The Tenth Inning Week 20 Power Rankings

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The Tenth Inning Week 20 – Power Rankings ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>


By Mike Ivcic

The postseason push is finally here, as teams begin gearing up for the final seven weeks of the season. What better way to break down each team’s playoff chances than with another stellar edition of the Ultimate Capper’s “Power Rankings!?” This time, we’ll go in reverse order, from the worst down to the first. As always, this list is both entirely subjective and unbelievably accurate – a paradox you should all have come to expect by now.


No Shot in 2014 Either
30. Houston Astros
29. Miami Marlins
28. Chicago White Sox
Sadly, it appears the White Sox have joined the un-dynamic duo of Houston and Miami in the massive rebuilding phase. Jake Peavy and Alex Rios are both gone, and while there are still some quality pieces around which to begin the reconstruction, it’s clear the luster of a very competitive first season under Robin Ventura has already worn off. His job should be safe, but it will take at least another full season of subpar baseball before the south side can even think about another contending year.

Missing More Than a Few Pieces
27. Milwaukee Brewers
26. Minnesota Twins
25. San Francisco Giants
24. Philadelphia Phillies
23. Colorado Rockies
It’s unbelievable to actually include the defending world champions in this category, but this is what happens when a large group of role players all have career years one season and come crashing back to reality the next. The Giants can still assume that their pitching will be solid next season based on the track records of their starters, but now that their archrivals appear to be playing with Monopoly money, the primary offseason move for San Fran has to be adding multiple bats to help Buster Posey in an otherwise underwhelming lineup.

Young But Hopeful
22. Chicago Cubs
21. San Diego Padres
20. New York Mets
19. Seattle Mariners
Believe it or not, all four of these teams could actually compete for a playoff berth next season if they’re able to add just one or two critical upgrades in the offseason. The Mariners need to add another quality starter behind King Felix, and the Cubs could also use another good arm in the rotation now that their offense has begun to develop with the progress of Anthony Rizzo. San Diego could easily finish second this year and have put together a nice young nucleus that they hopefully can sign to some long-term extensions. But the real chance here for a 2014 surprise is the Mets, who have the starting pitching element solved with the emergence of Matt Harvey as a top-10 pitcher in all of baseball and the promotion of Zack Wheeler. If NY had an outfielder that could actually hit and wasn’t named Marlon Byrd, they might have actually had a chance to make a run this season. As it is, they need to decide what to do with the underperforming Ike Davis and Lucas Duda and then somehow acquire a legitimate power threat to fill the cleanup spot, but that might just be enough in a suddenly weak NL East to claim at least a Wild Card a year from now.

One Giant Question Mark
18. Toronto Blue Jays
17. Los Angeles Angels
The Dodgers used to be part of this group, but now it’s just these two teams continuing to prove the theory that All-Star teams don’t always work in a very individualistic team sport. I did think Toronto would be better but let’s remember that I also pointed out during the preseason preview that Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Josh Johnson didn’t win anything in Florida last season, so expecting them to suddenly win this year was at least a tiny bit presumptuous. The Angels, though, are just an enigma – one I’ve now completely whiffed on two consecutive years. They should be the best team in baseball with their lineup and top two starters, but baseball in 2013 requires all 25 players on the roster to contribute – and often times then next 5-10 on the depth chart, too – and simply put, Los Angeles is thin when it comes to that depth. It may cost manager Mike Scioscia his job, which is unfair. He didn’t assemble this group. But one way or the other, it’s clear that something has to be done in Anaheim, but what it is remains very unclear.

16. Washington Nationals
15. New York Yankees
To be fair, the Yankees have an excuse. When almost $90 million sits on the disabled list from spring training through the All-Star break, it’s hard for ANY team to actually remain competitive. Still, this is the Yankees we’re talking about, and they have set the bar for themselves at a point they clearly can no longer reach. It’s also evident after this past weekend that Mariano Rivera may finally be running out of gas, a statement never before uttered in the history of baseball. The Nationals, though, have no such built-in escape from the tag of “underachiever.” This was the best team in the entire NL last season and returned every single player of any major importance from that team – and got a full year from their best pitcher in Stephen Strasburg. They even added Rafael Soriano to fortify an already solid bullpen. And yet they have floundered, getting less than expected from their offense and playing absolutely horrific baseball against their primary divisional competition in the Braves. Even with the weak seasons from the duo just above them, no team deserves the tag of “most disappointing team” for 2013 more than Washington.

Fringe Playoff Contenders
14. Kansas City Royals
13. Arizona Diamondbacks
12. Cleveland Indians

They Could Win It All…
11. Baltimore Orioles
10. Oakland Athletics
9. Tampa Bay Rays
8. Cincinnati Reds
7. Texas Rangers
6. Boston Red Sox
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
4. St. Louis Cardinals
First off, I wanted to split this group into two but I really couldn’t figure out how. Secondly, it’s sad that one of the teams in this group – more specifically, one of the five AL teams listed above – won’t actually make the playoffs. In reality, any of these teams could easily win the World Series with a couple of good breaks and clutch plays, which is why this season is so fascinating to me. Some will argue against me ranking the Cardinals ahead of the Pirates even after Pittsburgh took four of five from St. Louis two weeks ago, but let’s remember these are both power rankings and, to some degree, projections. With guys like Yadier Molina, Adam Wainwright, and David Frease still on the roster – players who have proven to be tremendously clutch in postseason situations – I feel significantly safer picking the Cardinals in a playoff series than I would the Pirates. That’s not to say I don’t think the Pirates can win – they can – but they haven’t done it yet, so let’s take a wait-and-see approach. Meanwhile the Red Sox added Peavy, the Orioles added Bud Noris, and the Rangers added Rios – upgrades for all three squads, to be sure. The interesting team for me here is Cincinnati. All of the talk in the NL has been about the Pirates-Cardinals race in the Central, the revival of the Dodgers in the West, and the dominance of the Braves in the East. Still, the Reds are also a clear-cut contender with a nice playoff cushion (5.5 games ahead of Arizona for the second Wild Card spot) and won’t be afraid of either Pittsburgh or St. Louis in a one-game, do-or-die playoff situation. They may be the weakest of the five likely NL playoff teams, but should by no means be considered any less of a championship contender.

The Challengers
3. Atlanta Braves
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
Yes, the NL is weak, so yes, the records of both of these teams are inflated slightly. In fact, just using pure offensive statistics it’s actually unclear just how the Braves are as good as they are, until taking a glance at their bullpen numbers. Meanwhile all the Dodgers have done is go 37-8 over their last 45 games, a number made even more remarkable when juxtaposed with the fact that it still doesn’t put LA in the top five winning percentages (Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Boston, and Texas, in that order). But the postseason is all about pitching, specifically relief pitching, so Atlanta is an absolute nightmare matchup for any other playoff team in either league. And maybe the Dodgers will revert back to the Mr. Hyde part of their “Jekyll and Hyde” season at some point, but given the renewed vigor of their lineup and excellent duo of Clayton Kershaw and Zach Greinke headlining their rotation, I think it’s safe to consider both of these teams as not just legitimate contenders, but as the top contenders to…

The Front-Runner
1. Detroit Tigers
…This team. Say what you want about playing in a weak division and not having a clue as to who will be closing games come October, but it’s almost like the Tigers just flip a switch at points, right in the middle of ballgames, as if to say, “OK, enough is enough, time to win the game.” Clearly, like Sunday, it doesn’t always happen, but let’s not forget that they walked into Cleveland just three games up on Monday afternoon and left on Thursday evening having completed a four-game sweep by winning four different ways and opening a seven-game lead in the division. No big deal. Their top two of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer is, with all due respect to the duo I just mentioned above, the best in the game, period – which, funny enough, is exactly the phrase that can be used to describe their 3-4 hitters, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. They’ve also gotten timely hitting from their entire lineup (Alex Avila on Monday, Victor Martinez on Sunday, etc.) and acquired Jose Iglesias, a suitable replacement for Jhonny Peralta as shortstop while he serves his PED suspension. Overall, this is the team with the fewest holes and the best collection of premier players in the entire game. They’re also the defending AL champs, and with the Giants clearly ready to offer up their throne, it has to be considered Detroit’s to claim until proven otherwise.

Playoff “Dead” List
August 12 – Colorado Rockies – They put up a valiant fight, but the Rockies simply don’t have enough pitching or offense to compete for a playoff spot. In reality, the entire National League is really shaping up to be a six-team race for five spots, and all accounts seem to point to Arizona being the odd one out. San Francisco and Philadelphia won’t be far behind on this list, leaving the American League to sort itself out over the rest of the month before things really get down to the wire in September.
August 5 – Los Angeles Angels
July 29 – Toronto Blue Jays
July 22 – San Diego Padres
July 15 – Minnesota Twins
July 8 – Chicago White Sox
July 1 – Milwaukee Brewers
June 24 – Seattle Mariners
June 17 – Chicago Cubs
June 10 – New York Mets
June 3 – Houston Astros
May 27 – Miami Marlins

Three series to watch this week…
1) PIT @ STL (8/13-8/15) – Two weeks ago, the Pirates took four of five from the Cardinals in Pittsburgh. Now St. Louis has a chance to return the favor, albeit only over the course of three games in the Gateway City. It’s still enough games, though, that the two teams would be tied atop of the NL Central if the Cards can pull off a sweep.
2) BAL @ ARZ (8/12-8/14) – Losing two of three to the Mets isn’t how Arizona wanted to follow up a good series win over Tampa. Now the D-backs get an Orioles team that’s still hanging around just outside the AL playoff picture while they themselves need a major run to avoid the NL playoff field being set before September even begins.
3) Pick A Series (8/?-8/?) – So many contending teams with a chance to pick up some much-needed wins. Boston visits Toronto, Cincinnati faces the Cubs at Wrigley, the Rangers host Milwaukee, Tampa returns home to play Seattle, and the Indians travel north to visit the Twins. All five teams could really use the wins as they compete for limited playoff positions, so let your eyes wander from screen to screen this week and catch a glimpse of each of each series.

Three series to watch this weekend…
1) KCR @ DET (8/15-8/18) – The Indians had their shot at Detroit last week and promptly lost all four. This week, the Royals get a turn at the AL Central leaders with 7.5 games separating the two teams. If KC wants to play for a division in September, they desperately need to do no worse than a split here – and realistically probably need to win three – or the Tigers can send the “2013 AL Central Champs” banner to the press.
2) CLE @ OAK (8/16-8/18) – Speaking of the Indians, they embark on a critical 9-game road trip after dropping six of seven at home this past week. They need to stay afloat through Minnesota, Oakland, and Anaheim, because if they continue their putrid play their shot at a playoff berth of any kind could be gone before they play another home game.
3) NYY @ BOS (8/16-8/18) – You may be aware that these two teams are rivals, and while it appears that the Yankees won’t be postseason participants this year, they’re still at least in the mix. What the Red Sox can do, though, is put New York out of its misery – or just give the “Evil Empire” another weekend of hope that they can overcome their AL East foes.

If the playoffs started today…
American League
1) Detroit Tigers
2) Boston Red Sox
3) Texas Rangers
4) Tampa Bay Rays
5) Oakland Athletics

National League
1) Atlanta Braves
2) Pittsburgh Pirates
3) Los Angeles Dodgers
4) St. Louis Cardinals
5) Cincinnati Reds

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