As the MLB regular season winds down, the Wild Card standings are tight, the Indians are hot, the Dodgers are not and the Nationals clinched a playoff spot.
We’re only two weeks in, but September has been an eventful month. The Indians can’t lose, the Dodgers can’t win (without Clayton Kershaw on the mound), J.D. Martinez is the new Giancarlo Stanton and the Wild Card races are tighter and more congested than ever.
With a little less than three weeks worth of games left to play, six teams are within five games of the Minnesota Twins in the American League Wild Card standings. The Yankees, with a three-game cushion over the Twins for the top spot and a five-game edge over the Angels (and still in striking distance four games behind the Red Sox in the AL East), aren’t completely safe, either.
American League Wild Card Standings
- New York Yankees, 78-66 (+3)
- Minnesota Twins, 75-69 (- GB)
- Los Angeles Angels, 73-71 (2 GB)
- Texas Rangers, 72-72 (3 GB)
- Kansas City Royals, 72-72 (3 GB)
- Seattle Mariners, 72-73 (3.5 GB)
- Tampa Bay Rays, 72-74 (4 GB)
- Baltimore Orioles, 71-74 (4.5 GB)
National League Wild Card Standings
- Arizona Diamondbacks, 83-62 (+3)
- Colorado Rockies, 80-65 (- GB)
- St. Louis Cardinals, 76-68 (3.5 GB)
- Milwaukee Brewers, 76-69 (4 GB)
The Diamondbacks have been outstanding in recent weeks, and appear to have the top NL Wild Card spot in the bag. Arizona has played a huge role in the Dodgers’ collapse. Robbie Ray leads all MLB pitchers in Wins Above Replacement (according to FanGraphs) in September (1.1 fWAR). Ray tossed 7.2 shutout innings while striking out 14 Dodgers Sept. 4 in a 13-0 win over Los Angeles – one of six wins for the club over L.A. since Aug. 30. Martinez led the way with nine home runs through the first 12 days of September, which is three more than anyone else in baseball over that span.
However, despite holding a playoff position all year, the Rockies are far from assured a spot in the postseason. The Cardinals and Brewers are not only in hot pursuit in the Wild Card standings, but the clubs are two and 2.5 games back of the Cubs, respectively, in the NL Central. Needless to say, we have a lot to look forward to before the regular season comes to a close.
Three things we learned this week
1. The Dodgers are the worst team in baseball (in September)
Talk about the SI cover jinx. On Aug. 22, our friends at Sports Illustrated put the Dodgers on the cover of the magazine along with the caption “Best. Team. Ever?” SI’s Jay Jaffe also began chronicling the Best Team Ever Standings, which showed how the 2017 Dodgers compared to other dominant teams in MLB history, including the 1906 Cubs and 2001 Mariners. At the time, Los Angeles was on pace to win 116 games – the record for a single season.
On Aug. 23, the Dodgers lost 1-0 when Rich Hill allowed a home run in the 10th inning of a no-hit bid against the Pirates. Los Angeles responded to win the next two games and improve to 91-36, but the Dodgers have been the worst team in baseball since – losing 16 of 17 games overall and 11 in a row after falling 8-6 in a rain-soaked matchup with the Giants in San Francisco Monday.
Loss No. 11 marked a record for the franchise since its move from Brooklyn in 1958. The Dodgers are now 2-11 in the month of September, giving the Dodgers more losses in a month since April, when the club was 14-12.
Dave Cameron dove into the particulars of LA’s historic slump earlier this week for Fangraphs in an aptly titled post, The Dodgers Look Beyond Terrible Right Now. Among the biggest takeaways is the fact the club ranks dead last in the majors with a 56 wRC+ since Aug. 26 – nearly 20 points worse than the next closest team.
However, with Clayton Kershaw on the mound (who picked up the only win for the club during its 17-game slide), the Dodgers finally found the win column Tuesday with a 5-3 win over the Giants. The win also clinched the NL West.
2. The Indians are the Best. Team. Ever?
On the other hand, the Cleveland Indians have been the best team in baseball in recent weeks. Much like the Dodgers in the months of June, July and early August – and completely opposite of the Dodgers now – everything is clicking for the Tribe. Cleveland ran its winning streak to 19 with an 11-0 win over the Tigers Monday, which made Cleveland just the sixth team ever to win 19 games in a row. The Indians also posted an incredible plus-100 run differential over that span. Only five other big league teams have a run differential over plus-100 for the season, and only four teams in MLB history have ever posted a triple digit run differential over a 19-game span.
Oh, and Cleveland sent Corey Kluber to the mound with win No. 20 on the line. Kluber promptly shut out Detroit help the Tribe become the first team since the 2002 Oakland Athletics to win 20 straight games. It was also the seventh shutout of the streak for the club. Cleveland has allowed just 32 runs over the 20-game stretch while hitting 39 home runs.
Now 16-4 with a 2.44 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and 243 strikeouts in 184.2 innings, Kluber has been one of the most important reasons why the Tribe has excelled this season, and he has established himself as a legitimate threat to Chris Sale’s first AL Cy Young Award, and the rest of the staff has been solid as well – particularly Carlos Carrasco (who holds a slight lead over Kluber with 1.1 fWAR this month) and Trevor Bauer. Plus, the Indians have one of the best bullpens in baseball, and Joe Smith has been a pleasant surprise as a trade deadline addition to the unit.
Also, Francisco Lindor hit home run No. 30 in Tuesday’s win. Lindor has emerged as one of the best all-around players in the game (and is just the third shortstop ever to homer 30 times in a season before turning 24). Jose Ramirez (who made a terrific defensive play in Tuesday’s game) proved his breakout 2016 performance wasn’t a fluke and that he should be considered an AL MVP candidate, and Carlos Santana (one of the hottest hitters in baseball in September) and Edwin Encarnacion are still capable of hitting huge home runs and driving in others with timely hitting.
3. The Nationals clinched the NL East
Overshadowed by the extremes of Cleveland’s winning streak and the Dodgers’ losing skid was the Washington Nationals beating all other 29 MLB teams to securing a spot in the postseason. The Nats enter Wednesday 88-56, which is just five games behind the one-time juggernaut Dodgers in the race for the league’s best record and homefield advantage throughout the postseason.
Stephen Strasburg has carried the pitching staff in recent weeks, and the additions of Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson helped stabilize the bullpen after a disastrous start to the season for the unit. Bryce Harper hasn’t played since Aug. 12, but Anthony Rendon emerged as a legitimate MVP candidate, Ryan Zimmerman has hit .301/.358/.557 with a team-leading 31 home runs and 95 RBI in his first 130 games, Daniel Murphy is as consistent as ever, dynamic Trea Turner is finally healthy, and Michael Taylor has been terrific recently, including hitting a team-high four home runs in 10 games this month.
Play of the Week
Ho hum. Another day, another brilliant diving play from Nolan Arenado.
“When you’re rolling, you feel like can’t lose. When you’re losing, it feels like no matter what you do you can’t dig out of it. Changing those trends is a hard thing to do.”
-Clayton Kershaw, to Ken Gurnick and Jonathan Hawthorne of MLB.com after the Dodgers snapped their 11-game losing streak Tuesday.
Analytical League Leaders
Position Player Wins Above Replacement (fWAR), September
- D. Martinez, Arizona Diamondbacks (1.2)
- Francisco Lindor, Cleveland Indians (1.0)
- Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies (1.0)
- Yolmer Sanchez, Chicago White Sox (0.9)
- Carlos Santana, Cleveland Indians (0.9)
- Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies (0.8)
- Jose Abreu, Chicago White Sox (0.8)
- Mitch Haniger, Seattle Mariners (0.8)
- Rhys Hoskins, Philadelphia Phillies (0.8)
- Eric Hosmer, Kansas City Royals (0.8)
- Robinson Cano, Seattle Mariners (0.8)
- Michael Taylor, Washington Nationals (0.8)
- Jose Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals (0.8)
Pitcher Wins Above Replacement (fWAR), September
- Robbie Ray, Arizona Diamondbacks (1.1)
- Carlos Carrasco, Cleveland Indians (1.1)
- Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians (1.0)
- Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals (0.8)
- Luis Severino, New York Yankees (0.8)
- Mike Leake, Seattle Mariners (0.7)
- Kyle Gibson, Minnesota Twins (0.7)
- Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals (0.6)
- Doug Fister, Boston Red Sox (0.6)
Random MLB Power Rankings
Top 10 greatest teams in MLB history (Or, Best. Team. Ever.)
- 1927 New York Yankees (110-44), World Series Champions
- 1998 New York Yankees (114-48), World Series Champions
- 1909 Pittsburgh Pirates (110-42), World Series Champions
- 1975 Cincinnati Reds (108-54), World Series Champions
- 1905 New York Giants (105-48), World Series Champions
- 1907 Chicago Cubs (107-45), World Series Champions
- 1954 Cleveland Indians (111-54), Lost World Series
- 1906 Chicago Cubs (116-36), Lost World Series
- 1970 Baltimore Orioles (108-54), World Series Champions
- 2001 Seattle Mariners (116-46), Lost ALCS
No World Series winner has ever had a double-digit losing streak in a season. The 1953 New York Yankees lost nine in a row – the longest losing streak ever for a World Championship club.
The Minnesota Twins became the first team in MLB history to hit a home run in each of the first seven games in their 16-0 win over the Padres Tuesday.
Jacoby Ellsbury reached first base via catcher’s interference for the 30th time Monday, passing Pete Rose on the all-time list and setting a new MLB record.
Aaron Judge joined Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Jason Giambi as the only Yankees ever to collect 40 home runs, 100 RBI and 100 walks in a single season.
Baseball-reference noted that Gary Sanchez is the first Yankees player since Don Mattingly to hit 50 career home runs before the age of 50.
Nolan Arenado has recorded at least 123 RBI in each of the last three seasons, becoming the first third baseman in MLB history to do so.