Last week here at The Official Power Rankings, we discussed some possible "upstart" teams that could make a run and win the World Series. It's always a possibility, especially given the added teams to the postseason and the number of layers in the playoffs before even getting to the Fall Classic.
Right now, there are four teams that have a shot to end up looking like one of the above champions.
The Yankees have had the best record in the AL or even all of baseball for a good portion of the season. They are in a rut right now, but if they rebound and win over 100 games, they obviously count.
The Astros aren't in nearly as bad a stretch as the Yankees, but they have lost eight of their last 14. Of course, they are still on pace to win 103 games and considering they have taken three of the last five AL pennants, they would certainly be a powerhouse champ.
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How about the Mets? The franchise hasn't seen a 100-game winner since 1988, but they are 70-39 right now, which is a 104-win pace. Their lead dipped all the way down to a half-game over the Braves a few weeks ago, but the Mets have gone 12-2 since then. They just took four of five against the defending champs and are finally sporting the otherworldly Scherzer-deGrom tandem atop the rotation. They have a 6 1/2-game lead and are looking the best they have all season in some respects.
Could it end up being a powerhouse vs. powerhouse matchup in the NLCS? Because the most obvious pick here would be the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It's entirely possible that many people are taking the Dodgers for granted right now. It's understandable, too. After all, the Dodgers have set these lofty expectations for themselves in the regular season.
The Dodgers haven't missed the playoffs since 2012. They are going to win their ninth division title in the last 10 years and the one they didn't win was a season in which they won 106 games. They've made the NLCS six of the last nine seasons, taking the NL pennant three times.
And yet, the only World Series title the Dodgers have won since 1988 was the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
Therein lies the rub. Surely the Dodgers and their fans desperately want another title, notably one in a full season in which they get to play and win the World Series in front of a packed house at Dodger Stadium.
If they don't, the season is a failure.
It's one of those things that doesn't really seem fair, but it's also a situation that is the envy of the rest of baseball. It goes both ways. Sure, it's a total bummer, from the Dodgers' point of view, that they could go out and win 112 games, make a run to Game 7 of the World Series and lose by one run and be considered failures. It's also a testament to how good they've been for the last decade that they are in this position. Many other teams could make it to the league championship series and have their fans fondly remember the magical run for years in the future.
The other byproduct of being easily the best-run organization in baseball is how much less head-turning their streaks of amazing baseball are. The Dodgers went 21-5 in July. How much more impressive would that record in a month sound if it were the Marlins, Rangers, Angels, Royals, Orioles, Reds, Pirates, Rockies, Diamondbacks or, well, pretty much any other team? Being honest with ourselves, I think we can all agree it would impact us much more forcefully.
We've just grown accustomed to seeing such dominance from the Dodgers.
Oh, and they are 7-0 in August so far.
They actually won their last two games in June, too, so they are an outrageous 30-5 since June 28. The next-best team in that stretch is the Mariners, who had a 14-game winning streak in there and still at 24-10, are 5 1/2 games worse than the Dodgers.
There is no question who the best team in baseball is. There's no question who would be the best pick to be the powerhouse champion of this season. Can they get it done in October and November, though? If not, they are failures. That's the deal. A raw one? Maybe, but also one 29 other teams would love to make.
|They will need to address the late-inning bullpen -- specifically Craig Kimbrel's role -- but reinforcements are on the way and there's plenty of time.||--||75-33|
|I don't know if we should necessarily call these "statement series" in July and August, but it seems like so many people were armed and ready to hand the keys to the Braves in the NL East after their run in June. The Mets took two of three in Atlanta last month and then four of five this past weekend at home.||1||70-39|
|Doesn't it seem like Justin Verlander has won more than two Cy Youngs? Maybe that's because he's finished second three times (and should have won at least one of those). Regardless, he's the frontrunner right now. At age 39. Coming off Tommy John surgery.||1||70-40|
|They are now 9-16 since July 8 and they've looked every bit that bad. I don't think they are in danger in the East (yet), but the lead is fewer than 10 games for the first time since June 15. I'd have dropped them, but there's really nowhere to go with the Braves struggling. There's still plenty of credit banked from the first half.||--||70-39|
|They've fallen enough behind the Mets that the wild card spots are bigger concerns. They are actually closer to being out of the playoff picture (five games up on the Brewers with the Padres and Phillies in between) than catching the Mets.||--||64-46|
|Eight days ago, they were four games back. Now they are in first place with a two-game lead. The Brewers visit St. Louis for a three-game series this coming weekend, too, so maybe it's time to put some distance between them?||6||60-48|
|The deficit is 9 1/2 games. The Blue Jays and Yankees play each other seven more times. I really doubt it can happen, but the chances are higher than zero. What a story it would be.||1||60-48|
|They've won 10 of their last 11 games. Rhys Hoskins is beyond hot. Ranger Suárez continues to throw well and Bryce Harper has started to hit off a tee. Things are looking up.||3||60-48|
|Of their foursome of back-end relievers -- Paul Sewald, Penn Murfee, Andrés Muñoz and Erik Swanson -- the worst WHIP is 0.95 (Muñoz). It's a stable of unheralded studs.||1||59-51|
|Yes, they are worse than the Dodgers. Very clearly so. They might only need to have things break their way three out of five times in October, though. Just ask Juan Soto about his 2019 Nationals, a clearly inferior team to the 2019 Dodgers.||1||61-50|
|Shane McClanahan has given up nine earned runs in 10 2/3 innings in his last two outings. He's at 128 1/3 innings. Including the playoffs, he threw 129 last year. This will be interesting. Not like "an episode of Better Call Saul" interesting, but relatively speaking.||1||58-50|
|I have to say, I'm with Rocco Baldelli regarding that overturned call on Sunday. Throw out the rules and just go on what we've seen for years. That plate-blocking rule has rarely, if ever, truly been enforced that like. It was bizarre, like seeing officials ignore the three-second rule for a half-decade and then calling it during a last-second shot attempt. And as I'm typing that out, I realize it's entirely possible that's happened before at some level.||1||57-51|
|Sometimes the human element needs to matter more than stats and figures. The Brewers' clubhouse was clearly shaken when they learned closer Josh Hader was traded to the Padres. They've gone 1-5 since with the bullpen getting beat up in each of the five losses.||6||58-50|
|Moving to the big leagues for the first time is a huge adjustment. It's the hardest promotion in the sport and I'd be willing to argue in all of sports. That's why everyone needs to be patient when a highly touted prospect goes to the bigs. Adley Rutschman struggled for a few weeks, but he's been great for a pretty decent amount of time. We can go back to June 10, and since then he's hitting .297 while getting on base over 40 percent of the time, walking more than he strikes out and slugging over .500. The numbers have gotten progressively better since then, too. He'll be the best offensive catcher from start to finish next season.||1||56-52|
|Seven of their next 10 games come against the Tigers, so it's time to take care of business, right? Then again, they are 5-7 against the Tigers so far this season.||1||56-52|
|Since losing the first two games after the All-Star break, the White Sox are 9-5. It's a modest uptick and maybe it's the start of a run. In looking at the individual series, though, where's the room for optimism? They split with the Guardians, split with the Rockies, took two of three from the A's and Royals, respectively, and then split with the Rangers. That's the resume of a mediocre team.||1||55-53|
|At least they don't play the Dodgers again until Sept. 5. That's good news and I have no doubt Giants fans are ecstatic thinking about the eight straight losses to the Dodgers.||1||53-55|
|I just wanted to give a hearty "Congratulations!" to Chaim Bloom for the most confusing trade deadline. It's not an insult. I don't know if it was bad or good. Just baffling. Of course, it fits well with a team that won a series in Houston and then lost three of four in Kansas City.||4||54-56|
|It could be argued the Rangers have been the "unluckiest" team in baseball, if one were so inclined. I think they are mostly just bad, but run differential (-1) says they have played like essentially a .500 team and they are a miserable 6-24 in one-run games.||--||48-60|
|All-Star reliever Joe Mantiply continues to roll, now with a 2.09 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 41 strikeouts against four walks in 43 innings. He's under team control through 2026, too. Of course, he's also a 31-year-old relief pitcher and we know how volatile those can be.||--||48-59|
|Remember that 3-22 start? Yeah, that's why they are down here. They've gone 41-41 since.||2||44-63|
|They are averaging 2.59 runs per game since the All-Star break and 2.71 since the beginning of July. I'm sure the Deadball Era appreciates the homage, even if it's a bit over the top.||1||49-59|
|After the trade deadline, Rockies general manager Bill Schmidt seemingly bragged about how they were the only team to sign a player to a contract extension leading up to the deadline. It was a weird flex since they aren't contenders. It was nonsensical since it wasn't an extension deadline. It was false since the Braves extended Austin Riley and the Padres extended Joe Musgrove. A trifecta of incompetence!||1||48-63|
|Now that Jed Hoyer couldn't or wouldn't unload Willson Contreras and/or Ian Happ at the trade deadline, there's really no excuse to punt 2023, right? Though there wasn't a good reason in the first place.||--||43-64|
|It can be a challenge to say something positive without mentioning Shohei Ohtani, but I found something: Since his return from Triple-A, David Fletcher is 8 for 25 (.320) with three doubles, two homers and nine RBI in eight games.||--||46-63|
|A list of players with six RBI in a game in which they were the Royals' catcher: Jerry Grote (June 3, 1981), Jorge Fabregas (July 3, 2000) and MJ Melendez (Aug. 7, 2022).||2||44-65|
|Oneil Cruz now has 58 strikeouts with a .208 batting average and .247 on-base percentage in 158 plate appearances. He also has five doubles, a triple, nine home runs, 29 RBI, 21 runs and five steals in 24 games. If you haven't watched him play much and the peaks and valleys seem extreme, you ain't seen nothin'. It's unreal. You can go from thinking "he might win multiple MVPs" to "he's never gonna stick" and vice versa in a half-inning.||2||44-64|
|In the wild-card era, only four teams have finished with a home winning percentage worse than .333. The 2003 Tigers, 2013 Astros, 2019 Tigers and 2019 Orioles. The A's are 17-35 right now (oh, and the Nationals this season are worse at 17-40).||1||41-68|
|They've lost 20 of 27 and it's, overall, just a total catastrophe. Whoever takes over as general manager next year -- assuming Al Avila is out -- has to do a deep clean.||3||43-67|
|They are on pace to go 53-109. I'm not sure they can make it there, though. They are brutal.||--||36-74|