The Major League Baseball regular season is approaching its end, and with just a few weeks of games before the playoffs, we already have a good idea of who we’re going to be looking at in the post season games. It’s even late enough in the season that we can start predicting some World Series hopefuls.While it’s easy to focus on the biggest stories of the sport, there’s still a lot going on in the regular games, and it’s usually quite interesting to see which teams are faltering and which are shining at this stage of the year. Players are tired, there are new members from trades, and many teams are dealing with injuries throughout their squads. In light of all this, it’s the perfect time to see which teams have significantly raised their game, and which ones have started to struggle in late August. Here are four best-worst teams we feel have made significant forward and backward steps at this stage of the year.

Best-Worst Teams:

Best Improved Teams – Minnesota Twins and Miami Marlins

In July it didn’t look like the twins would have any chance of making it to the playoffs in 2017. That was until they bounced back impressively to win their series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, leaving them in contention for the American League wildcard slot.It doesn’t really matter at this point if the Twins are able to make it to the playoffs or not. They have performed much better overall than most analysts gave them credit for at the start of the season, and even the players of the team have noted the fact that they got on with their jobs and proved the doubters wrong. Catcher Chris Gimenez spoke to MLB.com saying that “Nobody really picked us to do anything this year. Ever since spring training, we have been so close-knit as a group that we feel like we are capable of doing something pretty special here. We are starting to see some of the signs of what’s to come.”The Twins are currently 2 – 2 against the Chicago White Sox this week, with their next game coming on Friday. The Miami Marlins also feature in our list of most improved teams this month. Against the Phillies this week they started off impressively with 12 – 8 and 7 – 4 wins on Monday. Wednesday’s game was a shocker with a 0 – 8 loss, but they could still turn things around. It has been their starting pitchers that have made the biggest contribution to the improved team. Justin Nicolino, Adam Conley, and Jose Urena are all worth mentioning, and it’s possible that trading away Tom Koehler has given other pitchers the opportunity to step up with the Marlins. Christian Yelich has also been impressive recently. Playing against the Phillies this week, Yelich was responsible for an impressive catch that robbed Philadelphia of a home run, leaving the Miami Marlins with a 7 – 4 win. Giancarlo Stanton also made another highly impressive catch in the seventh frame, and even though this team is not quite near the top of the MLB power rankings, they have shown that they can put in some excellent performances against strong opponents.

Teams Facing a Decline – Baltimore Orioles and Saint Louis Cardinals

At the beginning of this week, the Orioles weren’t looking like the same team they were when we last saw them. Their record at the beginning of the week was 9 – 10 for the month of August, and that’s simply not good enough for a team that still has an outside chance of a wildcard slot in the playoffs. The Orioles have a great offense, but the pitching side has let the team down lately. Chris Tillman, Wade Miley, Kevin Gausman, Jeremy Hellickson, and Ubaldo Jimenez had a run of six games where they could only piece together one good start. Again, this is not the kind of play that’s going to win them a wildcard slot, and the team and management will be painfully aware of that fact.The good news is that they’re now on a run with thirteen games at home out of their next sixteen. They’ve already started picking up the pieces this week and have scored their first series win in three weeks, against the Oakland Athletics. They’ll be playing Boston next and they’ll need to keep up strong form if they’re not to be considered a team that is choking at the end of a hard regular season.Just as the Orioles have dropped in form, so too have the St. Louis Cardinals. It wasn’t long ago that this team was looking to be on an upward path, and many of the sport’s leading experts were raving about them. Bleacher Report called them one of the “hottest” teams in baseball, and they even had them right up in #7 for their power ranking last week. Now, with some poor games behind them and Trevor Rosenthal being taken out of play due to injury, the Cardinals have dropped right down to the 13th spot in the power ranking of 30 teams. Fans of the team will point out that they’re now about to win their series against the San Diego Padres, but that’s hardly anything to be surprised at, considering that the Padres are one of the worst ranked teams in the MLB at this time.

Still Plenty of Baseball to Go Before the Playoffs

The teams on a list like this can easily change from week to week, because performance is a fickle thing in the world of baseball. That’s part of what makes the sport so exciting, and it’s also what makes betting so unpredictable, but also so rewarding.There are still a few weeks to go before the playoffs, and there will be plenty more performances to look at before we reach the post season.

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