MLB Power Rankings: Who's Looking Like a World Series Champion?
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So, which MLB team is looking like a World Series champion? Nothing is decided yet and there are still many teams hoping to make it to the postseason. It seems crazy that the 2012 season has just one month left, but for the teams involved in playoff races it’s only just getting started.
What follows are the updated power rankings, with an emphasis on the top five teams who are looking like World Series contenders.
30. Houston Astros (42-94. Previous: 30)
29. Chicago Cubs (51-84. Previous: 29)
28. Cleveland Indians (58-78. Previous: 26)
27. Minnesota Twins (56-80. Previous: 28)
26. Colorado Rockies (56-78. Previous: 27)
25. Miami Marlins (60-76. Previous: 24)
24. Toronto Blue Jays (60-75. Previous: 25)
23. Kansas City Royals (61-74. Previous: 23)
22. Boston Red Sox (63-74. Previous: 18)
21. San Diego Padres (63-74. Previous: 21)
20. New York Mets (64-72. Previous: 22)
19. Philadelphia Phillies (65-71. Previous: 19)
18. Arizona Diamondbacks (67-70. Previous: 16)
17. Seattle Mariners (66-71. Previous: 17)
16. Milwaukee Brewers (66-69. Previous: 20)
15. Pittsburgh Pirates (71-64. Previous: 15)
14. Chicago White Sox (73-62. Previous: 6)
13. Los Angeles Dodgers (73-64. Previous: 12)
12. Detroit Tigers (72-63. Previous: 10)
11. Los Angeles Angels (73-63. Previous: 14)
10. St. Louis Cardinals (74-62. Previous: 7)
9. Tampa Bay Rays (75-61. Previous: 9)
8. New York Yankees (76-59. Previous: 4)
7. Baltimore Orioles (76-59. Previous: 11)
6. Atlanta Braves (76-60. Previous: 5)
5. San Francisco Giants (77-58. Previous: 8)
Tim Lincecum has had his problems this year, but the Giants have supported him well.
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The San Francisco Giants haven’t lost a series in over a month and are finding the right form at the right time. Rallying for 9-8 victory over the Diamondbacks in the bottom of the 10th, that epitomized the way that the Giants are approaching the postseason.
It’s been refreshing to see a Giants side put up decent offensive numbers, regularly getting on base and winning games without having to smash the ball out of the park.
What’s been surprising is the way the team has been playing on the road. Since the All-Star break they’ve gone 19-6 away from home and this record is keeping them in the pennant race.
Pitcher Matt Cain nicely summed up the attitude of the Giants in 2012:
There’s just a feeling in the dugout that even if things aren’t going right, we still feel like we’re in the game. I’ve been on teams before when you’re down runs; you just don’t feel like you’re in the game anymore. This team really feels like no matter what the score is, they’ll still find ways to score runs. (Via Chicago Tribune)
This year’s team is starting to resemble the World Series-winning team of 2010. They’re producing when it’s really needed, and the pitching rotation is showing strength, even though Tim Lincecum has struggled throughout the season.
It’s that sort of team-first mentality that wins a World Series.
4. Oakland Athletics (76-59. Previous: 13)
The A's have performed near-miraculous feats already this season.
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It’s been a surprise, but it’s time to accept the fact that the A’s are putting together a credible challenge for the World Series. They haven’t been in the playoffs since 2006, but that doesn’t seem to be on their minds right now.
General Manager Billy Beane spoke to The New York Times:
It’s fun. For me, the fun part of the job is having a team that has a chance to get better, over the course of the season or in the coming years. One thing we felt was this team was going to at least create a trend line going up.
It seems that they’ve done a little more than that this year. Since the All-Star break, the A’s have gone into a different gear, leading the league in home runs while getting able support from their pitching. The lack of star power in their rotation was supposed to hamstring them, but instead their combined ERA is 3.42, good for second in the American League.
The race for the American League is shaping up to be the most exciting, with The A’s, the Orioles and the Yankees now on 76-59.
The A’s have lost two straight games to the Angels, which has pulled them back slightly, but with Josh Reddick getting his swing back—named American League Player of the Week last week—the A’s always have a chance to put up some numbers.
The fact that no one expected this has made the Athletics’ season that much more special. A World Series would make it almost unbelievable.
3. Washington Nationals (83-52. Previous: 1)
Can the Nationals win a World Series without Stephen Strasburg?
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When the Nationals recently lost five in a row there were murmurs that this would be the way their season ended. With the imminent shutdown of Stephen Strasburg, the implication was that they would choke down the stretch and fade away.
However, the Nats also lost five in a row over April, then four in a row in June. Each time they have responded in the same way, snapping the losing streak and turning things around.
Their 11-5 demolition of the Cubs on Tuesday perfectly illustrated how far they’ve come this year. The Nats hit six home runs and pushed their lead atop the National League East to 7.5 games. They now need 20 more wins to clinch the division.
Adam LaRoche hit two homers against the Cubs and has been displaying his excellent 2010 form once again. Ian Desmond had four RBI and every member of the lineup had a hit, totaling 19 in all.
Admittedly it was against a very young team, but the accusation that the Nats’ pitching carries the whole team just doesn’t carry any weight anymore.
Shutting down Strasburg does cast a small shadow over their World Series aspirations, however. Can they beat the likes of the Cardinals, the Texas Rangers and the Cincinnati Reds without him? There are doubts, but the one thing learned about the Nats this year is that you can never write them off.
There’s no denying that Strasburg is integral to the development of the Nats, or that he forms the future of their rotation. However, dismissing the Nats as World Series contenders because of the Strasburg shutdown would be foolish.
The Nats’ pitching staff has combined ERA of 3.27, which leads the National League. Their five starters all rank in the NL’s top 15 in the same category. This is a team that can compete on any day, with anyone.
Can they win everything this year without Strasburg? Who knows, but even if they don’t, there’s one thing that’s certain: this team isn’t going away next year. Or the year after that.
2. Texas Rangers (80-55. Previous: 3)
Yu Darvish has been a key part of the Rangers' challenge for a third straight World Series appearance.
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There are many who feel that the Rangers simply have to win it all this year. After being one strike from glory in Game 6 last year, the Rangers have to rebound and take their opportunities this time around.
The signs are good for Ron Washington’s team. The Rangers have the highest batting average (.278), the most RBI (671) and the highest on-base percentage in the major leagues (via The Daily Texan).
The pitching staff is also good for third in terms of wins, which shows the balance of the side. The Rangers need to hold off Oakland to take the AL West, but that race will depend on Oakland’s ability to keep pace more than the Rangers’ ability to hang on.
Yu Darvish has been exemplary this year, as evidenced by his flirtation with a no-hitter against the Royals. Darvish took his perfect game into the sixth inning, retiring the first 17 batters. This sort of form going into the last month of the season bodes very well for the Rangers.
Sticking with the Royals game, there was good World Series potential being shown by the offense, too. Nelson Cruz had homered in the sixth, but when he stepped up to the plate in the ninth he was hit by Louis Coleman’s first pitch of the inning.
The personnel from both dugouts and bullpens immediately strode out onto the pitch and both teams were issued with warnings following a heated exchange. The impressive part came next.
While a lot of teams would have allowed this disruption to affect their concentration, coming out swinging too hard in defense of their teammate, Michael Young stepped up and coolly homered on the next pitch.
America is starting to get impression that if Texas gets to their third straight World Series, they’re not going to let this one slip away.
1. Cincinnati Reds (83-54. Previous: 2)
Closer Aroldis Chapman has been almost unhittable over the last two months.
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The fact that the Reds have performed this well without Joey Votto is a little bit scary. The Nationals have the better record, but they’ll be losing Strasburg soon.
The Reds climb above the Nats on this ranking purely because Votto is preparing to return from the knee injury that has kept him out since July 15.
Cincinnati has done just fine without him, however, and won’t be looking to rush him back into the lineup before the postseason. The Reds have gone 32-16 without Votto and are in complete control of the NL Central.
A large part of this success can be attributed to closer Aroldis Chapman. Named the Major League Baseball Delivery Man of the Month for two consecutive months, Chapmans’ stats for this period are just plain intimidating.
According to Sporting News, since June 26 Chapman has had 26 saves from 26 chances, 54 strikeouts to 5 walks, with one run allowed. When their closer is having this much success, the Reds must always feel like they have a chance.
Rookie infielder Todd Frazier is another player coming into form, voted National League Rookie of the Month for August after hitting six homers and finishing with an average of .330. Frazier had 10 multiple-hit games during August and the Reds won 19 games that month. (Via MLB.com).
When Votto comes back, it’s difficult to argue with the logic that the Reds have the most well-balanced team in baseball right now.
Votto told John Fay on Cincinnati.com that he wouldn’t be 100 percent until the offseason, but that Reds manager Dusty Baker’s decision to put him in the lineup slowly was the right one:
There’s a lot of questions going into every decision. These are smart people that are making the decisions. If I do happen to help the team win one extra game before the end of the season and that one extra game gets us home-field advantage all the way to the World Series, I think the fans will be pretty happy I played.