MLB Power Rankings Week 25: NL West Providing All the Excitement
As the season winds down, more and more teams are getting closer to clinching a playoff berth. The Yankee, Rays, Twins, Rangers, and Reds are all sitting very comfortably in the driver's seat as their respective magic numbers drop by the day.
This is not quite the case in the wild, wild NL West.
The Padres' struggles have opened the door for both the Giants and Rockies. Now only 1.5 games separate the three teams.
The Rockies, seemingly dead in the water two weeks ago, are pounding teams in September and are now a legitimate contender.
The Giants pitching staff has righted the ship and might just run away with the title if the Padres don't figure out how to score more runs.
And at this point in the season, that isn't going to happen.
Two of the three could conceivably make the playoffs as the Braves are starting to fall apart. They have relinquished the NL East lead to the Phillies. Now they are just hanging on for dear life in the wild-card hunt.
30. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates were 48-98 after their loss to the Mets earlier last week. The Pirates were 50 games under .500 for the first time since they finished the 1953 season with a 50-104 record.
But they righted the ship (get it...Pirates?) and swept the D-backs over the weekend.
Now they are only 47 games under .500!
29. Seattle Mariners
From Elias: Felix Hernandez beat the Rangers as he struck out eight batters to take over the AL lead in strikeouts (four more than Jered Weaver) while lowering his league-leading ERA to 2.35.
Over the past 20 seasons there have been 13 pitchers who led their league in both ERA and strikeouts; 12 of them won their league's Cy Young Award the year they did it.
The anemic Mariners offense is the reason Hernandez will be denied the Cy Young.
28. Arizona Diamondbacks
Rodrigo Lopez earned the win as the Diamondbacks beat the Reds Thursday.
Lopez had been winless in his previous 11 starts, the longest such streak within a season for any pitcher in Diamondbacks history.
Lopez was 0-7 with a 6.53 earned-run average during his winless streak.
27. Kansas City Royals
The Royals should be much better than their record.
They have the THIRD-best team average in baseball at .275, yet somehow they rank 23rd in baseball with 573 RBI.
In other words the Royals don't have a clutch bone in their collective bodies.
26. Baltimore Orioles
Adam Jones is having a stellar month of September. He is hitting .410 with 10 RBI with a 1.118 OPS. This is after Jones hit .304 in August.
Encouraging sign for next year.
25. Cleveland Indians
From Elias: Michael Brantley extended his hitting streak to 17 games, the longest for an Indians rookie since Cory Snyder's 17-game streak in 1986. No Cleveland rookie has fashioned a hitting streak longer than 17 games since Larry Doby hit safely in 21 consecutive games in 1948.
24. Washington Nationals
Theall but announced this weekend that Nats' skipper Jim Riggleman would be back on the bench in '11.
Adam Dunn reached the 35-home run mark for the seventh straight season Tuesday night.
23. Chicago Cubs
Tyler Colvin's injury on Sunday wasn't pretty. A broken bat hit him right in the face.
Lots of blood later, Colvin was in bad shape and ended up in the hospital.
It begs the question...what do to about the current MLB bat? Does a more serious injury need to occur to fix this?
22. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers were officially eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday.
What a disapointing season for the Brew Crew. The explosive offense was handcuffed by the awful pitching staff. The 4.69 team ERA, which is 26th in baseball, isn't getting the job done.
If Prince Fielder is traded this winter...GET A GOOD PITCHER!
21. Los Angeles Angels
Scott Kasmir won for the first time in six weeks. He was 1-9 in his previous 12 starts.
Kazmir made his first appearance at Tropicana Field since being traded to Los Angeles by the Rays in August of last season.
Bobby Abreu hit his 20th home run of the season on Sunday. He now has nine 20-homer, 20-steal seasons, third most in major league history. Barry Bonds and Bobby Bonds both reached the plateau 10 times.
20. Houston Astros
The Astros season may ave been over by May, but they have played exceptionally well down the stretch.
On August 21th the Astros were 53-69. Since then they've won 18 of 27 games.
A big reason why is Hunter Pence. His 45 RBI since the All-Star Break are third-most in the NL. Pence leads the team in home runs with 24 and he's tied with Carlos Lee for the team lead in RBI with 85.
19. Florida Marlins
Move over, Fish. The Marlins are getting bumped from their own stadium for a series next June.
Bono has the building booked, so the Marlins have to look for an alternative venue for the June 24-26 series against the Seattle Mariners next season.
18. Los Angeles Dodgers
This week the Dodgers announced that Don Mattingly will be taking over the managerial postion from Joe Torre after the season ends.
It was a rough last season for Torre, who had to constantly deal with the distraction that is the ugly divorce proceedings of his owner, Frank McCourt.
At this point it's clear the Dodgers have completely given up on the season. They are 5-12 this month and the team energy has been non-existent. LA is counting down the days of the season and it's painfully obvious.
17. New York Mets
Rookie Jenrry Mejia has been shut down by the Mets for the season with a strained muscle in his shoulder.
Mejia began the season in the Mets' bullpen before getting demoted to AA in June to resume working as a starter. He had returned to the Mets and was making his third start.
Mejia, the organization's top pitching prospect, is a contender for a rotation spot next spring training. Mejia went 0-4 with a 4.62 ERA in 33 appearances (three starts) in 2010.
16. Oakland Athletics
Chris Carter went 0-for-3 on Sunday. Carter is 0-for-30 in 10 games in the majors. It's the longest hitless streak to begin a major-league career by a non-pitcher since Vic Harris went 0-for-his-first-36 for the Rangers in 1972, their first season in Texas.
Other than that you're doing great.
15. Toronto Blue Jays
Jose Bautista is a beast.
He leads baseball with an impressive 49 home runs. That’s 10 more than second place! Bautista also has knocked in 114 RBI, second-best in baseball.
Where has all the power come from? His previous career high is a mere 16 homers and 64 RBI. This guy is due for a huge pay raise next year.
14. Detroit Tigers
Jim Leyland became the 18th manager to work 3,000 major league games on Sunday night.
Leyland has a 1,486-1,511 record over 19 years with Pittsburgh, Florida, Colorado, and Detroit, leading the Marlins to the championship in 1997 and the Tigers to the American League champs in 2006.
Leyland is just the fourth manager to reach the milestone with a losing record, joining Connie Mack (.486), Bucky Harris (.493), and Gene Mauch (.483).
13. Chicago White Sox
Manny Ramirez has been less than stellar for the White Sox. He has hit .266 and only has one RBI since coming over at the beginning of the month. The late season aquistition has not gone according to plan.
The White Sox currently sit a season-high 9.5 games out of first place in the AL Central. Stick a fork in them, the White Sox are cooked.
12. St. Louis Cardinals
One of the oddest stats during this season was in full force this week. The Cardinals were swept by the Cubs during the week and haven't won a series against a team with a losing record since the end of July.
On the flipside, they took three-of-four from the Padres over the weekend. They haven't lost a series against a team with a winning record since early July.
So I guess it's a problem that they had one of the easiest schedules in baseball.
11. Boston Red Sox
Adrian Beltre has been a monster for the Red Sox in his first season in Boston.
He's hitting .329, which is good enough for third in the AL, with 28 homers and 98 RBI.
September has been really good to Beltre. He has a .383 average with 10 ribbies. Beltre has at least one hit in all but one game this month.
Tough love in the AL East. If the Red Sox were in the AL West, NL Central, or NL West they would be right in the thick of the playoff hunt. Instead they are stuck in third place.
10. Colorado Rockies
Troy Tulowitzki contiues to knock the cover off the ball. He has 14 home runs in his last 16 games. He has 33 RBI in the month of September—that's good enough for seventh on the Mariners roster for the entire season!
The Rox show have been unbeliable once again in the month of September, but time is running out. Only 1.5 games, the Padres and the Giants stand in the way of a NL West crown.
But they need to keep winning, only 13 games remain.
The Giants come to Denver this weekend. Needless to say, this might be the biggest remaining series in baseball.
Jorge De La Rosa has been solid for the Rockies of late. He has won his last four decisions. Lefties are hitting under .200 against him and has gone at least six innings in each of his last six starts.
9. Texas Rangers
Josh Hamilton has finally turned into the all-world slugger most experts had predicted when he was selected No. 1 overall by the then-Devil Rays.
This season he has combined power and average, hitting .361 while hitting 31 home runs and knocking in 97 RBI.
He ranks first in baseball in batting average and in slugging percentage with .635. He ranks second in MLB in OPS with 1.049.
Big problem though.
He hasn’t played since Sept. 4th with aching ribs. An MRI over the weekend revealed three bruised ribs and some inflammation, but the Rangers still have no potential timetable for the slugger's return. The Rangers will need him if they want to have a shot in the postseason.
Hamilton received two cortisone shots this week.
8. San Diego Padres
From Elias: Matt Stairs' ninth-inning homer in a Padres win was the veteran's ninth pinch-hit home run over the last two seasons, a major league record. Stairs had been tied with two players who hit eight home runs off the bench in a two-season span: George Crowe (1959-60 Cardinals) and Dave Hansen (1999-00 Dodgers).
Time to worry about Mat Latos?
The Cardinals scored three runs in the first inning and another five in the second to send Latos home early. Latos allowed two runs in the first inning against the Giants in his previous start after giving up a total of only two first-inning runs in his 26 previous outings.
His ERA has jumped from 2.21 to 2.84 over the last two starts.
Is the innings workload beginning to catch up to the 22-year-old pitcher? He is at 168 on the season.
7. Cincinnati Reds
The Reds are sort of coasting along with such a big division lead. The magic number to clinch is down to eight and the Reds have begun to rest their players more often than usual.
The burning question in Cincinnati involves the closer situation.
Francisco Cordero has been awful of late, blowing multple saves. Jay Bruce had to rob a potential game-tying home run that would have given Coco another blown save.
Fans are clamoring for the young phenom Aroldis Chapman. He has been next to unhittable since joining the Reds August 31st.
But stick with the veteran. Cordero may be going through a slump, but he has been there before. He has 35 saves and went two months earlier this season without blowing a save.
Have patience, because he will rebound from this rough stretch.
6. Atlanta Braves
From Elias: Billy Wagner pitched a perfect ninth inning, striking out the side and earning a save.
It was Wagner's third save this season in which he faced at least three batters and struck out every one of them, tying him with Carlos Marmol for the major-league lead in that category.
They are beginning to fade down the stretch. A 9-9 month is not good enough. The Braves have fallen three games back of the first place Phillies in the NL East. After holding the top spot in the division for most of the season, the Braves are fighting for their lives just to secure the Wild Card spot.They have the ability to do it—the Braves play the Phils six times over the last two weeks starting Monday.
Time to step it up Braves.
5. San Francisco Giants
The Giants control their own destiny in the NL West. They are currently a half-game up on the second-place Padres. They also play both the Padres and the Rockies in the final two weeks.
Pablo Sandoval has really struggled of late.
Sandoval is 3-for-32 in September.
"You've got to keep confidence in him just like he has to keep confidence in himself," said manager Bruce Bochy.
"More than anything, he gets out of balance up there. He gets overanxious, over-amped. He can hit, but when he doesn't, he puts added pressure on himself."
Sandoval had been benched four times in a seven-game span last week. A .330 hitter last season, he is going through more than the typical sophomore slump.
4. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies are red hot. They are 15-3 this month. They have scored at least seven in eight of those games.
Huge series with the Braves awaits. If they take two of three then the race may be over.
Ryan Howard now has five straight seasons with at least 30 HR and 100 RBI. He is the fifth player whose primary position is first base with at least five straight 30-HR/100-RBI season since RBI became official in 1920.
And he made a cameo in the latest season of Entourage. Big things going on for Howard.
3. Minnesota Twins
Danny Valencia homered Saturday for the Twins against the A's.
It's just their 45th HR at Target Field this season.
The ballpark has not been a hitter's park to say the least. If the Twins keep this "pace," they will have one of the fewest amounts of homers by a team in their first season at a home ballpark in the modern era.
Saturday's win gives them 49 at home. In the last 80 years, only three teams won 50 home games while hitting 50 or fewer HR there that season. It hasn't happened since the 1979 Astros won 52 games at the Astrodome while hitting 49 homers there.
The Twinkies swept the White Sox this week, virtually clinching the division in the process. Business as usual for the Twins.
2. Tampa Bay Rays
Intresting stat. From Elias: The Rays edged the Angels, 4-3, in 10 innings on Saturday, the sixth straight one-run game played by Tampa Bay. That's the longest such streak in the Rays' 13-season history and it's one shy of the longest stretch by any major-league team this season. The Diamondbacks played seven consecutive games decided by the minimum margin, from May 30 through June 6.
The Rays are still neck-and-neck with the Yanks for first place in the AL East. Beating them two-out-of-three this week was big, but the four game set at Yankee stadium this week is momuental.
A split would be OK, but taking three would be huge both mentally and in the standings. Beating the big bad Yanks would be a huge boost for the postseason for the small market Rays. If they can get out of the Bronx alive, the schedule really lightens up.
The remaining cupcakes are the O's, Royals, and Mariners.
1. New York Yankees
Andy Pettitte is back.
He returned to the mound after a two-month absence on Sunday. His six innings of three-hit, one-run ball are good enough for a quality start.
What's up with Mariano Rivera? His last four appearances: two blown saves and a loss, 3.1 innings, five hits, three runs.
Kerry Wood has been great of late for the Yanks. In 20 apperances as a Yankee, he has only allowed one earned run and that was 18 apperances ago!
Looks as if Wood will be a major piece of the Yankees bullpen in the playoffs.