Your Tuesday Morning Power Rankings

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Rivera Cervelli shake hands.jpgLast week’s Power Rankings are all curdled and sour and are no longer fit for human consumption. Here are some new rankings, fresh out of the cow.  Or maybe it’s bull. You be the judge.

Nevertheless, these rankings reflect data and impressions through play on Sunday night — which was when I came up with the order — and do not include last night’s games. The reason they’re a day late is because it took me longer to write the comments.  Anyway:

1. Yankees: Consider this a leap of faith. A gut call. A wild hair. I know it’s not reflective of their records, but I just feel like it’s time for a change. In this I realize I’m not unlike those college football pollsters who pick some hot Pac-10 team in early October only to really regret it later, but (a) these are the Yankees, not Cal; and (b) they’ve won six of eight while the Rays have been idling for the better part of three weeks. Besides, the Yankees have six straight against the Orioles and Astros for Pete’s sake, and if they can’t blow through that with ease the rankings will take care of themselves.

2. Rays: Best record in baseball, sure, but they’re certainly a notch back from where they had been. That was fine while the Yankees were dealing with injuries and playing a tough patch of games, but Tampa Bay needs to stand on the accelerator a bit harder than they have been lately.

3. Braves: There’s no shame in splitting against the Dodgers in L.A., especially after the sweep of Philly. Once this Dbacks series is over they have six against the Twins and the Rays, however, so they might not want to get too cozy in the catbird seat of the NL East.

4. Twins: Despite being the banged-up (or in some cases just sick) team du jour, dropping three to the Mariners mid-week was not acceptable. Nice bounceback against the A’s, though.

5. Red Sox/Blue Jays: Yes, a freakin’ tie. And I’m not doing this because people have been jawing at me over their respective rankings. Facts are facts: as of yesterday morning they had the same record, nearly identical home and road records, a run differential that separates them by less than a single Pythagorean game, and they’ve both won six of ten. It’s been a month since they’ve played head-to-head and while the Jays took two of three then, this is a different Sox team now. As such, we’re cleaning the slate and moving on. Show us what you got, AL East also-rans!

7. Cardinals: David Freese and Colby Rasmus have been key contributors. The former left with an injury on Saturday and the latter Sunday. St. Louis can’t be without them long.

8. Reds: Remember when everyone was asking why the Reds were bothering to take on Scott Rolen in that trade last year? As of yesterday he was hitting .288/.351/.587, is leading the league in homers and is playing his usual excellent defense. MVP candidate, right?

9. Padres: Just humming right along. Now, trade Heath Bell for a big bat and put some distance between yourselves and the Dodgers.

10. Dodgers: They’re winning the close ones. Like, really, really winning the close ones.


11. Giants: Hanging in there despite a struggling Lincecum and a
double play happy offense. Whoever the Padres go after should be on
their trade deadline list as well.

12. Phillies: At this
point I’m guessing that someone on this team built a house on an ancient
Indian burial ground and in exchange had the entire team’s weapons
rendered impotent by the Great Spirit. Who was it? Werth? Ibanez? I’m
guessing it was one of those guys. 

13. Tigers: Seeing
them send Dontrelle Willis and Adam Everett away shows that
they’re aware that they’re not a complete team at present which should
be
an encouraging sign for fans. Also encouraging: the fact that even
though they haven’t been playing their best baseball of late they’re
still hanging in there with the Twins.

14. Rockies: A
total two-steps-forward-one-step-back team. Just as they’re righting the
ship they drop a series to the Dbacks? I remain convinced that they
have the talent to make a big run and put the flawed Dodgers, Giants and
Padres in their rear-view mirror, but they really need to get it
together.

15. Mets:  You know what’s going to be a fun?
When press-favorite Jeff Francoeur is benched upon the return of Carlos
Beltran and Angel Pagan is given right field as he so richly deserves. I
wonder if the New York press corps will fall for the Jeffy charm like
the Atlanta press did and write about how a guy who has had over 3000
plate appearances to show his true level “just needs more time to turn
it around.”

16. Rangers/Angels/Athletics: Yes,
another tie. This one a three-way!  Really, I’m just going to throw the
Athletics, Rangers and
Angels in a hat pretty soon and just pick them out at random to see
where to rank them, because this “whoever is in first place this week
gets the highest slot” thing isn’t very satisfying to me.

19.
Marlins
: Conversation I had with my brother recently: Me: “I’m kind
of excited to see Mike Stanton.” Him: “He’s still hanging around? What
is he, 45?” 

20. Cubs: Where would they be without Carlos
Silva? What were the odds that anyone would say something like that
unironically this year?

21. Nationals: Between Harper and
Strasburg this is a great week for other Nats players to slump, slack
off, get arrested, etc. No one will notice.

22. Royals:
The Royals are hitting. Can you credit the hitting coach? I dunno, but
if there’s one I’d like to credit it’s Kevin Seitzer. Check
out this great profile
of one of my favorite players from back in
the day.

23. White Sox: The fire sale is imminent. In
other news, based on Ozzie
Guillen’s Spanish-language tweets from yesterday
, I’m pretty sure
he’s angling to become the next President of Venezuela. I’m torn here.
On the one hand he seems to care deeply about the plight of the
Venezuelan people who, for all of Chavez’s populist posturing, aren’t
doing as well as citizens in such a resource-rich country should be. On
the other hand, if you gave Ozzie Guillen an army and diplomatic
immunity you may very well destabilize the entire western hemisphere. 
Screw it: Ozzie in ’12!

24. Mariners: Griffey is off
fishing and Sweeney is on the disabled list. With mom and dad gone the
Mariners can finally throw that party they’ve been talking about.

25.
Brewers
: With Trembley gone in Baltimore I suppose Macha’s seat is
now the hottest in baseball.

26. Astros: Houston selected
Delino DeShields Jr. in the draft last night. They should try to trade
him to the Dodgers for Clayton Kershaw. What? They fell for it once,
they might fall for it again.

27. Indians:  Strasburg is
supposed to pitch in Cleveland on Sunday. It may be the Tribe’s biggest
crowd for the rest of the year.

28. Pirates: Don’t tell me
that they’re not sitting around the hotel this morning talking about
how sweet it would be to beat the holy Hell out of Strasburg tonight.
Part of me wants to see that. Part of me wants to see Strasburg strike
out 16. Part of me wants to see Strasburg come out, hit the mascot with
the first pitch, hit the leadoff batter with the second pitch and then
get ejected, after which he gives quotes about “controlling the
narrative.”

29. Diamondbacks: Talk about a brutal June
schedule: Dodgers, Rockies, Braves, Cardinals, Tigers, Red Sox, Yankeesm
Rays and then the Cardinals again. Mercy.

30.  Orioles:
How long does Juan Samuel get to prove himself before that “interim” tag
starts to set in concrete? I’d say a couple more weeks. If the O’s
don’t go on a nice little run by then he’s officially a placeholder.

Shocker: Bruce Bochy tabs Madison Bumgarner to start Opening Day

Madison Bumgarner
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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You might want to sit down for this news. Giants manager Bruce Bochy has tabbed ace Madison Bumgarner to start on Opening Day in Milwaukee against the Brewers, CSN Bay Area’s Alex Pavlovic reports. Shocking, I know.

The Giants had a busy offseason, adding Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to the starting rotation, but neither had a shot at getting the Opening Day nod considering what Bumgarner has done for the Giants over the last five seasons.

Since the start of the 2011 season, the 26-year-old lefty compiled a 3.05 ERA with 1,034 strikeouts and 239 walks across 1,050 innings. Among starters who logged at least 800 innings in that span of time, only Clayton Kershaw, Cueto, Zack Greinke, David Price, and Felix Hernandez have posted lower ERAs.  And Bumgarner is the only one among them with a championship ring. In fact, he has three.

Tony Clark is not happy so many players remain unsigned

ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND EDITIONS, JAN. 18-19 - This Jan. 15, 2014 photo showing new baseball union head Tony Clark during an interview at the organization's headquarters, in New York. Clark has big shoes to fill _ and not just as Michael Weiner's replacement as head of the baseball players' union. Moving from Arizona to New Jersey, the former big league All-Star also needed to find size 15 snowshoes.  (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
AP Photo/Richard Drew
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We’re almost halfway through February. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training soon. And yet, there are more than a handful of solid free agents that remain unsigned. Among them: Yovani Gallardo, Ian Desmond, and Dexter Fowler. All three have draft pick compensation tied to them, as each rejected a one-year, $15.8 million qualifying offer from his respective former team. That, undoubtedly, is a reason why they haven’t inked a contract yet.

MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark is unhappy about this reality and expects to discuss potential changes when the next collective bargaining agreement is negotiated. The current CBA expires after the 2016 season. Per the Associated Press, Clark said last week, “I think it’s disappointing when there are as many talented players still without a home. I don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interest to be in a world where very talented players are at home for whatever reason they are there. It will likely be a part of the conversation in bargaining.”

Clark also mentioned, among other things, the possibility of a draft lottery, which would take away the incentive for teams to “tank”, or lose on purpose. The Astros and Phillies have notably done this in recent years, finishing with baseball’s worst record and thus netting the #1 overall draft pick.

These are, however, simply two items of many that will be discussed during the upcoming offseason. It will be interesting to see what solutions are eventually put in place.

Michael Pineda hopes to reach 200-inning mark for first time

New York Yankees' Michael Pineda delivers a pitch during the third inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
AP Photo/Adam Hunger
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It was reported on Friday that Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka isn’t sure if he’ll be ready for Opening Day as he makes his way back from arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur from his right elbow. His health will be crucial to the Yankees’ chances this season, but the same goes for rotation-mate Michael Pineda, who hopes that this is the year he’ll be able to take on the workload of a frontline starter.

Pineda was on pace for a career-high in innings last season, but he landed on the disabled list in late July with a right flexor forearm muscle strain and missed a month. He struggled upon his return and ended up with 160 2/3 innings, so he fell short of his career-high of 171 innings as a rookie with the Mariners way back in 2011. Now going into his age-27 season, Pineda told Bryan Hoch of MLB.com that his goal for 2016 is to reach 200 innings for the first time in his career.

“For me, this year, I’m coming here early to be strong and working hard to pitch 200 innings this year,” Pineda said at the club’s Minor League complex. “I want to throw 200 innings this year. This is my goal, and help my team.”

Pineda had a mediocre 4.37 ERA (90 ERA+) last season despite impressive peripherals with 8.7 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9. Among pitchers with at least 160 innings pitched, only Bartolo Colon of the Mets had a lower walk percentage. Pineda managed to increase his ground ball rate to 48.2 percent and also saw an uptick in velocity from 2014, so there’s reason to believe in improvement if he can stay healthy.

Brewers GM: Acquiring Jacob Nottingham doesn’t change Jonathan Lucroy’s status

Jonathan Lucroy
AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin
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The Brewers acquired prospects Jake Nottingham and Bubba Derby from the Athletics on Friday in exchange for slugging outfielder Khris Davis. The hope is that Nottingham will develop into the Brewers’ catcher of the future, so you could say that the club is planning for life after Jonathan Lucroy. However, Brewers general manager David Stearns said today that the trade doesn’t change Lucroy’s immediate status.

The Brewers are in rebuild-mode and Lucroy is an excellent trade chip if healthy, as his contract includes a $5.25 million club option for 2017. It’s likely just a matter of time before he’s shipped elsewhere, but yesterday’s trade shouldn’t change the timeline for a potential deal. Nottingham doesn’t turn 21 until April and has yet to play in Double-A, so he’s still a ways off from the majors. The Brewers can afford to wait on the right offer for Lucroy, whether it’s in spring training or at the trade deadline or perhaps later.

Checking in at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, Nottingham batted .316/.372/.505 with 17 home runs over 109 games last season between Class A and High-A. He was traded from the Astros to the Athletics as part of the Scott Kazmir deal last July. It’s worth noting that Stearns was the assistant GM for Houston when Nottingham was drafted in the sixth round back in 2013, so he’s clearly a fan.