Here are the RoxPile Power Rankings for Week 8, the week of May 23, 2011.
1. Cleveland Indians (29-15, 1st in the AL Central)
No, this isn’t a scene from Major League, the Indians really top the inaugural RoxPile Power Rankings. With a Major League-leading 29 wins and a seven-game lead over second-place Detroit, the Indians aren’t just a fluke. They’ve proven they’re a force to be reckoned with in 2011.
2. Philadelphia Phillies (28-18, 1st in the NL East)
The Phillies boast the highest winning percentage in the National League at .609 but have lost six of their last 10 games. Pitching wise, Philadelphia is obviously the team to beat in the NL, but they lack serious offensive power. Phillies fans can’t wait for Chase Utley to return to the lineup soon, as he could prove to be the spark they’ve been looking for at the plate.
3. Tampa Bay Rays (26-21, T-1st in the AL East)
After the Rays lost Carl Crawford to free agency and their bullpen was competely gutted, the Rays were given up for dead. However, after a weak start to 2011, the Rays have found new life behind the bat of third baseman Evan Longoria and the arms of David Price and rookie Jeremy Hellickson. They currently stand tied for second in the American League East, even with the New York Yankees, but are making a strong push for a second consecutive AL East title, and a new ballpark in downtown Tampa Bay.
4. Florida Marlins (26-19, 1.5 GB in the NL East)
As it stands right now, the NL East may be the toughest division in baseball. The Marlins stand in second place in that division, something that’s not easily accomplished when you’re playing behind the Phillies. Anibal Sanchez has been dominant in the rotation, and there’s no beating Josh Johnson when he’s on his game. He’s already taken three no-hitters past the seventh inning, and is a prime candidate to throw a no-no this season. The offense is potent behind young outfielder Mike Stanton, and could easily make waves in the NL East down the road this year. The Rockies welcome in the Marlins August 15th-17th.
5. San Francisco Giants (27-19, 1st in the NL West)
The Giants are the defending World Champions for a reason – they’re good. They got swept last week by the Rockies, but before then had gone 9-2 in their last 11. Coming off a fresh sweep of American Leauge rival Oakland, the Giants should be primed to finish off May strong and should march into June playing at the same high level. If the Giants can stave off the Rockies and the upstart Diamondbacks, they’re the favorites to repeat in the NL West.
6. New York Yankees (25-20, T-1st in the AL East)
That’s right, the Yankees aren’t in the inaugural Top 5 of the RoxPile Power Rankings. They were left out for good reason too. While they’re still among the best in baseball, they aren’t even dominating their own division. Currently they stand tied for first with Tampa Bay in the AL East, and can’t seem to put any distance between them and the rest of the pack. Curtis Granderson has already hist 15 home runs, and Alex Rodriguez has struggled in May. Derek Jeter is within shouting distance of the 3,000 hit mark, but if he can’t perform, the Captain may find his team in danger of being left out of the October festivities.
7. St. Louis Cardinals (28-20, 1st in the NL Central)
It’s not really a surprise the Cardinals are on top of the NL Central. The Reds made a convincing case earlier in the year, but have struggled a little. Currently, the Redbirds hold a 2.5 game lead on Cincinnati, and look to further their division lead off the bats of Matt Holliday, who leads the National League in hitting at .349 with six home runs and 31 RBIs, and Albert Pujols who isn’t doing too terribly at .269/7/25. The Cards thought they’d miss their ace Adam Wainwright, but aside from an issue with the performance of closer Ryan Franklin, the Cardinals have settled in nicely and are cruising.
8. Cincinnati Reds (25-22, 2.5 GB in the NL Central)
The Reds are arguably the biggest threat to the St. Louis Cardinals in the NL Central. Sitting just 2.5 games back behind the division leaders may not look like much, but with the way St. Louis is playing, that may be tough to overcome. The Reds have the talent to do it, and do it in convincing fashion – Joey Votto, Aroldis Chapman, and Edinson Volquez all are helping the Reds to a very nice May performance, but if they let even one or two series slip up, the Cardinals could take advantage and widen the gap in the NL Central. Don’t sleep on the Reds come September.
9. Atlanta Braves (26-23, 3.5 GB in the NL East)
Again with the NL East. Three of their five teams are in the Top 10 of the RoxPile Power Rankings, and that’s a good barometer of how tough that division is. Atlanta is putting pressure on both Philly and Florida to perform, and Atlanta has the talent to strike if either of those teams fails. Don’t count Atlanta out – remember they have recent postseason experience, playing in the 2010 NLDS against the San Francisco Giants. If that’s not a good litmus test, I’m not sure what is.
10. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (24-24, 0.5 GB in the AL West)
The Angels have recovered well from the news that first baseman Kendrys Morales will miss the 2011 season after breaking his ankle celebrating a walk-off win in 2010. Erick Aybar, Maicer Izturis, and Howie Kendrick are all anchoring this Angels team and keeping the pressure on division-leading Texas. This race could very easily come down to the final week of the regular season.
11. Detroit Tigers (23-23, 7 GB in the AL Central)
The Tigers may not be within shouting distance of the Indians in the AL Central, but that doesn’t mean they’re not a threat to contend. Jhonny Peralta has been hitting well, and Miguel Cabrera has looked like the AL MVP he once was. If the Indians falter in the coming weeks and in interleague play, the Tigers have a golden opportunity to put some pressure on their rivals.
12. Colorado Rockies (23-22, 3.5 GB in the NL West)
What an emotional roller coaster the Rockies have been on in the past week. From sweeping the Giants in a two-game series to getting swept by the Milwaukee Brewers, the Rockies are really feeling the heat as they return home for a 7-game homestand. They start off with four games in three days against the Arizona Diamondbacks (winners of five straight, mind you), then welcome in the Cardinals for three, and then head to LA for three with the Dodgers. If the Rockies can get off on the right foot against the Diamondbacks, they should be in good shape as the Cardinals have historically struggled at 20th and Blake. A quick road trip to Los Angeles could help the Rockies send May out on a high note, but the team has struggled there recently. the Rockies must get off to a good start in June if they hope to perform well against American League teams and stay competitive into July.
13. Texas Rangers (24-23, 1st in the AL West)
When reigning AL MVP Josh Hamilton went down with a broken arm weeks ago, things were not looking up in Arlington. The Rangers however currently hold a half-game lead over the Angels in the AL West, and if Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz can continue to hold down the fort until Hamilton gets back, the defending AL Champions could once again be the team to beat out West.
14. Oakland Athletics (22-25, 2 GB in the AL West)
The A’s aren’t off the radar in the AL West. Sitting only two games back in the closest division in baseball right now numbers-wise, the Athletics could pose a threat to both the division-leading Rangers and the Angels. Former World Series MVP Hideki Matsui has been arguably the best offseason acquistion Billy Beane made, and players like Kurt Suzuki and Coco Crisp are playing at a high level. The loss of pitcher Dallas Braden hasn’t been as tough as many A’s fans expected, which is key if the Athletics hope to remain competitive.
15. Kansas City Royals (22-24, 8 GB in the AL Central)
How about these Royals? Yes, they’re sitting eight games back in the division, but they managed to keep the race against the Indians competitive for much of the first part of the year. While Cleveland has pulled away some, Kansas City has the talent to keep up with the division rivals should the Indians stumble in June. Watch out for Kansas City as a possible playoff dark horse to come out of the Central division.
16. Boston Red Sox (25-21, 0.5 GB in the AL East)
After an 0-6 start, the Red Sox have come roaring back. Now just half a game back in the AL East, the Sox look like the contenders many thought they would be out of the gate. It only took two months, but the Red Sox are on their way back. Yes, they have 2/5 of their rotation on the DL, but Kevin Youkilis has hit .500 for the week and is providing the backbone of an offense dominating much of their competition.
17. Milwaukee Brewers (24-23, 3.5 GB in the NL Central)
The Brewers are back to being the contenders many thought they’d be in the NL Central at the beginning of the year. After struggling for much of the past two months, the Brewers swept the Rockies and got above .500 for the first time in weeks. With offensive pop from players like Prince Fielder, who could be spending his last year in a Brewers uniform, and Ryan Braun, who may be a viable contender for NL MVP come September.
18. Toronto Blue Jays (23-23, 2.5 GB in the AL East)
The Blue Jays aren’t the basement dwellers of the AL East anymore. Jose Bautista could end up being the AL MVP come the end of the season, and though he won’t hit 50 home runs again, he is a threat every time he steps up to the plate. They may not contend for a division title this year, they could be just a year or two away from competing at a very high level.
19. Arizona Diamondbacks (23-23, 4 GB in the NL West)
Normally, sweeping the Twins is a good thing. While a sweep is a sweep, the Twins aren’t good. What is good, though, is the fact the Diamondbacks have won six straight. Four of those six wins, however, came by one run, and three came against the Twins. The Diamondbacks open up a four-game series with the Rockies Tuesday, and could easily fall under .500 if the Rockies get their issues straight.
20. Pittsburgh Pirates (22-24, 5 GB in the NL Central)
For the Pirates, hope always springs eternal. There’s something different this year, though. The Pirates were above .500 just a week ago, and that was the latest they’ve been above that mark in years. Clint Hurdle is doing wonders with this team, and while they’re not great, their pitching staff and improved offense should give Pittsburgh their best shot at a winning record in recent memory.
21. New York Mets (22-24, 6 GB in the NL East)
The Mets aren’t surprising anyone with their rough start. Because of the Ponzi scheme run by Bernie Madoff that screwed the Mets over, they can’t afford to sign the big name players they need to compete. They’re even looking for suitors for Jose Reyes to begin (or continue) their rebuilding process.
22. Washington Nationals (21-25, 7 GB in the NL East)
When the Nationals signed Jayson Werth, expectations ran high. They currently sit at four games under .500, and seven games back in their division. Granted their division is perhaps the hardest in baseball right now, but it’s a guarantee Nationals fans can’t wait to get Stephen Strasburg back next year. Look for Bryce Harper to perhaps make his major league debut this year, however.
23. Seattle Mariners (22-24, 1.5 GB in the AL West)
Seattle has enough talent in its lineup to keep the AL West race competitive. They just need to figure out how to put all the pieces together. King Felix is once again dominating, and the team is only a game and a half back in the West. They may not contend come September, but they definitely have the core group of players that could set them up for a nice run in a year or two.
24. Chicago White Sox (22-26, 9 GB in the AL Central)
Chicago is struggling to produce offensively, and though they only sit four games under .500, they’re a tough nine games back in their division. If the Royals and Indians struggle, the White Sox could make a case for the division, but they need to answer a few questions before they can take the next step.
25. Baltimore Orioles (21-24, 4 GB in the AL East)
The Orioles are actually performing quite well under Buck Showalter, yet they sit at the bottom of the perennially-tough AL East. They only sit four games back in the division, which isn’t bad considering they play under the Rays, Yankees, and Red Sox. They’re only three games under .500, and with a dominant pitching staff and good offensive production, they can definitely make waves in the AL East.
26. Chicago Cubs (20-25, 6.5 GB in the NL Central)
Ah, the Cubs. They haven’t made any sort of noise in baseball as of yet, and probably won’t as long as they continue not to produce. Matt Garza has been their best pitcher this year, but he’s come up on the losing side of games far too often for them to be dominant. Their bullpen needs help, and an aging lineup needs a spark that more players like Starlin Castro and Carlos Pena can provide.
27. Los Angeles Dodgers (21-27, 7 GB in the NL West)
The Dodgers are pretty much the only team in Major League Baseball who were upset the Rapture didn’t take place last Saturday night. From day 1, the Dodgers have failed to meet expectations. Don Mattingly is no Joe Torre, and the financial mess that Ned Colletti and Frank McCourt find themselves in can’t be paralleled anywhere else in the league.
28. San Diego Padres (19-28, 8.5 GB in the NL West)
The Padres seem to be bipolar. In 2010, they looked unstoppable by winning 90 games and holding the lead in the NL West for much of the year. This year, they can’t seem to get started after two months, and are struggling in every aspect. Brad Hawpe hasn’t played the way Padres brass had hoped, and the trade of Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox looks more and more like a bad move on the part of the front office.
29. Minnesota Twins (15-30, 14.5 GB in the AL Central)
What happened, Twinkies? Last year, they were a threat to take home the American League crown. This year, they’re losing their division race to the Indians. Badly. If anyone wants to hit the reset button on 2011, it’s the Twins. They have to get their act together if they hope to avoid disaster for the rest of the year.
30. Houston Astros (17-30, 10.5 GB in the NL Central)
There’s always next year, Astros fans. The pitchers are lackluster, the offense can’t seem to get anything going, and their defense has been shoddy at best. If they can compete, they better get their act together, or all they can hope for is to play spoiler for other teams for the next four months. The Rockies face the Astros August 22nd-24th.