MLB Power Groupings: Behold The Marlin Heat

Nino Colla@TheTribeDailySenior Writer IJuly 7, 2009

CHICAGO - MAY 2:  Hanley Ramirez #2 of the Florida Marlins bats against the Chicago Cubs during the game on May 2, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

With that, we've got a pretty good idea of who our contenders and pretenders are.

Of course, I'm not talking about anyone in any Central division. Oh man, my jokes about the AL and NL Central are just about shot, wouldn't you say? More shot than the Indians playoff hopes, at least.

I can still have fun at the expense of my own team though, can’t I?

Welcome to the Disaster Zone

Baltimore, Cleveland, Oakland, Washington, San Diego, Arizona

Is there anything left I can really say about Baltimore and Washington? It seems like I've run out of nice things to say about the two teams that have been bad the longest.

Oakland and Cleveland are fresh faces, so I can pick on them a little while longer. They also faced each other last weekend, and Cleveland got the best of the series. Yet, they both have only won three of their last ten.

Then, we have the NL West twins, who would be in here regardless of what division they played in if you ask me. They can run from last place. San Diego might, since Arizona is bad; or if they flip-flop, I guess only one can be in last.

But they both share a bad position.

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Teetering on the brink of disaster.

Kansas City, Pittsburgh

The Royals are skating by on the slimmest of margins right now. Cleveland showed that you could avoid it for awhile, but eventually, they'll give in.

Pittsburgh is in the same boat, and would probably have been in the disaster zone by now if their division beat them down a little more. The Nyjer Morgan trade is just one more step towards achieving futility.

Shifty Eyes

Atlanta, New York Mets, Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati, Houston

"Shifty eye" group lost a lot of members in the past week. Some have moved up, Pittsburgh moved down, but overall, the only teams left are National League teams.

At the rate the Mets are going, they could soon find themselves behind Atlanta. To me, that isn't shocking because you're looking at the guy who picked them third.

Atlanta isn't doing much better, but the key is that they aren't playing as bad as New York is.

Then we have half of the NL Central, which is actually half of the NL Central in Chicago, Cincinnati, and Houston. These three teams are either one game above the .500 mark, right at it, or one game below it.

They are the definition of shifty eyes, just waiting to be in the middle.

However, not all of them can make the jump, and eventually one, followed by another, will probably take the plunge.

Chicago seems to be the team that can rise above, especially with them getting Aramis Ramirez this week. Ramirez isn't a cure-all pill for them, though; they'll need some more help.

I refuse to buy into Houston; they're mediocre, and they'll hang around for awhile. Cincinnati, meanwhile is mediocrity that I believe can rise above.

I like the middle, where the center is warm.

Tampa Bay, Toronto, Chicago White Sox, Minnesota, Seattle, Florida, Colorado

Tampa Bay was doing well there for awhile, until they ran into the suddenly-hot Texas Rangers. They managed to take two out of three from the Blue Jays; however, Toronto is still right there with them.

I expect one of them to eventually fade, but Toronto's been very impressive in avoiding that. You have to tip your hat to them and the fight they've shown, despite some damaging injuries. The good news for them is they seem to be getting healthy.

Well well well, look who's finally joining the party. Chicago managed to sweep Cleveland and split with Kansas City, while Minnesota took the same number of games from the Royals, and got the best of the Tigers in a weekend series.

Both weeks have put them right into the thick of it with the Tigers for the AL Central, something we knew was coming.

Or at least something I knew was coming.

Seattle remains the little brother—fighting along, but not making that move in either direction. The other left-coast team is Colorado, and while they've cooled off, it looks like they are here to stay.

And finally, the Florida Marlins are back in the race for the NL East. I told you all!

In it to win it.

New York Yankees, Detroit, Texas, Milwaukee, San Francisco

The Yankees made up some ground on Boston at the expense of Toronto, and are now looking to stay afloat before the All-Star break. They've got a tough week ahead of them with road trips to Minnesota and Los Angeles, while Boston welcomes a pair of division bottom-feeders to Fenway.

I mentioned the Tigers losing to the Twins, which is okay. But dropping two to the Athletics is a big no-no, especially with them losing five straight coming into the series.

They'll get a chance to regain that ground this week against the worst the AL Central has to offer, though.

Now, we get to see if Texas is real—and that they are. They caught fire, and now realize that they are in a division title race with a very good team. They've kicked it back up a notch going into the break, and are managing to stay neck-and-neck with the big brother of the AL West.

The Brewers let the Cubs back in the race this past week, and have now put themselves in a position to let the Cardinals gain some ground. They've got a big three-game series with the Red Birds this weekend that will be a nice shot at momentum for either team.

What more can you say about the San Francisco Giants? Has anyone noticed they are the second best team in the entire National League? It's a shame the team that leads their division has such a big lead, but that isn't stopping them from having fun with the rest of the National League.

Here we are, where we should be.

Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles Angels, St. Louis, Los Angeles Dodgers

Surely Boston can do better than 3-3 in a week against Baltimore and Seattle. As I mentioned, luck is on their side this week, with another pair of teams that are in last and second-to-last place.

Hey, Philadelphia, do you feel that? It's the heat the fish from Florida are putting on you. Better watch your backs!

As I mentioned with the Rangers, there is a big series coming up with both teams. The Angels have some of their big guns going, too. Make sure you mark down this upcoming start for Ervin Santana; I'd say it's really important to see what he does in this spot.

Ditto that for the St. Louis Cardinals and their upcoming battle with Milwaukee. It won't be the biggest series of the year for them, but it will probably be the biggest series of the first half.

Then we have the Dodgers. I hear they got some left fielder named Ramirez back; pretty cool for them.

Extra Bases

Evened Up: Cincinnati is at an even .500 record overall and they are symmetrically respectful with their 20-20 records both at home and on the road. Houston is a game short at home of that coolness.

Find a Way: Seattle and Florida are the two lone teams with negative run differentials and winning records.

Don't go extras: Colorado is the lone team in the entire game to not win an extra inning game this season.

On that Subject: Speaking of games in extra innings, the Cubs and Phillies have played the most with 11. The Rays and White Sox have played the least, with three.

Bring on the West: For the first time since opening weekend, Cleveland faced a team from the AL West when they faced Oakland this past weekend.

AL Dominance: The Rays and Angels benefited most from interleague play with 13 and 14 wins, respectively.

Not Beneficial: Some teams received more benefit from interleague play than others. Cleveland is the AL team that fared the worst, with five wins, while the Mets, Brewers, Padres, and Diamondbacks all won just five games as well.

Remember, though—all but a few NL teams lose three interleague games because of the difference in teams.

Coming Up Clutch, but Losing: You know I was really on Cleveland earlier this year for hitting with runners in scoring position, but this year they are right up there in runs scored with two outs and runners in scoring position.

They're third in the AL, behind Boston and Los Angeles by just two and three runs. However they've struck out 181 times with runners in scoring position, only Tampa Bay is worse.

Power Outage: Texas is usually a 40 HR a month team. In June, they hit just 32 long balls. This is a team that had 11 home games in April and hit 41 homers. They played three more home games in June, and still fell nine short of that number.

Pen Help: Oakland is the only team in baseball to not have a pitcher go the distance so far. Is that much of a surprise when they haven't had a pitcher who's started more than one game over the age of 26?

Young arms, especially ones as young as the A's, are protected and are typically just not conditioned to go too deep unless their pitch count is low.

Work Horse: The Dodgers are next to last in quality starts in the National League, yet they've got the best number two man for that stat in all of baseball in Chad Billingsley. That's 44 percent of his team's quality starts.

*All statistics, standings, and opinions were based off their states going into action on July 6.


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