1 Prediction for Every MLB Team for the Final Month of Regular Season

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterSeptember 8, 2021

1 Prediction for Every MLB Team for the Final Month of Regular Season

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    Two Blue Jays teammates are locked in a fascinating home run race.
    Two Blue Jays teammates are locked in a fascinating home run race.Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

    With only a few weeks to go between now and the end of the 2021 Major League Baseball season, there's only so much time left for storylines to develop or conclude.

    So, better squeeze in some last-minute predictions while we still can.

    We have one for each of MLB's 30 teams, ranging from the player-specific variety to more of a big-picture variety. Some are meant to be realistic, while others are more so meant to be...well, fun for the sake of fun.

    We'll go division by division, starting in the American League East and ending in the National League West.

American League East

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    Wander Franco
    Wander FrancoWill Newton/Associated Press

    Baltimore Orioles: Cedric Mullins Will Clinch a 30/30 Season

    There aren't many positives that the Orioles will be able to take away from what's been a miserable 2021 season, but there is an obvious one: This year has seen Cedric Mullins become not just an All-Star, but one of the best outfielders in baseball.

    Perhaps nothing would cement the legacy of Mullins' breakout campaign than him becoming the first Oriole since 1922 to finish with 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases. He only needs three more homers and four more steals, which are hardly insurmountable obstacles relative to how he's been racking 'em up lately.

          

    Boston Red Sox: They'll Claim the Top Wild-Card Spot

    Between their dire COVID-19 outbreak and what's now a three-game losing streak, things aren't exactly good for the Red Sox right now. Yet nor are they awful, as they're actually 9-7 in their last 16 games and only a half-game behind the New York Yankees for the AL's top wild-card spot.

    That same Yankees team, meanwhile, has hit a wall with eight losses in their last 10 games. Should that skid continue, Boston's easy remaining schedule and looming COVID reinforcements should be just the mix the team needs to secure the right to play the Wild Card Game at Fenway Park.

          

    New York Yankees: Aroldis Chapman Will Lose His Job

    Apropos of what we have down for the Red Sox, this is where we could predict that the Yankees will miss the playoffs entirely, thus cementing their 2021 season as one of the biggest letdowns in franchise history. But especially with a relatively easy 13-game stretch between Sept. 10 and 22 coming up, that's a reach.

    Instead, we'll focus some doom and gloom on Aroldis Chapman. The seven-time All-Star closer was as dominant as ever through his first 23 appearances, but since then he's rocking a 7.04 ERA. It's not hard to imagine him losing his job to someone else, such as Chad Green or scintillating newcomer Clay Holmes.

          

    Tampa Bay Rays: Wander Franco Will Pass Frank Robinson

    The Rays are comfortably ahead of both the Yankees in the AL East and the Houston Astros in the race for home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. Good for them, but that level of excellence makes it annoyingly hard to toss hot takes in their direction.

    So, this one is specifically for 20-year-old star Wander Franco. He's already surpassed Mickey Mantle with a 37-game on-base streak, and is now just six games away from Frank Robinson's record for an under-21 player. Because Franco is all the way locked-in right now, we believe he can get there.

         

    Toronto Blue Jays: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. Won't Lead the Team in Home Runs

    The Blue Jays are red-hot right now, winning nine out of 10 to put themselves within two games of the second wild-card spot. But if this movie seems familiar, it's because the Blue Jays have been running hot and cold all season. If another cold spell follows, their playoff push will fall short.

    What will be fun regardless is watching Marcus Semien (38) and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (40) continue to vie for the team lead in home runs. Semien has had the edge of late, outhomering Vlad 14 to seven since the start of August. If Semien can maintain it for just a few more weeks, the final honor will be his.

American League Central

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    Salvador Perez
    Salvador PerezCharlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Chicago White Sox: 95 Wins for the First Time Since 2005

    The White Sox have had first place in the AL Central all to themselves since way back on May 7, and their lead in the division hasn't been under nine games since the last day of July. So for them, the stakes for the last few weeks of the season are pretty low.

    Still, it would be nice (and certainly a good omen) if the White Sox got to 95 wins for the first time since 2005. They're only on track for 94 wins at present, but their remaining schedule is the second-easiest of any AL team. That can only help them get over the hump.

          

    Cleveland: 40 Home Runs for Jose Ramirez

    It looks unlikely that Cleveland will be making the playoffs for the fifth time in the last six years. Just don't put that on the team's players, as it's more so the fault of an ownership group that's sunk an MLB-low $49 million into payroll.

    Perhaps the top rooting interest in Cleveland from here on out concerns Jose Ramirez's chase for 40 home runs. He just missed when he blasted 39 in 2018, and he's not exactly close with 32 right now. But with seven dingers in his last 21 games, he can get there if he stays on his current pace for 26 more games.

         

    Detroit Tigers: Yes, They'll Outscore the Yankees

    Even at 65-75, the Tigers are more or less where they wanted to be by the end of 2021. Which is to say, that much closer to the end of a rebuild that began in earnest in 2017 and which at times seemed like it was going to be interminable.

    Albeit thanks to two additional games played, did you know that the Tigers are outscoring the Yankees? Pretty remarkable, considering that the two clubs were on opposite sides of that spectrum between 2018 and 2020. Because the Tigers are hot early in September, the chances of them keep that lead look decent.

         

    Kansas City Royals: A New Record for Salvador Perez

    This season has been more of a modest step forward for a Royals club that's also been rebuilding in recent years, but at least they have Salvador Perez going for them. Two years after undergoing Tommy John surgery, the seven-time All-Star and fan favorite has exploded for 41 home runs.

    Because Perez has hit only 27 of those as a catcher, he's not going to break Javier Lopez's single-season record of 42 in that department. Yet he only needs four more to tie Johnny Bench's record for home runs in a season as a primary catcher. Perez will get those, plus one more to claim the record for himself.

         

    Minnesota Twins: They'll Stay in Last Place

    After claiming the AL Central crown in 2019 and 2020, the Twins have spent all of five days in first place this season. They're playing for pride at this point, specifically in that they're trying to avoid finishing in last for the first time since 2016.

    Though there's certainly a non-zero chance of this happening, it's hard to give the Twins the benefit of the doubt. They still have 10 losses in their last 17 games in spite of their current three-game win streak, and every single one of their remaining games is against a team with a better record than them. 

American League West

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    Yuli Gurriel
    Yuli GurrielDavid J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Houston Astros: The Batting Title for Yuli Gurriel

    Though the Astros have opened themselves up for a takedown with an 11-11 record since Aug. 15, neither the Oakland Athletics nor the Seattle Mariners have taken advantage. Because the Astros are now in for a soft landing, the AL West title should be theirs.

    Otherwise, there is the question of whether Yuli Gurriel (.313) or Michael Brantley (.316) can overcome Guerrero (.319) to win the AL batting title. As his .313 average since the break is the best of the three, the 37-year-old Gurriel has a shot to get it done and become one of the oldest batting champions ever.

            

    Oakland Athletics: 3rd Place Is Where They'll Finish

    The A's were just 1.5 games out of first place on Aug. 12, effectively putting them just one warm stretch away from supplanting Houston for the division lead. Instead, what's followed is a 7-16 slump that's pushed first place out of reach and dropped them to third place in the division.

    Alas, they haven't been the same since ace Chris Bassitt suffered a frightening injury last month. What's more, their remaining schedule is on the difficult side. So even if the A's so much as tread water, they could still end the year looking up at Houston and the Seattle Mariners.

               

    Los Angeles Angels: They'll Finish Under .500 Again

    It's oh-so-tempting to predict that Shohei Ohtani will lose his home run lead to Perez, Semien or Guerrero. But nah. Though Ohtani may have wandered onto thin ice with a 13-game streak without a homer between July 29 and Aug. 10, he's since come off it with six homers in 25 games.

    In any case, a more pressing question in Anaheim is whether the Angels can salvage a .500 record for the first time since 2015. Since they're only one game under .500 now, they have a chance. It's just not a good one, as they're not playing well now and their remaining schedule is one of the toughest in MLB.

           

    Seattle Mariners: 40 Home Runs for Kyle Seager

    The Mariners' wild-card dreams have gone from being murky to decidedly clear over the last few weeks, in which they've gone 17-10 and moved to within three games of the second spot. But they've also allowed three more runs than they've scored during this stretch, so their true quality is still suspect.

    What's more likely is that this season will be one for the books for Kyle Seager. It already is to the extent that his 34 homers are a career high, but six more would make him the first Mariner in five years to have at least 40 in a season. With 20 of his blasts coming in his last 54 games, he's on the right track.

             

    Texas Rangers: 100 Losses Is Happening

    Nearly half a century has passed since the Rangers' last 100-loss season in 1973. They've recently made some progress to prolong that streak with wins in five of their last eight games.

    At 50-88, the Rangers nonetheless need to win at least 14 of their last 26 games to avoid 100 losses. They haven't had a stretch like that all season, and their remaining schedule features 16 games against winning teams. In other words: Sorry, guys, but it's not happening.

National League East

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    Juan Soto
    Juan SotoNick Wass/Associated Press

    Atlanta: They'll Hold On

    Because the baseball gods have apparently decreed that there be no dull moments in the NL East race, Atlanta has quickly gone from five games up at the end of a 16-2 run between Aug. 3 and 22 to just 2.5 games up after losing eight out of its next 13 contests.

    On the plus side, Atlanta still has a better than 70 percent chance of winning the division at FanGraphs. It helps that the team is relatively healthy right now, and also that it's in the middle of a nine-game homestand against losing clubs. It'll be a surprise if Brian Snitker's club doesn't hold on.

         

    Miami Marlins: Last Place Awaits Them

    Meanwhile on the other end of the NL East, the Marlins and Washington Nationals are dead-locked at 57 wins and 81 losses apiece. Whoever wins the most games—or, perhaps more appropriately, loses the fewest—the rest of the way will avoid a dreaded last-place finish.

    At 5-5 over their last 10 games, the Marlins are trending better than the Nationals (2-8). But the latter may have a built-in advantage in that its remaining schedule is easier than Miami's. As we'll discuss in more detail shortly, it also helps that the Nats have the best player on either side.

            

    New York Mets: They Won't Salvage a Winning Record

    Granted, the Mets are technically still in the NL wild-card race. They're even making progress in that regard, as a brutal 6-19 run between Aug. 1 and 27 has since given way to an 8-2 stretch that's pushed them a game over .500 at 70-69.

    The road ahead, though, contains 17 games against clubs with winning records. The Mets are 33-43 against such teams for the season, and it doesn't sound as if ace Jacob deGrom will be able to help much (if at all) down the stretch. The picture is of a team that's doomed to finish with more losses than wins.

          

    Philadelphia Phillies: Another OPS Title for Bryce Harper

    The Phillies are on one right now, having won eight out of 11 to move to put themselves firmly in both the NL East and NL wild-card races. But since their last hot stretch in early August was immediately followed by a 4-11 slide, it's fair to have a little skepticism about their chances.

    Bryce Harper, however, could lay claim to the title of the season's best hitter by way of the overall OPS lead. He's only .010 points behind Guerrero right now, and he can quickly cut that deficit down if he stays on the path that's thus far led him to an MLB-high 1.157 OPS in the second half.

         

    Washington Nationals: Juan Soto Joins the .500 Club

    Speaking of red-hot second halves, Juan Soto is pulling off a rare trick of getting on base more often than he's making outs. As in, his on-base percentage since the All-Star break stands at an otherworldly .517.

    Since Soto finished last year's shortened season with a .490 OBP, this isn't out of character for him. It's nonetheless a mildly historic accomplishment, as there have thus far been only 51 instances of a hitter finishing a half with an OBP over .500. Since he's basically a hitting god, Soto should make it 52.

National League Central

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Chicago Cubs: Kyle Hendricks Becomes a Unique Wins Leader

    Save for their pride, the Cubs don't have much to play for anymore. Yet they at least have some intriguing individual storylines going on, including Frank Schwindel's late-season power surge and Kyle Hendrick's quest for the National League lead for wins.

    Because Hendricks is having a well-below-average season (i.e., a 91 ERA+) for a losing team, he frankly has no business being just two wins off Julio Urias' pace. But that's also what's so darn interesting about his pursuit of the win lead, so pardon us for indulging in wishful thinking and predicting that he'll claim it.

         

    Cincinnati Reds: They'll Nab the 2nd WC Spot

    The Reds are in a funk with nine losses in their last 14 games, yet their wild-card fortunes haven't sunk just yet. They're tied with the San Diego Padres for the second spot, which underscores that the Dads aren't having such a great time in their own right.

    Going forward, the Reds have one thing going for them that the Padres decidedly don't: an easy schedule. There are eight games against winning teams remaining on Cincinnati's slate, compared to a whopping 22 for San Diego. That should be just the advantage the Reds need to slip into the playoffs.

            

    Milwaukee Brewers: They'll Taste 100 Wins for the First Time

    The Brewers hold an 11-game lead in the NL Central, so really the only question is if they can play well enough to steal home-field advantage out from under the San Francisco Giants or Los Angeles Dodgers. It's possible...but also a reach, as neither of those clubs is particularly prone to losing right now.

    What the Brewers can do regardless is win 100 games for what would be the first time in their history. They're on track for "only" 97 wins right now, but they've been hot with 19 wins in their last 28 games and their remaining schedule is littered with mediocre teams. 

              

    Pittsburgh Pirates: They Won't Finish Last in Home Runs

    From a macro perspective, the Pirates are 39 games under .500 because they're not trying to win right now. On a micro level, they're not winning games because they just can't compete in today's power-addled offensive environment. Their 110 home runs are the fewest of the season.

    Yet the Pirates are turning a corner thus far in September, wherein their nine home runs are actually within the league's top half. That puts them five up on the Arizona Diamondbacks, meaning their 12-homer lead on Pittsburgh for the season could soon be in jeopardy.

         

    St. Louis Cardinals: 200 Innings for Adam Wainwright

    With only 3.5 games standing between them and the NL's second wild-card spot, the curtains haven't yet closed on the Cardinals' season. Yet it's been a while since anyone could mistake them for a great team, and their remaining schedule is about as punishing as it gets.

    It's a good thing, then, that some of their guys have individual accolades to pursue. Adam Wainwright, for example, is gunning for a rarity in baseball today: a 200-inning season. He's only 24 frames away with likely five starts remaining, so he should get there. If so, good stuff for a guy who turned 40 on August 30.

National League West

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    Fernando Tatis Jr.
    Fernando Tatis Jr.Gregory Bull/Associated Press

    Arizona Diamondbacks: 110 Losses, Coming Up

    At this point, the only silver lining to be found in the Diamondbacks' 2021 season is that they aren't the worst team in baseball. They're at least better than the Orioles, who may end up with 110 losses.

    But even though they're currently projected for 108 losses, the Snakes are very much in danger of crossing the 110-loss threshold in their own right. Their remaining schedule, you see, is a nightmare that contains 19 games against winning teams. As in, the very teams they're 26-65 against.

           

    Colorado Rockies: No Home Win Record for Them

    Though the Rockies are also a bad team, it ought to be no secret by now that they're also a very good team about half the time. Specifically when they play at home in Coors Field, where their 45-26 record is the fifth-best home mark in MLB.

    However, that still puts the Rockies 10 home wins away from their franchise record of 55 from 1996. They could still technically get there, but they can't afford to lose any of their 10 remaining games at Coors. Especially knowing that seven of those games are against the Dodgers and Giants, don't count on it.

          

    Los Angeles Dodgers: For the Umpteenth Time, They're Winning the Division

    According to FanGraphs, the Dodgers' chances of winning the NL West title have dipped below 50 percent on only two occasions all season. This is in spite of the fact that they've only actually spent 24 days in first place, so those chances either underestimate the Giants or overestimate the Dodgers.

    The truth is probably somewhere in between, and yet the Dodgers still look to us like the team that's destined to sit on the NL West throne. They've already trimmed what was a five-game deficit on Aug. 13 down to one game, and it's key that they have six games left against Arizona to San Francisco's three.

          

    San Diego Padres: No Chuck Klein Honors for Fernando Tatis Jr.

    It certainly wouldn't help Fernando Tatis Jr.'s MVP case if the Padres do indeed miss out on the second wild-card spot. And yet he's likely to exit the season as the man to beat for the award anyway, as it's frankly hard to downplay numbers like a .988 OPS, 37 home runs and 5.6 rWAR.

    However, it's now unlikely that Tatis will pull a Chuck Klein and lead the NL in home runs and stolen bases. He's two behind Trea Turner for the latter, and the fact that he's stolen just one base in his last 26 games indicates he's more interested in protecting his compromised left shoulder than in chasing shiny objects.

         

    San Francisco Giants: A New Franchise Record for Home Runs

    OK, so, the Giants aren't winning the NL West in this particular storybook. But even if that ends up being the case, they're still going to salvage the league's top wild-card spot. As of now, the difference between the Dodgers and the next team in that race is 14.5 games.

    Plus, the Giants should finish this season with a new franchise record for home runs in a season. They're only 28 behind the Barry Bonds-led 2001 Giants with 23 games to go. They'll need to average 1.2 home runs per game, or about 0.29 less than they're averaging for the season as a whole.

           

    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.

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