Your Tuesday Morning Power Rankings


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
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

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.

: 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.

: 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

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.

World Series umpiring crew announced. Hi, Joe West!

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 12: Manager Joe Maddon #70 of the Chicago Cubs is ejected from the game in the ninth inning by umpire Joe West #22 at against the St. Louis Cardinals Busch Stadium on September 12, 2016 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
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Major League Baseball has announced the umpiring crew for the World Series. John Hirschbeck is the crew chief. It’s his fifth World Series assignment, third as a crew chief.

A surprising name on the crew is Joe West. It’ll be his sixth World Series overall, but first since 2012. There had been chatter for several years that Major League Baseball was making a more concerted effort to get its best umpires into the World Series more often while minimizing the appearances of its weakest umpires. Most assumed West’s absence from the Fall Classic in recent years, despite his seniority, was a function of that. Maybe they’re still making merit a priority and maybe West has just improved? I’ll leave that for you to judge.

Anyway, here is the lineup of umps for Game 1. They will rotate after that, of course. If the series goes six games, Cowboy Joe will be calling the balls and strikes:

Home plate: Larry Vanover
1B: Chris Guccione
2B: John Hirschbeck
3B: Marvin Hudson
LF: Tony Randazzo
RF: Joe West
Replay Official for Games 1-2: Sam Holbrook (with assistance from Todd Tichenor)
Replay Official for Games 3-7: Larry Vanover (with assistance from Todd Tichenor)

World Series Preview: Forget the curses. Buckle up for a close Fall Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 5:  General view of Progressive Field  prior to the start of the Opening day game between the Cleveland Indians and the Toronto Blue Jays at Progressive Field on April 5, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but it’s been a long time since either the Cubs or the Indians have won the World Series. Indeed, the last time either franchise stood as baseball champions, the concept of writing contrived articles trying to contextualize how long it has been since either franchise won the World Series had yet to be invented!

Those were dark times, indeed. It was a time when superstition stood prominent over reason and we were so backwards that we believed in black magic and curses and things. So glad we stand now, at the vanguard of human history, not believing in such nonsense any longer.

OK, I guess a lot of people still like that stuff. We’ll allow it for now, we suppose, and we’ll do our best to bite our tongues when someone who is smart enough to know better decides that curses about goats and 60-year-old trades and comparative anachronism have more to do with who will win the 2016 World Series than the relative merit of a bunch of guys born in the 1980s and 1990s do. Enjoy baseball however you need to.

In the meantime, we’ll be over here thinking about this year’s Fall Classic as a competition between two excellent teams who themselves are not likely thinking about history.

Let’s break ’em down:


The Cubs had the second best offense in the National League, but I prefer not to count the Coors-inflated Rockies’ offense against the Cubs. They scored 4.99 runs a game and hit 199 homers on the year. While that was a nice show of power, their real offensive strength was getting on base, leading the NL in on-base percentage at a .343 clip. The Cubs take their walks and bash the heck out of the ball. Other than the pitcher’s slot and, when he’s starting, the curiously and perpetually-slumping Jason Heyward, there are no easy marks here.

The Indians offense a bit of a different beast. They too were second in their league in run scoring, but were far down on the AL home run list. They were third in average, fourth in OBP and fifth in slugging. It was a pretty balanced attack overall, with good totals in most categories. Their key advantage over the Cubs — and everyone else in baseball for that matter — is on the base paths. The led the AL in stolen bases and had the lowest caught stealing percentage. They likewise shine when it comes to taking the extra base, going first-t0-third and that sort of thing. Not that they’ll have to rely on small ball, however: Cleveland has hit 11 homers in the postseason to the Cubs’ 12.

As is always the case, the DH rule will work to the AL team’s disadvantage. The Indians have the home field advantage but in 2-3 games in Chicago, they will have to sit either Carlos Santana or Mike Napoli while the pitcher bats, playing the other at first base. The Cubs, meanwhile, can add any bat they choose while in Cleveland. Some have suggested that maybe Kyle Schwarber will be that bat. Even if it’s not him, though, the NL team never loses a key player in the AL park.


The Cubs have had the deepest rotation in baseball all season long. Jake Arrieta won the Cy Young last year and Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester will likely both finish in the top three this year. John Lackey has been less-than-stellar this postseason, but he certainly is capable and experienced. The Cubs had the best pitching in the NL this year and it wasn’t particularly close. And that’s before you remember that they have Aroldis Chapman waiting to lock things down late.

As with offense, Cleveland’s pitching is a varied attack. Corey Kluber is an ace and has seemed to find another gear this postseason. Beyond him, however, things get kinda interesting due to injuries and inexperience. Trevor Bauer’s cut finger and the stitches thereon are question marks, but he’s had several days off now and should be OK for Game 2. Josh Tomlin, the Indians’ third starter, has had his moments but he is homer-prone. The X-factor for the Indians may be rookie Ryan Merritt, who was strong in Game 5 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays. The Cubs aren’t as weak against lefties as a lot of teams, but they are more vulnerable against southpaws than righties, so Meritt’s slow junk which has not been heavily scouted as of yet might give them some trouble.

The real key for the Indians pitching, of course, is the bullpen. Particularly Andrew Miller, who manager Terry Francona has shown he will call on at virtually any time and whom he will ride for a couple of innings even on back-to-back days. With a couple of days off built in for postseason travel and the “there is no tomorrow” vibe of the World Series, look for Tito to call on Miller and closer Cody Allen early and often and look for the Indians pen to shorten games in a manner not seen in baseball for a long, long time. That is, if the Indians can snag early leads. Either way, Cleveland’s bullpen is clearly superior to Chicago’s. They’ve struck out 41 batters in 32.1 innings this postseason, with Miller being damn nigh untouchable.


A lot of the Indians’ improvement this season over last came by virtue of an improvement in their defense. Depending on which measure you use, Cleveland’s D was either excellent or merely good, but they were top five or ten by most metrics. The Cubs, meanwhile, were fantastic with the leather by every measure, leading all of baseball in both defensive efficiency and Defensive Runs Saved. If you’ve been reading this site for a while you know that we’re somewhat skeptical of a lot of defensive stats and aren’t super conversant in others. We do, however, give respectful, holistic nods to what both the stats and they eyeballs tell us and it’s hard to argue that Chicago has not been superior defensively in 2016. Neither team is likely to make major mistakes or blunders, but if one does, it could make a big difference because the odds of both teams showing up with iron gloves are extremely low.


Two of the best in the business go at it in this series. Joe Maddon has gotten more press than Terry Francona over the past couple of years, but Francona has built a Hall of Fame resume leading the Red Sox to two World Series titles and leading the Indians back to the postseason this year. Each are willing to be unconventional at times — Francona’s aggressive use of the pen has been notable this year — and neither shoot themselves in the foot. There are a lot of moving parts to a baseball game and any number of ways a team can win or lose, but it’s not likely that one of these teams prevail because either manager out-managed the other.


There is a consensus that this is the Cubs’ World Series to win. I tend to think they will as I tend to think they’re the better overall team, but it’s by no means a given. Partially because no possible outcome in any World Series is a given in light of the small sample size of games. The 1954 Indians won 111 games in a 154-game season and got swept out of the World Series, after all, and there are countless other examples of favorites losing and putative teams of destiny failing to fulfill theirs.

But it’s also the case that these two teams aren’t as unevenly matched as some have suggested. As we see above, the Cubs have the better offense, but the allegedly small-ball Indians have socked homers this postseason. The Cubs have a clear rotation advantage, but the Tribe’s bullpen has been a total game-changer. The Indians run like mad and could pressure those Cubs starters in ways no one has pressured them thus far in October. Each club has a fantastic manager. Anything can happen in a seven-game series and the Indians seem better prepared to give the Cubs fits than either the Dodgers or the Nationals did in the NL playoffs.

But if I have to pick one, I’ll go with the crowd and pick the Cubs. I think it’ll take everything they have however, and if the Indians do win this thing, it will by no means be an historic upset. For now, though: Cubs win in seven games.