Your Monday Morning Power Rankings

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I didn’t have any get-up-and-go last Monday, so I gave the Power Rankings a miss.  Back at it today, where we find greater separation than we’ve seen so far this year. Which is to be expected. I mean, by late July you are who you are.

As always, the last ranking is in parenthesis. As are parentheticals serving other purposes, but I trust you can figure it out.

1. Red Sox/Phillies (tie; and don’t ready anything into the order; that’s just how I wrote them) (2, 1):  Kind of a cop out, I’ll admit.  Both have been great since the break, but both have done it against a bunch of tomato cans like the Orioles, Cubs, Mariners and Padres. Philly has the better record, Boston the better run differential. Mostly, though, after a week off the ranking plus the All-Star break, I just want to hit reset and go forward from here. Now watch as both Boston and Philly fans tear me a new one in the comments!

3. Yankees (3): Fresh off the A’s, the Yankees now get series against the Mariners and Orioles. Time to make a move on them Sox, gents.

4. Rangers (5): Do they make a deal of some kind?  After that white-hot streak they now sit with a four-game lead over Anaheim.  I’d be content to stand pat rather than chase Heath Bell or Carlos Beltran or whoever, but no one really asked me.

5. Braves/Giants (4, 6): Yeah, another tie, another copout. I think the Braves are better. I don’t feel it, though. Not that I’m objective. I always go for the doom first, warranted or not, when it comes to the Bravos.

7. Diamondbacks (10): They’re dropping like flies due to injuries, but Kirk Gibson keeps them chugging.

8. Angels (7): Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells are all on pace for career-worst seasons, yet the Angels are still more competitive than a lot of folks thought they’d be. Viva pitching: the Halos have the lowest ERA in the American League.

9. Tigers (13): A two-game lead in the AL Central? That’s gigantic! OK, maybe not, but it seems it. The Tigers are a notoriously bad second half team, but they’ve started out 5-4 after the break. Which in the Central is like .750 ball.  OK, maybe not that either, but it seems it.

10. Rays (8): Boston and New York beating them up since the break isn’t terribly surprising. Dropping two of three to Kansas City wasn’t expected, however.

11. Cardinals (9): I don’t get the Colby Rasmus trade talk. He’s at his absolute lowest point as a major leaguer right now.  Even if the Cards want him gone, isn’t it highly likely that he’ll pick it up going forward and thus look way more appealing to other teams this winter, for example?  Dealing him now is the functional equivalent of the Cardinals telling the rest of baseball that he’s worthless.

12. Pirates (12): Nice story notwithstanding, I still think this is smoke and mirrors. The offense is insufficient and the pitching has experienced a lot of good luck.  Let us not mistake a pleasant surprise for a legitimately competitive force.

13. Brewers (11): Did not know this: the Brewers are the worst baserunning team in the game.

14. Indians (13): Four losses in a row to division rivals.

15. Reds (18): Yesterday was the first time in over a month that they won back-to-back games. And yet they’re only three games out. They’ve underperformed their run differential pretty dramatically. I wouldn’t be at all shocked to see them get on a roll soon.

16. Blue Jays (17): Six of their next 12 are against Baltimore, and then they get three against the A’s.  That’s good for them, but just be sure to temper your “hey, look what the Jays are doin’!” talk during that period.

17. Mets (15): They don’t play baseball anymore. They exist solely as the vehicle for Carlos Beltran trade rumors. It’s true!

18. White Sox (20): They begin a stretch against Detroit, Boston, New York and Minnesota. If they survive that, look out. If not: deader than vaudeville.

19. Nationals (16):  2011 Nationals under Jim Riggleman: 38-37 (.507); 2011 Nationals under Davey Johnson: 9-14 (.391).

20. Rockies (21): It’s like a 1967 Camaro that hasn’t left the driveway in a long time. You know it would be awesome if it would ever get running, but the odds of that ever happening grow longer every day it stays up on blocks.

21. Marlins (19): 2011 Marlins under Edwin Rodriguez: 32-39 (.451 ); 2011 Marlins under Jack McKeon: 17-13 (.567).

22. Twins (22): I outsource this one to Gleeman, who writes over at his personal blog:

Yesterday marked the two-thirds point of the 18-day, 19-game stretch that figured to define the Twins’ season leading right up to the July 31 trade deadline. So far they’re 6-6 and seven games out of first place, which is a half-game further back than the start of the stretch and the same deficit as a month ago. For all their getting healthy and turning things around the Twins have basically tread water for a month, leaving only 61 games to close a seven-game gap.

23. Dodgers (24): Does any manager have a tougher gig than Don Mattingly this year?

24. Athletics (25): They’re scoring over five runs a game since the break. That’s somethin’.

25. Padres (26): They’re scoring exactly five runs a game since the break. That’s somethin’.

26. Royals (27): Mike Moustakas is coming around.

27. Cubs (28): The Cubs are going to lead the charge in lobbying against the Astros moving to the American League.

28. Orioles (29): From Jeff Zrebiec’s notes column:

Things could obviously change if the Orioles make a couple of trades before the July 31 deadline, but as things stand, the club may need two starting pitchers, a couple of late-game relievers (assuming Jim Johnson is put in the rotation and Koji Uehara does not return), a power-hitting first baseman, a second baseman (it would be a stretch to count on Brian Roberts right now), a left fielder (Nolan Reimold could have something to say about this) and possibly a DH (Luke Scott is a prime non-tender candidate).

Orioles, you keep saying that word, “rebuilding.” I do not think it means what you think it means.

29. Astros (30): They looked gross against the Cubs and probably are the worst team in baseball but …

30. Mariners (23): … I don’t care what your overall record is. You drop 15 straight, you’re at the bottom of the list. That’s one of my rules. I’m a baaaaad man.

Report: Blue Jays weighing extension for Marco Estrada

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The Blue Jays aren’t ready to say goodbye to Marco Estrada just yet, according to a report by FanRag’s Robert Murray. Murray hears that the club is interested in re-signing the right-hander, whose two-year, $26 million contract is set to expire with the end of the 2017 season. According to unnamed sources within the organization, the team has yet to discuss the specifics of an extension, but both sides have stated interest in working out a deal. While the veteran righty appeared to be on his way out after getting claimed on revocable waivers earlier this month, the Blue Jays were either unable or unwilling to arrange a trade in the 48-hour window following the claim.

Estrada, 33, has been a mainstay of the Blue Jays’ rotation since 2015. He hasn’t looked quite himself this season, however, going 5-8 in 25 starts with the club and toting a 5.09 ERA, 3.9 BB/9 and 9.2 SO/9 through 139 2/3 innings. His slump can be partially attributed to a string of rough starts in June and July; more recently, he snapped a streak of three consecutive quality starts with a 10-hit, six-run affair against the Rays. He’ll look to rebound on Sunday when he takes the hill against the Cubs for the team’s series finale.

Command issues aside, there’s no question that Estrada has been productive during his three-year run with the club, earning his first career All-Star nomination in 2016 and posting a cumulative 6.7 fWAR from 2015 through 2017. He still has a bit of work to do to return to the 3.48-ERA, 165-strikeout totals of yesteryear, but barring another slump, seems likely to don a Blue Jays uniform again in 2018.

And That Happened: Saturday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the rest of Saturday’s scores and highlights:

Cubs 4, Blue Jays 3: The Blue Jays didn’t look any more comfortable at Wrigley Field on Saturday than they had during Friday’s series opener, dropping their second straight game after Anthony Rizzo sealed the go-ahead run on an RBI single in the seventh inning. The Cubs, meanwhile, reveled in Jose Quintana’s second quality start of the month and delighted the crowd with a two-RBI effort from Ian Happ and footage of David Ross jumping out of a plane — a stunt that would have doubled in entertainment value had Ross successfully convinced manager Joe Maddon to join in the fun.

Pirates 6, Cardinals 4: Neither the Pirates nor the Cardinals had relievers to spare when a one-hour, 56-minute rain delay disrupted their contest in the second inning. Chad Kuhl and Michael Wacha were forced to return to the mound after the downpour subsided, both to very different results. Wacha struggled to regain command of the strike zone, slipping on two home runs and a productive double play as the Pirates built a five-run lead in the second. Kuhl, on the other hand, limited the Cardinals to one run over five innings, setting down six strikeouts and clubbing a second-inning double en route to his sixth win of the season.

Dodgers 3, Tigers 0: Curtis Granderson made his Dodgers debut on Saturday, scoring on Adrian Gonzalez’s RBI single in the seventh inning to put the club on the board. The win, capped by a smart Yasmani Grandal home run in the ninth, marked the Dodgers’ sixth straight victory and placed them in the history books alongside the 2004 Rays and 2006 Red Sox with 13 consecutive Interleague wins in a single season.

Mariners 7, Rays 6: Mitch Haniger is back from the disabled list, a point he emphasized in the third inning of Seattle’s win with his first career grand slam:

The Rays returned with three solo shots in the last third of the game, but fell just short of the tying run after Edwin Diaz shut down the top of the order in the ninth. With the win, the Mariners positioned themselves half a game back of a wild card spot, though they’ll need to edge the Angels and Twins to avoid any potential tie-breakers.

Angels 5, Orioles 1: Albert Pujols didn’t get any closer to tying Jim Thome’s home run record on Saturday, but that didn’t stop teammate Mike Trout from entering the history books. Trout clubbed two home runs in the Angels’ first win of the weekend, becoming the third Major League player with six consecutive 25+ homer campaigns before his age-26 season. Luis Valbuena, while a good 511 home runs shy of Pujols’ career record and 94 home runs and six years too late to match Trout’s milestone, also collected two home runs to back a solid effort from JC Ramirez.

Twins 5, Diamondbacks 0: The Diamondbacks were toppled in a rare shutout on Saturday, taking their second consecutive loss after an even rarer implosion from ace right-hander Zack Greinke. Greinke expended 96 pitches and a season-high four walks in four innings, while Minnesota trounced the D-backs with a five-run spread in the fourth. The righty’s early exit will put a strain on Arizona’s bullpen during their series finale as the club tries to stop their skid and retake their one-game lead over the Rockies in the NL wild card race.

Reds 11, Braves 8: It looked like Robert Stephenson‘s luck may have finally taken a turn for the better. The rookie right-hander grabbed hold of his first win of the year on Saturday, backing the team’s 11-run outburst with five innings of two-run, three-strikeout ball. Cincinnati’s bullpen was far from flawless, especially after Blake Wood surrendered four runs in the ninth, but Scooter Gennett‘s go-ahead grand slam in the top of the inning gave the Reds enough of a cushion to pull off the series win.

Mets 8, Marlins 1: Marcell Ozuna wore several hats during Saturday’s loss to the Mets, from sole run producer to professional outfield field balloon patrol.

Despite his best efforts, the Marlins couldn’t rally against Rafael Montero, who helped snap a five-game losing streak after scattering one run and five strikeouts over six innings.

Yankees 4, Red Sox 3: Newly-returned from the disabled list, CC Sabathia stifled the rival Red Sox through six innings while Todd Frazier belted the winning run with a 363-footer in the sixth. The Sox still sit four games up in the NL East, however, and commemorated the loss with a solo shot by 20-year-old Rafael Devers, who bounced a home run off the Green Monster for the third homer he’s collected in as many games against the Yankees. For the record, no Major League player under the age of 21 has managed the feat since Babe Ruth in 1915.

Astros 3, Athletics 0: Astros’ third baseman Alex Bregman learned an invaluable lesson during the club’s 3-0 shutout on Saturday: If you’re thinking of running on Boog Powell, don’t.

Indians 5, Royals 0: Trevor Bauer may not understand why he dominated during the Indians’ shutout on Saturday, but that didn’t make him any less grateful for the win. “It’s backward,” Bauer was quoted by MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian. “I wasn’t sharp. I didn’t punch people out. I had a lot of balls hit hard. And no runs. So I don’t know. I’ll take it.” Bauer flummoxed the Royals through 6 1/3 innings, granting seven hits and two free passes while the Indians put up a modest five-run backing against Jason Vargas.

Rangers 17, White Sox 7: The Rangers hit season highs in almost every category on Saturday, dismantling Derek Holland and the rest of the White Sox with a whopping 17 runs, 20 hits and 36 bases. Home runs from Rougned Odor, Mike Napoli and Shin-Soo Choo crowned their efforts as the White Sox took their sixth loss in seven games and dropped to a disappointing 21.5 games back of the division lead.

Brewers 6, Rockies 3: Jesus Aguilar hasn’t been pencilled into the starting lineup since August 16, but that didn’t stop the rookie pinch-hitter from making his presence felt. He cranked a two-RBI home run off of Greg Holland in the ninth, giving the Brewers an edge as they tried to stay ahead of the Diamondbacks for the first wild card spot in the National League. Key defensive moves also played a role in the win, not the least of which was a rare 2-6-2 double play to nab Neil Walker at the plate and close out the first inning:

Padres 3, Nationals 1: Yangervis Solarte played spoiler to Stephen Strasburg on Saturday, taking the right-hander deep on a 1-2 pitch in the first inning for his 13th home run of the season. It was the fatal flaw in an otherwise pristine outing, during which Strasburg distributed four hits, two runs and eight strikeouts in six innings. That’s not too shabby for a pitcher coming off the disabled list with elbow issues, and certainly enough to put the Nats’ minds at ease as they push into the postseason. The Padres still have a 12-game gap to close if they want to contend this October, which will require them to scoot past the Pirates, Marlins, Cardinals, Brewers and Diamondbacks for a wild card spot.

Phillies 12, Giants 9: Denard Span didn’t come to mess around. The Giants’ centerfielder squared up the first pitch he saw from the Phillies’ Jared Eickhoff, postmarking it to the right field corner in the first inning. He needed just 15.79 seconds to touch home plate again, logging his first inside-the-park home run since he legged one out in Little League.

The Giants’ offense mustered up an additional eight runs behind Span’s initial effort, but had no way of preventing Ty Blach and Josh Osich from returning all nine runs and then some. The Phillies’ win, powered by a seven-run explosion in the sixth inning and Ty Kelly‘s go-ahead grand slam, was their second in 10 games and snapped a six-game skid.