Your Monday Morning Power Rankings

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We’re to the point of the season where so many games have been played that actual record and power ranking are at the closest they’ve been all year. No one who is better than their record is considerably better than their record. No one who is worse than their record is considerably worse. I mean, 130 games or so, dudes.

As always, the number in parenthesis was where they were the last time they were ranked. But remember: I skipped last week, so the last ranking was two weeks ago. So please, none of that “Really? [Team X] won five games last week and went down in the rankings?!!” stuff.  Maybe they’re way up from where they would have been last week. We’ll never know!

1. Phillies (1): Did you know that Vance Worley has “swagger?” Either that or multiple personality disorder. I’m not quite sure.

2. Red Sox (2): I’m pretty sure that they’re still playing the A’s in the first game of Saturday’s double header.

3. Yankees (3): Did you know that there’s a bill working its way through the New York legislature that would decriminalize non-lethal beatings of A.J. Burnett?

4. Brewers (4): They’ve now swept two straight series from the Cubs. I feel like driving to Kenosha to see if I can sense the loyalties shifting. Or did that happen a long time ago?

5. Braves (5): Frankly I have no idea where to rank them seeing as though they haven’t played a game in several weeks. Or perhaps it just feels that way.

6. Rangers (6): They skidded but then they righted themselves to take two of three from the Angels.

7. Tigers (11): They’re ranked a little high. Do you think I ranked them too high? I kinda feel like I ranked ’em too high, but I just can’t shake the thought that they’re going to be more dangerous than most people think come playoff time.

8. Rays (9): They’d be in the thick of the playoff hunt if they played in the AL Central, AL West or NL West. Too bad they don’t.

9. Angels (8): Was that post-Rangers-series run a fluke? I guess we’ll see now that they’ve dropped another series to Texas.

10. Diamondbacks (7): Sure, they’re winning, but can it’s not like they’re intimidating anyone.  Check out this Padres fan givin’ Justin Upton what-for. In Phoenix.

11. Giants (10): There ain’t no runs to be had for these dudes. They’re dead last in runs, in fact. And, as Buster Olney tweeted this morning, they have posted 0, 1, or 2 runs in 22 of 42 games since the All-Star break. If that wasn’t ugly enough, in seven games against the Astros in the past week and a half, they went 3-4. Yuck.

12. Cardinals (12): Lance Berkman complained on Saturday about how a weird national-TV-driven start time led to a game played in long shadows that made it hard to see. Afterwards, Tony La Russa protested the sun.

13. Reds (13): With the win yesterday it’s the Reds’ first time over .500 since July 3rd.

14. Blue Jays (15): At night I sometimes lie awake and wonder things like “will DeWayne Wise have more stints with the Blue Jays than Ric Flair had stints as NWA/WCW champion?” And yes, I only went for the Ric Flair reference so I can link to this pic I took of a guy I saw yesterday who was not Ric Flar but who looked enough like him to where I almost felt like asking him if he was just to see what he said.

15. White Sox (16): In second place now, but six back. I’m not feelin’ ’em, but I still can’t shake the idea of what could have been had they gotten an iota of production from Dunn and Rios.

16. Indians (14): Jim Thome is back! Woulda been nice if he was back a couple of weeks before, but hey, they got a couple of really nice crowds out of it. The Tribe is now in third place.

17. Dodgers (21): A pretty spiffy week for them, running through the Cardinals and the Rockies quite nicely.

18. Rockies (20): Carlos Gonzalez has had a hell of an August.

19. Mets (17): Post-Hurricane Tweet of the Day yesterday came from Mets fan Baseballcrank: “Next storm up: Jose. Fortunately it’s expected to pull a hamstring on its way north.” Burn.

20. Nationals (18): Davey Johnson must be gettin’ bored. He had Jayson Werth in center and Mike Morse in left on Saturday.  Overheard between him and bench coach Pat Corrallesy: “Pat, I ain’t kiddin’. I put in, like, five catchers and four pitchers in a lineup next weekend. See if anyone notices. No one says I thing, I betcha.”

21. Pirates (19): Twelve of their next 13 games come against teams that, theoretically anyway, they’re better than.  Last year’s Orioles team showed us that we can’t really read too much into late-season mean-nothing series, but I am rather interested to see if the Pirates’ midseason mini-surge is suggestive of anything or if it was just a fluke.

22. Padres (25): A big three-game series in Los Angeles this week. Can the Padres make up the three games they need to in order to lose the battle for last place in the NL West?

23. Athletics (24): Poor Jerry Blevins.

24. Marlins (22):  They’re gonna bring Josh Johnson back for a start or two? Why?

25. Mariners (26): They beat up on the Indians on the road and then got beat up by the White Sox at home. I imagine this fact contains some deep insight into the AL Central, but I just can’t make myself care.

26. Royals (28): Dayton Moore is willing to give up prospects for pitching. I’m gonna call him and ask if he’d take Derek Lowe for Eric Hosmer.

27. Cubs (23): In the future, everyone will be rumored to be the Cubs’ next GM for 15 minutes.

28. Twins (27): A stellar 6-19 month for the Twins. But hey, at least they traded away a fan favorite for nothin’.

29. Orioles (29): A pretty damn fine week, actually, trouncing the Twins and then taking the aborted series against the Yankees. Maybe not technically — I suppose you gotta wait for the makeup games for the final series outcome — but wins are wins.

30. Astros (30): Carlos Lee got hurt while making a hard slide while legging out a double yesterday. See, he was right not to try all along.

Aledmys Diaz is trying to improve his defense with strobe glasses

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.

Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.

The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.

Eduardo Rodriguez could rejoin the Red Sox rotation in July

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Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.

The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.

He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.