MLB Power Rankings: Redbirds stay No. 1 but red-hot Rays are right behind
Joe Lemire is on vacation this week so I’m pinch-hitting on Power Rankings. As somebody who spent the better part of seven seasons on a similar weekly endeavor, the Prospectus Hit List (which used a different formula), I can sympathize with Joe’s desire to head for the hills, but don’t worry, he’ll be back next week. As a reminder, the formula for ranking the teams — which is based 50 percent on season record, 25 percent on last-10-games record (with a small strength of schedule component) and 25 percent on season run differential — is the same as always. Another thing that hasn’t changed this week: The Cardinals continue to cruise, holding down the top spot for the ninth time in the past 11 weeks.
NOTE: All stats through July 24.
1. St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 1
While the Cardinals roll along with the majors’ top record and run differential, the chances of them getting late-season help from Chris Carpenter have taken a hit. Rocked for 15 hits and seven runs in six innings over two rehab starts, the 38-year-old righty is pausing his attempted comeback from thoracic outlet syndrome due to numbness and weakness in his right hand. With a rotation that ranks second in the league with a 3.32 ERA, it’s not a crushing blow, though his return could help manage Shelby Miller’s workload.
2. Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 3
A 17-2 run pushed the Rays into a wild-card spot and within half a game of the AL East lead, and David Price’s return to form has been an essential part of that run. Since returning from the disabled list for a triceps strain, last year’s Cy Young winner has a 1.76 ERA and 27/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in five starts totaling 41 innings, with three complete games.
3. Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 9
Brandon Phillips may be second in the league in RBI (81), but he’s hitting just .230/.279/.315 since the beginning of June, down from .291/.340/.479 prior. Maybe he should worry less about other peoples’ salaries.
4. Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 4
A visit to Dr. James Andrews revealed nothing more than shoulder inflammation for Clay Buchholz, who hasn’t pitched since June 8 and has just 11 2/3 innings since May 22. He could be out another month, which should spur the Sox to trade for a starter to fortify their bid for a playoff spot, given John Lackey and Felix Doubront are the ones doing the heavy lifting for the current rotation.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 7
The SI cover jinx struck again, as July 22 cover boy Jason Grilli left Monday’s game with a forearm strain and was placed on the disabled list. A full-time closer for the first time at age 36, he leads the NL with 30 saves (in 31 attempts) and is whiffing 14.0 per nine with a 2.34 ERA. Pittsburgh’s bullpen is second in the league with a 2.80 ERA, but it leads in innings (344 1/3) and will need reinforcement anyway.
6. Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 5
Pitchers can’t stop Miguel Cabrera (.358/.454/.666), but a sore left hip flexor has. He left Monday’s ballgame in the fifth inning, sat Tuesday and Wednesday, and is just 2-for-14 dating back to July 14. Remarkably, he’s missed only five games over the past three seasons and has averaged 158 per year dating back to 2004, his first full season. The only player with more games than his 1,522 since 2004: Ichiro Suzuki, with 1,533.
7. Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 6
The Braves were dealt a rough blow on Wednesday night when Tim Hudson suffered a season-ending broken right ankle. The 38-year-old righty was in the midst of a good run, with a 2.73 ERA in 10 starts since the beginning of June. His loss means that the eventual return of Brandon Beachy (who’s rehabbing from Tommy John surgery) isn’t likely to bump Kris Medlen from the rotation despite a recent rough patch (24 hits and 15 runs over his past three starts totaling 14 2/3 innings). Though he has a 2.62 ERA over 32 starts dating back to last year, Medlen’s regression from the 0.97 he posted in 12 starts in late 2012 to this year’s 3.78 has been harsh. Not all of it’s his fault; his BABIP has jumped from .261 last year (including his relief work) to .313 this year.
8. Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 10
Collectively, Orioles starters are amid their best month so far, with a 3.98 ERA balanced by their lowest monthly strikeout and homer rates (5.5 and 0.8 per nine, respectively). Prior to that, O’s starters had delivered a 4.80 ERA with rates of 1.6 homers and 6.4 strikeouts per nine. A closer look at July performances shows that it’s basically six starts of 1.80 ERA work from Miguel Gonzalez and a healthy Wei-Yin Chin countering less flattering performances from Chris Tillman, Scott Feldman, Zack Britton and Jason Hammel, who have combined for 13 starts with a 5.04 ERA this month. Hmmmm.
9. Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 2
Josh Reddick’s two-run eighth-inning homer on July 22 helped the A’s down the Astros, but it’s been the rare highlight for the 26-year-old rightfielder, who put himself on the map with 32 homers last year. Hampered by a right wrist sprain, Reddick is hitting just .216/.297/.349 with five homers. Meanwhile, Yoenis Cespedes has just two appearances since winning the Home Run Derby due to a sore left wrist and is batting .227/.294/.422 with 15 homers, but none since June 21.
10. Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 13
With a 23-5 tear, the Dodgers have climbed from worst to first in the NL West, with Hanley Ramirez (.381/.436/.690 with 10 homers) collecting huge hits at seemingly every turn. Despite playing in just 45 of the team’s 100 games, he leads the team in Wins Above Replacement (3.1) and is fourth among all major league shortstops.
11. Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 8
The Indians remain in the wild-card hunt, but it may be time to put out an APB for Mark Reynolds. Since hitting .301/.368/.651 with eight homers in April, he’s at .184/.285/.280 with seven homers in 269 PA, and hasn’t gone yard since June 28. Worse, he’s 5-for-47 without an extra-base hit in June.
12. Texas Rangers
Last Week: 11
With Yu Darvish and Alexi Ogando coming off the disabled list on back-to-back days and Matt Garza added via trade, the Rangers’ rotation is in a far better place than it was a week ago, but the offense is becoming a concern. Amid a 2-8 skid, Texas scored just 25 runs, topping three just three times. After averaging 4.76 runs per game though the end of May, the Rangers are at 3.64 per game since, which is tough to do while playing half of one’s games in such a hitter-friendly park.
13. Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 12
Between working an MLB-high 778 1/3 innings behind the plate and minding everyone else’s business, it’s no wonder Miguel Montero is tuckered out. He’s hitting just .226/.314/.335 and dealing with a back issue, so Kirk Gibson finally plans to ease his catcher’s workload. Meanwhile, after holding at least a share of first place since May 17, the Diamondbacks have slipped a game and a half behind the Dodgers due to an 11-16 skid since June 22.
14. Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 21
Thanks to an eight-game winning streak, the Mariners have their best record at this point in the season since 2009 (53-48). Progress? While it’s good to see the new double play tandem of Nick Franklin (.266/.335/.446) and Brad Miller (.235/.323/.412) providing more offense than their predecessors, general manager Jack Zduriencik would do well to cash in the trade value of Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez toward a potential contender down the road, but he’s reluctant.
15. New York Yankees
Last Week: 14
The Yankee offense continues to sag; their righties have hit a combined .219/.281/.307 while taking 44 percent of the team’s plate appearances. Meanwhile, the world awaits Alex Rodriguez’s reckoning, and his sideshow has taken another surreal turn. He wasn’t activated on Monday as scheduled due to a Grade I quad strain that he originally reported to the team, yet he found a disreputable, fame-hungry doctor — one who had been reprimanded by the New Jersey Attorney General for “failing to adequately ensure proper patient treatment involving the prescribing of hormones, including steroids” — to claim that he didn’t see the strain on Rodriguez’s MRI. Forget analyzing this stuff, just pass the popcorn.
16. Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 18
With the Rockies fading from relevance as they head toward their third straight sub-.500 month, it may be time to reconsider whether Nolan Arenado is ready for the majors. The 22-year-old third baseman is hitting just .241/.283/.383 overall and is 10-for-63 without an extra-base hit this month. The team is 32-43 in his starts, compared to 17-10 in other games.
17. Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 23
If the Royals could do any part of the James Shields-Wil Myers trade over again, not taking Wade Davis might be a good start. He’s 2.0 wins below replacement, with a 5.92 ERA through 19 starts, including an MLB-worst seven disaster starts (more runs than innings pitched). Even with a comparatively robust 4.10 runs per game of offensive support in those games (up from 3.85 in the rest) Kansas City is 8-11 with a −19 run differential in Davis’ starts, compared to 39-40 with a +5 differential in all others.
18. Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 15
Break up the Cubs? That’s what Jed Hoyer appears to be doing, with the Matt Garza trade his fourth of the month, netting the team an impressive haul from the Rangers. Next up may be a trade that sends Alfonso Soriano to the Yankees, though the slugger’s remaining salary (about $7 million this year plus $18 million next year) and 10-and-5 trade veto rights could cause snags. In the meantime, the arrival of prospect Junior Lake, newly converted to the outfield, is something to see. Lake’s major league career is off to a 14-for-27 start with a pair of homers and a growing handful of highlights.
19. New York Mets
Last Week: 20
With a torrid July (.329/.356/.598 with five homers), Marlon Byrd continues to position himself as one of the trade market’s top corner outfield bats – except that general manager Sandy Alderson is said to be asking for “a king’s ransom” in return for a 35-year-old who was suspended 50 games for PEDs last year and needed a stint in the Mexican Pacific League over the winter to net a minor-league deal from a sub-.500 team harboring no playoff hopes. So yeah, king’s ransom.
20. Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 19
The Angels aren’t going anywhere, but Jered Weaver is on a good roll. He’s allowed more than one run only once in his last six starts and has a 1.32 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 41 innings over that span, including eight innings of two-hit shutout ball against the Twins on Wednesday night. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Joe Blanton has been torched for 18 runs in 18 1/3 innings over four starts this month, none of them quality starts. He’ll lug his 2-13 record and 5.66 ERA to the bullpen while Garrett Richards moves to the rotation.
21. Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 25
In a trade market where the Yankees, Pirates and Orioles are among the teams in search of a first base or DH bat, Justin Morneau isn’t doing anything to enhance his trade value. He’s hitting just .183/.284/.338 this month, and .269/.329/.397 with seven homers overall.
22. San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 24
Fresh off his 148-pitch no-hitter, Tim Linceum was torched for three homers and eight runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Reds on Tuesday night. Even so, the bigger problem is that his 4.73 ERA is the second-best among the team’s front four starters. Despite the advantages of a pitcher-friendly ballpark, the rotation ranks second-to-last in the league in quality start rate (44 percent) and last in ERA (4.75).
23. Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 16
With a .271/.316/.531 line and 24 homers, Domonic Brown has been one of the rare bright spots for the Phillies this year, but he is dealing with “concussion-like symptoms” after diving for a ball on Tuesday night, and could be headed to the 7-day DL. With Ryan Howard and Ben Revere already out, the offense has fallen on hard times; even with Darin Ruf hitting .289/.385/.511, the offense is scoring just 3.78 runs per game since Howard went down.
24. San Diego Padres
Last Week: 29
A .500 team as recently as June 28 (40-40), the Pad squad has lost 17 of 22. Adding injury to insult, San Diego lost Jason Marquis to a torn ulnar collateral ligament; he’ll need Tommy John surgery. Despite going 9-5, Marquis managed to be 0.1 wins below replacement due to lousy run prevention (4.04 ERA, 86 ERA+) and wretched peripherals (1.4 homers, 5.2 walks and 5.5 strikeouts per nine).
25. Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 26
It’s a nightmare scenario for the Brewers, who lost Ryan Braun to a 65-game suspension for violating the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment program. They’re tied to their face-of-the-franchise player for another $127 million through 2020, but it’s not as though they haven’t benefitted from his presence. Their Braun-era playoff appearances in 2008 and 2011 helped the franchise increase in value from $331 million in spring 2008 to $562 million as of this past spring, using Forbes’ estimates.
26. Washington Nationals
Last Week: 17
The Nationals continue to underachieve, in large part because Bryce Harper has struggled since returning from the DL, hitting .214/.329/.329 and failing to homer since his first plate appearance back in the lineup on July 1. He’s not alone; Anthony Rendon (.211/.263/.380), Ryan Zimmerman (.256/.310/.346) and Adam LaRoche (.180/.261/.311) are picking a lousy month to cool off as well, with Jayson Werth the lineup’s rare exception (.368/.45/.706 with seven of the team’s 18 homers). Washington is 0-6 since the All-Star break and 7-13 this month to fall a season-low five games below .500.
27. Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 22
Losers of a season-high seven straight and 19 out of 27 since their 11-game winning streak, the Jays now face double-digit deficits in both the AL East and the wild-card race. Not helping: Josh Johnson, who has allowed 25 runs in 23 1/3 innings in five starts across that 25-game span, with one quality start and four disaster starts (more runs allowed than innings pitched). Despite missing nearly six weeks due to triceps inflammation, he’s tied for second in the majors with five such starts
28. Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 27
Jake Peavy’s July 20 return from a month-and-a-half long absence due to a fractured rib (six innings, two earned runs) gives the Sox a trade chip in a trade market with few available mid-rotation pitchers. Said to be drawing interest from Boston, St. Louis and others, he’s carrying a 4.19 ERA (3.80 FIP), is owed about $19 million through next year and has just one season of more than 18 starts since 2008. Caveat emptor.
29. Miami Marlins
Last Week: 28
Shut out across three games and 37 innings, the longest streak in the majors since 1985, the Marlins took a decisive step to add some punch, recalling outfielders Christian Yelich (15th on Baseball America‘s Top 100 Prospects list) and Jake Marisnick (64th) from Double-A to supplant Juan Pierre (.243/.285/.299) and Justin Ruggiano (.202/.281/.369) in majors’ most feeble offense. Yelich went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs in his debut, a win over the Rockies.
30. Houston Astros
Last Week: 30
Erik Bedard made history of a peculiar sort on Saturday against the Mariners when he threw 6 1/3 innings of no-hit but allowed three runs (one earned) thanks to five walks, a passed ball, a sacrifice fly and a subsequent hit allowed by reliever Jose Cisnero. Via Elias, only two other pitchers since 1900 (the Reds’ Rube Benton in 1914 and the Yankees’ Andy Hawkins in 1990) have allowed three or more runs across six or more no-hit innings. Alas, the Astros lost, one of 10 they’ve suffered in their past 12 games.