3 Up 3 Down (09/02/14)

By John Ewing
Three Up, Three Down - a look at the notable and disappointing teams from the month of August with updated rest of season projections for each team.

A sports rating system analyzes the results of sports competitions to provide objective ratings for each team. Rankings are then derived by sorting the team's rating and assigning an ordinal rank. A lazy analyst will add the word Power to the beginning of their ranking for added significance. An even lazier analyst will skip the whole ranking ordeal and cherry pick a few teams to talk about - which leads us to August's Three Up, Three Down column.

Three Up

Los Angeles Angels
August: 19 Wins, 10 Losses, .655 Win Percentage
Season: 83 wins – 53 losses, 1st in the AL West

The Angels just completed a four game sweep of the Athletics. The Halos outscored the A's usually productive lineup 18-4 in the four game series to build a 4.5 game lead in the division. Los Angeles now owns the best record in baseball at 83-52 and are now the betting favorite to win the World Series.

After the Angels' best pitcher Garrett Richards went down to injury in mid-August, many counted the Halos out of the AL West race. Since Richards went down, rookie Matt Shoemaker has picked up the slack. Shoemaker has won all three of his starts since Richards' injury. The 27-year old is 14-4 with a 3.14 ERA and 115 strikeouts in 117.2 innings.

The Angels bullpen has also been fantastic. The Halos used eight relievers to throw a three-hit shutout of the Athletics in Richards' spot over the weekend.

Effective pitching and hitting, Los Angeles' offense is top five in the majors in batting average and OPS, have made the Halos our second most likely World Series winner.

Baltimore Orioles
August: 19 Wins, 9 Losses, .679 Win Percentage
Season: 79 wins – 57 losses, 1st in the AL East

Baltimore has an 8.5 game lead in the AL East, the largest of any current division leader. The Orioles are hoping to hold off the Yankees and Blue Jays to capture the club's first AL East title in 17 years.

Baltimore can thank clutch pitching for its large division lead. According to FanGraphs, Baltimore ranks second in the majors in clutch pitching, additional wins added compared to how the team would fare if the pitchers were league average.

It is not all luck. The O's lead all of baseball in home runs (178 total, Colorado is second with 155 dingers). Baltimore is also top ten in batting average and runs scored.

We project the O's to finish with a record of 93-69, giving the team a 97.3 percent chance of winning the division.

The Playoff Race

Baseball's final month will be its most exciting with playoff races in full swing. The AL Central, AL West, NL Central and NL West are up for grabs. If the Orioles and Nationals stumble down the stretch the AL East and NL East could become intriguing.

There are 16 teams within ten games of the second Wild Card. We give 15 teams a double digit chance of making the playoffs and 14 teams have at least a 1 percent chance of winning the World Series.

Three Down

Oakland Athletics
August: 12 Wins, 17 Losses, .414 Win Percentage
Season: 79 wins – 58 losses, 4.5 games out of 1st in the AL West

The A's still own the best run differential in baseball but the team has averaged just 3.55 runs per game in August. In an attempt to add power to the lineup, Oakland traded for slugger Adam Dunn last Sunday to help the slumping offense. Dunn hit a home run in his first game. Dunn's addition should help the A's avoid another scoreless innings drought. Oakland went 29 straight innings over the weekend without scoring a run, the third longest streak in Oakland history.

It isn't all hitting. The Oakland rotation hasn't pitched well. Scott Kazmir has a 6.28 ERA in August, Sonny Gray 4.28 and Jeff Samardzija 3.92. Jason Hammel has posted a 6.09 ERA since the All-Star break after a fantastic start to the season.

The A's finished August with a 12-17 record, the club's first losing month since May of 2012. Oakland is projected to win the first Wild Card.

Milwaukee Brewers
August: 13 Wins, 14 Losses, .481 Win Percentage
Season: 73 wins – 64 losses, 1 game out of 1st in the NL Central

The Brew Crew has lost six games in a row knocking them out of the NL Central lead. The Brewers had held at least a share of the division since early April and this is the first time since July 20th that Milwaukee hasn't had sole possession of the division lead.

The Brewers have lost nine out of their last 11 games including six of their last seven on the road. Before August, Milwaukee was seven games over .500 in road games. The Brewers return to the friendly confines of Miller Park this week for three consecutive series including a four game matchup with the Cardinals.

Milwaukee has been outscored 42-13 during their recent six game losing streak. The Brew Crew will need more offense if they are to avoid the one game playoff as a Wild Card team.

Detroit Tigers
August: 16 Wins, 15 Losses, .516 Win Percentage
Season: 75 wins – 62 losses, 0.5 games out of 1st in the AL Central

At the beginning of August Detroit had a four game lead over upstart Kansas City. The Tigers seemed well on their way to winning a fourth consecutive division title.

Detroit has stumbled as two former strengths, starting pitching and Miguel Cabrera have taken the wind out of the Tigers' sails. First, Justin Verlander has gone from Cy Young winner to having the fourth highest ERA of any AL starter. Six pitchers are on the disabled list including Anibal Sanchez who is dealing with a pectoral injury. As a result, the Tigers have been forced to start rookies Robbie Ray, Buck Farmer and Kyle Lobstein.

Once unthinkable, Cabrera has looked pedestrian. The MVP batted .252 in August with just one home run. Cabrera has went yard just three times since the start of July. Miggy is blaming offseason groin surgery for his slugging issues.

To make matters worse, the Tigers have one of the worst bullpens in the majors with an ERA of 4.39.

Despite all of the clubs problems and being projected as the second Wild Card, the Tigers (7.0 percent) have the seventh best odds to win the World Series.