Thursday August 26th, 2010

MLB Power Rankings
11St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 10
Praising Albert Pujols feels so redundant that it doesn't happen enough, kind of like the sentiment in Yogi Berra's famous quip, "No one goes there anymore. It's too crowded." One home run shy of 400 for his career, Pujols is poised to become the third youngest to reach the milestone, trailing only Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr. He's even got a shot at the first Triple Crown in 43 years. Both Pujols and the Reds' Joey Votto rank in the top three in the NL in average, home runs and RBIs. Votto leads in average (.326), is second in HRs (31) and third in RBIs (90); Pujols is third in average (.319) and first in both HRs (33) and RBIs (92).
 
12Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 11
Maligned closer Bobby Jenks was the White Sox' bullpen savior last week. After having been displaced from his closing role not long before, Jenks logged three shutout innings -- the first time he's gone that long in a game since 2005 -- to help Chicago as it played its third straight day of extra innings. With relievers Matt Thornton and J.J. Putz now on the D.L., manager Ozzie Guillen might be asking if Jenks can go three innings every night.
 
13Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 13
The Rockies continue to hang on the fringe of the NL wild-card picture, thanks to a four-game winning streak capped by a furious rally against the Braves Wednesday afternoon. After trailing Atlanta 10-1 in the third inning, Colorado scored one run in the fourth inning, three in both the fifth and sixth and then four in the eighth for the 12-10 win. The nine-run deficit they overcame matched the best such comeback in franchise history. Adding to the winning streak's degree of difficult is that it included a sweep of the NL East-leading Braves.
 
14Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 14
What do Mariano Rivera, Jose Valverde and Brian Fuentes have in common? This year each has fewer saves than Toronto's Kevin Gregg, who has saved 29 of his 33 opportunities with a 3.26 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 47 innings. Jason Frasor began the year as the Blue Jays' closer, but Gregg wrestled the job away from him within a week. He's allowed a run in only two of his 18 appearances in July and August.
 
15Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 15
Baseball may be increasingly a young man's game, but Vin Scully, the Dodgers' 82-year-old Hall of Fame broadcaster, announced on Sunday that he'd return for a 62nd season in 2011. The news came shortly after Los Angeles snagged catcher Rod Barajas off waivers from the Mets -- because, apparently, in Hollywood an 11-game deficit in the NL West means a team is still in "buy" mode -- leading Scully to sarcastically explain his decision to return thusly, "Of course, now that they have Rod Barajas, that was the clincher."
 
16Florida Marlins
Last Week: 19
The documents giving the finances of several major-league teams -- the Marlins included -- that were recently leaked to the Associated Press and to Deadspin have blown through the bluster of ownership and made the books a little too transparent for some teams' liking. Particularly distasteful is the revelation of how much money the Marlins have profited while demanding huge sums of public money for their ballpark -- for more, read Jeff Passan's scatching critique of Marlins management.
 
17Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 16
The least heralded great season by a starter this year is undoubtedly Trevor Cahill's year. The 22-year-old is 14-5 with a 2.43 ERA -- second in the AL, trailing only Boston's Clay Buchholz -- a meager 1.00 WHIP and an AL-low 6.4 hits allowed per nine innings. And he's getting better: Over his last seven starts, he has averaged 5 2/3 innings per outing with just a 1.00 ERA. Cahill is the second-youngest A's starter with 14 wins, bested only by Vida Blue, who won 24 games, the Cy Young and the MVP in 1971. Cahill is unlikely to even get a vote for the MVP but should be a strong Cy Young contender.
 
18Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 18
The Tigers need no better salesman than Rays manager Joe Maddon, who ought to serve as the new head of Detroit's tourism board. While talking about how he'd prefer Damon to stay with the Tigers and not accept a trade to the Red Sox, Maddon told reporters, "I think he needs to really, really understand what a great community Detroit is. It would be a great place to raise a family, even if he explores some of the suburbs, for instance, Birmingham -- it's a beautiful little enclave over there." When Boston manager Terry Francona was asked to comment about Damon, he said, "I can't. That's tampering," the manager said. "I'll get fined and I don't want to. Joe Maddon can do it and not get fined, but I can't."
 
19New York Mets
Last Week: 20
Mets manager Jerry Manuel called the offense "pathetic" recently -- since the All-Star break they've ranked last in the majors in average (.220), OBP (.287), slugging (.333) and runs scored (115) -- yet general manager Omar Minaya, perhaps in an effort to save his job, said before Wednesday's game that the Mets were "still in the hunt" for the wild card. After that night's loss, however, New York fell to seventh in the wild-card standings, seven games behind the Phillies.
 
20Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 17
The sample size is infinitesimally small, but the very early statistical evidence suggests the Angels' decision to install Peter Bourjos as their center fielder -- and displace nine-time Gold Glove winner Torii Hunter to right -- is looking smart. While many advanced defensive metrics need two or three seasons to calibrate and show a player's true skill level, given the paucity of fielding chances, Bourjos is nevertheless off to an incredible start in his first 159 innings in center field. His Ultimate Zone Rating is 5.2, which projects to a UZR/150 -- runs saved over 150 games -- of 96.9, which would shatter all manner of records. Again, take it with a few grains of salt, but Bourjos' UZR in center field is already the best of any Angel at any position.
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