Weekly Top 5—Baseball's Best: 7/21/08
This is the first edition of "Weekly Top 5—Baseball's Best." Every week I will give my five best teams. These teams are determined by many factors. Acquisitions, injuries, and the way they are playing now. All these things will be factored in with their full season record when deciding the top-five teams at the beginning of every week.
5. Tampa Bay Rays
4. Milwaukee Brewers
3. Chicago White Sox
2. Chicago Cubs
1. Los Angeles Angels
We knew the Angels were good, but the way they handled the Boston series was fantastic. We knew their pitching was good, but all season they have been hampered by offensive struggles. In their series with Boston, they outscored the Sox, 20-8, though 11 came in the first game.
The Chicago Cubs could very well be No. 1, but losing three in a row while scoring four runs, one by a solo home run off Carlos Zambrano's bat, made all Cubs fans cringe. The thoughts of "NOT AGAIN!" faded in and then right back out. The offense exploded for nine runs in their last game, only one being from a home run. Ryan Theriot leads all shortstops in batting with a .329 average, and Ryan Dempster dropped his ERA to 3.05.
The White Sox are a lot like the Angels. Their pitching has been solid all year, but they've found it hard to score runs at times. Their offense has perked up of late, and starter John Danks continues to throw up blanks. If their unexpected stars (Carlos Quinten, Danks, Gavin Floyd) of the first half can keep it up for the second, Chicago has as good of a chance as any to come out of the American League.
The Brewers have been playing solid ball for the past two months and have cut Chicago's lead to three in the NL Central, with the Cardinals two games back. The Brewers' acquisition of CC Sabathia has to push them ahead of the Cardinals in the power rankings, and the resurgence of Prince Fielder helps move them ahead of the rest of the National League (minus the Cubs).
The Rays have stunned everyone thus far. After they lost seven in a row to close out the first half, people started to write them off. It would be easy, too, but what I saw in the first series after the break was a team that is resilient. A lot of young ball clubs would have rolled over; instead, they started off against Toronto, a division rival, and won the first two games. They got their lead back from the Red Sox and much respect from me.
OVER THE NEXT WEEK
After sweeping Boston, the Angels face Cleveland and Baltimore with an off-day in between.
Chicago will get Alfonso Soriano back on Wednesday or Thursday. It faces the Diamondbacks in Arizona for three before taking on the Marlins for four at home.
The White Sox face Texas at home then Detroit on the road, all the while trying to hold on to a half-game lead on the Twins.
The Brewers play at St. Louis for four games then get to go home to play Houston for three. A tough week for the Crew, with seven games, all against division rivals.
Tampa gets to start off with a three-game series at home, where they should be dominant against the new-look rotation of the A's. They then go to Kansas City for a four-game set.
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