Wednesday, May 14, 2008

MLB Power Poll

Besides the Post-season, nothing gets baseball fans more pumped up than Interleague play. Purists call it a black pock on the sport, but I'm all for mixing things up. Sure, matchups between the Orioles and Nationals isn't going to draw big crowds, but for each one of those, there's a Subway/Windy City/Battle For LA series. Get ready, because the rivalries begin tommorrow! Back to the Power Poll where the Upton Brothers are dominating the poll this week.

1.) Arizona Diamondbacks (24-15)- The D-backs are on top again by default. They haven't been lighting it up lately (4-6 in their last 10), but nobody else has stepped up to steal their spot. They were actually just swept by the Cubs at Wrigley this weekend, but bounced back against Colorado yesterday. This team has really shaped into a squad that opposing clubs fear. The stellar pitching has been mentioned time and time again, but they've got an artillary of young, strong hitters that have been giving oppossing pitchers nightmares. Conor Jackson and Justin Upton are both hitting .331 on the year and have 5 and 6 HR so far, respectively. They've picked up the slack for Eric Byrnes who's only swinging a measly .220 on the season.

2.) Chicago Cubs (23-16)- Chicago currently leads the NL Central due to 5 wins in their last 6 games. The Cubbies have been torching opponents lately thanks in part to the return of Alfonso Soriano. After one of the stupider on-field injuries you'll ever see (hurt his calf while doing a hop after making a catch), Soriano has jacks in his last 2 games. After finishing up with the Padres, the Cubs don't have to deal with the first series of interleague play as they get a break against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

3.) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (24-17)- The Angels lost 4 in a row last week, but have won their last 2 to regain control of the AL West. Their already serviceable pitching staff got a huge boost with the return of John Lackey from a triceps injury. Lackey hasn't pitched this year after winning 18 last season. Even though the offense has been fine, they could really use Howie Kendrick (aka Mr. Glass). He's been on the DL for a couple of weeks now, but when he's in the lineup he's batting .500. The AL should beware of these Angels...they're deceivingly evil.

4.) Tampa Bay Rays (23-16)- That's right bitches, you heard me. The Rays went from Zeros to Heros by winning every game since my last post except for today. The main reason for the turn-around? An absolutely dominant pitching staff. James Shields has 2 CG Shutouts (vs. the Red Sox and Angels) this year, Matt Garza is finally rounding into form and Scott Kazmir has been stifling as of late and he just got PAID(today he signed a 3 year, 28.5 million dollar extension). The Rays have smartly locked down their top players for the forseeable future and this could be a dangerous core over the next few years.

5.) St. Louis Cardinals (23-18)- This is the part of the poll where we dig into teams with solid records, but are slumping. The Cards are on a 3 game losing streak, but still only sit a game back of the Cubbies. In fact, they only won once since the last poll (losers of 6 out of 7). They're hoping their series against the Pittsburgh Pirates will help get them back on track. The pitching that once was their saving grace, has turned into their achilles heal. It's been a week and a half since they've given up less than 4 runs in a game and they gave up 8 a piece the last 2 nights. They'll need that to change if they want to keep pace in a tight NL Central Race.

6.) Boston Red Sox (24-19)- Another slumping club is the team known as Red Sox Nation. The Sawx have dropped 4 straight and fallen out of first in the AL East. Boston pitchers have allowed at least 5 runs in each of the those losses to teams that aren't normally classified as having potent offenses (Twins and Orioles). The biggest dissapointment has been Clay Buchholz. The second year phenom pitched a no-hitter last year and looked to be the next big thing in pitching, but this year he's been absolutely dreadful. He was 2-3 with a 5.53 era before hitting the 15-day DL a couple of days ago. Dice-K (6-0) and Company will have to pick up the slack in his absence. If the rotation can pitch serviceably, this team should be able to turn things around rather quickly as Kevin Youkilis (team leader in RBI, BA, and HR) and the rest of the offense has been raking as always.

7.) Houston Astros (22-18)- The Astros' stock has really risen over the past week. In the month of May, they're 10-2. Lance Berkman has been arguably the best player in baseball and is currently tied for the league lead in HR (14). In addition, Berkman leads the team in BA, hits, RBI, Runs, total bases, OPS...basically everything. Everything that is, except for steals (Berkman is second in SB among everyday players) that belongs to Michael Bourn. The Bourn Ultimatum leads baseball in steals and will probably hold that lead for the rest of the year, as long as he can get on base (.187 BA).

8.) Florida Marlins (23-17)- The Marlins are a team that likes to go streaking. They've followed up a 7 game winning streak with a 3 game losing skid. It's not that they've just fallen asleep. Their last 4 games were decided by 2 runs or less. Surprisingly, I think this team can hang around because they rarely get blown out. They're well coached and unselfish. Hanley Ramirez is on pace for a 30/50 year and if the fish make any kind of noise in September, he could be up for MVP consideration.

9.) Oakland Athletics (23-18)- I was definitely planning on keeping the A's in the top half of this poll, but apparently they didn't get the memo about staying consistent. They've lost 4 of 5 since the last rankings and have looked positively inept in this current series against the Indians (0 ER in 2 games). Of course no one is hitting Cleveland pitching right now, but that's no excuse. Frank Thomas may be the big name in the clubhose, but Emil Brown was the biggest off-season pickup for Oakland. Among everyday players, he leads the team in every major offensive statistical category except for steals (and he's second in swipes). The problem is, when the guy who's leading your team in average is only hitting .270, you clearly aren't producing enough. Time to step up if you want to earn your spot A's.

10.) Philadelphia Phillies (22-19)- The Phils are a game and a half back of the Marlins in the NL East, but Florida shouldn't feel safe by any means. This is a team that's built to go on runs. They can outscore almost any team in the league thanks to Chase Utley (tied for the league lead in HR with Berkman). Ryan Howard has yet to pull his head out of his ass, but he always starts slow. He only had 5 Homeruns up to this point in 2007 and still went on to slam 47 dingers. The problem with the Phillies is their gaping hole in the rotation. Sure, Cole Hamels (4-3) is a stud, but after that it's pretty ugly. Brett Myers has been pathetic (15 Homers given up this year is twice as many as any other pitcher on the staff) and the only pitcher besides Hamels with a winning record is Kyle Kendrick (3-2) and he's got an ERA approaching 5.00. These guys are taxing the bullpen, but luckily the RP's have been stellar (4 guys with sub-2.00 era's).

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