Each team has around 45 games left on the schedule before the regular season ends on October 2nd. It’s been a month since the All-Star break and some teams, like the Giants, are still treading water… just barely. Others, like the Cubs and Nationals, appear to be running away their division lead. The Rangers and Indians hold strong leads over the Mariners and Tigers, but one bad week could open the window of opportunity for either club.
Best divisions to watch in September: the NL West and AL East. The Dodgers are just one game back of the Giants, without having the mastery of Clayton Kershaw every fifth day. Only two games separate the top three teams in the AL East, with the Blue Jays clinging to a half-game lead over the Orioles. Boston sits in third, with an offense capable of carrying an average rotation into the playoffs.
- Chicago Cubs (73-43) (Previous Week, 1)
The Cubbies are the favorite to win the World Series, as they should be. After winning 14 of their last 17 games, they’re ready to party like it’s 1908 in Chicago. Rumors are swirling that Theo Epstein will try to sign Jonathan Papelbon to add even more depth to a bullpen loaded with arms. I don’t like the idea because Papelbon is an instigator and crybaby, and I can’t see him settling to be a setup man at this point in his career.
- Texas Rangers (69-50) (3)
Despite being shutout by the Detroit Tigers on Sunday for the second consecutive day, the Rangers still hold a comfortable 5.5 game lead over the Mariners in the AL West.
- Washington Nationals (69-47) (2)
The Nationals would be higher on this list, but their bullpen still gives us hesitation. The club granted Jonathan Papelbon his release request on Saturday, but that won’t necessarily solve the problem. The answer pitches in Chicago. His name: Aroldis Chapman.
- Cleveland Indians (67-48) (7)
The Tribe swept the Angels for four easy wins this week. They were actually huge games for Cleveland since Detroit played well in Arlington.
- Toronto Blue Jays (67-51) (6)
Aaron Sanchez did not seem phased by the Jays’ switch to a six-man rotation. He recorded his 12th win on Saturday with seven strong innings against the Astros. Edwin Encarnacion continues his rampage toward a potential AL MVP Award with 33 home runs and 97 runs batted in on the season.
- Baltimore Orioles (66-51) (4)
After taking two from the Giants, the O’s are just a half-game back of the Blue Jays for first place in the AL East. Mark Trumbo leads the MLB in home runs (34), Manny Machado is putting together an MVP-caliber season, and Dylan Bundy has pitched up to his potential over his last five starts.
- San Francisco Giants (66-51) (5)
The Giants seem to be lost at sea. One night they can’t hit, and the next they can’t pitch. They were relatively quiet at the deadline, and maybe that will haunt San Francisco down the stretch. However, as poorly as they’ve played since the All-Star break, something is to be said about a resilient team that still holds a one-game lead over the Dodgers in the NL West.
- Los Angeles Dodgers (65-52) (9)
Corey Seager is putting together a campaign that will undoubtedly land him NL Rookie of the Year honors. He’s also putting himself in the conversation for NL MVP. The Dodgers have played surprisingly well since Clayton Kershaw last pitched on June 26th. However, the starting pitchers still need to step up and take the pressure off the offense if they want to overtake the Giants for the top spot.
- Boston Red Sox (64-52) (10)
The Red Sox are winners of three straight, but still sit two games back in the AL East. Craig Kimbrel continues to deal with knee issues, which leaves a huge question mark at the back end of the bullpen. With Steven Wright hitting the disabled list this weekend, the Sox will need better starts from Eduardo Rodriguez and Drew Pomeranz if they want to compete.
- Detroit Tigers (63-54) (8)
Behind a rejuvenated Justin Verlander and phenomenal rookie Michael Fulmer, the Tigers pitching staff is giving Detroit hope of a playoff run. Miguel Cabrera is on fire lately, hitting .376 with 8 HR and 23 RBI since the All-Star break.
- St. Louis Cardinals (62-56) (11)
Never count out the Cardinals. We’re waiting for them to explode, just like they always do this time of year. They need to figure it out at home though, as they’re just 28-33 at games in Busch Stadium.
- Seattle Mariners (62-54) (17)
Seattle is 8-2 over its last 10 games, including sweeps of the Angels and Tigers. Cruz, Cano, and Seager form as good of a trio as you’ll see in the game today. Edwin Diaz has six saves in as many chances since supplanting Steve Cishek from the closer role on August 2nd.
- Houston Astros (61-57) (13)
The call-up of Yulieski Gourriel seems imminent. He’ll likely play third upon arriving in Houston, with Alex Bregman moving to the outfield to replace Carlos Gomez, who was designated for assignment this week.
- New York Yankees (60-57) (18)
The Yankees won their last three series, and split the Subway Series with the Mets. They’re only 4.5 games out of the Wild Card race, and there’s plenty of time for the young talent on the roster to start chasing October.
- Miami Marlins (61-56) (12)
Giancarlo Stanton injured his groin at the end of the game on Friday, likely ending his 2016 season. This is a huge blow for the Marlins, but a front office executive stated on Sunday that Alex Rodriguez is on the club’s short list of players to fill Stanton’s shoes.
- New York Mets (59-58) (14)
Jay Bruce has not hit like Jay Bruce since coming over from the Reds on Deadline Day. Perhaps his struggles are due in part to the lack of protection with Yoenis Cespedes on the disabled list. Yo is set to come off the DL on Thursday.
- Pittsburgh Pirates (59-56) (15)
All of a sudden the Pirates are just one game out of the second spot in the NL Wild Card race. The team has plenty of talent to make the postseason, but Andrew McCutchen will be the first to say the talent needs to play better.
- Kansas City Royals (57-60) (19)
The Royals should have sold at the deadline. Period.
- Colorado Rockies (56-62) (16)
After a hot start off the All-Star break, the Rockies are 2-8 over their last 10 games. They find themselves 5.5 games back in the NL Wild Card race, but still possess an offense capable enough of carrying them to the play-in game.
- Chicago White Sox (56-61) (20)
The White Sox should have sold at the deadline. Period.
- Philadelphia Phillies (56-63) (21)
The Phils have won four straight games, but don’t expect them to make a late run.
- Oakland Athletics (52-66) (23)
Khris Davis has 30 home runs this season, and that’s pretty much the only bright spot for a club full of minor league-caliber players.
- Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (49-68) (22)
With the great seasons being put together by Edwin Encarnacion, Mookie Betts, Josh Donaldson, Jose Altuve, and Manny Machado, it appears as though Mike Trout will likely fall short of AL MVP honors, yet again. He needs to request a trade in the offseason.
- Milwaukee Brewers (52-64) (24)
With the exception of Ryan Braun, the Brewers don’t have much of a major league roster. Sorry, Milwaukee. Hopefully the fruit of the Lucroy trade will be sweet.
- Minnesota Twins (47-71) (26)
Brian Dozier is playing like a guy who should have been an All-Star over former teammates Eduardo Nunez. Dozier leads the Twins with 26 HR and 70 RBI.
- San Diego Padres (50-67) (25)
The Padres aren’t quite in the basement of the NL West, but they might as well be. Wil Myers continues to lead San Diego in home runs, batting average, and runs batted in.
- Cincinnati Reds (48-68) (27)
Homer Bailey pitched very well in his third start since his return from Tommy John surgery, and Dan Straily has been pretty consistent of late. Joey Votto is still on a tear since the All-Star break, hitting .462 with 4 HR and 17 RBI.
- Arizona Diamondbacks (48-69) (29)
Zack Greinke got crushed by the Red Sox on Sunday, surrendering 9 runs on 10 hits in just 1.1 innings pitched. On the bright side, A.J. Pollock should return to the big league club at some point before the end of the season.
- Tampa Bay Rays (47-69) (28)
The Rays are terrible and have slowly fallen to the bottom of our rankings.
- Atlanta Braves (44-74) (30)
Atlanta has owned this spot for much of the year, and that probably won’t change.