Welcome to the fortnightly instalment of Baseball Canadiana’s Power Rankings. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of my power rankings, you must know that it has very little to do with the standings. Power rankings are meant to look past the standings and are therefore not reactionary to hot and cold streaks, as they take into account the unreliability of small sample sizes. Also, rather than publish these rankings at the beginning of the week, I will publish them (from here on out) on Fridays so as not to conflict with my writing schedule elsewhere.
So I’ve decided something: There are no elite teams in Major League Baseball; at least they haven’t emerged yet if they exist. Every contending team has gaping and exposed flaws. The Red Sox, widely considered the most complete team in baseball at the season’s commencement have had very little production from Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey in their rotation, and have experienced regression from Clay Buchholz. Four-fifths of the Yankees’ rotation is A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia, and Bartolo Colon; enough said. The Phillies’ offense is a tick below average, at best, while the Giants can’t score at all; the Rangers’ rotation is suspect; and the Marlins currently look more flaccid than Anthony Weiner (HEYYOOO).
At the moment, not one team is playing .600 baseball and the best team in baseball, record-wise, is the St. Louis Cardinals, sans Adam Wainwright (????).
The Top Ten
There was a lot of movement within the top ten this time around, but the same ten teams that were there two weeks ago are there again. The Phillies have occupied the top spot now for quite a while and despite not playing particularly well recently, they still have by far the best rotation in the game and enough offense to make them very tough to beat.
Back in the number two spot, and number one in the AL, are the Red Sox. Since that 2-10 start, the Red Sox have a Major League-best 34-16 record and now lead the AL East for the first time this season. Even with the problems in their rotation, Josh Beckett seems to have re-emerged as a force and Jon Lester is still one of the best pitchers in the AL. An offense that everyone expected to be the best in baseball by far is finally starting to look that way having scored 102 runs in their last 15 games.
The Yankees and Rays meanwhile took a step back and have fallen to third and fourth respectively. The Yankees have been better than expected when you consider the terrible nature of four-fifths of their rotation, but have fallen behind the Red Sox who have solidified themselves as the best team in the AL, both by record and by reputation. The Rays have stumbled a bit the last few weeks, but still have an outstanding rotation and enough capable hitters to stay in the conversation.
The Braves have gone on a surge the last couple weeks with a 9-5 record since the last rankings, but have had an even run differential of 43 runs scored and against in that time. They also dropped four out of six games against both the Padres and Mets.
The Giants hold steady at number six after a so-so week that saw them take three of four in St. Louis after being trounced at home by the Marlins in late May. Overall, the Giants were 8-9 since the last rankings, but are still by far the best team in the NL West, even if they can’t score runs to save their lives.
The Texas Rangers, like the Giants, have solidified their place at the top of their division with an impressive 11-6 stretch, but there are still questions surrounding the team’s starting rotation that should expect regression from Alexi Ogando and Derek Holland and frankly should be worried that their number one pitcher is C.J. Wilson who continues to defy logic with his performance. Their play has moved them from tenth to seventh in the rankings.
The Cardinals currently hold baseball’s best record and considering the loss of ace Adam Wainwright to injury, have completely exceeded expectations. Albert Pujols is heating up, but regressions from Lance Berkman, Kyle Lohse, and Kyle McClellan should be expected. At this point, they are the best team in the NL Central, but with Milwaukee playing great baseball and Cincinnati still having the best team on paper, that position is by no means safe.
With a rotation that rivalled anybody’s in baseball and some great young talent in the lineup, the Florida Marlins looked poised to reposition themselves in contention for baseball’s holy grail, but an injury to their ace, Josh Johnson, and a swoon by their offense has led to an eight-game losing streak. In a desperate attempt to right the ship, the Marlins fired hitting coach John Mallee and replaced him with Eduardo Perez; a move that so far, does not appear popular with the players. Their swoon has dropped them from fifth to ninth in the rankings.
Another bad week from the Reds has left them just a couple games over the .500-mark and has landed them in third in the division. They still sit second in baseball in runs scored and a return to dominance of Edinson Volquez will surely go a long way in getting the Reds going again. They still fell from eighth to tenth.
Surges and Swoons
The Brewers continue to dominate the National League and have now gone 21-8 in the last month. They sit just two-and-a-half games behind St. Louis in the Central and are tied with the Braves for the wildcard lead. Another solid stretch will surely land them in the top ten for the first time all season. They moved from 13th to 11th.
In 12th sit the Tigers, who also experienced quite the surge. Their 11-5 record since the last rankings has put them just one game behind the suddenly swooning Indians for tops in the AL Central, and has landed them back in the top spot in the rankings. The Indians meanwhile seem to be coming back down to earth with a 5-11 stretch; they’ve fallen from 11th to 13th.
Surprisingly, no team in the AL has scored more runs than the Toronto Blue Jays. In their last 17 games, the Jays are averaging over six runs per contest; they’ve moved up from 16th to 14th.
Arizona’s continued winning ways has them just a single game behind San Francisco in the NL West and has moved them up six spots from 25th to 19th. It remains to be seen if Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson can continue to carry and overachieving pitching staff.
The Cubs’ 5-11 stretch has them just outside the bottom-five at 25th, where they now sit above only the Astros in their division.
The Mariners and Pirates continue to turn heads with their solid play, although not many believe it’s sustainable. Both teams moved up three spots to 23rd and 24th respectively.
Along with Cleveland in the swoon category are the Oakland Athletics who now have a ten-game losing streak. Last night against the White Sox was the first game for new manager Bob Melvin who took over for the fired Bob Geren. Oakland’s pitching staff also took a blow with the news that ace Brett Anderson could be out for the rest of the year, potentially needing Tommy John surgery. Things do not look good for the team that I predicted would win the AL pennant in 2011.
The Bottom Five
The Astros still occupy the bottom spot despite their respectable play as of late, while Kansas City has fallen off dramatically with a 5-12 stretch that included a four-game sweep at home to the Minnesota Twins where they were outscored 26 to 6; they’ve dropped from 22nd to 29th, signifying the single biggest drop in these rankings. The Twins have suddenly been playing better, winning seven out of eight, but they are still mired in the bottom five in 28th.
San Diego, like division rival San Francisco, can’t score runs, but they are managing to get the pitching that has enabled them to grab a few wins. Their 10-7 stretch has brought them up from 29th to 27th in the rankings, but they are still in the bottom five. Rounding out that group are the Washington Nationals who fell from 23rd to 26th after a 6-11 week.