Yep, it's officially time to break out the Don Henley or The Ataris, depending on your generation or choice of music. And the first power rankings of the summer come after a week where we had NO way to rank the teams. (Well, except with a comparable system or a better set from a different publication.)
But I'm back from my trip, and I felt that I should get going on these quickly. The system we use here combines a few different rankings, including ESPN's RPI, Pythagenport Standings, an OBP/SLG based ranks system that I created, and an average of some more conventional power polls from the web. We add up the ranks and make a list. Then I try and find 30 interesting things to say, and I usually come up with 4 or 5 good ones. As always, good luck sifting through!
We have a new number one, and, thanks to ESPN, again, the O's can't reclaim it. This week's #1 is deserving, though, on the heels of a very successful week. They haven't been here for a while, but I guess it's past time. We'll see if they keep it up. Dave Studeman at the Hardball Times noted that the White Sox have distributed their run scoring especially well, increasing their expected winning percentage. We will see if that lasts, but it was an excellent analysis.
There's a poll at the end of the ranks this week because I came up with something for the 30th ranked team. But otherwise, without further ado:
- White Sox (3) - Two weeks ago, we picked the Twins here (well, the formula did), and the White Sox haven't really been able to gain a foothold of this spot. While the Orioles haven't really gotten going, the ChiSox have won 7 straight and have opened up a 10 game lead in their division. Missing the playoffs looks highly unlikely at this point; we're 71 games in and they're 27 over .500. Finishing a season at 26 games over is a 94-68 record; they're looking solid right now and a fair #1.
- Orioles (2) - RPI again does in the O's, who ranked #1 (again) in Pythagenport and Scotto. Bedard's injury is hurting them a lot. Hopefully, his control problems from the past won't resurface when he comes back from his injury. They're just a game up on the Red Sox now.
- Cardinals (4) - If I have one criticism of this team at this point, it's how many at bats they waste on So Taguchi, who spells Jim Edmonds frequently. If they're concerned about Edmonds health / age, they should have a better option as a replacement; Taguchi is hitting .266/.307/.367 in 128 ABs. That said, why worry? I would bet a substantial sum of money on the Cards winning the NL Central. When does it officially become "tuning up" for the playoffs?
- Red Sox (9) - This team's on fire these days, and you can attribute it to the bats this month. In June, they've hit .289/.351/.496 as a team. Millar is finally getting his stroke back, Damon's hitting, Manny's bringing up the batting average - the lineup is clicking on all cylinders here. It won't be a cakewalk to the postseason this year, though. With Baltimore, New York, Minnesota, and Cleveland all preparing to be threats for those two spots... will their pitching hold up?
- Rangers (5) - The David Dellucci story is becoming a bit less attractive; he's down to .265/.409/.519. But the story here is the Tale of Two Pitchers - Kenny Rogers and Chris Young have a VORP of 54.8 together. Their other 3 leading starters, Astacio, Chan Ho Park, and Drese? -12.2. Adrian Gonzalez will be elsewhere by the deadline for pitching help. He has no position here...
- Twins (1) - Two weeks will cause a lot more fluctuation than one week, and the Twins are falling victim to that. Our surprise #1 teaches us the lesson that "surprise #1s aren't good," but there's no way to adjust for that. They've lost 4 straight and, all of a sudden, are battling to stay out of 4th place as the Indians and Tigers have simulataneously surged. [before posting]: Carlos Silva served as the stopper today and led the Twins to a 6-2 win. No reason to worry yet.
- Angels (14) - We knew this was going to happen at some point. The systems were going to have to start reaching some consensus on the surprise teams. Arizona went one way and LA has gone the other. The Angels are winning, their stats have improved, and we have a top-10 ballclub. In the field of stolen bases, Chone Figgins is racking them up; he's got 23 in 27 attempts.
- Indians (15) - If we'd done this earlier in the week, the Indians would be that much higher. They've lost a few in a row, but they're starting to click. How about Grady Sizemore? He's playing everyday and having a very solid season at .307/.349/.479. I think he misses rookie eligibility by a little bit, but he's still having a very nice surprise season. Arthur Rhodes is the other story here. Did Beane give up a bit too quickly? I thought that the Rhodes signing was ill-advised in the first place, but he's been fantastic this year. 27/4 K/BB in 29 IP and a .93 ERA.
- Yankees (20) - The Yankees are enigmatic this year in that they're so incredibly streaky. Don't buy into the Chien-Ming Wang hype-machine. Groundballs or no groundballs, you can't survive for too long with a K/9 lower than your ERA. Wang's better than Jaret Wright (as I said on BaseballRants), but he's not going to pitch exceptionally well. Anyway, the Yankees are going to be in the race all year, but it's no lock for them, either.
- Cubs (7) - 7 innings, 2 runs to get things going again for Jerome Williams in his new digs (well, this was in Milwaukee). Aardsma's also got a sub-2 ERA for West Tennessee in AA. This is looking worse and worse for the G-Men. Oh, and Derrek Lee is still slaughtering the ball.
- Tigers (16) - Surging, much like the Indians, and our fourth AL Central team so far. Placido Polanco's on a tear since he was traded; he's hitting .413/.451/.543, and he hit a walk-off homer to boot. Their lineup is very, very balanced, and Brandon Inge is flourishing as the everyday third baseman. They might hang around in the wild card race all year. The AL, for a change, is extremely interesting.
- Nationals (11) - I'm STILL not buying. 42-30, 3 games up... and they've still scored fewer runs than they've allowed. Their record in one-run games is 18-7. These are all just rehashed platitudes from the performance analysis business, and it's difficult to argue with them. Vidro will be a boost, but everything else will come back. I'd peg the Gnats for 81 wins or so in baseball's most balanced division, but they're a nice story for the time being.
- Padres (8) - The other team that's really good in 1-run games. I can accept that there might be a reason for that here in that they have an exceptional bullpen from top to bottom. If you haven't been paying attention, you've missed Dave Roberts hitting .286/.353/.469. I'm at a loss on that one. The Padres
- Phillies (12) - If you're alive in any way, you've probably heard about the surging Phillies (OK, maybe it's just a Northeastern thing) who went 12-1 on a recent homestand. My concern about Urbina's penchant for flyballs has held up; he's given up 4 in 6.1 IP for the Phils. That won't keep up, but how long will the fans tolerate that? I'm really surprised that they're ranked so low on this list; I guess the AL West trip really hurt. They're still the NL wild card leader...
- Marlins (10) - They're squandering exceptional performances this year from Dontrelle Willis, Carlos Delgado, and Miguel Cabrera. Delgado's performance has not been well-documented, but I predicted that he'd suffer a drop-off in switching to a bigger ballpark, and I've been very wrong, thus far. Delgado's hitting .321/.415/.577, Cabrera's hitting .332/.381/.548, and they're 11-3 in starts by Dontrelle. And yet they're only .500.
- Braves (13) - Chipper Jones. Mike Hampton. Tim Hudson. Horacio Ramirez yesterday. Injuries have devastated Atlanta this year more than anything, and, if it weren't for Andruw Jones blossoming into a premier power hitter and hitting .292/.384/.694 on the month, the Braves could be in some real trouble. 39 plate appearances for Marte and he's struggled; he's hitting .188/.282/.250. Give him time, but bring the optimists back to Earth.
- Blue Jays (17) - Holding their own here, and they're STILL at .500. It's hard to believe, but they're hanging around in a division in which they have no right to be competitive. They're incredibly mediocre; they haven't gotten a lot of production from anywhere specifically (Aaron Hill's .374/.442/.533 is an exception). I don't know what to think, other than to continue to disregard them as a threat. In reality, they might determine the winner of the AL East...
- Mets (6) - THUD. The Mets went 1-5 on the West Coast and just managed to take 2 of 3 from the Phillies to bring their record on the road trip to a less-than-stellar 3-6. The trip ends in the Bronx, and the Mets need another series win to hang around. All the stats and indicators fell apart in an abysmal week offensively for the team. Met fans can rejoice in the release of DeJean. All of a sudden, the bullpen isn't quite so horrible.
- Brewers (18) - I had the pleasure of seeing Ricky Weeks play in a Sunday game in Philadelphia a couple of weeks back, and I was quite impressed, even if he wasn't all that impressive. One worry I have are the strikeouts; he's struck out 19 times in 61 career plate appearances, but I'm not entirely too concerned because that was never a real problem in the minors. He's shown good discipline, and his bat-wiggle reminds me of Gary Sheffield. In either case, the Brew Crew is now 7 under .500 and plummeting from contention. Too bad; I would have liked to see them stay in it a bit longer...
- Mariners (23) - .247/.315/.434. The fruits of two guys, who, combined, average $25.3 million per season. Ouch.
- Dodgers (19) - It's starting to look more and more like the stathead community, myself included, overrated the Dodgers. Joe Sheehan made a strong case that they didn't have the hitting they expected (especially with the loss of Bradley), but the pitching is uncharacteristically weak this season. Too bad they lost Gagne, who was the most interesting trade chip on the market.
- Pirates (21) - Run differential of only 10 runs, and yet they're 6 games under .500. Rob Mackowiak has all of a sudden become a darn good player; he ranks 4th among NL 3rd basemen in VORP. Mark Redman is proving that non-strikeout pitchers can have some success, too (provided that they keep the homers and walks down, too). He's got a FIP of 3.64 and an ERA of 3.14. Playing a bit over his head, but very, very respectable.
- A's (24) - Only 9 games under and beating up on the NL Eastern teams. After 2 disastrous months, Eric Chavez remembered that he's one of the best hitters in baseball; he's hitting .360/.435/.760 this month. Fantasy owners rejoice. Marc Normandin's been keeping tabs on the Haren / Mulder race, and Haren continues to stay a bit better than the man he was traded for. Meyer and Hudson hasn't quite worked out. Yet. Oh, and they're only 11 games out...
- Diamondbacks (22) - The stats said that they were lucky and it's starting to show up in the standings. At the time of writing, they were 36-37. Better days are ahead, however, as Carlos Quentin and Conor Jackson are lighting up the PCL. Stephen Drew's is also enjoying high-A quite a bit after 7 games.
- Astros (25) - They can't hit. It's pretty simple, and the fact that Berkman has come back so ineffectively is hurting them a great deal. They have, however, been better of late. Crawfish Boxes, one of our fellow SportsBlog Nation blogs, shows that the 'Stros have played much better ball over the last 3 weeks (they're 13-7 since the end of May), and they're closing in on third place. I still firmly believe that they should have rebuilt the minute that the Mets announced that they'd signed Beltran, but it wasn't like they had too many options with that. It'll be interesting to see what they do at the deadline... they were 7.5 back on August 14 with a million teams to pass and they pulled it off last year. You wonder if those sentiments will keep them from pulling the trigger.
- Giants (26) - Sabean must have the most difficult decision to make in all of baseball. He can tear it down now, acknowledging that Bonds' injury pretty much ended the peak of that team, or set up for one FINAL run in 2006. The farm system is completely gutted, so it's going to be difficult to recover from rebuilding. It's inevitable, at some point.
- Royals (28) - Justin Huber got the call a couple of days ago from AA, where he was hitting very well, with a .332/.420/.517 line and 28 XBHs in 259 ABs. It's too bad that he couldn't catch well enough for the bigs; that would be a major advantage.
- Devil Rays (27) - The Free Jonny Gomes crowd is seeing some good results; in 50 ABs, he has a .360/.475/.740 line, carrying his fantastic hot streak from AAA to the majors. The D'Rays have really done a number on the Yanks this year but very little else. One of the power rankings I used speculated that Kazmir might be sent down to AAA if his struggles continue, but he pitched well the other night in the Bronx.
- Reds (29) - Adam Dunn tradewinds swirl, but the Reds would have to be blown away to trade him, I'd assume. If there's anyone to give a big contract to, it's Dunn, but with the struggles this year and the Teapot Chair Scandal (the Watergate knockoffs stop now!), you wonder if he's going to want to consider signing there with arbitration and free agency in the future.
- Rockies (30) - Jeff Francis will present an interesting study in a few years - does Coors Field really destroy pitchers after years of work? We will see because Francis is a special kid. For the time being, he's a rare brightspot in a bad situation. This week's poll question - who is the Rockies' All-Star?
Who should be the Rockies' representative at the All Star Game?
This poll is closed
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