MLB Playoff Watch: What Dodgers, Astros, Braves should repair earlier than October

By Rowan Kavner
FOX Sports activities MLB Author

Even the perfect groups in baseball aren’t flawless. 

In order the playoff race heats up, right here’s one query for each contender.

Observe: The checklist beneath consists of each staff inside 5 video games of a playoff spot. Data and stats via play Sept. 6.

Los Angeles Dodgers (93-42, first in NL West): Who’s closing video games in October? 

Craig Kimbrel has served because the Dodgers’ nearer all 12 months. Whether or not that continues in October will largely be primarily based on his efficiency the remainder of September. Dave Roberts has expressed religion in Kimbrel and stated he believes the Dodgers are at their finest when he’s in that function, however the Dodgers’ supervisor has additionally intimated that the chance to shut video games will likely be primarily based on outcomes. 

The Dodgers have demonstrated a willingness to modify issues up on the again finish (and entrance finish) of video games when the schedule turns to October. Final 12 months, Kenley Jansen and Max Scherzer each recorded playoff saves. In 2020, it was Julio Urías ending off the Nationwide League Championship Collection and World Collection. There’s nonetheless time for Kimbrel to get again on monitor and retain the first nearer function — he has thrown three straight clear outings to start September, and issues have bizarrely trended in the fitting course since he started walking out to “Let It Go” on Aug. 21 — but it surely is likely one of the areas value monitoring for a staff rocketing towards a franchise wins report.

Atlanta Braves (85-51, T-first in NL East): Is that this a blip or a pattern for Kenley Jansen? 

Whereas the Dodgers work out who will likely be saving video games in October, their former nearer goes via his personal trials. Jansen is tied for the major-league lead in saves, however his ERA has not too long ago escalated to three.68 — his highest mark within the second half. 

Jansen was engaged on seven straight scoreless outings when issues all of the sudden collapsed on him Aug. 27 in St. Louis. He walked within the successful run that night time, absorbing his first lack of the 12 months within the course of, and has but to totally regain his kind. He allowed two extra runs in his subsequent outing, threw a clear inning Sept. 1, suffered one other blown save Sept. 3 after which threw a clear inning Tuesday. 

The Braves stay one of many hottest groups in baseball, and a savvy addition of reliever Raisel Iglesias proper earlier than the deadline provides them extra choices ought to Jansen not rebound, but it surely’s a harmful time for a better to stumble.

New York Mets and Atlanta Braves warmth up the NL East

New York Mets and Atlanta Braves heat up the NL East

Ben Verlander and Alex Curry have a look at the New York Mets, the Atlanta Braves and the NL East. Which staff will win the division?

New York Mets (85-51, T-first in NL East): Can they muster sufficient offense for a deep October run?

The Braves’ opponents for the NL East crown don’t slug the identical means they do. The Mets rank sixteenth in residence runs general and are twelfth in runs scored within the season’s second half. They mustered only one run apiece of their closing two video games in opposition to the Nationals, then scored two runs in a loss to the Pirates to drop right into a tie with Atlanta atop the division. 

Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor can mash, however the Mets lack the breadth of energy threats possessed by different prime NL contenders. And if that duo goes chilly, the shortage of thump within the Mets’ lineup turns into pronounced. Daniel Vogelbach was alleged to assist in that regard and loved a scorching begin in New York, however he has two homers in his previous 25 video games. 

House runs matter within the postseason — the World Collection winner has ranked a minimum of within the prime half in baseball in homers every of the previous six years — so at this price, the Mets, who hit for common and get on base, should defy the percentages. A rotation that features Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer and Chris Bassitt will help masks different deficiencies.

St. Louis Cardinals (80-56, first in NL Central): Have they got sufficient arms?

This is applicable to each the starters and the bullpen. Ryan Helsley and Giovanny Gallegos make for a terrific 1-2 punch on the again finish of video games, and deadline acquisitions Jordan Montgomery and Jose Quintana have offered a big and crucial enhance to the rotation. However is it sufficient?

St. Louis has received 30 of its previous 42 video games, regardless of rating fifteenth within the majors in WHIP (1.25) and opponents’ batting common (.245) and twenty second in strikeout-to-walk ratio (2.43). In some methods, the Cardinals are the alternative of the Mets. They boast the perfect offense in baseball within the season’s second half, however pitching is the clear problem right here. A wholesome Jack Flaherty may considerably impression the best way this employees seems to be.

Philadelphia Phillies (74-61, third in NL East): Have they got sufficient (wholesome) arms? 

It is a twist on the St. Louis query. In Philadelphia, the considerations are principally about well being and the bullpen. Phillies relievers are tied for nineteenth on the season in ERA (4.11) and rank twenty fourth in WHIP (1.37). The transfer for nearer David Robertson has helped, however the bullpen continues to be 3-5 with a 4.30 ERA because the deadline. Corey Knebel, who leads the Phillies in saves, is unlikely to pitch once more this season. Seranthony Dominguez, who has the second-most saves on the membership, hasn’t pitched since Aug. 17.

The accidents proceed within the rotation. Ace Zack Wheeler has been out since Aug. 21 (tendinitis). Wheeler and Dominguez (triceps tendinitis) are anticipated to return down the stretch, and Zach Eflin (knee soreness) may return in time to a minimum of help the bullpen. However time is operating out for the Phillies, who need to get wholesome whereas clinging to a wild-card spot. They’ve allowed a mean of eight runs per sport their previous seven video games. 

San Diego Padres (75-62, second in NL West): Is there sufficient offense?

The Cardinals addressed their pitching deficiencies on the deadline, and now issues are trending in the fitting course in St. Louis. The Padres addressed their offensive deficiencies on the deadline, making the grandest transfer(s) by bringing Juan Soto, Josh Bell and Brandon Drury to San Diego, however comparable manufacturing hasn’t adopted. 

The Padres’ .701 OPS since Aug. 3 ranks sixteenth within the majors. Their offensive output has been largely the identical because it was earlier than the strikes. Bell is slashing .189/.318/.306 in San Diego, whereas Drury’s at .220/.262/.410. Manny Machado and Soto are superstars able to carrying an offense, however they’re additionally the one two Padres with an OPS over .750 with the staff. That might want to change for this squad to make a run in October.

Milwaukee Brewers (71-64, second in NL Central): Have they got the pop or aid to save lots of their season? 

The questions start with an offense that hit .220 as a bunch in August. The Brewers did nothing on the deadline to create extra offense, a curious determination that has contributed to their dropping report since then and the Cardinals’ taking a commanding lead within the division. Milwaukee is slashing .218/.304/.380 because the deadline, posting a .684 OPS that leads solely the Marlins within the Nationwide League. 

Hunter Renfroe, Rowdy Tellez and Willy Adames have every blasted a minimum of 25 homers this 12 months, however the staff’s general subpar batting common and on-base proportion have been troublesome to beat. Mix that with a bullpen that has extra blown saves (9) than saves (eight) because the deadline, and it’s clear there are extra questions than solutions proper now in Milwaukee.

MLB Energy Rankings: Astros, Dodgers, Mets present no indicators of slowing down

MLB Power Rankings: Astros, Dodgers, Mets show no signs of slowing down

Ben Verlander provides his newest MLB Energy Rankings, with the Dodgers, Astros and Mets holding agency on the prime of the checklist.

Houston Astros (87-49, first in AL West): Have they got the lineup depth to go all the best way?

As is the case with the Dodgers, any Astros questions must be taken with a grain of salt. They’re the clear-cut favorites within the American League and one of the full groups in baseball. They lead the AL in each starter and reliever ERA, however their offense hasn’t been fairly as overpowering as their pitching (which has taken current hits with Cy Younger favourite Justin Verlander and nearer Ryan Pressly happening the injured checklist).

Alex Bregman has been one of many hottest hitters on the planet the second half of the season, Yordan Alvarez and Jose Altuve every maintain an OPS over .900, and Kyle Tucker has mashed 23 homers with 86 RBIs. However after that, issues get much less sure. Michael Brantley’s out for the 12 months. Beginning first baseman Yuli Gurriel and shortstop Jeremy Pena every have a sub-.600 OPS within the second half — Gurriel hasn’t homered since July 1 — whereas catching acquisition Christian Vazquez hasn’t homered since becoming a member of Houston. General, Astros catchers are slashing .178/.243/.299 this season. 

New York Yankees (81-54, first in AL East): Can somebody past Aaron Choose get the offense going?

The Yankees are slashing .221/.300/.374 because the All-Star break. They maintain the bottom OPS (.611) within the AL because the deadline, which is very troublesome to do when Choose has blasted 22 extra residence runs than the following AL participant. It’s an alarming pattern for a staff that has dropped 20 of its previous 32 video games.

Well being can also be not on New York’s facet. As Choose’s historic season continues, the one different Yankees with an OPS over .700 because the All-Star break — Anthony Rizzo (migraines), Andrew Benintendi (wrist) and Matt Carpenter (foot) — are all both on the injured checklist or heading there shortly. All of a sudden, the Rays and Blue Jays are on the Yankees’ heels, which appeared nearly not possible when New York jumped to a 70-34 report.

Yankees and Rays warmth up the AL East

Yankees and Rays heat up the AL East

Ben Verlander and Alex Curry break down the AL East battle between the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays. Which staff will win the division?

Cleveland Guardians (70-64, first in AL Central): After Jose Ramirez and Andres Gimenez, who steps up offensively?

In a four-game span from Aug. 31 to Sept. 3, the Guardians mustered a complete of 1 run. That stretch got here shortly after the Mariners shut them out in Seattle. Led by Emmanuel Clase and James Karinchak, Cleveland’s bullpen has been almost untouchable within the season’s second half — Guardians relievers have a 1.97 ERA because the All-Star break; no different group is underneath 2.50 — however holding on within the Central will likely be troublesome with out extra pop.

As a staff, the Guardians rank twenty seventh in slugging proportion because the All-Star break. In addition they rank twenty seventh in residence runs in August and have only one via their first six video games of September. That homer got here off the bat of Josh Naylor. Maybe Naylor or Rookie of the 12 months contender Steven Kwan will help Ramirez (.280/.351/.531) and Gimenez (.303/.371/.483) present the offense crucial to carry off the remainder of the AL Central.

Tampa Bay Rays (76-58, second in AL East): Is there sufficient pop for the nice instances to proceed?

The surging Rays are making the East attention-grabbing down the stretch, one thing that didn’t appear attainable just a few weeks in the past. Tampa Bay went 18-9 in August and has began September 4-1. It’s largely due to a pitching employees that holds a 3.06 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and major-league-best 4.23 strikeout-to-walk ratio within the second half. It’s not as a result of the Rays are constantly tearing the duvet off the ball.

In actual fact, the Rays have posted a .696 OPS on the 12 months, which ranks twenty first within the majors. They’ve nonetheless managed to attain runs in a wide range of methods. Randy Arozarena is enjoying like a star within the second half, and Yandy Díaz has a .349/.423/.547 slash line over his previous 23 video games. Pickups David Peralta and Jose Siri have each seemed like stable acquisitions. Getting and retaining Wander Franco and Brandon Lowe wholesome would go a good distance towards finishing this lineup.

Seattle Mariners (77-59, second in AL West): Will they hit sufficient to again up their rotation?

The Mariners have boasted arguably the highest rotation in baseball because the commerce deadline. Their starters are 16-5 with a 2.89 ERA since Aug. 3, main the best way for a Seattle staff at the moment in prime place to make the postseason for the primary time since 2001, regardless of an offense lagging behind. 

They will thump — the Mariners’ 55 homers within the second half rank fifth within the majors — but as a staff, they’re slashing simply .216/.300/.375 within the second half, rating twenty eighth, twenty fifth and twenty fourth within the three slash-line classes. Rookie of the 12 months hopeful Julio Rodriguez is a sensation, Cal Raleigh and Eugenio Suarez are mashing homers frequently, and Ty France must be getting his due, however the Mariners rank towards the underside half of the league in scoring. They’ll need to hit sufficient to again up that formidable rotation.

Toronto Blue Jays (75-60, third in AL East): Who’re they, precisely? 

It appears bizarre to be asking this query on Sept. 7, however what a wacky season this has been for an extremely gifted group in Toronto. The Blue Jays fired Charlie Montoyo with a 46-42 report (.523) and employed John Schneider, whose 29-18 (.617) tenure might be damaged down into sections.

The Blue Jays began the second half 8-2, then went 3-9 over the following 12 video games. They adopted by going 7-1 within the following eight video games, then bought swept in Anaheim. They’ve six All-Stars, but they’re clinging to the ultimate wild-card spot. They’ve scored the fifth-most runs in baseball and have 4 gamers with an OPS over .800 within the second half, however they posted a .688 OPS as a bunch in August. 

They’ve an All-Star starter in Alek Manoah, an All-Star nearer in Jordan Romano and one other ace in Kevin Gausman, but a bunch of pitchers have did not both keep wholesome or meet expectations. The query with this staff is about consistency and id as a result of there’s little doubting the standard of the gamers.

Orioles rookies offering a spark

Orioles rookies providing a spark

Ben Verlander and Melanie Newman discuss in regards to the impression of rookies Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson on the 2022 Orioles.

Baltimore Orioles (72-64, fourth in AL East): Is there sufficient magic for the experience to proceed?

Even now, with the staff 3.5 video games out of a playoff spot, FanGraphs provides the Orioles a 4.9% likelihood of creating the playoffs. It is troublesome to imagine what the eyes are seeing, however this resilient Baltimore membership doesn’t appear to care. The Orioles aren’t trotting out the identical household-name beginning pitchers as most of their AL East rivals, however Kyle Bradish, Austin Voth, Dean Kremer and Jordan Lyles are getting the job achieved.

The pitching as a complete has been about common. The hitting — the Orioles have a 99 wRC+ as a staff — has been round common, too. Collectively, although, magic has ensued. The Orioles traded nearer Jorge Lopez on the deadline, and Felix Bautista is 10-for-10 in saves after the All-Star break. They dealt Trey Mancini to the Astros, and rookies Adley Rutschman and Gunnar Henderson have helped enhance the offense. A comparatively powerful schedule is forward the remainder of the best way, but it surely’s fairly late within the 12 months to nonetheless be doubting this enthralling group.

Rowan Kavner covers the Dodgers and NL West for FOX Sports activities. He beforehand was the Dodgers’ editor of digital and print publications. Observe him on Twitter at @RowanKavner.

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