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Ranking the MLB teams after Week 23 of the season


Just as the Astros ruled the No. 1 slot and seemed set to own it forever, and just as they were eclipsed once the Dodgers seemed impossible to top when they were inspiring consideration for whether they’d set the all-time single-season record for wins, we have a new No. 1. Riding the kind of hot streak they make movies about, the Indians didn’t just win this week’s voting 23 weeks into the season, they earned unanimous acclaim as MLB’s best ballclub, earning every first-place vote a week after narrowly losing to the Dodgers in our poll. And the Dodgers didn’t just slip gracefully into the No. 2 slot — they tumbled to No. 4 and look like they have the potential to go lower still, even as they might cling to the MLB lead in wins thanks to their epic run immediately after the All-Star break.

The Dodgers’ three-rung tumble wasn’t the only major shakeup within the top 10. The Diamondbacks climbed two spots to crack to the top five, and the Cubs dropped three spots — just as they also gave up ground to the Brewers and Cardinals to reignite the NL Central race. And the Cardinals had their own part to play, breaking back into the top 10, displacing the Brewers to ascend back inside the top 10 in the single largest move within the standings this week.

Other teams made jumps within the rankings. This week’s biggest gainers besides the Cardinals were the surprising Padres with a three-spot jump up. And with the Phillies’ recent return to competitiveness, they escaped the cellar, leaving the White Sox to fall to the lowest spot.

This week’s voters are Bradford Doolittle, Eric Karabell, Tim Kurkjian, David Schoenfield and Mark Simon.

Week 22 rankings | Week 21 | Week 20 | Week 19 | Week 18 | Week 17 | Week 16 | Week 15 | Week 14 | Week 13 | Week 12 | Week 11 | Week 10 | Week 9 | Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1 | Preseason

Record: 87-56
Week 22 ranking: No. 2

If someone had told you in April that Jason Kipnis put up arguably his worst year while getting hurt repeatedly, that Michael Brantley would get hurt and so would Andrew Miller, that they’d have to send Danny Salazar to the bullpen at two different points of the season, and that the Indians would go on their best tear of the season after all of that had happened to catch up to the Astros for the league’s best record, you’d be forgiven for a lack of imagination for how all that might be so. Now we’re asking whether the Indians will do a better job of sustaining their hot streak into the postseason. — Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com


Record: 86-57
Week 22 ranking: No. 3

The Astros might be No. 2 by default, because there’s nothing auspicious about their getting rewarded here while getting swept by the A’s in a four-game set in which Houston hurlers allowed 41 runs. Getting Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers Jr. right in time for the postseason over the next three weeks is crucial, otherwise their presumed rotation advantage after trading for Justin Verlander may only exist on paper. — Kahrl


Record: 88-55
Week 22 ranking: No. 4

The next out that Gio Gonzalez gets gives him 180 innings pitched and kicks in a vesting option for $12 million for 2018. It’s a good deal for the Nationals, who get some certainty, knowing that Gonzalez has posted a sub 3.80 ERA and made at least 27 starts in eight straight seasons. But right now, they’re just hoping the magic touch he has had this season (2.50 ERA despite a 3.88 FIP) carries over into October. — Mark Simon, ESPN Stats & Information


Record: 92-51

Week 22 ranking: No. 1

Since the Dodgers’ last series win (over the Pirates, sealed on Aug. 24), they’ve been swept by the Diamondbacks twice and by the Rockies, going a combined 0-10 against their most dangerous division rivals during their 1-15 tailspin. They even lost back-to-back starts from co-stoppers Clayton Kershaw and Yu Darvish before the weekend. They’ve seen their offense score an MLB-worst 2.4 runs per game over that span. If they aren’t worried, they should be. — Kahrl


Record: 83-60
Week 22 ranking: No. 7

Hitting four homers in one game was just part of the damage J.D. Martinez wrought in his seven-tater week, setting the former Tiger up to reach free agency this winter with a new career high in homers. Martinez hit a career-best 38 in 2015 for the Tigers to demonstrate his 2014 breakthrough after being released by the Astros was no fluke, but his 21 homers in just 45 games for Arizona brought him within one with the promise of a big payday in his future. — Kahrl


Record: 81-62
Week 22 ranking: No. 6

Apple watches aside, it was actually a pretty good week for the Red Sox. Despite dropping three of four in New York last weekend, Boston still has a comfortable lead in the AL East, Dustin Pedroia is back in the lineup and seems to be healthy after missing a month with a knee injury, and rookie Rafael Devers has been on fire this month. — Michael Bonzagni, ESPN Stats & Information


Record: 77-65
Week 22 ranking: No. 8

The Yankees are 15-24 in one-run games this season, just a .385 winning percentage. That’s the third-worst mark in one-run games this season. Elias Sports Bureau research shows that only three teams in MLB’s divisional era (since 1969) have made the playoffs with a win percentage of .400 or worse in one-run games: the 2015 Blue Jays (.349), 2007 Phillies (.378) and 1981 Yankees (.364). — Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information


Record: 77-66
Week 22 ranking: No. 5

A weekend of reckoning with the Cardinals could dispense with the Cubs’ traditional rivals’ threat to their NL Central lead, or reopen the race with St. Louis and Milwaukee while throwing even a shot at a wild-card appearance in doubt. The good news is that Jake Arrieta is on the mend and the rotation ranks third-best in MLB in ERA since the All-Star break — if they dispel any late scares, they’ll be the potential scary opponent come October. — Kahrl


Record: 75-68
Week 22 ranking: No. 14

There is still plenty of life in these Cardinals, who have gotten hot at the perfect time. They still have seven games remaining with the Cubs, including three this weekend at Wrigley Field. Looking ahead, they close the season with a seven-game homestand against the Cubs and Brewers. The big question now is whether this run has taken everything out of them, or can they find a way to make what I call “the 2007 Rockies push” all the way to the finish? — Simon


Record: 78-65
Week 22 ranking: No. 9

The Rockies desperately needed the week they just put in the books to retain their grip on the second NL wild card, taking two of three from the sad-sack Giants before contributing to the Dodgers’ stretch meltdown with a four-game sweep. One key factor? Beyond their three one-run wins last week, closer Greg Holland regained his touch, earning a win and nailing down three saves. — Kahrl


Record: 75-68
Week 22 ranking: No. 10

The Brewers’ playoff hopes were dealt a big blow over the weekend, when starting pitcher Jimmy Nelson was lost for the season. Nelson had a 2.40 ERA in his past five starts (and the Brewers won all five), and he was riding a 12⅔-inning scoreless streak when he got hurt. The Brewers don’t know who will replace him, and his next three starts would’ve come against the Pirates (twice) and Cubs. Chicago is rolling, and the Brew Crew is just 5-8 against Pittsburgh this season. — John Fisher, ESPN Stats & Information


Record: 74-69
Week 22 ranking: No. 11

The Twins are 35-37 at home this season, and that’s the worst home winning percentage of any current playoff team. Just two teams in the divisional era (MLB since 1969) have made the playoffs with a home winning percentage below .500: the 1981 Royals (.404) in a strike-shortened season, and the 2001 Braves (.494). — Langs


Record: 73-70
Week 22 ranking: No. 12

It won’t be easy for the Angels to keep pace in the AL wild-card race. They open a nine-game homestand on Tuesday against the Astros, Rangers and Indians, teams against whom they are a combined 11-21 against this season. By opponent record, the Angels own the most-difficult schedule remaining among all teams currently above .500. — Paul Hembekides, ESPN Stats & Information


Record: 71-71
Week 22 ranking: No. 15

With his 20th home run, Elvis Andrus became just the seventh shortstop in MLB history to hit 20 or more homers and 40 or more doubles while stealing 20 or more bases in the same season, and the first since Hanley Ramirez and Jimmy Rollins last did it in 2009. That was the second time for both Ramirez and Rollins; the only other shortstops to do it even once are Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Nomar Garciaparra and Robin Yount. — Kahrl


Record: 71-72
Week 22 ranking: No. 13

Orioles pitchers have allowed 214 home runs this season, tied for third-most in the majors, which puts them on a pace to allow 242. No team has made the playoffs in the divisional era while allowing that many homers. The most home runs allowed by a playoff team in the divisional era (MLB since 1969) is the 221 given up by the 2001 Astros. — Langs


Record: 71-72
Week 22 ranking: No. 17

The Mariners will welcome Felix Hernandez and James Paxton back from the disabled list with open arms next week, as both are set to be reactivated after throwing simulated games on Friday. Injuries have forced Seattle to use 17 different starting pitchers this season, the most in MLB. — Hembekides


Record: 71-73
Week 22 ranking: No. 16

Blake Snell has shown flashes of what he can be, recently posting a 2.93 ERA over a 10-start stretch from early July through his first start in September. Snell has had the occasional hiccup (six runs against the Twins in his last turn) but the encouraging thing is an improvement in his strikeout-to-walk ratio, which was almost 1:1 early in the season, but is 44-to-13 in his past nine starts. — Simon


Record: 71-71
Week 22 ranking: No. 19

The Royals have been scuffling for more than a month now thanks to a pitching staff that has fallen apart. Their starting pitchers have a 6.15 ERA since Aug. 1, with only the Tigers’ 6.43 being any worse. The offense hasn’t been great over that stretch either, ranking outside MLB’s top half in both OPS and runs scored. — Bonzagni


Record: 67-77
Week 22 ranking: No. 20

Andrew McCutchen has had a rough close to this season. He’s homerless with five extra-base hits and five RBIs in his past 29 games, a stretch that began on Aug. 9. The shame of this is that it has taken his numbers off the .300/30/100 track and turned them into something more average in this age of easy homering. You have to wonder if the Pirates are having any second thoughts on picking up McCutchen’s $14.75 million option at season’s end. — Simon


Record: 68-75
Week 22 ranking: No. 18

The Marlins are in a tailspin since getting swept by the Nationals at the end of August. Including that series, they’re in a 2-12 free-fall, and the bullpen has been especially terrible with a 6.54 ERA. With the Marlins all but out of the NL wild-card race, the Giancarlo Stanton 60-homer watch is still on. He has homered four times in this 14-game stretch, and he’ll face the Phillies this week, against whom he has homered eight times in 15 games this season. — Fisher


Record: 66-77
Week 22 ranking: No. 21

Center fielder Kevin Pillar just can’t stop making show-stopping catches. His 16 defensive runs saved in center this season are the second-most in the majors behind Byron Buxton of the Twins. If we look at the past two seasons, Pillar has now racked up 37 DRS in that span, just three shy of tying Kevin Kiermaier for the most among MLB center fielders in that span. — Langs


Record: 63-80
Week 22 ranking: No. 23

One area the Mets may be secure for 2018 is the back of their bullpen. A.J. Ramos has shown his walk-the-tightrope approach plays in New York, while Jeurys Familia could be the closer or the eighth-inning guy. The Mets have the resources to pick up a $7 million option on Jerry Blevins, giving them one of the game’s most reliable lefties. And rookies Paul Sewald and Chasen Bradford could fill the seventh-inning role. Plus the farm system is now stocked with hard throwers — something GM Sandy Alderson did well to get at the deadline. — Simon


Record: 64-78
Week 22 ranking: No. 22

The Braves are having a tough time at the finish. Their starting pitchers have struggled this month and it’s unclear which will be on the Opening Day roster next year. But looking ahead, they have a few young players ready to step in. Outfielder Ronald Acuna is still 19 years old, and he increased his numbers while going from High-A to Double-A before finishing in Triple-A, while lefty Kolby Allard had a solid full season at Double-A. — Fisher


Record: 65-79
Week 22 ranking: No. 27

The Padres are over .500 so far this month, and Wil Myers has finally started to hit. His OPS is over 1.000 in September, which is good, but unless he really goes on a tear he’s likely to become the first Padres player ever to hit 30 home runs in a single season with an OPS lower than .800. — Bonzagni


Record: 62-82
Week 22 ranking: No. 24

The Reds played the role of spoiler last week, sweeping a three-game series against the Brewers for their first sweep since June 5-8 against St. Louis. Billy Hamilton suffered a broken thumb in the series, landing him on the DL, but before he went down he did record his fourth consecutive season with at least 55 steals, one shy of Joe Morgan’s franchise record (1972-76). — Hembekides


Record: 63-80
Week 22 ranking: No. 25

Matt Chapman hasn’t been the only impact first-year player added to the A’s lineup during the season. Since 23-year-old Matt Olson took over as Oakland’s regular first baseman on Aug. 9, the rookie has ripped 13 home runs, tied with Gary Sanchez for the most in the American League in that span. Yonder who? — Kahrl


Record: 60-82
Week 22 ranking: No. 26

It has been a rough September so far for the Tigers, and as they rebuild their roster things might get even worse. GM Al Avila made some excellent moves in turning a lot of the club’s aging, overpriced talent into young, cost-controlled assets. The next few years might be tough, but it’s usually better in the long run to just rip the band-aid off and start over. — Bonzagni


Record: 54-89
Week 22 ranking: No. 30

The Phillies are playing .500 ball the past three weeks while giving their fans reasons to watch. Shortstop J.P. Crawford, the organization’s top prospect, was called up this week after a strong second half in Triple-A. Rhys Hoskins continues to show off his power — he already has 14 home runs, the most homers in a player’s first 30 games in MLB history. And Nick Williams, acquired in the Cole Hamels deal, has been crushing the ball in September. — Fisher

Record: 56-89
Week 22 ranking: No. 28

The Giants are the only team in the majors without a hitter with 20 home runs. And the player who’s closest — Brandon Belt with 18 — is on the DL. Next-most on the team is Brandon Crawford with 13. If they finish without a 20-homer hitter, it’ll be the second straight season nobody on the Giants reaches 20. The last time it happened in consecutive seasons for San Francisco was 1985 and 1986. — Langs


Record: 56-86
Week 22 ranking: No. 29

The White Sox fell victim to the Indians’ win streak, suffering a four-game sweep in which they were outscored 30-10. The highlight of the weekend was Jose Abreu hitting for the cycle on Saturday to become the first White Sox player to accomplish the feat since Jose Valentin in 2000. — Hembekides




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