MLB Power Rankings: July 23rd to July 29th
This Week: @ Seattle (3), vs. Boston (3)
Even despite a four-game sweep at the hands of the Oakland A’s, the Yankees still sport the best record in the Majors. Every team has a bad weekend. Its more a matter of how a team reacts to the bad weekend than the bad weekend itself.
2. Texas Rangers (+0, 56-38, 1st in AL West)
This Week: vs. Boston (3), vs. Chicago White Sox (3)
The Rangers had the opportunity to take back the top spot after the Yankees rough weekend, but couldn’t quite capitalize against the Angels. The Rangers are still in the market for another starting pitcher, and they have to be at least a little concerned about the continuing problems with Derek Holland and Roy Oswalt missing his next start with, that’s right, a sore back. Well, what did you really expect?
3. Washington Nationals (+0, 55-39, 1st in NL East)
This Week: @ NY Mets (3), @ Milwaukee (4)
The Nationals are proving to be the most dangerous team in the National League. Even their sixth-best starting pitcher (John Lannan) put up an amazing start. Yes, the momentum surrounding Stephen Strasburg’s innings limit is gaining serious steam. But, with Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson, Jordan Zimmermann and Ross Detwiler succeeding at a high level, its possible the team really won’t miss much of a beat at all.
4. Cincinnati Reds (+2, 55-40, 1st in NL Central)
This Week: @ Houston (3), @ Colorado (3)
Riding high on a current four-game winning streak, the Reds have to be salivating heading into this week, getting maybe the two worst teams in the Majors. Things seem to be clicking in Cincy, and all this without All-Star first baseman Joey Votto in the line-up for another 2-3 weeks. Should the Reds put together a strong showing this week against second-division competition, they’ll be able to cross off another week until the slugger’s return from knee surgery.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates (+0, 54-40, 2nd in NL Central)
This Week: vs. Chicago Cubs (3), @ Houston (4)
This is just how it works out. The Reds get an easy week, and so do the Pirates. Only a half-game separates the two teams in the NL Central, and its time we stop waiting for the Pirates to come back down to Earth. Its not going to happen. Andrew McCutchen is the player who benefits the most from Votto’s injury and the Mets fading away. He stands alone at the top of the MVP race. Who woulda thunk it.
This Week: vs. Kansas City (3), vs. Tampa Bay (3)
Taking two of three from the Rangers over the weekend immediately erases a lot of their initial struggles out of the gates in the second half. Jered Weaver is well on his way to a Cy Young award this year, picking up win #12 against the Rangers on Friday. Should LA pull off the rumored trade with the Rays that would net them James Shields and Ben Zobrist, would there be a better rotation, top to bottom, than the Angels? Dan Haren as a fourth starter? Are you kidding me? Be afraid.
7. San Francisco Giants (+5, 53-42, 1st in NL West)
This Week: vs. San Diego (3), vs. LA Dodgers (3)
The Giants are one of the hottest teams in baseball post-All-Star break. They busted down the gates to get to a 7-2 start and move into first place in the West. Maybe the best news, is Tim Lincecum finally getting his act together? 15 innings since the break, two earned runs, 17 strikeouts vs. 3 walks. Keep watching, folks.
8. Atlanta Braves (+0, 52-43, 2nd in NL East)
This Week: @ Miami (3), vs. Philadelphia (3)
If Ben Sheets proves to be the real deal, the Braves may have found themselves one of the best buy-low starting pitchers in the entire league. First two starts, 12 innings, no runs against the Mets and the Nationals. Couldn’t have started any better, especially when the Braves have been struggling with starting pitching depth all season.
This Week: @ Cleveland (3), @ Toronto (3)
Well, they’re awake. The main reason for the lighting of the fire under their asses: their starting pitching has been phenomenal over the last two weeks. Doug Fister is pitching like he did when he first came to Detroit at last year’s deadline. Both Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello have been showing more signs of improvement. And, of course, Justin Verlander will always be JV. Pair their starting pitching with the bashing bats of Austin Jackson, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder…you have yourself one potent pennant contender.
10. Los Angeles Dodgers (+0, 52-44, 2nd in NL West)
This Week: @ St. Louis (4), @ San Francisco (3)
Pretty important week for the Dodgers. They’re on the outside looking in to both the division race against the Giants and the Wild Card spots behind the Pirates and Braves. There is plenty of time left on the schedule, but this is one of those weeks where they’re playing stronger competition and need to hold their own. If the Dodgers can get through this week and gain a game or two in one or both the races, a lot of faith will be restored in their playoff aspirations.
11. Baltimore Orioles (+2, 51-44, 2nd in AL East)
This Week: @ Cleveland (1), vs. Tampa Bay (3), vs. Oakland (3)
The Orioles looked like they were regressing back to the means after immediately losing four of five after the break. Then, Buck Showalter and his squad went off and won five straight, immediately shooting new life into their season. Will the Orioles ever do enough to stake claim to the second Wild Card spot in the American League? Time will tell, but one thing that is for sure: they’ll be in the conversation the rest of the way.
12. St. Louis Cardinals (-3, 50-45, 3rd in NL Central)
This Week: vs. LA Dodgers (4), @ Chicago Cubs (3)
No team on the outside of contention could use a significant starting pitcher upgrade quite like the Cardinals. However, that addition might be from within. Adam Wainwright has slowly been regaining his form as a Cy Young-caliber starter as the season drags on. Could he put St. Louis on his broad shoulders and get them into the playoffs to defend their title?
This Week: @ Toronto (3), @ Baltimore (3)
Oh baby, hot hot hot. 8-1 since the All-Star break will boost any team up in the Power Rankings. This team is a completely different club when Yoenis Cespedes is in the starting line-up. Pair his bat and speed with the for real power of Josh Reddick, and the A’s have the makings of a dynamic offensive duo for many years to come. Just take a poll of A’s fans. None miss Andrew Bailey. Not one.
14. Chicago White Sox (-7, 50-45, 2nd in AL Central)
This Week: vs. Minnesota (3), @ Texas (3)
A five-game losing streak has removed Chicago from the top of the AL Central, and its looking bleaker every day with how well the Tigers are playing right now. Nobody is feeling this pain more than TWW’s Vinny Ginardi. Not only is his team struggling, his dad is a die-hard Detroit fan. Dinner has become an uncomfortable place for poor, poor Vinchenzo.
15. Tampa Bay Rays (-1, 49-47, 3rd in AL East)
This Week: @ Baltimore (3), @ LA Angels (3)
The Rays are in a very interesting position. You have to think they have the talent to catch a team like the Orioles ahead of them as the season continues to wear on, but they’re so depleted thanks to injuries and there is still no timetable on Evan Longoria. Would anyone be surprised if they did move James Shields, especially if it netted Howard Kendrick and Garrett Richards, among others? Doesn’t a move like that just reek of Tampa Bay Rays strategy? I’m intrigued.
16. Toronto Blue Jays (+2, 48-47, 4th in AL East)
This Week: vs. Oakland (3), vs. Detroit (3)
Its not that the Blue Jays traded anyone overly special to acquire J.A. Happ from the Astros. But, they still traded a lot of pieces that netted them a package of an under-performing lefty starter likely destined for the bullpen and a small upgrade at the back-end of an injured bullpen. The trade doesn’t magically make the Blue Jays a top-five team in the American League. And now they have to play the hottest teams in the AL. Uh oh.
This Week: vs. Colorado (3), vs. NY Mets (4)
Will they or won’t they trade Justin Upton? The Diamondbacks are very much still alive in a hyper competitive National League, but there still seem to be people around the league that think Upton is more likely to get traded than not. If he goes to the Pirates, don’t they become a legitimate World Series contender, if they aren’t already?
18. Boston Red Sox (-3, 48-48, 5th in AL East)
This Week: @ Texas (3), @ NY Yankees (3)
Fans started to feel real good about getting healthy pieces back like Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford and Dustin Pedroia. Then they lost David Ortiz to the DL, got swept by the Blue Jays over the weekend and all the fun seems to be gone again. Will the real Boston Red Sox, please stand up?
19. Cleveland Indians (-3, 47-48, 3rd in AL Central)
This Week: vs. Baltimore (1), vs. Detroit (3), @ Minnesota (3)
Much like last year, it seems that the Indians just aren’t ready to compete throughout a full 162-game season with the big boys. Their fast start seems like an awfully long time ago, as its once again their starting rotation that is holding them back from keeping the winning ways moving forward. Ubaldo Jiminez has been nothing short of a disappointment since coming over from Colorado, which may once again show why the Rockies were so willing to move him.
20. New York Mets (-9, 47-48, 3rd in NL East)
This Week: vs. Washington (3), @ Arizona (4)
21. Milwaukee Brewers (+1, 44-50, 4th in NL Central)
This Week: @ Philadelphia (3), vs. Washington (4)
If the Brewers aren’t going to be able to lock up Zack Grienke long-term before the July 31st deadline, Milwaukee has to maximize his value now, right? The last thing this team needs is another huge name free agent leave town without nothing more than draft picks to show for it (I’m looking at you, C.C. Sabathia and Prince Fielder).
22. Miami Marlins (-1, 44-51, 4th in NL East)
This Week: vs. Atlanta (3), vs. San Diego (3)
With so many teams considering themselves in the race and in need of starting pitching, it seems that it would make sense for the Marlins to at least entertain the idea of trading Anibal Sanchez and/or Ricky Nolasco. It really doesn’t look like this team is going anywhere this season, despite all the money they threw around in the off-season and even trading for Carlos Lee earlier this season. I don’t see them moving Josh Johnson, but everybody else that has a starting rotation spot on that team may want to keep a bag packed in the corner until next week.
This Week: vs. NY Yankees (3), vs. Kansas City (4)
If I had a gun to my head and needed to pick one player who, for sure, was going to move in the next week, it’d be Kevin Millwood. He’s pitching on baseball’s equivalent of the veteran’s minimum, can at the very least give you six quality innings every five days and won’t cost more than a mid-level prospect in return. A team in convention that doesn’t need to break the bank on a starter but wants one as insurance is going to gobble this guy up. Sound familiar…Washington?
24. Philadelphia Phillies (+0, 42-54, 5th in NL East)
This Week: vs. Milwaukee (3), @ Atlanta (3)
This is a very important week for the Phillies. The direction of this team for the next couple of years could be determined. Will they be able to sign Cole Hamels long-term before the deadline? Will they have to trade a player like Cliff Lee away to open up the funds to make the signing possible? Is Shane Victorino going to finish the season in Philly? Could the team really trade away Jimmy Rollins? Interesting stories, they are all and will continue to be.
25. San Diego Padres (+3, 41-56, 4th in NL West)
This Week: @ San Francisco (3), @ Miami (3)
The Padres took off arguably their two biggest trade chips off the market when they announced they were working towards extensions for both Huston Street and Carlos Quentin. They got Quentin’s deal done, locked up for another three years and $27 million. But, if this team is still rebuilding, who’s left to trade? How have the Padres responded to all of this news? They’re 7-3 since the break. I think they’re quite happy nobody isn’t going anywhere just yet.
This Week: @ LA Angels (3), @ Seattle (4)
Its funny. The Royals fans during All-Star weekend really let Robinson Cano have it for not choosing Billy Butler to participate in the Home Run Derby. And yet, there is still a chance Butler won’t even be a Royal after the trade deadline. Oh, the irony.
27. Minnesota Twins (-2, 40-55, 5th in AL Central)
This Week: @ Chicago White Sox (3), vs. Cleveland (3)
Things seem to only be getting worse instead of better in Minnesota. Denard Span, Francisco Liriano and Josh Willingham seem to be their three most valuable trade chips, but no player is going to bring back the level of pitching prospect this team truly needs to right the ship. They need serious help for the now and the long-term. Here’s hoping they get it.
28. Chicago Cubs (-1, 38-56, 5th in NL Central)
This Week: @ Pittsburgh (3), vs. St. Louis (3)
Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster likely won’t be Cubs anymore after this week, and even money says one will even be a Dodger in time for their next start. The Cubs wanted a lot from the Dodgers for Dempster, so LA changed the question to Garza, aiming to get more bang for their buck. Their strategy might work, and if it doesn’t, that’s fine for Theo Epstein. He’ll find his players somewhere else.
29. Colorado Rockies (+0, 36-58, 5th in NL West)
This Week: @ Arizona (3), vs. Cincinnati (3)
If any team was going to take a chance on Jonathan Sanchez, it might as well been the Rockies. Nobody has been able to pitch consistently for them all season, so why not take the chance on the hard-throwing 20-something that has a World Series ring and a no-hitter on his resume? Could work.
30. Houston Astros (+0, 34-62, 6th in NL Central)
This Week: vs. Cincinnati (3), vs. Pittsburgh (4)
Well, uhm, who’s next on the chopping block? Wandy Rodriguez? That would be my guess.