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Midseason MLB Power Rankings

Eighty-one games in the books, eighty-one games to go; here are my MLB Power Rankings after the first half of the season…

  1. Detroit Tigers — The Tigers still have the best record in baseball, and it’s been a team effort.  The starting pitching is solid and young; the lineup has produced from 1-to-9, and the bullpen, though it’s been cracking recently, has done its job.  Credit Jim Leyland for building this team into a winner.
  2. Chicago White Sox — Along with the Tigers, the ChiSox could win 105 games.  This marks the end of the AL Wildcard coming out of the East.  The starting pitching has been faltering a little lately, but Contreras, Buehrle, Garland, and Vazquez should get back on track quickly.
  3. Boston Red Sox — Big Papi is getting hot, Manny Ramirez is whacking everything, and Schilling, Beckett, and Lester make a terrific 1-2-3 in the starting rotation.  They’ll have to keep it up to win the East though.
  4. New York Yankees — They’re not out of it yet because their opponents haven’t exactly been the league’s strongest teams.  On the other hand, without Jason Giambi, the Yankees might’ve lost most of those games too.  A-Rod and the rest need to step it up, otherwise George Steinbrenner will be throwing a tantrum when the Bombers miss the playoffs.
  5. New York Mets — The Mets are by far the NL’s best team, but it seems that doesn’t say much after watching the BoSox thrash them.  If the Mets can acquire another legitimate starting pitcher, they’ll be much more feared come October, because right now, outside of Pedro and Glavine, the rotation stinks like the East River.
  6. Minnesota Twins — The Twins youth is really getting hot now; Justin Morneau is blasting every pitch he sees, Francisco Liriano is every bit as good as advertised, and the only question surrounding Joe Mauer this year is can he hit .400?  Kill the rumors of trading Torii Hunter, because he’s not going anywhere.  If only the Twins could find a good replacement for Carlos Silva; perhaps Jeff Weaver is the answer, or maybe a deadline trade.  The Twins have the potential to ride the heels of Detroit and Chicago for the rest of the season, the question is, can they overtake one of them and get into the playoffs.
  7. Oakland Athletics — Their hot streak has come to an end, but they’ve won the first two of a 3-game series against Detroit at home, and Oakland still seems like the favorite to win the AL West.  Eric Chavez, Frank Thomas, Nick Swisher, and Bobby Crosby have too much potential in their bat to prevent this team’s offense from waking up.  When Rich Harden returns, Zito-Harden-Haren will be one of the best starting trios in baseball.  The bullpen is getting healthy too, so look for the A’s to surge in the second-half.
  8. Toronto Blue Jays — Troy Glaus, Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, and Alex Rios are some of the best hitters in the American League, and they all play for the same team.  As I mentioned in an earlier post the Blue Jays outfielders are all hitting over .300, and a team with that much pop at the plate won’t sit back for long.  If the Blue Jays acquire another starting pitcher to complete the Halladay-Burnett-??? trio, the Red Sox and Yanks will feel the heat coming from the north.
  9. Cincinnati Reds — Adam Dunn is finally starting to get on-base with consistency, Ken Griffey Jr. to be fine despite his age, and when Edwin Encarnacion returns, the Reds will have a very good lineup up-and-down.  If Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang can continue pitching well, the Cardinals will be seeing Red for the rest of the season.
  10. St. Louis Cardinals — the Detroit/Chicago/Minnesota race is the AL’s most interesting, and the St. Louis/Cincinnati race is the NL’s slightly less-exciting equivalent.  The Cardinals have been slumping lately, both at the plate and on the mound, while Houston and the Reds are still playing solid baseball.  Tony La Russa better get his team going, because the Cards could find themselves not only down in the division, but out of the playoffs come October.
  11. Los Angeles Dodgers — The Dodgers’ lineup will start to produce at some point this season, and at that point, the NL West will be taken over by LA.  It’s hard to believe that Nomar Garciaparra, JD Drew, Jeff Kent, and Rafael Furcal will stay quiet all season; the only question is, will they get going in time for LA to still have a crack at the division.  My guess is yes, because the NL West is full of mediocre teams that would be 10 games back in any other division in baseball.
  12. Texas Rangers — The Texas lineup has not been living up to its Texas-sized expectations this season; especially Mark Teixeira.  Though Mark DeRosa’s .330+ average is a nice surprise, the Rangers will need to get going offensively if they’re going to compensate for their poor pitching.  Even more surprising is that Ameriquest Field (one of the most severe hitters’ parks in all of baseball) isn’t helping the Rangers get their bats going.
  13. Seattle Mariners — Seattle was an exciting team to watch the latter part of June, but I don’t think the Mariners have enough to really make a run at the postseason this year.  It’s nice to see King Felix get back on track, and JJ Putz developing into a shut-down closer, but Seattle will need offense outside of Raul Ibanez and Jose Lopez (what happened to Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre) to even have a prayer at winning the AL West. 
  14. San Diego Padres — Chris Young has been one of the best surprises of this season, spinning quality start after quality start.  It’s hard to believe on the other hand that Jake Peavy is struggling, although he has been going through some nagging injuries.  If Peavy gets healthy again and starts pitching well, the Padres might just win the NL West again.
  15. Houston Astros — The Astros are finally starting to show their late-2005 form again.  Andy Pettitte is just now starting to pitch to his potential, Roy Oswalt has been pitching terrifically but is just now starting to win, and with Roger Clemens back, this Houston team is built to win.  With solid contributions from former bench-riders Chris Burke and Mike Lamb, along with an amazing year from Lance Berkman, the Astros will make a push for the wildcard, if not the NL Central in the second half.
  16. San Francisco Giants — The Giants NEED Moises Alou to be healthy in the worst way.  There’s no one to protect Barry Bonds, and aside from sporadic contributions from Pedro Feliz, Randy Winn, Omar Vizquel and Ray Durham, the Giants have very little offense to go along with mediocre pitching.  Jason Schmidt has flashed Cy Young caliber pitching, but he has also had rough stretches when he doesn’t pitch well at all.  Matt Morris, the Giants most prized offseason acquisition has been the same way, and combined with injuries and inconsistency from Matt Cain and Noah Lowry, the Giants starting rotation is really in trouble.  Combine that with Armando Benitez’s erratic pitching in the 9th and a less-than-solid bullpen, and you see why the Giants could be in trouble really soon.
  17. Milwaukee Brewers — Perhaps expecting the Brewers to be great this quickly was a little too much, but Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks have shown signs of developing into solid MLB players.  If Carlos Lee continues to show great power and Geoff Jenkins hits with some consistency, the Brewers may make a run in 2007.  On the pitching side, Chris Capuano’s return from Tommy John surgery has been spectacular, with 18 wins last season, and 9 this year with 106 strikeouts (9th in the league), Capuano could develop into the ace Ben Sheets hasn’t come close to.  On that note, the Brewers will need another starter to be a contender in 2007, and keeping Carlos Lee will be crucial. 
  18. Cleveland Indians — While the rest of the AL Central has stepped-up its play (except the Royals), the Indians are still playing at the same level, causing them to fall farther and farther behind the Tigers, White Sox, and Twins.  Chasing two teams is difficult, but chasing three teams is nearly impossible, so the Indians can flush their 2006 down the drain.  Getting Jeremy Sowers MLB-ready is very important and if Cleveland can do it successfully, the Sabathia-Lee-Sowers trio could be very intimidating in a year or two.
  19. Colorado Rockies — The amount of young talent this Colorado team has is very impressive.  Garrett Atkins, Brad Hawpe, and Matt Holliday could turn into three new Todd Heltons and propel the Rockies to the top of the NL West in 2007.  Unfortunately for Colorado, starting pitching is still a major weakness and finding pitchers willing to sacrifice their numbers and pitch at Coors Field is difficult.  The bullpen is very good this season however, as All-Star Brian Fuentes, Ramon Ramirez, and Ray King have been solid in their late-inning roles.  If Colorado can find another decent starting pitcher, perhaps the Rockies will win the West next season.
  20. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim — Know what I think has caused Anaheim’s slide … the name!  Well that’s pretty unrealistic, but what has caused it is sub-par hitting from Garret Anderson and a sudden power-outage in Vladimir Guerrero.  The Angels are pretty much done for 2006, so they might as well get Jered Weaver, Howie Kendrick, and the rest of their talented young prospects some major league experience, while trading some of their veterans and acquiring some more young talent.  The Angels are in a rebuilding phase whether their front office wants to admit it or not, and it’ll take them a couple of seasons to get back into serious contention.
  21. Philadelphia Phillies — The Phillies have been much worse than expected, and things won’t get better quickly if Brett Myers will be absent from the rotation for awhile.  I think that his wife might eventually drop the assault charges, but his absence will hurt, especially since the rest of the rotation has been weak, and Cole Hamels clearly needs more AAA time to develop.  This team has far too many holes however, and Bobby Abreu’s slump isn’t helping, so their 2006 is over.  My suggestion: if the Yanks decide to part with Phillip Hughes, the Phillies should trade Abreu to the Yanks for him and another prospect.
  22. Atlanta Braves — So many things are going wrong for the Atlanta Braves this season pitching-wise, it’s almost undeniable that Leo Mazzone was the major factor in keeping this team together.  The starting rotation has been inconsistent at best, and every reliever could easily deserve a demotion to AA for the way they’ve pitched.  Reitsma, McBride, Paronto, etc; the list of ineffective relievers goes on-and-on.  The hitting has taken a hit as well, because Marcus Giles is having a down year, and there’s no one to support Andruw Jones in the order.  Chipper’s slump sure doesn’t help.  Thirteen and half games back in the division, and in last place, the Braves can wave good-bye to their streak of division titles.  GM John Schuerholz and Manager Bobby Cox will be back to the drawing board after the year is over.
  23. Florida Marlins — No one considered the Marlins to be a serious contender this season, but they are surprisingly good.  The rookies Florida is putting in the lineup everyday have produced, and second-baseman Dan Uggla is a legitimate Rookie of the Year contender.  With talented young hitters like Josh Willingham, Miguel Cabrera, Mike Jacobs, and Jeremy Hermida also in their lineup every day, the Marlins will be a force in a couple of years.  On the pitching side, Josh Johnson, Scott Olsen, and Ricky Nolasco are having terrific rookie campaigns, and all three seem to have a bright future in the MLB.  If the Marlins fire sale ends here, Florida (or San Antonio if they move) will have a contender to cheer for by 2007 or 2008.
  24. Arizona Diamondbacks — The Diamondbacks are hanging around in the NL West, but they would be in last place in any other division in baseball, except maybe the AL Central (Royals).  It’s time to sell-off pricey, underperforming outfielder Luis Gonzalez and Shawn Green, get their talented prospects like Steven Murphy up to the MLB, and wait until 2007 or 2008 for them to develop.  This isn’t a popular option, but with major rotation issues behind Brandon Webb, and inconsistency in the bullpen, the Diamondbacks wouldn’t be in serious contention for a couple of seasons anyway.
  25. Washington Nationals — After starting the season in a slump, Jose Guillen is starting to come around and give the Nationals’ a third power bat in their otherwise futile lineup.  Ryan Zimmerman is a budding All-Star at third, and Alfonso Soriano (if he stays around), is developing into a spectacular hitter.  If John Patterson becomes the ace Frank Robinson expects him to, the Nats might have a decent shot in 2007.  This season is over for Washington though, because the Mets will not be overtaken in the division.
  26. Baltimore Orioles — It’s taken awhile, but Erik Bedard is now one of the better southpaws in the American League.  Unfortunately, the rest of the starting rotation is just awful, and the bullpen, except for Chris Ray, is too.  The trade rumors surrounding Miguel Tejada certainly aren’t helping, and aside from Tejada, Brian Roberts, and Ramon Hernandez, the O’s don’t have a consistent bat in the lineup.  With few solid prospects in the system, the Orioles may need to deal Tejada and Hernandez, acquire a few talented young players, and wait for 2008, when they’re ready to produce at the Major League level.
  27. Tampa Bay Devil Rays — Scott Kazmir has been the bright spot in another disappointing season for the Rays.  There just isn’t enough hitting or pitching on this team to allow it to compete with the BoSox, Yankees, and Jays.  Carl Crawford is having another All-Star caliber year, but the early injuries to Jorge Cantu and Julio Lugo are causing them to underperform at the plate, so Tampa Bay is having trouble scoring enough runs to make up for their sub-par pitching.
  28. Chicago Cubs — As much as GM Jim Hendry might think so, firing Dusty Baker will not help the Cubs.  To improve, the Cubs need their injury curse to end.  Aramis Ramirez, Jacque Jones, and Derrek Lee need to be in top-form for this team to be anywhere near as good as the Cardinals and Reds.  Also crucially important are Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, because if Carlos Zambrano is the only healthy starting pitcher on the team, the Cubs are in deep, deep trouble.  My advice: keep Dusty Baker, have a fire sale, get prospects, and wait a couple years for them to develop.  The Wrigley diehards won’t like it, but that’s the quickest way for the Cubs to improve.
  29. Kansas City Royals — All-Star Mark Redman; that just sounds weird.  But aside from him and Mark Grudzielanek, this team doesn’t have any good players.  Ambiorix Burgos might be a solid closer, but they aren’t getting him opportunities in the 9th because they aren’t scoring runs.  The bullpen, starting pitching, and to a lesser extent the batting, are just awful.  Good job getting Allard Baird out of town, but the Royals will need to do a lot more to have a chance in a few years.  Say good-bye to 2006 and 2007, Royals fans will need to suffer for at least two more horrendous seasons.
  30. Pittsburgh Pirates — Hard to believe the Royals aren’t the worst team in the MLB, but that “honor” goes to the Pirates.  They flat-out stink, except for Jason Bay and Freddy Sanchez in the lineup, and Mike Gonzalez in the bullpen.  This team has no starting pitching; Zach Duke’s rookie magic has worn-off and no one else has stepped-up.  Now that Oliver Perez has been demoted all the way to AAA, the Pirates need to start from square one.  My recommendation, trade Jason Bay, get a few prospects, and wait.  Might want to fire Jim Tracy as well, because he’s been a complete bust at manager.  Sorry Pittsburgh, but you won’t have a good team for a few more season.  At least you’ve got the Steelers…

The second half should be interesting to watch, with so many divisions up for grabs.  I think the season will end with…

AMERICAN LEAGUE
West — Oakland

Central — Chicago

East — Boston

Wildcard — Detroit

NATIONAL LEAGUE

West — San Diego

Central — St. Louis

East — New York

Wildcard — Cincinnati

_________________________________________

I’ll be away from the blogging world for a couple of weeks, but I will be watching a ton of baseball.  There won’t be anything new on Baseballistic until I come back on July 23rd, but I promise to come back with tons of analysis and news. 

Talk to you when I get back!

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