Monday, June 13, 2011

Power Rankings June 13th

Top Ten Teams as of June 13th: On Mondays, most sports websites come out with their power rankings. Power rankings are a complete ranking of teams in a sports league from top to bottom. Usually websites list the team, their record and then a small piece about how they have been playing lately. Power rankings often are superficial, worth only a quick glace because they provide little information and are fairly subjective. I find baseball power rankings uninteresting because they rarely surprise me, and untrustworthy due to lack of substance. That being said, for sports for which I have less in-depth knowledge, I like power rankings. They provide me with a quick overall summary rather than requiring me tolook into in depth stats and other analysis to get a sense of what is going on.

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for baseball power rankings, I figured I would provide my own rankings for this week. I won't go into all 30 MLB teams, but I will mention my top 10.

1. Boston Red Sox:
The Red Sox have been on fire the last few weeks. Adrian Gonzalez is proving to be exactly what the Red Sox were hoping he would be: an RBI machine that can hit for average while playing well above average defense at first base. Their pitching has been great too, with old timer Tim Wakefield filling in very nicely for the injured Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Sox pitching staff gave up only 6 runs to a fairly potent Blue Jays offense in a three game series. To give some perspective on the Sox offensive awesomeness, they scored 16 runs in one game against the Jays, which is 2.5 times the number of runs the Jays scored in the whole series. If they keep this up, they will have a chance to sport the MVP (Gonzalez), Cy Young winner (Lester) and at least an AL Pennant.

2. Philadelphia Phillies:
The Phillies are a team with a specific modus operandi. They out-pitch you at least 3 out of every 5 games, most likely 4/5. Halladay, Lee, Oswalt, and Hamels all looked great their last times out, including Oswalt's best start since coming off of the DL. The bullpen has had some ups and downs with injuries and bad pitching from J.C. Romero, but overall most games they only pitch the 8 and 9 innings. Between Madson, Contreras, Stutes (rookie), and Bastardo there isn't much left to want out of the backend of a bullpen. The offense still leaves something to be desired, but with pitching like the Phillies have, you don't need massive amounts of runs. Ryan Howard's batting average is low, but his rbi totals are 3rd in the National League. Chase Utley seems to be hitting his stride lately, but that was against meager Chicago Cubs pitching. Overall the team has a .320 obp which is good for 18th in the majors. If they get number up, more runs will come.

3. New York Yankees:
I thought about putting the Milwaukee Brewers in this spot, but the Yankees can't be overlooked so noticeably, even for someone who despises them. Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, and Alex Rodriguez are doing the heavy lifting for the Yankees offense. Home runs are their go-to weapon, especially for left-handed hitter with Granderson (20), Teixeira (19) and A-rod (13). They use that short porch in right-field to perfection. Pitching-wise, they will most likely lose Jaba for a while, which hurts because he was pitching very well. Colon will go to the DL as well, but they can combat that with good hitting. The Yankees’ strategy for the near future has to be to score lots of runs to back a barely above average pitching staff. Oh, and Jeter accomplishing 3,000 hits is nice too. There is a good article by Tyler Kepner in NYT Sunday sports section on Jeter and Roberto Clemente.

4. Milwaukee Brewers:
Fourth place is where I will put the recently rising Brewers. Greinke, Gallardo, and Marcum make up a solid pitching staff that is currently healthy and pitching well. With Axford handling the end of games, the Brewers have innings 1-6 and 9 covered for probably 4 out of every 5 games. Everything else is dependent upon their hitting which is outstanding. They have: Prince Fielder, 2nd in NL in HR(19), 1st in NL in RBI (58), 4th in NL in BB (37), 2nd in NL in SLG (.627), and 3rd in NL in OPS (1.042) and Ryan Bruan, 6th in NL in HR (14)4th in NL in RBI (48), 1st in NL in R (48), 5th in NL in BB (35), SB (14), SLG (.560), and OPS (.958). The Brewers are designed to win now, and although St. Louis has held the top spot in the NL Central most of the year, the Brewers could easily take over the top spot and hold it until September.

5. Atlanta Braves:
The Braves have come on very strong of late. They have been doing so with all around good play. Their pitching, which is stellar, has been just that, with Jair Jurjens, Tommy Hanson, and Derek Lowe pitching well in their last three starts. Tim Hudson has had his ups and downs this year, but he's a sinker ball pitcher who throws strikes and overall such pitchers do well. Hitting-wise, they have been getting great performances from Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman. Freeman, a rookie, is hitting well against both LHP and RHP. With Jason Heyward on the DL, this team has hung around offensively, and has done so well enough to boast a .576 winning percentage. Much kudos to Frank Wren, GM of the Braves, for putting together a great bullpen of pitchers who all throw hard.

6. St. Louis Cardinals:
Although the Cardinals were recently swept by division rival Milwaukee, the team still has 38 wins, and is only out of the division lead by .5 games. With Albert Pujols beginning to put up better power numbers and Lance Berkman crushing the ball behind him, the Cardinals have the middle of the order muscle needed to win. They also have an underrated pitching staff. Chris Carpenter hasn't pitched up to his usual ways, but Jaime Garcia, Kyle Lohse, and Jack Westbrook are performing at least average to above average. The Cardinals are a good team, but if they don't play very well over the next two months, the Brewers will take a commanding lead in the central that may prove insurmountable.

7. Texas Rangers:
No matter what changes the Rangers make, their success has always been centered around their hitting, and this season is no different. Michael Young, a healthy Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre, and Mitch Moreland have given opposing pitchers fits. Young, Kinsler, and Moreland all have OBPs in the top 40 in the AL. Pitching-wise, Jose Ogando has been a great surprise and C.J. Wilson continues to grow and succeed against good lineups. Agreat stat for them is Ogando’s 0.90 WHIP, which is pretty good. They should be able to hold off the Angels and Mariners' meager attempts to win first place in the west.

8. San Francisco Giants:
The Giants are the most puzzling team in the major leagues. Their lineup is riddled with no-names and old has-beens, yet they lead the NL west and have the most come-from-behind wins in the majors. This team uses their huge and oddly shaped ballpark to its advantage. They have a great fan base, a great manager in Bruce Bochy, and probably the best end –of-the-game pitchers in the game. Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez, and Brian Wilson are shut down 8th and 9th inning pitchers who rarely relinquish a lead and predominantly keep their team in the game late, allowing for comebacks. Lincecum hasn't pitched as well as past years, but he has the ability to pitch a complete game shutout every time he takes the hill. With Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez behind him, this team will always be in the game. Losing Buster Posey and Freddie Sanchez won't be easy, but this team has yet to stop surprising me this year with their tenacity and ability to prevent opposing teams from scoring, two variables that often lead to victories.

9. Detroit Tigers:
The Tigers have been really good lately. There is no other way to say it. They have given up the six fewest hits of any pitching staff in the AL, which is an improvement from last year. When the Tigers went to the World Series they did it with pitching. Justin Verlander is a top 10 pitcher with top 5 talent. The fact is, although their pitching is decent, their offense is fantastic, carrying them to the top of the AL Central. Miguel Cabrera is putting up MVP-like stats again, though he is getting help from Victor Martinez, Brennan Boesch, and Johnny Peralta. The biggest surprise has been Max Scherzer, who has 8 victories, and a 2.53 strike out to walk ratio. He needs to limit the number of base runners because he pitches better from the windup, but overall he's having a career year.

10. Arizona Diamondbacks:
This may seem odd—the D-back making the top ten—but winning-percentage-wise, they have the Cleveland Indians bested. The Indians were my next choice for this spot, but they have sputtered lately losing 9 out of their last 10. Arizona has the best run differential in the NL west, with a +22 in comparison to the 1st place Giants who have a -3 run differential. The D-backs weren't supposed to be this good, in fact they were supposed to compete with San Diego for the bottom of the NL west, which is code for competing for the worst record in the NL. Their offense is centered around hitting the long ball, they have the 3rd most runs scored in the NL, and they have the top slugging percentage and HR's hit. With a sub 4.00 team ERA that is equal to the major league average, the D-backs have discovered what I call the "Colorado Rockies playbook for success". They take good arms that are unproven and hope they pitch at least at average while allowing their young, speedy, powerful hitters to unleash their impressive power numbers on other average pitching staffs. In the past it has been Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki, Seth Smith, and Todd Helton performing these tasks for the Rockies. In this case Justin Upton, Chris Young, Ryan Roberts, and Kelly Johnson are putting up the necessary power to propel the D-backs into the power rankings top ten.

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