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DFD Update: Cincinnati and Tampa Bay are tied at the top

The Reds, Rays, and Twins are locked in a tight race for the Dumpster Fire Division lead.

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

It's been three weeks since our last Dumpster Fire Division update. On July 21 the Rays held a 1.5 game lead over the second place Reds. However, things have changed over the course of three weeks. Recently Minnesota and Cincinnati have played their best baseball of the season. The division could be in store for a tight three team race as the season gets closer to the finish line. Meanwhile the Braves are still in last in a division comprised of four of MLB's worst teams. To be fair, they're also playing much better as of late.





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What's led to the recent success for almost everyone in the division?

Cincinnati Reds

The Reds have racked up a 10-7 record since our last update. Over the past two weeks the offense has cooled, and ranks as the 20th best in baseball by wRC+ (85). However, during this stretch, Reds starters have the 5th best ERA in the league (2.98). The bullpen actually has a top ten ERA of it's own over the past two weeks (2.97), but it's also had a few well publicized miscues. The pen has been much more stable since the arrival of Michael Lorenzen and Raisel Igleisias.

Best Hitter: In one of the most shocking developments of the 2016 season, Brandon Phillips has been the Reds best hitter over the past two weeks (176 wRC+). I was so surprised by this that I made my wife come in to the room and confirm that Phillips was in fact the owner of this statistic. Phillips has been a below average hitter this season, but thus far it hasn't been his worst in Cincinnati (2006 and 2014). Over his last 12 games he's hit .383/.420/.617 with 2 HR and 9 RBI. It's very unlikely this will persist, but it has been fun to see one more flash of productive Brandon.

Best Pitcher: I mentioned above how good Cincinnati's starters have been lately. Anthony DeSclafani and Brandon Finnegan have been a major part of that success. Over Disco's last 12 innings he's accumulated a 2.25 ERA, and he's holding hitters to a .146 average. Finnegan isn't striking out as many batters as DeSclafani (7 K/9 to 9 K/9), but he's running a 1.50 ERA in his last 18 innings of work (three starts). A .227 BABIP might not be sustainable, but for now the Reds will take it.

Upcoming: Cincinnati wraps up a series in St. Louis on Wednesday, then heads to Milwaukee for three over the weekend. Next week they're at home to face the Marlins and Dodgers.

Tampa Bay Rays

From July 21 on the Rays held steady with an 8-9 record. They did drop four in a row from July 22-26, but rebounded with a sweep of the Yankees. Tampa Bay has been getting quality production from their offense and starting pitching. Their 113 wRC+ over the past 14 days is the 4th highest total in all of baseball. They also check in with the third best ERA at 2.24.

Best Hitter: The Rays acquired Brad Miller from the Mariners following the completion of the 2015 season. He's having the best offensive season of his career, and over the past two weeks he's been Tampa Bay's best hitter. Miller's recent output looks a little something like this: .388/.464/.837 with 5 HR and 11 RBI.

Best Pitcher: The Rays rotation looks a little different since our last update. Matt Moore was dealt to the Giants for Matt Duffy and a few other pieces. However, the trade hasn't done much to slow down a staff that is really hitting its stride. After a rough start to the season, Drew Smyly has looked terrific in his past three starts. Smyly is 2-0 with a 2.84 ERA in those appearances. Jake Odorizzi also deserves some praise. He has a 1.00 ERA over his last three starts (18 innings).

Upcoming: The Rays finish a series with the Blue Jays today, and then head to New York to take on the Yankees this weekend. Next week they're at home to face the Padres and Rangers.

Minnesota Twins

The Twins are 11-7 since July 21, and they have their offense to thank for that success. Over the past two weeks Minnesota has put up the best offensive numbers in baseball (142 wRC+). They've been first in home runs (23), first in RBI (84), first in batting average (.300), first in OBP (.368), and first in slugging (.538). The pitching staff has been okay, but that's enough when your offense produces at this level.

Best Hitter: The Twins have recently been experiencing a blast from the past. Joe Mauer has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball over the past two weeks. Last season Mauer was below league average for the first time since he entered the majors (98 OPS+). He's experienced a nice bounce back season in 2016, and is on pace for his best offensive output since 2013. Over the last 14 days he's hitting .444/.545/.756, and he's accumulated 1.1 fWAR during that stretch. Minnesota has eight hitters with a wRC+ over 100 over the past 14 days.

Best Pitcher: Most people assumed Ervin Santana wouldn't make it past the trade deadline in a Twins uniform. He's still in Minnesota, and he's still pitching well. Over the last 14 days he's 2-1 in 21.1 innings of work. His 2.11 ERA might look a bit better than he's actually performed (3.08 FIP), but for now he's getting quality results.

Upcoming: On Thursday the Twins will wrap up a home series against the Astros. They'll stay in Minnesota throughout the weekend to take on the Twins. Next week they're in Atlanta and Kansas City.

Atlanta Braves

Somehow the Braves are 10-7 since July 21. Yet, they still find themselves 3.5 games out in a division made up of four of the worst teams in MLB. Like the Rays and Twins, the Braves are experiencing some unexpected success at the plate (110 wRC+). They've also produced the 8th best ERA in baseball over the past two weeks (3.33). However, the rotation will be without Julio Teheran for at least a few weeks due to a "strained right lat muscle." Given their position in the actual standings it's hard to imagine the team rushing Teheran back.

Best Hitter: Nick Markakis has hit almost as many home runs in the past two weeks (2) as he did in all of 2015 (3). The 32 year old is hitting .383/.426/.596 over the past 14 days.

Best Pitcher: Mauricio Cabrera has been fairly productive out of the bullpen over the past two weeks. In 8.1 innings of work (8 appearances) he's stuck out 11.88 per nine with a 2.16 ERA. Apparently he can throw at or above 100 mph. I did not gain this knowledge by actually watching Braves games.

Upcoming: Atlanta is in Milwaukee through Thursday, and then they'll head to Washington for the weekend. Next week they're at home to face the Twins and Nationals.