Starting Nine (Week of August 21st)

The Braves, Dodgers, and Orioles are starting to separate from the field while upstarts like the Cubs, Reds, and Mariners are very much alive with the season closing in on Labor Day. Let’s take a look at our latest Starting Nine.

Starting Nine (Week of August 21st)

#9. Toronto Blue Jays 69-56 (+1000/+2200) - Bo Bichette returned with a flourish over the weekend. With the addition of closer Hicks from the Cardinals, Toronto can shorten games like few other teams with Hicks and primary closer Romero at the back end of the pen. Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

#8. Milwaukee Brewers 68-57 (+1000/+2500) - After being swept by one division leader, the Dodgers, the Brewers swept another, the Rangers. If they can stay healthy, the Brewers' top three starters: Burnes, Peralta, and Woodward can compete with anyone. Last Week’s Rank: 8th

#7. Seattle Mariners 69-55 (+850/+1800) - The Mariners didn’t make any major moves at the deadline except to trade away their closer. However, thanks to improved pitching and the return to prominence of Julio Rodriguez, they are surging toward the playoffs. Last Week’s Rank: 7th

#6. Houston Astros 70-55 (+380/+800) - The Astros may have to worry more about the Mariners catching them than they do catching the Rangers. Houston opens the week with a big series against the Red Sox. Last Week’s Rank: 5th

#5. Texas Rangers 72-52 (+425/+900) - Losers of four straight games, the Rangers face their most pivotal stretch of the season with nine straight on the road upcoming. Last Week’s Rank: 4th

#4. Tampa Bay Rays 75-51 (+400/+800) - Baseball’s most resilient team passes the struggling Rangers and Astros to sneak back into the Top 5. Few teams adjust to adversity like these Rays. Can they carry that through the playoffs? Last Week’s Rank: 6th

#3. Los Angeles Dodgers 76-47 (+190/+400) - The Dodgers are the hottest team in baseball at the moment. They have the lineup to match up with Atlanta in the playoffs. Do they have the pitching? Last Week’s Rank: 3rd

#2. Baltimore Orioles 77-47 (+380/+900) - Based on their World Series odds, the oddsmakers still rank the O’s behind the best teams in the National League. Yet, all the Orioles do is keep on winning. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#1. Atlanta Braves 80-43 (+160/+330) - The Braves' only real foe the rest of the way will likely be complacency. Atlanta has time to rest some regulars and wait for the return to health of a few others as they await another playoff run. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

AL/NL MVP Candidates:

With each week, it becomes more and more obvious that Ohtani has wrapped up this award and everyone else is fighting for second.

Top-three AL MVP Candidates

#1. Shohei Ohtani (-20,000) - It is unlikely Ohtani will take the mound the rest of the way but his MVP candidacy is untouchable at this point. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#2. Kyle Tucker (+6,500) - In any other year, Tucker would be right in the thick of the MVP race. Having his best all-around season, Tucker will be a very distant second to Ohtani this season. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#3. Corey Seager (+7500) - Seager might be in line for his first-ever batting title this season as long as he gets the required number of at-bats down the stretch. The MVP, however, is out of reach. Last Week’s Rank: 3rd

Top-three NL MVP Candidates

#1. Ronald Acuna Jr. (-500) - Acuna now has 28 home runs on the season and will certainly be the first player to ever have a 30/60 season in home runs and steals. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#2. Freddie Freeman (+650) - Freeman is second in batting average in the NL and fourth in OPS. He is also a distant second to Acuna and his historic season. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#3. Mookie Betts (+1000) - Betts sneaks back into the top three as he continues to produce the best power numbers of his career for the red-hot Dodgers. Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

Top-three AL Cy Young Candidates

#1. Kevin Gausman (+350) - Cole’s rough start helped Gausman to jump to the top spot Gausman is in the top ten in ERA, innings, strikeouts and K/9. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#1. Gerrit Cole (-170) - Cole could be the runaway favorite were it not for the Red Sox. He is still the clear ace of the Yankees’ staff and among the league leaders in nearly every major category. A strong finish can get Cole right back on top. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#3. Felix Bautista (+10,000) - Bautista’s eight wins, 32 saves, 109 strikeouts, and 16.8 K/9 rate for the first-place O’s puts him in the Cy Young discussion. Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

Top-three NL Cy Young Candidates

#1. Zac Gallen (+175) - Gallen is back atop the NL Cy Young standings with just over a month to go. Gallen has the stats and has benefitted from a less-than-stellar field this year. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#2. Blake Snell (+210) - Like Gallen, Snell has had a very good year but perhaps not a Cy Young-level year based on history. Yet, he could close strong and steal this award. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#3. Justin Steele (+900) - Steele’s +900 number is enticing with just over a month to go. He has 14 wins, 16 quality starts, and is second in ERA in the NL. In the heat of a playoff chase, Steele could win over voters with a strong close. Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

*All odds courtesy of

By Mark Ruelle

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Mark Ruelle

Mark has been a sports fanatic since childhood. He is also an avid follower of sports analytics and has used it in his own betting analysis for over two decades. Now we have Mark on our team here at Stat Salt. He holds degrees in marketing, broadcasting, and English and uses this vast array of assets to dissect and analyze game matchups. Mark will provide you with a wide variety of statistics to consider and a strong opinion in each matchup that he covers. Please follow him daily for an up-to-the-minute analysis of all the important games.