We are just a day or two away from the Minnesota Twins clinching the final playoff spot in the American League. Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs entered Tuesday evening with a chance to wrap up the NL Central. In total, we are down to 12 teams that are over-.500 and 12 teams with even the slightest chance of playing past Sunday. Save for the NL Wild Card hunt, the stage for October is basically set. Now, it’s about lining up the rotation, getting players healthy and getting the lineup clicking.
For those teams that have been officially eliminated, this last week of the season is about playing the kids and saying final goodbyes to players with expiring contracts. The focus is less on winning and more on pomp and circumstance, making the results much harder to project. Given that, though, there are still a number of good options in our MLB Pick ‘Em Contests as the season winds down. We have a couple of teams chasing the 100-win mark and others searching for home-field advantage.
Boston Red Sox (Last Week: 6-1)
Boston is back at home after a successful road trip where the Sox went 8-1, journeying to St. Petersburg, Baltimore and Cincinnati. The Red Sox have been successful both at home and on the road, which should serve them well going forward. Boston is also 15-7 in September and 33-16 since the start of August. There are questions for the Sox, though, with Mookie Betts battling a wrist injury and Eduardo Nunez’s knee acting up. While the offense is concerning given the injuries and lack of overall power, the pitching is strong. Chris Sale is as good as anyone. Drew Pomeranz has been lights out, too. The team needs a bit more from Rick Porcello and hopes that David Price can be a force out of the ‘pen. That is all yet to be determined. But, for now, the Sox are finding ways to win.
Washington Nationals (Last Week: 5-2)
The Nationals are neck-and-neck with the Cubs for best offense in the National League. They’ve been rolling for three months now, going 48-28 since the beginning of July. And it’s no coincidence that the improved bullpen has led directly to improved success. The return of Bryce Harper is pending, too. Provided he doesn’t look too rusty, that should make a team already playing great baseball even better. Daniel Murphy will slide down in the order, and the heart of the lineup is again four deep with players posting .300/.350/.530 or better numbers. The roster is deep with talent at the plate, but the pitching is most impressive. The top three WAR players are starters. Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez are a lockdown top three. Now, those starters are supported with a strong bullpen featuring Sean Doolittle, Ryan Madson, Brandon Kintzler and Matt Albers.
Movin’ On Down
Seattle Mariners (Last Week: 2-5)
The Mariners are one of two teams that have been able to beat the Indians in the month of September. Unfortunately, that win came after Seattle was swept by both Houston and Texas. Cleveland eventually won the series as well. The Mariners have been on the fringe of the AL Wild Card race for some time, but last week’s collapse did them in. Seattle just doesn’t have enough starting pitching. Even with Felix Hernandez and James Paxton back off the DL—again—it’s just too little, too late. The rotation has only three pitchers with at least 90 innings pitched. The Mariners are done at home now. They close up on the road where they’re 36-40, though they do face a couple of under-.500 teams, so perhaps they can finish off on a high note. But, for now, this is a team trending in the wrong direction. The squad hasn’t had a winning month since July.
Baltimore Orioles (Last Week: 2-5)
September has been a terrible month for the Orioles. They came in a couple of games over .500 and in the middle of the Wild Card hunt. Now, this team is seven games under .500 and is 7-16 in the month. The rotation is an absolute mess. Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman are the only viable starters, but Bundy has been shut down for the year and Gausman has just one more start. Outside of those two, Wade Miley and his 5.52 ERA is the next-best option with Ubaldo Jimenez, Chris Tillman and Jeremy Hellickson all with double-digit starts and ERAs of 6.81 or worse. That is really the root of all the issues for the O’s. The bullpen is stumbling a bit, but that’s a result of overwork. Offensively, there is a lot of power. Counting Tim Beckham’s homers in Tampa Bay, there are eight 20-homer bats, but many are taking seats this final week for youngsters like Austin Hays and Chance Sisco.
MLB Power Rankings (Updated 9/26)
1: Cleveland Indians (98-58) (LW:1) (+0)
2: Washington Nationals (95-61) (LW:2) (+0)
3: Houston Astros (96-60) (LW:3) (+0)
4: Chicago Cubs (88-68) (LW:5) (+1)
5: Los Angeles Dodgers (100-57) (LW:6) (+1)
6: Boston Red Sox (91-65) (LW:7) (+1)
7: Arizona Diamondback (90-67) (LW:4) (-3)
8: New York Yankees (87-69) (LW:8) (+0)
9: Minnesota Twins (82-74) (LW:11) (+2)
10: Colorado Rockies (84-73) (LW:9) (-1)
11: Milwaukee Brewers (82-74) (LW:10) (-1)
12: St. Louis Cardinals (81-75) (LW:13) (+1)
13: Los Angeles Angels (77-79) (LW:12) (-1)
14: Kansas City Royals (76-80) (LW:15) (+1)
15: Texas Rangers (76-80) (LW:16) (+1)
16: Tampa Bay Rays (76-80) (LW:17) (+1)
17: Seattle Mariners (76-81) (LW:14) (-3)
18: Toronto Blue Jays (74-83) (LW:19) (+1)
19: Miami Marlins (74-82) (LW:20) (+1)
20: Baltimore Orioles (75-82) (LW:18) (-2)
21: Atlanta Braves (71-85) (LW: 22) (+1)
22: Pittsburgh Pirates (71-85) (LW:21) (-1)
23: Oakland Athletics (72-84) (LW:24) (+1)
24: San Diego Padres (70-87) (LW:23) (-1)
25: Cincinnati Reds (66-90) (LW:25) (+0)
26: New York Mets (67-90) (LW:26) (+0)
27: Chicago White Sox (64-92) (LW:27) (+0)
28: Philadelphia Phillies (62-95) (LW:29) (+1)
29: San Francisco Giants (62-95) (LW:30) (+1)
30: Detroit Tigers (62-94) (LW:28) (-2)