1. New York Yankees (40-25) (Last Week: 5)
The Yankees are the hottest team in baseball and have looked like the best team in baseball over the past few weeks. They’ve won nine straight games and have done so against the three best teams in the NL East. Sweeps against the Mets, Braves and division leading Nationals have led them a top the best division in baseball and it appears that the team has very few weaknesses. The back-end of the bullpen, who was supposed to be reeling after the loss of Mariano Rivera, has been ultra-effective with once-maligned free agent Rafael Soriano. He has been a guaranteed save as he’s converted on 13 of 14 opportunities and has a stellar 1.78 ERA. And as I mentioned last week, Phil Hughes has been absolutely phenomenal in June, striking out 23 batters in 21.1 innings and holding a stellar WHIP of 1.08.
(Upcoming Schedule: Atlanta 3, at NY Mets 3)
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (42-25) (Last Week: 2)
The Dodgers came out of the week no worse than they started it, but only by the skin of their teeth. All but one of their games were decided by one run, with the only outlier being a 5-2 victory over the Angels. There aren’t really any stars in the starting lineup (unless you consider Andre Ethier a star), yet they somehow keep the victories coming. Contributions from Ethier, Jerry Hairston Jr., Dee Gordon, A.J. Ellis, and James Loney have all found a way to become a hero at one point or another since Kemp went down with a reaggravation of his hamstring injury. There’s no timetable for Kemp’s return to the lineup, so each player will need to continue to pull his own weight and keep trucking for the most surprising team in baseball to keep up their run.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Oakland 3, at LA Angels 3)
3. Texas Rangers (40-27) (Last Week: 3)
They’re baaaaack. After dropping three consecutive series, the Rangers have torn apart the National League to take their past three series and have won seven of their last nine. And while injuries have ravaged the bullpen and rotation (Derek Holland, Alexei Ogando and Neftali Feliz), the team remains hot and now has the option of bringing up grizzled veteran Roy Oswalt within the next few weeks. Not that it matters though, since the team has only given up over three runs once over the past seven games (coincidentally the only game they lost over that stretch). The run production has been what I expected (5.88 per game in the last nine games), but the pitching has been a welcome and pleasant gift for this Rangers team that remains without an ace.
(Upcoming Schedule: at San Diego 3, Colorado 3)
Hit the jump for the rest of Christian’s power rankings…
4. Washington Nationals (38-26) (Last Week: 4)
The Nationals came into a home series against the Yankees on a six game winning streak and ended up as another piece of wreckage in the path of the hottest team in baseball. But Washington is still far and away the best team in their division and to think otherwise is simply clownish, bro.
(Upcoming Schedule: Tampa Bay 3, at Baltimore 3)
5. Cincinnati Reds (38-27) (Last Week: 11)
The Reds have begun to walk away from a division they should have run away with a month ago. They have the second best player in the NL in Joey Votto (Ryan Braun is the best, but I’ll get to that later), one of the best defensive second baseman in Brandon Phillips (.992 fielding percentage) and the best bullpen in the National League (league best 2.60 ERA). Combine the solid batting, fielding and relief and this team looks like they have a legitimate shot to win the pennant. They’ve been to the playoffs before, and although it was brief, they are much more experienced than any other division leader in their league (Dodgers and Nationals). Reds fans should be excited for this team.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Cleveland 3, Minnesota 3)
6. Tampa Bay Rays (37-29) (Last Week: 1)
“Shelled” would the appropriate word to describe the Rays’ midweek series against the Mets. They gave up almost 10 runs per game against a Mets lineup that isn’t exactly an offensive juggernaut. But all that aside, they’re only 3.5 games out of first with Evan Longoria returning at some point this week. They’re one game over .500 since his injury and have kept afloat long enough for their superstar to return to a relatively weak lineup. Credit Matt Joyce for stepping up and continuing the play that earned him an all-star appearance last season and has kept this team in the hunt.
(Upcoming Series: at Washington 3, at Philadelphia 3)
7. Baltimore Orioles (39-27) (Last Week: 7)
Baltimore is still sticking around despite being by-far the least talented team in the division. That being said, Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen look like legitimate front of the rotation pitchers. Neither are aces, but both have the stuff to get guys out and work late into games. Hammel pitched a one-hit shut-out on Saturday and has really seen some improved stats across the board this season. His WHIP is down to 1.16(career 1.43), K/9 is up to 8.5 (career 6.5), and his ERA has dropped to 2.87 (career 4.78). And Chen, an amateur free agent signed before the season, has been a solid number three-like starter, with a 3.36 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP. If both of those pitchers continue their current paces, the Orioles will have a good chance of hanging around.
(Upcoming Schedule: at NY Mets 3, Washington 3)
8. Los Angeles Angels (36-31) (Last Week: 13)
The hitting may have been an issue earlier in the season, but through it all, the pitching has been superb. Garrett Richards, who joined the staff after the Jered Weaver injury, has been wonderful in his three starts filling in. His 0.86 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and .183 batting average against are worthy of a regular spot in the rotation. Also, I’m man enough to admit when I’m wrong and I was wrong about C.J. Wilson. Taking away Weaver’s no-hitter, Wilson has been the best pitcher on that staff. He’s averaging almost eight strikeouts per nine innings and has an ERA in the low twos. He looks completely comfortable in his role out in LA and has actually looked even better than he did in Texas (career 3.46 ERA).
(Upcoming Schedule: San Francisco 3, LA Dodgers 3)
9. Atlanta Braves (35-31) (Last Week: 6)
The Braves also met the scalding Yankees, and as has been noted earlier in the piece, were discarded by the top ranked team. They proceeded to score only four runs in a three game series against the Orioles (all were scored in Friday’s victory). This is a different team from week to week and it’s hard to track where they’re going to be at the end of the season. The loss of Brandon Beachy with an elbow injury certainly won’t help right the ship in regards to their consistency. Beachy was far and away the best pitcher on that staff, but the fact that he lost four of his past five starts will probably soften the blow. And the Braves will also need some contributions from Freddie Freeman, who after a hot start to the season, has hit .212 in the month of June.
(Upcoming Schedule: at NY Yankees 3, at Boston 3)
10. Pittsburgh Pirates (34-31) (Last Week: 9)
Andrew McCutchen should buy Pedro Alvarez a drink after his performance in Cleveland this weekend. For once, Cutch wasn’t the only one producing all of the offense. Out of Pedro’s last five hits, four were home runs and one was a double. That would give him a slugging percentage of 1.000 for the weekend. His average is gag-worthy (.207) and his OBP is awful (.271), but when the man makes contact, he kicks that ball’s ass. He’s on pace for 25+ homers and 85+ RBI, which I feel would make fans of the lowest scoring team in baseball quite happy.
(Upcoming Schedule: Minnesota 3, Detroit 3)
11. San Francisco Giants (37-30) (Last Week: 12)
If it was too early to panic on Tim Lincecum before, it’s definitely time to panic now. He doesn’t look like a middle of the rotation starter, let alone the ace he’s being paid like. Luckily, the Giants have Matt “Mr. Perfect” Cain, Madison Bumgarner and a surprisingly resurgent Barry Zito to help in the chase to catch the Dodgers. But the Lincecum issue has become something that cannot be ignored. He was lit up for two homers and five earned runs against the MARINERS IN SAFECO. That’s one of the most weakest power teams in baseball in one of the best pitcher parks in baseball. His 6.19 ERA is the second highest among all starters and the only guy he’s pitched better than is the superstar Luke Hochevar. Whether it’s pitching him out of the bullpen, having him take a few starts off or even shutting him down until the All-Star break, some action needs to be taken.
(Upcoming Schedule: at LA Angels 3, at Oakland 3)
12. Chicago White Sox (35-31) (Last Week: 10)
Unlike the rest of the American League, the White Sox aren’t liking interleague play very much. The Sox have dropped each of their past three series and have seen their lead in the AL Central fall to 1.5 games. The issues start with execution. They lost Friday’s game due to a wild pitch thrown by Matt Thornton. Those kind of mistakes are what have plagued the Tigers to this point, who were supposed to be the champs of this division. And those kind of mistakes will cost them as the Indians (who are also struggling) and the Tigers (three games back) are getting very large in the Sox rear-view mirror.
(Upcoming Schedule: CHI Cubs 3, Milwaukee 3)
13. New York Mets (35-32) (Last Week: 14)
R.A. Dickey may be the best pitcher in baseball at this moment. He has gone seven innings in each of his past five starts and has struck out at least nine in all of those outings. He came one hit away from a no hitter in Tampa earlier in the week and has all of his stuff, namely his knuckleball, working on all cylinders. What I can’t fathom is how they managed to put up 29 runs in that three game series. Can the casual baseball fan name three position players not named David Wright on that roster? Probably not. Manager Terry Collins is doing a remarkable job getting this team to win baseball games.
(Upcoming Schedule: Baltimore 3, NY Yankees 3)
14. Cleveland Indians (33-32) (Last Week: 8)
Last week looked like the Indians chance to go on a good run and take charge of the AL Central. Fast forward to Monday, and they’re reeling from two series losses to the Reds (a sweep) and the Pirates. Mind you, they were outslugged by the Pirates, who are still the lowest scoring team in baseball. They need to improve that rotation. Justin Masterson is the only pitcher worth mentioning in that rotation. Derek Lowe is a fifth pitcher, Jeanmar Gomez is not talented, and Ubaldo a powder keg that could be lit up at any given moment. Cleveland needs to address their lack of a rotation and should target someone like Wandy Rodriguez or Ryan Dempster.
(Upcoming Schedule: Cincinnati 3, at Houston 3)
15. Detroit Tigers (32-34) (Last Week: 17)
There were definitely some positives to draw out of last week’s 4-2 performance against the Cubs and Rockies, but we need to remember that they were playing the Cubs and Rockies. The Tigers had bright moments, including the shutouts thrown by Max Scherzer and Doug Fister, along with the great performance of newly returned outfielder Austin Jackson. But there were also two very bad moments. Jhonny Peralta, who will never be confused with Ozzie Smith in the field, had one error that allowed the Cubs to tie the game and another to give them the lead in a game the Tigers lost 4-3. On Friday, Jose Valverde gave up six runs in the ninth inning in a game that was tied 4-4 when he entered. While it’s nice that they’ve won seven of 10, there are still major issues (fielding and closing) that could hamper this team down the stretch. Still, they’re the best team in this division and should be leading it by month’s end.
(Upcoming Schedule: St. Louis 3, at Pittsburgh 3)
16. Toronto Blue Jays (34-32) (Last Week: 15)
The sweep at the hands of the Nats and the subsequent sweep of the Phillies is minuscule compared to the bad luck the Blue Jays encountered this week. Not one, not two, but three starting pitchers were placed on the DL this week. Brandon Morrow injured his side, while Kyle Drabek and Drew Hutchinson each injured their elbows and could be potential candidates for Tommy John surgery. While the Jays are still in the hunt for a wild card spot, this seriously hurts their playoff chances. Now is the time that their front office decides to either grab a pitcher like Jeremy Guthrie from the Rockies and aim for the postseason or sell off some players and wait for next season.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Milwaukee 3, at Miami 3)
17. St. Louis Cardinals (34-33) (Last Week: 18)
The team didn’t make any strides or have any major collapses this week. Just another week of barely staying above .500 and falling further back of the surging Reds. What has been impressive is the pitching of the one guy who wasn’t even supposed to be in the rotation at the beginning of the year. Lance Lynn has put on a show this year, sporting a 10-2 record and an ERA of 2.42. In his past two starts, he has struck out a combined 23 batters in 13.1 innings and has only allowed 2 runs. The man is putting on a show and making tomorrow’s start in Detroit against Justin Verlander a must watch.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Detroit 3, at Kansas City 3)
18. Boston Red Sox (33-33) (Last Week: 20)
Every series victory for the Red Sox is a step in the right direction. As much as I rip on them, for this team to be hanging around .500 with Ellsbury, Crawford and Ross on the DL is quite the accomplishment. That doesn’t go to mention that they’ve weathered the disaster that was Daniel Bard starting and ended up sending him down to AAA. They need to address the issue of the struggling Kevin Youkilis (.215 BA) and hope Adrian Gonzalez can rebound from his uncharacteristically slow start. But factoring in all of the crap they’ve been through this season, I’d say this season is very salvageable.
(Upcoming Schedule: Miami 3, Atlanta 3)
19. Miami Marlins (33-33) (Last Week: 16)
They couldn’t be any worse than last week (0 wins), but two wins in a week isn’t anything to brag about. Something about this team just doesn’t seem to be clicking. And it isn’t an issue of it just being interleauge play. They dropped three games to the Braves to start this whole mess (lost 10 0f 12), but I’m sure the Marlins won’t be petitioning to be placed in the AL East any time soon. And Miami can’t claim to be the best team in that state as they’ve only won one of their six matchups against Tampa Bay. The issue with this team is that they can’t hit with anywhere near the consistency they need to. Their team average of .237 ranks 25th in the league and puts them in the company of teams like Seattle and San Diego. Not one player on the team is batting above .300, which doesn’t generally happen to a team that has aspirations of winning a division.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Boston 3, Toronto 3)
20. Arizona D-Backs (32-34) (Last Week: 19)
Much is being made out of Kirk Gibson not attending his son’s high school graduation. Let me set the record straight on this one: who’s business is it how he handles his family affairs? What’s to say that he hasn’t already talked to his son and they okayed the whole thing? And regarding his comments that he’s supposed to graduate: Isn’t he? Shouldn’t that be the expectation of all parents who send a child to school? I know I seem to be asking a lot of questions here, but I feel that first of all, this is Kirk’s business and Kirk’s business only. And secondly, a kid raised by a manager who expects to get the most out of his players would probably expect no less from the child he’s raised since birth. I’d much rather him say that it was an expectation rather than a surprise. I’d rather not write about this, but it’s a story and it’d be ignoring obvious issues if I didn’t.
(Upcoming Schedule: Seattle 3, CHI Cubs 3)
21. Kansas City Royals (29-35) (Last Week: 27)
I attended Thursday’s game against the Brewers (the second of my family’s vacation. We also saw the Tigers play at Wrigley on Tuesday) and came away incredibly impressed with Kansas City’s facilities. The renovated Kauffman Stadium is an absolute game and a must see for any baseball fan. The in-game experience was possibly the best I’ve ever had. And it helps that the Royals came back to win in the bottom of the ninth. In fact, they swept the Brewers and took two of three from in-state rival St. Louis. That effort has allowed them to climb back within five games of first place in the AL Central and has given some hope to that tortured fan base.
The one player I watched on the Royals more than any other was Eric Hosmer. I know he’s better than his .219 average and he showed it that night. Each of the balls he made contact with were hit hard, including a mammoth 400+ foot homer that briefly gave KC the lead. He looked locked in at the plate and it’s only a matter of time until he’s back above .300. The kid also looked very good in the field and made some very nice picks.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Houston 3, St. Louis 3)
22. Oakland Athletics (31-36) (Last Week: 25)
Don’t look now, but the A’s have won five of six. Granted those wins came against the Rockies and Padres, but for Oakland, they’ll take all the wins they can take. Their anemic offense had a field day with the pathetic Rockies pitching staff and enjoyed the sub par rotation the Pads threw at them. Oakland actually averaged over six runs per game, which is damn good for a team that had scored the fewest runs in the AL coming into the week.
(Upcoming Schedule: LA Dodgers 3, San Francisco 3)
23. Milwaukee Brewers (30-36) (Last Week: 21)
As I mentioned earlier in the article, I think Ryan Braun is the best player in the NL. Now that is met with some skepticism as he did test positive for PEDs after last season. But if he really did test positive, which was overturned, then why is he putting up MVP numbers for a second straight season (.316 BA, 19 HR, 47 RBI, 1.015 OPS)? Would he really be stupid enough to take them two years in a row? Of course not. The Hebrew Hammer is doing it all by himself in Milwaukee and I’d be scared to see where that team would be without him. Given his ability to play the field well, steal bases and do ungodly damage at the plate, he has my vote for NL MVP at this point in the season.
(Upcoming Schedule: Toronto 3, at Chicago White Sox 3)
24. Philadelphia Phillies (31-37) (Last Week: 22)
Chase Utley may return soon and he looked impressive in a minor league intrasquad game. He went two for three with a walk and played four innings in the field. If you’re looking for more good news than that with this team, good luck.
(Upcoming Schedule: Colorado 3, Tampa Bay 3)
25. Seattle Mariners (29-39) (Last Week: 24)
Had it not been for a series victory against the Giants this weekend, I would have considered this week a complete loss for the M’s. I mean, they were swept for the Padres. You can’t be swept by the Padres and expect to stay in your respective spot. That being said, it’s been a nice month for Jesus Montero, who has hit .310 in June. Though he has only one RBI for the month, he can’t be totally blamed as people ahead of him have not been getting on base (.297 team OBP).
(Upcoming Schedule: at Arizona 3, at San Diego 3)
26. Houston Astros (27-39) (Last Week: 23)
At the beginning of the season, if you were going to pick one team that would be the victim of a perfect game, you’d have been crazy not to pick the Astros. And on Wednesday night, they became the answer to a trivia question for the rest of baseball history.
Now, there has been speculation that Houston could move Jose Altuve or Jed Lowrie to a contender who needs help in the middle infield. Let me just say that all of that talk is complete nonsense. The Astros stole Lowrie from Boston for Mark Melancon and he’s been a nice partner to Altuve in the infield. My feeling is that they want this infield to be together long term, as it is so hard to find a middle infield that works. The only Astros on the market, in my opinion, are Carlos Lee, Wandy Rodriguez and Brett Myers. Speculation that anyone else would move takes on the intelligence of someone who calls into sports talk radio shows.
(Upcoming Schedule: Kansas City 3, Cleveland 3)
27. Minnesota Twins (26-39) (Last Week: 26)
The Twins dropped two of three in each of their past two series, but that doesn’t surprise anyone. What should be surprising is the power surge by Trevor Plouffe. In the month of June, he is batting .389 with nine homers and 16 RBI. The Twins aren’t in contention, so the stats don’t don’t much except maybe entice that wants some power in a trade. The other surprising statistic has to do with Minnesota’s attendance. Over this nine game homestand, no game had less than 32,000 people in attendance. For a team destined for last place this season, that shows incredible dedication by a fan base starving for a winner.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Pittsburgh 3, at Cincinnati 3)
28. San Diego Padres (24-43) (Last Week: 29)
The only player anyone talks about on this team is Carlos Quentin, so I’ll give you someone different. Clay Richard, a University of Michigan product, has been a stud for the Pads this month. In June, Richard has pitched 27 innings with an ERA of 2.00 and a 1.26 WHIP. He may just be having a hot month, but growth from him could help San Diego have a nice, young rotation for next year. Cory Luebke, Anthony Bass and Clay Richard could be decent, given some development occurs this season.
(Upcoming Series: Texas 3, Seattle 3)
29. Colorado Rockies (25-40) (Last Week: 28)
Here was the lineup the Rockies put out on Sunday: Eric Young Jr. LF, Marco Scutaro SS, Dexter Fowler CF, Michael Cuddyer RF, Jason Giambi DH, Tyler Colvin 1B, Jordan Pacheco 3B, Chris Nelson 2B, Wil Nieves C
Needless to say, Colorado lost 5-0 to the Tigers that day.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Philadelphia 3, at Texas 3)
30. Chicago Cubs (22-44) (Last Week: 30)
I could do something similar here and list the lineup for the Cubs Sunday, but that’s their lineup almost every day. I saw them at Wrigley on Tuesday and commented to my father several times that this was one of the worst lineups I had seen since the 2003 Detroit Tigers. When a washed up Alfonso Soriano is batting third and a 29 year old journey man first baseman is batting clean up (Bryan LaHair), your team is historically poopy. And poopy is a kind word for this team.
(Upcoming Schedule: at CHI White Sox 3, at Arizona 3)