As September arrives so does pennant race baseball. With just over one month to play, 15 of the 30 major league clubs are within 2.5 games of a playoff spot. We are setting up for a September to remember prior to the upcoming glory of October baseball.
2012 MLB Power Rankings – September Pennant Chase Edition:
Looking like a lock for playoff baseball:
1.) Washington Nationals – (80-52) During the course of the 2012 season the Nats have been among baseballs best and most consistent squads. The lineup is loaded with very good players and the pitching staff has more depth than the average fan realizes. The big question remains: Can they win a title if they shutdown Stephen Strasburg? I still wouldn’t count them out.
2.) Cincinnati Reds – (81-53) Talk about a team with very few weaknesses. The Reds remain the only team in baseball that has kept their rotation in tact. A solid rotation, along with a potentially lethal bullpen in October could spell trouble for opponents as the season moves along. The funny thing is I’m just mentioning the offense which the Reds are best known for. A healthy Joey Votto will only add to the dynamic lineup that includes solid veterans and upcoming rookies.
3.) Texas Rangers – (78-54) The solid core from the past two American League Championships remain in Hamilton, Cruz, Andrus, Young Kinsler and Beltre. The questions this year will be whether or not the pitching staff can provide enough. The bullpen looks sharp but season ending injuries to Colby Lewis and Neftali Feliz could potentially spell trouble.
Battling for a playoff spot:
4.) Oakland Athletics – (75-57) After a few lean years they are at it again, Moneyball 2 around the corner? The pitching staff has been excellent for a while but now that the lineup has exploded in recent weeks they’ve evolved into the hottest team in baseball.
5.) New York Yankees – (76-56) The Yanks grab the #5 spot based on their current slot in the standings but fans have to wonder hoe much longer this will last. They dominated the AL East for a large portion of the season but have been leaking oil for a while. Like many teams in the race; they could either win it all or perhaps miss out entirely.
6.) Baltimore Orioles – (73-59) I’m not sure exactly how to explain it. Solid bullpen + solid rotation + solid lineup + the will to win = team shocking the world in a quest to reach playoff baseball for the first time since 1997.
7.) Atlanta Braves – (74-59) The Braves have fallen on hard times the previous two September’s. They’ll look to avoid yet another collapse behind the final pennant chase of the future hall of famer Chipper Jones. If Craig Kimbrel can keep up the Cy Young pace they should find away to reach postseason baseball.
8.) San Francisco Giants – (75-58) Despite an awful season out of Tim Lincecum the pitching staff appears dangerous and primed for another Championship run. The lineup could be an issue with the loss of MVP candidate Melky Cabrera to a PED suspension.
9.) Chicago White Sox – (72-60) The White Sox have held a small lead on Detroit for much the year. The key will continued success in a lineup full of players have bounce back seasons (Dunn, Rios, Ramirez).
10.) Detroit Tigers – (71-61) I’m not sure how comfortable the White Sox could be with the Tigers continuing to hang around. Any team boasting superstars such as Justin Verlander, Migueal Cabrera & Prince Fielder is a team to be fearful of.
11.) St. Louis Cardinals – (72-61) Could another championship run be in the near future? Like 2011 they’ve been steady and strong throughout much of the year without grabbing a tone of attention. No Pujols. No Carpenter. No problem to this point in the year.
12.) Tampa Bay Rays – (72-61) The Rays offense leaves a lot to be desired but the pitching staff has kept them in the thick of the playoff race. David Price and Fernando Rodney are both factors in the AL Cy Young race. Gotta love this organization despite its limitations.
13.) Los Angeles Angels – (71-62) The Halos remains one of the real question marks of the 2012, are they too talented for their own good? Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson anchor the pitching staff while Albert Pujols and Mike Trout do so for the offense. They are still a team good enough to win the World Series this year, but time is ticking on that opportunity.
14.) Pittsburgh Pirates – (70-62) Many were a bit disappointed that the Pirates didn’t make a major splash in the trade market. Perhaps the team was as well as they dropped for a few weeks following the deadline. They seemed to have found their way in the last week or so and I think they believe there is still a little magic left in this season.
15.) Los Angeles Dodgers – (71-63) Well if the Dodgers don’t make a serious run in 2012, ownership won’t be to blame, that may come in the future seasons. The Dodgers were the hottest team out of the gate this year and they’ve built on that with multiple acquisitions. Of those brought to the club via trade: Adrian Gonzalez, Shane Victorino, Hanley Ramirez, Josh Becket, Joe Blanton, etc.
Perhaps next year:
16.) Arizona Diamondbacks – (66-68) The Dbacks have had their moments in the 2012 but its been a bit of a roller coaster ride. Mathematically they have an outside chance but it will take a huge month from the brutally disappointing Justin Upton.
17.) Philadelphia Phillies – (64-69) The 2nd half has been a better brand of Phillies baseball. They’ll look to retool in the offseason and head back into contention in 2013.
18.) Seattle Mariners – (64-70) Felix Hernandez has pitched himself into the Cy Young race with an incredible August including a perfect game.
19.) Milwaukee Brewers – (64-68) PED’s or no PED’s Ryan Braun is probably better than your best player.
20.) San Diego Padres – (62-72) Will the Padres capitalize on a great offensive season by Chase Headley by making a move in the offseason?
21.) New York Mets – (63-70) Yikes, things have fallen apart in the second half. On the plus side R.A. Dickey could win the Cy Young and Johan Santana tossed a no-hitter earlier this year.
22.) Boston Red Sox – (62-72) Bobby Valentine replaces Terry Francona and yet we have the same story in Boston. The Red Sox began to blow things up with a blockbuster August deal and I’d suspect more is to come in the offseason.
23.) Toronto Blue Jays – (60-72) While the Jays were not able to keep up with the rest of the AL East, they certainly are headed in the right direction.
24.) Kansas City Royals- (59-73) Some pieces are in place on this young roster, if they can add a few pitchers into the fold things could come together quickly.
25.) Miami Marlins – (59-74) New uniforms, a new ballpark and a new manager haven’t netted new results.
26.) Cleveland Indians – (56-77) The tribe has really fallen on hard times over the course of the seasons second half.
27.) Minnesota Twins – (55-78) With another disappointing season nearly in the books one has to wonder if they’ll look to move Joe Mauer in the off-season.
28.) Colorado Rockies – (54-77) Nothing has worked out in Denver this summer. A healthy Troy Tulowitzki will be critical to the team in 2013.
29.) Chicago Cubs – (51-81) The Goat is at it again.
30.) Houston Astros – (41-92) Congratulations Astros fans! You are witness the worst team in the franchises history. Good luck next season in the AL West.