Power Rankings: Biggest jump? Biggest drop?

August 19th, 2019

Strength of schedule isn't necessarily a deciding factor to determine who is going to win two tightly contested divisions, but, with no more than 40 games remaining in the regular season, it's at least worth examining who has the easier route from now until the end of September.

In the National League Central, if we are to base this solely on who has the fewest number of games remaining against teams with at least a .500 record, the Brewers (who, it's worth noting, have a -29 run differential) would appear to have the advantage. They will play 18 games against .500-or-better teams, compared to 20 vs. teams with losing records. Their two closest competitors have it slightly worse in this area; the Cubs (+70 run differential) have 23 games against above-.500 clubs and 15 vs. those under .500, while the Cardinals' (+28) ratio checks in at 23-17.

The other tight division race features two teams with healthy run differentials, but in terms of strength of schedule, one has a clear advantage. The Twins (+144) will play 12 games against .500-or-better teams and 26 against teams with losing records. The Indians (+98) have a rougher road -- their ratio is 18-19.

Just something to chew on. Now, on to the rankings ...

Biggest jump: The Cardinals jumped three spots, from No. 13 to No. 10. They took advantage of a softer part of their schedule, winning five straight against the Pirates and Royals before splitting a four-game set with the more stable Reds.

Biggest drop: The Cubs dropped five, from No. 4 to No. 9. Their ongoing road struggles have become a defining mark on their season, though they diverted some of that attention over the weekend with a series win over the Pirates -- away from Wrigley Field. Still, the Cubs are 1-10-2 in their past 13 road series, which has prevented them from taking ownership of the NL Central race.

1. Dodgers (2 last week)

A tepid 3-3 record in the past week didn't diminish the Dodgers' standing as the best team in the National League, especially since the offense is still humming. The Dodgers have hit 25 homers over their past seven games, thanks in part to Max Muncy, who has homered in each of his past three games and has driven in at least one run in five straight. Justin Turner has five homers over his past seven contests, and rookie Will Smith has homered four times in his past five.

2. Astros (1)

The Astros dropped one spot in the top five after a 4-6 road trip through Baltimore, Chicago (AL) and Oakland, though their positioning in the AL West is still plenty secure. Despite dropping three of four to the A's, the Astros are 7 1/2 games ahead and will have some relief this week in the form of a four-game home set with the last-place Tigers. Individually, Michael Brantley is scorching at the plate, batting .481 (25-for-52) with 11 RBIs through a 12-game hitting streak.

3. Yankees (3)

The Yankees are an MLB-best 16-4 since the start of play on the July 31 Trade Deadline. They are also about to be tested by one of the more challenging weeks on their calendar. They're heading to the West Coast for three games with the surging A's, followed by three with the first-place Dodgers, before they get a little bit of a reprieve with a three-game set in Seattle. Among the notable individual performances: DJ LeMahieu, who homered again Sunday, giving him six in his past 16 games. He's hitting .369 (24-for-65) during that span.

4. Twins (6)

With 240 home runs, the Twins are on pace to hit an MLB-record 316. That would shatter the mark of 267, which were hit by the 2018 Yankees. Minnesota, fresh off a four-game sweep over the Rangers, has hit at least two home runs in five of its past six games. The Twins are staring at a good opportunity to gain more ground in the AL Central -- they're playing only the White Sox and Tigers over the next two weeks, a stretch that will take them to Sept. 3, when they travel to Boston.

5. Braves (5)

Josh Donaldson, who hit a go-ahead homer off Hyun-Jin Ryu in the Braves' one-run victory Saturday, is batting .476 (10-for-21) with three homers and five RBIs in his past six games. Since the beginning of July, he ranks fourth in the National League in homers (14) and third in RBIs (34).

The rest of the Top 20:
6. Indians (7)
7. Rays (8)
8. Nationals (10)
9. Cubs (4)
10. Cardinals (13)
11. A's (11)
12. Mets (9)
13. Phillies (15)
14. Brewers (12)
15. Red Sox (14)
16. D-backs (17)
17. Giants (18)
18. Reds (16)
19. Padres (19)
20. Rangers (20)