Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

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Gosh, I hope everyone below number four in last week’s rankings was holding on tight, because the Padres could have easily knocked them off the ladder as they plummeted.

1. Yankees (2): Winning eight in a row helps the Bombers take control of the Power Rankings for now, but they have seven games with the Rays in an 11 day period starting next week.

2. Rays (1): Dropping two of three to the Orioles isn’t nearly as embarrassing now as it would have been a month or two ago, but it’s still not something a team that hopes to win the AL East should be doing.

3. Twins (3): If they win the division by a game should they send Alfonso Marquez a check, or does he accept money orders?

4. Reds (5): They dropped two of three to St. Louis, sure, but — by definition — the Cards still have to outplay the Reds by eight games to win the division. That doesn’t seem very likely.

5. Phillies (7): Yeah, I know they’re a game behind Atlanta right now, but they’re just playing better baseball. Phillies fans bitch about Kyle Kendrick. At least they’re not running Kenshin Kawakami and Derek Lowe out there 40% of the time.

6. Braves (6): I have no idea what the Marlins all-time record is against the Braves, but in my mind they always, always, always beat ’em, and usually ruin their season in important ways. And I will not be dissuaded of this by “facts” and “empirical evidence.”

7. White Sox (11): Manny Ramirez hasn’t scored or driven in a run for the White Sox yet, but they are undefeated since they acquired him. I figure that even if he hit .375/.500/.700 after coming over, he’d be the scapegoat if the White Sox missed the playoffs. In light of that, I think we should give him the credit if the Sox win the division, even if he goes hitless the rest of the way.

8. Giants (12): Behold the power of the Rally Thong.

9. Padres (4): A broken team. A cracked polystyrene team. That just crumbles and burns.

10. Rockies (14): What with the Padres’ collapse and the Rockies good play of late, I’ve been hearing references to “Rocktober.” Sorry, but it’s not “Rocktober” to me unless Randall amps, BC Rich guitars, and a second-tier coliseum or armory and a classic rock radio station sponsorship are prominently involved.

11. Rangers (8)/Red Sox (9): Each of them took two of three from a bad team and got swept by an AL Central contender last week. That’s worthy of a tie in my book.

13. Cardinals (10): The best part of all of the Colby Rasmus stuff is that Tony La Russa will be sitting in his retirement lounger or in a broadcast booth when the gravity of his mishandling of the situation dawns on the majority of Cardinals fans. 

14. Blue Jays (13): Yankees and Rays. Tough week.

15. Marlins (16): In Jeff Loria’s defense, he would have given Bobby Cox some sort of retirement gift, but he couldn’t get the final vote from the Dade County Commissioners approving payment to Things Remembered for the engraving on the faux-crystal clock.

16. Athletics (15): Though everyone else will judge this team by its performance against the Yankees last week because no one ever stays up to watch the A’s play at home and against their division, we probably shouldn’t. They are a bat or two from making serious noise in the West.

17. Dodgers (17): Yeah, they dropped two of three in both of their series,
but the Phillies and the Giants are a pretty tough back-to-back draw, so they can keep the same slot as last week.

18. Tigers (19): Hey: a Matt Nokes sighting!

19. Astros (23): I probably had them underrated last week. They’re playing damn fine baseball.

20. Mets (18): Courtesy of D.J.: Ike Davis is batting .370 (20-for-54) with a .500 on-base percentage and 14/14 K/BB ratio over his last 16 games.

21. Angels (20): The Detroit Lions look at the Angels offensive production lately and say “damn!”

22. Cubs (24): There’s been a lot of Ryne Sandberg and Fredi Gonzalez talk, but word on the street is that the players really like Mike Quade.

23. Brewers (21): This is merely a baseball blog and we have like six guys who can take the controls when necessary. The Brewers have a gigantic retractable roof on a gazillion dollar stadium and apparently only one dude who can operate it? Makes sense.

24. Nationals (22): You know those signs they have up at construction sites that say “This
work site has gone ___ days without an accident”? We should rig one of
those things up on this site for Nyjer Morgan and appearances of The
Crazy.

25. Orioles (27): The O’s take it to the Rays. Achieve (I think) their highest ranking all year.

26. Diamondbacks (28): Not sure how I feel about the kinder, gentler Kirk Gibson. I’d like to think that he still has a perpetual case of the red ass.

27. Royals (25): When you’re a Royals fan, you have a lot of time on your hands once September rolls around.

28. Indians (25): Not that they’re doing anything to make themselves worthy of headlines, but the extent to which the Tribe has been banished to the murkiest depths of Ohio sports pages in favor of the Buckeyes and Browns makes me sad. I mean, I’m an OSU fan and I love fall more than any other season, but the near-disappearance of baseball from the newspaper is always a sad time for me. Solution: I think I’ll cancel my newspaper subscription.

29. Mariners (29): Worst part of domed baseball in Seattle: there, more than anyplace else, would be a great place to assemble a pitching staff consisting of “Felix Hernandez and four days of rain.”

30. Pirates (30): A good friend of mine just emailed me from the Braves-Pirates game just getting underway. She says: “Seriously, what beats the sun, the Yuengling and the game? Nothing, my friend, nothing.” Two thoughts: (1) I should totally be at that game right now; and (2) no matter how bad your local rooting interest is — and the Pirates are really, really bad — it’s not hard to find bliss at the ballpark.

James Paxton will “nerd out big-time” to stay healthy next year

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To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.

So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”

When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.

Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.