This past week was the final full week of summer in the 2018 Major League Baseball regular season. The teams are now fully immersed in the stretch run, those final pivotal battles to determine division champions and wildcard playoff participants.
One team, the Cleveland Indians, has already clinched its division crown. Terry Francona‘s Tribe took the lead in the American League Central Division for good on April 21. Struggling a bit from mid-May through mid-June, once they got hot they pulled away and were never seriously threatened
In the American League East Division, the Boston Red Sox are on the verge of clinching. The Bosox “Magic Number” is down to just four to eliminate the arch-rival New York Yankees.
Out in the American League West Division, the defending World Series champion Houston Astros have re-established some measure of control. The Astros now hold a 3.5 game lead on the Oakland Athletics, four in the all-important loss column of the standings, and 11 is now their “Magic Number” to clinch.
Despite likely falling short in their bids for a divisional crown, both the Yankees and A’s can begin printing their playoff tickets as well. Each team is firmly in control of the two AL Wildcard playoff berths, and they are headed for a one-game playoff showdown with one another.
The Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays each trail Oakland by seven games in the loss column. The A’s “Magic Number” is now just 7 in order to clinch that last available postseason berth.
While the AL playoff race is pretty much set, the National League races promise a far different and much more exciting final two weeks to the regular season.
Thanks to a collapse over the last six weeks by the second place Philadelphia Phillies, the Atlanta Braves are closing in on the franchise’ first division title in five years. The “Magic Number” is down to just nine for Atlanta, though the Phillies and Braves will meet seven times over the final week and a half.
The Chicago Cubs are trying to take their third consecutive NL Central crown. It would mark the first time since a 1906-08 run that the Cubs finished in first place for three straight seasons. Chicago has just a 2.5 game lead on the Milwaukee Brewers, three in the loss column, and it’s still a bit too premature to be discussing a “Magic Number” for the South Side ball club.
A two-horse race appears to be emerging in the wild, wild west. The National League West Division’s five-time defending champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers, just took over the lead by a half-game on the Colorado Rockies.
The two clubs are tied in the loss column, and they will meet for the final time this coming week. That three-game set will take place at Dodger Stadium with a sweep by either team probably settling things.
The Arizona Diamondbacks began the month in first place. But losses in 10 of their last 14 have likely doomed the Dbacks to fighting for a Wildcard berth. Those two NL Wildcard slots are currently held by the Brewers and Rockies.
The Saint Louis Cardinals are just a game back of Colorado in the loss column for the second and final spot. Arizona and the Philadelphia Phillies are sitting four games out of that final playoff position and are both running out of time. If either or both is going to make a final push, the time is now.
There is an old sports saying that goes “If you want to be the champ, you’ve got to beat the champ.” Well at least as far as my MLB Power Rankings are concerned, that remains the case in Major League Baseball. The Houston Astros are once again on top. They have sat there alone or shared the lead all summer long.
My formula for compiling the rankings has remained unchanged. I researched each of the 30 MLB teams current position in the four categories of winning percentage, runs scored, pitching OPS, and fielding percentage. I then assigned each of those rankings a 1-30 value and added them up to determine an overall score.
The current MLB Power Ranking going into games of Sunday, September 16 are presented below. Each team’s previous rank from the MLB All-Star break in mid-July, then the middle of August, and finally back on Labor Day is also presented from L-R in parentheses:
1. Houston Astros (1-1T-1)
2. Boston Red Sox (2-1T-2)
3. New York Yankees (3-3-3)
4. Atlanta Braves (4-6-4)
4. Oakland Athletics (11-7-6)
6. Cleveland Indians (10-4T-5)
7. Los Angeles Dodgers (6-9T-10)
8. Chicago Cubs (5-8-6)
8. Washington Nationals (13-11-9)
10. Tampa Bay Rays (15-16-12)
10. Arizona Diamondbacks (7-4T-8)
12. Colorado Rockies (9-9T-11)
13. Los Angeles Angels (14-12-15)
14. Milwaukee Brewers (8-14-14)
15. Seattle Mariners (12-13-16)
16. Saint Louis Cardinals (18T-15-13)
17. Pittsburgh Pirates (18T-20-20)
17. New York Mets (24-26-20)
19. Cincinnati Reds (21-21-18)
19. San Francisco Giants (20-18T-17)
21. Philadelphia Phillies (16-17-18)
22. Minnesota Twins (17-18T-20)
22. Toronto Blue Jays (25-24-23)
24. Kansas City Royals (27T-27-27)
25. Texas Rangers (26-22-24)
25. Miami Marlins (23-25-26)
27. Detroit Tigers (22-23-24)
28. San Diego Padres (27T-28-29)
29. Chicago White Sox (30-29T-28)
30. Baltimore Orioles (29-29T-30)
These will be the penultimate MLB Power Rankings for this season. The final rankings are scheduled to come out on October 1, at the conclusion of the regular season and before the playoffs begin. They will be based on the final statistics accumulated by each team this year.
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