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DWPR: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not (8/10/2021)

The dog days of the season have begun, and now is the best time to take stock in which teams are streaking. It is that time of year where teams start to get hot and the division races heat up. The trade deadline has passed, and teams that are in first after the trade deadline tend to make the playoffs. Between 1996 and 2019, 106 of the eventual 144 division winners were in first place on August 1st, good for 74% of the division winners. This season, the six teams that were at the top of their division at the beginning of August were the Rays, White Sox, Astros, Mets, Brewers, and Giants.

Since that time, one of those leaders has lost their spot on top of their division. The Philadelphia Phillies sat 3.5 games behind the Mets in the NL East standings, on August 1st. Since then, the Phillies have not lost and are in the midst of an 8-game winning streak. On the flip side, the Mets have only won one game since that day. These two streaks culminated in the Phillies sweeping the Mets and seizing first place while the Mets tumbled to third. The Phillies are hot and the Mets are not. This week will be focusing on whether or not the teams featured are trending upward or downward, as my way to gauge who is hot and who is not. With all that said, let’s get into the rankings!

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1. San Francisco Giants (71-41, +130 run differential, Last Time: 3)

Verdict: Hot

The Giants have been hot the entire season. They own both the best record in the majors and first place in a competitive NL West. They were the first team to 40, 50, 60, and now 70 wins. From July 26 to the present, the Giants faced two first-place teams in the Astros and Brewers, along with the defending World Series champion Dodgers and a division rival in Arizona. They went 9-4 in that span, winning each series in the process. This team is for real, and beating playoff-caliber opponents makes them hot.

2. Tampa Bay Rays (68-44, +121, Last Time: 2)

Verdict: Hot

The Rays have the best record in the American League and did so with the brooms. At the beginning of the month, the Rays were finishing up a sweep of the Boston Red Sox, which catapulted the Rays into first and sent the Red Sox into a tailspin. Then the next weekend, given the opportunity to strengthen their lead against a weak Orioles team, the Rays pummeled the O’s in a three-game sweep. In that sweep, the Rays scored at least 9 runs in all of their victories and displayed to the world that their offense is fully functioning.

3. Toronto Blue Jays (60-50, +123, Last Time: Not Ranked)

Verdict: Hot

Call it a homecoming special for the formerly wandering Blue Jays. After a tumultuous 2020 and beginning to 2021, the Canadian government gave the Blue Jays permission to play their games at the Rogers Centre again. They returned to a full crowd and have responded by going 9-2 in their last 11 games. George Springer in that span has slashed .409/.449/.932 with 5 home runs and a wRC+ of 260, adding an even bigger offensive threat to a lineup that already features Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette, and Marcus Semien.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers (67-45, +171, Last Time: 5)

Verdict: Not Hot

While it may be strange to see the mighty Dodgers listed as a team that is not hot, they have had middling results for weeks now. Since the All-Star break, the Dodgers have posted an 11-10 record, failing to make any ground in a competitive division race and increasing the likelihood of a one-game playoff against the other NL Wild Card team. In their two-game series against Houston, the offense was shut down for the first game, and exploded for 8 runs in the second game, serving as a microcosm of their inconsistent play since the break.

5. Milwaukee Brewers (66-46, +88, Last Time: 4)

Verdict: Not Hot

The Brewers have gone 8-4 in their last twelve games, which would typically make them hot. However, the only major blemish in that stretch was in their weekend series against the Giants. On Saturday, the Brewers were 2 strikes away from securing the series win, only for an Avisail Garcia error allowing a run to score, before losing in extras. The next day, the Brewers’ bullpen gave up runs in the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings to allow the Giants to come back from down 3-1 to win 5-4. Those two blown leads in the late innings against a contender keep the Brewers from being hot.

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26. Chicago Cubs (52-61, -50, Last Time: NR)

Verdict: Not Hot

The trade deadline was not kind to the 2021 Cubs, as the stalwarts from their 2016 team were traded and they embarked on a new era. The effects of selling the major league players are on full display now, with the Cubs going 2-8 in their last ten games. One of their losses came in a game where Rafael Ortega had three home runs, doubling his career total. Three more came at the hands of the cross-town White Sox, with the Cubs striking out 45 times and scoring 9 runs in those three games.

27. Baltimore Orioles (38-72, -166, Last Time: NR)

Verdict: Not Hot

It is impossible to be considered hot if the team you were just swept by a team that was hot. The Orioles were swept in their weekend series against Tampa Bay and had been blown out in two of their three games against the new-look Yankees. However, in a season like Baltimore’s, there has been a player who has been hot. Cedric Mullins, with his 20th home run on Sunday, became only the eighth player in franchise history to have at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in a season, with a potential 30-30 season still in the mix.

28. Arizona Diamondbacks (35-78, -178, Last Time: 26)

Verdict: Not Hot

Arizona’s last ten games were against the Dodgers, Giants, and Padres, three teams that are all in the playoff mix. They have been cold since May, going from hovering around .500 to being near the bottom of the standings and losing a record 24 consecutive road games. It has been an ugly season for Arizona, and the sooner it ends, the sooner the Diamondbacks will no longer be considered to be on a cold streak. That’s how bad the losing has gotten in the desert.

29. Texas Rangers (39-73, -140, Last Time: 30)

Verdict: Not Hot

The Rangers are in the midst of a five-game losing streak, which isn’t even their worst run in the last month. Since the All-Star break, the Rangers have lost 18 of 22, and have since then traded 2021 All-Stars Joey Gallo and Kyle Gibson. This last week, the Rangers were blown out by the Angels and the Athletics by a combined score of 23-6. The only memorable part of those games was Brock Holt (a position player) throwing a 31 mph eephus for a strike against Josh Harrison on Saturday.

30. Pittsburgh Pirates (41-71, -175, Last Time: 29)

Verdict: Not Hot

The Pirates were just swept by the Cincinnati Reds in a four-game series on the road. Before that sweep, they lost two of three Milwaukee. A week before that, they were swept at home against the very same Brewers team. In the middle was a series win against their in-state rivals, but after the last game, the Phillies have gone on a tear while the Pirates have won once in that span. That ugly stretch ultimately helps put the Buccos at the bottom of these rankings for this week.

I have developed a primitive ranking system via Google Sheets using a team’s record, record from their last 10 games, and run differential. It’s not necessarily bad to not see your favorite team here every week, it just means that they are closer to an average team instead of a great one or a terrible one. Also, I don’t play favorites and I don’t hate your team (at least I don’t hate them enough to rank them lower). These rankings are derived straight from the numbers. Feel free to argue with me about this on Twitter. My username is @jwdblue42, and I will talk about my rankings with anyone who disagrees in a respectful manner only.

Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs, and BaseballSavant, player numbers are accurate as of 8/8/2021, team records and run differentials are accurate as of 8/8/2021

Featured Photo Courtesy of the Toronto Blue Jays Twitter

James Darschewski

James Darschewski is an undergraduate student at Purdue University who is the self-appointed "Power Rankings Czar". You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @jwdblue42.

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