By Mike Ivcic
Back to a full power rankings column this week, complete with comments on all 30 teams. Much has changed since our pre-Memorial Day rankings, because like ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas likes to say, “Who did you play and who did you beat?” So with a slant on the past and upcoming schedules of each team, let’s delve into our latest standings, which saw a great deal of change everywhere except the top. Records through Thursday, May 31.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (32-19) 1 â Putting Ted Lilly on the DL might be the start of the much-expected slide for the Dodgers, who just got swept at home by Milwaukee. Still, it’s the 8 runs in those 4 games, and not the pitching, that should be concerning Don Mattingly and Ned Colletti.
2. Texas Rangers (31-20) 2 â Texas swept Toronto, but lost two of three to Seattle to remain at #2 this week. A big weekend series with the red-hot Angels in LA and then a trip for seven to the Bay Area (4 at Oakland, 3 at San Fran) looms large for the AL’s best team.
3. Tampa Bay Rays (29-22) 4 â Losing three in a row to the Chi Sox isn’t how Joe Maddon’s club wanted to enter their first-place showdown with the O’s. Interleague is brutal for every East team, so these next six (Yankees) are big for the Rays.
4. Miami Marlins (29-22) 12 â Sweeping the Nationals has left this team just a half game back in the NL East standings. Mount Ozzie will still erupt one more time this season, but for now the preseason playoff talk appears to be legitimate as opposed to hype.
5. Cincinnati Reds (28-22) 8 â Moving Aroldis Chapman into the closer’s role was the biggest no-brainer since Cameron for Griffey. Then again, we all remember how that one worked out for the Reds, so I bet Walt Jockety is hoping for better results with this move.
6. Baltimore Orioles (29-22) 3 â Once 13 games over .500, Baltimore is now just 7-up after a weekend sweep by the Blue Jays. Somehow the O’s get Pittsburgh during the upcoming interleague, but they need to avoid falling from first-to-last with series against Tampa and Boston before that point.
7. Washington Nationals (29-21) 6 â Technically they’re still in first place, but the Nats are going to need more offensive production to keep pace in a tough division. They’re 6-6 in that tough 33-game stretch that ends in Baltimore June 24.
8. Chicago White Sox (29-22) 17 â The hottest team in baseball now leads the AL Central, as the Sox have won 12 of 13. A 9-game homestand against Seattle, Toronto, and Houston is a chance to continue their stellar play.
9. New York Yankees (27-23) 14 â Nothing wrong with a 4-2 California road trip, but need to win Detroit series to maintain momentum. The Yanks won’t play another sub-.500 team before the All-Star break, so the pitching will need to step up big time.
10. Cleveland Indians (27-23) 5 â Getting swept by Chicago was only worsened after the Indians lost 2 of 3 to Kansas City. The last four series before the All-Star break are Yankees, Orioles, Angels, and Rays, so Cleveland needs to take advantage of the soft part of the schedule now.
11. San Francisco Giants (27-24) 10 â 13 of the Giants next 16 games are against the Cubs, Padres, Mariners, and Astros. The other three are at home to Texas. If San Fran can’t make a move on the Dodgers now, they may not ever.
12. St. Louis Cardinals (27-24) 11 â How good are the Cardinals really? They beat up on the weak teams (sweeping San Diego) but can’t win series against the better teams (0-3 vs. LA, 1-3 vs. Philly, 1-2 vs. Atlanta). Four in New York will help answer a lot of questions.
13. Los Angeles Angels (26-26) 18 â They’re baaaack. Despite having their 8-game winning streak snapped by the Yankees, LA has proven they truly are the second-best team in the AL West. As the AL East beats up on each other, the Angles can get back into the wild card race.
14. Toronto Blue Jays (27-24) 9 â Sweeping Tampa saved the Jays from an even bigger fall, but with the harsh interleague schedule coming up, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this group begin to slide down the standings if the offense can’t start producing more runs.
15. Philadelphia Phillies (27-25) 15 â This might be a one-week reprieve for the Phils, who went 5-2 in St. Louis and New York. Without Roy Halladay for an extended period of time, this could be the breaking point for the 5-time NL East champs.
16. New York Mets (28-23) 13 â Taking three of four from the Padres was expected, but the Mets needed to do better than 1-2 against Philly at home. Schedule doesn’t get easier with four against the Cardinals, then trips to the Nationals, Yankees, and Rays.
17. Atlanta Braves (28-24) 7 â Winning the last two against St. Louis stopped the precipitous freefall for the Braves, who went two weeks without scoring more than 4 runs. Combine that with sub-par pitching, and it’s not a surprise Atlanta got swept by Cincinnati and Washington, too.
18. Boston Red Sox (26-25) 16 â Yes, the Red Sox actually fell two spots despite winning 3 of 4 from Detroit, mostly because everyone else in both Eastern divisions won too. Ultimately this is a top-10 team, but they need play more consistent baseball before I make that jump.
19. Pittsburgh Pirates (25-25) 23 â They began their charge with a sweep of Chicago, then got to .500 by taking 2 of 3 from the Reds. The pitching outside of Johnny Morton has been fantastic â always a good recipe for winning baseball games.
20. Detroit Tigers (24-27) 21 â Almost by default, the Tigers move up, simply because they’re more talented than teams 21-30. That talent will need to show up against Yankees-Indians-Reds in the next three series, or it might become too big of a hole to overcome now that it’s June.
21. Milwaukee Brewers (23-28) 25 â Sweeping the Dodgers certainly earns some points, but now they have to make their move. Home series with the Pirates, Cubs, and Padres are must-win for a team trying to fight back into the NL Central race.
22. Arizona Diamondbacks (23-28) 20 â After losing 2 of 3 in San Francisco, the D-backs now have the Padres, Rockies, and A’s â a good shot to make up some lost ground. Still, it’s hard to see a second straight postseason for this group after all of the injuries to their lineup.
23. Kansas City Royals (21-28) 26 â Don’t look now, but the Royals just won series from Baltimore and Cleveland last week, both on the road. With the A’s and Twins at home this week, it’s prime time for KC if they plan on making a move in the AL Central.
24. Colorado Rockies (21-29) 27 â Sweeping Houston kept them from being in consideration for #30 in the rankings, but there’s still a long way to go for the Rockies. Dodgers-Diamondbacks-Angels the next three series might just finish this group off for the season.
25. Seattle Mariners (23-30) 24 â The brutal three-week stretch that began May 24 against Texas is now half over, and Seattle is 4-6 so far. That all four wins came against the Rangers, with a four-game sweep at the hands of the Angels in between, is the confounding part.
26. Houston Astros (22-29) 22 â Losing all four games with the Rockies probably took whatever life this team had and snuffed it out. The hope is that the Astros youth is able to fight through the adversity, despite a tough stretch of Reds-Cardinals-White Sox-Giants-Rangers in the next three weeks.
27. Minnesota Twins (18-32) 29 â They’re probably not better than Oakland on the whole, but this week they were, sweeping the 3-game set. Francisco Liriano picking up his first win of the year on Wednesday can only mean better things to come in the twin cities.
28. Oakland Athletics (22-29) 19 â I was extremely high on this team, but a winless week and 8 straight losses means a drop in the standings. Still, for a very young team, the A’s have been feisty and won’t be as easy a series for the top teams as they might expect.
29. Chicago Cubs (18-32) 30 â Yes, the Cubs had lost 12 straight, but they responded with a 3-game sweep of the Padres and emerged from the cellar. The highly anticipated rematch is Aug 6-8 in San Diego, where both teams will be expected to once again be battling to stay out of last place in the rankings.
30. San Diego Padres (17-35) 28 â Losers of 6 in a row, the Padres lost 9 of 10 on a road trip through Philly, New York, and Chicago. Now San Diego gets the D-backs and Giants at home before another 3-city road trip to open interleague play. At least the weather is nice.
Three series to watch this weekendâ¦
1) TEX @ LAA (6/1-6/3) â The Rangers steamrolled the Angels when they met in Arlington in mid-May. A much better Angels team, sans Jered Weaver, will look for payback in Anaheim this weekend.
2) BAL @ TB (6/1-6/3) â For the second time in three weeks, the O’s and Rays meet with first place on the line. Hopefully Gary Thorne doesn’t channel his inner-Hawk Harrelson if a Baltimore pitcher throws behind a Tampa hitter and gets ejected.
3) STL @ NYM (6/1-6/4) â Carlos Beltran returns to New York for a big 4-game set with the Mets. Wonder what Adam Wainwright’s reception will be at Citi Field on Friday nightâ¦
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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