Thursday September 16th, 2010

MLB Power Rankings
11Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 11
Mike Lowell reiterated over the weekend that he plans to retire at the end of the season. While thumb and hip injuries have sapped his productivity this season -- and his speed, which is no faster than evolution these days -- Red Sox fans ought to appreciate his contributions in his five years in Boston. He was acquired as a Marlins' salary dump in the Josh Beckett-for-Hanley Ramirez trade, but his 2007 performance helped catapult the Sox to a title. Lowell batted .324 with 21 home runs and 120 RBIs en route to an All-Star appearance and, later, World Series MVP honors.
 
12Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 7
No wonder it all fell apart for the White Sox. On Wednesday Carlos Quentin hit his first home run in 35 days. Ever since a five-hit game on Aug. 30, Alexis Rios has batted .224 with a .309 OBP in 14 games since. Manny Ramirez has more strikeouts (13) than total bases (11) since he arrived in Chicago. Only Paul Konerko has hit for any kind of power. With the exception of their 12-run win over the Royals on Sunday, the White Sox haven't surpassed four runs in seven of their last eight games, during which they've gone 2-6 and essentially been eliminated from playoff contention.
 
13St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 13
On Sunday, the day manager Tony La Russa revealed that star first baseman Albert Pujols was playing with what he termed a "jammed elbow," Pujols smacked two home runs off Braves All-Star Tim Hudson -- Nos. 38 and 39 of the year. If only we could all have such elbow problems. Pujols did miss Tuesday's game after receiving a cortisone shot in the elbow but returned to the lineup Wednesday. It's possible he could be shut down a few games before the season ends after the Cardinals are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs.
 
14Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 14
In the same city where his Cy Young-winning father made his major-league debut, top Blue Jays pitching prospect Kyle Drabek logged his first start in the big leagues on Wednesday night. Doug Drabek pitched 13 seasons for five teams, winning the 1990 NL Cy Young with the Pirates, and his son enters with plenty of hype -- after all, Kyle Drabek was the centerpiece of the package Toronto received from the Phillies for Roy Halladay. Kyle Drabek, the Double A Eastern League pitcher of the year, got the loss but gave a quality start: three runs and five strikeouts over six innings.
 
15Florida Marlins
Last Week: 15
All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez tried to dye his hair blonde. It came out an unnatural orange-red, so much so that one friend of his on another team recently joked that he's now the "Dominican Bobby Kielty." Whoever Ramirez is, he's crushing the ball. Since the dye job on Aug. 25, he has batted .377 with five homers, 15 RBIs and seven stolen bases in 20 games.
 
16Houston Astros
Last Week: 16
Chris Johnson has become one of the most recognizable names in sports, owing to the prolific yardage totals of the Titans running back by that name. But the Astros have their own talented Chris Johnson, a 25-year-old third baseman who has hit .319 with a .350 OBP and .493 slugging percentage and nine home runs in 78 games this season. The average and slugging lead all Astros with at least 300 plate appearances.
 
17Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 17
Wednesday night's clunker from Armando Galarraga notwithstanding, the Tigers' starting rotation has been on an incredible roll -- no doubt a credit to the work of pitching coach Rick Knapp, who has worked wonders with the previously struggling Jeremy Bonderman, Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer. Since Aug. 20 Detroit's starters are 12-2 with a 2.71 ERA, throwing 17 quality starts and sporting a .224 average against. The team, however, is only 14-10 during that stretch, owing in part to five blown saves from the bullpen.
 
18New York Mets
Last Week: 20
Tuesday was oddly a pretty good day for the Mets' three highest-paid pitchers. Ace Johan Santana underwent arm surgery that the doctors deemed "successful." Closer Francisco Rodriguez, who was arrested for assault last month, was spared jail time by a judge despite repeatedly texting his girlfriend, a violation of his order of protection. And Oliver Perez did not pitch on Tuesday, having thrown just twice in the past 40 days. He is, after all, the ultimate sign of defeat: the Mets are 1-15 in his 16 appearances. About half are losses because he pitched, and about half he pitched because the Mets were losing.
 
19Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 18
Yahoo!'s Jeff Passan writes the heart-warming tale of how A's reliever Craig Breslow -- a molecular biophysics and biochemistry graduate from Yale -- is working to raise money for childhood cancer research in honor of his sister who beat cancer when she was 13. The best quote comes from Oakland closer Andrew Bailey, who sits on the board of Breslow's foundation, and said of Breslow, "We call him The Wizard. He's smart, he's the best cribbage player I know, he runs a foundation and he can pitch, too. Not anyone can go to Yale. And not anyone at Yale can study molecular bio ? biophy ? bio-whatever-it-is."
 
20Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 21
In successive years, the label of "Angels' closer of the future" has been placed on Jose Arredondo, then Kevin Jepsen and now Jordan Walden. Arredondo was 10-2 with a 1.62 ERA in 2008 but had a 6.00 ERA in 2009 and recently had Tommy John surgery while a member of the Reds' organization. Jepsen had 17 holds and a 4.94 ERA as a rookie in 2009 and seemed ready for the gig next, only for him to have a disappointing 2010 in which he showed little improvement (4.65 ERA). Now Walden looks to be next in line with his fastball approaching 100 mph. He has 15 strikeouts in his first eight major-league innings.
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