Griff’s Power Rankings – 16
Some contenders moon-walking into wildcard spots
Countdown to October: It’s crunch time in the MLB, with season-long contenders, deemed to control their own fate, inexplicably flailing and failing, trying their best to fade into the woodwork. Despite the number of fan bases that have given up, or despaired of ever getting to the dance floor, the contenders all seem to have benefitted from the calendar inexorably winding down and magic numbers being reduced daily, no thanks to their own efforts.
Many of the chasers seem not to have had their hearts in it, or to believe in themselves, with under-performances in abundance. This is the mad mix of mediocrity where playoff pacesetters and pretenders currently sit headed to the final handful of regular-season games.
Parity or Mediocrity: For most of the early season, the discussion had been to how many victories it would take to earn one of the three wildcard spots in each league. When the season began, the guess was it would take 95 wins, but that soon devolved to around 92. Now as the season winds down and reality sets in, there is a likelihood that at least one wildcard qualifier will earn a spot on the dance floor with 89 wins or fewer.
It's mathematically impossible right now for more than four MLB teams to win as many as 95 games in ‘23 – the Braves, Dodgers, O’s and Rays. That is fewer teams reaching 95 than in any full season since 2017, when it was Dodgers, Astros, Nationals and Cleveland. Why is that?
The number one reason has been the final-month competitiveness brought on with three wildcards and three division winners in each league, meaning as the month of September has unfolded, even teams a couple of games under .500 believed they were just one winning streak from making a push to the playoffs. That belief brought more than half the teams into the fight.
The second reason for a lower qualifying win total is the reduced player limit on September rosters, mandated by MLB from all 40-men on your roster, now to a maximum of 28. That makes it tougher to tank for draft picks for teams playing out the string and using the excuse of seeing some Triple-A youngsters in action.
Here are some important MLB numbers and projected positions with a handful of games left.
AL Byes: O’s and Rangers … AL Wild Card Series: Jays at Rays; Astros at Twins.
NL Byes: Braves and Dodgers … NL Wild Card Series: D’backs at Phillies; Marlins at Brewers.
On the outside looking in: M’s, Cubs, Reds.
An examination of MLB standings shows the NL maintaining its advantage in interleague play, at a surprising plus-36 games above .500 over the AL. The two powerhouse divisions, the AL and NL East, are a combined 126 games above .500. Here are overall division records (thru Sept. 27)
1-AL East +89 … 2-NL East +37
3-NL West Even … 4-NL Central Minus-1 …
5-AL West minus-32 … 6-AL Central minus-93
Griff’s Power Rankings – Edition 16
Numbers in parentheses are from Edition 15 power rankings.
Post-season success follows certain players around. Also holds true for some executives. GM Alex Anthopoulos is one of those. With LH Max Fried and RH Charlie Morton injured, have five starters 28 or younger. Boast Cy candidate RH Spencer Strider and likely MVP RF Ronald Acuna.
The O’s must be the early favourites to rep the AL in the World Series, with RH Kyle Bradish showing ace-like tendencies. They re-acquired former CL Jorge Lopez with the loss of CL Felix Bautista. RH Yenier Cano remains the 9th inning guy. Most balanced team in AL.
The combo of 1B Freddie Freeman and UT Mookie Betts, who will, likely, both finish Top 4 in MVP voting inspires this team with personality and performance ranking with the Braves as the class of the NL. Injuries and suspension to the rotation may be the playoff Achilles Heel.
Rays are banged up as the playoffs approach and don’t seem to be getting any healthier. The MIA group includes SS Wander Franco, LH Shane McClanahan, 2B Brandon Lowe, RH Jason Adam and UT Luke Raley. Some teams may want Rays as playoff opponent. Not the Jays.
Pitching has carried the Brew Crew up through the rankings since the rotation returned to health. A solid Top 3 rotation of RH Corbin Burnes, RH Brandon Woodruff and RH Freddy Peralta lead the way, supported by a solid bullpen led by CL Devin Williams.
The Rangers easily manhandled the Jays in a four-game set at Rogers Centre not so long ago, thus must be ranked ahead of the Jays. MGR Bruce Bochy’s bunch has been a team of streaks and are currently in control of the AL West Division. Need SS Corey Seager to be healthy.
As with Alex Anthopoulos, contenders and pennants seem to follow Phils’ baseball president Dave Dombrowski wherever he sets up shop – Marlins, Tigers, Red Sox and now the Phillies.
Phils surged in the second half for the second year in a row under CDN MGR Rob Thomson.
Defending World Series champs are playting rope-a-dope with pitching and defence moving towards a playoff berth. Offence led by 2B Jose Altuve, DH Yordan Alvarez and RF Kyle Tucker, but even with RH Justin Verlander this version doesn’t seem as unbeatable as last year.
9-Blue Jays (9)
The Jays need to prove they can score enough (or any) runs to go deep in October. CL Jordan Romano suffered split fingernail and two straight losses. Identifying three starters for a short series is a priority, but first they have to take care of business and enter through the front door.
The M’s streaked into serious contention at the start of the month behind CF Julio Rodriguez but have stalled as they entered the wildcard’s red zone. If they get a foot in the door, they have the best Top-4 rotation in the AL and an interesting back end of the bullpen.
Word to the wise. Don’t try and finish as the third wild-card, thinking the Twins will be a pushover as the worst division champion. Nobody knows how good the Twins really are because the rest of the division is 105 games under .500. Dangerous rotation.
Under MGR Skip Schumacher, young Marlins were a factor at the All-Star break, but since then have gone 29-37 but still firmly in the wildcard picture. Acquisitions of 1B Josh Bell and 3B Jake Burger were solid deadline moves. Attendance for this exciting group is lowest in NL.
North Siders scuffling to hang onto third wildcard and a short trip to Milwaukee despite the return of RH Marcus Stroman. LH Justin Steele (16-5, 3.06 ERA) a legit Cy Young candidate, while RH Julian Merryweather shows what Jays may have in RH Nate Pearson, given patience.
Both Jays and D’backs are in wildcard position, so it’s hard to say right now who won the big off-season trade sending OF Daulton Varsho east for LF Lourdes Gurriel and C Gabby Moreno, who has thrown out 22 of 55 would-be base stealers (40%).
Injuries destroyed Yankees hopes early and now they play an array of kids to see what they have for the future. They still play hard. RH Gerrit Cole looks like sure-fire Cy guy and CL Clay Holmes is solid, but the rest of the bullpen looks out of place in pinstripes.
Reds’ focus has gone from showcasing talented kids to celebrating 1B Joey Votto. The Etobicoke native has a club option year left, but it feels like this is it with the Reds and they will buy him out. Will anyone be interested in his calming presence on a short-term deal?
Even when Pads were out of it, nobody counted them out of it. They have a lineup of marquee hitters, so when they won eight in a row, the prayer vigil started. Look out for the Pads. CL Josh Hader frustrates with his refusal to go 4+ outs in a save. LH Blake Snell is leader for Cy.
18-Red Sox (16)
Veteran LH Chris Sale showed how he has evolved post-surgery when he weaved his way through 6 innings vs. the Jays on Sept. 16. Sox have needed 17 starters. 3B Rafael Devers had a solid 33-homer season, while LF Mas Yoshida is a candidate for rookie-of-the-year.
The Giants failure to launch has been frustrating for ace starter RH Logan Webb who insists changes must be made. C Patrick Bailey is a keeper and a good place to start. Four of five key off-season acquisitions did not pan out, so maybe Webb is right.
MGR Terry Francona is headed home in retirement and then to the Hall-of-Fame. I remember the first day Tito walked into the Expos clubhouse at spring training in 1980. It’s been a long journey and he has carried himself (mostly) with dignity and class. Congrats!!
The Angels have close to $120-million on the IL, including perhaps the two best players in the game, DH Shohei Ohtani and OF Mike Trout. This may qualify as the worst mismanagement in recent MLB history. Deadline veterans were brought in for prospects then waived for nothing.
The Mets began the season with the highest payroll and the greatest expectations in MLB, both thanks to owner Steve Cohen. They threw payroll and star players overboard at the deadline and are now 9-26 vs. the six teams currently leading their division.
If your Top 5 starters have been healthy enough to make 141 starts and you are still 20 games under .500, it means you need to upgrade your rotation. Nats boast intriguing position players and have a plan. Eight of 9 players in the lineup are between 22 and 28-years-old.
Tigers are less than a year away from being mediocre. They will have money to spend minus DH Miguel Cabrera and LH Eduardo Rodriguez. BTW I see no problem in giving Miggy a bottle of expensive wine among retirement gifts. I’m sure he does a lot of entertaining.
Nine of 14 Buccos position players have less than one full year of service time. They are clearly building for the future – but, of course, they have been for a while. 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes, SS Oneil Cruz, LF Bryan Reynolds and CF Jack Suwinski are the future of the lineup.
A starry career finishes with 200 wins for RH Adam Wainwright. The Cards season is a write-off but expect them to rebuild quickly. The fanbase demands it and, in fact, deserves a competitive team. Any team with 1B Paul Goldschmidt and 3B Nolan Arenado needs to contend.
Team has position player talent, led by SS Bobby Witt Jr and a future all-star pitcher in LH Cole Ragans. To their credit, after being swept by the Jays, they have played hard taking the role of spoilers seriously going 5-1 vs. the Astros and 10-3 overall.
28-White Sox (28)
The Sox have big job ahead, beginning an unexpected rebuild under a new front office hierarchy. Players that have been traded describe a clubhouse bereft of chemistry and discipline. Very good talent on paper that unfortunately underperformed on grass.
Taking notes from the Jays trip to Denver, it seems the biggest advantage the Rockies have at home is being mile-high and the thin air getting in the head of opposing pitchers. Of course, it’s also a part of the trouble they have attracting and hanging onto their own pitchers.
The A’s have regained their position at the bottom of the heap and earned it. They have been competing, but with not enough weapons and in a stadium that offers no support. 15 players on the 40-man roster that are 25-years-old or younger. The future is … years away.