Every week, the PL team publishes an update to our power rankings, reviewing the biggest risers and fallers of the past seven days. As always, you can skip to the full rankings at the bottom of this article…but where’s the fun in that?
The 2022 MLB season is officially three-quarters of the way done. Some playoff contenders that fell victim to the Dog Day doldrums are snapping out of their funks, while others are letting their playoff hopes slip away one game at a time.
The Yankees, causers of much angst and hair pulling (or at least hair trimming) with their poor play in August, swept a formidable Mets team in the two-game Subway Series behind strong starts from Domingo Germán and Frankie Montas. They’ll use that morale boost and favorable matchups against the A’s and Angels to get themselves looking like World Series favorites again.
San Diego, Milwaukee, and San Francisco haven’t given their fans the same kind of reprieve. All three are dropping games and providing Philadelphia and Atlanta a chance to open up a meaningful gap in the NL Wild Card race. They’re past the point where they can use the trade deadline as an excuse for their performance or drop games to inferior opposition. If they want a chance at the postseason, they have to kick it into gear.
However, none of those teams earned recognition as this week’s top riser or faller. Instead, we have two AL teams: one that’s getting healthy and hot at the right time and another that’s hitting a skid at the wrong time.
On the Rise
The Tampa Bay Rays
Rank Change: +3 (eleven to eight)
Opponents Since Last Ranking: Royals (three games), Angels (four games)
Per Spotrac, the Rays have the fifth-most players who have spent time on the IL of any team in the majors. The only teams that have incurred more injuries are the Cubs, Pirates, Reds, and Twins. Three of those four are well below .500, and there’s more on the fourth in the “In a Slide” section below. The Rays, on the other hand, have a top-ten record in the league, have won 15 of 22 games in August, and hold pole position in the AL Wild Card race.
They feature a strong front three of Shane McClanahan, Jeffrey Springs, and Drew Rasmussen in their starting rotation. McClanahan is an AL Cy Young Award contender who sports a 2.20 ERA and 0.86 WHIP through 24 starts. Their starters are complemented by a top-ten relief corps that manager Kevin Cash utilizes creatively to exploit matchups, support the back end of the rotation, and patch over injury gaps.
Offensively, DH Harold Ramírez is having the best season of his career with a 144 wRC+ and five home runs through 270 plate appearances. Third baseman Yandy Díaz and outfielder Randy Arozarena have been the rocks of the lineup, hitting consistently well as other regular starters around them fell victim to the injury bug. Now, Manuel Margot and Brandon Lowe are healthy and back in the lineup regularly — just in time for the playoff push.
They have a challenging schedule moving forward that includes series against the Yankees, Astros, and Blue Jays, but if any team can navigate its way through that forest and still find a way to make a splash in the postseason, it’s the Rays.
In a Slide
The Minnesota Twins
Rank Change: -2 (14 to 16)
Opponents Since Last Ranking: Rangers (three games), Astros (three games)
As challenging as the Rays’ injury woes have been, they’ve been surpassed by the unfortunate Twins. Minnesota’s struggles provide useful context for how impressive Tampa Bay’s depth and accomplishments really are. The Twins’ recent record is a better reflection of what any non-Rays organization’s results would be if they lost 28+ players to the injured list in a single season.
After jumping out with a strong start to the season, they hold a losing record through June, July, and August and ceded first place in the division to the Guardians. With key contributors like Byron Buxton, Miguel Sanó and newly acquired starter Tyler Mahle all hitting the IL in the past month, they’ve lost six games in a row and ten of their last fifteen.
The key difference between the Rays’ experience and the Twins’ is that the front three of Tampa Bay’s starting rotation have remained healthy. Beyond having incredible positional depth and a savvy manager, Tampa Bay has been able to weather the storm largely because of the edge they get from McClanahan, Springs and Rasmussen.
The Twins have not had that luxury, as many of their starters lost time to injury throughout the season. That has led to inconsistency in their rotation and overuse of their bullpen as a result. This team, unlike the Rays, was not built with bullpen games in mind at the beginning of the season. They had been counting on a group of starters that included Kenta Maeda and Bailey Ober to give them length. Both those players are on the IL.
They still have a legitimate shot at the postseason thanks to the weakness of their division and the expansion of the playoff spots, but they’ll need hot bats and a lot of long outings from Dylan Bundy, Sonny Gray, and Joe Ryan to earn their spot.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)
Just a quick comment…..it’s a little hard to see the Jays drop one spot in the ranking after taking three out of four from the Yanks and sweeping the Red Sox…think that needs a solid rethink….6-1 over their last 7…..they should be moving up not down.