MLB Power Rankings: Mariners streak upward, Yankees continue to slip

Every week,​ we​ ask all​ of our baseball​ writers​ — both the​ local​ scribes​ and the national team,​ more​ than​​ 30 writers in all — to rank the teams from first to worst. Here are the collective results, the TA30.

As you’re well aware, these rankings are the result of a mammoth amount of research. Our writers spend backbreaking hours scrutinizing the numbers, calling scouts and executives and, like, NASA astrophysicists, only casting their ballots once every kernel of information has been considered. The writers tasked with authoring them each week eschew commitments to family and friends in order to present those rankings in a compelling and accurate manner. Pets and children go unfed, but those sacrifices are necessary to do these rankings justice.

But today is Labor Day, the end of that grand three-day weekend set aside to honor the hard-won victories of the American labor movement. So this week, in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who toil to power this country’s economy, we mailed it in.

Zach Buchanan (that’s me!) has the National League write-ups, while James Fegan handles the American League. Let’s get into it.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 92-41
Last Power Ranking: 1

The Dodgers had their worst week in a long time. They dropped their first series since late July, losing two of three against the Mets in Queens. Tony Gonsolin is out with an elbow issue. Now Los Angeles has only four starters with an ERA under 3.00! This is what Dave Roberts means when he talks about “high-class problems.”

In reality, a down week for the Dodgers is like Super Star-powered Mario for everyone else. They are 19 games ahead of the Padres in the division. The Mets or Braves may make for dangerous postseason foes, but they have no chance of catching L.A. in the standings. Even reclamation project Joey Gallo is showing signs of life. “I was just playing every day to get people to stop talking shit,” he told Fabian Ardaya of his time with the Yankees. Good news, Joey. The Dodgers are so good, there is hardly any shit worth talking.

2. Houston Astros

Record: 86-48
Last Power Ranking: 2

Leading the AL West and just the AL by uh, a lot, the Astros mostly have rich people, cruising above the world and all its hapless mortals from a plane 30,000 feet above the ground-type of problems these days. But Justin Verlander being injured might be a case of one of your plane engines puffing black smoke while at 30,000 feet, which is not particularly relaxing.

It’s still a very nice and very fancy plane, and has a big stuff September call-up pitcher among its very appealing and comforting features. On most nights, almost no smoke is even visible as they cruise to their inevitable postseason destination once more.

3. New York Mets

Record: 85-50
Last Power Ranking: 3

The Mets took a series from the Dodgers, the best team in baseball, and then dropped a series to the Nationals, who sit at the other end of the standings. Could things have been planned better, like without Max Scherzer’s “left side fatigue” or with a call-up of prospect Mark Vientos? Absolutely. Is the season doomed now? Of course not. There’s still Jacob deGrom, “maybe the best to ever pitch,” according to Mookie Betts. They’ll be a dangerous playoff matchup whether they hold off the Braves or not.

Also worth noting: Of New York’s final 27 games, only six are against clubs with a winning record. The other 21 pit them against teams that are — and this is putting it nicely — god-awful.

4. Atlanta Braves

Record: 84-51
Last Power Ranking: 4

The last time I handled the rankings, I expressed a measure of doubt about Atlanta’s rotation. So, please allow me a brief moment to address my past self.

You fool. You moron. You absolute, irredeemable idiot.

Anyway, Spencer Strider just fanned 16 dudes and is probably going to win the NL Rookie of the Year. Kyle Wright and Max Fried have ERAs under 3.00, and Charlie Morton has a 2.84 mark over his last 14 games. Atlanta’s starters may not have the pedigree that their Dodgers or Mets counterparts do, but pedigree isn’t everything. No Mets or Dodgers pitcher has struck out 16 in one start this year.

I wouldn’t want to draw the defending champs in the first round, no matter how “terrible” Ronald Acuña Jr.’s knee feels. So, if you remember anything I’ve written in these rankings all year, please make it the previous sentence only.

5. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 79-55
Last Power Ranking: 6

Excuse me, I have just received an official communique from António Guterres, the U.N. Secretary-General. It reads:

The members of the United Nations have unanimously resolved that Albert Pujols shall not retire shy of 700 home runs. Though he stands likely to reach the milestone by the end of the 2022 season — he now has 695 majestic dingity-dongs after a pinch-hit, game-winning shot against the Cubs — he will be required to return in 2023 should he fall short. This has simply been too much fun to let him stop.

In the event of his 2023 return, we shall once again say all the same nice things about him until his 700th homerino clears the fence, after which Pujols will be allowed to tip his cap, step over the white lines and turn back into an old man. Thus concludes the most pressing issue facing the international community,  and therefore we now will be going on vacation.

Wow, seems legit.

(Rich Storry / USA Today)

6. New York Yankees

Record: 80-54
Last Power Ranking: 5

The Yankees are still in first place in the AL East but drop out of the top 5 of these rankings for the first time since April.

As such, we speak of them these days only in the most morbid tones of complete peril and desolation. We compare them not to the great, storied teams in Yankee history, but to the worst disasters in western civilization. I have been advised by our editors to stop comparing baseball events to historical incidents that involve actual human tragedy, but when I see the Yankees lineup abandon their efforts to provide support around Aaron Judge’s brilliance, know that I am thinking about it.

7. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 74-58
Last Power Ranking: 7

Did you refuse to learn about the Rays? Did you disregard their permutations and eccentricities? Neglect to learn about their young and transcendent superstar(s)? Show no interest in the amusing conflict of an analytically driven franchise making so many needless outs on the bases? 

Did you refuse to make space in your head for the unique challenges this year’s team faces, the depth questions and injuries they’ve overcome? Do you just assume they’ll be a quietly well-constructed but somewhat faceless wild-card contender every year, rain or shine?

Well congratulations, because that’s what the Rays are again this year. They’ve also done it mostly without Wander Franco, and their best starting pitcher is hurt. They will probably just work around it somehow. You just have to assume it at this point.

8. Seattle Mariners

Record: 76-58
Last Power Ranking: 11

Even after signing Julio Rodríguez to one of the longest and possibly strangest contract extensions in baseball history, the Mariners are, for once, not actually focused just on a long-term view in September. They have loaded up for a monster rotation that is carrying them up the standings, they are beating up on lesser playoff hopefuls. Even their feel-good, late-season injury recovery stories have playoff utility to them.

The Mariners, if you’re old enough to remember some prior incidents of this occurring from 20 years ago, are good.

9. San Diego Padres

Record: 74-61
Last Power Ranking: 8

We have reached the point of the rankings, at least among the NL teams, where all eyes will be following the wild-card standings. Either the Braves or Mets will secure the first spot, leaving three contenders — the Padres, Phillies and Brewers — for the final two.

On pure talent, the Padres should be the favorite. They have Juan Soto and Manny Machado and the makings of a strong playoff rotation. They’ve got a surprise relief ace in Nick Martinez. They’ve got the relief ace they traded for, Josh Hader, actually picking up a save and coming out of a hellish two-month slump. One of the better managers in baseball is running the show in the dugout. Yet San Diego’s stretch run will be anything but easy.

There are six more games against the Dodgers, who have owned the Padres so much that they went six years without losing a game to San Diego by more than five runs. There are two games against the ascendant Mariners, three against the playoff-bound Cardinals and the rest against a host of teams that are middling yet hardly pushovers. Time to find out how good the Padres really are.

10. Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 73-59
Last Power Ranking: 10

Perhaps a good expression of the Blue Jays’ search for consistency amid relative prosperity is that they will probably make the playoffs but they got their manager fired seven weeks ago. On the right night, they look like they have top-level talent to take down anybody. And the right night appears infrequently enough that we tried to build them a road map to find it. Or ask a bunch of old guys how they did it 30 years ago.

But never fear. The baseball season is 162 games for a reason. And that’s so a team can be frustrating for 130 games and still magically turn things around after everyone’s written them off and make their fans wonder if the payoff is even worth the summer of agonizing.

11. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 73-61
Last Power Ranking: 7

“I mean, I’m not concerned at all,” Phillies lefty Ranger Suárez said after getting knocked out in the fourth inning last week. “But I don’t know what’s going on.”

Print it on T-shirts and give them away outside of Citizens Bank Park, folks. The Phillies look poised for a trademark September slide. The Phillies had a rough trip west, losing five of six against the Diamondbacks and Giants and allowing 50 runs in the process. Zack Wheeler’s elbow is barking and Nick Castellanos is out with an oblique injury. (Broadcasters, you are now free to have a serious moment on the air.) Filling out the rotation is a puzzle without the right number of pieces.

After more than a decade of this, Philly fans do know what’s going on, and yes, they are concerned.

12. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 71-62
Last Power Ranking: 13

Award voting, especially for the most subjective award baseball has to offer, can be fickle. But once you start cruising in the neighborhood of a 30-win (or more) single-season improvement, people tend to start throwing around phrases like Brandon Hyde, Manager of the Year.” 

A very long-awaited influx of talent, with top prospect Gunnar Henderson being the most recent addition, probably plays a significant role in things coming a bit easier to Hyde and the Orioles this season. The vibes are never sweeter than the season where a team is decent a year before they expected to be, so whether it ends in a playoff berth or not, everyone involved should enjoy this Orioles campaign. They’ll only expect you to improve upon it every single year from here on out.

13. Cleveland Guardians

Record: 68-64
Last Power Ranking: 12

It’s all fun and games when you’re winning the division as many as two years ahead of your expected contention window and polling the fan base for the proper pronunciation of “Guardiac Kids.”

Then reality sets in. One of your starting pitchers punches the ground too hard, and you’re suddenly at a loss for immediate pitching depth, which you did not load up on at the deadline because you’re at least a year ahead of your contention window and that would have been silly (from a long-term perspective).

Of course, if it all falls through this year, it won’t be the worst thing ever, because of, you know, the contention window of one of the best farm systems in the league.

14. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 70-63
Last Power Ranking: 14

No team needs the Phillies to be the Phillies quite like the Brewers do. After dropping three of four to the newly buzzsaw-ish Diamondbacks, Milwaukee sits 2 1/2 games out of the final wild-card spot. There are some soft spots in the September schedule, but not many. To avoid missing the postseason for the first time since 2017, the Brewers will have to go through the Mets, Cardinals, Yankees and, finally, those deadly Diamondbacks again.

The problem is they’re all slug. Milwaukee’s 185 home runs are third in baseball, yet the team’s .316 on-base percentage is 15th. The Braves are the only contender that strikes out more often. The lineup doesn’t have stars as much as it has a couple fading ones to go alongside a solid if unremarkable core. The pitching has been good, but not as scary as a year ago, and that team got pasted by Atlanta in the postseason. These Brewers aren’t a bad team by any stretch, but they just don’t seem very intimidating anymore.

15. Minnesota Twins

Record: 68-64
Last Power Ranking: 15

The AL Central title race, it’s literally all three baseball-loving midwestern cities have; but is it any good?

The Twins are a contender in this race, but not because they have healthy starting pitching, anything resembling a full version of the lineup that was one of the league’s best for much of the year, or a reliable bullpen. They contend because of contention itself.

That final line is where summing up the Twins in the cadence of the opening sequence of the TV show “Review” really falls apart. Because of that, I give myself, and the Twins, two and a half stars.

16. Chicago White Sox

Record: 67-67
Last Power Ranking: 16

The neverending commitment for the White Sox season to be as weird as possible took a somber turn as Tony La Russa went on indefinite leave for health issues. And then they made it even weirder by responding to it by playing their best baseball of the season and suddenly launching home runs like they were expected to all year.

With Dylan Cease nearly throwing a no-hitter amid a 13-0 romp over the rival Twins, Saturday night might have been the best moment of an otherwise cursed Sox season to date. Frankly, it’s a little awkward! But it just wouldn’t be true to this White Sox season if things weren’t somewhat uncomfortable.

(Maddie Malhotra / Boston Red Sox / Getty Images)

17. Boston Red Sox

Record: 67-68
Last Power Ranking: 18

If Ken Rosenthal did a deep dive on my progress in cleaning out space so my wife’s new closet could be installed, he probably wouldn’t write anything I didn’t already know, but to see the lack of meaningful progress laid out in such painstaking detail would be agonizing. In that vein, he just examined whether the Red Sox have made meaningful progress toward their long-term goals this season, and it’s one of those “… if you have to ask” situations.

One of their controversial moves was dealing catcher Christian Vázquez at the deadline when a late-season rally for a playoff spot seemed a bit more plausible. Now September figures to serve as an audition for potential replacements, both for catchers and for people who might throw to those catchers in the later innings. In fact, it’s just a good time to wonder who’s coming to future Red Sox teams in general, because the present is, uh …

18. San Francisco Giants

Record: 64-68
Last Power Ranking: 17

Welcome to September in San Francisco, where even after a sweep of the Phillies, we seem to have moved past the hold-out-hope phase and into “let’s cut this sucker open and figure out what killed it.” Scrub in, grab a scalpel and dissect the front office’s decisions and the rotation and the rest of the roster. Don’t forget to examine the few organs that aren’t diseased. They can tell you something, too.

Is it weird to do this while the patient is still technically alive? Maybe, but give me a break, I’m not a metaphor scientist. At any rate, perhaps San Francisco can distract itself from the pain by using September as a testing ground for new methods and ideas rather than trying to cling pointlessly to life.

19. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 64-69
Last Power Ranking: 19

Watch out, the Diamondbacks are rolling.

Arizona has won eight of its last 10, all of them against playoff hopefuls. Top prospect Corbin Carroll is in the majors. Manager Torey Lovullo is locked in for another season at the helm. The Diamondbacks may wind up with two starters garnering Cy Young votes in Merrill Kelly (2.84 ERA) and Zac Gallen (2.42). Gallen hasn’t allowed a run in more than a month, a span of 41 1/3 innings.

Eyes are on the future, sure, but don’t sleep on the present. The team with the worst record in baseball last year might screw around and reach .500 by season’s end.

20. Texas Rangers

Record: 58-75
Last Power Ranking: 20

Have the Rangers taken the meaningful step forward that they sought this year? Is a positive run differential hampered by a surely flukey awful record in one-run games evidence of structural gains? Or is losing a lot of baseball games evidence of a bad baseball team?

They opted on the side of firing everyone just to be safe. And now judging the final month comes with the caveat that this team could be set for continuing changes this offseason.

21. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 58-76
Last Power Ranking: 23

The Angels are tired of being exclusively known as merely an inefficient Mike Trout-Shohei Ohtani delivery system. Could an inefficient Mike Trout-Shohei Ohtani delivery system develop credible organizational catching depth? Could an inefficient Mike Trout-Shohei Ohtani delivery system have some random team-wide good offensive weeks? Could an inefficient Mike Trout-Shohei Ohtani delivery system sell said system to the highest bidder and have them overhaul the system into something entirely different with greater ambition, just in time for Ohtani to possible leave town to play for something that is not an inefficient Shohei Ohtani delivery system?

That’s right. I thought not.

22. Chicago Cubs

Record: 56-78
Last Power Ranking: 21

Forget WAR and wRC+. Take Outs Above Average and all the fancy expected stats, douse them in kerosene and cook s’mores in the heat of their burning carcasses. We now recognize only one advanced stat: The Jib Index.

What’s that? Why, “the cut of his jib,” says Cubs manager David Ross.

That’s from an interesting story on the role of the modern manager that I recommend you read. You can also read about how the Cubs will hunt for some power this winter, although color me a bit skeptical about Chicago’s intended contention timeline. Are they really going to throw a lot of money around this offseason, and will it really vault them back into the postseason? And while the farm system is better, is it really producing impactful minor-league talent like, say, the Guardians’ or the Orioles’ systems are?

I am not convinced. Jib Index: low.

23. Miami Marlins

Record: 55-78
Last Power Ranking: 22

On July 13 and 14, the Marlins won consecutive games in walk-off fashion to improve to 43-45. Since then, they have gone 12-33. Sandy Alcantara is going to win the Cy Young this year. Nobody — perhaps not even the Marlins — will remember anything about 2022 other than that.

The MLB Power Rankings will be back next week with more depressing blubs about the Marlins.

24. Colorado Rockies

Record: 57-78
Last Power Ranking: 24

On Sunday, the Rockies split a getaway doubleheader with the Reds, truly testing the average baseball fan’s appetite for the game. The rest of the way, they’ll face only one team — the Cubs — that currently owns a worse record than their own. If you thought things were ugly now, buckle up. It might get so bad that the team’s decision-makers decide to stay the course, lock up as many players to long-term deals as possible and maybe throw oodles of ill-advised money at a suspect free agent in the winter.

I cannot wait to see the contract they give, like, Wilmer Flores.

25. Kansas City Royals

Record: 55-80
Last Power Ranking: 26

A sixth-straight losing season and a campaign that is markedly a step back from the previous two rebuilding campaigns is definitely not what the Royals had in mind for this season, but it’s probably around or in the neighborhood of what we all anticipated. Buried in an AL Central that is generally understood to be some degree of annually underwhelming, the Royals have not provided a specific reason to check in on whether they’re playing better or worse than the Tigers at any particular point in time. While Bobby Witt Jr. and the graduation of some other prospects raised the question, the answer remains “not yet.”

26. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 53-79
Last Power Ranking: 25

I covered the last Reds rebuild when I was at the Cincinnati Enquirer. It had two similarities to this one: Joey Votto considering his and the team’s future, and a farm system on which the organization was banking.

The last rebuild didn’t go so well, producing little in major-league value beyond Hunter Greene. The current one seems more promising. This time, the Reds seem to have done well in their sell-off trades, with Spencer Steer already contributing in the majors. Conversely, it seems unlikely that Votto will be around to help the Reds return to the promised land of the playoffs. If only he could play until they did.

Actually, I think I saw another U.N. decree around here somewhere…

27. Detroit Tigers

Record: 51-83
Last Power Ranking: 27

It’s an exceedingly rough time! It was fun seeing Miguel Cabrera collect his 3,000th hit and have his illustrious career be honored at the All-Star Game, but most of the season has been actual physical agony. And that he hasn’t been hurt is the only reason that the Tigers’ first baseman of the future’s season has been any better.

A Tigers season this relentlessly disappointing, frustrating and executive-eviscerating prompts an important question for our Cody Stavenhagen to dive into: what did the nerds know and when did they know it?

28. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 49-84
Last Power Ranking: 28

The Pirates have won only two of their last 14 games, a truly embarrassing product to put on the field nightly, but there was owner Bob Nutting ducking questions about his baseball team at the unveiling of the Pirates Hall of Fame.

“I think today is a day to celebrate the hall of fame,” Nutting said. “I really don’t want to have anything that distracts from that or takes us away from that.”

That’d be fine, except for one thing: That was the first time he’d spoken to reporters in almost three years, last answering questions when general manager Ben Cherington was hired. There are cicadas that surface more frequently.

And rest assured, Bob. The Pirates are hardly distracting from anything these days.

29. Oakland Athletics

Record: 50-85
Last Power Ranking: 29

After missing the playoffs but being pretty credibly good all of last season and the last few years, the A’s let every crucial free agent walk and traded every veteran player of consequential value.

In a strange turn of events, they’re one of the worst teams in baseball now. Ideally, a private investigator would be tasked with tracking down how this came to be, but from my understanding, that would be beyond the budget the front office has received from ownership.

30. Washington Nationals

Record: 47-87
Last Power Ranking: 30

In 2009 and 2010, the Nationals had the top pick in back-to-back drafts. They selected Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, changing the franchise’s trajectory and vaulting the Nationals into a perennial playoff team just a few years later. You’d think a chance to repeat that history would be a silver lining of these Nats potentially finishing with the worst record in the game.

Nope! Next year will be the first with a draft lottery under the new collective bargaining agreement. The worst three finishers each receive only a 16.5-percent shot at the No. 1 pick, with no distinct advantage for finishing 30th out of 30. It’s going to be hilarious — and, for Nationals fans, quite sad — when, against the odds, the top selection goes to the Marlins instead.

(Top photo of Miami’s Garrett Cooper: Brett Davis / Getty Images)

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