Our weekly contender rankings misplaced yet one more workforce this week. We’re formally saying goodbye to the Mets after they have been swept by the Cardinals and dropped two of three to the Phillies. New York is 5.5 video games again within the NL East and 7 out within the wild-card standings with 12 video games to go. Solely three of these video games come in opposition to a workforce the Mets are chasing for a playoff spot, of their last collection at Atlanta. Time has nearly run out in 12 months 1 of the Steve Cohen period. Thumbs down throughout.
That leaves us with 16 groups vying for 10 postseason spots, together with two who had the chances stacked in opposition to them up till very not too long ago. Right here’s how issues look with two weeks to play within the common season.
16. San Diego Padres (LW: 14)
15. Seattle Mariners (LW: 12)
At 4 video games again within the wild-card race, the Mariners are the workforce furthest out of the playoff image included in our contender rankings—however they aren’t almost as messy as the Padres are right now, so we’ll maintain them forward of the floundering Friars for the second. Seattle’s postseason outlook is sort of bleak, although, after shedding a collection to the Pink Sox final week. Toronto and Boston at present occupy the wild-card spots, with the Yankees and Athletics additionally each forward of the Mariners within the pecking order. Coming into Monday, their playoff odds are at 1.4%, in keeping with Baseball-Reference, and 0.8%, per FanGraphs.
Almost certainly, the Mariners will prolong their postseason drought, the longest in North American skilled sports activities, to 20 years. Nevertheless, sufficient constructive developments have unfolded this season to generate deserved optimism about the way forward for the membership. Simply on Sunday, two of the Seattle’s prime prospects, Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert, led the best way in a must-win sport in opposition to the Royals to clinch the three-game collection. Kelenic went 3-for-4 with three RBIs and launched his third homer of the weekend within the 7–1 win; Gilbert allowed only one run on three hits over seven innings. Neither teen has discovered life within the massive leagues to be simple. Kelenic’s 71 wRC+ ranks 226th among the many 241 MLB gamers with at the least 300 plate appearances, whereas Gilbert has light within the second half and brought his lumps whereas logging a 4.74 ERA. (Gilbert isn’t alone in that regard; opponents have hit .301 in opposition to All-Star Yusei Kikuchi because the All-Star break to tag him with a team-high 5.82 ERA over that span.) However Kelenic and Gilbert are each nonetheless underneath age 25—Kelenic is without doubt one of the league’s youngest regulars at age 22—and have loads of time to adapt. Actually, Kelenic seems to already be discovering his groove. In his 16 video games this month, he is slashing .283/.348/.650 with six dwelling runs and 15 RBIs.
It was introduced final week that Seattle will host the All-Star sport in 2023, marking the primary time that’ll occur since 2001—the final season which noticed the Mariners make the playoffs. If the M’s can as soon as once more complement their internet hosting gig with a playoff look, the tenures of Jerry Dipoto and Scott Servais should be thought of a hit. Wouldn’t it’s one thing if they might do it earlier than then, although? Kyle Seager and Mitch Haniger will each in all probability be out of the Emerald Metropolis by 2023, however they’ve each tallied 30-homer seasons this 12 months to attempt to burnish their legacies with the franchise for which they’ve suffered via many losses. To take action, Seattle might want to go on a run over its last 13 video games, all coming in opposition to the A’s and Angels, and in addition hope the three AL East contenders go chilly.
14. Cincinnati Reds (LW: 13)
13. Philadelphia Phillies (LW: 16)
12. New York Yankees (LW: 10)
11. Oakland A’s (LW: 11)
10. St. Louis Cardinals (LW: 15)
Slightly over a month in the past, I declared the Cardinals “nearly lifeless within the water,” given their minuscule playoff odds—each FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference estimated their probabilities to be under 2%—and poor early returns from deadline acquisitions Jon Lester and J.A. Happ. Even 10 days in the past, their playoff odds have been simply 5% on FanGraphs. Since then, all they’ve carried out is win eight in a row in opposition to a trio of playoff contenders—the Reds, Mets and Padres—and rattling close to kill the hopes of the latter two within the course of. Consequently, St. Louis now holds a three-game lead over Cincinnati for the second wild-card spot, with San Diego and the Phillies one other half-game behind the Reds. Zooming out a bit, they’ve gone 35–23 because the All-Star break and 28–18 since including Lester and Happ on the commerce deadline. These once-microscopic playoff odds now stand at 73.6% (FanGraphs) and at 76.0% (Baseball-Reference).
Jack Flaherty is making an attempt to make it again to the mound earlier than the playoffs, however the Cardinals are exercising warning as he works his manner again from a shoulder pressure and admit he seemingly gained’t have time to ramp up his workload to that of an everyday starter. A main motive they’ve been in a position to face up to his absence for a lot of this season has been Adam Wainwright, who’s pitching just like the ace he was for a few years. The 40-year-old’s 2.08 ERA because the All-Star break is fourth-best amongst NL starters, and his 2.6 fWAR ranks third. This resurgence, which comes after he recorded a 4.43 ERA over the earlier 5 seasons, can’t be understated by way of its significance, although it didn’t exactly come out of nowhere. He pitched properly down the stretch in 2019 and had a 3.15 ERA in final 12 months’s pandemic-shortened season. Happ and Lester have carried out what they have been introduced in to do and eaten beneficial innings, however Wainwright has been the driving power in St. Louis. Giovanny Gallegos’s inheriting of the nearer function following a number of meltdowns from Alex Reyes has solidified the again finish of the bullpen, too.
Nevertheless, the key sauce to all of this workforce’s success has been its protection—a key issue for a pitching workers with the third-lowest strikeout fee (20.1%) within the majors. The Cardinals have graded out as the most effective fielding workforce within the majors by Statcast’s outs-above-average metric (41), with the 24 OAA recorded behind Wainwright simply standing as probably the most any pitcher has benefited from in 2021. And whereas Happ and Lester have recorded related stroll charges, strikeout charges and FIPs earlier than and after their arrivals in St. Louis, their surface-level stats have vastly improved in no small half to the glut of Gold Glove–caliber defenders behind them. Nolan Arenado, Harrison Bader, Tommy Edman, Paul Goldschmidt, Yadier Molina and Tyler O’Neill all rank among the many finest defenders at their positions by OAA.
Many will attribute the rise of Mike Shildt’s membership to Cardinals Devils Magic, however this workforce’s true formulation to success is one it has been utilizing for the higher a part of 20 years: pitching and protection.
9. Atlanta Braves (LW: 9)
8. Boston Pink Sox (LW: 8)
Boston has gained 5 in a row to seize a slim lead within the wild-card race, a shocking and praiseworthy improvement after a COVID-19 outbreak ripped via the clubhouse and sidelined 13 gamers for numerous quantities of time. A few these gamers are nonetheless working their manner again, however the Pink Sox have persevered and gone 13–9 since Kiké Hernández turned the primary participant to check constructive for the virus on Aug. 27. They could find yourself as this 12 months’s model of the Marlins—the workforce that wasn’t anticipated to contend however fended off a COVID-19 outbreak that reshaped the roster for a number of weeks to qualify for the playoffs.
Boston’s offense, which has been its calling card, maintained its excessive degree of play through the trying test of its depth. The Pink Sox rank third in runs scored since Hernández’s constructive check set off a string of absences, together with All-Star shortstop Xander Bogearts. First baseman Bobby Dalbec stepped as much as lead the offense; he is hit seven dwelling runs with a 191 wRC+ in 19 video games because the begin of the outbreak. However he was removed from alone, as 9 Boston gamers have topped a 100 wRC+ through the outbreak (min. 12 video games in that span).
We’re six begins into Chris Sale’s return from Tommy John surgical procedure, and apart from a COVID-19-induced absence that the unvaccinated ace maybe might have prevented, the outcomes have largely been encouraging. The 32-year-old hasn’t racked up strikeouts as typically as he did throughout his prime, however he’s nonetheless averaging a couple of per inning whereas recording a 2.40 ERA, which might rank because the third-best mark of his profession. He’s the clear selection to begin for the Pink Sox within the wild-card sport, in the event that they get that far. And with three off days within the subsequent eight days, manager Alex Cora has the luxurious of setting his rotation as much as accommodate that plan.
7. Toronto Blue Jays (LW: 7)
6. Chicago White Sox (LW: 6)
5. Milwaukee Brewers (LW: 4)
Regardless of clinching a playoff berth Saturday, the Brewers held off on popping champagne within the clubhouse. They as a substitute are ready till they clinch the NL Central to take action, which ought to occur this week. Milwaukee has come a good distance underneath GM David Stearns and supervisor Craig Counsell. Together with 2021, the Brewers have reached the playoffs in 4 consecutive seasons, the identical variety of postseason appearances that they had of their franchise’s first 49 years.
This group might find yourself as the most effective Brew Crew in workforce historical past; at 91–58, it virtually definitely will break the present franchise file of 96 wins. That’s an exceptional feat contemplating accidents have restricted Christian Yelich’s taking part in time (106 video games) and manufacturing (eight dwelling runs), and Jackie Bradley Jr. has been the worst hitter within the majors (36 wRC+) amongst these with at the least 400 plate appearances. Each main midseason acquisition to improve the offense, from Willy Adames to Rowdy Tellez and Eduardo Escobar, has slot in seamlessly. Adames and Tellez each are at present on the injured checklist, however Adames is about to return Monday and Tellez ought to be again by the top of the common season.
The lion’s share of the credit score, in fact, should go to the pitching workers. Of the 14 gamers with probably the most innings pitched, solely Brett Anderson has an ERA above 4.00, and his 4.18 ERA is about the most effective you’ll be able to hope for from a veteran innings-eater. Counsell’s choice to maneuver to a six-man rotation early on within the season to offer every starter an additional day of relaxation has labored out superbly. Corbin Burnes might find yourself shedding out on the NL Cy Young award as a result of handful of begins he didn’t make, however he might not have pitched this properly with out the workforce managing his workload. On Saturday, in his first begin since combining with Josh Hader for a no-hitter, Burnes recorded his eighth double-digit strikeout sport and allowed his first dwelling run in seven begins, snapping a 44-inning homer-less streak that was the longest energetic one within the majors.
However the Brewers’ starter with the bottom ERA because the All-Star break isn’t Burnes, Brandon Woodruff or Freddy Peralta, who’re recurrently billed because the workforce’s Massive Three. It’s Eric Lauer, whose 2.13 ERA is the seventh-lowest within the majors amongst pitchers with at the least 50 innings within the second half. The 26-year-old lefty, who was drafted within the first spherical by the Padres in 2015 and came to visit from San Diego with Luis Urías in a commerce for Trent Grisham and Zach Davies, took a no-hitter into the sixth inning final Sunday in opposition to Cleveland. The likelihood that he might not even crack Milwaukee’s postseason rotation—it’ll come all the way down to both him or Adrian Houser for the fourth spot—speaks to this membership’s unbelievable depth that’ll absolutely come into play in October.
4. Houston Astros (LW: 5)
3. Tampa Bay Rays (LW: 3)
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (LW: 2)
1. San Francisco Giants (LW: 1)