Three weeks into the August the playoff picture all of a sudden gets a little bit messier, with some teams playing streaky baseball, others cooling off, and some catching fire seemingly out of nowhere. Things may have stayed routine at the top this week, but what changed? Go ahead and give the rankings a look to find out!
30. Atlanta Braves (45-79, previously 30) – The Braves lost seven straight before topping the Nationals on Sunday afternoon. Currently on pace for 104 losses, it would be the worst record in franchise history in the Atlanta era.
29. Minnesota Twins (49-75, previously 29) – The Twins fell victim to a red hot Royals squad this weekend, but that doesn’t mean we can ignore the fact that Minnesota is a horrid team to begin with. At least I don’t think it’s a good thing when a team gives up a league worst 661 runs on the season through mid-August.
28. Arizona Diamondbacks (51-73, previously 26) – The desert was never so cold during a time in which many expected the Diamondbacks to be serious contenders in the NL West. Instead, they’re on pace for their worst season since 2010 when they lost 97 games. They’ve also allowed 690 runs, the most in the majors.
27. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (52-72, previously 28) – After splitting with the Mariners over the week, the Angels were bullied by the bats of the Bronx Bombers on Friday and Saturday before shutting them out on Sunday in a 2-0 win. Nonetheless, Anaheim is in the midst of a 3-14 stretch, thanks to an 11 game losing streak that came to a halt this past week.
26. Oakland Athletics (53-71, previously 23) – With a 2-8 record in their past 10 games, you have to wonder if Danny Valencia is a real trade target considering that he leads the team in batting average at .302. If those woes weren’t enough a report also surfaced over the weekend that Billy Butler was injured in a scuffle with none other than Valencia.
25. Tampa Bay Rays (52-70, previously 27) – It’s rather astounding that the Rays are only -14 on the season in run differential but are in last place in their division. It shows just how tough the AL East is, and really just how much bad luck the squad has had when it comes to timely offense in 2016.
24. San Diego Padres (53-71, previously 24) – You really have to feel bad for the Padres with all that has happened from Spring 2015 when there was so much promise to this place of no hope that they find themselves in right now. You know it’s bad when your team’s best hitter, Will Myers, is only batting 268.
23. Milwaukee Brewers (53-70, previously 22) – A 2-8 stretch has sent the Brewers into a tie for last place in the NL Central. They clearly miss the offensive production from Jonathan Lucroy, who has gone on an absolute tear since departing for the Texas Rangers at the trade deadline.
22. Cincinnati Reds (53-70, previously 25) – It’s hard to believe that the Reds have actually been one of baseball’s best teams in the 2nd half, unfortunately done in by an abysmal start to the season. They have been so good that they managed to escape the cellar of the NL Central for the first time since Spring with their 11-1 thrashing of the Dodgers on Saturday, a game in which Brandon Finnegan took a no hitter into the 7th inning. And who couldn’t love the sight of reliever Michael Lorenzen launching a three run homer on Friday night in his first at bat after his dad’s passing?
21. Philadelphia Phillies (58-67, previously 21) – Ryan Howard is trying to make the most of his final days as a Philly, or maybe even in the big leagues period, but that’s hard to do when you are getting beaten up by playoff contenders left in right. Thursday’s comeback win over the Dodgers may have felt good, but it was followed up by a late-game debacle against St. Louis – an extra innings loss.
20. Chicago White Sox (59-64, previously 19) – A series win against Oakland was a bit of a breather for a White Sox squad that has been struggling of late once again. They’ve since fallen into fourth place in the division, and that can be pointed to, in part, the incredible play of the Kansas City Royals in the past week.
19. Colorado Rockies (60-64, previously 20) – Nolan Arenado recorded his fifth multi-home run game of the season on Sunday, marking the first time in eight seasons that a Rockies player has accomplished such a feat. Even at four games under .500, the Rockies are only 8.5 games back of the NL West lead, so don’t rule them completely dead just yet.
18. New York Mets (62-62, previously 17) – The Mets looked awful against the Giants on Thursday and Friday before taking the final two games of the series over the weekend to salvage a split. Yoenis Cespedes had himself a series with three homers in two days, and Noah Syndergaard was brilliant in a 2-0 shutout on Sunday night, a game in which the Mets were held hit-less until the 7th inning.
17. New York Yankees (63-60, previously 16) – Even with all the trades and other departures, the Yankees continue to stay alive at three games over .500 and 6.5 back of the AL East lead. New York put on a home run clinic on Friday night in a 7-0 victory over the Angels nd won the series 2-1 over the Halos. Highlights included Brett Gardner leaping into the seats past the left field foul pole on Saturday night to rob CJ Cron of a sure home run.
16. Pittsburgh Pirates (62-59, previously 14) – The Pirates swept the Giants in three games on the road last week with some clutch plays by players like Andrew McCutchen and Jun Ho Kang only to come home and get swept by the Marlins in three games. It was by all means a blown chance for the Pirates to get back right into playoff contention at six games over .500, and they will be kicking themselves for it down the road if they come up short by just a game or two.
15. Houston Astros (64-60, previously 15) – The Astros bats came to life against the best hitting team in all of baseball this weekend, sweeping the Baltimore Orioles in three games at Camden Yards. With a cumulative score of 32-13 over the weekend over a quality opponent, maybe is Houston isn’t dead just yet. In other news, Carlos Gomez was picked up the Rangers, who have gone 0-2 since he joined the squad. Next up is a series against the Pirates.
14. Detroit Tigers (65-59, previously 11) – The Tigers, after looking so good over the past few weeks, have now fallen seven games back of the Indians for first place in the AL East and are now only one game up on the red-hot Royals. They were even more unfortunate to get caught up in the middle of that Kansas City hot streak, getting swept by the defending World Series champs at home in three games mid-week.
13. Miami Marlins (65-59, previously 13) – The days without Giancarlo Stanton have gone better than expected thus far, as the Marlins were able to roll into Pittsburgh and sweep the Pirates in three games. The Marlins remain 1.5 games back of the second seed in the NL Wild-Card race.
12. Kansas City Royals (64-60, previously 18) – Just when you thought the defending champs were dead, now you might be asking yourself in the back of your head now if they will sneak into the playoffs and win it again. Yes, the Royals have gone on an eight game win streak and are now just 3.5 games back of the wildcard and a game out of 2nd place in the AL Central. Playing in a weaker division in baseball, it’s now not so hard seeing Kansas City making the postseason for the third straight year if they keep up their mojo.
11. St. Louis Cardinals (66-57, previously 12) – The Cardinals always seem to click when the stretch run comes around, and that is exactly what they’ve done in the last week. Now 7-3 in their past ten games, the Cards beat up on the Phillies back east over the weekend, carried by solid performances from players such as Mike Leake, Jedd Gyorko and Randal Grichuck. With a favorable schedule ahead of them, don’t be surprised to see the Cardinals lock up the top-wild card seed, even over the Dodgers or Giants if one of them is indeed in the wild-card game.
10. Seattle Mariners (66-57, previously 10) – With a 6-4 record in their past 10 games, the Mariners remain only six games back of the AL West lead with plenty of time remaining for them to make a move. At the very least, a wildcard birth is a very real possibility, only one game back in the midst of a Baltimore slump. No matter how it comes, a trip to the playoffs would give Seattle baseball fans something to cheer about for the first time in years, and I’d be curious to see how this squad handles the postseason pressure if they indeed get there.
9. Baltimore Orioles (67-56, previously 6) – After sitting atop the AL East standings for most of the first half, the Baltimore Orioles have fallen to third place in the AL East and are in serious danger of dropping out of playoff position as they maintain just a one game lead over the Mariners for the final wild card spot. A sweep at the hands of the Astros didn’t help the team’s morale over the weekend, especially considering that the O’s became the first team in MLB history on Friday to hit four home runs in a game before recording a single out (and obviously still lost). It doesn’t help either that the Baltimore plays in the most competitive division in all of baseball.
8. San Francisco Giants (68-56, previously 7) – Is black and orange a cursed color combo? Is the even year patter in danger of coming to an end? Maybe, and that would have sounded silly at the All-Star Break. The Giants’ 11-23 record out of the break is the worst start to the 2nd half in over 20 years by a team with the best record in baseball at the half-way point. They were swept by the Pirates in three games at home mid-week before splitting four with the New York Mets over the weekend, dropping the last two contests to complete a 3-7 homestand. The result: they are no longer in first place in the NL West for the first time since may, surrendering an 8.5 game lead to the Dodgers, whom they will play in LA for three games this week.
7. Los Angeles Dodgers (69-55, previously 8) – Against all odds, the Dodgers have taken over the NL West with 16 men on the DL, the generous result of awful baseball on the Giants’ part. Even then though the Dodgers did not look great last week as they lost three straight for the first time in the 2nd half. What’s even more startling is that it came against the Phillies and Reds, and and LA was outscored 21-3 by Cincinnati. They got back on track though with a 4-0 win on Sunday, and hey, first place is all that matters. The other good news: Clayton Kershaw looks to be healthy and ready to return by the end of the week.
6. Boston Red Sox (69-54, previously 9) – The Sox are alive and well, winning eight of their past ten games. They now sit only half a game back of Toronto for first place in the AL East, and with a series against the lowly Rays this week, you have to like their chances of taking over the lead, even if just by half a game. David Ortiz, Mookie Betts and Rick Porcello continue to shine, and now there is even talk of Jonathan Papelbon making a return to Boston. That would be beautifully strange.
5. Toronto Blue Jays (70-54, previously 5) – Toronto has now reached the 70 win mark on the season but only maintain a half game division lead in the uber-competitive AL East. They catch an incredibly easy stretch ahead though as they play the Twins, Angels, Orioles and Rays in their next four series. In other words, that’s all three last place teams in the American League against one of the better offenses in all of baseball. Look for a lot of runs to be scored by the Jays in the coming weeks.
4. Cleveland Indians (71-51, previously 4) – Tyler Naquin’s walk-off inside-the-park homer over the weekend was the highlight of a 7-3 home stand that has helped Cleveland regain a 7 game lead in the AL Central. Though the Royals are on the rise, there appears to be nothing stopping the Indians from taking home their first division title since 2007 at this rate.
3. Washington Nationals (73-50, previously 2) – Washington’s inexplicable NL West woes continued with a series loss in Colorado before taking three of four from the cellar dwelling Braves over the weekend. Stephen Strasburg has also chosen a bad time to go cold, losing his last three starts and now carrying a 3.59 ERA. The Nats have surrendered at least seven runs in all of those contests.
2. Texas Rangers (73-52, previously 3) – The Rangers are winless since acquiring Carlos Gomez two days ago, who is currently playing in the minors, but boy does Texas know how to come back when down. Jonathan Lucroy has remained on a tear ever since coming to the club, and if he keeps hitting balls out of the park like he is right now, it could go down as one of the most fruitful trade deadline deals in recent memory. Next up is an Ohio stretch as the Rangers visit the Reds before coming back to host the Indians, both of whom have been playing some pretty good baseball of late.
1. Chicago Cubs – (78-45, previously 1) – The W has been flown 78 times now in 2016, but the Cubs did drop two of three to the Rockies over the weekend. Aroldis Chapman blew his second save with the team on Friday before Jason Hammel got roughed up in a 11-4 loss on Sunday. The Cubs now embark on a Southern California road trip to take on the Padres before heading to Los Angeles to face the Dodgers.
Biggest Jump: Kansas City Royals (+8)
Biggest Drop: Detroit Tigers (-3)