Starting Nine (Week of August 28th)

September beckons as the MLB season heads toward the home stretch. The wildcard races are heating up in each league and the AL West and NL Central Division races are still very much up for grabs. Here is the latest Starting Nine.

Starting Nine (Week of August 28th)

#9. Philadelphia Phillies 72-58 (+700/+1400) - The emergence of starters Walker and Sanchez gives the Phillies a better-starting rotation than last year’s NL champs. They are once again emerging as a team that no one wants to see in the playoffs. Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

#8. Texas Rangers 73-57 (+600/+1300) - The Rangers have hit their roughest patch of the season at the most inopportune time. They are now out of first place for the first time since mid-April. Last Week’s Rank: 5th

#7. Houston Astros 74-58 (+400/+750) - The Astros find themselves in a three-way battle for the division lead in the AL West and are still holding onto a wildcard spot. If they can navigate the final month, they have the horses to make a deep run in the playoffs. Last Week’s Rank: 6th

#6. Milwaukee Brewers 73-57 (+900/+2000) - With as good a rotation as anyone in the NL, if the Brewers’ bats can keep producing, they will be a tough out in the playoffs. Last Week’s Rank: 8th

#5. Seattle Mariners 74-56 (+550/+1300) - The Mariners have come all the way back to take the AL West Division lead with a month to play. Can a team with two rookie starters outlast two veteran teams in Houston and Texas? Last Week’s Rank: 7th

#4. Tampa Bay Rays 75-51 (+370/+750) - The Rays keep finding ways to win including a come-from-behind win over the Yankees on Sunday. With Bautista’s injury, the Rays could surpass the O’s for the division title. Last Week’s Rank: 4th

#3. Baltimore Orioles 81-49 (+360/+900) - The potential season-ending injury to closer Bautista could severely impact Baltimore’s ability to both win the division and go deep in the playoffs. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#2. Los Angeles Dodgers 80-49 (+190/+400) - The Dodgers are the hottest team in baseball at this point. All is not roses in LA, however, with the announcement that starter Tony Gonsolin has been lost for the season. Last Week’s Rank: 3rd

#1. Atlanta Braves 84-45 (+155/+300) - The NL East Division title is nearly a foregone conclusion at this point. A first-round bye is also a near certainty. The Braves’ main issue down the stretch will be team health. 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) - Ohtani’s UCL injury has ended his season on the mound but he is still having an MVP season just as a hitter. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#2. Kyle Tucker (+6,500) - Tucker rolls along with his best overall season but will fall well short of Ohtani in the voting. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#3. Corey Seager (+7500) - Seager may not win the MVP but he can surpass Tucker for the second spot with a strong finish to help propel the Rangers into the playoffs. Last Week’s Rank: 3rd

Top-three NL MVP Candidates

#1. Ronald Acuna Jr. (+150) - Acuna’s odds have completely flipped through no fault of his own. The Braves' consistency may have hurt his candidacy but he still has historic home run/steal numbers with just over a month left. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#2. Mookie Betts (-130) - Betts has moved into the #1 spot as far as odds-on-favorite to win the MVP with his red-hot month of August. Betts is now batting over .300 and has a career-high 35 home runs. If he can maintain this pace, it may be too close to call between Acuna and Betts for the MVP. Last Week’s Rank: 3rd

#3. Freddie Freeman (+1000) - Freeman could play a key role in the MVP race, not as a potential winner but his numbers could sway the voting. If he wins the batting title decisively, that could hurt Acuna’s bid. Also, if he emerges as the Dodgers’ best player down the stretch, that could hurt teammate Betts’ MVP candidacy. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

Top-three AL Cy Young Candidates

#1. Gerrit Cole (-210) - Cole is tops in the AL in WAR and tops in innings. He is also top five in wins, strikeouts, and WHIP. In a weak field this season, Cole has reemerged as the front-runner. Last Week’s Rank: 1st

#2. Luis Castillo (+280) - Castillo’s rise in the rankings coincides with the Mariners’ rise in the standings. He is tops in the AL in WHIP and top five in innings, strikeouts, and WAR. With five or six starts left, he could overtake Cole. Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

#3. Kevin Gausman (+700) - Gausman has been unable to emerge in a light AL field thanks to a couple of less-than-stellar starts. He is tops in strikeouts and K/9 rate but will unlikely be able to surpass the top two over the final month. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

Top-three NL Cy Young Candidates

#1. Zac Gallen (-105) - Gallen has emerged as the clear front-runner in the NL with the league’s best WAR and a top-five performer in WHIP, innings, wins, and quality starts. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

#2. Spencer Strider (+200) - Strider moves back into the top three in a wide-open NL field. He is tops in the NL in wins and strikeouts while top-five in WHIP, WAR, and quality starts. Last Week’s Rank: Unranked

#3. Blake Snell (+300) - Snell drops a spot this week with Strider’s strong showing this week. Snell, like both Gallen and Strider, is a top-five performer in nearly every major category. Last Week’s Rank: 2nd

*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.