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, the full rankings can be found at the bottom of this article…but where’s the fun in that.
While there remains more than enough time for things to get muddled, there certainly seems some separation emerging between a few tiers of teams. At the top are the playoff locks who have been dominant for most or all of the year. Following them are the teams in the Wild Card hunt, all of whom seem to be turning the jets on for the final push. Seriously, the Mariners, Rays, Padres, Phillies, and Orioles all went 7-3 or better over their last 10. Next, we’ve got a group of should-be contenders who, after disappointing seasons, are continuing to slip.
The baseball world will spend most of the next month discussing those teams. But as the top half of the league stays fairly consistent in this week’s rankings, I’m going to focus for a bit on the bottom of the ladder.
Los Angeles Angels – #20 (57-74, +3):
The Angels have had a challenging season. After ending April at 14-8, it seemed that they were finally due to capitalize on their overwhelming talent and make the postseason for the first time in years. Even on May 15th, they had an 81% chance, per FanGraphs, of making the postseason. Instead, they fell off the face of the Earth, at one point losing 14-straight games in a stretch that cost manager Joe Maddon his job. Despite having mostly-healthy seasons of both Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, the Halos will miss the playoffs yet again.
With that dismal summary out of the way, the team is actually playing pretty well right now. They earned their +3 jump in the rankings due to a nice six-game stretch that saw them sweep the Blue Jays and take two of three from the Yankees.
It feels like a good representation of what this Angels season could’ve been. They outscored two of the best teams in the American League 33 to 15 over only six games. On the bump, they pitched more than serviceably. Ohtani tossed an expectedly dominant seven shutout innings against the Toronto offense, rookie Reid Detmers continued his strong stretch, and Patrick Sandoval turned in an excellent 17-whiff showing against the Yankees. They closed out games reliably (even if it was Jimmy Herget and not Raisel Iglesias actually doing it).
But at the plate, they mashed. Shohei led the way with an outlandish .391/.462/.913 line that included his historic 30th home run of the year. Trout was excellent if not Trout-ian with two home runs and and an .850 OPS. Jo Adell showed way he was a top-of-the-class prospect with a .927 OPS.
Obviously, there’s a healthy dose of cherry-picking going on in the exercise of highlighting a 57-74 team. The true morale of the story is that despite getting another MVP-caliber performance out of Ohtani, continued production amid an IL stint from Trout, an out-of-nowhere breakout campaign from Taylor Ward, and good seasons from Luis Rengifo, Sandoval, Herget, and others, the Angels are nowhere near contention. That’s devastating.
What’s worse is their window may be closing. Ohtani is a free agent after the 2023 season, and there was plenty of speculation throughout this year that he could get traded at the deadline. That didn’t end up occurring, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the offseason (the Mookie Betts blockbuster was in February). Sooner or later, Ohtani will end up on a playoff-bound team. Let’s hope that Trout and his megacontract in Los Angeles have that same opportunity.
Miami Marlins – #24 (55-75, -3):
The Marlins fall three spots in our power rankings as they wrap up a disastrous August in which they went just 8-20. Their solid first-half, in which they put up a 43-48 record, feels pretty distant right now.
How they’ve ended up here shouldn’t be much of a surprise. They can pitch. They can’t hit. In August, the lineup combined to post a horrendous .579 OPS. The mark was easily the worst in the majors, a full 39 points below the Tigers. It’s just brutal – the team was sub-Mendoza line with a .196 AVG.
To be fair, this is the low point – through the end of June, Miami batters had accumulated the 16th most fWAR of any team and had posted a perfectly respectable .705 team OPS. Of course, that timeline also lines up with when Jazz Chisholm Jr. and his 14 home runs, 12 stolen bases, and 140 OPS+ left the lineup with a back injury. The club has had other contributors – Jon Berti leads all of baseball with 32 stolen bases and Garrett Cooper has had strong stretches as well.
Somewhat under the radar, the Marlins have put together an impressive core of starting pitchers. Obviously, Sandy Alcantara leads the way with his Cy Young-deserving season – he’s the MLB-leader in pitching WAR, innings, and complete games by a healthy margin, and is not far behind in ERA and WHIP as well. Pablo López, the team’s #2, looked like the best pitcher on the planet in April, giving up a single earned run over 23.1 innings of work. The wheels have fallen off a bit in the second half (5.57 ERA), but Alcantara’s and Lopez’s ceilings are as high as any 1-2 punch in the league.
The back half is where things get interesting. Coming into the year, the anticipated #3 arm was Trevor Rogers who was expected to continue to improve upon his phenomenal 2021 in which he logged 133 innings with a 2.64 ERA and placed second in the NL Rookie of the Year vote. Unfortunately, that didn’t pan out – Rogers didn’t have a feel for his signature changeup entering the season, giving up 7 ER in 1.2 IP in his second start. He never really found it either, ending July with a 5.85 ERA.
Their #4, Jesús Luzardo, looked like he was finally fulfilling his top-prospect pedigree when he opened the year sitting 97 MPH with his fastball and upping his curveball usage to 50%, leading to a dominant 12 K performance in his first start of the year. While he certainly regressed from that peak, on May 5 he had a 3.08 ERA. Then came a poor start and a stint on the 15-day IL…which became the 60-day IL. He’s pitched great since returning, sporting a 2.97 ERA over six august starts.
With all that in mind – this Marlins team is closer to contention than their final record will likely indicate. Midway through the year, they were in the hunt for the newly-created third wild card spot, and I’d bet that they’ll make a run for it again next year. A rotation made up of Alcantara, Lopez, a returned-to-form Rogers, healthy Luzardo isn’t something to shake your head at. Fill that #5 slot with either Edward Cabrera (2.45 ERA through eight starts this summer) or even a healthy Sixto Sánchez? That’s a monster. Now we just need some bats…
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)