After a brief, one week hiatus, the power rankings are back. As we approach the All-Star break, there are supposed pretenders who are in the midst of pennant races (Baltimore and Pittsburgh proudly stand up) and talented contenders wallowing in the middle of division races (Detroit and Boston shrug back in their seats). Will this be the week that either group shows their true colors? I certainly have no clue, which is what makes baseball great. But let’s see where each of these teams stack up in this week’s power rankings.
1. Texas Rangers (50-30) (Last Week: 3)
UPDATE: This team is darn good. After dropping the first two series of the month, Texas has roared back into regular form and has taken every series since then. Part of their success has been due to Ian Kinsler, who hit .385 last week. Kinsler is one of the better all-around players in the game, in my opinion. He has great range at second to go along with sneaky speed on the base paths. Ian leads the league in doubles, runs and stolen bases among all second baseman. Those stats, along with a good OBP (.335 isn’t bad), makes Kinsler invaluable to the top of that Texas lineup.
(Upcoming Schedule: at CHI White Sox 3, Minnesota 3)
2. New York Yankees (48-31) (Last Week: 1)
C.C. Sabathia just landed on the 15 day Disabled List and Andy Pettitte will be out until late August with a broken ankle. Yet somehow, the Yanks find themselves up six games in the best division in baseball. If they can lose two of their best four pitchers for extended periods of time and increase their lead in the division, I’m scared to see what a completely healthy Yankee team can do.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Tampa Bay 3, at Boston 4)
3. San Francisco Giants (45-35) (Last Week: 11)
The Giants have crept back to a tie with Dodgers in the NL West and look like a close second in terms of a team that could compete for a NL pennant. But I want to talk about their NL Cy Young contender Matt Cain. A lot of people are talking about Dickey, Strasburg and even Pirates ace James McDonald to start the All-Star Game for the National League. Cain is second in the NL with a 0.95 WHIP, carries a 2.53 ERA and has a beautiful 9.0 K/9. Not to mention he threw the first perfect game in Giants history. The guy often was in the shadow of Tim Lincecum, but I think this year, the rest of the league has noticed that he is truly the best pitcher on that staff, and likely the best pitcher in the entire NL.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Washington 3, Pittsburgh 3)
Hit the jump for Christian’s power rankings…
4. Washington Nationals (45-32) (Last Week: 4)
Washington continues to be carried by their stellar pitching. The Nationals still hold the best team ERA in the majors at 3.19. They’ve managed to weather the damage set to the rotation by Chien-Ming Wang and re-inserted rookie Ross Detwiler (who was quite effective earlier in the season) back into the fifth starter spot. Detwiler has been a nice filler to the four-headed monster that is Strasburg, Gonzalez, Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson. And the offense is just heating up. Washington has scored at least five runs in each of the past six games. And they’re not even firing on all cylinders. Guys like Mike Morse and Ryan Zimmerman will eventually heat up. And while Bryce Harper may not continue to play like a future hall-of-famer for the rest of the season, his presence in the lineup will still put the fear of God into many managers.
(Upcoming Schedule: San Francisco 3, Colorado 3)
5. Los Angeles Angels (45-35) (Last Week: 8)
Mike Trout is the best all-around player in the American League. I know that may seem like an overstatement on a small sample size, but Trout has been up for 57 games and the Angels are 37-20 in that stretch. In this short stretch, Trout has amassed 22 steals, slugged .542 and has an average of .339 (best in the AL). He’s a true five tool player and doesn’t appear to be showing any growing pains.
The MVP is, in my opinion, the player most valuable to his team. Like how last year, without Justin Verlander, the Tigers do not win that division and thus wouldn’t have been two games away from a World Series. The Angels have gone from the disappointing super power to the third best team in the American League since Trout has come up. Though he’s not the only reason (Mark Trumbo is having a superb season as well), he is the MAIN reason this team is back in contention.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Cleveland 3, Baltimore 4)
6. Cincinnati Reds (44-35) (Last Week: 5)
After a somewhat disappointing start to his Cincinnati career, Mat Latos has stepped up big time for the Reds. Latos has pitched consecutive complete games, allowing only two runs, two walks and six hits. In those 18 innings, the former Padre ace struck out 20 batters. The fact that Latos is finally heating up and the Reds managed to stick in first place is a good sign for the direction they’re heading.
(Upcoming Schedule: at LA Dodgers 3, at San Diego 4)
7. Pittsburgh Pirates (43-36) (Last Week: 10)
It’s July and the Pirates are seven games over .500. I’m turning 19 in August and I’ve never seen this team have a winning season, so that would be a significant moment in history. And it’s also pretty significant how potent the Bucco’s offense was in the month of June. After sitting in last place in runs scored for much of the season, the Pirates put up a league high 146 runs, which is one less than they accumulated in the first two months of the season. And with their 11 run outburst on Monday against the Astros, it doesn’t appear they’ll be taking their foot off of the gas any time soon.
(Upcoming Schedule: Houston 4, San Francisco 3)
8. Los Angeles Dodgers (44-37) (Last Week: 2)
Slowly but surely, the Dodgers are sinking back to where many expected them to be a the beginning of the season. The Giants have taken the division lead and LA has lost 12 of their past 14. Scoring two runs in the first three games against the Mets certainly won’t help. And neither will putting up a zero for the entire series against San Francisco. The runs simply aren’t be scored and the starting pitching can only do so much. They desperately need Kemp back, but they won’t get him back until at least after the All-Star break, so they’ll have to stay afloat until his return to the lineup.
(Upcoming Schedule: Cincinnati 3, at Arizona 4)
9. New York Mets (43-37) (Last Week: 13)
When I first ranked teams, I even surprised myself having the Mets this high, but they really earned it. Aside from a shaky start against the Yankees on night, R.A. Dickey has been one of the best pitchers in baseball. Had it not been for the stellar performance of Matt Cain, I would argue that he should be the All-Star Game starter. In his six starts during the month of June, Dickey has given up five earned runs, all of which came on Sunday night. He’s also gone at least six innings all but once this season. That kind of pitching not only gets W’s, but it also provides some major relief for the relief core. And his 2.15 ERA and 0.88 WHIP are pretty decent too.
(Upcoming Schedule: Philadelphia 3, CHI Cubs 3)
10. Baltimore Orioles (42-37) (Last Week: 7)
Is it a bird? A plane? A mediocre team crashing back down to Earth? Since this is a baseball blog, you probably guessed the third option and you’d be correct. The O’s have lost six of their last seven and allowed at least six runs in each of those games. Their pitching, which has been pretty decent this season (4.03 after their hellish past week), gave up 59 runs in those seven games. Just as you can’t win scoring eight runs (as they did last week), you also can’t win allowing 59.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Seattle 3, at LA Angels 4)
11. Boston Red Sox (42-38) (Last Week: 18)
Though this team has actually started winning, the stories about the BoSox have gravitated into the clubhouse. Buster Olney has repeatedly said that the clubhouse is toxic at best (paraphrasing) and that people didn’t really like each other. So to fix that, GM Ben Cherington shipped beloved third baseman Kevin Youkilis to the White Sox for a bag of balls and a few bats (otherwise known as Brent Lillibridge and Zach Stewart. And I realize that this happened last week, but when someone with the magnitude of Kevin Youkilis is traded, it shouldn’t go unmentioned). Youk was one of those guys you hated when you played Boston, but you would have loved him on your team. As Wes Mantooth once told Ron Burgundy, “At the bottom of my gut, with every inch of me, I plain, straight hate you. But dammit, do I respect you!” That was my feeling with him on Boston and will continue as he suits up for my second-least favorite team, the Chicago White Sox.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Oakland 3, NY Yankees 4)
12. Chicago White Sox (42-37) (Last Week: 12)
All I can say about the White Sox is that Chris Sale is really, really good and Jake Peavy deserved to be an All-Star. They’ve both proved me wrong to this point, but I’d still be concerned with his high risk of injury due to Sale’s delivery and Peavy’s checked injury past.
(Upcoming Schedule: Texas 3, Toronto 3)
13. St. Louis Cardinals (42-38) (Last Week: 17)
The Lance Lynn we saw throughout the beginning of the season has seemed to taken a vacation right before the All-Star break. After putting up a stellar 2.42 ERA in his first 13 starts, he has given up 17 runs in his past three starts and has seen that ERA balloon to 3.62. Despite those starts, Lynn still has outperformed any expectations coming into the season and did earn his trip to this year’s All-Star Game. Perhaps his all-star status will bring about different fortunes for the 25 year old.
(Upcoming Schedule: Colorado 4, Miami 3)
14. Tampa Bay Rays (42-38) (Last Week: 6)
Generally, a week where you defeat Justin Verlander provides excellent returns. Sadly for the Rays, that was their only victory of what had to be one of the longest weeks in manager Joe Maddon’s life. Not only are the Rays without Evan Longoria, but they also have Matt Joyce joining the DL in what has to be the worst timing possible. Longoria suffered a setback in his minor league rehab start, but he has been cleared for “baseball activities,” so expect him back possibly by the end of the month. If Tampa isn’t careful, this precipitous drop could land them in the cellar of baseball’s best division. As good as Longoria and Joyce are, I don’t think even those two could drag the team back from that.
(Upcoming Schedule: NY Yankees 3, Cleveland 4)
15. Cleveland Indians (40-39) (Last Week: 14)
I feel like MLB owes Cleveland a bit of an apology for this little umpiring blunder last Tuesday night.
(Upcoming Schedule: LA Angels 3, Tampa Bay 4)
16. Detroit Tigers (39-41) (Last Week: 15)
Detroit escaped their road trip with a 5-5 mark, which isn’t all that bad considering each of the team’s they played had a winning record. But on Monday night, they decided to soil themselves and drop a winnable game against the Twins. Doug Fister, who has been less than stellar this season (1-6 and a 1.41 WHIP), retired the Twins in the minimum batters and was looking to have a nice start for the first time in two weeks. Minnesota figured out Fister the second time through the order and roughed him up to the tune of six earned runs in 4+ innings. The offense could only muster four runs against Liam Hendriks (7.04 ERA) and failed to expose the Twins’ weak bullpen. The team hasn’t been at the .500 mark since they were 18-18 and it seems like whenever they get close to it, they drop winnable games. As a devoted fan, this may be the most frustrating season I’ve ever followed.
(Upcoming Schedule: Minnesota 4, Kansas City 3)
17. Atlanta Braves (41-38) (Last Week: 9)
An extreme drop? Yes. But this was done for what they lost when their ace went down. They have lost Brandon Beachy for the season and have, in effect, lost one of the NL’s best pitchers. Beachy had a 2.00 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and an opponents average of .171. A rotation can rarely be carried by one pitcher (exception: see Verlander, Justin, Sabathia, C.C.), but it can be easily be broken by the loss of a great pitcher. Teams like the Giants and Phillies can afford to lose aces like Lincecum (not injured, but he may as well be) and Halladay. But the Braves, aside from Tommy Hanson, have shaky arms like Tim Hudson and Julio Teheran behind him that can be good on occasion, but do not have the consistency needed for Atlanta to compete for a NL East title.
(Upcoming Schedule: CHI Cubs 4, at Philadelphia 3)
18. Toronto Blue Jays (40-40) (Last Week: 16)
Sadly, I’m starting to think that my guarantee of a Blue Jays playoff birth is slipping away, game by game. I’d love to see what they could have done without this rash of injuries, but alas, it appears the Jays will be sellers once the trade deadline comes around. Sigh… At least Jose Bautista (14 homers in June) and Colby Rasmus (1.021 OPS since moving to the 2 hole) are hitting the cover off of the ball to make this team watchable.
(Upcoming Schedule: Kansas City 4, at CHI White Sox 3)
19. Arizona D-Backs (39-40) (Last Week: 20)
Trevor Bauer was freed from the cage that is the minor leagues and pitched decently in his debut. He was held to four innings as he was pitching on short rest and he gave up two runs in those four innings. Along with that, he gave up five hits, three walks and three strikeouts. Not the best start in his debut, but the guy deserves some slack as it was his very first start. Bauer is taking the mound against San Diego (not the most daunting lineup), so that should make his home debut a tad more impressive.
(Upcoming Schedule: San Diego 3, LA Dodgers 4)
20. Miami Marlins (38-41) (Last Week: 19)
It couldn’t make me happier that this team is falling on its face. I kind of liked this team coming into the season, but seeing the Heat play and win a title reminded me how much I despise Miami fans and how they don’t deserve a winner. The Marlins won two World Series in the first 15 years of their franchise and the Heat’s two titles were tainted in their own ways. And I also think that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria is a terrible person, so that makes it that much better. But I digress… Until last weekend against the Phillies, the team hadn’t won consecutive games since June 2nd and 3rd and were 6-18 for the month. Maybe LeBron should pick up a bat and see if he could fix the issues over there.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Milwaukee 4, at St. Louis 3)
21. Oakland Athletics (39-42) (Last Week: 22)
Oakland, despite being the lowest scoring team in the American League, is only three games below .500. They are only one game worse than the AL Central favorite Detroit Tigers. Good for the A’s, as their five year plan to put a good team in a new stadium is running ahead of schedule. Well, at least the good team part is.
(Upcoming Schedule: Boston 3, Seattle 3)
22. Milwaukee Brewers (37-42) (Last Week: 23)
As much as I love Zack Grienke in Milwaukee, the Brewers better be calling every contender around so they can rebuild their very weak farm system. Grienke has been nothing short of spectacular this season (3.o8 ERA, 1.18 WHIP) and if they wait long enough, they could really improve the future of their franchise. This season is a lost cause, so selling is the logical option for the team with the best brats in baseball.
(Upcoming Schedule: Miami 4, at Houston 3)
23. Kansas City Royals (36-42) (Last Week: 21)
The Royals, despite my nagging most weeks, are very competitive. Because of the weakness of their division, they’re only five and a half games out of first place. Surprisingly enough, they might be buyers at the trade deadline. ESPN’s Rumor Central listed them as one of six teams in the running for Matt Garza. I guess this is what I expected from them at the beginning of the season, as I had them in the teens to start the season. It’s just surprising, as a child of the 90s, to see the Royals as a competitive team in late June.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Toronto 3, at Detroit 3)
24. Seattle Mariners (35-47) (Last Week: 25)
The only notable thing going on with the Mariners is the emergence of bullpen arm Tom Wilhelmsen. The replacement for the sometimes shaky Brandon League has been terrific, not allowing a run since earning the closing job. And in the 14.2 innings that he’s had the gig, he’s struck out 18 batters and has only allowed 12 base runners. He won’t be losing that job any time soon.
(Upcoming Schedule: Baltimore 3, at Oakland 3)
25. Philadelphia Phillies (36-45) (Last Week: 24)
I may be speaking too soon, but I feel it’s time to wave the white flag on the Philadelphia season. They’ve lost five straight and are 11 games back in a division that features Washington, who has the best pitching in the majors. The Nats don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon, and my bet is that Strasburg pitches past his innings limit as being in a pennant chase is something a team shouldn’t take for granted. Even when fully healthy (Utley has returned and Howard is set to come back later in July), the Phils will just seem old and don’t have the fire power to make up that large of a deficit. Barring a large collapse or major injury to the teams ahead of them, the Phils should be selling at the deadline.
(Upcoming Schedule: at NY Mets 3, Atlanta 3)
26. Minnesota Twins (34-45) (Last Week: 27)
A familiar face has once again returned to his potential. Francisco Liriano, who had so much promise earlier in his career, has really rebounded back to form. After getting lit up by Detroit to the tune of four earned runs in 2.2 innings on May 25th, Lirano has dropped his ERA from 8.47 to 5.40 in the following starts. In the month of June, his ERA was 2.87, WHIP was at 0.93 and his opponent’s batting average was limited to .159. While I don’t think it’ll last (he was lit up for four earned runs in 5.1 innings in KC on Sunday), the Twins should reap the benefits of these starts and get what they can for him in a trade. A contender would love to add a guy who has the stuff Liriano can have on a given night.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Detroit 4, at Texas 3)
27. Houston Astros (32-48) (Last Week: 26)
This is the team I expected to see coming out of spring training. Their hot start did fool me a bit, but I feel that their 10-17 mark in June and early 0-2 start in July should come as a shock to no one. Anyone expecting much of a team whose best player can also be used as a form of measurement probably doesn’t watch much of the sport.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Pittsburgh 4, Milwaukee 3)
28. San Diego Padres (31-50) (Last Week: 28)
Andrew Cashner, who spent much of the season in the bullpen and in AAA, made his MLB starting debut on Thursday. The Padres were smart to start him against the punchless Astros, as it gave him a soft jumping off point. He was brilliant against Houston, striking out nine in 6.1 innings and only allowing two runs. Cashner was the main cog in the deal that sent Anthony Rizzo, who also made his Cubs debut last week, which is a fun little coincidence. And keep an eye on their star catching prospect Yasmani Grandal, who after four games in the majors, has three home runs to his name.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Arizona 3, Cincinnati 4)
29. Colorado Rockies (30-49) (Last Week: 29)
Troy Tulowitzki, who quickly became one of my favorite infielders in the Rockies quest to the World Series in 2006, had some groin surgery that will knock him out for the next six to eight weeks. I’d say that the Rockies need to become sellers, but there really isn’t much on this roster to sell. And to think I called them a dark horse earlier in the season. I need to stop making predictions.
(Upcoming Schedule: at St. Louis 4, at Washington 3)
30. Chicago Cubs (30-49) (Last Week: 30)
Prized prospect Anthony Rizzo made his Cubs debut last Tuesday night, going 2-4 with an RBI double. Since the call up, Rizzo’s batted .304 with two homers and five RBI (six games played). I feel like it’ll almost be too easy for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to rebuild this franchise. With trades of Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster that will bring in a bevy of prospects, along with young outfielder Brett Jackson and Cuban catcher Jorge Soler in the minors, this team will have a core in three years that could finally give the North Side of Chicago the title they’ve been waiting for.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Atlanta 4, at NY Mets 3)