With one month to go, the baseball world starts to think about regular season awards. Now the two front runners for MVP this season are Shohei Ohtani and Fernando Tatis Jr. The Padres are fighting for a playoff spot and the Angels aren’t even close to getting into the playoffs. So we could reasonably have neither MVP in the playoffs this season. Now should that take away anything from those candidates if their teams can’t make the playoffs? I think it is a case by case discussion
For Shohei Ohtani, the answer is no. He is doing something that has really never been done before at the level he is doing it. I’m just going to say it. Shohei Ohtani is a better two way player than Babe Ruth. Ohtani deserves the MVP because he has hit and pitched at such a high level. This is an outlier in this discussion because we haven’t ever seen someone like Ohtani so this is unprecedented. The only other player in the American League with an argument is Vladimir Guerrero Jr. You just have to give it to Ohtani for all he has done for the game this year.
Now onto Fernando Tatis Jr. Yeah, he has been fantastic and is one of, if not the most exciting player in the sport. If San Diego gets that second Wild Card, he deserves it more than anyone else. However, if he misses and the Phillies get in, I give the edge to Bryce Harper. How a team finishes should matter for the most part. How valuable were you to the team if you couldn’t get them into the playoffs?
I know it is a team sport but making the playoffs is the goal every season. I don’t necessarily think missing the playoffs takes anything away from a player. But if you are able to put up great numbers and get your team to the playoffs, that should matter. I’m not saying every MVP has to make the playoffs, but when it’s close the guy that helped his team achieve more success should get the nod.
Now with only one month to go, only six teams should feel comfortable with where they are at. That means there are four playoff spots up for grab in September. It’s time for the final playoff push. Let’s look and see where each team stands as we start this final stretch.
- San Francisco Giants (88-50) —
It looked like the Giants were going to lose their top spot early in the week losing three of four to Milwaukee. Then they fought hard, taking two of three from the Dodgers. San Francisco got a taste of what the playoffs will be like. Absolutely nobody saw this team having the best record in baseball on September 7th. They still have business to take care of to avoid the Wild Card game and fend off the Dodgers in the division.
- Los Angeles Dodgers (87-51) —
If the Dodgers would have taken the series with San Francisco they would have been in the top spot. They could end up there next week. This team is built for October baseball. They still would love to avoid the Wild Card game especially against the Reds. Los Angeles is 1-2 against Cincinnati this year so it would be a difficult matchup. They also have a more difficult schedule than the Giants from here on out. It will require a great stretch for the Dodgers to take the division.
- Tampa Bay Rays (87-51) —
Tampa Bay had a good shot to pretty much put away the division against Boston last week. They ended up splitting the four game series and continue to let them linger in the AL East. They should finish the job this week as they play Boston for the final time this season in a three game series. The Rays should be able to finish off the race and win the AL East for the second straight year. Once again, the Rays are a World Series contender that aren’t drawing much attention.
- Milwaukee Brewers (84-55) +1
The Brewers have officially put the National League on notice. They took three of four from San Francisco and then took two of three from St. Louis. The rotation is just so good that it will be tough to avoid being down two games to one after facing the top three in Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Freddy Peralta. If the bats can get hot, this team will be extremely difficult to take out in October.
- Chicago White Sox (79-58) +2
I said if this team gets healthy they will be a big problem in October. They got healthy but haven’t been able to stay healthy. Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito and Tim Anderson are all on the IL right now so the depth is being tested again. Luckily they are going to coast to the division title. If they can get these guys rested up and ready to go in October, they will still be a team to watch. Right now though, there is a bit of panic in Chicago.
- Houston Astros (80-57) -2
Much like Tampa Bay, Houston continues to let other teams hang around in the division race. They dropped two of three to the now second place Seattle Mariners and then dropped two of three to San Diego. They host Seattle in their final matchup this season with the Mariners and then things get much easier. Somehow, the Astros won’t play a team with a winning record until they travel to Oakland on September 24th. Avoiding a sweep against Seattle should have this team feeling confident about pulling away with the division.
- New York Yankees (78-59) -1
The Yankees crashed back down to Earth this week in a bad way. They had to snap a four game losing streak to avoid being swept by the Angels and then lost two of three to a terrible Baltimore team this weekend. The Mariners, Blue Jays, and A’s are now all within striking distance of both Wild Cards now. A four game set with Toronto is on deck this week This feels like a playoff series and the Yankees have to be at the top of their game.
- Boston Red Sox (79-61) +1
A four game winning streak helped Boston salvage a split in a four game series with the first place Rays and take two of three from Cleveland. Covid has completely diminished this roster with 11 players currently on the Covid IL. Yet somehow, they are making it work. Kyle Schwarber is still playing and playing very well. The pitching staff is doing a great job of keeping them in games while they get healthy. This outbreak could have been a lot worse but Boston has been able to survive so far.
- Seattle Mariners (75-63) +3
Seattle bounced back from a nightmare of a series with Kansas City with maybe their best week of the season. They were able to take two of three from Houston and then went into Arizona and got the sweep. They now sit in second place in the AL West and have a shot to snap a 20-year playoff drought. To do that, they need the starting pitching to heat up a little bit more and they need Mitch Haniger to heat up and get back to his elite form. They play Houston and Arizona this week and anything less than a 4-2 week will be a big blow to their playoff chances.
- Toronto Blue Jays (74-62) +3
How about the Toronto Blue Jays? They are scorching hot after sweeping the Oakland A’s over the weekend and are right back in the Wild Card conversation. The Marcus Semien walk-off home run on Friday night felt like a season defining moment. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. would be the MVP any other year except for this one because of Shohei Ohtani. The pitching will decide if this team can make a run at one of those Wild Cards that are now so close.
- Atlanta Braves (72-64) -3
The Braves saw their division lead shrink to just two games last week. After being swept by the Dodgers, Atlanta managed to only split a four game series with Colorado. They extended Charlie Morton over the weekend, which is positive news for next season. They cannot let up this year though. The Phillies believe they can catch Atlanta, so the Braves have to stay focused on 2021.
- Oakland A’s (74-63) -2
Oakland did the one thing you can’t do at this point of the season. They were swept. Not only were they swept but they were swept by a team they are battling with for a Wild Card spot in Toronto. They now sit in third place in the AL West looking up at Houston and Seattle. The schedule is also pretty rough the rest of the way starting with the White Sox this week. I am going to officially call it. Put a fork in them. They are done.
- San Diego Padres (73-64) +2
The Padres got back on track taking two of three from both Arizona and Houston. Fernando Tatis Jr. will be the NL MVP which means it is possible we don’t see either MVP in the playoffs. That has not ever happened in the Wild Card Era and hasn’t happened since 1987. The Padres are back in the race but they have an extremely difficult schedule down the stretch. They play the Angels twice this week and don’t have another game against a team currently under .500 the rest of the way.
- Cincinnati Reds (73-66) -3
The Reds went 2-4 this week against the Cardinals and Tigers and are now neck and neck with the Padres. Jesse Winker is close to returning and they need him desperately. They visit a red hot Chicago Cubs team that would love to spoil their division rival’s season. Then they visit St. Louis where the Cardinals remain in striking distance to sneak into the playoffs. Cincinnati is still in the best position to get that second Wild Card but they have got to start playing better.
- Philadelphia Phillies (71-66) -1
The Phillies swept the Nationals and are now right on the heels of the first place Atlanta Braves. The rotation is better than Atlanta’s but they need some bats to get going. This is where Bryce Harper needs to take over. He got a massive contract and he needs to be the guy to get them over the top. When Harper is hot, he is one of the most feared hitters in the game. It’s time for the $330 million man to step up.
- St. Louis Cardinals (69-67) —
The Cardinals continue to tread water, but this week that was good enough to make up some ground on Cincinnati. Paul Goldschmidt looks like the great hitter he was in Arizona. The pitching is still an issue though. The bullpen is walking way too many batters and it bit them Sunday against Milwaukee. Four with the Dodgers will be extremely tough this week before taking on the Reds for three. If they come out of this week with a losing record, there won’t be enough time for them to bounce back.
- New York Mets (69-69) +1
The Mets were able to sweep Miami and take three of four from Washington for a big week. They have to take care of Miami again this week because they head to the Bronx this weekend. The offense is clicking right now and Javy Baez is back from injury and playing some good ball. That has helped fans forgive him for the thumbs down fiasco. Four games separates them and Atlanta but they are starting to run out of time.
- Cleveland Indians (68-67) -1
Cleveland has some way gotten back above .500. They dropped two of three to Boston over the weekend so they are still clearly a level below that group of Wild Card teams. I do wonder though if they had stayed healthy all season long, where they would be right now. They didn’t though and they will be watching the playoffs from home.
- Los Angeles Angels (68-70) —
The Angels got to play spoiler a little bit last week taking two of three from the Yankees. They also took two of three over the Rangers to inch closer to .500. Some of these young guys stepping up is a very welcome sight for the Angels. If they can get these results from these guys when Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon next season, they could contend in the AL West.
- Detroit Tigers (65-74) —
The Tigers continued to irritate teams in the playoff chase by going 4-2 against Oakland and Cincinnati. Casey Mize finally looks like a first round draft pick. He has been brilliant this season and looks like he can be a franchise player. This team is full of young guys that stepped up this year. They were supposed to compete for the number one pick. Instead they will flirt with finishing .500. A great start for this new era in Detroit.
- Colorado Rockies (63-75) —
Colorado is still good at home and terrible on the road. For example, they lost two of three to the Rangers in Arlington. They then split a four game set with the first place Atlanta Braves. Colorado actually has the 4th best record at home in baseball. They are just so bad on the road that they will be remembered as a bad team. The Giants come to town and then the Rockies head to Philadelphia. So they can still put their fingerprint on the playoff picture.
- Kansas City Royals (62-75) —
Kansas City bounced back from being swept by Cleveland by taking two of three from the first place White Sox. This team is causing some problems for playoff teams. They took three of four from Seattle last weekend also. Salvador Perez is having a career year and has shown that he still has plenty left in the tank. He has 41 home runs and a league best 103 RBIs all while being an everyday catcher. Talk about underappreciated.
- Miami Marlins (57-80) +1
The Marlins also got to play spoiler last week by taking two of three against the Phillies. Like I say every single week, this rotation is fantastic but the offense is a major letdown. Miguel Rojas hasn’t been a letdown to start September however. He is hitting .533 to begin this month. Taylor Rogers is in the Rookie of the Year conversation but might fall just short of Jonathan India. They take on two more contenders this week in the Mets and Braves.
- Chicago Cubs (64-75) +2
The Chicago Cubs are actually the hottest team in baseball right now. They won all six of their games last week and played well. Yeah sure, they were against the Twins and Pirates but wins are wins. Who would have thought Patrick Wisdom and Frank Schwindel would carry the Cubs to six straight wins in 2021? I sure didn’t.
- Minnesota Twins (60-77) -2
The Twins were playing well going into last week but ran into the Cubs at the wrong time. They lost both games to Chicago and then lost two of three to Tampa Bay. Jorge Polanco looks like he may have figured things out at the big league level. He already has career highs in home runs and RBIs. I still don’t know what they are going to do this offseason after trading Jose Berrios. Are they in rebuild mode or win-now mode? We should learn that answer this offseason.
- Washington Nationals (57-80) -1
On the bright side the season is almost over for Washington. They went 1-6 this week against the Phillies and Mets. Lane Thomas has been a great return in the Jon Lester deal for the Nats. He has turned into possibly their center fielder of the future. The rebuild is well under way and not too shabby of a start for being so early into it.
- Texas Rangers (49-88) +2
The Rangers finally won a series taking two of three from Colorado. That is their first since the middle of August. They followed it up losing two of three to the Angels showing that they are definitely the cellar dweller in the AL West. Adolis Garcia is no longer the leader for American League Rookie of the Year. This last month will really just be about the young guys trying to earn a roster spot in 2022. This team won’t be good for a few years.
- Pittsburgh Pirates (49-89) -1
The Pirates actually had the worst week going 0-6 against the White Sox and Cubs. It is actually crazy the amount of great pitchers this team has traded away. Joe Musgrove, Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow were all former Pirates. Now all three of their teams plus Tyler Anderson’s Mariners are battling for playoff spots. Trades that seem like nothing at the time can just be miserable to look back on.
- Baltimore Orioles (43-93) +1
The Orioles went 3-3 this week and took two of three from the big bad Yankees. That is enough to move them out of the basement for now. This might be one of the most fun bad teams in MLB history. It would be even better if John Means could have stayed in the Cy Young race. Trey Mancini is still the best story in baseball in 2021.
- Arizona Diamondbacks (45-93) -2
The Diamondbacks had a chance to play spoiler against San Diego and Seattle last week. They lost two of three to the Padres and were swept by the Mariners. Ketel Marte is still such a fun player to watch as he can truly do it all. Unfortunately, they now have to battle Baltimore to see who gets that first overall draft pick. It will probably be Arizona.
Matthew graduated in 2019 from Washington State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication with a specialization in Media and Journalism Production. He currently is a broadcaster and writer at Eli Sports Network. Baseball and football are his specialties but Matt covers anything he can. Follow him on Twitter @matt_king19