Power Rankings: Astros fight off their superteam rivals

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This year's rankings might have the illusion of consistency, because the Astros were No. 1 on Opening Day, and 26 weeks later, they're No. 1. But in between, all three of our top teams took turns at the top spot. Before the Astros came back to win the last three weeks in our polling, they clung to a 10-9 lead over the Red Sox in weeks at No. 1, with the Yankees notching four weeks at the top earlier in the season. But the Astros had their late-season kick to wind up back at the top of our voting in half of the weeks of the regular season, beating out baseball's other 100-win teams.

So it was definitely a superteams season as far as those three American League clubs are concerned in this year's Power Rankings. No team beyond those three finished No. 1 in any week. And only one National League team finished in the top three in any week of the regular season -- the Diamondbacks, back in Weeks 2 and 3. The Cubs, Dodgers, Braves, Nationals, D-backs and even the Mets (if you remember their 11-1 start) all spent time in the No. 4 slot before the AL crowded the Senior Circuit out of the top five. But only the Snakes got any higher than that.

However, in our final voting, the five NL playoff teams did at least all get into the top 10 to join the AL's quintet of clubs bound for the postseason, bumping the surging Rays from the final top 10 in the final week. Now it's up to the postseason to rescramble baseball's balance of power and tell us which clubs are ready to deliver on their opportunity in October.

This week, our panel of voters is composed of David Schoenfield, Eric Karabell, Tim Kurkjian, Bradford Doolittle and Sarah Langs.

Week 25 Rankings | Week 24 | Week 23 | Week 22 | Week 21 | Week 20 | Week 19 | Week 18 | Week 17 | Week 16 | Week 15 | Week 14 | Week 13 | Week 12 | Week 11 | Week 10 | Week 9 | Week 8 | Week 7 | Week 6 | Week 5 | Week 4 | Week 3 | Week 2 | Week 1 | Preseason

1. Houston Astros

Record: 103-59
Week 25 ranking: 1

The Astros held off Oakland and finally clinched the AL West, and have made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 2004-05 and won back-to-back division titles for the first time since winning three straight in 1997-99. The Astros finished the season with a major league best plus-263 run differential this season, their best in franchise history. Last year's World Series champion team finished with a plus-196 mark. -- Jacob Nitzberg, ESPN Stats & Information

2. Boston Red Sox

Record: 108-54
Week 25 ranking: 2

One year removed from posting the 26th-ranked slugging percentage in baseball (.407), the Red Sox bats turned up their power numbers, slugging .453, first in MLB. Much of this can be attributed to signing J.D. Martinez, but Mookie Betts reaching another level with his bat was also critical. Betts reached career highs in average (.346), slugging percentage (.640), home runs (32), extra-base hits (84) and steals (30). He became the second 30-30 player in Red Sox history with a stolen bag Wednesday, joining Jacoby Ellsbury in 2011. -- Dan McCarthy, ESPN Stats & Information

3. New York Yankees

Record: 100-62
Week 25 ranking: 3

Gleyber Torres hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning Saturday to push the Yankees to a league record in home runs with 265, breaking the mark held by the 1997 Mariners. Torres' home run was his 24th of the season, falling one short of making him the sixth player on the team with 25 or more home runs, a mark held only by the 2003 Red Sox. New York will lean on its potent power offense in the AL wild-card game against the Athletics. -- McCarthy

4. Oakland Athletics

Record: 97-65
Week 25 ranking: 4

The A's rebuild doesn't get the same touts as the Braves' or Phillies', but that's because it's less transparently the product of their farm system. Trades since their last postseason squad in 2014 brought in key players Blake Treinen, Sean Manaea, Khris Davis and Stephen Piscotty. Marcus Semien, another trade pickup, just put up a 4.3 WAR season at shortstop. And whatever the postseason brings, with Matt Chapman and Matt Olson contributing 134 extra-base hits in their first full seasons, the farm system is also providing some of their platform for future success. -- Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com

5. Cleveland Indians

Record: 91-71
Week 25 ranking: 5

Skip the final win tally compared to their AL rivals -- everybody still playing now has the same number of wins. The Tribe achieved some of their big goals in September to prep for the postseason. Trevor Bauer pitched a trio of tuneups, Josh Donaldson got his bat going and Jose Ramirez looks as if he'll be fine back at second base. But lingering questions about what they should expect from Cody Allen and Andrew Miller from the pen, and from Jason Kipnis in center, could prove troubling. -- Kahrl

6. Chicago Cubs

Record: 95-67
Week 25 ranking: 7

The Cubs have made the playoffs in four consecutive seasons for the first time in franchise history dating to 1876. They had either led or been tied for the NL Central lead since the All-Star break but now need a 163rd game Monday to decide the NL Central title. The Cubs will have Jose Quintana on the mound, which bodes well for them -- Quintana is 6-2 with a 1.60 ERA in his career against Milwaukee, including 4-1 with a 2.17 ERA this season. -- Nitzberg

7. Milwaukee Brewers

Record: 95-67
Week 25 ranking: 8

The Brewers reached the postseason for the fifth time in franchise history and the first time since 2011, when they won the NL Central and reached the NLCS. The Brewers caught the Cubs at the end of the season to force Game 163 to decide the NL Central title. They did so on the back of Christian Yelich, who has to be the front-runner for NL MVP after his impressive September, in which he led MLB in slugging percentage (.807) and OPS (1.307). -- Nitzberg

8. Los Angeles Dodgers

Record: 91-71
Week 25 ranking: 6

The Dodgers held up their half to force a one-game playoff for the NL West in the most Dodger-y way imaginable this season, routing the Giants on Sunday 15-0 to notch their 18th game (and 18th win) scoring in double digits this season. With Justin Turner as their biggest bopper during the second half -- his 1.077 OPS is second only to likely MVP Christian Yelich -- the challenge now is for the Dodgers to keep breaking out the big bats when the stakes are high. -- Kahrl

9. Atlanta Braves

Record: 90-72
Week 25 ranking: 10

By any measure, the 2018 Braves have been a resounding success. They're headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2013, with lots of young talent who have graduated to the majors in the past couple of seasons, including the likely front-runner for Rookie of the Year, Ronald Acuna Jr. Next up on the checklist: winning their first postseason series since 2001. -- Evan Wildstein, ESPN Stats & Information

10. Colorado Rockies

Record: 91-71
Week 25 ranking: 12

One thing is certain: The Rockies will be making their fifth postseason appearance in franchise history. The rest is still up in the air, including whether they will win their first division title. Colorado won nine of its final 10 games but found itself tied atop the NL West with the Dodgers, setting up Monday's tiebreaker to determine the division champion. The winner will have home-field advantage against the Braves in the NLDS, while the loser will hit the road for the NL wild-card game against either the Cubs or Brewers. -- Paul Casella, ESPN Stats & Information

11. Tampa Bay Rays

Record: 90-72
Week 25 ranking: 9

Blake Snell wrapped up his case for the AL Cy Young on Saturday with a five-inning, 10-strikeout performance, lowering his AL-best ERA to 1.89. Snell is the only pitcher in franchise history to pitch at least 75 innings with an ERA lower than 2.00. There are now only four pitchers in the live ball era (since 1920) to qualify for the ERA title with an ERA under 2.00, a WHIP below 1.00 and a strikeout percentage over 30: Pedro Martínez (1997 and 2000), Clayton Kershaw (2014), Jacob deGrom (2018) and Snell (2018). -- McCarthy

12. St. Louis Cardinals

Record: 88-74
Week 25 ranking: 11

The Cardinals' dream second half of the season fell just short. Despite going 41-28 under Mike Shildt, the Cardinals were eliminated Saturday. Still, there are plenty of positives to take away from 2018 -- including Miles Mikolas' season in the rotation, Matt Carpenter's performance and the resurgence of the bullpen. We'll see what Shildt does in his first full season next year. -- Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information

13. Washington Nationals

Record: 82-80
Week 25 ranking: 14

The Nationals' season did not go as planned, and now the team is facing an offseason full of questions. Bryce Harper's impending free agency looms. Anthony Rendon is a free agent following the 2019 season and Daniel Murphy was already traded away in his contract year. The Nationals did manage to finish above .500 for the seventh consecutive season, but nobody in Washington would deem that a success in and of itself. -- Langs

14. Arizona Diamondbacks

Record: 82-80
Week 25 ranking: 13

The Diamondbacks' season looked pretty good on Aug. 22, when they were 15 games over .500 and 1½ games up in the NL West. But an 11-24 finish sank their season and left them facing questions over what they should do this winter with Paul Goldschmidt a free agent after 2019 and A.J. Pollock already departing. Will they treat next year as their final chance to milk a last playoff appearance out of the Goldschmidt years, or will they get a head start on rebuilding in a division likely to be dominated by the Dodgers and Rockies for the next several seasons? -- Kahrl

15. Seattle Mariners

Record: 89-73
Week 25 ranking: 17

The Mariners seemed well on their way to ending their postseason drought following a scorching start to the season. They were as high as 24 games above .500 and had an 8½-game lead in the wild-card race in early July. That said, Seattle actually had a losing record from June 7 forward. The end result is no postseason baseball for the 17th consecutive season, the longest active drought in the majors. -- Casella

16. Pittsburgh Pirates

Record: 82-79
Week 25 ranking: 16

Though the season finished in disappointing fashion, 2018 did bring some good news for Pirates fans. On the pitching side, Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams, along with in-season addition Chris Archer, look to form a strong trio at the top of the rotation for the future. On the hitting side, Starling Marte found his power again, and Gregory Polanco posted a nice bounce-back year, suggesting the Pirates could be on their way up next season. -- Wildstein

17. Los Angeles Angels

Record: 80-82
Week 25 ranking: 18

Mike Trout once again put up MVP-caliber numbers. He led the majors in OBP and OPS while racking up more than 10 WAR for the third time in his career. The only other player with three 10-WAR seasons by the age of 27 is Ted Williams. As for Shohei Ohtani, he flashed glimpses of being both a dangerous pitcher and hitter, but he'll undergo Tommy John surgery this week, which will limit him to hitting duties in 2019. Speaking of next season, the Angels will have a manager other than Mike Scioscia in the dugout for the first time since 1999. -- Casella

18. Philadelphia Phillies

Record: 80-82
Week 25 ranking: 15

The Phillies' season looked promising as late as Aug. 11, the last date they had a sole lead of the NL East. But they went 15-31, for a .326 winning percentage, from Aug. 12 forward. The only team worse in that span was the Orioles. Ultimately, in a year where many thought they were a young team that had arrived early, the Phillies finished in third place in the NL East. -- Langs

19. New York Mets

Record: 77-85
Week 25 ranking: 19

It was a disappointing season for the Mets after an 11-1 start that transformed into only 77 wins. Their .475 winning percentage is the second-lowest by any team to start 11-1 or better through 12 games, ahead of .457 by the 2002 Indians. That Indians team is the only other one to finish a season below .500 after an 11-1 or better start through 12 games. The adulation for David Wright on Saturday was a fitting cap to their season, giving the Mets and their fans something significant to care about at the very end. -- Langs

20. Minnesota Twins

Record: 78-84
Week 25 ranking: 20

The Twins have to look back at 2018 as a disappointment. After making the playoffs last season, the team failed to repeat the task despite a weak AL Central, while younger players like Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Jose Berríos couldn't make a major leap in progress. With Joe Mauer's contract coming off the books, however, the Twins might have enough money to spend to be more competitive next season. -- Wildstein

21. San Francisco Giants

Record: 73-89
Week 25 ranking: 21

The Giants finished among the bottom two in the division for the second consecutive season. They haven't done that in consecutive seasons since 2007-08. Those were also Tim Lincecum's first two seasons -- when there was a dramatic shift in the organization overall, moving on from Barry Bonds, whose final season was 2007. Speaking of Bonds, the Giants managed to not have a 20-homer hitter yet again. The last Giants hitter with a 20-home-run season was Brandon Crawford in 2015. -- Langs

22. Toronto Blue Jays

Record: 73-89
Week 25 ranking: 22

Toronto's young hitters will provide some promise heading into next season, but if the Blue Jays want to compete with the rest of the AL East, their pitching will have to make major strides. Of the five pitchers still with the team who made at least 10 starts this season, four had an ERA of at least 4.75. Marcus Stroman had by far his worst season to date, posting an ERA of 5.54 -- more than a run higher than his previous worst season (4.37 in 2016). Stroman entered the year with a career 3.61 ERA, and the Blue Jays hope an offseason of rest will help him return to form. -- McCarthy

23. Texas Rangers

Record: 67-95
Week 25 ranking: 23

Adrian Beltre has yet to announce an official decision about his future, but if this was his final season, Rangers fans made sure to give him a proper send-off in Texas' home finale last week. Beltre is one of only seven players in major league history with at least 450 home runs and 600 doubles, along with Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Carl Yastrzemski, Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols and David Ortiz. -- Casella

24. Cincinnati Reds

Record: 67-95
Week 25 ranking: 24

It's no secret what the Reds need to improve. Though they ranked in the middle of the pack offensively this year, their starting pitching ranked among the worst in the league, with contract casualty Homer Bailey "leading" the way. However, with offensive talent like Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez and top prospect Nick Senzel set to play in 2019, it should be easy for the team to improve on their 2018 record. -- Wildstein

25. Detroit Tigers

Record: 64-98
Week 25 ranking: 25

In a disappointing season in which the Tigers have dealt with injuries to some of their biggest names and were sellers at the deadline, one constant in the lineup has been Nicholas Castellanos. The Tigers' right fielder led the team in almost every offensive category this season, setting personal bests in runs, hits, walks, batting average and OPS to name a few. Castellanos' biggest liability has been his defense, but with Victor Martinez retiring, he could see a lot more games at DH or first base next season. -- Nitzberg

26. San Diego Padres

Record: 66-96
Week 25 ranking: 26

The Padres' leader in WAR among pitchers this season was Kirby Yates. All Yates did was put up a 2.14 ERA and 0.92 WHIP, which ranked eighth and fourth in the NL, respectively, among pitchers to throw at least 50 innings this season. Yates has blown only one save opportunity all season and should be a big part of the Padres' bullpen over the next few years -- or perhaps at least until the next trade deadline. -- Nitzberg

27. Chicago White Sox

Record: 62-100
Week 25 ranking: 27

It would be hard to identify the highlights of a year when the Sox knew they were also-rans. Michael Kopech made his brief debut, then blew out his elbow and will miss all of next season. The expected foundation of the future, Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson in the infield, or Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito in the rotation, didn't put up years that look like a platform for future success. Does suffering their first 100-loss season since 1970 count? -- Kahrl

28. Miami Marlins

Record: 63-98
Week 25 ranking: 28

The Marlins finished with their worst record since 2013, which was also the last time they finished in the NL East's cellar. Miami has now put up a losing record in nine consecutive seasons and hasn't returned to the postseason since winning the 2003 World Series. Making matters even worse, former Marlins first-round pick Christian Yelich had an MVP-caliber season after being traded to the Brewers in January. -- Casella

29. Kansas City Royals

Record: 58-104
Week 25 ranking: 29

Kansas City finished the regular season with 104 losses, tied for the second-worst mark in franchise history, and as a result will pick second in next year's draft. The Royals did show some improvement toward the end of the season though, going 15-13 in September. One big reason is rookie Brad Keller, who led all Royals pitchers in WAR this season and posted a 3.04 ERA after the All-Star break, including a 2.33 ERA in September. -- Nitzberg

30. Baltimore Orioles

Record: 47-115
Week 25 ranking: 30

The Orioles lost a franchise-record 115 games, surpassing the 111 losses by the 1939 St. Louis Browns. Chris Davis finished the season on the bench after an 0-for-18 stretch lowered his average to .168. Davis became the first player to qualify for the batting title with an average under .170 since John Henry in 1914. Dylan Bundy was the only pitcher this season to give up at least seven runs in three straight starts -- he did it twice. Their team leader in hits, extra-base hits and total bases, Adam Jones, is a free agent. Let's just say Baltimore has a lot of work to do this winter. -- McCarthy