- In this week's edition of Power Rankings we look at the major questions still lingering around baseball with weeks to go in the season. Also worth noting, for the first time in a long time, we have a new No. 1.
We’re in the home stretch of the season, and so, too, of power rankings. For this week’s edition, we’re shining a spotlight on teams who still have questions left to answer. Check out last week's iteration here. Let’s rank!
30. Detroit Tigers (43-102; Last Week: 30)
The 2019 Tigers will not be the worst team of all time. The bar is simply too low. (Shoutout to the 1916 Philadelphia A’s.) But will they be worse than the 2018 Orioles? (47-115.) Will they somehow tie the horror of the 2003 Tigers, whose 43-119 record made them the second-worst team since 1940? Will they break the all-time record for strikeouts? (Likely—with a 26.6% K-rate, they’re on track to do so, which would make them the first team ever to strike out 1,600 times in a year.) So there are lots of questions here. But none of them are very fun.
29. Baltimore Orioles (47-99; Last Week: 29)
28. Miami Marlins (51-95; Last Week: 28)
27. Toronto Blue Jays (57-90; Last Week: 25)
26. Kansas City Royals (55-92; Last Week: 27)
25. Seattle Mariners (60-87; Last Week: 26)
The Mariners have already set the record for most players used in a season. (67. Yes, 67, as in, comfortably equal to two teams’ total numbers for an ordinary year.) But how much will they increase this number by the end of the season? (Another player debuted just last night.) And could this record end up as unbreakable? While it’s true that teams will likely only continue to use roster churn as a way to handle players’ workloads, boosting these numbers across the board, 67 (and counting!) requires a special blend of bad health, bad play, and generous use of expanded rosters. This could be one for the books for a while.
24. Chicago White Sox (64-82; Last Week: 23)
23. Colorado Rockies (62-85; Last Week: 24)
22. Pittsburgh Pirates (65-82; Last Week: 22)
21. Los Angeles Angels (67-80; Last Week: 20)
Just how good will Mike Trout’s 2019 be in the end? (And how much will the foot injury that he’s been battling this week affect the rest of his month?) Can he continue to lead baseball in OPS+ for a fourth consecutive season? (He’d join only Barry Bonds, Babe Ruth, and Ty Cobb in the tiny club of players to have such a stretch.) Will he lead baseball in home runs for the first time in his career? And while this one should seem like a lock, just to be sure… will he get his first MVP since 2016?
20. San Diego Padres (68-78; Last Week: 21)
19. Cincinnati Reds (68-79; Last Week: 18)
18. San Francisco Giants (70-77; Last Week: 19)
17. Texas Rangers (74-74; Last Week: 17)
16. Arizona Diamondbacks (75-72; Last Week: 15)
15. Philadelphia Phillies (76-70; Last Week: 14)
14. Boston Red Sox (77-70; Last Week: 12)
13. Milwaukee Brewers (78-68; Last Week: 16)
The Brewers’ postseason outlook is hardly set; after a manic run over the last week, they’re tied for the second wild-card. (Their FanGraphs odds have shot from 6% to 33% just since last weekend…. but 33% is still far from any feeling of security.) And now they have to make it down the stretch without Christian Yelich. Can they? Most of the MVP’s time in the outfield will by picked up by 22-year-old Trent Grisham, who got the call to the majors after just 34 games in Triple A and has looked solid thus far. There’s no replacing Yelich, but will Grisham be a fit substitute? Will Milwaukee’s pitching staff hold up? And will all of this get us another Game 163?
12. New York Mets (76-70; Last Week: 13)
As my coworker Jon Tayler pointed out this week on Twitter, the Mets’ playoff odds have been… interesting:
In a strict sense, they’re still completely in it—two games back of the wild-card with more than two weeks to play is hardly a death sentence. In a less strict sense, it seems highly unlikely. And in a practical sense… this team is extremely hard to predict (see: the above graph), so we’re not even going to try.
11. Chicago Cubs (78-68; Last Week: 11)
10. St. Louis Cardinals (82-64; Last Week: 9)
9. Washington Nationals (81-64; Last Week: 7)
8. Tampa Bay Rays (87-61; Last Week: 10)
7. Cleveland Indians (86-61; Last Week: 8)
Cleveland’s lingering on the outside corner of the postseason picture—half a game out of the second wild-card. That calls for a chaotic final few weeks, so for now, we’ll look at just one of the many questions around them: As Brad Hand goes down for this weekend with an arm injury, what will Cleveland see from James Karinchak? The team has just called up the righty relief prospect, who registered 22 K/9 in Triple A. (Yes, you read that correctly. 22 K/9.) How will the 23-year-old look in the majors? And how much will it matter, in a crucial series this weekend against Minnesota, where the ‘pen’s performance will probably be key?
Little video montage of #Indians prospect RHP relief prospect James Karinchak who was just promoted from (AAA) Columbus. Karinchak is set to join the big league club on Friday for the series vs the Twins.@jkarinchak21 #RallyTogether pic.twitter.com/GgVz8qpNQK— Indians Prospective (@indiansPro) September 12, 2019
6. Oakland A’s (87-60; Last Week: 6)
5. Minnesota Twins (89-57; Last Week: 5)
Will the Twins be the ones to get to the end of the season with the seasonal home run record? They were the first team to break the previous record of 267 HR… but they’ve since been joined by the Yankees, and the two clubs are now almost neck-and-neck. The Twins have 279 HR to the Yankees’ 280, but Minnesota has played two fewer games than New York. So will they break 300? (They’re on track for 310.) And will they make it out with sole possession of the title?
Playing their 20th & final interleague game, the @Twins have now homered in every one of them, joining the 2000 Blue Jays as the only teams to homer in every interleague game in a season.— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) September 13, 2019
They've gone deep in an MLB-record 23 straight interleague games dating back to last year.
4. Atlanta Braves (91-57; Last Week: 4)
Is Ronald Acuña Jr. going to reach 40-40? The 21-year-old currently has 39 home runs and 36 stolen bases. As a reminder, this club is tiny—1988 Jose Canseco, 1996 Barry Bonds, 1998 Alex Rodriguez, and 2006 Alfonso Soriano. That’s it. If Acuña can pull it off, he’s not just making history, he’s displaying a style of play that looked like it was just about gone. (And, yes, he’d be the youngest to do it—A-Rod was 22 in ’98.)
Ronald Acuña Jr. stole his 35th and 36th bases in the 1st inning today - to go with 38 HR this season.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 13, 2019
At 21 years old, he's the youngest player in MLB history with at least 35 HR and 35 steals in a season and the 1st player in @Braves history, regardless of age, to do so. pic.twitter.com/u8rJY9SP2O
3. New York Yankees (97-51; Last Week: 3)
After a season that’s seen many of the team’s biggest stars spend significant time on the IL, some of them may be about to return. Luis Severino and Giancarlo Stanton are said to be close to their comebacks, and Dellin Betances could be close behind. So what will they look like as they try to get ready for the postseason? And what will this mean for the other players who have done so well in their stead?
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (95-53; Last Week: 1)
1. Houston Astros (95-53; Last Week: 2)
For the first time in a long time, we have a new No. 1. The Dodgers, Astros, and Yankees have made the race tense for a while now (there’s a strong case to be made for any of the three, really), but for now, the top spot goes to Houston, and one of their supporting factors forms the basis for the question here: Just how good will the Astros’ final run differential be? Houston’s current figure of +238 is already among the top fifty in modern baseball. Can they top +263, which the club posted last year, twentieth-best of all-time? Or +275, which would put them alongside the ’98 Yankees and ’01 Mariners as the best teams in this category since baseball integrated in 1948? And no matter where they finish here, can they back it up with the best record in baseball?