Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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Rays high five.jpg1. Rays: Having a perfect game thrown against them isn’t enough to knock ’em out of the top spot, but the Yankees had the better week and could have easily been ranked first here. If nothing changes next week I just might switch ’em anyway, because I’m tired of posting Rays pictures to the right.

2. Yankees: So why not rank them ahead of the Rays? Because while weekly records are important, big picture matters too. This big picture: (a) the Yankees’ bumps and bruises are troublesome; and (b) a week against the Orioles and the current iteration of the Red Sox does not exactly represent the largest challenge on the planet.

3. Phillies: Last week I said that the Cardinals series could be an NLCS preview. If so, it won’t be much of an NLCS. The Phillies are quite obviously the class of the National League at this moment.

4. Twins: Um, let’s just forget that I put them below the Tigers last week,
OK?

5. Cardinals: Dropping three of four to the Phillies wasn’t too fun, but getting fat on the Pirates and Astros takes the sting away.

6. Padres: I did not anticipate writing “the Padres face a big series this week which will determine first place in the NL West” at any point this season. That’s why they play the games.

7. Giants: Think they’ll make a play for Lance Berkman? Couldn’t hurt.

8. Tigers: The starting pitching is a cause for concern. Indeed, it has inspired me to poetry: “Verlander and Willis and hope the other guys don’t kill us . . .”

9. Rangers: David Murphy has exploded and Tommy Hunter and Derek Holland stand ready to contribute. You get the sense that, before now, the team has been playing with one hand tied behind its back. Now witness the firepower of this fully ARMED and OPERATIONAL battle station!

10. Nationals: And even if they win, if they win, HAH! Even if they win! Even if they play so
far above their heads that their noses bleed for a week to ten days; even if
God in Heaven above comes down and points his hand at the Nats side of the
field; even if every man woman and child held hands together and prayed
for them to win, it just wouldn’t matter because all the really good
looking girls would still go out with the guys from the Phillies because
they’ve got all the money! It just doesn’t matter . . . it just doesn’t matter . . .


11. Athletics: Philosophy 101: If a team was in a pennant race all
season and there was no one there to see it, would it still make some
trade deadline moves?

12. Blue Jays: For someone who was supposed to be a disinterested, lame
duck manager of a rebuilding team, Cito Gaston is doing quite a bit to
snag some manager of the year votes thus far, ain’t he?

13. Mets:  The fact that they’re playing the Nationals in a three-game
series that matters for both teams kind of boggles the mind. Oh, and
Jerry: now that this season is looking more promising than everyone
thought, kicking Oliver Perez to the curb is probably a more pressing
matter than you realize.

14. Reds: A very quiet 4-2 week.  They’re as close to first place as the
Tigers are.

15. Rockies: Evidence that your season isn’t going as well as you had
hoped: one
of your team’s most high-profile bloggers is waxing poetic about the
beauty of a day at the ballpark and how fun it is to watch baseball
regardless of who wins and who loses
. Contrary to what some of you
think, I’m not a Braves-specific blogger. I have been composing that
same sort of essay in mind for a couple of weeks now, however.

16. Red Sox: Evidence of a less-than-ideally-constructed team: when
Ellsbury and Cameron come off the DL, there’s a pretty excellent chance
that they’re going to lose one of their most important players thus far
— Darnell McDonald — to waivers.

17. Marlins: I think the NL wild card race is going to be wide open.
Mike Stanton is killing the ball down at AA. These two facts would
normally lead to a roster move that would benefit the team. But we’re talking about the Marlins here and they’re just not wired
that way. 

18. Brewers: This “score a whole bunch of runs, give up a whole bunch of
runs” Brewers remind me of the John Jaha/Jeff Cirillo Brewers teams.
Maybe a little of the Rob Deer-era too. And I’m not saying
it like that’s a bad thing.

19. Pirates: I stared at the Pirates for ten minutes, wondering if I was
going to do the emotionally-comforting thing and place them below the
Braves or the intellectually honest thing and place them above. Damn
intellectual honesty.

20. Cubs: I’d rather watch an interesting team lose 90 games than a
boring team lose 90 games, and at least Starlin Castro makes the team
interesting.

21. Braves: The fact that a 20 year-old rookie’s absence is so
devastating to the Braves’ chances of winning is a damning indictment of
how everyone else is playing.

22. Dodgers: If they could just find some loophole in the rules that
allows them to bat Andre Either with men on base in all nine slots of
the order, the rest season would be cream cheese.

23. Diamondbacks: Justin Upton: .220/.309/.382.  Wowzers.

24. Angels: They’ve won two of their last ten, and those two came
against a punchless Mariners team. Their saving grace is that the AL
West remains eminently winnable this year.

25. White Sox: I am not making this up: when looking up info for this
team, I attempted to type in “White Sox schedule” in Google. Instead, I
typed in “Shite Sox schedule.” The first three results were two White
Sox blogs and the team’s official site.

26. Indians: I actually overheard this conversation between a father and
his ~10 year-old son as I stood in the raised viewing area above the
left field fence at Progressive Field on Friday evening: “This area is
called the home run porch.”  “Think we’ll get a ball, dad?”  “Well, the
Indians won’t hit it out here, but the Tigers might.”

27. Mariners: Twitter is messed up right now so I can’t find the exact
quote, but Sabernomics’
J.C. Bradbury said this morning — presumably in response to the
Mariners firing their hitting coach — that teams fire coaches to make
fans think that there’s order and reason in the universe and to shield
them from the fact that so much of what goes on in baseball is random. 
Now, I think that overstates the case — the fact that this M’s offense
sucks isn’t random, it was practically pre-ordained — but the point is a
good one.

28. Royals: Oh look! It’s the first “Zack Greinke just doesn’t know
how to win and all of you statsboys who love him can suck an egg

article of the season!  How anyone can misunderstand how bad this Royals
team is apart from Greinke is a mystery to me.

29. Astros: Richard Justice watches this team every day and he says that effort
isn’t the problem
. Just talent. Cold comfort when you’re as bad as
the Astros are, but I guess it’s enough to keep them out of the bottom
slot for this week.

30. Orioles: Hey! Three-game, midweek set against the Mariners! This
should be enjoyed by literally tens of people.

The Mets are set to host the NL wild card game

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 01: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets is congratulated after hitting a two-run home run against the Philadelphia Phillies during the sixth inning of a game at Citizens Bank Park on October 1, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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In the end, the Mets’ march into the playoffs played out just how they imagined: three innings of a Bartolo Colon perfecto, four combined innings of one-run ball from five different relievers, a James Loney home run. Well, maybe it looked a little different when they drew it up.

Colon guided the Mets through five innings for his 15th win of the year, striking out six and giving up a two-run homer in the fifth. Behind him, the Mets combined for five runs off of RBI base hits from T.J. Rivera and Jose Reyes, finding an edge with Loney’s go-ahead homer in the sixth and a bonus RBI single from Asdrubal Cabrera in the ninth inning. Despite a pair of well-placed home runs by Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf, the Phillies found themselves in scoring position just twice and were unable to close the two-run gap to tie the game.

The Mets’ 5-3 win over the Phillies clinched their spot in the postseason, sans tiebreaker. They also secured home-field advantage for Wednesday’s wild card game, during which they’ll face either the Cardinals or the Giants. On Friday, the wild card winner will advance to the Division Series against the Cubs at Wrigley Field.

As MLB.com’s Jeff Passan and Joe Trezza simultaneously pointed out, it will be an unconventional playoff run for the Mets, who approach October without Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz, Neil Walker, David Wright, Zack Wheeler, or Ben Zobrist. Now, if ever, seems like an appropriate time for some champagne.

Indians’ postseason rotation is still up in the air

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 16: Starting pitcher Corey Kluber #28 of the Cleveland Indians pitches during the first inning against the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field on September 16, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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With Game 1 of the Red Sox-Indians ALDS set to commence on Thursday, there’s no better starter for the job than Corey Kluber. The only question is whether or not the right-hander will be up to the task after sustaining a mild quadriceps strain earlier this week.

Indians’ manager Terry Francona appeared optimistic about Kluber’s chances of recovering in time for the Division Series, but admitted that he doesn’t have his rotation set in stone for the first couple of postseason games. Complicating matters is Monday’s potential make-up game between the Indians and the Tigers, which they’ll be forced to play if the outcome has bearing on playoff seeding.

Per MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian, Francona doesn’t have a starter for the make-up game, either, though he clarified that rehabbing right-hander Danny Salazar would not be eligible. Salazar is still working his way back from a forearm injury in hopes of joining the Indians for their postseason run, and needs to toss another simulated game before he can be expected to return to the mound. Kluber, meanwhile, will throw off the mound on Sunday.

With Kluber or Salazar limping out of the gate, the Indians will likely have to fall back on right-handers Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin. Bauer is slated for Saturday’s face-off against the Royals and confirmed his willingness to pitch on short rest through the playoffs. The 25-year-old also spoke to the Indians about his ability to pitch out of the bullpen, though it’s an option they appear unlikely to exercise. While Francona’s comments on Friday stressed the club’s patient approach toward their rotation, Bauer appeared revved and ready to go:

If it was up to me, […] I’d pitch and be ready to start or be available out of the ‘pen every game. In the playoffs, there’s really no reason to save anything. So, whenever I can get in there, whenever they want me to get in there, I’ll be ready.