With Labor Day just around the corner, summer has unofficially given way to fall. But that doesn’t mean the heat is dropping – which is true for the final few weeks of post-season racing and anyone who has ventured outside this weekend.
For this week’s strength rankings, we’ll take a peek at five teams at different stages of the competitive spectrum. Two of our notable clubs are already looking forward to next year, two are in the midst of competition, and one is still alive but going in the water. Since he’s not getting any cold anytime soon, let’s jump right into it.
There’s no way to color it: the pirates were pretty terrible. With their loss on Sunday to the Blue Jays, Pittsburgh has moved to a shocking 10-30 since the All-Star break, the worst record across that stretch in the majors. The team was swept into five of its 13 series during the second half, and opponents outnumbered the Buccaneers by 75 points during that time. The attack was particularly tricky, with the squad averaging just 3.2 kicks per game, the second worst mark in the majors.
Of the dozens of Buccaneers who made at least 50 second-half matches, only two placed WRC+ better than the league average (100): Brian Reynolds (101 marks in 141 board appearances) and Rodolfo Castro (146 in 80). Reynolds, who signed a two-year, $13.5 million contract after the All-Star campaign in 2021, got off to a rough start this season but bounced back somewhat, posting a 0.835 OPS since the start of June. He’s gotten more prone to fastballs this year though: After penalizing the heaters in ’21 hitting 0.339 average hitting and 0.610 hitting percentage, he’s hit just 0.258 against fastballs while swinging on 22.0% of his swings this year.
Rookie Castro struggled in a three-week promo earlier this year and was eventually sent to the Palace, only to be called up on August 9. Home runs in 22 games.
Of course, no Pirates report would be complete without the Oneil Cruz update. The towering Shortstop continues to defy Statcast’s logic and fire baseballs over a fence like ballistic missiles, though he struggled on his first attempts at a big-league throw (unsurprisingly, as most rookie hitters do). But talent is undeniable, and when it flashes, it rises. When Cruz is fully acclimated to life in the majors, wins will begin to appear more frequently for Buccos. For now, it looks like the bumps in the road are here to stay.
About Pittsburgh’s slow crime? It looks like 1927’s Yankees compared to what the Marlins could muster. In 42 games since the first half, Miami has scored a rotten 100 run. Sunday’s loss to Atlanta was the team’s seventh in a row, and the attack spanned just nine runs during that time. The last time the Marlins won more than two games in a row was back on July 5, when the team’s 2-1 win over the Angels brought Miami within 0.500 games. Since then, the team has gone from 16 to 38 years old.
This non-existent crime has betrayed more than a serviceable support staff. The Marlins have put in 4.05 ERA and 3.80 FIP arms since the break, taking out more than one stroke per stroke. Sandy Alcantara He calmed down a bit after a busy first half, but nonetheless remains the favorite to win the National League Cy Young Award. RHP was accompanied by another talented young arm on the left, Jesús Luzardo.
Luzardo missed nearly three months with an ominous forearm injury but returned to the club on August 1 and has been a superstar ever since. In six, he allowed three or fewer earned runs five times and went six rounds at least four times. He has a 3.56 K/BB ratio since his comeback and only ceded one Homer in 36 1/3 rounds. Still only 24 years old, Luzardo is instilling confidence in Marlins fans that he will be able to reach the potential he has demonstrated throughout his young career with every outing.
Alongside Luzardo is 24-year-old Eduardo Cabrera, who has hit 40 players in his last six games with a 1.89 ERA and 1.52 average. Add on former first-round pick Braxton Garrett as part of the next wave of young Marlins arms, and fans might see a real push into the competition. Now, if only they could develop some young hitters to help further the cause.
Does anyone want to win the Central American League? The Guardians saw their division lead evaporate thanks to a five-game losing streak, which extended with Sunday’s 6-3 loss in 11 rounds to Seattle. That put the Cleveland in a tie with the Twins, with the .500 White Sox just two games behind. The difference in the combined extent of these three clubs heading to the home extension? Just plus 19 runs.
Offense has left the building entirely in Cleveland, with the Guardians closing four times in the past seven games. The team had a total of 17 home races in the past month, which only outperforms the Tigers during that time (16). Connectivity wasn’t an issue, as Cleveland had the lowest strike rate (17.3%) in the AL, yet there was almost no power to speak of, with Guardians .104 ISO ratings that were finally dead in the majors.
While the group as a whole has struggled lately, not everyone is to blame. Jose RamirezAnd Andrés Giménez and Steven Kwan have all posted a WRC+ better than 120 in the past month, although they haven’t had much help elsewhere in the lineup. Giménez in particular was locked up in the painting. In his last 100 appearances on the board, the All-Star has made .307/.380/.466 by three runs on the turf while running a perfect 5-for-5 on steal base attempts.
The next two weeks will likely determine the winner of the division. Cleveland plays the Twins eight times in 15 games, starting with three games in Minnesota this weekend. There’s a makeup game with the White Sox in that period as well, along with games against 0.500 Royals and Angels, so it’s time to rediscover some rhythm on the board. If they can’t, it looks like The Guardians are on the cusp of missing out on the playoffs for the second year in a row.
What about those Orioles? Since the novice birds have been traded away from the nearest stars Jorge Lopez A fan favorite Tree Mancini By the deadline, Baltimore went 20-11 to stay firmly in the heat of the wild card race. Sunday 5-0 to Team A lost a four-game winning streak, but the Orioles still haven’t lost more than two straight games since the start of July. Since then, the team’s age has been between 36 and 18 years old.
Despite breaking up with well-known key players, a wave of talent has arrived at Baltimore Beach to influence the club’s near and long-term future. The latest to join the squad is prospective player Gunnar Henderson, who represented the team at Futures Game in Los Angeles this season and is considered by many to be the best baseball player in the game. Henderson hit .297/ .416/ .531 in 112 games across Double and Triple A this season before earning his promotion. He hit the field and netted two goals on his league debut on Wednesday, and the 21-year-old has looked in every part after his first week in the tournament.
Young stars like Henderson and Adley Rutschman get plenty of shine, but the often unknown Baltimore cast deserves a lot of credit for being the backbone of this surprise tour. The Orioles have their seventh-best ERA team (3.37) since the All-Star break, with the López-less bullpen in particular to get the job done. Since taking over with full time approaching, Félix Bautista has racked up 8-for-8 in savings chances, allowing only two runs in 15 2/3 runs with 22 hits. The opposing hitters only succeeded in seven hits in 57 board appearances in the extension, with only 11 total reaching the base.
The rotation has been strong as well, maintaining a solid baseline of performance that has been there almost all season. Since Breaking All-Star, Quartet of Dean Kramer, Austin VothKyle Pradesh and Jordan Lyles She recorded a combined 2.98 ERA in 172 1/3 innings. Kramer and Bradish—along with Spencer Watkins and Tyler Wells, currently on the tilt injury list—are all under 30, giving Baltimore a good foundation for young novice shooters to build on and add to their indoor options. Lefthander DL Hall is back in the majors after making his debut last month, and top promotions holder Grayson Rodriguez is back on the hill at the Palace after missing three months due to a Latino strain. No matter how the wild card race shakes up, the future looks very bright in Baltimore.
Mariners fans probably won’t celebrate until their team officially snatches their place, but Seattle seems ready for that at last –finally—Back to Postseason. The Mariners are a top 18 gamer of the season over 0.500 and riding a seven-game winning streak after completing a perfect six-game road trip in Detroit and Cleveland. The crew was in electric cocking mode during this run, shedding only 10 runs total with three closing points. Seattle has allowed more than four rounds only once in the last 15 games.
A lot has contributed to preventing this continuous running, but perhaps no one has been more important than that Ruby Ray. The reigning AL Cy Young winner – who signed a $115 million deal with Seattle this off-season – had a rocky two months but has since patched the ship, and his form is late. In six games since the beginning of August, Ray is 4-0 with 1.38 ERA and 44 strokes in 39 innings. The opposing hitters only managed a hit average of 185 in that period, and Ray went at least six rounds at each start. This is exactly the kind of production that any competing team would take out of their team.
As brilliant as Ray was, he was nearly matched by rookie George Kirby. The 24-year-old has been excellent since his debut in the league on May 8, and he didn’t have much of a hiccup apart from a disastrous rogue outing against the Orioles on June 27, when he allowed seven runs in four rounds.
Since then, he’s almost out of reach, with a 2.22 ERA and 1.41 FIP in his last 10 starts. Sunday’s outing was interrupted by a rain delay after three runs, so Kirby should rest plenty the next time the Braves run home. The Mariners will play their next eight games against teams of 0.500 or better before concluding the regular season with 20 games against clubs with record losing records. This appears to be a manageable path to end the 21-year drought.
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