Power Rankings: Newcomers in Top 5

August 31st, 2020

Because of the new postseason format that is to be implemented this year, the top two teams in each division will automatically gain entry to October. In the American League West, that takes away a little of the intrigue, given the A’s and Astros are the only teams with winning records, and the next-closest team, the Mariners, sits eight games under .500.

But this could be a fascinating finish for a bunch of other divisions. Right now, the tightest race is the AL Central, where the White Sox and Indians are tied for first, the Twins are 1 1/2 games behind them, and the Tigers -- yes, those 16-16 Tigers! -- are 2 1/2 behind Minnesota.

In the AL East, the Rays are sitting relatively comfortably at the top, with the Yankees and Blue Jays within a game of each other for the second spot. And though there’s a large discrepancy in the number of games they’ve played, the Braves, Phillies and Marlins aren’t that far apart in the loss column, potentially setting up an interesting final week of the season in the National League East.

Only 11 teams are more than five games out of first place in their division.

Biggest jump: Two teams jumped seven spots: the Phillies from No. 20 to No. 13, and the Rockies from No. 21 to No. 14. The Phillies threatened to come back from a 10-run deficit in their 12-10 loss to the Braves on Sunday night, and before that, they had strung together five straight wins, their longest streak since the summer of 2018.

After a brutal stretch in which they lost nine of 10, the Rockies have stabilized a bit, winning four of six. Trevor Story ended a nine-game hitting streak Sunday, during which he batted .343 (12-for-35 with two homers and eight runs scored).

Biggest drop: Nationals fell seven spots, from No. 16 to No. 23. It’s not as if the Nats haven’t been through this before. They started last year slowly, too, and we know how that turned out. The difference now, of course, is that there isn’t a lot of time to get back on track. They’ve lost five of their past six games, and the starting pitching has struggled, allowing 23 runs over 27 2/3 innings.

Here are the Power Rankings top 5:

1) Dodgers (26-10; 1 last week)
The Dodgers have a .722 winning percentage and have not lost a series all season, posting nine wins and three splits. They have an MLB-best +90 run differential and have won 15 of their past 18 games, outscoring opponent 114-60. They hit three homers on Sunday to bring their August homer total to 57, an NL record for long balls in a single month. The Braves held the prior mark with 56, set in June of last year.

2) Rays (24-11; 5)
The Rays are winners of five straight and 18 of their past 21, despite playing through a rash of injuries that has hit their rotation and bullpen. They have the best record in the American League and are tops in the AL with 72 doubles, while ranking second with 125 extra-base hits. They’re tearing it up on the road, too -- the Rays are 12-1 in their past 13 games away from Tropicana Field, and they’re batting .296 with 24 homers during that stretch.

3) A’s (22-12; 2)
It was quite a week for the A’s. They had two consecutive games postponed as a protest to social injustice, then they dropped a doubleheader to the Astros, and then their finale in Houston was postponed due to a member of their traveling party testing positive for COVID-19. So in this space, let’s focus on something good: Matt Chapman. The third baseman played shortstop for the first time in the second game of Saturday’s doubleheader, and he was clearly unfazed by the move: he ripped a 115.9 mph home run, the hardest-hit homer by an A’s player tracked by Statcast -- a list on which he now owns four of the top five spots.

4) Indians (21-13; 7)
The Indians have won 11 of their past 15 games and are in a tie at the top of the AL Central. The Tribe’s pitching staff allowed just eight runs over a four-game winning streak that ended with a loss to the Cardinals on Sunday. They also have the lowest team ERA in the AL at 2.88.

5) Padres (21-15; 10)
The upstart Padres have been the most active club on the trade front by far as we inch toward Monday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline. They’ve upgraded their bullpen and catching, and they’re reportedly working to add to their rotation. They also fortified their lineup with veteran first baseman Mitch Moreland, adding to an offense that was plenty terrifying as is. Manny Machado is hitting .510 (25-for-49) with 11 extra-base hits, six homers and 16 RBIs during a 12-game hitting streak. He has raised his batting average from .200 to .309 during that stretch.

The rest of the field of 30:
6) White Sox (21-13; 9)
7) Twins (20-15; 3)
8) Yankees (19-13; 4)
9) Cubs (20-14; 6)
10) Braves (18-14; 8)
11) Astros (19-14; 11)
12) Jays (18-14; 12)
13) Phillies (14-14; 20)
14) Rockies (17-17; 21)
15) Brewers (15-18; 17)
16) Reds (15-19; 13)
17) Marlins (14-15; 15)
18) Cardinals (12-13; 14)
19) Mets (15-18; 18)
20) Giants (17-19; 26)
21) Orioles (14-19; 22)
22) Tigers (16-16; 25)
23) Nats (12-19; 16)
24) D-backs (14-21; 19)
25) Rangers (12-21; 23)
26) Royals (13-21; 27)
27) Mariners (14-22; 29)
28) Angels (12-23; 24)
29) Red Sox (12-22; 28)
30) Pirates (10-21; 30)

Voters: Alyson Footer, Richard Justice, Anthony Castrovince, Jesse Sanchez, Mark Feinsand, Nathalie Alonso, Mike Petriello, Sarah Langs, Andrew Simon, David Venn