Thursday July 29th, 2010

MLB Power Rankings
11Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 13
Ryan Howard has quietly morphed into a more complete and polished hitter rather than just a slugger. After hitting .313 with 58 home runs in his 2006 MVP season, his average regressed to .268, .251 and .279 before vaulting back up to .302 this year. In the last three seasons he hadn't hit better than .225 against lefties but is up to .273 this season. It has come at a small sacrifice to his power, as he's hit 23 home runs, which computes to a pace of 37, well off his average of 49.5 the last four seasons. He'll never replicate 2006 now that pitchers have better scouting reports on him, but Howard, who has also shown his durability by playing every game this season, has shown he too can adjust, albeit a little slowly.
12Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 14
The carnage of a 19-1 victory is impressive in its own right, but it included a 4-for-4 night with a grand slam from rookie Danny Valencia, who hadn't homered in the minors before his callup; it featured a 5-for-5, seven-RBI night from catcher Joe Mauer; it came at the expense of reigning AL Cy Young winner Zack Greinke; and it was followed up with an 11-2 win by Minnesota the next night. The cumulative score of those two games was 30-3, a more likely score in a Vikings-Chiefs contest than a pair of Twins-Royals games.
13Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 12
The Dodgers' bullpen has been a small cause for concern but may have found the answer in unheralded Kenley Jansen. The 22-year-old from Curaçao was a minor league catcher until last year, when the Dodgers organization began converting him to be a pitcher, and he now throws mid-to-upper 90s gas. Jansen started this year in A-ball, but made a rapid ascent that culminated in his major-league debut on Saturday. On Sunday with Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton unavailable after having thrown two innings the previous night, the inexperienced Jansen was called upon for the save and he delivered a 1-2-3 inning against the Mets that included strikeouts of Jason Bay and Ike Davis.
14Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 15
There's no doubting that the Tigers are hurting, with the injuries to Carlos Guillen, Brandon Inge and Magglio Ordoñez -- prompting a trade with Cleveland for Jhonny Peralta -- but how much worse off would they be if not for the play of rookies Brennan Boesch and Austin Jackson? Boesch is hitting .301 with 12 home runs and 51 RBIs; Jackson is batting .314 with 16 stolen bases, more than twice as much as any teammate. While the NL is stacked with great rookies galore, the AL doesn't have nearly the same first-year class and Boesch and Jackson ought to finish 1-2 in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.
15Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 18
Jose Bautista, who previously had never hit more than 16 home runs in a season, is on pace to triple that output in 2010. The Blue Jays right fielder/third baseman was the first major-leaguer to 30 jacks this year after blasting two Tuesday night. If there's any doubt, Bautistia is a dead-pull power hitter who, according to, has yet to hit a homer to right field or even dead center field. But his distances have varied greatly: 10 of his homers have been classified as "just enough," tied for the most in the majors, while a majors-leading 11 of his homers have been "no doubts."
16Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 19
This year Ben Sheets was supposed to be the title character in the fictional short film, The Man Who Would Be Traded. The A's gave the right-hander a one-year, $10-million contract -- just the second player to receive a deal from Oakland with an average annual value in eight figures -- presumably so that he could prove himself healthy in the first half of the year and then be traded to a contender in the second half for a package of prospects. Rather than handing bonus money to amateur prospects, the A's had seemed to find a creative way of buying slightly more seasoned prospects. But then he was placed on the disabled list and now will need more elbow surgery and no team in its right mind will trade for him.
17Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 9
Those premature rumblings about Ubaldo Jimenez's struggles -- he had an 8.66 ERA in three starts leading into the All-Star break -- are now actually a cause for concern because he's failed to return to his dominant early-season form. His first post-All Star start was a gem (eight innings of one-run ball), but he's given up six runs in each of his next two starts (10 of the 12 were earned) and was knocked out in the sixth inning against the Marlins and then in the third against the Phillies for his second defeat of the year. Manager Jim Tracy insists it's not a fatigue issue but his ace's ERA has jumped from 1.15 on June 17 to 2.75 on July 24, a gain of 139 percent.
18New York Mets
Last Week: 16
The litany of Mets' woes keeps growing: center fielder Carlos Beltran has been disappointing in his return (.227 average, 1 HR); first baseman Ike Davis is slumping (.205 average, .264 OBP since June 24); the Mets haven't won any of starter Mike Pelfrey's four July starts; general manager Omar Minaya failed to give a vote of confidence to his coaching staff when pressed on the subject Sunday; and also Sunday manager Jerry Manuel and mild-mannered starter R.A. Dickey got into a heated exchange on the mound over the severity of Dickey's injury. The rollercoaster season continues, with the Mets having fallen 5 1/2 games out of playoff position.
19Florida Marlins
Last Week: 20
Second baseman Dan Uggla is having a career year and may be keeping his talents in South Beach. Uggla has hit 22 home runs while batting .282, his best clip since his rookie year in 2006, and there are hints coming from Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest that multi-year contracts are forthcoming for "more than one" current player. The smart money is that Uggla, who would be a free agent after the 2011 season, and starter Ricky Nolasco land those extensions.
20Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 17
After newly-acquired starter Dan Haren was knocked out of his Angels debut by a line driver off his forearm from Boston first baseman Kevin Youkilis, a few innings later the Angel Stadium scoreboard flashed an update of his status and then faded the screen to a live shot of the evening's full moon beaming down on Anaheim and taunting the proceedings below. Given the fluke injury to Kendry Morales and now this bad omen of a series -- doubly so when Joel Pineiro was scratched with an oblique strain that will sideline him for six to eight weeks -- the Angels are starting to think their season is cursed.
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