Detroit motoring toward peak of Rankings
Tigers, Braves on the rise; surging Rangers make biggest jump
Teams are rising to the top. Others are sinking into October oblivion. And as we shift into late August later this week, there's still time left on the big league schedule for magic to be made.
That's where we stand in the overall scheme of things as Major League Baseball steams toward October, but while things might be crystallizing in some divisions, many questions remain. One that sticks out: Who's the best team right now?
Certainly a case can be made for Atlanta, which just came off a 14-game winning streak and is dominating the National League East. You could say the same for Detroit, which has streaked all the way to a huge lead in the American League Central. And you can't really ignore the Dodgers, who are looking more and more like an October-bound juggernaut.
What about Pittsburgh? The Pirates have displayed some serious mojo of late and have a decent lead in the NL Central. They'd be a handful in a short series -- or any series, for that matter.
Could it be the Red Sox? They haven't done a thing wrong this season, unless you count leading the tough and deep AL East for much of the schedule as being something wrong. What about the Rangers? They're back atop the AL West.
And what if the eventual World Series champion isn't any of the former, but one of the latter? We've seen Wild Card teams jump up and pull huge surprises when the weather gets chillier and the lights get a bit brighter.
The Cardinals, Rays, Reds, A's, Royals, D-backs, Orioles and Indians are all still in it. They all still have the postseason in their plans until told otherwise.
MLB.com has set up a panel of experts to vote on the top 15 teams each week. The group includes MLB.com vice president and executive editor Carlton Thompson, VP and executive producer Jim Jenks, columnists Mike Bauman, Hal Bodley, Anthony Castrovince, Richard Justice, Matthew Leach, Terence Moore and Tracy Ringolsby, reporters Barry M. Bloom, Marty Noble, Jesse Sanchez and Lyle Spencer, and MLB Network analyst Mitch Williams.
What do you think? Agree, disagree? Have your opinion counted by submitting your Power Rankings.
1. Tigers: They burst back to a comfortable lead in the AL Central at precisely the right time, just like last year. This season, however, the Tigers might be even stronger heading down the stretch. Justin Verlander is rounding into his usual form, Jose Iglesias is fitting in well at shortstop for the suspended Jhonny Peralta, Max Scherzer is building on his historic run, and Miguel Cabrera is, well, Miguel Cabrera.
Last week: 4
2. Braves: Their 14-game winning streak ended Saturday night, but here's a guess from way out on the limb that the Braves will more than happily take the occasional ending of a 14-game winning streak as they continue to boat-race the NL East and surge toward the top spot in these rankings with the best record in the Major Leagues. Everything was already clicking, and now Brandon Beachy has warmed up and looks like the pitcher Atlanta was so excited about before Tommy John surgery.
Last week: 3
3. Red Sox:The marriage with manager John Farrell has worked wonderfully, and the honeymoon isn't over. Boston continues to play good, steady baseball while the rest of the AL East seems to have good weeks and bad weeks. The starting pitching, which just added Jake Peavy, is still holding things together enough to take a division lead into the new week after a tough streak for the Rays. We'll see if recent roster moves, including the recall of infielder Will Middlebrooks, will help the offense.
Last week: 1
4. Rangers: Well, look who's back. Going all-in, or as close to all-in as possible given the pickings of this year's Trade Deadline crop, the Rangers showed their fans they're as serious as always about October by landing Matt Garza and now outfielder Alex Rios. The timing couldn't have been better as the team has surged back to the top of the AL West, taking advantage of a recent rough stretch by the second-place A's.
Last week: 10
5. Pirates: With the franchise's first winning season since 1992 virtually guaranteed, the Bucs have their sights set on much greater accomplishments, and it's showing. Solid recent weeks have built them three-game cushion over St. Louis in the NL Central, and Wandy Rodriguez might be back soon to add to the starting rotation. The "Shark Tank" bullpen is rolling and PNC Park is rocking. Exciting times in the Steel City.
Last week: 2
6. Dodgers: It's already been a storybook season, from hyped to overhyped to disastrous to intriguing, and now -- after they've seemingly put it all together and are in the midst of a sustained run of brilliance -- unrelenting. These Dodgers, so talented throughout the lineup and buoyed by the exuberance of Yasiel Puig and the continued consistency of Clayton Kershaw and a stingy pitching staff, simply don't lose very often anymore and are running away with the NL West.
Last week: 8
7. A's: Oakland is only one game behind Texas, and given what we've seen from the A's last year and throughout the early parts of this season, it's always unwise to count them out. Josh Reddick was having an awful offensive season until he hit five homers in two games this past weekend. That bodes well for a club that needs to hit more to get where it wants to be.
Last week: 7
8. Cardinals: It's been a challenge for manager Mike Matheny and this talented group to play in the same division with a team as hot and inspired as the Pirates, but St. Louis has done a good job of withstanding the ups and downs of a 162-game grind. The Cards will have to play better than they did last week, but they're still in good position for Wild Card action and will start the week with three games at home against Pittsburgh.
Last week: 6
9. Reds: Let's not forget about these guys either. They won on Sunday and are 65-52, only two behind St. Louis and five behind Pittsburgh. A few good weeks and Dusty Baker's gang could be right back in it. The bad news is that starter Johnny Cueto still doesn't appear close to returning, but Tony Cingrani has done a nice job and the Reds have a lineup that can be explosive if it finally starts clicking.
Last week: 11
10. Rays: What would the Rays do without Wil Myers in their lineup? The rookie outfielder has been spectacular since the All-Star break, as has starter David Price, and both have helped Tampa Bay get past some nicks and bruises to the rest of its lineup. Evan Longoria has cooled off, and we'll see how young starter Chris Archer rebounds from minor arm woes.
Last week: 5
11. Orioles: Quietly, the Orioles are having a very good year after breaking out in their memorable 2012 campaign. Not quietly at all, Chris Davis continues to mash, and if Baltimore can start rallying around its AL Most Valuable Player Award candidate, the AL East still has time to get very interesting once again.
Last week: 12
12. Royals: These are good times for a fan base that has been waiting a while for its team to fight its way into contention at this time of year. The resurgence of Eric Hosmer, the solid performance of a strong, veteran pitching staff and the consistency up and down the batting order has made this an intriguing team that could have a say in things as the season unwinds.
Last week: 13
13. Indians: It's hard to think of any team that's been as hot and cold as this one, but the fact remains that the Tribe is right in the thick of it for a Wild Card spot. The key could be the starting rotation, which needs to get on a sustained run through the rest of the month to make a dent in Detroit's division lead.
Last week: 9
14. D-backs: Manager Kirk Gibson is too strong a leader for his team to be suffering shell-shock at what the Dodgers have done to Arizona's one-time cushy lead in the NL West, and that bodes well for the D-backs' playoff chances. There's still quite a bit to like about this team, although right now it's looking like a Wild Card berth is its best chance at October.
Last week: 15
15. Yankees: After all the injuries and uncertainties about this rebuilt lineup and aging roster, the Yanks have settled in the mid-pack of the Major Leagues and are far back in the AL East while fighting to stay above .500. If they don't get hot soon, attention might shift solely onto the final months of the career of the great Mariano Rivera.
Last week: 14