June 18, 2013

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MLB Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

There is another month of baseball to play before the MLB All-Star break so we should know who is good and who isn’t at this point, but I’ll bet there isn’t anyone out there who would have guessed that the best teams during the month of June would be Kansas City, Toronto, San Diego and Oakland. Meanwhile, teams like the Yankees, Rangers and Dodgers are struggling. Where will that leave those teams in today’s power rankings?

The Cardinals can celebrate being at the top of our latest MLB Power Rankings.

1. St. Louis Cardinals (44-25): As a Cubs fan, you never want to see the Cardinals at the top of the list but there’s no denying they have the best record in baseball and are +102 in run differential.

2. Atlanta Braves (41-28): The Braves hold the biggest lead of any division leaders at 6.5 games over Washington.

3. Cincinnati Reds (42-28): If the Reds were in any other division, they’d be in first place.

4. Oakland A’s (42-29): The A’s have made a huge jump from the 15 spot a month ago. That’s what an 18-7 record will do for you.

5. Boston Red Sox (42-29): Boston leads the majors in runs scored with 363.

6. Texas Rangers (38-31): Just like the end of last season, the Rangers have been caught by Oakland.

7. Detroit Tigers (38-29): Right now just Chris Davis is standing between Miguel Cabrera and a repeat triple crown.

8. Baltimore Orioles (40-30): Baltimore has quietly taken the lead in the wild card race and pulled within just 1.5 games of Boston.

9. Arizona Diamondbacks (37-32): I don’t think anyone expected the Diamondbacks to be leading the NL West at this point.

10. Pittsburgh Pirates (41-28): Forget about finishing over .500…the Pirates are on pace to finish close to .600.

11. New York Yankees (38-31): Could this be the beginning of the end for the Yankees. They’ve lost ground in the AL East and wild card races.

12. Colorado Rockies (37-33): Gonzalez and Tulowitzki have lead the Rockies into the race. The pitching will need to improve to stay in it to the end.

13. San Diego Padres (36-34): Seven straight wins will and the Padres are back in the hunt after a 2-10 to the season.

14. Tampa Bay Rays (36-33): Wil Myers has been called up. Now let’s see what he can do.

15. Kansas City Royals (34-34): The Royals have been the best team in baseball, going 12-4 in June.

16. Washington Nationals (34-35): It’s turning into a disappointing season in the capital. The Nats better get back on track soon or it will be too late.

17. Cleveland Indians (34-35): Here’s a team that has really cooled off and is just 5-10 in June.

18. San Francisco Giants (35-34): The Giants will have to do better than 14-22 on the road if they want to defend their title.

19. Toronto Blue Jays (33-36): The Jays have six wins in a row and are climbing out of a big hole.

20. Philadelphia Phillies (34-37): The Phillies are second in the majors in quality starts but don’t have much to show for it.

21. Minnesota Twins (30-36): The Twins are near the bottom in just about every pitching category. Not good.

22. LA Dodgers (29-39): Talk about a wasted season…nobody is farther away from next-to-last in their division than the Dodgers.

23. LA Angels (31-39): Here is another team that was supposed to contend and has let their fans down.

24. Milwaukee Brewers (28-40): It’s going to be a dead heat with the Cubs for last place in the NL Central.

25. Chicago Cubs (28-40): It’s going to be a dead heat with the Brewers for last place in the NL Central.

26. Seattle Mariners (31-40): King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma are lights out pitchers right now. They aren’t getting much help though.

27. Chicago White Sox (29-38): It looks like it will be a tight race for worst team in Chicago.

28. New York Mets (25-40): The Mets are making a strong run towards the worst record in baseball with a 3-10 start in June.

29. Houston Astros (26-45): An 8-8 record so far this month is a big improvement for the AL West newcomers.

30. Miami Marlins (22-47): The Marlins are playing better, posting an 8-6 record so far this month.

May 21, 2013

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MLB Power Rankings

By: Joe Williams

Now that we’ve made it a quarter of the way through the MLB season we know a few things we thought at the start of the season are right (Texas is good, Houston is not) and a few are wrong (Boston is good, the Dodgers are not). So it’s time for the first power ranking post of the season.

After losing six in a row, the Orioles have fallen close to the middle of the pack.

1. Texas Rangers (29-16): It sure looks like they picked the right time to lets Josh Hamilton leave town.

2. Atlanta Braves (26-18): One Upton brother has been their best player, while the other has been their worst.

3. Boston Red Sox (27-18): Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz are a combined 12-1 so far.

4. St. Louis Cardinals (28-16): The Cards lead the majors in ERA.

5. Cincinnati Reds (27-18): The Reds are 16-6 at home, the best record in the majors.

6. Cleveland Indians (26-17): Five straight wins and 8-2 in the last 10 makes the Tribe the hottest team in baseball.

7. New York Yankees (28-16): Who would have thought they would be in first place without all of their injured stars?

8. Detroit Tigers (23-19): The Tigers have scored 20 more runs than their opponents this month but are just 8-9 to show for it.

9. Pittsburgh Pirates (26-18): Forget about finishing over .500…the Pirates are on pace to finish close to .600.

10. Arizona Diamondbacks (26-19): I don’t think anyone expected the Diamondbacks to be leading the NL West at this point.

11. Colorado Rockies (24-21): The Rockies are leading the majors in runs scored with 222.

12. Tampa Bay Rays (23-21): Reigning AL Cy Young winner David Price has be awful, but Matt Moore (8-0) is filling the void nicely.

13. San Francisco Giants (25-20): The defending champs are known for their pitching but their batting average ranks second in baseball.

14. Baltimore Orioles (23-21): Six straight losses have the Orioles five games behind the Yankees.

15. Oakland A’s (24-22): The A’s are 24th in batting average, but 9th in getting on base. Why? They lead the majors in walks with 187.

16. Washington Nationals (23-22): Anybody know what’s going on with Strasburg? He’s been offered to me in my fantasy league and I just can’t decide.

17. Kansas City Royals (20-21): After a hot April (14-10) the Royals have cooled off.

18. San Diego Padres (21-23): San Diego has recovered from a 2-10 start. Can they keep it up?

19. Philadelphia Phillies (21-24): Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay are 7-13 combined. Ouch.

20. Seattle Mariners (20-25): King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma are lights out pitchers right now. They aren’t getting much help though.

21. Chicago Cubs (18-25): Matt Garza is finally back….and the Cubs need him to be great.

22. Chicago White Sox (20-23): Paul Konerko, Jeff Keppinger and Adam Dunn are hitting .220, .199 and .172. They’ll keep losing if that doesn’t improve.

23. Minnesota Twins (18-23): After losing eight of the last ten, the Twins are in the AL Central cellar.

24. LA Angels (17-27): Here is the first of three teams battling it out for most disappointing team of the season.

25. New York Mets (17-25): Where would this team be without Matt Harvey?

26. Milwaukee Brewers (17-26): With the Astros moved to the American League, the Brewers are in danger of being the worst team in the NL Central.

27. Toronto Blue Jays (18-26): Toronto tried to fight fire with fire by signing big name free agents but so far they are getting burned.

28. LA Dodgers (18-25): The Dodgers by far the most disappointing team in the National League and maybe in all of baseball.

29. Miami Marlins (13-32): The Marlins have scored just 122 runs and are last in the majors. They are also last in batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage.

30. Houston Astros (13-32): The Astros have allowed a whopping 266 runs this season and are last in the majors. They are also last in ERA, quality starts and WHIP.

October 1, 2012

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2012 MLB Postseason Awards: American League

By: Anson Whaley

With the MLB season ending this week, here are my thoughts on who should win awards in the American League. We’ll take a look at the National League next week.

Could Justin Verlander win back-to-back Cy Young awards?

Most Valuable Player – Miguel Cabrera

There will be plenty of support for the Los Angeles AngelsMike Trout. Trout leads the league in runs and stolen bases, and should be a unanimous choice for the Rookie of the Year award. But when it comes to the best in the league, he falls significantly short of the Detroit TigersMiguel Cabrera. Heading into the season’s final week, Cabrera is having a historic year and contending for the Triple Crown. He currently leads the American League in home runs (43), runs batted in (136) and batting average (.325), and if he can hang on for the elusive Triple Crown, he’ll be the first position player to achieve the feat since Carl Yastrzemski did it in 1967.

And when it comes to the team aspect, barring a significant collapse, Cabrera’s division-leading Tigers should get into the postseason. The Angels have a shot at getting there, too, but with a few teams ahead of them in the Wild Card standings, it will be an uphill battle.

In addition to his strong offensive season, Trout is also an incredible defensive talent and may even win a Gold Glove. But that’s not enough to top Cabrera who’s simply having a rare year.

Cy Young – David Price

This one could come down to the wire and promises to be a close vote. The main contenders should be the Tampa Bay RaysDavid Price and the Tigers’ Justin Verlander (although Rays’ closer Fernando Rodney will have a shot at it, too). The two starters are neck and neck when it comes to statistics. Heading into this week, Price leads Verlander in wins (20-17) and ERA (.256 to .264), while Verlander has the edge in strikeouts (239 to 205). The Tigers are likely headed to the playoffs while the Rays will probably be left on the outside. I’ll give the nod to Price for the lead in wins and ERA over Verlander, but I’d have no problem if the vote went the other way.

Another candidate for the award is the aforementioned Rodney, who has a microscopic ERA of 0.62, 46 saves, only 15 walks, and 72 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings. There is precedent here suggesting he could win the award as his numbers are eerily comparable to those of Dennis Eckersley, who won the Cy Young and Most Valuable Player award in 1992. Personally, though, I can’t justify naming a closer as the league’s top hurler when he’s pitched only about 1/3 of the amount of innings as starting pitchers have.

Rookie of the Year – Mike Trout

With Trout having a chance at the Most Valuable Player award, there’s little doubt he’ll win this award. He’s having such a dominant season that it would even be an outrage if he weren’t the unanimous selection. And in all honesty, it’s not even fair to mention other candidates in the same breath as him. Ready for this? Trout leads all rookies (both American League and National League) in runs, hits, home runs, runs batted in, batting average, walks, stolen bases, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS.

Game. Over.

Manager of the Year – Buck Showalter

A few candidates such as the Oakland Athletics’ Bob Melvin or even the Rays’ Joe Maddon could get the nod here, but my vote goes to the Orioles‘ Showalter. He’s done an incredible job of taking a team that hasn’t had much success in recent memory and getting them into the playoffs. Showalter’s accomplishment is even more noteworthy when you consider he’s in the difficult AL East battling the Yankees and Rays who each have about 90 wins. The O’s have done it all with few stars and even if they can’t hang on to the division in the final week, Showalter has done an admirable job of turning a perennial laughingstock into a winner. Baltimore hasn’t had a winning season since 1997 and Showalter’s turned things around quickly, leading the Orioles to a 90-win year in only his second full season with the club.

September 26, 2012

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Taking a Look at True World Series Contenders

By: Matt Bowen

As the 2012 MLB season begins to wind down and the playoff picture begins to take shape, realistic expectations are realized for postseason play. MLB baseball is reaching a fever pitch heading into the post season. Once almost forgotten about because of the start of the 2012 NFL season, America’s true favorite pastime couldn’t be more exciting right now.

The Cardinals are the defending champions, but who will win the World Series this season?

This season adds another Wild Card contender into the mix, which was once frowned upon by diehard baseball fans, but is now quite exciting as the added slot has put many teams in the running.

Over the weekend the Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants all clinched playoff berths in the National League.  The Atlanta Braves clinched a Wild Card spot  on September 25.

The Nationals have finally had success after struggling since moving to the nation’s capital in 2005. With a plethora of young talent and a Cy Young contender in pitcher Gio Gonzalez, the Nats will be in the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Unfortunately for the up-and-coming squad, 2012 won’t be their year to win it all, but the future is bright.

In terms of the Braves, they get redemption for faltering down the stretch and missing the postseason last year.

As for the Reds, the team is a fine blend of pitching and hitting and they have a good shot of reaching the World Series. Led by slugger Joey Votto and a lethal bullpen to shutdown games, the team is feared. Don’t be surprised when the Reds end up in the World Series.

If the Reds are to win the NL pennant, they will have to defeat the Giants, who have the necessary experience to win it all. Considering they reached the ultimate goal in 2010, the Giants are primed to make another run.

The American League has some tight races at the top of the East and Central divisions as the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles are neck-and-neck along with the Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers.

Both of these battles are great for baseball as the Yankees and Tigers were the preseason favorites while the Orioles and White Sox were somewhat of an afterthought. Neither team expected to reach the magnitude of success they’ve enjoyed this season.

No team has yet to clinch in the AL, but the races sure are enticing.

The Wild Card picture is what’s best in baseball right now. There are currently five teams within five games of the four Wild Card spots.

The current leaders are the Orioles and Oakland Athletics in the AL and the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL. Within striking distance of the current leaders are the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Tampa Bay Rays and Tigers/White Sox in the AL and the Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers and Philadelphia Phillies in the NL.

So, who has a legitimate shot? Historically, the season’s best record or the highest payroll doesn’t guarantee a World Series ring. Like the St. Louis Cardinals of last season, many times it’s the team that gets red hot and rides the lightning that goes down in history.

Right now, the Giants and Reds looks like they’ll compete for the pennant in the NL and the Texas Rangers and the winner of the Central will duel in the AL.

September 6, 2012

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2012 MLB Darlings: Baltimore Orioles and Oakland A’s

By: Matt Bowen

The 2012 MLB season is the embodiment of what fans love to see. With just about a month left in the regular season there are some surprises in the standings.

As of September 6, both the Baltimore Orioles and the Oakland Athletics are the Wild Card leaders in the American League. How could this be? Both teams lack payrolls skyward of $100 million. In fact, in the A’s case, they have the lowest payroll in all of baseball.

Not many people were expecting the Baltimore Orioles to make it to the playoffs from the AL East.

Both teams are currently 76-60 because of top-notch management within their organization from the GM to the manager on the field. These teams mimic the definition of hard work. They are the true meaning of a team. Without the money to fork over $200 million contracts to big-named free agents, they have forged their identities elsewhere. They are the antithesis of buying a championship.

Sports fans were treated to the feature film Moneyball in 2011, highlighting the methods of A’s GM Billy Beane, who has mastered playing professional baseball on a budget. He’s up to it again in 2012 as his team has MLB fans everywhere quietly rooting for the A’s.

While the Orioles payroll is roughly $30 million more than the A’s this year, they’re playing under the blueprint set by Beane. Being that they play in the rugged AL East amongst the likes of the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, they too have the momentum of the underdog.

If it weren’t for Nick Markakis of the Orioles, neither team would have an everyday player who’s hitting north of .300. These teams lack stars that will receive massive endorsement contract in their lifetime, yet their players are heroes within their own small market communities.

Behind Adam Jones, Matt Weiters, the aforementioned Markakis and the up-and-coming Manny Machado, the Orioles have a bright future. The same can be said about Yoenis Cespedes, Jemile Weeks, Jarrod Parker and Josh Reddick for the A’s.

Both of these teams may have been former breeding grounds for big teams to pluck their best players in free agency, but this will happen no longer, they are contenders. With optimistic fan bases for both sides and a cult following that is growing daily worldwide, there’s plenty to love about the Orioles and the A’s. They simply give hope to all the Davids living in a Goliath world.