|Atlanta Braves fans rooting on the NL's top-ranked team|
Pennant races. Heated divisional rivalry battles. Wild wildcard scenarios. And another MLB Power Ranking released.
The defending World Series champion Houston Astros were either alone or tied at the top of my Power Rankings as summer was opening at the start of July, again at the MLB All-Star Game break, and then also in mid-August.
Now the Astros are back alone on top. How did they earn that distinction? Houston enjoys the top pitching staff in baseball. They are tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks as MLB's top defensive team. They are fourth in all of baseball in runs scored.
Sitting at 30 games above the .500 mark on Labor Day, Houston has been pushed this summer by the incredible run that the division rival Oakland Athletics have been on since the middle of June.
The A's woke up on the morning of Saturday, June 16 in the midst of a four-game losing streak. The club had dropped 11 of its previous 18 games. They had sunk to fourth place in the AL West, 11.5 games off the lead. Their season looked essentially over.
Oakland defeated the division-rival Los Angeles Angels that night, and then walked-off the Halos on Sunday afternoon to get back to the .500 mark.
It was the beginning of an amazing turnabout, one that saw Oakland go 48-20 over the summer months to build a 5.5 game lead in the AL Wildcard race. The A's also now trail the Astros by just three games in the loss column in the AL West Division standings.
The Cleveland Indians have run away with the American League Central Division race. Terry Francona's Tribe, losers of a heartbreaking seven-game World Series just two years ago, will be back in the postseason once again trying to end the franchise' now 70-year championship drought.
In the AL East, the Boston Red Sox have built a comfortable seven-game lead on the arch-rival New York Yankees. The Yanks, with baseball's second-best overall record and now third in the power rankings appear headed towards a one-game Wildcard showdown for their season.
The Seattle Mariners are five games behind Oakland in the loss column and the Tampa Bay Rays are seven back. Those are the only teams even remotely capable of a push towards the AL's second Wildcard playoff berth.
In the National League, things appear far more interesting. The Atlanta Braves lead the Philadelphia Phillies by four games in the NL East. The Chicago Cubs hold a six-game edge on both Milwaukee and Saint Louis in the NL Central.
New this month in the senior circuit? Those Braves have risen to become the top-ranked team in the National League for the first time this season. With a young, talented ball club, Atlanta promises to be a contender for years to come.
In the NL West, the Los Angeles Dodgers have taken the lead, but are tied with the Colorado Rockies in the loss column. The Dbacks sit just a game behind those two in what looks for all the world like a three-horse race down to the wire.
The National League Wildcard picture is, well, wild. The Brewers and Cardinals currently hold the two available playoff spots. But the Rockies are just a game back, with the Dbacks and Phillies just two and three games back respectively.
My formula for compiling the MLB Power Ranking remains unchanged. I researched each of the 30 MLB teams current position in the four categories of winning percentage, runs scored, pitching OPS, and fielding percentage. I then assigned each of those rankings a 1-30 value and added them up to determine an overall score.
The current MLB Power Ranking on Labor Day are presented here, with each team's previous rank from July 1, the MLB All-Star break in mid-July, and then the middle of August from L-R in parentheses:
1. Houston Astros (1-1-1T)
2. Boston Red Sox (2-2-1T)
3. New York Yankees (5-3-3)
4. Atlanta Braves (4-4-6)
5. Cleveland Indians (12T-10-4T)
6. Oakland Athletics (15-11-7)
6. Chicago Cubs (7-5-8)
8. Arizona Diamondbacks (3-7-4T)
9. Washington Nationals (8-13-11)
10. Los Angeles Dodgers (9-6-9T)
11. Colorado Rockies (12T-9-9T)
12. Tampa Bay Rays (14-15-16)
13. Saint Louis Cardinals (23T-18T-15)
14. Milwaukee Brewers (9T-8-14)
15. Los Angeles Angels (6-14-12)
16. Seattle Mariners (11-12-13)
17. San Francisco Giants (22-20-18T)
18. Philadelphia Phillies (23T-16-17)
18. Cincinnati Reds (17-21-21)
20. Pittsburgh Pirates (18-18T-20)
20. Minnesota Twins (16-17-18T)
20. New York Mets (27T-24-26)
23. Toronto Blue Jays (19T-25-24)
24. Texas Rangers (19T-26-22)
24. Detroit Tigers (19T-22-23)
26. Miami Marlins (26-23-25)
27. Kansas City Royals (27T-27T-27)
28. Chicago White Sox (30-30-29T)
29. San Diego Padres (25-27T-28)
30. Baltimore Orioles (29-29-29T)
The next MLB Power Ranking will be released in mid-September as teams prepare for the final two weeks of the regular season in the middle of the stretch run. There will also be one final ranking at the conclusion of the MLB regular season.