Thursday, June 12, 2008
MLB Power Poll
Round 2 of this year's interleague play battles are coming up this weekend. Last round it was just one series, but this time there will be 3 series in a row. The first batch is a little weak with the best probably being a matchup of the Braves and Angels, but the second round looks very intriguing with the Red Sox/Phillies, Cubs/Rays, and Mets/Angels all matching up. While interleague play can be overkill sometimes, it's fun at the beginning and should freshen up the schedule during the lazy days of mid-summer. Let's check out the latest rankings.
1.) Chicago Cubs (43-24)- The Cubs looked to be unstoppable, until an untimely injury halted the team in their tracks yesterday. Alfonso Soriano was hit by a pitch in last night's game and could miss 6 weeks with a broken bone in his hand. The bad news for the Cubs is that the Phons will be tough to replace. He has 15 Homers this year to lead the team and is one of the more intimidating hitters in the game at the lead off spot and he provides great protection for the rest of the lineup. However, the North Siders went 9-5 during Soriano's 2 week absence earlier this year and are so well rounded that they should be able to manage without him. They're currently on a 4 game win streak after a sweep of the slumping Braves.
2.) Boston Red Sox (42-27)- No Papi? No problem! Manny Ramirez and friends have been picking up the slack while David Ortiz chills on the DL. They've lost just twice in their last 9 games and have scored 34 runs in their last 5. JD Drew has a hit in every game this month and has homered in 3 of the last 4 games. Did I mention that he leads the team in BA among everyday players at .324. Meanwhile, props go out to rookie Justin Masterson. He's 3-0 with an ERA just over 2.5 and has filled in nicely for the injured Dice-K. The Red Sox also rank in the top 2 in every hitting category in the AL and are average or better in every pitching category.
3.) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (41-26)- The Angels have only lost twice this month. That helps explain why they have a 5 game lead in the AL West. Go figure, that's not even the biggest division lead right now (more on that later). With the line-up still trying to get it together, the team has used their pitching as a crutch. Luckily for the Angels, it's the strongest crutch in baseball. Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders rank in the top 5 in the AL in Wins. Swervin' Ervin also ranks 4th in the league in era at just a hair over 3. Let's not forget about the best closer in baseball, Francisco Rodriguez. K Rod has 6 more saves than the next highest finisher with 27 on the season.
4.) Philadelphia Phillies (40-28)- This is the only team to change spots in this week's rankings. The Phillies are playing as well as anyone in baseball right now, but don't have as gaudy of a record as the top 3...yet. They've lost just 4 times in the past 3 weeks, but two of those came in their most recent series with division rival Florida. The Phils still lead the Marlins by 3 in the NL East, however. Although this is a team chock full of talent, they have two distinct leaders on both sides of the ball. Chase Utley continues to own NL pitching and leads the team in every major hitting category. Meanwhile, Cole Hamels leads the NL in IP and CG and is top 3 in K's and WHIP. Not too shabby for a 24 year old.
5.) Tampa Bay Rays (38-28)- Tampa drops a spot, but they're still very much alive in the playoff picture. In fact they lead the AL wild card slot by 2.5 games over Oakland and by 5 over a trio of other scrubs. Still, the hot streak that they were once on seems like so long ago now that they're just 4-6 in their last 10 games. Unfortunately for the Rays, they've run into a very tough portion of their schedule. Their last 5 series were against the Rangers twice (better than you might think at 34-34 on the season), as well as the White Sox, Red Sox, and Angels who all inhabit this week's poll. It doesn't get any easier for the Rays as they have to face the Marlins, Cubs, and Astros during the upcoming week of interleague play. It doesn't lighten up until the end of the month when they get a breather against Pittsburgh. If they can just stay afloat and cruise with a .500 record, they should be able to keep pace in the wild card race.
6.) St. Louis Cardinals (40-28)- The Cardinals have continued to win, but it won't be easy to keep up the pace as they suffered a huge blow with the loss of their leader Albert Pujols. Phat Albert will miss at least 3 weeks with a strained calf and which should put a damper on the Red Birds run support. Luckily, Ryan Ludwick continues to rake and has been the surprise of the NL this season. He's already set a career high for HR and leads the team with 16 (he's also the team leader in runs and rbi's as well). He's got bombs in 3 of his last 4. The Cards still didn't drop at all despite a loss today, because they had won 4 straight going into this morning. They get a break from the interleague play battles to match up with Philly in what should be the series of the weekend.
7.) Chicago White Sox (37-29)- Remember how I said that the Angels 5 game lead wasn't the biggest division advantage in baseball? That's because the Chi Sox are up by 5.5 over Minnesota in the AL Central. They have that huge gap despite getting swept by the Tigers this week. Luckily for Chicago, they've get to prep for their gigantic matchup with the Cubs by playing creampuffs Pittsburgh and Colorado. Before the latest series with Detroit they had been cooking with 61 runs scored during a 7 game win streak. Jermaine Dye looks to be getting his swing back with 11 hits during that streak. Javier Vazquez also currently leads the league in K's to pace a roster that tops the AL in ERA.
8.) Milwaukee Brewers (35-31)- They've had a mediocre week, but are still 7-3 in their last 10 games. Their offense has been especially impressive the last two games where they've scored 19 runs. Ryan Braun is usually the guy getting the praise, but Corey Hart definitely deserves some accolades as well. He's got 3 HR in his last 2 games and 12 hits in the last 7. He's clearly one of the better stat stuffers in baseball right now with the ability to hit for power and average as well as creating noise on the basepaths. The true leader of this club though has to be Ben Sheets. He's beaten the injury bug so far en route to a sparkling 7-1 record. He also currently ranks third in the NL in ERA at 2.62. If the Brewres are going to have any shot at a playoff spot, they absolutely need Sheets to stay healthy.
9.) Arizona Diamondbacks (36-31)- The D-backs continue to hang on at the end of this poll by the hair of their chinny chin chins. They haven't exactly inspired lately either. Before coming from behind to beat the Mets 5-4 (they trailed 4-0 mid-way) they had lost 6 of 9. This team really misses the 2007 Eric Byrnes. The 25-25 man that single-handedly won them multiple games and was the emotional leader of this young club. Without Boo-yrnes, they have really struggled to score runs. Don't blame Mark Reynolds for that though. After starting the year on a tear and cooling off, he's back like cooked crack averaging a Homerun a game over the last 4. He's also got 7 ribbies over that span. Still, he can't carry this team alone and will need a little help from his friends (I'm looking in your direction Justin Upton) if this team is going to break out of their funk. It's amazing that they somehow still lead the AL Worst by 4.5 games.
10.) Oakland A's (35-30)- The Athletics have held their own against a brutal schedule. They've won 6 of their last 10 games against the Rangers, Tigers, Angels, and Yankees (all top half of the league offensively). Luckily the sked lightens up considerably over the course of the month. They've got 6 games against miserable San Francisco (the Walrus) and also take on the slumping D-backs and pitching-challenged Marlins. The fact that this team is still in the playoff hunt is a wonder, but you've gotta give them their due for winning close games and stringing together clutch hits.
Also Receiving Votes: Florida Marlins (only other team above .500 in baseball), New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays