Braves Surge into Top 10 as Atlanta Heats Up

Rob Belote@GuysNationSenior Analyst IAugust 6, 2012

ATLANTA, GA - JULY 15:  Ben Sheets #30 of the Atlanta Braves celebrates a 6-1 win over the New York Mets at Turner Field on July 15, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Each week, Bryan Lienesch puts together his power rankings, and in looking over the list, there were certainly a few things that required a bit of follow-up discussion. I got a chance this morning to discuss a few things with him, specifically regarding the red-hot Atlanta Braves.

GuysNation Rob: When you come up with your Power Rankings, what are the top two factors you look at each week?

Bryan (@): Well I think the top two factors have to be a team's record juxtaposed with their strength of schedule and how they've fared specifically since the last rankings.

How about individual players? When someone is added to a team through a trade, or a batter goes into a slump or someone is sidelined by injury, is that taken into account?

Bryan (@): Sure. These past rankings were especially difficult because the trade deadline has just occurred and we really don't have a large enough sample size to see how teams will respond. Injuries also are factored in but we've seen teams react differently to impact players hitting the DL. Washington shined with a pile of stars sidelined while the Dodgers seemed to struggle the second Matt Kemp went down.

Slumps don't weigh in so much as they're fairly hard to predict when they will begin and end.

Your strength of schedule factor seems to have weighed in considerably this week. I'm not sure of any other way you can justify the Yankees being ahead of the Nationals.

Bryan (@): Yes, absolutely. New York and Washington are within just a couple games of one another but the Yankees have the toughest strength of schedule in the league. A part of that is from playing in the AL East, but that doesn't explain it all. If it did, Toronto and Boston would have tougher schedules because, of course, they have to play the Yankees regularly.

When the two play their division's worst teams, I think there is a striking difference between Toronto and Miami.

So it's an overall strength of schedule, then? Because when I'm seeing that the Yankees only took ONE win against the Orioles in New York last week, and lost a game to the lowly Mariners this past weekend, I'm not seeing a lot of strength there.

Bryan (@): Yes. What you're referring to definitely factors in but every team goes through highs and lows. If we judged solely based on every two weeks, Cleveland would have easily been the worst team this week and I think it's fair to say that's just not true. For teams to really fall down in the rankings, especially when they've had as good a season as New York or Washington has had, you really need to see a consistent downturn in their play. People probably forget back in June the Yankees swept the Nationals IN D.C. Was that a statement? Absolutely. But that wasn't an accurate reflection of those two teams, either.

Safe to say that losing two-of-three to the Phillies is not as impressive as the Yankees doing the same against the Orioles, given that the Fightin' Phils are in the position people expected from Baltimore this yearten games under .500 and not even sniffing the Wild Card?

Bryan (@): That is true, and record in contrast to how they've done recently is an interesting debate. Baltimore is 6-4 in their last 10 games and Philly is now 5-5. For Baltimore, that's sort of on par with their season so far whereas Philly, whose record you see is worse in the same span, has shown marked improvement in relation to their season so far.

Again, not all teams are created the same at the same time. Philadelphia and Miami are within a half game of one another and the Nationals lost two of three to one team and took three of four from another. How do you explain that? The answer is you can't, really. All you can do is interpret results with an informed point of view.

Is this Atlanta Braves comeback for real?

Bryan (@): It's tough to say. Everyone forgets that for as bad as the Red Sox were at the end of the season last year, the Braves were equally bad. And when they lost Beachy, I honestly thought that was the end for their postseason aspirations. But everyone else has sort of stepped up and Ben Sheets has been the answer to their prayers. But given his history, there are legitimate question marks as to whether or not that can last for another two months.

They've been destroying the NL East in the past month. How happy are they for the upcoming road trip that takes them to Philly for three and then another three in New York against the Metsand nowhere near D.C.?

Bryan (@): At this point, not having the two face each other poses this sort of "shoot off" between the clubs as to who can beat up on the rest of Major League Baseball better. With the way Atlanta has been playing, I think anything less than four wins between their series against New York and Philly has to be considered a failure at this stage in a pennant race.

At no point in the past 15 games has Dan Uggla registered a multi-hit game. His batting average is in the low .200's. He hasn't hit a home run in four weeks. At what point do they shut him down for a while?

Bryan (@): I don't think they do. Maybe you increase the number of days you give him off, but I don't think you ever give him more than one day off. He's just too good. And historically, he's always been a very hot-and-cold hitter. After flirting with the all-time hit streak record, he turned in a season that was not equally impressive. That's because there were a number of rough patches along the way. He's had a tough month, but I don't believe you ever sit a hitter as proven as he is.


The MLB Power Rankings can be found each week on GuysNation.

Bryan Lienesch loves talking sports with people on Twitter (@)