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.
We are now as close to the half-way point of the season as possible for a power ranking (the next one probably won’t be done until the All-Star break), and one thing is clear: There are three really good teams, two other teams that are just good and then a whole lot of mediocrity. No team is on pace to lose 100 games this year and only the four teams at the very bottom of this list could be considered really bad. This makes ranking them kind of difficult; one team goes on a run and the inclination is to raise them way up in the rankings, another team swoons and the tendency is to bury them. But power rankings are not meant to be reactionary, that’s why we do them. Sometimes the standings just aren’t enough.
My theory is that it’s much harder for a bad team to move up the rankings than it is for a previously good team to move down. This edition of the rankings is a good case study on that very point.
So, without further adieu (click to enlarge):
The Top Ten
I was very close to moving the Red Sox in to the top spot last time, but instead decided they hadn’t yet proved enough to move past the Phillies; one dominating weekend later, and up came the BoSox. The Red Sox massacre of our Blue Jays nearly two weeks ago was the largest single beating by any team this season. Boston won all three games and outscored Toronto 35-6! Since then Boston has continued their tear averaging over seven runs per game since the last rankings with a run differential of 85-38. They continue to get steady production from their incredibly deep lineup and Adrian Gonzalez looks like an MVP in his new, more homer friendly park. So, for the first time since the beginning of the year, the Red Sox sit atop the power rankings.
The Phillies and Yankees are the other two ‘really good’ teams in baseball right now. Along with Boston, these three are head and shoulders above the rest and Bodog.com has the odds of one of those three teams winning the World Series set at better than 4/3. At this point, it’s true that the Yankees play in the tougher division and in the tougher league, but how they continue to play well when they have one good starting pitcher (C.C. Sabathia) and a vat full of mediocre starters, and an injury-riddled bullpen is beyond me. The Phillies may not have the offense that the Yankees have, but even without Roy Oswalt, who’s out indefinitely with more back problems, have a much better pitching staff. For now, that’s keeping them narrowly ahead of the Bombers.
Tampa Bay and Atlanta are equal(ish) in my eyes and any tie goes to the AL team, so the two continually consistent teams are fourth and fifth respectively. The Giants meanwhile keep getting solid pitching despite their complete lack of offense and although they had a run differential of -10 this fortnight, they still went 6-6 and remain in sixth.
The Rangers are seventh and have yet to fully convince me they are an elite team. Their record sits at just 40-36 and they gave up five-and-a-half runs per game over the last two weeks. I’m really starting to worry that their lack of starting pitching could really hurt them down the stretch; especially if the Angels and A’s can get it together and string up some wins. Only six games separates first from last in the AL West. Having said all that, they are clearly better than any of their division-mates and given their status as an AL team, have to be considered at least marginally better than the cluster of teams directly behind them; for now.
Two teams with under .500 records in the last two weeks actually moved up into the top ten. The Brewers and Tigers were both 6-7 but went from 11th to 8th, and 12th to 10th respectively. For those two teams, it wasn’t their overall record, but who they beat that put them here. The Brewers easily handled the Cardinals in a series sweep and moved past them in the NL Central standings, while the Tigers beat Tampa in a makeup game and took two of three from the Indians to squeeze barely past the still mediocre Reds and into the top ten.
Surges and Swoons
Like I said in the opening, in my eyes, it’s easier for a team we thought was good to fall fast when they start to struggle than it is for a bad team to move up when they surge. The A’s in the last ranking fell from 12th to 18th when they started to struggle (they remained steady this week after a six-game winning streak) and this week the faltering Marlins have fallen not only out of the top ten, but all the way down to 17th after a 2-12 fortnight that was included in a horrendous 1-17 stretch. After the resignation of manager Edwin Rodriguez, the Marlins hired 80-year-old Jack McKeon to right the ship.
After going 6-5 this fortnight, the White Sox moved up five spots to 12th, which may seem drastic, but they’ve been pitching really well and have made huge strides over the past month; they are still the best team in the AL Central on paper.
The Mariners continue to stick around in the AL West and for that they’ve moved from 23rd to the top 20.
Bad teams that continue to defy logic and play well take much longer to move up; the Indians earlier this year took quite a while to move as high as 11th, but their subsequent crash has dropped them back down to 14th, with more regression in the cards.
The Nationals had the best record in baseball over this stretch winning eleven of twelve games (followed by the surprising resignation of manager Jim Riggleman), but they moved up only two spots to 24th. Meanwhile the Pirates have been playing well, sitting at the .500-mark, but we all know they aren’t that good, they fell to 26th despite a 7-6 record mainly because of a -14 run differential.
The Bottom Five
Along with the Pirates are the four teams I would consider to be ‘bad’: The Royals who have the worst record in the AL, the Padres who are a shell of last year’s smoke and mirrors team, the Cubs who are, well, the Cubs, and the Astros who’ve been marred in 30th for quite a while.