There are still plenty of questions ahead in this short, weird but totally fascinating MLB season. Like: Are the White Sox really the best team in the AL Central? Can the Rays make a World Series? Can the Marlins and Orioles actually make the playoffs? What happened to the Yankees?
But today’s question is even a little bigger than all those. We know the Dodgers are the best team in the NL — and MLB — but there’s quite a race to see who’s No. 2. The Cubs and Braves lead their respective divisions but come with a litany of concerns, not the least of which is starting pitching.
Might the second-best team in the NL actually be in the NL West also? And no, we’re not talking about the D-backs who are actually quite the opposite.
Here’s how we see all 30 teams this week:
TEAMS WE KNOW ARE GOOD
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (32-12; last week: 1) — How good are the Dodgers? Their current .727 winning percentage would amount to a 117-win season in 162 games.
2. Tampa Bay Rays (28-15; last week: 2) — The Rays lost twice to the Nats this week, which isn’t ideal, but if you told them they’d have a six-game lead over the Yankees in mid-September, they’d take two losses to the kids from “The Sandlot.”
3. San Diego Padres (28-17; last week: 7) — Are the Padres really the third-best team in baseball? Or are we just really in love? The offensive numbers don’t lie: They’re tops in runs scored and second in homers. It’s fair to say the best two NL teams right now reside out west.
4. Oakland A’s (26-15; last week: 3) — In perhaps the possible World Series preview (?!?) that no one saw coming, the A’s lost two of three this week to the Padres. If it happens, it would be a great World Series for uniforms.
5. Chicago White Sox (27-16; last week: 10) — The White Sox are for real. They’re a top-5 team in both runs scored and ERA. They’re the leaders of the AL Central, not the Twins or Indians. And they’re 5-1 in the past week.
6. Cleveland Indians (26-17; last week: 4) — The Indians remain the top pitching staff in baseball, but losing two of three so far this week to the Royals is not how you win a division.
7. Atlanta Braves (25-18; last week: 8) — You score 29 runs in a game, you pretty much have to move up in the power rankings, right?
8. Minnesota Twins (27-18; last week: 9) — This week’s series with the Indians may determine what direction the Twins are going the rest of the season.
9. Chicago Cubs (25-19; last week: 5) — The revitalized Yu Darvish has a 1.77 ERA. The rest of the Cubs? Not so much. Even Kyle Hendricks is almost double that. The Cubs have been good, but getting more from their other starters is crucial from here on out.
11. Philadelphia Phillies (21-18; last week: 12) — The fact that the Phillies have a 5.14 ERA (25th out of 30) yet are pretty much a lock for the playoffs tells you all you need to know about the NL East.
IS THIS REAL LIFE?
For everything that was made in the preseason about the Yankees and Astros rivalry and how they play this year in the ALCS, would you believe that they’d both be wild card teams? The Yankees are 2-7 since Sept. 1, which is one reason why. The Astros aren’t much better at 3-7. Getting hot could turn things around a bit, but they’re running out of time.
12. Houston Astros (22-22; last week: 11)
13. New York Yankees (22-21; last week: 6)
YES, THESE WOULD STILL BE PLAYOFF TEAMS
If I asked you before the season what the Giants, Cardinals and Marlins would have in common, you might have said Edgar Rentería. Actually, it’s that they’re playoff teams in September. Even more surprising: They’re all above .500. For today at least.
14. San Francisco Giants (23-21; last week: 16)
15. St. Louis Cardinals (18-17; Last week: 14)
16. Miami Marlins (19-19; last week: 15)
PROBABLY BAD, BUT STILL CONTENDERS
The Rockies and Brewers, as disappointing as their seasons have been so far, are still only 1.5 games out of a playoff spot. When the Giants and Marlins are ahead of you, that’s not terrible. The Mets aren’t much further back. And in the AL, the Orioles are the first team outside of the playoffs. Imagine that.
17. Colorado Rockies (20-23; last week: 17)
18. Milwaukee Brewers (19-22; last week: 18)
19. New York Mets (20-24; last week: 20):
20. Baltimore Orioles (20-22; last week: 22)
21. Cincinnati Reds (19-24; last week: 19)
22. Detroit Tigers (19-22; last week: 21)
The surest sign yet that baseball in 2020 is unpredictable: The Red Sox, Nationals and Angels are a tier below the Tigers and Orioles. The team down here that really should feel bad is the D-backs, who don’t need our piling on, but they’ve only won two of their past 20 games. Yikes.
23. Seattle Mariners (19-24; last week: 29)
24. Los Angeles Angels (17-27; last week: 28)
25. Washington Nationals (16-25; last week: 23)
26. Kansas City Royals (16-28; last week: 26)
27. Texas Rangers (15-27; last week: 25)
28. Arizona Diamondbacks (15-29; last week: 24)
29. Boston Red Sox (15-29; last week: 27)
30. Pittsburgh Pirates (14-27; last week: 30)
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