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MLB Power Rankings 6/8/13 

This has actually been one of the more interesting MLB season in a while now. There have been plenty of surprises and plenty of disappointments. Let’s take a look at the top ten teams and some of the best storylines thus far in 2013.

1. St Louis Cardinals 40-21

Most people, including me, chalked this up as the worst division in baseball but now the Cardinals hold the best record in baseball and have not one but two teams breathing down their neck. They haven’t missed a beat since losing Pujols. Albert might even consider trading in all that extra cash to be back in St Louis. Not that they need him. They currently have the 4th most runs scored, 2nd best batting average and 3rd best on base percentage in baseball. They have found some nice players not considered stars by any stretch of the imagination. They keep chugging along at a killer pace thanks to five guys hitting over .300 and that doesn’t include Matt Holliday’s power and David Freese recent resurgence. They haven’t even missed Chris Carpenter thanks to a combined record of 24-7 by Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller. It will be tough to keep up this pace but they are playing great ball right now and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down at all.

2. Boston Red Sox 37-24

Best record in the AL and tied for the 2nd best record in all of baseball, not bad for a team coming into the season with more baggage than someone from the Jersey Shore going on vacation. Manager John Farrell has stayed out of the headlines unlike Bobby V. He has this team playing better than anyone could have hoped. The Sox seem to be back to enjoying baseball once again. The pitching staff has welcomed the arrival of Farrell and responded playing up to their potential. Clay Buchholz is the early Cy Young winner for the AL with an 8-0 record and a 1.62 ERA. Jon Lester has been really hit or miss but after the way he ended 2012 he is moving in the right direction. Even John Lackey looks half decent. Pair that with an offense that continues to overachieve, 1st in runs scored, 1st in on base percentage and 4th in batting average, and you really have something. Again they seem to be having fun out there and I don’t expect them to slow down at all.

3. Oakland A’s 38-25

Despite having a rather poor offense on paper they continue to find ways to manufacture enough runs to give their pitching staff a chance to win just as they did in their dramatic comeback to steal the AL West. This year they are out in front of Texas for the division lead, at least for now, but with their style and their coaching they just need to keep chugging along and playing a better smarter game than the rest of the teams as they have done so well in the past.

4. Texas Rangers 36-24

If I told you at the beginning of the year the Rangers offense would be just 10th in runs scored you would probably think they are a good ways behind the leader of the division right? Somehow their pitching has carried them despite coming into the season with really zero starters that you could have full confidence in. Now they have just one, Yu Darvish, yet they keep going out there and hurling gems. If/when this offense really wakes up and becomes the powerhouse we expected them to be they could be really scary. Hopefully for Rangers fans they haven’t wasted all their great pitching by then.

5. Atlanta Braves 37-24

Tough team to rank. They feel too low to me but when I had them higher on the list they felt too high. Craig Kimbrel has already blown as many saves (3) as he did in all of last season. Meanwhile Justin Upton, the reason they got off to such a hot start, as cooled considerably. Justin Upton is batting just .252 now and has just two home runs since batting .298 and belting 12 dingers in April alone. Being tied for the 2nd best record in baseball isn’t enough, if they want to climb this list they are going to need those two guys to get their shit together.

6. Cincinnati Reds 36-25

The Reds aren’t quite playing up to their potential. But only having Cueto for six starts and being recently without Brandon Phillips doesn’t help. What does help is them getting 31 quality starts out of Bronson Arroyo, Mat Latos, Mike Leake, and Home Bailey. As does having 22 of their 61 opening games come against the Cubs, Marlins and Brewers. They need to play better offensively while maintaining their overachieving pitching to get the ball in Aroldis Chapman’s hands with the lead in the 9th to have a legit shot at winning this division.

7. Pittsburgh Pirates 36-25

How the hell does a team ranked 26th in runs scored, 27th in batting average, 26th in on base percentage and 26th in slugging find themselves just four games back of the best record in baseball? By having one of the best bullpens in all of baseball. Their relievers have an ERA of just 2.75 and an opponents batting average of just .211, both the best in the big leagues. Despite having really one legit fantasy baseball threat on their entire team, McCutchen, having a great bullpen can win you games and these Pirates are living proof. It also helps when you are 18-10 in the division including going 7-5 against the Reds and Cardinals. But to keep it up they need to get their bats going and some better production out of their starters. Which will be extra tough now that Wandy Rodriguez could be headed to the DL, we shall find out when he throws a bullpen session Monday.

8. Detroit Tigers 33-26

They probably deserve to be a bit lower since they have sort of underachieved but they are still leading their division. Oh and they have Verlander, Cabrera, and Prince. They have an offense you can trust and a pitching staff that doesn’t get the credit it deserves because of all the focus on Verlander. As of now, Anibal Sanchez (2.65), Max Scherzer (3.24), and Doug Fister (3.27) all have better ERA’s than Verlander’s 3.71. Scherzer by the way, has more strikeouts with 100 to Verlanders 93, a better record 8-0 to 8-4 and far more Cy Young votes right now. Giving them statistically the 5th best starting rotation.

The Tigers offense has also done it’s fair share in helping the Tigers win. They have the best batting average in baseball, the second best on base percentage, 2nd most runs scored, and the 5th best slugging percentage. So why aren’t they winning more? Maybe for once Justin Verlander deserves some blame. But it’s still plenty early for him to get back to being the most dominant pitcher in baseball.

9. Arizona Diamondbacks 35-26

What a surprise the NL West has been this year. I was on the Rockies bandwagon from the beginning of the year, as was AP3 even more so, so them playing as well as they have hasn’t surprised me. Nobody could have expected the Giants and especially the Dodgers to be this bad. We did know the Diamondbacks would be able to hit the ball but certainly nobody expected the Diamondbacks to be this good from the mound, mostly on the shoulders of Patrick Corbin...who? As a rookie, last year, Corbin went 6-8 with a 4.54 ERA. In his sophomore season, this 23 year old kid currently has a 9-0 record with a 1.98 ERA. That is staggering. Of course their bats are going to need to stay hot to offset the eventual slide in performance from Corbin and if they could ever get more production out of pitchers Wade Miley, Brandon McCarthy, and Ian Kennedy (all with an ERA over 4.90) they could be a title contending team. That’s a big if though.


10. Baltimore Orioles 34-27

Picked by most to finish dead last in the AL East, this team has surprised some. I had them slated to finish third. I’m not bragging as much as I am saying not to underestimate this team. There is plenty to like. They sit in 3rd in the division just one game back of the 2nd place Yankees and just three back of the best record in the AL. Not bad for a team with the fourth worst team ERA. They have gotten it done with their bats. They hold the best slugging percentage in the MLB the 3rd best batting average, the 5th most runs, and the 7th best team batting average. Led by Chris Davis this team has six guys with 30+ RBI. They make every at bat count and if they continue to hit they could find themselves in the playoffs. But they really need to find some pitching help. You can’t force your offense to score five or more runs every night to win.

1. Miguel Cabrera/Chris Davis battling for the triple crown

Cabrera: .368 BA 17 HR 67 RBI

Davis: .350 BA 20 HR 52 RBI

Winning the triple crown is unprecendeted in itself never mind a guy winning it back to back years. That is when we start talking about his place amongst the all time greats. We had only seen the offensive triple crown 15 times throughout MLB history, and none in 45 years, until Miggy accomplished the feat last season. Only Ted Williams in ‘42 and ‘47 and Rogers Hornsby in ‘22 and ‘25 have won this thing a second time, to do it in back to back seasons, at the age of 30, would thrust him into the same conversation as Ted Williams with still a few good years to come. It also might make take a few more “random” drug tests.

While the triple crown has never been won by the same guy in back to back seasons, Frank Robinson won it in 1966 the year before Carl Yastrzemski won it. That is what Chris Davis is hoping happens this year. But he obviously has some ground to make up. Barring injury those 15 RBI’s is going to be difficult to make up given the potency of the Tigers offense and those 18 batting average points will be tough to make up given Cabrera’s incredible consistency. Dyk... Miguel Cabrera was held hitless in only five time in 25 games in April, only twice in 28 games in May, and only nine times in 59 games. That’s going to make it rather tough to catch him in either category he is trailing in. It’s not impossible just difficult. But the power of Crush Davis might be enough to at least stop Miggy from making history.

2. National’s injuries

A disappointing start to the season for the Nats has gotten worse. Their two stars are both having injury problems now. Stephen Strasburg is on the 15 day DL with a strained oblique and Bryce Harper’s name was just thrown into the worst five word sentence in sports “...will visit Dr. James Andrews”. Harper has been out since May 27th thanks to left knee bursitis and is yet to resume any baseball activities. For those unable/too lazy to count, if healthy he could come off the DL as soon as Monday, unfortunately he will be visiting for the aforementioned Dr. James Andrews on Monday and could be a long ways away from returning.

Strasburg on the other hand should be halfways close to returning. But he still has plenty of hills to climb to get back in action. He is not eligible to be activated until June 16, and before then he has to get through a simulated game on Tuesday, and likely another bullpen session following that without any setbacks. He seems to be on pace to come back shortly after that June 16th date but he is not out of the woods just yet.

As these two guys continue to sit on the DL their team has fallen below .500, into 3rd place in their division seven games back of the Braves, and six games out of the final wild card spot. Obviously they need these two guys back before it gets too late and they waste another season.

3. Matt Harvey

After R.A. Dickey left for Toronto having won the Mets’ their first Cy Young since Dwight Gooden in 1985, I can’t imagine anybody thought the Mets would have a chance to win back to back. But Harvey has thrown his name into the hat with his 5-0 record and his ERA hovering around two. If only he could get some run support to help bolster that record. Not that it’s essential to winning a Cy Young, just ask King Felix, but it doesn’t hurt. He has thrown nine quality starts in his twelve times taking the mound but he has won just once since since going 4-0 in his first four starts of the year. But with no help from his offense he has pitched great and not gotten the win. For instance, he has gotten a no decision five times when allowing two or fewer runs, including one in which he pitched eight innings with 1ER with 10k’s, in line for the loss, before the Mets rallied against Mariano Rivera to win in the 9th. An even better one... he pitched a nine inning shutout allowing just one hit while striking out 12 only to get the ND thanks to 0 runs scored by the Mets until they won it in the 10th inning. When considering Harvey for Cy Young make sure you look at the fact that the Mets. who have only won 23 games, is 8-4 in games in which he pitched and again he has lost exactly 0 of those 4.

4. Domonic Brown’s rise

This kid came into the league with a lot of hype surrounding him. I remember picking him up in my fantasy baseball league hoping to get something from him. It wasn’t until just recently he has been unable to cash in on that hype. Luckily I knew all about him and had him again this year, and just traded him in a deal that landed me Verlander. Anyways, his struggles were partly because he wasn’t ready, partly because he was so far down the batting order, and partly because he didn’t play all that many games for the Phillies. This year he has already played a career high 61 games and he has made the most of his chances. He is now batting 5th and if he keeps this up he will be moving up to that cleanup spot or even the three hole. In the 12 games between May 25th and June 5th he hit 10 home runs thrusting him into the NL lead with 18 on the year. This kid is legit. He is this good.

The only thing that scares me, and the main reason why I traded him, is because of that lack of experience. In the entire month of May he had just three home runs and now he is on this crazy tear. That reminds me a lot of how Justin Upton started off so hot and now isn’t playing all that much better than his brother BJ, ok fine that’s bit of hyperbole, even I am playing much better than BJ. My point is he has never played this many games in any MLB season so keeping this pace up is damn near impossible. We could see him cool off as much if not more than Upton has but trust that this won’t be the last you hear from him. He is still plenty young and will be back for more for years to come.

5. The beginning of Yasiel Puig

Talk about incredible starts. I am so mad at myself for not taking the chance and picking him up in our fantasy league. I had him all but acquired just couldn’t pull the trigger on cutting someone for him and ultimately I made the decision to pass. All he has done in his five games is complete the “home run cycle” becoming just the second player since 1900 to hit four home runs in his first five games. Oh and he has a cannon of an arm...

That was no pop up in which you could get a running start into the throw. He was heading towards the wall and from the warning track doubled the guy off at first... incredible.

6. Struggles in LA

Dodgers: 27-33

Angels: 26-34

Tough to pick who has actually sucked worse. I am leaning towards the Angels just because of how good they look on paper. The Angels have amassed the 22nd ranked pitching staff as far as ERA is concerned at 4.28. Yes being without Jared Weaver for an extended period of time hurts like hell but with Jason Vargas picthcing as well as he has and with CJ Wilson on the staff as well they should be better. CJ Wilson has disappointed big time since leaving the Rangers. The weirdest part of the Angels struggles has been their mostly stagnant offense. Josh Hamilton is batting .216 this year while Albert Pujols has hit just .243. Even with Kendrick batting .321, Trout being Trout, and Trumbo’s team leading 15 dingers and 42 RBI, you can’t overcome what should be your two best power hitters, guys in the 3-5 hole, guys being paid a combined $33.4M this year, being this pathetic.

The Dodgers meanwhile have the MLB’s highest payroll, $17M more than the 2nd place Yankees. Yet they sit six games under .500, in last place in the NL West 7.5 games back of the Diamondbacks and 8.5 back of a wild card spot. When you have the best pitcher in baseball, Kershaw, and two other reliable starters, Hyun-Jin Ryu who has been one of the bigger surprises this year, and an ace on many other teams in Greinke that should be enough to make you competitive. But it hasn’t been anywhere near enough. Their other starters have been bad enough to offset any good work by those three. In two starts Stephen Fife is 1-0 and has a 4.50 ERA, Ted Lilly is 0-2 with a 5.09 ERA in 5 starts, Josh Beckett managed an 0-5 record in eight starts with a 5.19 ERA before going down with some nonsense injury, Chris Capuano has gone 1-4 with a 5.93 ERA in his 6 starts, and finally Matt Magill’s 0-1 record is rather lucky given his 6.38 ERA in his 5 starts.

That isn’t the only place they are struggling of course. On offense they have basically become the Adrian Gonzalez show, and recently the Yasiel Puig show. Hanley Ramirez’s injury woes haven’t helped any but what the hell is going on with Matt Kemp? He has two home runs in 51 games played...TWO. Meanwhile he is also only batting .251 and only has 17 RBI this year. That is flat out insane. Also struggling is Andre Ethier. He is hitting just .232 this year despite his career .287 batting average.

Both these teams have a long uphill climb. I think the Angels have a better chance mostly because they are healthy. But for the last season plus people, including myself, have been making excuses for them. They just don’t seem to be able to deliver. Something needs to change in LA or two teams with a combined $360M in payroll will miss the playoffs and miss them by quite a bit.


Saturday, June 8, 2013

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