’S NOT LOOKING GOOD
16. San Francisco Giants (65-65; last week: 16)
17. Arizona Diamondbacks (65-66; last week 17)
18. Texas Rangers (64-68; last week: 19)
19. Los Angeles Angels (63-70; last week: 18)
20. Cincinnati Reds (60-69; last week: 21)
Every week, I call this section “it’s not looking good” but it’s probably time to make that seem a little more grave. Once September hits, the Giants and D-backs will need a lot of help to make a playoff run. They’re only four and four-and-a-half games back respectively, but there are three other wild-card contenders ahead of them. As for the Rangers and Angels? Not a chance.
IT’S PRETTY MUCH A WRAP
21. San Diego Padres (60-69; last week: 20)
22. Chicago White Sox (60-70; last week: 23)
23. Seattle Mariners (56-75; last week: 24)
24. Colorado Rockies (58-73; last week: 22)
25. Pittsburgh Pirates (55-75; last week: 26)
No hope down here in the fourth tier. About the most positive are the Pirates winning three straight against the Reds and Mariners winning seven of their last 10. Otherwise, you get the Rockies losing four straight and the Padres losing four of five.
26. Toronto Blue Jays (53-80; last week: 25)
27. Miami Marlins (47-82; last week: 27)
28. Kansas City Royals (46-85; last week: 28)
29. Baltimore Orioles (43-88; last week: 29)
30. Detroit Tigers (39-89; last week: 30)
The Tigers beat the Twins and Astros this week, which is a very commendable showing. The Orioles beat the Rays twice. The Marlins beat Philly twice. Sorry, cherry-picking small-sample-size results is the best I got for these cellar dwellers.
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