Let’s skip the pleasantries and get to the good stuff…
Best overall record, best road record, best run differential, and fewest runs allowed. Most of the stats align to say that the Nats are the best team in baseball. And if that’s not enough, they’ve scored the second most runs in the National League in the month of August. Things are truly running on all cylinders for the Nats right now. But I still question how things will progress once Strasburg is gone and the pressure is laid on extra thick.
(Upcoming Schedule: Atlanta 3, at Philadelphia 3)
They took three out of four from the Rangers and two out of three from the Red Sox. The Yankees are the preeminent team in the American League, but the lack of starting pitching depth still would frighten me as a Yankee fan. Ivan Nova (at least four earned runs in three of his past four starts), Freddie Garcia (need I say anything?), and Phil Hughes (5.06 ERA in August) are all shaky. Luckily for the Yanks, C.C. is a workhorse who’s getting healthy and Kuroda has been dealing of late (1.52 ERA, 0.88 WHIP in August). That’ll get them to the postseason. But after that? I’m not so sure.
(Upcoming Schedule: at CHI Sox 3, at Cleveland 3)
I read pieces from multiple sources that the Rangers are considering calling up blue chip prospect Jurickson Profar. It may be a bit of a rush to bring him up this season, but with the way Michael Young is playing (.272/.304/.351), a replacement needs to be considered. When Young is on, Texas is the best offense in baseball. When he’s off, they’re probably still the best, just slightly less scary. Maybe Profar will come up and bring the fear Michael Young did whenever he walked up to the plate over the past few seasons.
(Upcoming Schedule: Baltimore 3, Minnesota 4)
Hit the jump for the rest of Christian’s power rankings…
Shockingly enough, this is the only team that has started only five pitchers this entire season. A rotation with Bronson Arroyo, Mike Leake and Homer Bailey don’t exactly inspire confidence when their name is called, but they’ve been effective this season. The rotation as a whole has recorded a 3.67 ERA, which is a stat that ranks as one of the biggest surprises of the season. And to top it off, Johnny Cueto has been a Cy Young candidate this season with a 2.44 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. I never thought I’d complement a rotation in Ohio, but Cincy has truly earned it.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Philadelphia 4, St. Louis 3)
Tampa Bay is the hottest team in baseball. They just finished a ten game road trip with an 8-2 mark that included a four game sweep of the Los Angeles Angels. And they didn’t just sweep the Angels, they bludgeoned them, outscoring the Halos 37 to 14. LA even tried to win a game, going up eight to nothing. But their attempt was futile as the Rays scored ten unanswered runs. David Price, James Shields and Matt Moore are starting to heat up for the Rays, as they’ve all posted sub-3.00 ERA in August. And don’t look now, but they’ve closed the gap on the Yankees to five games. I’m sure they’ll be greeted by a raucous crowd of 15,000 fans for their first game back against Kansas City.
(Upcoming Schedule: Kansas City 3, Oakland 3)
I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more Medlen. Kris Medlen, who floated around the Braves pitching staff without much of a role, has really found a groove in the starting rotation. He’s given up three earned runs in his 25.2 innings of work as a starter and has a complete game shutout to his name after a superb six strikeout gem against the Padres. Trade deadline acquisition Paul Maholm, blast from the past Ben Sheets, and Medlen may be the keys to the Braves winning the wild card, as they are a pretty imposing trio if they keep up their pace.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Washington 3, at San Francisco 4)
He’s never been a guy the Dodgers can rely on, but Chad Billingsley is looking pretty darn good in the month of August. He’s providing some assistance for ace Clayton Kershaw, pitching a lights out August (1.59 ERA, 0.92 WHIP). In a rotation with Aaron Harang, Chris Capuano and Joe Blanton (not exactly murderers row), somebody out of the four needed to step up. Earlier in the season, Capuano pitched above his head (2.69 ERA through June 30th) and helped out Kershaw. Now it’s Billingsley’s turn. I just can’t wait until Aaron Harang starts shutting down opposing lineups. That’ll be fun.
(Upcoming Schedule: San Francisco 3, Miami 3)
With the exception of A.J. Burnett and Erik Bedard, the rest of the Pirates’ rotation has been a bit inconsistent this season (who would’ve thought you’d have Burnett and Bedard at the front end of that sentence?). Kevin Correia, Jeff Karstens and Wandy Rodriguez are middle of the road guys who’ll either be shockingly good or painstakingly bad. James McDonald is no different. He hasn’t been the same pitcher he was in the first half, seeing his ERA rise from 2.37 to 3.77 from July 13th to August 10th. But he did a good job in getting back on track last weekend against the Cardinals. McDonald struck out seven in six scoreless innings and earned his first victory since July18th. His performance down the stretch will be the X-factor for the Buccos. If he’s good, they get the wild card. If he’s bad, there’s a much bleaker outlook.
(Upcoming Schedule: at San Diego 3, Milwaukee 3)
I don’t know if you heard, but Melky Cabrera got busted for cheating. He’ll be out for the rest of the season and has likely cost himself tens of millions of dollars in free agent money. I often am amazed by the stupidity of these players who’ll try to skirt the system when it is well established and unavoidable. And when I saw that he tried to invent a website that promoted the “drug” that caused the positive test, I realized that he’s too dumb to have a job in this league. He’ll likely be the bargain of the offseason and some team will look like heroes when they give him a second chance. But they’ll be signing one of the dumbest, most ignorant players in the league.
(Upcoming Schedule: at LA Dodgers 3, Atlanta 4)
These days, the best way to break out of a slump is to play the Indians. The A’s beat the Tribe like a drum, sweeping them in a three game set in the Coliseum over the weekend. Jarrod Parker also saw his season rebound a bit as he tossed eight innings of shutout ball on Sunday. Parker had been shaky of late, allowing at least three earned runs in each of his past four starts, but the depth of the A’s rotation kept the team from feeling any of the ill effects. With the return of lefty Brett Anderson on the horizon, Oakland’s pitching could keep them afloat in the wild card race even if the offense falters.
(Upcoming Schedule: Minnesota 3, at Tampa Bay 3)
Though it may have been in a loss, I’d like to extend congratulations to Adam Dunn on hitting his 40oth home run this weekend in KC. The home run numbers are obviously tainted due to a strange era in the game of baseball, but to hit 400 balls out of the park authentically should be celebrated. Only 50 players in over 100 years of baseball have conquered 400. That’s a pretty darn big deal. Plus, the ball got a man arrested. Who doesn’t love watching that?
(Upcoming Schedule: NY Yankees 3, Seattle 3)
Seeing as how the organization I live with in Detroit rushes up every prospect with an ounce of worth much before they’re ready, I was slightly skeptical at GM Dan Duquette’s call to bring up Manny Machado from AA to play third base for the Orioles. While I was aware of the ineptness that was currently occupying the position (stand up Wilson Betemit and Mark Reynolds), I didn’t think it was worth it to risk derailing the career of the best position player in the minors. But I was wrong. Machado looks more major league ready than I’ve seen most any 20 year old (discounting Trout of course). Not only did he hit three home runs in his first three games as an Oriole, but he has been fantastic at third base as well. I had the pleasure of watching him this weekend as the O’s were in Detroit, and he fielded the position like a five year veteran. He made several rally killing plays and moved to the ball with cat-like reflexes. This kid is the real deal.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Texas 3, Toronto 3)
The Cardinals received a much needed boost to the rotation as Jaime Garcia got back into the fold on Sunday, pitching eight innings in a no decision to the Pirates. Garcia has proved to be one of the better members of the Cards staff in recent years (3.39 career ERA), so adding him into a red hot rotation of Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook (I never thought I’d include him in a sentence like this) could prove to be the Cards’ key to a pennant run. This team is plush with talent in the outfield, infield and rotation. If the back end of the bullpen gets their act together (five blown saves for Jason Motte this season), they can most definitely sneak into a fun NL playoff bracket.
(Upcoming Schedule: Houston 3, at Cincinnati 3)
There was a piece written by the Detroit media talking about how the city doesn’t truly appreciate Miguel Cabrera and what he brings to the ball club. I happen to agree with this statement. Living around here, all that is generally talked about is how well Verlander is pitching, how bad the bottom of the lineup is and if Prince Fielder will ever live up to his lofty contract. Lost on the back burner is the remarkable career of Miggy. I may be only 18 years old, but Miguel Cabrera is the best hitter I’ve ever seen in person. And I’ve seen Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Mark McGwire. The stats are certainly there to back him up (5.6 WAR, .988 OPS), but watching him work pitchers to get the pitch he wants, and to see him work the ball into whatever field he wants with ease is simply incredible. I understand that he’s not the best in the field, but he’s not a butcher like many expected. He’s the clear second place in the MVP voting, in my humble opinion. But instead of rallying behind him and chanting MVP during every at-bat, Detroit fans sit on their hands. The fanbase is witnessing the best Tiger hitter since Al Kaline. The least they could do is let him know they appreciate him.
(Upcoming Schedule: Toronto 3, LA Angels 3)
The impact that Paul Goldschmidt is having in the desert is one of the most under the radar stories of the season. Goldschmidt has quietly become the most consistent hitter in the lineup. He’s tied for the team lead in batting average, second in homers and RBI (a meaningless stat to some), and the leader for OPS. For a guy who was never ranked in the top 100 of Baseball America’s best prospects, he’s definitely proving his worth in his first full season in the big leagues. If Upton can heat up to 2011 form, the D-Backs could sneak up and take the NL West if the Dodgers and/or Giants hit a lull.
(Upcoming Schedule: Miami 4, San Diego 3)
The Angels are falling apart before our very eyes. Dan Haren (4.90 ERA, 1.39 WHIP) forgot how to pitch, Zack Greinke (7.20 ERA since the trade deadline) forgot the American League and Mark Trumbo is falling flat at the plate. Trumbo, who was the key to the Angels’ offense early in the season, is batting .200 this month with a .286 slugging percentage. To explain how bad that is, Minnesota outfielder Ben Revere, who hasn’t hit a home run in his major league career, is slugging .353 for the month. Trumbo’s contributions are key to keep the well-oiled machine that is the Angels offense running smoothly.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Boston 3, at Detroit 3)
Perfection. Need I say more?
(Upcoming Schedule: Cleveland 3, at CHI Sox 3)
Though the season appears to be lost, a respectable finish appears to be within the Jays’ grasp. After being decimated with injuries, they’ll return arguably their three most important players in Brett Lawrie, Jose Bautista and Brandon Morrow this week. Morrow was pitching as their ace until he was injured (1.00 WHIP, 3.01 ERA) and we know quite well what Joey Bats is capable of when he’s healthy. And while Lawrie hasn’t been the monster many expected this season, his numbers are far from disappointing. If they put another good stretch run together, I’m a safe bet to name them my American League sleeper for the second straight year.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Detroit 3, at Baltimore 3)
Remember when I said there wasn’t much to report last week? Yeah, I was wrong. Am I surprised? Of course not. This team has been a dysfunctional mess all season and just hasn’t been very good. Ellsbury and Gonzalez aren’t the MVP candidates they were last season, Lester and Beckett have lost touch with reality on the mound and injuries have hit them hard. The players whine too much, Bobby V has put his foot in his mouth too much and ownership likes to meddle more than they should. It’s a failure at all levels. Our society often likes to find a single scapegoat and blame all their trouble on it. Here, it can’t be done. This organization as a whole is a mess. They need a change of culture, pronto. It could cost them quite a few quality players and kill multiple season’s of contention, but they have to get back to the 2004 team. The team that had players like Bill Mueller and Kevin Millar playing a role. Guys that would never have gotten a chance on the current model. Guys that understand the game and understand their role in the organization. Same goes for the manager. The owner situation won’t change for long while, so that group of duds will have to force themselves into a personality readjustment. It’ll be a long road, but I guarantee it would be worth it.
(Upcoming Schedule: LA Angels 3, Kansas City 4)
The Mets, picking up on a trend that has seemed to catch fire this season, have decided to go to the six man rotation. The move is going to reduce the stress on young pitchers like Matt Harvey as well as the senior citizens like Johan Santana. R.A. Dickey, who experiences less stress on the arm due to his knuckleball tendencies, will remain on the normal schedule of pitching every five days. It’s never a bad move to reduce stress on the arms in a rotation when the team is well out of contention. And the Mets should be pretty excited for next year’s rotation that’ll include the three aforementioned pitchers, along with the talented Jonathan Niese and super-prospect Zack Wheeler.
(Upcoming Schedule: Colorado 4, Houston 3)
The trades of Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence have opened a spot for Domonic Brown to prove himself in the Phillies outfield. He’s disappointed a few times before and has had more than a few people saying he’s a bust. If he’s going to prove himself, now is the time. He’s hit decently since being called up, throwing up a .269/.355/.328 line. But decent is well below the phenom expectations the rest of baseball had for him. This next month and a half is the most important stretch in the 24 year old’s life.
(Upcoming Schedule: Cincinnati 4, Washington 3)
The Padres have become my Blue Jays of the National League. That basically means, I’m going to guarantee that they make the playoffs NEXT year because I’m in love at the way they’re put together. It’s a team of low-cost, high-ceiling prospects mixed with a few wily veterans that fill their roles well. I know my Blue Jays’ prediction was proven wrong, but I’m convinced that the casualties incurred to that team were too much to overcome. IF the Pads stay healthy next season, I see a playoff spot in their future.
(Upcoming Schedule: Pittsburgh 3, at Arizona 3)
As I said in past weeks, this team is among the more uninteresting in baseball. But it has been worth noting that Rickie Weeks is finally turning his season around. By no means is his .219 average good. But it’s a heck of a lot better than what was happening in June. Since June 30th, Weeks has raised his average by .36 points (from .183). He’s vital for the Brewers to find relevance once again, so management has to be thrilled that the former first round pick may be regaining his stroke.
(Upcoming Schedule: CHI Cubs 3, at Pittsburgh 3)
Another week goes by and another week Jeremy Guthrie continues to cheat the baseball gods. He took a no-hitter into the seventh against the White Sox and has a 0.94 ERA in the month of August. I don’t get it. And another thing I don’t get? The Royals are 8-4 against the division-leading Pale Hose, but 4-8 against the last place Twins. A confusing season in KC.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Tampa Bay 3, at Boston 4)
I always hate to see special talents stuck on bottom feeders. The case is no different for Josh Johnson. He’s the best pitcher by a mile on the Marlins, rocking the month of August with a 2.43 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. He’s been back to the pitcher we expected to see to open the season. And though he didn’t get off to the best start this season (5.34 ERA in April), he’s finishing strong and showing the Marlins they were smart to hold onto him at the deadline. If Nate Eovaldi and Jacob Turner can develop into something, the Marlins may actually have a rotation to worry about in the future.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Arizona 4, at LA Dodgers 3)
Cleveland’s Team ERA in August: 5.81. If it wasn’t for the implosion of Zack Greinke, Dan Haren, and others in LA, the Indians would have the worst ERA this month. The rotation is devolving to something out of horror novel, with grotesque characters like Ubaldo Jimenez’s walk rate (5.2/nine innings), Justin Masterson’s consistency, a man with no identity (Roberto Hernandez? I like Fausto Carmona better), and two other guys who aren’t good pitchers. Terrifying, really.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Seattle 3, NY Yankees 3)
Alfonso Soriano is having his best year since 2008 and yet the Cubs are not able to move him to a contender? Well, it isn’t that easy. Soriano, similar to Ryan Dempster, had 10-5 rights that allowed him to veto any trade he was involved in. Several teams have made inquiries, but Soriano only wants to be traded to one place and one place only: LA. Teams like the Giants and Tigers could have really used a bat like him and could have given him a nice audition for free agency. But Soriano would prefer to waste his final years in Chicago, rather than contribute to a contender. I understand that Soriano has earned his right to choose, but I question the motives of a player who isn’t willing to move from a doormat to a team competing for a World Series.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Milwaukee 3, Colorado 3)
Let me be the 1,252nd to say that the Twins really found a “Diamond” in the rough with Scott Diamond. Har har har har har… But in all seriousness, Diamond has injected a sense of optimism that there is at least one pitcher in the Twins’ system that doesn’t suck. His 2.95 ERA and 1.19 WHIP have taken the AL Central by storm and have provided a pitcher that teams may have to worry about. The only issue with Diamond is that he’s 26 and is just now finding success in the big leagues. Sometimes these old guys (relatively) find magic in a genie bottle and become reliable starters, but more often than not, they turn into the Bryan LaHair’s and Quinton Berry’s of the world, fading quickly after a hot start.
(Upcoming Series: at Oakland 3, at Texas 4)
As evidenced by the record and lack of Troy Tulowitzki in the lineup, there haven’t been many bright spots in the Rockies’ season. But alas, there is a positive. They have too many qualified outfielders for the outfield. Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez are locks, but with Tyler Colvin having a career year (for him anyways) and Michael Cuddyer returning from injury, there isn’t a spot for everyone. And with crypt keeper Todd Helton still roaming around first base, Cuddyer can’t be plugged in there. It’s quite the conundrum for a team that hasn’t mattered since May.
(Upcoming Schedule: at NY Mets 4, at CHI Cubs 3)
Well, let me be the first to congratulate Brad Mills on his firing from the Houston Astros. The guy was managing the worst team in baseball and never really had a chance. Most of his “major league” players were traded elsewhere and the rest of his roster was a collection of misfit toys and players that probably are better suited for slow-pitch softball. No one likes to be forced out of a job, but when the main goal of the game is to win and you don’t have the pieces to do it on a nightly basis, I’d be relieved to search for other work. Though I feel like the firing could have waited until after the season, it’s clear that Mills wouldn’t be back next year anyways, so the timing doesn’t really matter. It was inevitable.
(Upcoming Schedule: at St. Louis 3, at NY Mets 3)