Our new number 1, the Cardinals, finally clawed their way to number one after weeks and weeks of just hovering in the Top 5. Interestingly enough, the NL has just two teams in the Top 10... 9 of the Top 11 will be from the AL. The NL is certainly the weaker league this year, and we didn't need the All Star Game to tell us that.
On that front, ratings were down again, even though it counts. I don't think that anything they can do will save its ratings; there's just no real incentive to watch Roger Clemens pitch to ________ when interleague play allows it to happen on its own.
But as the real baseball gets started again, this list starts to take shape and resemble the playoff picture. If we determined the playoffs using the BTB Power 30, right now, we'd have the Red Sox, the White Sox, and the Angels as division winners, and the Rangers as the Wild Card. For the NL, it's the Braves, the Cardinals, the Padres and the Nationals.
But we don't pick the playoffs, which is probably a good thing...
- Cardinals (2) - Since returning from injury, Scott Rolen is hitting .242/.342/.303. In spite of that, the Cards lead the NL in runs scored, and they also lead the league in fewest runs allowed. This is probably the easiest way to win games - outscore your opponents by a lot. The run differential is 107, and that's right in line with their 56-32 record.
- Red Sox (5) - Day 1 of the Schilling-as-reliever experiment was a rousing failure for the BoSox. Personally, I think that they're rushing him back if they have to insert him into the bullpen. He just didn't look all that effective last night, and while their bullpen has struggled, I don't think that force feeding a hobbled Schilling high-leverage innings is necessarily good strategy.
- Angels (1) - We bestow them #1, and then it all starts coming back to Earth. Well, they're still way over .500. Guerrero, playing the foil to Rolen, is hitting .364/.414/.645 since coming back from the DL and is on the short list of AL MVP contenders, again.
- Rangers (6) - The Rogers fiasco aside, the Rangers are still going to need to add another arm to that rotation. The VORP problems still exist - Rogers + Young = 55.8. Drese, Astacio, and Chan Ho Park? -7.4. I think that there's an obvious match with the Mets here in terms of trade (Adrian Gonzalez being the centerpiece of a deal), but that could just be my Met fandom blocking my rationality. In either case, Texas is in the race, pretending they're not is foolish, and they need starting pitching.
- White Sox (3) - A bit of a rude awakening for the ChiSox against the freight train from Oakland before the break, but the Sox stop the bleeding and take their first game after the Break from the Indians in an old-fashioned pitcher's duel. Podsednik now has 47 stolen bases.
- Indians (4) - The tough loser of the 1-0 game against the Sox, Kevin Millwood's had the best 3-8 year I've seen in a long time with his 3.37 ERA. He'll get the "really" tough loss on that agame; his game score was 75, the equal of Contreras, who won the game. In other news, Contreras walked 3 in the game, and they were all Victor Martinez.
- Braves (7) - I was watching the Mets-Braves game and I couldn't help being confused by the Braves bullpen. I must have muttered "Who?" at least twice during the 8th inning... but Blaine Boyer and John Foster, the two major culprits, look very much like "stathead" picks for the bullpen: young, cheap, live arms with nice strikeout rates in limited action in the bigs - Foster and Boyer, together in 31.2 innings, have fanned 29 batters.
- Orioles (9) - Jerry Hairston's batting .272/.360/.394 - it's not bad, but it's nothing spectacular. Sosa's been awful, batting .222/.300/.377. It's funny that the big winner from that deal was Brian Roberts, who finally secured 2nd base for good and is hitting .344/.415/.587. Watch out, though - he's slumped so far this month with a .200/.238/.400 line.
- Yankees (10) - We had a question in the diaries section from a few weeks back - Is Giambi a productive player?. That was posted on June 28. Since then, he's hit .400/.550/1.067, and, in a fit of rage, has brought his season's line to something of real quality - he's now hitting .279/.427/.476 on the season. Guess what? The power's coming back...
- Twins (8) - The start of the Bret Boone era - not so good. 0-4 to start things out for his new team, and Boone is showing again how, for some reason, 2nd basemen don't seem to age gracefully.
- A's (12) - As hot as can be right now. They're only 7.5 out of the division lead, and I don't feel quite as dumb for insisting that the A's would win the division back when they were 8 under in May. I don't know if they can do it, but I wouldn't put it past the A's. Now the real question - if the A's somehow make the playoffs this year, how many skeptics start to sing the praises of Beane and the A's front office?
- Nationals (11) - One thing I like about these power rankings is that if a team is winning through "luck" or "smoke and mirrors," that can be reflected in the rankings with some stability. We saw it earlier in the year with the D'Backs; the rankings had them much, much lower than their record would have indicated. They gradually regressed to about where they should be (and would be much, much worse in a real division), but the rankings never really had to change. The Nats have slumped a bit, but the rankings haven't had to move at all, really, simply because the rankings believe that the Nats are an above-average but not great team. That could still be enough to get to the playoffs.
- Mets (15) - David Wright's probably extraordinarily exhausted at this point in the season. The Mets have played 89 games this year. Wright's played in 87. (Actually, Reyes has played in 88 of them, which is even more astounding). I mentioned Wright because he had a bad road trip with the bat and ihs average dropped into the low .280s. His first game off the three days rest? 2-3, 2 HR, 1 BB, 3 R, and a very solid defensive play. They've really gotta build more off-days into the schedule for the young guys, but Wright's too valuable.
- Blue Jays (13) - Ted Lilly might have substantially raised his trade value with a 7-4-2-2-2-8-0 start, but I don't think that he's moving. The Jays are still hovering right around .500 and have been a great story this year... Halladay's injury is a tough, tough break for these guys.
- Marlins (14) - Yesterday's loss to the Phils drops them into a tie for last place in the East (at 44-43). Beckett was DL'd, Leiter was DFA'd, and this just isn't looking like a good year for the Marlins. Sell?
- Cubs (16) - One of the most underrated aspects of Derrek Lee's game is his ability to steal bases. He's been a 20/20 guy in his career before, and he steals right around the break-even point. It's an aspect of his game that's gotten better this year, much like his power, his eye, and his contact ability. I doubt we'll ever figure out how to predict these things, but Derrek Lee, right now, is playing like the best player in baseball. He's not, but he sure is playing that way.
- Tigers (19) - Bonderman v. Greinke didn't live up to the preseason billing; neither was particularly effective. I hate to get into that, but Bonderman's arbitiration-eligible after the season... this is why it's a bad idea to rush pitchers into lost seasons.
- Padres (18) - The top entry from the NL West. It's funny; I noted how awful the AL West was a couple of months back, but all of a sudden, the AL West is back to its typically strong ways, with 3 teams in our Top 12. The NL West, though, is a disgrace. In other news, I went into the annals of baseball history (read: the Lahman database) and I located the fewest home runs for a season with a .500 slugging percentage (since 1960, minimum 502 PAs). The winner? Tony Gwynn. In 1987, Gwynn slugged .511 (mostly from a .370 batting average). I bring this up b/c Brian Giles has a line of .295/.427/.510 with only 9 homers.
- Phillies (17) - Big win for the Phils to kick off the second half. All eyes in Philly are on Ed Wade, wondering if the team is buying or selling. It's a good thing they didn't move Howard earlier in the season, considering Thome's injury problems, but at some point, one of them's gotta move, and I can't see anyone wanting to play around with Thome's contract.
- Astros (21) - They're defying my low expectations and performing well, and you can credit a lot of that to Lance Berkman. Since June 1, he's looked a lot like the Lance Berkman of the past, batting .331/.435/.538. The injury is limiting him a bit, but he's still a prolific hitter. He's still only 29.
- Brewers (20) - Ricky Weeks is looking like he's going to be some ballplayer. He's exhibiting outstanding plate discipline (4.04 P/PA) for a young kid, and he's holding his own at the age of 22. They've had quite a few very nice years offensively, and they have a nice young group of bats. All eyes are on Overbay right now, but I'd guess that he'll be traded in the offseason rather than at the deadline.
- Mariners (23) - I'm wondering if Ichiro has tried to adapt his playing style a bit this year. Ichiro's G/F, which was all the way up at 3.29 last year, is way down to 1.92. I wonder if that's why the average isn't quite there; either way, he's a great hitter, but maybe he's trying something a bit different this year.
- Dodgers (22) - Their most recent 5 game losing streak has probably put down any chances of making a run at that division; they're now 7.5 out. Forget the wild card, too. It's just not the year for the Dodgers.
- Pirates (25) - They hit like crazy with runners in scoring position. Call me crazy, but isn't the fact that they have a .278/.363/.455 line with runners in scoring position and they're still 14th in the NL in run scoring say something about the lack of real importance to clutch hitting? I'd like to take a look at that at some point - how much better are the Pirates b/c of their situational hitting?
- Diamondbacks (24) - Two in a row and 3-under. A massively negative run differential. I'm surprised that they're stiill hanging around. If the Padres fall apart, they're a conceivable playoff team. Wouldn't it be something if the division winner were under .500? I don't think it's possible with the unbalanced schedule, but still...
- Giants (26) - Bonds is rumored for mid-August, which will add another side plot to the season - will Bonds overtake Ruth? And if he comes back strong and does overtake Ruth, what are the chances that he gets Aaron by the end of 2006?
- Reds (27) - Kearns has to be moved somewhere. His .372/.438/.702 line is rotting in AAA, and he's pretty much lost all favor in Cincinnati. I think he'd be a great pickup for someone looking for a bat; if he's really rediscovered his stroke, he's a prolific hitter.
- Devil Rays (28) - Casey Fossum and Danys Baez combined for a shutout against the Blue Jays. That would've been so much better if a reliever had gone the first two and THEN Fossum had come in. But so be it.
- Royals (29) - Greinke looked a bit better last night, but it might be time to start worrying a bit about something that Dan Fox wrote back in the offseason (a very insightful and thought-provoking article that didn't portend Greinke's struggles, either, but was still very interesting), but at this point, I'd just as soon blame DIPS. After some major overachievement last year, his ERA is at 6.05, while his DIPS ERA is at 4.52. Last year, his ERA was at 3.97 while his DIPS ERA was a 4.66. The BABIPs? .332 (this year) and .259 (last year). Something's amiss.
- Rockies (30) - The Preston Wilson trade rumors can finally be put to rest. Now onto Shawn Chacon!