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MLB Power Rankings: The 2020 MVP for all 30 teams



As we enter the final week of the regular season, the playoff field is taking shape, as are ESPN’s Power Rankings. After a period of slipping out of our top five (and nearly slipping out of a playoff berth), the Yankees righted the ship and have looked like the powerhouse most expected to see all along. The Bronx Bombers ran off 10 consecutive wins and check in at No. 5 in this week’s rankings.

Also bumping up are the White Sox, who have clinched their first postseason berth since 2008 and move up two notches to No. 3 in the Power Rankings.

As part of this week’s rankings, David Schoenfield weighs in with his picks for every team’s individual most valuable player of 2020.

Previous: Preseason | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7

Record: 38-16
Playoff probability: Clinched
Week 7 ranking: 1

With some of last year’s stars struggling, Mookie Betts has been the one constant in the offense. His power hasn’t suffered in moving from Fenway Park to Dodger Stadium and he has a shot at National League MVP honors. Shoutout to Clayton Kershaw for his 6-2 record and 2.15 ERA.

ICYMI: How Gavin Lux wants to make a difference in Kenosha

Record: 35-19
Playoff probability: Clinched
Week 7 ranking: 2

It’s been a team effort for Tampa Bay, but Brandon Lowe has been the team’s best hitter, leading the Rays in home runs, runs, RBIs and OPS while trailing only the Yankees’ DJ LeMahieu among MLB second basemen in WAR. His versatility also has helped as he’s started seven games in right field and four in left field.

Record: 34-19
Playoff probability: Clinched
Week 7 ranking: 5

Luis Robert has been a revelation, Eloy Jimenez has slugged and Tim Anderson has been even more amazing than he was last season, but first baseman Jose Abreu led all American League position players in bWAR and RBIs entering Sunday while hitting above .300 with an 1.000 OPS. He and Anderson both have a shot at AL MVP honors.

ICYMI: White Sox among teams we’d love to see in World Series

Record: 34-20
Playoff probability: Clinched
Week 7 ranking: 3

A couple of weeks ago, shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. looked like a lock for NL MVP. He’s slumped since then, however, and third baseman Manny Machado has passed him in OPS, home runs and RBIs, so now it looks like a four-man race for MVP honors among Tatis, Machado, Mookie Betts and Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman.

ICYMI: Manny Machado on Padres’ rise, his bounce-back season

Record: 31-22
Playoff probability: Clinched
Week 7 ranking: 9

Most Yankees fans would likely go with first baseman Luke Voit, who is having a monster power and RBI season, leading the majors with 21 home runs. We could go with that, although right-hander DJ LeMahieu has the edge in WAR (fielding and baserunning count) and Gerrit Cole, despite some home run hiccups, is 6-3 with a 3.00 ERA.

ICYMI: Could new Mets owner Steve Cohen lure Brian Cashman away?

Record: 33-20
Playoff probability: Clinched
Week 7 ranking: 4

The bullpen has been Oakland’s strength so let’s go with closer Liam Hendriks, who is 3-0 with 13 saves, a 1.23 ERA and a 32-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In a season when so many teams have struggled to find a closer, Hendriks has been the best in the game.

ICYMI: How Liam Hendricks channeled his inner dragon

Record: 33-22
Playoff probability: Clinched
Week 7 ranking: 6

Nelson Cruz, who turned 40 on July 1, is on pace for the best OPS+ of his career, beating his previous best set last season. Yeah, he’s a designated hitter, but given the Twins have been unable as a team to match last year’s offensive prowess, Cruz has carried the lineup. He is now ninth on the all-time list for home runs for players 30 and older.

Record: 31-22
Playoff probability: 100%
Week 7 ranking: 8

Bill James tweeted the other day that Freddie Freeman will be a Hall of Famer. The first baseman needs a few more big seasons, but he is better than ever at age 30 and in the running for NL MVP. His most similar player on Baseball-Reference.com is Eddie Murray, and that’s a good comp. They called Murray “Steady Eddie.” We can call Freeman “Steady Freddie.”

Record: 31-22
Playoff probability: 100%
Week 7 ranking: 10

Given the struggles of most of the Cubs’ hitters, Yu Darvish is an easy call. The right-hander is in the Cy Young race at 7-2 with a 1.86 ERA and 79 K’s in 63 innings entering Sunday’s start. Since the second half of 2019, Darvish has made 23 starts and is 11-6 with a 2.36 and an incredible 197-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 144⅔ innings.

ICYMI: Inside Yu Darvish’s return to elite status

Record: 29-24
Playoff probability: 100%
Week 7 ranking: 7

Shane Bieber is a lock for the AL Cy Young and might even rate as the MVP favorite. He’s 8-1 with a 1.74 ERA and an incredible 112 strikeouts in 72⅓ innings. Cleveland can’t hit, but it will be fun to see if Bieber and his rotation mates can carry the Indians to their first World Series title since 1948.

Record: 27-26
Playoff probability: 99.8%
Week 7 ranking: 11

How about “none of the above”? Shortstop Carlos Correa leads in bWAR, but that’s thanks to some positive defensive metrics and not his bat. Outfielder Kyle Tucker has a case thanks to his high RBI total. Right-handers Zack Greinke and Cristian Javier have near identical WARs, although Greinke has the much better FIP. Outfielder Michael Brantley leads in win probability added, so he’s been the most “clutch.” So, yeah, there really isn’t a good choice.

ICYMI: Losing Verlander could be beginning of end in Houston

Record: 27-26
Playoff probability: 98.0%
Week 7 ranking: 12

The Jays invested heavily in a new rotation in the offseason and it would be a complete mess if not for the efforts of Hyun-Jin Ryu, who is 4-2 with a 3.00 ERA and has allowed two runs or fewer in eight of his 11 starts.

Record: 27-26
Playoff probability: 73.7%
Week 7 ranking: 13

Four players have carried the team: catcher J.T. Realmuto, outfielder Bryce Harper and right-handers Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler. If we average Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs WAR, we get Wheeler at 2.15, Nola at 2.0, Harper at 1.55 and Realmuto at 1.5. Harper’s .400-plus OBP has been big, even as he’s struggled of late, plus he’s played more games than Realmuto. Nola has a lot more K’s than Wheeler, but Wheeler has limited home runs. Realmuto has excelled at a position where most teams have struggled to generate offense. Flip a coin. Harper has more big hits than Realmuto, so he wins the flip.

Record: 27-27
Playoff probability: 51.9%
Week 7 ranking: 17

Trevor Bauer is only 4-4 due to a lack of run support, but he has a 1.80 ERA, has tossed two seven-inning shutouts and has dominated in the secondary stats as well with 88 strikeouts in 65 innings and an opponents’ batting average of .161.

Record: 26-24
Playoff probability: 80.8%
Week 7 ranking: 14

Adam Wainwright is 5-1 with a 2.87 ERA while averaging nearly seven innings per start, including two complete games (one seven innings) that have helped save the bullpen as the Cardinals had to play all those doubleheaders. It’s the best the right-hander has looked in six years.

Record: 26-26
Playoff probability: 43.1%
Week 7 ranking: 15

Outfielder Mike Yastrzemski was a surprise as a 28-year-old rookie last year and has been an even bigger surprise in 2020, ranking near the top of the WAR leaderboard among other categories all season. He’s led the way for an offense that has improved from one of the worst in the majors to one of the best.

Record: 28-25
Playoff probability: 70.5%
Week 7 ranking: 19

Nobody stands out, so we’re going to default to win probability added — and shortstop Miguel Rojas is the clear leader here. Entering Sunday, he’s hit .588 in high-leverage situations (10 for 17) with two home runs and 13 RBIs.

ICYMI: Rookie Sixto Sanchez making a major impact

Record: 24-29
Playoff probability: 6.9%
Week 7 ranking: 16

The only knock against Jacob deGrom is he’s averaged just 5⅔ innings per start, but he’s been as dominant as ever, going 4-1 with a 2.09 ERA in his 10 starts. The offense has led the way, but deGrom has a shot at a third consecutive Cy Young Award. He will start Monday and possibly once more if the Mets are still in the hunt later in the week.

ICYMI: Steve Cohen’s first move could be to try to lure Brian Cashman from Yankees

Record: 26-26
Playoff probability: 58.2%
Week 7 ranking: 18

Corbin Burnes has rebounded from a brutal 2019 campaign (1-5, 8.82) to go 4-0 with a league-leading 1.77 ERA. Entering Sunday, the right-hander led the NL not only in ERA, but FIP, K’s and fewest hits per nine innings, and he’s allowed just one home run in 56 innings. As a starter (eight outings), his ERA is 1.25.

Record: 23-29
Playoff probability: 1.9%
Week 7 ranking: 20

With Nolan Arenado having a bad year, especially at the plate, shortstop Trevor Story is the easy choice in what has been a disappointing season for the Rockies after their 11-3 start (at which point their playoffs odds were about 75%).

Record: 20-32
Playoff probability: 0.0%
Week 7 ranking: 21

It obviously has been a lost season for the Nationals, but outfielder Juan Soto picked up where he left off last October and has arguably been the best hitter in the game, hitting .338/.463/.677 with 11 home runs, 11 doubles and 32 RBIs in 37 games entering Sunday. If he hadn’t missed the start of the season, he’d be right up there in the MVP discussion.

Record: 23-31
Playoff probability: 0.7%
Week 7 ranking: 22

Right fielder Anthony Santander is out for the season with an oblique strain, but he showed impressive power numbers in his 37 games, with 11 home runs and 13 doubles, while also improving his strikeout and walk rates from 2019.

Record: 23-31
Playoff probability: 0.5%
Week 7 ranking: 24

Baseball-Reference hates Mike Trout‘s defensive metrics, so it gives the bWAR edge to Anthony Rendon. FanGraphs had Rendon tied with Tim Anderson for the AL lead in WAR among position players entering Sunday (although just barely ahead of Trout). So maybe it’s Rendon, except Trout has a big edge in home runs, runs and RBIs. We’re going with Trout.

ICYMI: Pujols passes Willie Mays on all-time home run list

Record: 22-30
Playoff probability: 0.2%
Week 7 ranking: 23

Jeimer Candelario is the pretty easy selection for a team devoid of any star talent right now. The switch-hitting first baseman might be for real, as his advanced metrics such as hard-hit rate and expected slugging percentage line up with his numbers.

Record: 23-30
Playoff probability: 0.9%
Week 7 ranking: 27

Kyle Lewis is right up there with Luis Robert in the AL Rookie of the Year race, hitting for power, drawing walks and playing a solid center field. He’s cooled off after a hot start (.373 through his first 28 games), but still has had a nice all-around short season.

ICYMI: Ranking MLB’s top rookies of 2020

Record: 21-32
Playoff probability: 0.0%
Week 7 ranking: 26

Right-hander Brad Keller got a late start due to a positive COVID-19 test, but he’s 4-2 with a 2.06 ERA in seven starts. Most impressively, he hasn’t allowed a home run. Ground balls are your friend when you don’t have a high strikeout rate. Second baseman Whit Merrifield has been solid and catcher Salvador Perez has mashed in his 30 games, but Keller gets the nod.

Record: 20-34
Playoff probability: 0.0%
Week 7 ranking: 25

It’s been a mess of a season for the Diamondbacks, who entered with high expectations after a winning campaign in 2019. Right-hander Zac Gallen has been the one player who has lived up to those expectations. He’s just 2-2, but that’s not his fault as he has a 3.00 ERA and has allowed two earned runs or fewer in nine of 11 starts.

Record: 20-34
Playoff probability: 0.0%
Week 7 ranking: 28

Outfielder Alex Verdugo has hit for average, hit for some power and played excellent defense. He’s actually a pretty easy choice over third baseman Rafael Devers (slow start, bad defense) and shortstop Xander Bogaerts (good, but not as dominant as 2019) as Boston’s best player in a miserable season.

Record: 19-34
Playoff probability: 0.1%
Week 7 ranking: 29

Right-hander Lance Lynn has been outstanding for the second consecutive season and has pitched the most innings in the majors, with a 2.53 ERA. With one year left on his contract, he’ll draw a lot of trade interest in the offseason.

Record: 15-38
Playoff probability: 0.0%
Week 7 ranking: 30

Wow, third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes actually leads the team in bWAR because he’s played well in his 17 games. That probably doesn’t make him the team MVP, but who else do you go with? Catcher Jacob Stallings, apparently. Ugh.


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Toronto FC hoping to make MLS Cup run having spent much of 2020 far from home



On a recent Thursday in Hartford, Conn., Toronto FC goalkeeper Quentin Westberg pondered the dichotomy of wanting to reach MLS Cup on Dec. 12, but also desiring to see his family again. Meanwhile, Jim Liston, the team’s director of sports science, was planning a trip to Lowe’s to buy 15 garbage cans so players could have an ice bath after training. As for manager Greg Vanney, he was fretting about his team’s health and the lack of practice time their schedule was affording.

Such is the life of a team as it attempts to not only navigate its way through the COVID-19 pandemic, but has been forced to do it away from home.

Due to travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, TFC — like the league’s other two Canadian teams, Montreal Impact and Vancouver Whitecaps — set up a “home” base in the U.S. for the remainder of the season; Toronto were stationed in Hartford. (Vancouver Whitecaps took roost in Portland, ground-sharing with Timbers, while Montreal Impact split use of New York Red Bulls’ facilities in Harrison, N.J.) This was on top of nearly every team spending nearly a month inside a bubble back in July at the MLS is Back Tournament outside Orlando, Florida.

The Reds spent about seven weeks back in Toronto as they played a series of matches against Canadian teams. In mid-September, the remainder of the regular season — and the temporary move to Hartford — beckoned. The vagabond nature of the campaign is what led Liston to joke that he was willing to discuss “whatever five seasons” the team has been through so far. But for Vanney and the players, the campaign has required a special kind of focus.

“A lot of what we’ve done here, and what we try to preach here is just control the controllables, and don’t get too drawn into the things you can’t,” Vanney told ESPN. “Roll with it, and make the best out of whatever the situation is.”

Stream FC Daily on ESPN+
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Toronto has largely succeeded in spite of its odyssey. While there was disappointment at missing out on the Supporters’ Shield to the Philadelphia Union, TFC went 7-3-2 during its Hartford sojourn and finished with the second-best record in the league. But the challenges have still been immense. Simply being out of one’s home environment is difficult enough, but the time spent away from family and loved ones weighs heavy on the psyche, even as Vanney has given players the occasional trip back to Toronto — under quarantine — to reconnect with loved ones.

“It’s just very different, very challenging and emotionally exhausting,” Westberg said of his experience while based in Hartford.

Westberg has arguably had it tougher than most. The TFC goalkeeper is married with four children, including a baby girl who was born in June. For that reason, Westberg and his wife, Ania, made the decision at the end of September that it would be better for her and their kids to head back to his native France so they could be surrounded by family. Westberg called it “the least bad decision,” but there are difficulties nonetheless.

“I’m a very even person, and this year has challenged me a lot,” he said. “I’m still pretty even, but I keep a lot to myself and for sure there’s some difficult days, seeing your family [struggle] from your absence.”

The inability to be home has affected the players and staff in other ways. In Toronto, there are ways of disengaging from the game. Being with friends, loved ones or even in familiar surroundings can be the best medicine in terms of forgetting a bad game or training session. But in Hartford, at the team’s hotel, that escape is nearly impossible even as players try to distract themselves by reading or taking online classes.

“You don’t really unplug,” Westberg said. “You FaceTime family, or this or that, but it’s too short. You’re 100 percent focused on your soccer, and your whole day basically relies on being ready for whatever soccer activity that you have next, whether it’s practice or game. It’s good for your physique, it’s optimal for the way you eat and the way you [train]. But mentally, you’re not as fresh as your body.”

That isn’t to say there are only negatives to the separation. There is also an us-against-the-world mentality that Toronto has adopted, given that their players and personnel are experiencing the season in a way that is vastly different than most other teams. The team staff has done what it can to make their surroundings a home away from home, whether it’s personalizing the locker rooms at Rentschler Field or having hotel staff brand the surroundings in TFC colors. The hotel went so far as to bring in a barista who could consistently give the players their coffee fix. Supporters groups have even sent down banners in a bid to convey the fact that the players are remembered.

The care that TFC takes for players has extended to families back home, with the club supplying meals to loved ones three times a week.

On the logistical side, Liston made sure that one of the gyms used at MLS is Back was brought to TFC’s hotel in Hartford, and he remarked that the food at the hotel is “arguably the best we’ve ever had on the road.”

There have also been efforts to create new routines. Assistant coach Jason Bent, aka DJ Soops, has been in charge of the pregame music selection for the past 18 months — no easy feat for a squad that has a considerable international presence. In Hartford, Bent has set aside Thursday nights to spin music in one area of the hotel. He’ll even go live on Instagram or Twitch for those who prefer to relax in their rooms.

“[We] opened it to players and staff and basically anyone that’s part of our bubble to come relax, listen to music and just enjoy each other’s company,” Bent said. “I enjoy making people happy so if it’s helping everyone even in the slightest, I have no problem arranging the set and spinning.”

For Vanney, the pandemic and operating outside of the team’s home market has meant any number of challenges. He said the team has used three different training facilities in Hartford, with varying field conditions. He recognizes that the trips home are vital for the mental health of his players and staff, but any breaks also mean less time spent on the practice field. The compressed schedule, which at times involved games every three or four days, has had an impact as well. Even the best-laid plans in terms of squad rotation were impacted as minor injuries began popping up.

“We end up with a lot of guys in different positions because they need special kinds of treatment or care to help them get fit and back to health,” Vanney said. “So it ends up being a lot of different things kind of going on all at once, and that’s been the challenge of it.”

Recovery from matches has been complicated by the fact that TFC doesn’t have access to the same level of facilities that it does at home — hence Liston’s emergency trip to Lowe’s to fashion impromptu ice baths for the players. Then there are the different ways the players occupy themselves on the road as compared to home, especially amid the pandemic.

“There’s really no life outside of the hotel,” Liston said. “[At home], you may go walk the dog in the afternoon or go for a walk with your wife or friend or girlfriend or family and you’re out and about. The recommendation [here] is to kind of stay put. So you’ve got a really active population and pro athletes, who we’re asking them to be sedentary the rest of the time, kind of stay in the hotel from a COVID and safety standpoint. That’s not optimal for recovery either.”

There are also the creature comforts of home that are no longer available on the road, which can impact sleep.

“Sleep is the number one tool for recovery, and that’s definitely been a challenge,” Liston said. “We do well-being questionnaires and the scores on quality of sleep, and hours of sleep, just drop.”



Tom Barlow and Brian White seal Toronto’s fate in a 2-1 win for New York Red Bulls. Watch MLS on ESPN+.

Another change has been same-day travel, which has drawn mixed reactions from the TFC players and staff. Vanney and Westberg are generally in favor, saying it reminds them of when they each played in France. Flying back the same night also means a training day isn’t lost. Liston has a different perspective in that he prefers arriving the day before, and then leaving the same day.

“I think [same-day travel] makes for a really long day,” he said. “And there’s definitely a negative impact on performance, taking three bus rides and a plane ride before your game. You’re getting home — it can be 12:30, but it could also be 1:30 in the morning, and that’s where you know our well-being scores and sleep hours and quality just disappear. When you have so many games in succession, you can’t make up the sleep.”

With the playoffs set to begin for TFC on Nov. 24, the end is in sight, even as it makes for a complex — and even conflicting — set of emotions.

“This is the tricky part. I miss them a lot,” Westberg said of his family. “But in a way I want to see them as [late] as possible in December, because obviously, there’s this idea that we want to do well in the playoffs and we want to keep going. TFC has a history of setting high standards and high expectations. It’s a heavy load to carry but also an exciting one.”

Win or lose, it’s a season they’ll never forget.


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Bettman: NHL is mulling temporary realignment



The NHL is considering a temporary realignment of its teams for the 2020-21 season due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to commissioner Gary Bettman.

Bettman said Tuesday that restrictions on travel across the Canadian border, as well as “limitations in terms of quarantining when you go from certain states to other states” within the United States, could mean the NHL creates a more regionalized alignment for its upcoming season.

“As it relates to the travel issue, which is obviously the great unknown, we may have to temporarily realign to deal with geography, because having some of our teams travel from Florida to California may not make sense. It may be that we’re better off — particularly if we’re playing a reduced schedule, which we’re contemplating — keeping it geographically centric and more divisional-based; and realigning, again on a temporary basis, to deal with the travel issues,” Bettman said during a 2020 Paley International Council Summit panel with fellow commissioners Adam Silver of the NBA and Rob Manfred of MLB.

The NHL board of governors has a meeting scheduled for Thursday which will provide a progress report and possible recommendations for a season format, based on talks between the league and the NHL Players’ Association. The target date for starting next season remains Jan. 1.

Bettman said the league is considering a few scheduling options for the 2020-21 season. Something that’s off the table: playing the entire season in the kind of bubbles the NHL had in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta, to complete last season. But Bettman said teams opening in their own arenas is a possibility, along with a modified bubble.

“We are exploring the possibility of playing in our own buildings without fans [or] fans where you can, which is going to be an arena-by-arena issue. But we’re also exploring the possibility of a hub. You’ll come in. You’ll play for 10 to 12 days. You’ll play a bunch of games without traveling. You’ll go back, go home for a week, be with your family. We’ll have our testing protocols and all the other things you need,” he said.

Bettman also indicated that the NHL is exploring “a hybrid, where some teams are in a bubble, some teams play at home and you move in and out.”

The NBA’s board of governors unanimously approved a deal with the players’ union that sets the stage for a season that will open on Dec. 22 and with a reduced schedule of 72 games. Silver said that the commissioners are in communication on COVID-19-related issues, especially the NBA and the NHL, since the two leagues’ teams share arenas and, in some cases, team owners.

Silver said he senses that the NBA will have fans in many of its buildings this season.

“We’re probably going to start one way, where we’re maybe a little bit more conservative than many of the jurisdictions allow,” he said. “What we’ve said to our teams is that we’ll continue to work with public health authorities. Arena issues are different than outdoor stadium issues. There will be certain standards for air filtration and air circulation. There may be a different standard for a suite than there will be for fans spaced in seats.”

Silver said there will be standardized protocols that are consistent from arena to arena, such as proximity between players and fans: “In certain cases, for seats near the floor, we’re going to be putting in testing programs, where fans will certify that they’ve been tested — some within 48 hours, some within day of game.” While Silver supported a continued expansion of the NBA postseason through its play-in tournament, Bettman said that he’s not in favor of expanded playoffs or “playing with the fundamentals of the game.” The NHL had 24 teams in its postseason last summer.


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The Battleground States Where We’ve Seen Some Movement In The Polls



With apologies to The Raconteurs, the presidential race continues to be “steady as she goes,” with little sign of tightening despite a plethora of new polls. FiveThirtyEight’s presidential forecast gives Joe Biden an 89 in 100 shot at winning the election, while President Trump has just an 11 in 100 chance. This makes Biden the favorite, but still leaves open a narrow path to victory for Trump, for whom a reelection win would be surprising — but not utterly shocking.

At the same time, we also have fewer polls from live-caller surveys, which have historically been more accurate and have shown slightly better numbers for Biden, than polls that use other methodologies, such as polls conducted primarily online or through automated telephone calls. Nevertheless, while the overall picture has shifted only a little in recent days, a few battleground states have seen at least some movement in their polls, which has slightly altered the odds Biden or Trump wins in each of those places.

What election stories need to get more coverage | FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast


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