By Mike Ivcic
The top spot remains the same for the third straight week, but there was a bit of a shift behind that in the rankings this week. Also time to bid adieu to the Angels as a legitimate contender until they prove they can beat teams theyâre supposed to beat, let alone teams that theyâre not supposed to beat. Records based on games thru Thursday, April 26th.
1. Texas Rangers (15-4) 1 â Ummâ¦ duh? They just steamrolled their two biggest non-divisional threats in the American League in the Tigers and Yankees. When Mike Napoli hits 8th in your lineup, you’re probably not worrying about offensive production.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (13-6) 4 â Time to give the Dodgers their due, as L.A. continues to find ways to win games and win series. Plus, don’t overlook the fact that this team will likely be a major player at the trading deadline.
3. Tampa Bay Rays (12-7) 6 â Going 8-2 in their last 10 games has vaulted Tampa into a first-place tie with Baltimore in the AL East. Somehow, I feel like the Rays are better equipped to survive the long haul than the Orioles are.
4. Washington Nationals (14-5) 7 â At some point, this team will still need to score runs (i.e. Thursday), so I’ll continue to be cautious. Still, their starting pitching has been amazing to watch, with already 8 games this season in which the starter has not allowed an earned run.
5. St. Louis Cardinals (12-7) 3 â Rookie manager Mike Matheny learned the hard way in Chicago this week â just because your closer blows one game doesn’t mean you don’t bring him in the next night. Cubs won both, and the Cards drop two spots.
6. Detroit Tigers (10-9) 2 â Still ahead of the Yankees â for now. They’ll get three in the Bronx this weekend to snap this sudden losing skid that’s left them percentage points behind the Indians in the AL Central.
7. New York Yankees (10-8) 5 â News goes from bad to worse for Yankees pitchers, as a rough start from Phil Hughes is followed by news that Michael Pineda is likely done for the year. Andy Pettitte keeps looking more and more important to this team.
8. San Francisco Giants (10-9) 9 â It only took until year six, but Barry Zito is finally living up to his contract. Too bad the Giants can’t get reimbursed for the last five seasons.
9. New York Mets (11-8) 12 â Talk about a confidence builder. The Mets dropped a doubleheader to the Giants on Monday, but responded by sweeping Jose Reyes and the new-look Marlins to earn some separation from Miami.
10. Atlanta Braves (12-7) 13 â The best offense in the National League (101 runs scored) has helped cover up some warts in the rotation. The Braves know it, too â the demoted once-heralded starter Jair Jurrjens to Gwinnett earlier this week.
11. Chicago White Sox (10-9) 16 â Philip Humber actually joined another elite list with his perfect game on Saturday. He’s the seventh former Mets pitcher to throw a no-hitter or perfect game after leaving the club that’s still searching for its first. And no, I’m not bitter.
12. Cleveland Indians (9-8) 21 â That’s more like what I was expecting from the Indians, though I hesitate to lift them too high after back-to-back losses to the Royals. Improving their 2-6 home record would help too.
13. Milwaukee Brewers (9-10) 10 â Still looking for consistent starting pitching, which is surprising given the talent in the rotation. Adding a left-handed bat wouldn’t hurt either.
14. Arizona Diamondbacks (9-10) 8 â At the end of the season, this team will either be in the playoffs or fall just short. Whether they’re able to turn things around now or in two weeks will go a long way towards determining which result comes to fruition.
15. Baltimore Orioles (12-7) 19 â Another bump for the O’s, who have played well under Buck Showalter. He’s great at taking young teams and molding them into competitors, and hopefully this energy and enthusiasm will remain throughout the season.
16. Cincinnati Reds (9-10) 15 â Better week for the Reds despite a tough loss Thursday afternoon to the Giants. All that proves is that Cincy will definitely need to deal for a closer if they want to be a factor in the playoff chase.
17. Toronto Blue Jays (10-9) 14 â I had the Jays making a big jump until they were swept by the Orioles and only scored three runs in the series. It’s one thing to beat Boston, Tampa and the Yanks, but they have to win the other games too in order to be considered a contender.
18. Boston Red Sox (8-10) 20 â Bobby Valentine can post any lineup he wants. It won’t really matter if the hitters don’t hit and the pitchers don’t pitch. The manager can’t fix a lack of talent.
19. Philadelphia Phillies (9-10) 18 â Face it, folks, they are what they are at this point â an average baseball team. Now without Cliff Lee, they’re really going to be scrambling to stay above water until the full roster returns.
20. Seattle Mariners (10-10) 23 â The Mariners swept and got swept in their back-to-back series against Chicago and Detroit. The surprise is that they swept the Tigers â in Detroit â and got swept by the White Sox â at home.
21. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (6-13) 11 â It’s no longer an extended April Fools’ jokeâ¦ Albert Pujols and the Angels are in a big-time slump. Even the other big time free agent, C.J. Wilson, wasn’t able to right the ship. Thus the 10-spot drop.
22. Colorado Rockies (9-9) 22 â There isn’t a less-heralded .500 team in the game than the Rockies. They really haven’t had a “streak” all season, which means they’ll avoid enough losing streaks to stay in the race but won’t have enough winning streaks to actually make the playoffs.
23. Pittsburgh Pirates (8-10) 24 â Who knew A.J. Burnett would be such a lift to the Buccos? A win in his first start will lead into his series-opening start against Atlanta on Friday.
24. Oakland Athletics (10-10) 25 â I really wanted to move Oakland higher in the rankings, but despite some positive signs, I just don’t believe they’re really built to compete for this year. This is about development and making a surge â hopefully â next year.
25. Miami Marlins (7-11) 17 â Not a good week for the Marlins, who haven’t won a game since the last set of rankings (0-5) and have lost 9 of 11 on the road this year. Don’t think last place three weeks in was what Miami’s front office envisioned during their offseason spending spree.
26. Chicago Cubs (6-13) 29 â Taking 2 of 3 from the archrival Cardinals is the kind of baby step this team needs. After watching a few games, it’s clear there simply isn’t enough offense in this lineup to scare any opposing pitcher.
27. Houston Astros (7-12) 27 â That’s more like it from Houston, who went 2-4 over the last week. The impressive thing is this team is still top 10 in baseball in runs, batting average, and on base percentage.
28. Minnesota Twins (5-14) 28 â Amazingly enough, the 109 runs allowed by Twins pitching in 19 games isn’t the worst in baseball (thank you, Boston). It is enough, however, to keep Minnesota from coming anywhere close to .500.
29. San Diego Padres (6-14) 30 â A one-week reprieve from the cellar for the Padres, who used two wins against the Phillies to jump a spot. That said, there’s really not much here to think this team won’t still be in this position throughout the summer months.
30. Kansas City Royals (5-14) 26 â I’m rooting really hard for this team. They’re young, talented, and fun to watch, and this city deserves at least a solid baseball team. But 0-10 at home? That’s cause for last place in the power rankings.
Three series to watch this weekendâ¦
1) DET @ NYY (4/27-4/29) â Justin Verlander goes Friday for Detroit, who suddenly needs a win to gain some confidence. The Yankees are just hoping they have enough capable arms to get through the weekend.
2) WAS @ LAD (4/27-4/29) â The two best teams in the NL square off in Hollywood. Clayton Kershaw goes Friday for the Dodgers, while Stephen Strasburg throws Saturday for the Nationals.
3) PIT @ ATL (4/27-4/30) â My “under-the-radar” series. The Pirates return to the place where their season fell apart after a blown call in the 18th inning last year. They’re hoping to erase some demons, while the Braves are hoping to continue their hot streak after an 0-4 start in this wraparound series.
Check out Mike Ivcic’s weekly column, “The Tenth Inning,” every Monday and the weekly “Power Rankings” every Friday, only at ultimatecapper.com
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