MLB Power Rankings: Where do Cubs sit entering final week?


MLB Power Rankings: Where do Cubs sit entering final week?

The Cubs are having their best season in years and enter the week with their magic number for clinching a wild card berth at five. But unless something changes with this weekend's critical series against Pittsburgh, they're the third-best team in the National League Central -- which is far less a knock against the Cubs and more a compliment to baseball's best division. It's certainly led to an interesting wild card race, much better than the mediocre hellscape of the race for the American League's No. 2 wild card spot.

With that comes another week of MLB Power Rankings from's Tony Andracki and JJ Stankevitz. Stay with us every Monday from here through October for a fresh set of rankings.

Stay tuned for updated rankings every Monday throughout the 2015 campaign. Here's where we're at so far: Preseason rankings | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14 | Week 15 | Week 16 | Week 17 | Week 18 | Week 19 | Week 20 | Week 21 | Week 22 | Week 23

Rank Team
Last Week Comment
1 1

Is their deal with the devil finally over?

2   3

So this Gerrit Cole dude is pretty good, huh?

3 5

They're the first team since the 2006 White Sox with three players with 35 or more home runs (Donaldson/Bautista/Encarnacion, Konerko/Dye/Thome).

4   3

Jake Arrieta is an alien. Has to be.

5 4

Wade Davis, who will close in the postseason, has actually lowered his ERA from 1.00 in 2014 to 0.97 in 2015.

6 7

With great starting pitching, a solid bullpen and a lineup featuring Cespedes-Wright-Duda, this Mets team could be scary in the postseason.

7 8

The biggest question is if Masahiro Tanaka will return to the Yankees rotation this week to tee him up for the Oct. 6 wild card game.

8 6

Would argue they're the least intimidating of any NL playoff team, despite scary-high payroll.

9 9

Two and a half games up on Houston, three up on Los Angeles entering the season's final week. Not safe, but close.

10 13

Gunning for the wild card, but have a four-game series against Texas to end the season.

11 10

Their bullpen has a 6.21 ERA in September, which is no way to try to hang on to a playoff spot.

12 11

Technically, they woke up Monday morning with a 0.1 percent chance of making the postseason.

13 14

Even if they don't make the playoffs, this team (and Paul Molitor) deserves a ton of credit for being in contention every week of the season.

14 12

Both Matt Williams and Jonathan Papelbon need to get out of DC now. This has gotten completely out of hand.

15 15

Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco are a rock-solid 1-2 duo around which to build.

16 20

David Ortiz earned his [expletive].

17 17

If Manny Machado gets two more steals, he'll be the first player with 30 HR, 20 SB and .800+ OPS before turning 24 since Mike Trout in 2012.

18 20

Ender Inciarte (.304 AVG, .743 SLG, 21 steals) flying under the radar just like David Peralta, A.J. Pollock and most of this D-Backs team.

19 19

Chris Archer's rough September (6.58 ERA in five starts) shouldn't take away from what's been a spectacular season for the 27-year-old.

20 23

This is the most exciting thing to happen at Petco Park all season.

21 16

We had them ranked No. 4 as the top AL team before the season. Uhhh...

22 21 For all the offseason buzz, they didn't fix a defense that was the third-worst in baseball by UZR last year. This year: Dead last.
23 22

Victor Martinez has been worth -1.9 WAR this year, and still has three years left on a $68 million contract. Yikes.

24 25

They've had four winning streaks of at least three games in September already. Odd.

25 28

We are all witness to Nolan Arenado's breakout season (41 HR, 126 RBI, .888 OPS).

26 24

The Tim Hudson-Barry Zito matchup on Saturday was awesome, even if the game ended with a 14-10 score.

27 27

Rallied for seven runs on Trevor Rosenthal and the Cardinals in the ninth inning Sunday, proving Brewers can definitely play spoiler in this final week.

28 26

You better believe they're going to want to impact the playoff race with series against Cubs and Pirates this week.

29 29

Swept out of Miami just another dark chapter in this sad season.

30 30

At least they don't have to worry about Papelbon anymore?

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Do the Cubs need to make a deal?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Do the Cubs need to make a deal?

On this episode of SportsTalk Live, Fred Mitchell, Seth Gruen and Jason Goch join David Kaplan on the panel.

The Cubs bats come alive against the Giants while Theo says there have been plenty of trade rumors but no trade talks. Do the Cubs need to make a deal?

Plus, Ray Ratto joins Kap to talk about the Warriors struggles and the guys debate if LeBron is playing his final game in a Cavaliers uniform.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

The Cubs are ahead of the game in MLB's brand new world

The Cubs are ahead of the game in MLB's brand new world


Joe Maddon couldn't contain his glee as he was told there is actual scientific evidence that proves the Launch Angle Revolution has not had any impact on the uptick in homers over the last couple seasons.

The reason MLB players were hitting the ball into the bleachers more than ever before in 2017 was because of the way baseballs are made now, reducing the wind resistence and causing balls to carry more.

But all these players changing their swing path to get more lift on the ball? Not a thing for the group as a whole (h/t

But in analyzing Statcast™ data from the measurement tool's 2015 inception through 2017, the committee found no evidence that batter behavior, en masse, has been a contributing factor toward the homer surge. In fact, exit velocities decreased slightly from 2016 to 2017, spray angles from the time studied were stable and a small increase in launch angles was attributable primarily to, as the study refers to them, "players with lesser home run talents."

Basically, the long-ball surge was global, affecting players from all spectrums of homer-hitting ability and irrespective of their approach.

"Going into this, I thought that was going to be the magic bullet, the smoking gun," Nathan said. "But it wasn't."

Hence the "BINGO!" cry from Maddon, who has been very vocal in the fight against the Launch Angle Revolution this season.

The end result is the study will eventually lead to baseballs being returned to normal levels and a more uniform way of storing the balls moving forward. Thus, homers figure to eventually return to normal levels, too, and everybody who was caught up in the Launch Angle Revolution may be left behind.

It's the changing landscape of baseball and we've already seen the after-effects this year: April was the first month in MLB history where there were more strikeouts than basehits.

Why? Because strikeouts are a natural byproduct of the Launch Angle Revolution as players are swinging up on the ball more and sacrificing contact for power and lift.

That, coupled with an increase in velocity and higher usage of relievers, has led to more strikeouts.

It makes perfect sense — it's tougher for a player to try to catch up to 98+ mph at the top of the strike zone with an uppercut swing.

"It's one of those things that sounds good, but it doesn't help you," Maddon said of launch angle. "There's certain things that people really want to promote and talk about, but it doesn't matter. When a hitter's in the box, when you're trying to stare down 96 or a slider on the edge, the last thing you're thinking about is launch angle.

"Now when it comes to practice, you could not necessarily work on angles — your body works a certain way. Like I've said before, there's guys that might've been oppressively bad or they just had groundballs by rolling over the ball all the time So of course you may want to alter that to get that smothering kind of a swing out of him.

"But if you're trying to catch up to velocity, if you're trying to lay back and I could keep going on and on. It sounds good."

The idea of hitting the ball hard in the air has been around for decades in baseball, pretty much ever since Babe Ruth on some level. It just wasn't able to be quantified or accessed by the public as easily until Statcast came around and made it all mainstream.

The Cubs, however, have been anti-launch-angle to a degree this season. They let go of hitting coach John Mallee (who liked players to hit the ball in the air and pull it) and replaced him with Chili Davis (who teaches the full-field, line-drive approach).

The effects haven't yet yielded results in terms of consistently plating runs or having a better performance in the situational hitting column, but the contact rate is, in fact, up.

Here is the list of Cubs hitters who currently boast a career best mark in strikeout rate:

Kris Bryant
Anthony Rizzo
Javy Baez
Willson Contreras
Addison Russell
Jason Heyward
Kyle Schwarber

Ben Zobrist and Albert Almora Jr. are close to their career marks, too.

Some of that jump in contact rate can be attributed to natural development and maturation of young hitters, but the Cubs are buying into the new way of doing things and it's paying off.

It's also probably the way the game is going to shift, with an emphasis on contact going to become more important the less balls are flying out of the yard.

The Cubs have seen firsthand how to beat the best pitching in the postseason and they know that cutting down on strikeouts and "moving the baseball" (as Maddon likes to put it) can help manufacture runs in low-scoring, tight affairs in October.

Now science is supporting those theories and Major League Baseball teams will have to adjust. 

The Cubs, however, are at least a step ahead of the game.

It's a long game — the offensive strides will take time to fully take effect even for the Cubs, who are at least a full offseason and two months ahead of the curve in terms of bucking the Launch Angle Revolution.

Maddon concedes that launch angle is a cool stat to see on the video board after homers, but other than that, he doesn't see much of a use for it, pointing to Kyle Schwarber's laser-line-drive homers having the same effect as Kris Bryant's moonshots.

However, Maddon does believe there's a place for launch angle and exit velocity in the game, though mostly for front offices trying to acquire players (think "Moneyball").

"As a teaching tool, you either come equipped with or without," Maddon said. "It's like you buy a new car, you either got this or you don't. Sometimes you can add some things occasionally, but for the most part, this is what you are.

"I like inside the ball, top half of the ball, inner half of the ball, stay long throughout the ball, utilize the whole field. I still think that's the tried and true approach and I'm not stuck in the mud on this by any means.

"The harder pitchers throw the baseball, the more laying back is going to be less effective."