Unlike the previous couple weeks, everyone has seemed to cool off a little bit. No contender has won more than 7 out of 10 and the races in the entire AL, as well as the NL Central are ever changing. Here are you top 10 for week 21:
#1 Atlanta Braves
Despite the Braves struggles since Jason Heyward went down with a broken jaw, they still have the League’s most balanced pitching staff, easiest remaining schedule, and best record in baseball. By the way: The Braves can’t afford to put it on cruise control. They need home field advantage more than anyone in the NL.
#2 Detroit Tigers
The Tigers are playing their most balanced baseball of the season and are showing why so many people picked them to represent the AL in the World Series. There is still a long way to go, but if the Tigers don’t gain home field throughout the playoffs I would be surprised. By the way: Cabrera is hitting 36 points higher, with 10 more HR, and 22 more RBI than he was last year during his triple crown run.
#3 Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers keep winning and Clayton Kershaw keeps on dominating. As long as they stay healthy, the Dodgers have to be considered the favorite to finish the year with the best record in baseball. They are hot, healthy, and in a weak division. By the way: In his last 52 games, Puig has just 13 RBI and has seen his average drop 100 points.
#4 St Louis Cardinals
Much like the rest of the NL Central, its pretty much now or never for the Cardinals, as their next 13 games are against the Pirates and Reds. The good news for the Cardinals though, is that they are hotter than the Pirates and Reds and are fully healthy on offense. By the way: The Cardinals have 5 guys who are hitting .280 or better with 60+ RBI.
#5 Boston Red Sox
Taking 2 out of 3 from the red hot Dodgers on the road was a huge statement by the 1st place Red Sox. More importantly though, Jon Lester looked like the Lester of old and threw a gem on Saturday. The Red Sox will need him to continue that the rest of the year if they want to keep their division lead. By the way: Before the season started, would anyone have predicted this offense leading the league in runs this late in the year??
#6 Pittsburgh Pirates
I have had a hard time buying into the Pirates as a division winner all year and that fact remains the same. I know the pitching has been good, but the bullpen could very well start wearing down and the offense is still hard to watch at times. By the way: Losing Marte, arguably their second best offensive player for any period of time is a really bad break for the Pirates.
#7 Tampa Bay Rays
As long as the rotation stays healthy, it would be extremely surprising if the Rays weren’t in the division race for the rest of the year. They still lead the Wild card by 2.5 games, trail the Sox by just a game, and still have 3 home games against Boston. By the way: Longoria is starting to get hot, while hitting 6 HR in his last 10 games.
#8 Texas Rangers
Despite ranking only 23rd in quality starts, the Rangers are 9th in team ERA and lead the AL West by 2.5 games. Somehow the Rangers have flown under the radar for the entire year. The rotation is worrisome behind Darvish and Holland, but the Rangers have found a way to make it work so far, so it’s hard to bet against them. By the way: People would notice that Adrian Beltre is putting up huge numbers if he wasn’t in the same league as Davis and Cabrera.
#9 Oakland Athletics
The A’s are just 16-18 since the All Star break, but are still just 2.5 games out in the AL West and hold the 2nd wild card spot. I keep waiting for the A’s to get hot and go on one of their winning streaks we’ve become accustomed to seeing, but it hasn’t come yet. By the way: If the A’s are going to win the West it is going to be because of their starting rotation; much deeper in that regard.
#10 Cincinnati Reds
The Reds have been in 3rd place for what seems like forever, but they have kept themselves within striking distance in the Central, which they trail by just 2.5 games. For baseball’s sake, I hope the Reds get hot and keep this thing a 3 team race. By the way: Joey Votto has more walks than Phillips, Bruce, and Cozart combined.
P.S. It was really good to see Roy Halladay back in the win column on Sunday.
Tell me how wrong I am on twitter @Cole_Stevenson