The Red Sox soared, the Tigers stunk and the Orioles are actually at the top of the American League East. No one can quite make sense of it, but that’s just another week in Major League Baseball. So let’s see who rose and fell in this week’s power rankings…
1. Texas Rangers (16-6) (Last Week: 1)
(Upcoming Series: at Toronto 3, at Cleveland 3)
2. LA Dodgers (16-6) (Last Week: 6)
Matt Kemp is the best baseball player on Earth. It’s that simple. It also helps that Chad Billingsley, Ted Lilly and Chris Capuano are thriving thus far. All of them hold an ERA below 2.75 and WHIPs below 1.21. I think it’s pretty much a given that Clayton Kershaw would be putting up those numbers, but with the other three pitchers performing, the Dodgers will be difficult to stop in their first year under the ownership of Magic Johnson.
(Upcoming Series: at Colorado 3, at Chicago Cubs 3)
3. New York Yankees (12-9) (Last Week: 2)
While they continue to knock the snot out of the baseball (2nd most runs scored in MLB), one has to be a tad bit concerned about the pitching situation in the Bronx. Every single starting pitcher has an ERA above 4.30 and Freddie Garcia has already been demoted to the bullpen with his 12.51 ERA. And now that Michael Pineda is out for the season with a shoulder injury, the only hope coming to the Yanks is a 39 year old who didn’t throw a pitch last season. I like Andy Pettitte as much as the next guy, but he won’t be able to save this rotation. A series move is needed if the Yankees, who I think are a lock for the playoffs, want to advance out of the ALDS.
Hit the jump for the rest of Christian’s power rankings…
(Upcoming Series: Baltimore 3, at Kansas City 4)
4. St. Louis Cardinals (14-7) (Last Week: 5)
Much was made out of the loss of Chris Carpenter before the season began. Now, people in St. Louis are struggling to remember who that Carpenter character is. The trio of Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook and Lance Lynn have put up absolutely stellar numbers in this young 2012 season. Lohse has the highest ERA of the three at 1.62 and Westbrook’s WHIP of 1.01 is the worst of the group. The fact that those were the worst numbers out of the group goes to show what a dominant force this rotation has been to this point. Now both Lohse and Westbrook have career ERAs in the fours, while Lance Lynn is in his first season as a starter, so there is reason to be a bit skeptical that the trend can continue. But if they stay remotely close to the numbers they’re putting up right now, this division should be of no issue.
(Upcoming Series: Pittsburgh 3, at Houston 3)
5. Tampa Bay Rays (14-8) (Last Week: 9)
It was tweeted by Jon Heyman that David Price might be the fourth best starter earlier this week. Let me be the first to politely tell Mr. Heyman that he’s mistaken. Over his last two starts, one of which being a complete game (a feat Price failed to complete a year ago), he’s been dominant with 12K, a sub 1 WHIP and 1.17 ERA. He, along with James Sheilds and Jeremy Hellickson provide a killer 1-2-3 punch (as seems to be the theme at this point).
(Upcoming Series: Seattle 4, Oakland 3)
6. Washington Nationals (14-8) (Last Week: 3)
Bryce Harper showed quite a bit to me over the weekend in Los Angeles. The kid left everything out on the field and gave maximum effort to track down every ball. He has an absolute laser beam of an arm that ranks amongst the best in the majors already. And his ability to fight and battle at the plate was on full display as he forced a long at bat against closer Kenley Jansen that to a ninth inning walk. If this weekend was any indication of what he could be, the excitement should be very high in Washington.
(Upcoming Series: Arizona 3, Philadelphia 3)
7. Atlanta Braves (14-8) (Last Week: 10)
They’re shockingly still scoring runs, much to my disbelief. Michael Bourn is getting on baseball at a consistent clip (OBP .410), Freddie Freeman is driving in a good amount of runs (16 RBI) and Jason Heyward looks to be rebounding after last years’ disastrous campaign. And that back end of the bullpen has been stellar, with Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel have been near perfect at this season’s outset, allowing only two earned runs 17 2/3 innings. If that’s not a shut down bullpen, I’m not sure what is.
(Upcoming Series: Pittsburgh 1, Philadelphia 3, at Colorado 3)
8. Baltimore Orioles (14-8) (Last Week: 12)
I must continue to give the O’s their due as they somehow manage to continue winning games. Can they sustain it? I don’t think so. But Baltimore should enjoy the run while it lasts. Jason Hammel has started out incredibly with a sub-two ERA, but I feel like he will slowly revert back to his old 4.88 ERA. And I guarantee that Chris Davis will not hit over .250 for the rest of the season. His .319 clip at the moment is so unrealistic it’s not even funny. If Adam Jones is finally realizing his potential, then so be it, but I think his .330 average will drop as well. This is simply a young team playing way above their heads. After this week’s gauntlet, we should have a better idea about this team.
(Upcoming Series: at NY Yankees 3, at Boston 3)
9. Toronto Blue Jays (12-10) (Last Week: 7)
As I will remind our loyal readers every week, I picked this team to take a wild card spot in American League and the dream is still alive. Nothing about this baseball team is a seems to be a glaring weakness or bonafide strength at this point. The pitching and hitting have simply been good enough to win to this point. It will have to improve, however, because they play in the best division in baseball. Jose Bautista needs to come back to life, because a .190 average will sink this team if it continues.
(Upcoming Series: Texas 3, at LA Angels 4)
10. Detroit Tigers (11-11) (Last Week: 4)
What’s wrong with the Detroit Tigers? Oh let me list the ways… First of all, the pitching has been consistently inconsistent. Max Scherzer has been an unmitigated disaster to this point and should probably be sent down to refine his craft. Rick Porcello surprised everyone when he came out with two impressive starts, but followed those with two atrocious starts. Adam Wilk was a mess filling in for Doug Fister, who will likely return next Monday. That leaves Verlander and rookie southpaw Drew Smyly as the only two starters that have resembled starters. As for the issues on offense, Brennan Boesch, Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila are the culprits. They have not followed up their career high seasons and have struggled mightily. Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera can’t carry this team by themselves. One bright spot to this point is that Austin Jackson is getting on base much more consistently than last season. Tigers fans can take solace in the fact that the same team that won 95 games started off 12-17.
(Upcoming Series: Kansas City 3, Chicago White Sox 3)
11. New York Mets (13-9) (Last Week: 14)
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I introduce to you the Johan Santana we all knew and loved in Minnesota. The changeup seems to be close to the level it was at while he was dealing in Minneapolis. To this point, he has a 2.25 ERA with a 1.13 WHIP and is holding together what is otherwise a quite average rotation. If by some miracle he can keep this up all season and stay healthy, he gives the Mets the ability to stay in the NL East race until September.
(Upcoming Series: at Houston 3, Arizona 3)
12. Cincinnati Reds (11-11) (Last Week: 18)
Johnny Cueto is the most underrated pitcher in the majors. While he’s no Verlander or Halladay, he can flat out pitch. His ERA and WHIP are both in the low ones and he is striking out more than six hitters per nine innings. He’ll have to assume a heavy role as Homer Bailey is inconsistency personified, Mat Latos is struggling in his new environs, and Bronson Arroyo is Bronson Arroyo. If the Reds can crank up the offensive numbers similar to years past (and they’re heating up), Cueto could be their ace in the hole that leads them to a wild card spot, or possibly a division title.
(Upcoming Series: Chicago Cubs 3, at Pittsburgh 3)
13. Cleveland Indians (11-9) (Last Week: 11)
Somehow, these guys own first place in the AL Central. It won’t be sustained, however, as the team just isn’t all that good. Their leader in ERA is Derek Lowe at 2.27, while the one-two-three starters (Ubaldo, Masterson, Tomlin) all have ERAs north of 4.50. The team has 16 home runs in 20 games and Jack Hannahan is leading the team with 14 RBIs. If Derek Lowe and Jack Hannahan are leading your team in any semi-important category, things aren’t looking up. They’ve been the beneficiary of a schedule that only contained one team with a winning record. I would wait to make a verdict on the Indians until they start playing real baseball teams, like Texas on Friday.
(Upcoming Series: at Chicago White Sox 3, Texas 3)
14. San Francisco Giants (12-10) (Last Week: 17)
Tim Lincecum’s latest start has to be reassuring for Giants fans. He went eight innings with no earned runs and five strikeouts in his first quality start of the season. Albeit it was the Padres, who are in my opinion the worst offensive team in baseball, but this could be a nice momentum booster for Big Time Timmy Jim which could get him back on track to the dominance we’re used to from him. And may I be the next of many baseball minds say FREE BRANDON BELT. The kid has all the talent in the world and tore up AAA, yet manager Bruce Bochy refuses to give him playing time. If anything, he could provide a spark as an everyday player. And if they’re not going to let him play, trade him. Someone that talented shouldn’t be wasting away on the bench.
(Upcoming Series: Miami 3, Milwaukee 3)
15. Arizona D-Backs (11-11) (Last Week: 15)
Joe Saunders has been really good thus far. When I say good, I mean really, really good. His o.90 ERA and 0.87 WHIP are reportedly because he decided to cut his slider out of his arsenal. He figured that since he didn’t have great control over it, why throw it? His dealing on the mound is welcoming news to D-Backs fans as Justin Upton is still struggling to regain his MVP-like performance last season. Once he comes back to form, which I’m sure he will, the D-Backs should be back into contention in the NL West.
(Upcoming Series: at Miami 1, at Washington 3, at NY Mets 3)
16. Chicago White Sox (11-11) (Last Week: 8 )
The Pale Hose didn’t have a very good week, but they have to love what they’re seeing out of Jake Peavy. After all of those injuries, it’s hard not to feel good for the former Cy Young winner regaining his mojo. He’s been dominant in his five starts with a 1.67 ERA, .69 WHIP and simply nasty stuff. If Kenny Williams were smart (Which he’s not. The guy can’t decide whether to rebuild or compete. Right now, they’re in combuild), he’d trade Peavy for a high value and start gutting what’s left of that team. They can’t win a division with that roster so they might as well blow it up and see what happens.
(Upcoming Series: Cleveland 3, at Detroit 3)
17. Boston Red Sox (10-11) (Last Week: 23)
The dead have risen. After an 0-6 mark the week before, the Sox stormed back to go 6-1 this past week and reenter themselves into the playoff discussion. Personally, I don’t think they can carry this momentum through the rest of the season. Let’s be realistic in that they beat the Twins and the White Sox last week. Not exactly major league elite teams. Their rotation is much too fragile with Doubront, Bard, and Beckett. Yeah, I said it. By far the most overrated pitcher in baseball. He hasn’t been the same pitcher for years now and is leaving way too many pitches up in the zone for my liking. A good hitting team would have a field day against him, as evidenced by his five HR outing in Detroit a few weeks ago. With the softball schedule continuing this week, expect the hype machine to go into overdrive as they continue to roll out wins against inferior opponents.
(Upcoming Series: Oakland 3, Baltimore 3)
18. Colorado Rockies (10-11) (Last Week: 13)
I challenge you, baseball fan, to name a starter on Colorado’s rotation not named Jamie Moyer. I’ll give you a minute, but no cheating… Give up yet? It is pretty tough, considering none of them are very good. Moyer is the only one with an ERA below 4. The rest of them range from 4.76 to 5.92. Not the ideal numbers for a team that hopes to make the playoffs. The bright side is that they’ve scored 107 runs, which is third in the NL. But the 110 runs that they’ve given up completely cancels that out and has dragged them down all season. I don’t see any realistic solution in the organization, so the Rockies will have to make a move for a solid starter if they want to contend for a playoff spot.
(Upcoming Series: LA Dodgers 3, Atlanta 3)
19. Seattle Mariners (11-12) (Last Week: 24)
Seattle is should be given the front office of the year award for the robbery they performed on the Yankees. They sold high on Pineda and brought in Jesus Montero, who could prove to be an Edgar Martinez-like cornerstone of their franchise. Even if Pineda stayed healthy, it would’ve been a great trade for them, but that just make it fantastic from the M’s standpoint. And it helps that they swept Detroit and won four out of their past six games. But I’d rather focus on them outsmarting the Yankees. It’s a lot more fun that way.
(Upcoming Series: at Tampa Bay 4, Minnesota 3)
20. Philadelphia Phillies (10-12) (Last Week: 16)
The offense is starting to heat up, but the injury to Cliff Lee is a killer to that momentum. They needed him more than ever just to keep them in manageable run situations. I don’t think replacement Kyle Kendrick will be able to do that, especially given the fact that he’s lost his two starts in place of Lee. That being said, they’ve scored some runs last week and that’ s always a good sign. They’ll have to keep that up in the absence Chase Utley and Ryan Howard, Utley promises to be out for at least another two weeks and Howard longer than that. If they can stay within striking distance of the division lead until those two get back, these opening two months should be considered a success.
(Upcoming Series: Chicago Cubs 1, at Atlanta 3, at Washington 3)
21. Oakland Athletics (11-12) (Last Week: 20)
Just when you thought Oakland couldn’t get more exciting, they made a blockbuster signing bringing in the magnificently useless Brandon Inge. After having to put up with his pathetic years in Detroit, all I can say is good riddance. The man was no longer a gifted baseball player, yet acted as if he was Babe Ruth. Batting under .200? He says he’s hitting the ball hard. Misplays a ball in the infield? That’s how you’re supposed to field it. Widespread anger at his inclusion on the Opening Day roster? I don’t get why everyone gets mad at me after one bad season. Adios, Brando. Thanks for the memories. Maybe you won’t be able to hear the boos from the 12 people who go to an Athletics game.
(Upcoming Series: at Boston 3, at Tampa Bay 3)
22. Milwaukee Brewers (10-12) (Last Week: 21)
This is the most “blah” team in baseball. Corey Hart is basking in the opportunity to replace the power numbers of Prince Fielder with his six HR and .671 SLG. But he’s nowhere the pure hitter Fielder is and he will never fully replace the impact Prince had upon that lineup. The rest of the team can be described by the previously used “blah.”
(Upcoming Series: at San Diego 3, at San Francisco 3)
23. Pittsburgh Pirates (9-12) (Last Week: 25)
Pittsburgh’s pitching is actually really good. Chalk that one up to something I’ve never said in my entire lifetime. A.J. Burnett appears to have settled down in the NL, Erik Bedard (currently 1-4) would be 5-0 had it not been for a criminal lack of run support, and James McDonald looks to be the real deal. And Charlie Morton’s put up solid stats too. If this team had the ability to score runs, they would be at the top of the division right now. Sadly, they lack that ability. And unless Pedro Alvarez can get his act together in the majors, I only see one player that I’d be afraid of in that entire lineup (Garrett Jones…just kidding…Andrew McCutchen)
(Upcoming Series: at Atlanta 1, at St. Louis 3, Cincinnati 3)
24. Miami Marlins (8-13) (Last Week: 19)
I’m so surprised that a team chock full of personalities with a flashy new stadium and incredibly high expectations is struggling at this point of the season. Oh wait, I’m not. Jose Reyes and Heath Bell just look lost in the tropical colors of Miami and Giancarlo Stanton is still struggling driving the ball out of that massive ball park. And it’s also not a great sign that their “ace” (Josh Johnson) looks like a shell of him old self. If you just watch one of their games, the team seems to be uncomfortable. Maybe if the expectations fade and the crowds start to dwindle, life will be seen out of the listless Fish.
(Upcoming Series: Arizona 1, at San Francisco 3, at San Diego 3)
25. Los Angeles Angels (7-15) (Last Week: 22)
About the only three things going right for the Halos is the one-two-three punch of Weaver, Haren, Wilson. There’s not much to like beyond that. I’ll admit that I wasn’t exactly rooting for Pujols to crush the ball once he got to the AL, but his current state is sad. The man was the best player in baseball not a year ago, and now he can’t put one ball in the stands after 22 games. As I said last week, I have no clue what’s plaguing the future Hall-of-Famer, but it’s starting to get sad. As much as I didn’t like how he chased the money out to LA, he’s still a good guy and an excellent competitor. This slump has to be killing him on the inside and you can’t help but think if he regrets leaving the Cards. While they might not be missing him, I feel that he misses that team deeply.
(Upcoming Series: Minnesota 3, Toronto 4)
26. Chicago Cubs (8-15) (Last Week: 28)
The Cubs looked surprisingly competitive in Philadelphia and enjoyed a fantastic start from Matt Garza. He went seven innings with 10 strikeouts, one walk and a hit. It’s a shame that his talents are being wasted for a cellar dweller in the Cubs. If I were Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, I would shop him hard at the deadline and bite at the best offer. My inkling is that a pitching deficient contender would throw an attractive bounty to acquire his talents. (Hint: I think Detroit pulls the trigger and unloads Justin Turner and Nick Castellanos to bring Garza to the Motor City. They need to win now and those prospects won’t be helping them any time soon.)
(Upcoming Series: at Philadelphia 1, at Cincinnati 3, LA Dodgers 3)
27. Houston Astros (8-15) (Last Week: 26)
The two pitchers with the lowest ERAs on the Astros are coincidentally the two most likely pitchers to be traded before the deadline. Funny how hard a guy will play when he wants a change of scenery. I’m sure Houston management is thrilled since they need to scrap up every piece of talent they possibly can in a trade. Their farm system is very thin, so a nice infusion of talent from the trades of the aforementioned pitchers along with Carlos Lee should add a little depth and flexibility to a talent-starved organization.
(Upcoming Series: NY Mets 3, St. Louis 3)
28. San Diego Padres (7-16) (Last Week: 29)
In a shocking change of events for the Padres, they suddenly can’t hit. I’m kidding, of course, because this team will never be able to produce runs. And if that ballpark stays at its current dimensions, that won’t change. If one were to find a bright spot in their season, it would have to be Anthony Bass, who has posted a 2.30 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. Other than that, the highest batting average on the team is Chase Headley’s .253 and he really runs away with all offensive statistics with rather pedestrian numbers. If any team couldn’t wait for Carlos Quentin to return from injury, it would be this one.
(Upcoming Series: Milwaukee 3, Miami 3)
29. Kansas City Royals (6-15) (Last Week: 30)
A talented baseball team playing below their potential. Eric Hosmer is going to be great, but it’s just not clicking at this point yet. He’s way too talented to keep batting below .200. The one thing that will hold them back is what I’ve said will hold them back all season. The rotation is not good at all. Danny Duffy has shown signs of promise and is probably the most talented pitcher on that staff. But the number one pitcher in my heart will always be the immortal Bruce Chen. Why Bruce Chen, you say? Because it’s Bruce Chen.
(Upcoming Series: at Detroit 3, NY Yankees 4)
30. Minnesota Twins (6-15) (Last Week: 27)
They, like their counterparts in KC, have good players. I’d be more than happy to have Mauer, Morneau, Span or Willingham on my baseball team. Unfortunately for the Twins, that’s about all they have in terms of talent. The cupboard in bare in regards to the rotation and Jason Marquis is just not going to cut it as a number one starter. And Francisco Liriano? He simply looks like a lost dog at this point. It’s sad to see a pitcher with so much talent fall as far as he did. When he was on, he was nearly unhittable. Twins fans must be wondering what they did wrong to have all of these injuries hit their best players.
(Upcoming Series: at LA Angels 3, at Seattle 3)