Every Sunday, The Trailing Runner recaps the past week’s biggest headlines and most exciting performances. On Mondays, keep an eye out for The Leadoff, which breaks down the week ahead.
As the dust settles on a headline-filled stretch featuring the All-Star break, trade deadline, the passing of Vin Scully, and the Field of Dreams game, we turn our focus to what’s left of the season: a thrilling 50 games filled to the brim with playoff races. We’ll break the most exciting races down, as well as discuss the Dodgers’ dominance and recent Fernando Tatis Jr. headlines.
Dodgers Won’t Stop Winning
It seems like the most foregone conclusion in recent baseball memory — it doesn’t matter what happens; ultimately, the Dodgers will be best team in the league. They’ve certainly reached that plateau this year, entering Sunday’s contest with a best-in-baseball record of 79-33. It’s really not even close — for the second-best New York Mets to reach the Dodgers’ winning percentage of .705, they’d have to win their next 22 games. Perhaps even scarier is that Los Angeles’ record speaks to a bit of unluckiness; their expected win rate based on their runs scored and allowed per game (both best in baseball as well) would have them at 81-31.
A dozen straight for the @Dodgers! pic.twitter.com/FncyFSMMsM
— MLB (@MLB) August 14, 2022
The Dodgers have surged ahead of the pack on the back of a 12-game win streak that extends all the way back to July 30th. They’ve dispatched the Giants, Padres, Twins, and Royals with ease, outscoring their opponents 91-31. Their pitching staff has a minuscule 2.18 ERA for the stretch. Amazingly, they’ve accomplished that without Walker Buehler at all and Clayton Kershaw since August 5. In their stead, Julio Urías has been transcendent, pitching to a 0.69 ERA over his last 12 innings. Tony Gonsolin and Andrew Heaney have also continued their outbreak seasons, giving up a combined four runs over their last 28 innings. The bullpen has been simply unhittable, allowing a 0.64 WHIP over its last 40+ innings.
Of course, an offense featuring Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Trea Turner, and Will Smith isn’t going to be far behind. The Dodgers superstar core has put together a tremendous year, but the bottom of the lineup has been on fire recently. Max Muncy has seemingly broken out of his season long slump, hitting five home runs and posting a .455 OBP and 1.376 OPS over his last 11 games. Deadline acquisition Joey Gallo is enjoying his freedom from Yankee Stadium, putting up a .932 OPS over his last seven.
This team is doing everything right. At the moment, they look unbeatable. But the Dodgers know better than anyone — anything can happen over seven games in October.
Tatis Suspended for 80 Games For PED Use
The biggest headline of the week was the news that San Diego Padres phenom Fernando Tatis Jr. would be suspended for 80 games for violating MLB’s performance-enhancing drug policy. ESPN’s Jeff Passan broke the news:
Fernando Tatis Jr. will be suspended for 80 games, MLB announced. The suspension will cover the remainder of this season and will render him ineligible for the postseason. It will continue into the beginning of next year. On the verge of returning, he's done for the year.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) August 12, 2022
Tatis’s drug test came back positive for Clostebol, a synthetic anabolic steroid. Via a MLBPA release, Tatis claimed that he inadvertently took the steroid as part a treatment for ringworm. However, the internet quickly came to the conclusion (whether fair or not) that either Tatis or someone in his camp had mixed Clostebol with Clobetasol, a common topical treatment of the condition.
Fernando Tatis Jr. has released a statement regarding his suspension.
(via @MLBPA_News) pic.twitter.com/baYEQiopQk
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) August 12, 2022
Regardless of the rampant Twitter theories, it’s a bad situation for both Tatis and the Padres. The former has yet to play a game this year. He underwent surgery on his wrist after a motorcycle accident in the offseason. He attracted some negative press in that moment as well, responding to a question about the accident with “which one?” This suspension has added fuel to the fire, with GM A.J. Preller and starting pitcher Mike Clevinger both making comments about Tatis’ maturity.
Padres general manager AJ Preller with some straightforward words about Fernando Tatis Jr. pic.twitter.com/EaRlvuJpMz
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) August 13, 2022
From the team’s perspective, the news is damaging, but not disastrous. Tatis had just begun a rehab assignment in Double-A; while the timing is brutal, the team was not necessarily banking on a productive return. With that said, the team currently sits just a game up of Milwaukee for the third Wild Card spot, and I’m sure fans were excited for a Manny Machado–Juan Soto–Fernando Tatis Jr. superteam to propel them into October.
That dream will have to wait well into next year — Tatis said he will not appeal the suspension. While the club’s playoff games will count towards the 80-game total, the shortstop will still likely not be back in the lineup till May.
The Home Stretch
As the adage goes, every team wins 50 games (unless you’re the Nationals) and every team loses 50 games (unless you’re the Dodgers) — it’s what you do with the rest that counts. Well, we’re firmly in “the rest” part of the season, and there are a number of playoff races that will likely need all remaining 50 games to sort themselves out.
AL and NL Central Division Races:
Both Central divisions have seen their leaders flip-flop throughout the whole season. In the American League, the Twins recently lost their longstanding lead over the Guardians and now sit 1.5 games back. The White Sox, while still underperforming, and slowly climbed back into contention and sit just 2.5 games back. They’re more than due for a hot streak and could make things interesting in a hurry.
Over in the National League, the race for the division crown is strictly between the Cardinals and Brewers. The two clubs are trending in opposite directions, as I wrote in this week’s Power Rankings. Surprisingly, the teams only have five games remaining against each other, so the race will likely come down to who can best beat up on their weak division-mates. The Cardinals have a much easier schedule ahead, with 25 games against the Red, Pirates, and Cubs, while the Brewers have only 16 games against that group.
Wild Card Galore:
The addition of a third wild card spot practically guarantees a dramatic race, expanding the number of teams who can plausibly fight their way into contention. In the American League, those three places are currently held by the Blue Jays (two games up), Mariners (+1.5), and Rays. However, it’s as close as it gets, with the Orioles, Twins, and White Sox within two games of the Rays. The Red Sox are currently four and a half games back, but are more than talented enough to turn things around. Of that group, the Mariners have by far the easiest schedule ahead of them, with multiple series against the A’s, Angels, and Tigers. On the opposite end of the spectrum are the full swathe of AL East teams given that they have to beat up on each other.
In the NL, things are bit less tight. Atlanta has a strong (+5) lead for the top spot (and even has an outside chance at making things uncomfortable for the division-leading Mets). There are really only three teams battling for the last two places, with the Phillies (+0.5) and the Padres currently just ahead of the Brewers. The Giants are the dark horse here, but at 6.5 games back and with 12 games against the Dodgers and Padres still ahead of them, they face an uphill battle (although they’ll control their own destiny). As mentioned above, the Brewers have challenging stretch ahead of them, and coming off of both an uninspiring trade deadline and recent 3-7 slide the team is not moving in the right direction.
Players of the Week
Some top offensive performances of the week:
- Aaron Judge continues his unbelievable season with a weekly line of: 5 R, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 1 SB, .438 AVG, 1.765 OPS
- Nolan Arenado: 7 R, 4 HR, 9 RBI, .409 AVG, 1.526 OPS
- Paul DeJong: 6 R, 2 HR, 7 RBI, .444 AVG, 1.468 OPS
And their counterparts on the mound:
- Zac Gallen: 14 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 3 BB, 14 K
- Jacob deGrom: 6 IP, 0 ER, 2 H, 0 BB, 10 K
- Michael Kopech: 6 IP, 0 ER, 0 H, 3 BB, 11 K
Around the League
- The Yankees sit atop the AL East but no longer pace the American League at 72-42. The Guardians are the best team in the Central at 60-53. The Astros lead the West with the best record in the league at 74-41.
- The Mets pace the NL East at 74-40. The Cardinals are atop the Central at 62-51. In the West, the Dodgers lead at 79-33, the best record in baseball.
- Yankee outfielder Aaron Judge leads hitters by a wide margin with 7.6 fWAR.
- The Marlins’ Sandy Alcantara, the Giants’ Carlos Rodón, and the Blue Jays’ Kevin Gausman are all tied with 4.4 fWAR.
Featured image by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)