Here are my final 2019 MLB power rankings:
1. Houston Astros (107-55, No. 1 last week): The Astros were the best team all summer long, and they should prove it during postseason. Right-handers Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Grienke make up an otherworldly rotation.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (105-56, No. 2): The Dodgers have been the National League’s best team throughout the season, but unless lefty Hyun-jin Ryu and righty Walker Buehler really excel, the Dodgers may not even get the chance to lose a third consecutive World Series.
3. New York Yankees (103-59, No. 3): This fantastic, overachieving bunch now faces the reality of not having enough starting pitching to grab the ring.
4. St. Louis Cardinals (91-71, No. 4): The Cards can’t match the length of Atlanta Braves’ lineup in the NLDS. But their young starting pitching duo of Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson is a great equalizer.
5. Atlanta Braves (97-65, No. 5): Is it possible that the Braves’ starting pitching (4.18 ERA) is good enough to hold down the Cardinals, the 21st-ranked offensive team in MLB?
6. Washington Nationals (93-69, No. 9): Virtually nobody agrees with me, but I think manager Davey Martinez picked the wrong starter for the NL wild-card game against Milwaukee in right-hander Max Scherzer. But if the real Max Scherzer is ready to show up, then the Nats can not only beat Milwaukee, but they can also be a very dangerous team to play.
7. Oakland Athletics (97-65, No. 6): The A’s have home-field advantage in the AL wild-card game, but they face the Rays, who have power arms galore. If the A’s advance, they’ll square off against an Astros team that won their season series, 11-8. But the A’s went 6-2 against Astros in their last two series.
8. Minnesota Twins (101-61, No. 2): The Twins may have squared up 300-plus home runs in the regular season, but now they face better pitching. And unfortunately for their pitching staff, they’ll face much better hitting teams. It’s not usually easy to dismiss a team that won 101 games in the regular season, but that doesn’t feel at all difficult here.
9. Tampa Bay Rays (96-66, No. 10): The Rays can get past A’s in a one-game playoff, but they won’t match up with Astros well.
10. Milwaukee Brewers (89-73, No. 8): The Brewers won 18 out of 20 games late before they hit Denver and were swept in a three-game set by the going-nowhere Rockies. They’ll have a lot of time after the NL wild-card game Oct. 1 to focus on how to better their rotation.
11. Cleveland Indians (93-69, No. 11): The Indians made a gallant effort in light of major injuries to right-handers Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, and now they face tough decisions on how to proceed. They’re on the verge of keeping this gang together too long.
12. New York Mets (86-76, No. 12): The Mets’ 14-6 finish is probably not going to be enough for manager Mickey Callaway to survive. Finally have some homegrown guys to build around like Amed Rosario, Jeff McNeil, Peter Alonso and Michael Conforto. The Mets’ contention window is still open, but they need some help from the front office. Will GM Brodie Van Wagenen be able to get owner Fred Wilpon to buy in?
13. Arizona Diamondbacks (85-77, No. 15): Skipper Torey Lovullo deserves a lot of credit for the culture that allowed the team to still finish strong despite losing Paul Goldschmidt, Patrick Corbin, A.J. Pollock and eventually Zack Grienke.
14. Chicago Cubs (84-78, No. 14): Something felt and smelled wrong about this team all season long. Manager Joe Maddon was let go at the end of the season, but club president Theo Epstein put rumors of his returning to Boston to bed. But I’m not sure the Golden Boy keeps his shine much longer in Chicago.
15. Philadelphia Phillies (81-81, No. 15): Management overestimated the team’s starting pitching capabilities, and bad luck took away all of the bullpen it had put together. While Matt Klentak is GM, it’s hard to imagine team president Andy MacPhail is impressed with manager Gabe Kapler.
16. Boston Red Sox (84-78, No. 16): The sudden dismissal of team president Dave Dombrowski means Red Sox will have all of their focus on picking Mr. or Mrs. Right. That person will be tasked with getting payroll under control and possibly taking a step backward in an attempt to get back to being an organization that focuses on developing homegrown talent.
17. San Francisco Giants (77-85, No. 17): The club’s 20-7 run approaching the trade deadline destroyed the best-laid plans of GM Farhan Zaidi. The Giants’ big focus this offseason will be on finding manager Bruce Bochy’s replacement as he rides off into the sunset.
18. Texas Rangers (78-84, No. 19): The Rangers made progress this season under first-year skipper Chris Woodward. Like the Giants, the Rangers were playing too well ahead of the trade deadline to deal a couple pieces for prospects.
19. Cincinnati Reds (75-87, No. 18): The trade deadline acquisition of right-hander Trevor Bauer trade shined a light on the direction of this team — the Reds will probably be active in free agency to win now.
20. Chicago White Sox (72-89, No. 20): The day-to-day lineup is starting to improve, but they have to figure out a way to sign first baseman Jose Abreu to an extension. The other problem I see: Rotation keys Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodon will both be coming back from Tommy John surgery next year.
21. Seattle Mariners (68-94, No. 21): GM Jerry Dipoto termed the direction he was taking his team not a rebuild but rather a reimagining. The only problem is that the team prior to new direction — the 2018 Mariners — won 21 more games than the reimagined M’s.
22. Colorado Rockies (71-91, No. 25): Hard to believe this was the same team that pressured the Dodgers down to the wire in 2018. The starting pitching was just awful.
23. Toronto Blue Jays (67-95, No. 24): Nice that Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio all made their debuts and put the Jays’ rebuild on full display. But, like so many teams, you wonder where the pitching is going to come from.
24. San Diego Padres (70-92, No. 22): The Padres fired skipper Andy Green with about two weeks remaining in season. Management expected this team to be much further along into being competitive; their record is a setback and could impact who they can attract to the skipper’s seat.
25. Los Angeles Angels (72-90, No. 23): This seems to be a truly jinxed franchise with an ungodly record of injured pitching, but two-way player Shohei Ohtani should return to the mound next season. They’ll probably part company with outfielder Kole Calhoun to clear the way for prospect Jo Adell, who has a chance to be a special player.
26. Pittsburgh Pirates (69-93, No. 26): The big news broke Sept. 29 that manager Clint Hurdle will not return just days after it was reported Hurdle was staying put. The Pirates went 25-48 in the second half.
27. Kansas City Royals (59-103, No. 27): Finding a replacement for retiring manager Ned Yost will be the priority. But an ownership change to a new group headed by Kansas City businessman John Sherman is taking place, and apparently GM Dayton Moore will be extended.
28. Baltimore Orioles (54-108, No. 28): The O’s finished seven games better than at their worst a year ago. A couple pieces — Trey Mancini, Austin Hays and John Means — may even be here when this team has fully turned around. They’ll have the No. 2 pick next June in the amateur draft.
29. Miami Marlins (57-105, No. 28): The question is, should manager Don Mattingly really be happy with still holding this job? The odds of him being at the helm when this team gets back to .500 or better are still quite long.
30. Detroit Tigers (47-114, No. 30): Clearly they have earned the No. 1 pick in next June’s amateur draft. I’d bet that the Tigers, not the Orioles, may very well have the top picks in 2021 and 2022.