Stan 'The Fan' Charles' MLB Power Rankings
By Stan "The Fan" Charles
Including games on July 22
1. New York Yankees (3-4 since July 16, 54-34 overall) -- Despite a so-so week that ended with a four-game sweep at the hands of the surging Oakland Athletics, the Yankees still have the best record in baseball. The pitching has held up surprisingly well, and CC Sabathia has come back strong. A series in Seattle should be the elixir for what ails the Bronx Bombers, and then Boston should provide renewed motivation for a team that has been on cruise control for the last month. The acquisition of Ichiro Suzuki for a couple of young arms seems like a true stroke of genius by general manager Brian Cashman.
2. Texas Rangers (2-3, 56-38) -- Bad news for the guys with the badges as right-hander Colby Lewis will miss the rest of this season. Couple that with Roy Oswalt's back flaring up, and there are alarms going off in Texas. But the Rangers do get Neftali Feliz back soon. They have to decide whether to trade the youngsters necessary to acquire Cliff Lee, Zack Greinke or Cole Hamels. Most likely that would require dealing right-hander Martin Perez and third base prospect Michael Olt.
3. Detroit Tigers (6-1, 52-44) -- The Tigers are sizzling, racking up a 13-4 record during the last three weeks. Austin Jackson and Quintin Berry are setting the tables nicely in the 1-2 spots in the order for Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder to do what it is they get paid for -- driving in a ton of runs. Jim Leyland would like to see Max Scherzer and Doug Fister contribute, and general manager Dave Dombrowski is no wallflower when it comes to adding on significant help to the roster. Dombrowski has parlayed the momentum the team has built during the past month and now added a solid starter in Anibal Sanchez and solidified the infield with second baseman with Omar Infante. This stamps the Tigers as being in with the big boys.
4. Washington Nationals (4-4, 51-35) -- After a first-game loss during a day-night double-header against the Braves, the Nationals stood at 2-4 for the week and the Braves had a head of steam building. Season-long minor league refugee John Lannan came up and shut down the Braves for seven innings, leading the way for the Nats to win the last two of the series and maintain a three-game lead in the NL East. Lannan is back on call in Syracuse once again.
5. Cincinnati Reds (5-2, 55-40) -- Like the Tigers, the Reds have been steadily climbing in these weekly rankings. This big jump from ninth two weeks ago comes thanks to an 8-2 run during their last 10 games, and a good chunk of that has been accomplished without Joey Votto, who had to undergo arthroscopic surgery on his knee. The pitching staff has been pretty darned good, but it will need to even be a little better -- and Mat Latos, Bronson Arroyo and Homer Bailey can step it up. Although Aroldis Chapman occasionally loses his cool, I'll take my chances with any pitcher that can muster 86 strikeouts during 46 innings pitched.
6. Los Angeles Angels (3-4, 52-44) -- Albert Pujols, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo present a formidable trio for opposing pitchers to get through. Trout may be having the best rookie campaign since the Red Sox's Fred Lynn was named MLB Rookie of the Year and MVP during the same season in 1975. But the Angels' starting pitching has been problematic, and they can't be sure that Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, Garrett Richards and Jerome Williams will be strong enough to get them deep into the postseason. The question is: Does Jerry Dipoto have enough assets to swap for one of the usual suspects being bandied about? What exacerbates the Halos' problems is the bullpen has become questionable.
7. San Francisco Giants (4-2, 53-42) -- San Francisco is the one team on the board that has both climbed the rankings through their own accomplishments and from the failure of others. This is a season high for the Giants, and although they could stumble once the Dodgers add a couple of chips, the biggest wild card is their former ace, Tim Lincecum. His strikeout total is impressive, but his walk total tells me that he has been playing on the losing side of adjustments that hitters have made to him. Lincecum's recent success may speak to the fact that he and Dave Righetti have started to swing that pendulum.
8. Pittsburgh Pirates (5-1, 54-40) -- The Pirates should first and foremost put an end to their streak of 19 consecutive seasons under .500. Based on their recent 20-9 stretch, they may also make the playoffs for the first time since 1992. Clint Hurdle seems like the perfect jockey for this ride. A.J. Burnett has given Pittsburgh a stopper in the rotation and taken a lot of pressure off the rest of the group, and the bullpen has been sterling. Pedro Alvarez picked his game up a notch to go along with All-Star and MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen.
9. Chicago White Sox (1-6, 50-45) -- This week had to be a bit of an eye-opener for general manager Kenny Williams and skipper Robin Ventura. Losing six of seven to the Red Sox and Tigers is not the correct way to prove your intentions. Williams responded quickly and traded two legitimate arms for Brett Myers. They are saying all the right things about trusting rookie Addison Reed, but Myers will be a big help for an otherwise inexperienced bullpen.
10. Baltimore Orioles (5-2, 51-44) -- Just when the clouds appeared to be covering all the sunshine in Birdland, along came Miguel Gonzalez, Chris Tillman, Tommy Hunter and Zach Britton breathing new life into a quirky rotation. The success of this quartet could cause a controversy in just who should be the big league pitching coach in 2013, Rick Adair or Rick Peterson. But combine these four with Wei-Yin Chen, Jason Hammel (on the disabled list), and the duo of Brian Matusz and Jake Arrieta, and that is the type of depth good teams need to have.
11. Los Angeles Dodgers (4-2, 52-44) -- The Dodgers seem to have regrouped. That tends to happen when you get a player like Matt Kemp back in the lineup. They seem to have been stymied in their efforts to land Ryan Dempster. Supposedly, the Braves are now the favorites to land Dempster, but he may be in the process of exercising his rights to refuse the deal. According to reports, the Dodgers quickly turned their attention to the Cubs' other right-hander, Matt Garza. But Garza was pulled during his last start and there could be some concerns about his health. Stay tuned.
12. Boston Red Sox (3-4, 48-48) -- The starting pitchers -- namely the chicken-eating and beer-drinking duo of Jon Lester and Josh Beckett -- haven't held up their end of the bargain. Lester has to be a cause for concern, as he is taking his team out of games early almost once per week. The hot rumor was that Boston was in the lead to acquire Anibal Sanchez, a former Red Sox prospect who ironically went to the Marlins with Hanley Ramirez in the deal that brought Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Boston. But Dombrowski pulled the rug out from beneath Ben Cherington, and now the Red Sox are hunting for lesser types.
13. Tampa Bay Rays (3-4, 49-47) -- The Rays gave it their all without Evan Longoria, but in the end, a team that was built on pitching and guile is severely lacking in run production. The starting pitching has been good, but far less than great. Joe Maddon looked like a genius early on with guys like Jeff Keppinger, Will Rhymes and Brooks Conrad contributing, but, at the end of the day, the reasons nobody knew their names became apparent. It looks as if the Rays are backpedalling for the first time in four years.
14. St. Louis Cardinals (4-2, 50-45) -- The champs from 2011 don't look as formidable without Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter, Dave Duncan and Tony LaRussa. The Cardinals just got Lance Berkman back off the DL, but unless the old Adam Wainwright shows up during the last two months of the season, the chances for a playoff berth are looking slim.
15. Atlanta Braves (3-4, 52-43) -- The Braves had a big showdown series in Washington, D.C., last weekend. After coming back on Friday night from a 9-0 deficit to win in extra innings, they won the first game of Saturday's doubleheader to move within 1.5 games of first place in the NL East, and it looked as if they really had it going on. Instead, the Nationals won Saturday's nightcap and Sunday's series finale, and Washington's lead was back to 3.5. During the John Schuerholz/Bobby Cox era, the Braves were never turned down by players they wanted in trades. Ryan Dempster, unless he is just posturing for an extension, looks to be saying no to Atlanta.
16. Oakland Athletics (5-1, 51-44) -- The A's, along with the O's, are perhaps the biggest surprises in the American League. Bob Melvin has established himself as the manager baseball people thought he would be. At points this season, Melvin had more than half the players in his batting order hitting .220 or lower. General manager Billy Beane's bold gambit to steal away Yoenis Cespedes has paid off smartly, and the A's seem to always have young arms to toss at the opposition late in the game. The Athletics are one more smart trade away from pushing themselves into the hunt for the second wild-card slot, along with the Orioles, White Sox, and maybe Boston and Toronto.
17. Toronto Blue Jays (3-3, 48-47) -- Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos made the type of 10-player deal with the Astros that he knows isn't smart for the long haul. Rather, he has decided to play into the hands of Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow by trading four young prospects, along with two-bit players in Francisco Cordero and Ben Francisco, for J.A. Happ, Brandon Lyon and minor league strikeout artist David Carpenter. The reason is simple: by propping up of the team's pitching staff, Anthopoulos may be able to "pull a Sully" and land his Jays safely into a wild-card spot.
18. New York Mets (1-5, 47-48) -- The other shoe finally dropped during a 4-11 tumble down the steps that will spoil what the Mets were able to accomplish during the first 15 weeks of the season. First down was closer Frank Francisco, who was no big loss, but now Johan Santana joins Dillon Gee on the DL, which is a huge blow to a team that was winning with those infamous intangibles. The spoilage of 2012 shouldn't overshadow the heavy lifting that general manager Sandy Alderson and his front-office team have done to have the Mets poised for respectability far sooner than anyone could have imagined possible, without the team being sold.
19. Milwaukee Brewers (2-4, 44-50) -- This edition of the Brew Crew is standing 10.5 games behind the Pirates and 10 behind the Reds. Even with a second wild-card team added, Doug Melvin's fragile payroll situation will most likely have him exploring what he can get for Zack Greinke, Shaun Marcum, Randy Wolf and maybe a couple of other pieces. During the past few weeks, one tricky situation has developed with Francisco Rodriguez jumping back into the closer's role, as John Axford has flamed out. Rodriguez was an interesting chip, who may need to be pulled back in to assure the Brewers of a closer going into 2013.
20. Cleveland Indians (2-5, 47-48) -- This was a crushing period for the Indians, who are now 3-7 since the break. They had counted on a White Sox collapse and got one (3-9), but the Indians picked up only one game on the White Sox, while the Tigers motored past them. Cleveland's offense can be formidable at times, but Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Derek Lowe have been inconsistent, with Lowe really fading. The Indians now have to count on a man formerly known as Fausto Carmona. As the ad campaign says: Don't count on a man named Fausto Carmona, whose name is really Roberto Hernandez; get DirecTV instead.
21. Philadelphia Phillies (3-3, 42-54) -- On paper, it sure looks as if the Phillies could be a few notches lower. But this ranking takes into account extenuating circumstances. Getting Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Roy Halladay back within a 10-day period is just that, an extenuating circumstance. The trades of Shane Victorino, Cole Hamels and possibly Hunter Pence would bite them in reverse just after this month ends.
22. Arizona Diamondbacks (5-2, 47-48) -- Arizona is playing pretty well right now and still far down in the rankings for being just 4.5 games behind the Dodgers in the standings -- and just six behind the first-place Giants. The Diamondbacks are one solid winning streak away from being right in the thick of both their division race and the wild-card hunt. Yet, general manager Kevin Towers looks to be exploring shaving payroll as if he isn't expecting that run.
23. San Diego Padres (5-2, 41-56) -- The Padres are way too far back to mount any type of playoff run, but a strange thing has happened in San Diego. During the past four weeks, the Padres seem to have gotten some self-respect back and put together a 15-9 run. It seemed they were ready to dump salaries left and right, but the recent signing of Carlos Quentin to a three-year, $27 million deal may signal a slight change in direction.
24. Seattle Mariners (5-2, 42-55) -- I am an old-time radio guy, and there used to be an adage when women called on the phone, "There is a direct correlation between how great a woman's voice sounds and how unattractive she might be." It seems that adage might apply to these lousy teams that play well once the pressure is off, but in reality are still ugly. Things have gotten so bad, the club had little choice but to honor Ichiro's request to leave the rebuilding to others.
25. Minnesota Twins (4-3, 40-55) -- You have to hand it to general manager Terry Ryan. After spending more than a dozen years building up the Twins organization, Ryan could only watch as Bill Smith came in and screwed it right up. Ryan has stepped back in, and Minnesota appears to be back on track -- and to be the first team to begin rebuilding during the 2012 season. The Twins seem to have settled upon Trevor Plouffe at third base and Brian Dozier at short stop. They have also smartly taken Josh Willingham off the market. Matt Capps would have been a nice chip to have moved, but injuries following an inconsistent first half have left him in Minnesota's hands. The Twins would love to dump Justin Morneau and his big salary now that he is somewhat diminished, and they still are trying to figure out what to do with Francisco Liriano.
26. Miami Marlins (2-5, 44-51) -- It's been a disappointing year of firsts in Miami: the first season in a new ballpark; the first season for Heath Bell; the first season Mike Stanton became Giancarlo Stanton; and, of course, a bad first year for skipper Ozzie Guillen. It is tough to admit that your season is all but over, but the big trade in which Miami sent Sanchez and Infante to Detroit for younger talent pretty much says just that.
27. Kansas City Royals (2-5, 38-49) -- The Royals are delaying the inevitable, but they are in an even deeper hole than the Marlins. It is fitting that the Royals and Marlins have dropped next to each other in the rankings at No. 26 and 27, because each is the most disappointing team in its league. Royals general manager Dayton Moore parlayed an awful deal for Jonathan Sanchez into a near-awful deal by trading Sanchez for former Oriole Jeremy Guthrie.
29. Colorado Rockies (2-4, 34-54) -- A few weeks ago in this space, I questioned whether general manager Dan O'Dowd and skipper Jim Tracy would have the axe fall on them. The Rockies' situation has become a total mess.
28. Chicago Cubs (2-4, 34-54) -- The Cubs' recent bit of a downturn comes just after the team had put together a 12-4 run (see Mariners). Now president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer have to make some moves and not get left holding their three biggest chips -- Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Bryan LaHair.
30. Houston Astros (1-5, 33-56) -- The long-awaited purge is in full bloom. So far, the Astros have dealt Carlos Lee, Brandon Lyons, J.A. Happ and Brett Meyers, and Jeff Luhnow is accumulating a lot of young talent. As we always say, only time will tell, but it looks as if Houston has gotten some good arms.
Posted July 24, 2012