Sunday, July 21, 2024

MLB Power Rankings: Wild-card roller coaster continues with two weeks left, Brewers move into top five

MLB Power Rankings: Wild-card roller coaster continues with two weeks left, Brewers move into top five

It’s been an up-and-down few weeks for a large handful of MLB’s wild-card hopefuls

Kim O’Reilly/CBS Sports

As we head to the final two weeks of the 2023 Major League Baseball season, I’m left grappling with just how Jekyl and Hyde an assortment of contenders have been this season. There are always hot-and-cold teams and now that we’ve opened the playoffs up to 12 of the 30 teams, there will inevitably be inconsistent contenders. Perhaps it’s recency bias playing games with my brain, but it just feels extreme this season. 

We can start with the following question: What in the world is going on with the Texas Rangers

Good lord, man. The Rangers entered August in first place and won eight straight. They had won 12 of 14 before embarking on all kinds of losing. They dropped eight straight. Then they won three of four to tease their fans before losing seven of their next eight games. Then they won six straight, a stretch that included an emphatic four-game sweep of the Blue Jays in Toronto, outscoring them 35-9. They were back! And then they went to Cleveland against a mediocre-at-best Guardians team and got their teeth kicked in. They were outscored 23-6 in the three-game sweep. Terrible. 

The Rangers are the most maddeningly inconsistent team from the bunch, but they are far from alone in being impossible to figure out. 

  • The Cubs got off to a decent start, but were brutal from late April through June 8, falling to 26-36. From June 8 through Sept. 6, they went 50-28 (that’s a full-season pace of 104 wins). But now they’ve lost eight of 10. 
  • The Diamondbacks had a three-game lead after winning on July 1. They then went into the tank for over a month, going 7-25 through Aug. 11. Then they won 12 of their next 15. Then they lost six of eight before winning five of six. On and on the roller coaster goes. 
  • The Marlins went 19-8 in June and then 9-15 in July. They were 9-17 in August until winning on the 31st and starting a stretch where they won six in a row and — this is current — 12 of 17. They just swept the Braves. This is a team that lost five straight to the Cardinals and Rockies in July. 
  • The Reds started 7-15. Remember that? They were 21-29 heading to Memorial Day weekend. Starting June 10, they won 12 straight and 20 of 24. They lost six in a row wrapped around the All-Star break but then won five straight and close July with nine wins in their last 12 games. Of course, they lost eight of their first nine in August. Right now they’ve won five of seven, but that followed a stretch where they were 6-10. 
  • The Mariners were 38-42 heading to July. In July and August combined, they were 38-15 (a full-season pace of 116 wins, which sounds familiar). And now they are 5-11 in September. So they went from mediocre to the best team in baseball to bad. 
  • The Blue Jays started 18-9 and played just a few games over .500 through Sept. 2. Then they won six of seven before getting obliterated by the Rangers are home for four games. And then they turned around and swept the Red Sox
  • The Giants were 17-23 in the middle of May, then they got awesome for a bit. They won 25 of their next 34. After a seven-game winning streak in July, they were 13 games over .500. Then they lost six straight. From Aug. 5 through Sept. 6, they went 9-21. They then won five of six. Then lost three straight before Sunday’s win. 

As a huge roller coaster fan, running through this was like a quick trip to Cedar Point. Exhilarating. 

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Will one of these teams put it together and get hot at the right time, which would mean a deep playoff run? It feels unlikely for most of them, given how unreliable they’ve proven to be. Still, the highs with all of these teams have been incredibly high (Top Thrill 2 high?). Keep an eye on any one of them for great entertainment and possibly good — or possibly terrible — baseball. 

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I’ve seen a lot of people lately talking about the Braves as if it’s possible they’ll go on a World Series championship run with relative ease, something similar to the 2018 Red Sox. It’s definitely possible, but let’s not forget about teams like the 2022 Dodgers, 2021 Dodgers, 2021 Giants, 2019 Dodgers, 2019 Astros, 2017 Dodgers and, well, every other team that’s ever won 104-plus games and failed to win it all. No team is ever bulletproof. 96-54

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Clayton Kershaw only threw 56 pitches in four innings Saturday night. This light workload has gone well past “saving bullets for the playoffs” and into “very concerning” territory for me. It’s not like their rotation is a bastion of depth right now. 2 92-57

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That split with the Rays means the Orioles hold a two-game lead, a three-game lead in the loss column and the tiebreaker over the Rays. After a three-game series in Houston, the schedule is relatively soft. This is all to say that the Orioles should win the AL East. If so, it’ll be their first division title since 2014 and only their second since 1997. 1 94-56

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That blown game by the bullpen Sunday probably sealed their fate as a wild-card team. It has to feel a bit disappointing after starting 13-0, but there’s still a chance to make this a special season. 1 92-59

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This is the Golden Era of Brewers baseball. Before 2018, they had only won their division three times. This season will very likely be their third division title in a six-year span. Before 2018, they’d only been to the playoffs four times. This will be five times in a six-year span. 3 84-66

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Their home-road splits are extreme, with awful offensive numbers at home producing one of their worst home records in years. Is it really the batter’s eye? We’ll start finding out this week, as it’s been altered. 1 84-67

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Blue Jays

I still can’t get over that series against the Rangers. That was just an utter throttling. Even a split would’ve had the Jays sitting pretty right now. 1 83-67

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Even with this bad stretch, remember that the Mariners still control their own destiny all the way up to the division title and No. 2 seed. That’s because they’ve got seven games against the Rangers and three against the Astros left on the schedule. They’ll get three against the lowly A’s first, too. 1 82-68

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All these late blown games — especially after big Phillies comebacks — are becoming a serious concern heading toward October. 82-68

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Royce Lewis has now played in 68 career games. He has five grand slams. 1 79-72

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I think Shohei Ohtani is definitely going to win MVP, but it’s always possible Corey Seager goes bonkers these last two weeks and sways some folks. Can you name the five Rangers to win AL MVP? Lock this one down for future Immaculate Grid use: Jeff Burroughs, Juan Gonzalez, Ivan Rodriguez, A-Rod and Josh Hamilton. 3 82-68

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They must be disappointed the Cubs aren’t on their schedule anymore. They won six of seven against the Cubs in a week-and-a-half span. They’re still technically struggling when they don’t play the Cubs. They lost three of four to the Mets between the two Cubs’ series. 79-72

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Jorge Soler hit his 36th homer of the season on Sunday. He has a shot to get to 40. The only Marlins to ever do that are Giancarlo Stanton and Gary Sheffield. 78-73

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Starting to see some “we overrated Elly De La Cruz” chatter and that’s utter nonsense. He’s 21 years old. So many players struggle at that age and most aren’t even in the majors yet. Anyone who claims they were wrong about him or overrated him or anything is exposing their own ignorance to how baseball works. 1 79-73

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Pretty much everyone just stopped hitting all at once. They were headed to comfortably being in the playoffs and contending for the NL Central title, but instead are going to have a very tough fight to even make the playoffs. 5 78-72

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If they win out, the Yankees could still make the playoffs. They have six head-to-heads with the Blue Jays, too. The best bet, however, is the Yankees drama revolves around whether or not they end up with a winning record. They haven’t had a losing season since 1992. Their first-round draft pick that season? Derek Jeter. 2 76-74

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Though he’s only caught in 87 games, Patrick Bailey has been the best defensive catcher in all of baseball by several metrics. His framing numbers are astounding. 76-74

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Too little, too late? Yeah, too little, too late, but the Padres have won 10 of their last 15. 1 73-78

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Red Sox

I have to say, I was floored at the Chaim Bloom firing. There are legitimate reasons both for and against the move, I just did not see it coming here in 2023. 3 75-76

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It looks like the Guardians will fail to reach 80 wins. Excluding 2020, this would mark the first time this franchise didn’t get to 80 since 2012, the year before Terry Francona took over. 1 72-79

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David Bednar is having one of the best seasons a Pirates reliever has ever had, especially if we include only those pitchers in the one-inning era. 1 70-80

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Catcher Jake Rogers homered twice on Sunday. It was his second multi-homer game of the season. Tigers catchers who previously pulled off the feat of two or more multi-HR games in a season: Alex Avila, John Flaherty, Mike Heath, Matt Nokes, Lance Parrish, Bill Freehan and Rudy York. 1 70-80

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One of the first orders of business for David Stearns has to be a contract extension for Pete Alonso, right? 1 70-80

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Adam Wainwright finally grabbed win 199. He’ll have a few shots to get 200. If he makes it, he’ll be the 122nd pitcher in MLB history to win 200 games. 1 67-83

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Shohei Ohtani has played his last game in an Angels uniform. Right? 5 68-82

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In late August, the Nationals climbed to the periphery of the wild-card race. They’ve gone 4-13 since. 66-85

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It was pretty fun to watch the Rockies threaten a no-hitter on Friday. The Rockies have never had a home no-hitter. Hideo Nomo of the Dodgers has the only career no-no in Coors. The Rockies only have one no-hitter in franchise history and that was Ubaldo Jimenez in Atlanta. 1 56-94

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White Sox

So much has gone wrong here, but Tim Anderson falling apart is toward the top of the list. He’s hitting .245/.287/.300 with just one home run. 1 58-93

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The Royals won four games this past week to climb out of the Official Power Rankings cellar. They’ll need to get a lot hotter to avoid topping 106 losses, though. That’s the franchise record. 1 49-102

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The 103 losses are the most since 1979. They’re sure to pass 108, which would mean the most losses for this franchise since the Philadelphia A’s went 36-117 (LOL) in 1916. 1 46-104

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