Thursday, June 13, 2013

MLB Power Rankings: Pirates get a boost

Photo by USA Today
By Steve Roney

The NL Central is packed with dominant pitching, making it no accident that three of baseball's best teams reside there. St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh are all in line for playoff spots right now, and if their arms hold up, the postseason could feature some pretty familiar matchups early on in the NL.
Here's how Nationals Insider Mark Zuckerman, Nats writer Chase Hughes, and I see the rest of the majors shaking out:

1. St. Louis Cardinals (42-23; LW: 1) - Zuckerman: Miller, Wainwright and Lynn all have WHIPs under 1.12. Simply dominant pitching.

2. Boston Red Sox (41-26; LW: 3) - Hughes: Boston has emerged as the best offense in the majors by a good margin. Everyone packs power as they're slugging over .450 as a team.

3. Cincinnati Reds (40-26; LW: 4) - Zuckerman: Mat Latos (6-0, 2.87 ERA) not getting enough credit as one of the NL's best starters.

4. Atlanta Braves (39-27; LW: 2) - Hughes: While the Nats have struggled with injuries, the Braves have used the same five starters all season and are about to get Brandon Beachy back.

5. Oakland Athletics (40-27; LW: 7) - Roney: Has there been a bigger revelation who has generated less attention than Josh Donaldson? The 27-year-old third baseman, in his first full season, has been far and away Oakland's best hitter: .317 avg, .385 OBP, 9 HR, 42 RBI.

6. Pittsburgh Pirates (39-26; LW: 8) - Zuckerman: It wasn't quite Strasmas, but Gerrit Cole's debut was everything Bucs could have hoped.

7. Texas Rangers (38-27; LW: 5) - Roney: Through 80 plate appearances, super prospect Jurickson Profar has been very good -- if unflashy -- at the plate, with a pair of homers, a .292 average, and a quintet of walks to boost his OBP over .340. The only surprise? He's 0-2 in steal attempts.

8. Detroit Tigers (36-28; LW: 10) - Zuckerman: Miguel Cabrera is hitting .369 with 12 HR, 40 RBI … if you only count road games. Staggering.

9. New York Yankees (37-28; LW: 9) - Hughes: Brett Gardner, out of the great College of Charleston, already has six homers. Considering his career high is seven, that's quite a surprise.

10. Baltimore Orioles (37-29; LW: 6) - Hughes: Chris Davis is on pace for over 50 home runs this season. At some point we need to accept him as one of best sluggers in the game.

11. Arizona Diamondbacks (37-29; LW: 11) - Roney: Is there a bigger villain in LA right now than Ian Kennedy? He hit Yasiel Puig in the face Tuesday night (Puig stayed in the game, miraculously) and nearly nailed Zack Grienke in the head a few innings later.

12. Tampa Bay Rays (35-30; LW: 12) - Hughes: Within days we may finally see Wil Myers get a shot at the majors. He should add major power to an already dangerous Tampa offense.

13. Colorado Rockies (35-31; LW: 14) - Roney: The challenge wasn't signing No. 3 overall pick Jonathan Gray to a contract with a $4.8 million bonus -- it will be developing him to his potential. Their track record isn't great in that department.

14. San Francisco Giants (33-31; LW: 13) - Roney: In a surprising departure from the past few years, the Giants' starting rotation boasts only one pitcher (Baumgarner) with an ERA below 4.70.

15. Washington Nationals (32-32; LW: 17) - Hughes: They have to get healthy, but Anthony Rendon in the lineup could make them a much better team long-term.

16. San Diego Padres (32-34; LW: 19) - Roney: Chase Headley has the lowest batting average (.227) of any regular. If you had told me that the Fathers would be this close to .500 with their best hitter weighing down the lineup like that, well...I'm not sure I would have believed you.

17. Cleveland Indians (32-33; LW: 15) - Zuckerman: Remember all the hubbub over Michael Bourn? He's drawn 9 walks in 40 games. Not going to cut it.

18. Kansas City Royals (30-33; LW: 24) - Zuckerman: Finally got it going over the last week as they try to get themselves back in the race.

19. Philadelphia Phillies (31-35; LW: 16) - Hughes: Dom Brown is obviously a keeper, but how the Phillies approach the trade deadline with their other pieces should be interesting.

20. Minnesota Twins (29-33; LW: 18) - Zuckerman: Kevin Correia leads the staff in wins. Repeat: Kevin Correia leads the staff in wins.

21. Chicago White Sox (28-35; LW: 23) - Zuckerman: Paul Konerko and Adam Dunn hitting a combined .207. Tough to build a lineup around those two.

22. Los Angeles Dodgers (28-37; LW: 22) - Roney: Move over Dom Brown -- it's Yasiel Puig's turn to captivate major league baseball.

23. Seattle Mariners (29-38; LW: 21) - Roney: Stop me if you've heard this before: Seattle just called up an elite hitting prospect, hoping to energize a floundering offense. We're rooting for you, Mark Zunino, but we won't be adding you to our fantasy teams.

24. Toronto Blue Jays (28-36; LW: 25) - Hughes: Toronto's pitching staff has been so bad they are giving Chien-Ming Wang another shot.

25. Los Angeles Angels (28-38; LW: 20) - Roney: You see what Detroit's got going on, with Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera? That's what the Angels thought they were doing by signing Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.

26. Milwaukee Brewers (27-38; LW: 28) - Zuckerman: Collective ERA of Milwaukee's starting pitchers: 5.65. Is that even possible?

27. Chicago Cubs (25-38; LW: 26) - Zuckerman: Carlos Marmol AND Henry Rodriguez in the same bullpen? Enjoy your summer, Chicago.

28. New York Mets (24-36; LW: 27) - Hughes: New York has already found a silver lining to their season with Matt Harvey, now let's see what Zack Wheeler can do.

29. Houston Astros (23-44; LW: 29) - Roney: Starter Bud Norris, 28, is having perhaps the best year of his career (though his strikeouts are down). He may help the Astros most by bringing something back at the deadline.

30. Marlins (19-46; LW: 30) - Hughes: Jose Fernandez, 20, has a 3.17 ERA through 65 1/3 innings now. The Marlins have young talent, it just may take a few years.


5c3cd06e-cef8-11e1-abe6-000bcdcb2996 said...

I don't think that this years has the fire in the belly as last year. The firey members of the team are gone. Think back to last years "brawl" between the Cubs and the Nats. There were 4 guys who were getting aggressive and taking things personal. Those 4 (Morse, Gonzalez, Jackson, and Bo Porter)have all left the team and I think that is a likely reason for the underwhelming performance of the Nats this year. FP praises LaRoche for being "Adam Cool", but I think it is a negative for players to be monotone and show no emotion. Just my take.

A DC Wonk said...

Completely off topic -- other than it's about baseball:

mick said... nickname for Kobernus is Cowboy

The Wonkling has her own nickname: Copernicus

someone else noted:

NL @AllStarGame Manager Bruce Bochy has named @Mets Terry Collins & @Nationals Davey Johnson to his #ASG coaching staff.

I noticed some Davey-hater-heads exploding with that one. Or, perhaps they think Bochy is senile, too.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Hughes: Chris Davis is on pace for over 50 home runs this season. At some point we need to accept him as one of best sluggers in the game.

Best sluggers? How's about one of the best hitters in the game. If Miguel Cabrera got hurt Davis could be a legit Triple Crown guy! Have you seen his batting average?

Eric said...


He does seem to know a thing or two about spherical rotation...

NatsLady said...


If Davey gets this team to the playoffs he will DESERVE that manager-of-the-year thingie he won for 2012. When RZimm, Morse, & co. came back (plus Werth) the team pretty much managed itself and in forty days and forty nights Davey never changed the line-up–and the rotation never changed all year. Now we have the likes of Zach Duke, Nathan Karns and Ross Ohlendorf making “spot” starts, defense is last in the league, left field is a revolving door, a third base prospect is playing second base and no one on the bench can hit worth a lick (or take a walk).

A DC Wonk said...

Well put, NatsLady. I think Boswell a week or so pointed out (and I've repeated here a few times) that the projected starting lineup from opening day has played only 6 or 8 (I forget) times: with injuries to, at various times: Werth, Ramos, Harper, RZim, etc. -- not even counting Stras & Detwiler

A DC Wonk said...

Thursdays oddities:

- Until last night DeLaRosa had the third longest undefeated-at-home pitching streak (something like 11 straight starts?) until last night. (BTW, JZim has the longest such streak in MLB)

- ALR has the third most HR's in the league in the last 365 calendar days.

- Barry Zito’s ERA on the road is 11.28. At home it’s 1.94.

- Edinson Volquez came into the game with a 6.33 ERA and allowed 4+ runs in 8 of his 13 starts -- but then shut down the Braves (completing the Padres sweep!) allowing one run over seven innings while striking out nine

- The Diamondbacks had 20 hits last night. Seventeen were singles.

- The number 2 through 7 hitters in the Giants batting order went a combined 13-for-26 and the Giants lost anyway (see, above, Barry Zito -- this was a road game for the Giants)

- How's this for "keeping the line moving" -- The Astros scored six runs in the top of the ninth this way: single, single, bunt, walk, double, walk, single, strikeout, single, walk, walk, strikeout.

phil dunton said...

Surprised Braves rated at #4 after getting swept by the lowly Padres. I doubt the Pirates fold.

phil dunton said...

The three best teams in the NL are in the NL Central. If the playoffs were held now, the Reds. Cards and Pirates would be in the playoffs.

Faraz Shaikh said...

What do you mean 'nearly hit him in the head'? He definitely did. His helmet was knocked over, wasn't it?

Eric said...

Wonk - does it count as an oddity that we're currently further out of WC contention (6.5 games out) than we are out of 1st place (6.0)?

Or, is that fairly common?

Faraz Shaikh said...

Eric, happens to weak divisions. Odd that it is happening in NL East which was supposed to be better than this.

JaneB said...

Numbers and letters person...totally agree on losing those guys, especially Bo!

NatsLady said...

David O'Brien ‏@ajcbraves 6m
With runners in scoring pos., Freeman is 24-for-53, Laird 5-for-9, and rest of #Braves are 78-for-408 (.191) with 126 strikeouts.

A DC Wonk said...

Eric said...

Wonk - does it count as an oddity that we're currently further out of WC contention (6.5 games out) than we are out of 1st place (6.0)?

Or, is that fairly common?

Hmm, good one. I don't think that's too common for the Nats ;-)

I think it used to be somewhat common for some team in all of MLB -- but perhaps not so common now that there are _two_ WC's

bowdenball said...

The Braves are one game over .500 since April 16 and have lost 5 of 7 since their home win streak to start the month. I can think of at least 10 teams I'd be more worried about facing than the Braves right now.

NatsLady said...

I miss Bo, but the others are no loss. And if you think Adam doesn't have fire in the belly, you haven't seen his eyes when he is at-bat in a critical situation.

Eric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A DC Wonk said...

Somebody mentioned: we talk about intangibles all the time and how when a certain player is slumping he can put the player hitting in front of him in a slump. That seems to be what happened with Ian Desmond.

FP spoke about this about two weeks ago or so. He said that the idea that "hitting is contagious" is bunk -- but then clarified: but it seems that way sometimes, because when a good hitter or two gets going, then the batters in front of them get better pitches, and the batters behind them often bat with guys on base.

I thought it was a nice insight.

Eric said...

"I can think of at least 10 teams I'd be more worried about facing than the Braves right now."

And, go figure, now is not when we're facing them. I'm sure they'll ramp up *just* in time for our next meeting.

Hopefully we will, too.

NatsLady said...

Matt Harvey day has started, Harvey, great first inning. I am listening the the STL feed because I can't stand the Mets announcers.

A DC Wonk said...

Let's keep in mind that over 5 years Ohlenorf has a 5.00 ERA and a losing record. It's not likely that he became Greg Maddux over night.

True . . . but:

a) it might be that his new windup is helping him (my understanding is that he didn't have this windup until this year)

b) he's had some surgeries, right?

c) over the past _month_ he's been pitching extremely well, if I recall correctly

Who knows -- he's only 30 -- maybe he's back to 2009 form when he was pretty decent (again, iirc)

A DC Wonk said...

Matt Harvey day has started, Harvey, great first inning. I am listening the the STL feed because I can't stand the Mets announcers.

Really? Who do they have? They used to have Howie Rose, who I thought was excellent

Eric said...

Ohlendorf said he's used that wind up "playing catch" over the years, but never professionally until this year.

A DC Wonk said...

Sorry for the "data dump" -- lots of catching up for me to do -- but I'm almost done ;-)

From last thread:

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

I'm pretty sure that Fowler would have had that if CarGo had stayed out of the way.

Indeed, there was one angle on the replay that showed the ball hitting the closed mitt (!!) of Fowler. I'm guessing he involuntarily closed it as he was bracing for impact with CarGo, and that, yes, he would have made a great catch on that if it weren't for CarGo.

NatsLady said...

Wonk, I have no idea. All I know is that last time we played the Mets they bored on endlessly about the Stras shutdown and Game 5--which apparently is not old news to them yet.

Eric said...

Span 8, Kobernus 7, Zimmerman 5, Werth 9, LaRoche 3, Desmond 6, Rendon 4, Suzuki 2, Detwiler 1

NatsLady said...

Wainwrigtht just got his 1,000 strikeout, and it was against David Wright. Tiny crowd, even considering the weather and it's a day game.

Tcostant said...

Love the fact that Kobernus keeps playing, nice job Davey.

In other news, I just read that Harper's hotel room, when they played the Brewers was haunted. Maybe...

NatsLady said...

Little Clip sent down.

Sky Kerstein ‏@SkyKerstein 58s
#Nats announce that they've sent Erik Davis to AAA to make room for Ross Detwiler who is starting this afternoon and coming off the DL

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

bowdenball said...
The Braves are one game over .500 since April 16 and have lost 5 of 7 since their home win streak to start the month. I can think of at least 10 teams I'd be more worried about facing than the Braves right now.

Agreed. As Justin Upton has struggled so have the Braves. Freeman is their only big bat right now.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Wow, Erik Davis before Cedeno. Interesting.

Caps Fan said...

"bowdenball said...

The Braves are one game over .500 since April 16 and have lost 5 of 7 since their home win streak to start the month."

The Braves' season is playing out just like the Nats' season did last year. The Braves started 13-2 or whatever and have been a .500 team since then, and last year the Nats started 14-4 and were a .500 team for about two months after that. And last year when it was the Braves chasing the Nats, they did not gain ground even though the Nats were playing .500 ball in front of them but still managed to take the race for the division title deep into September. The point being there is a lot of baseball yet to be played before we start awarding any playoff berths.

JD said...


It'l be a race to see if they get the Mets - Cards game in. It's awfully dark here. What a waist of pitching if they have to cancel?

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