Cards, Royals, Bucs rule atop Power Rankings
It's getting to be that time of year, when a lot of articles you'll read will include a section that begins with "If the playoffs started today ..."
And now it's our turn to play along. While there are plenty of races still to be decided -- everything but the AL Central is realistically available to more than one team -- it is fun to at least envision what the playoff landscape would look like if we were to skip over the next 30-some days and land on Oct. 6.
So, if the playoffs began today ...
* The Yankees would host the Rangers in the AL Wild Card Game.
* The Pirates would host the Cubs in the NL Wild Card Game.
* The Royals would host the winner of the AL Wild Card in the ALDS.
* The Blue Jays would host the Astros in the ALDS.
* The Cardinals would host the winner of the NL Wild Card in the NLDS.
* The Dodgers would host the Mets in the NLDS (although at this point, the Dodgers are mere percentage points ahead of the Mets).
On to the MLB Power Rankings ...
Biggest jump: The Twins climbed from 17 to 12, thanks to a stretch of eight wins in 10 games during which they moved to within 1 1/2 games of the second AL Wild Card spot.
Biggest drop: The Orioles have already exceeded their loss total from 2014, have dropped 10 of their last 11 games and ended their recent road trip with a 1-6 record, pushing them 5 1/2 games back in the race for the second AL Wild Card spot. Tough times in Baltimore.
Our voting panel's top five:
The Cardinals' only concern is maintaining their lead in a strong NL Central division, which they did with a 6-1 road trip through San Francisco and Arizona. But they also managed to muddy up the outlook in the NL West, which of course is of no concern to them. But it should be noted the Cards all but dashed the playoff hopes of the D-backs, who were a mere five games out before they lost four straight to St. Louis at home.
Remember when a bunch of us media geniuses predicted there was NO WAY the Royals could repeat last year's performance and they would regress without the presence of a stronger middle of the order? Yeah, that was a long time ago. And a really silly prognostication. The Royals are good -- really, really good -- and could have the division wrapped up in a couple of weeks.
The Pirates have maintained a certain level of relentlessness against every team -- good and bad -- for several months, but it should be noted that they have taken full advantage of what is, for the most part, a soft spot of their schedule in more recent times. Since sweeping the first-place Mets two weeks ago, the Pirates have played three series against non-contenders (D-backs, Marlins, Rockies) and one against the Giants, a contender in the NL West. During that stretch the Pirates have gone 10-4 and won every series.
4. Blue Jays
Troy Tulowitzki has struggled at the plate since he joined the Blue Jays a couple of days before the Trade Deadline, but still, it's significant that the team is 24-5 since making that deal with the Rockies. The Jays' sprint through August isn't tied to just one or two players, of course, but it's not terribly shocking that Toronto has been on such a frenetic pace since acquiring Tulowitzki and David Price. For much of the year, the Jays seemed like a team that had a decent nucleus that needed a little extra ammo. The Deadline, plus the MVP-caliber season Josh Donaldson is having, makes Toronto the favorite to win the AL East.
A month of games remains, but the Astros going .500 on their recent road swing is significant. It has been a long time -- months -- since the Astros have broken even or better during a road trip, and given their impressive 45-21 mark at home, they have to feel good about things heading into their upcoming homestand with the Mariners and Twins. One more question has worked its way into the conversation, though -- can they navigate their way through the next several weeks without their starting catcher, Jason Castro, who is out for the foreseeable future with a quad injury?
And the rest: 6. Dodgers (9); 7. Cubs (4); 8. Mets (8); 9. Yankees (6); 10. Rangers (11); 11. Giants (10); 12. Twins (17); 13. Nationals (13); 14. D-backs (16); 15. Angels (14); 16. Rays (15); 17. Orioles (12); 18. Indians (NR); 19. Padres (19); 20. Red Sox (NR).