Your Monday Afternoon Power Rankings

12 Comments

The Rays and Yankees have been the default top pick all year, primarily on the strength of having the best record. But that’s only part of what goes into my Power Rankings special sauce, even if it’s an important part. For this week at least, it ain’t enough.

1. Twins (3): Closer out with Tommy John? No problem. First baseman — who was having an MVP caliber season — goes out with a concussion? No problem. The White Sox go on a couple of tears? No problem. You can find faults if you look hard enough, but in my opinion the Minnesota Twins are the best team in baseball right now.

2. Yankees (1): Derek Jeter hasn’t had a multi-hit game since August 21st, but I still have this feeling that he’ll activate that little chip in the back of his head and that he’ll hit .400 against the Rays this week and next week and get a bunch of annoyingly well-timed hits in October.

3. Rays (2): Seven of their next ten come against the Yankees. What’s the more important thing to play for right now: winning the AL East for its own sake, or winning the AL East so they don’t have to face the Twins in the first round?

4. Phillies (5): The Halladay-Oswalt-Hamels attack is working exactly as planned. Woe be to whomever has to face those three in the playoffs.

5. Giants (8): Just as they take three of four from the Padres they lose Andres Torres for the season. Talk about a bummer.

6. Rockies (10): En Fuego. They may be 1.5 behind the Padres and Giants, but they are probably the best bet to win the division right now. My best bet anyway. Series against the Padres begins tonight. They’ve played very well against San Diego this year.

7. Braves (6): Hitting the wall, it seems. Hudson is tired. Jurrjens hasn’t looked right and Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami just aren’t that good. I’m not going to write them off, obviously, as a one game deficit is meaningless when you still have six games left against the team you’re chasing. But no, my confidence is not high at the moment.

8. Padres (9): Also hitting the wall. Mat Latos is at 166 IP right now. I can’t imagine the plan was for him to pitch that many, let alone the four more starts’ worth he’s scheduled for if he stays on regular rest.

9. Rangers (11): Jeff Francoeur: the secret weapon. He’s 5 for 13 with three RBIs and a .400 OBP since coming over to Texas. Then again, he always makes a good first impression, doesn’t he?

10. Reds (4): That black and purple buzzsaw they ran into last week was no fun, but a lot of teams are experiencing that these days. Two of three from the Pirates is better, and a six game cushion still seems comfy enough. I’d feel confident buying playoff tickets for these guys right now.

11. Red Sox (11): Reading the Boston papers and all the Martinez/Ortiz/Papelbon talk and you’d think it was December and this was hot stove season already. At some point it’s going to dawn on everyone that this was a pretty good team that sadly (a) had a metric ass-ton of injuries this year; and (b) looked way worse than they really were by virtue of playing the AL East.

12. White Sox (7): A friend emailed me this morning to tell me that he saw Mark Buehrle getting a pumpkin spice latte at a Chicagoland Starbucks. Then — just as he was sprinkling on his extra cinnamon — Joe West jumped out and called a balk on him. True story.

13. Cardinals (13): Dropping two of three (Brewers) and splitting a four game series (Braves) is not going to get the job done. They needed a Rockies-like run, and they’re not getting it.

14. Marlins (15): I like watching Mike Stanton hit home runs. But as an NL East partisan, I won’t particularly mind if he doesn’t cut down on his strikeouts and up his OBP until he’s playing somewhere else. In the meantime, I think I’ll enjoy the Dave Kingman act.

15. Athletics (16): Question: will the Silicon Valley CEOs who want the A’s in San Jose help pony up for the parking and utility improvements and all of that side stuff that will end up costing San Jose taxpayers tens of millions even if the stadium is “privately built?”

16. Blue Jays (14): We hear a bunch about the Mets and Cubs, but does anyone have any idea who’s going to manage the Blue Jays next year? I don’t think I’ve heard any real speculation about it. Let’s create some: Bobby Valentine is a perfect fit for the job because he has extensive non-United States managing experience. Really, there’s nothing easier than creating your own Bobby Valentine rumor. You should try it at home!

17. Tigers (18): Back to .500, thanks in part to taking three of four from the White Sox. Give Jim Leyland — a man who has taken some lumps for late season fades in recent years — for not letting his team quit.

18. Mets (20): They probably didn’t deserve a two-spot bump for taking two of three from the Nats, but at this point I’m just feeling sorry for them. Speaking of New York, this may be the best thing the Onion has written in years.

19. Dodgers (17)/Astros (19): The mood among Dodgers fans is impossibly grim right now. The mood among Astros fans is pretty damn good. Easy to forget, then, that the Dodgers are almost certain to play much better than they are right now next year and the Astros to play much worse.

21. Angels (21): I’ll admit: Mike Scioscia worrying about where the playoffs are being held this year gave me a chuckle this morning.

22. Brewers (23): Ken Macha is almost certainly gone, I would imagine. Does Willie Randolph have a shot at that job, or do they clean house entirely? Seems to me that Randoph deserves another shot at the top job someplace.

23. Cubs (22): Seven of their final 19 games are against the Padres and Giants. So I guess they Cubs could claim they’re involved in a pennant race if they really want to.

24. Orioles (25): Baltimore has to close things out at 8-11 or better to avoid 100 losses. With the way the season started, the fact that they really could do it is amazing.

25. Indians (28): Things you did not know because you spend almost zero time paying attention to the Indians: Travis Hafner has been pretty darn good this year.

26. Royals (27): There’s nothing more frightening than being threatened by a guy named Ned. Well, except for everything.

27. Nationals (24): I swear, I’ve seen at least three D.C. reporters write some variation of “Nyjer Morgan is not likely to stick with Nationals after this year” in the past week or so. Do the weather reports there include percent chance that the sun rises too?

28. Diamondbacks (26): Kevin Towers may or may not come to run this team, but I know two things: (1) the Padres under Towers always managed to put together nice bullpens on the cheap; and (2) if the Diamondbacks had a halfway decent bullpen this year they would have been a far more dangerous team than they ended up being.

29. Mariners (29): Every
thing going on in Seattle right now is a disgrace
. I can’t wait to read the translation of Ichiro’s autobiography someday.

30. Pirates (30): After all of this season’s ugliness, it’s pretty shocking to see that they’re on pace to outdraw last year’s attendance totals.

Zack Cozart thinks the way the Rays have been using Sergio Romo is bad for baseball

Matthew Stockman/Getty Images
10 Comments

The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.

In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.

The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.

Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”

It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.

It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.