Thursday August 6th, 2009

MLB Power Rankings
11Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 10
Are the stars aligning for a Rockies? They've suddenly developed both pitching (three starters have ERAs below 4.00 and closer Huston Street has been lights-out since reassuming the closer's role in May) and defense (how's this for a stat: Todd Helton is the best first baseman in baseball the last two years at scooping balls out of the dirt). And they have a relatively easy finishing stretch to their schedule. In September, they only have two series (a three-game roadie with the Giants and three at home against the Cardinals) versus teams with winning records.
 
12Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 12
Even newly acquired Jarrod Washburn couldn't help the Tigers, who are 8-11 since the break. Washburn lost his Tigers debut, but he may not be the only pitcher the Tigers add down the stretch. Both Nate Robertson and Jeremy Bonderman have begun rehab assignments and could return to the team to help in a postseason push. There are no solutions on the horizon for the offense, however, although one approach being tried, according to MLB.com is simplification. "I'm shocked we haven't done better offensively," said manager Jim Leyland, who wants each of his position players to decide on their own how much information they want about opposing pitchers before games. Deciding your own level of involvement? I can think of one guy who approves of that message.
 
13Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 13
They more than held their own against the AL's best so far this week -- beating the Yankees three of four and taking the first two from the Angels, averaging better than seven runs per game along the way -- and the road is about to get a lot easier for Chicago. Starting with a three-game homestand against the Indians this weekend, the Sox play 12 of their next 15 games against the four worst teams in the American League (the Indians, A's, Royals and Orioles) and the other three games are against the depleted Mariners. Over that same stretch, meanwhile, the Tigers have to play the Twins at home and travel to Boston for a four-game series with the Red Sox.
 
14Florida Marlins
Last Week: 16
The back-to-back home runs to beat the Cubs was nice, but what was lame was the Marlins having their mascot bring a billy goat onto the field during the series opener in an effort to do what, exactly? If the goal was to be funny, it fell short. If the goal was to be original, it fell woefully short. (Something like this would be a bit different.) If the goal was to look bush-league, they succeeded wildly, although given the roster of no-name players and the average attendance of fewer than 19,000, the Marlins often resemble a minor league outfit. Cubs manager Lou Piniella, of course, didn't mince words with what he thought of it, calling the move "Tasteless. Every time we come here they do some kind of gimmick. I mean, when they come to Chicago, we don't fry marlin." Like I said, how can you not love this guy?
 
15Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 18
Long considered one of the most promising pitchers in the game, with a quality fastball and sharp breaking ball, it seems almost unfathomable that Javier Vazquez has exactly a .500 record for his career. After beating the Padres on Tuesday night for his ninth win of the year (one shy of his 10th straight double-digit victory season), he's now 136-136 for his career. But wins are not the reason why he's having the best season of his career at age 33. He's posted career-lows in ERA (2.99), WHIP (1.045), H/9, W/9 and HR/9 and career highs in ERA+ and K/9. Of course, the other two times he had years that were this good he followed them up with dreadful encore years, so it may be a tad premature to start engraving his Hall of Fame plaque. But now that the Braves have six starters (or will when Tim Hudson comes back), Vazquez's success gives them options to trade someone, perhaps -- in what would be the fifth time in his career -- Vazquez himself.
 
16Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 19
Who's the bravest man in baseball? How about the Dodgers security guard who got between 260-pound (cough, cough) Prince Fielder and the clubhouse door on Tuesday night, keeping the Brewers slugger from doing ... well, nobody is really sure what Fielder would have done had he seen Dodgers pitcher Guillermo Mota, who plunked Fielder with a pitch, seemingly in retaliation for Manny Ramirez being hit earlier in the game. Now the question becomes, what, if anything, do the Brewers do about Fielder? He certainly had a right to be upset about being hit -- why beanballs are still allowed in baseball is beyond me -- but to go so far as trying to storm the other team's clubhouse? And this from a guy who famously shoved his own teammate -- hard -- in a dugout scuffle last year. Fielder is well-loved (and deservedly so for his play on the field) and he's often a very quiet guy, but that kind of behavior is no more acceptable than pitchers who throw at hitters intentionally.
 
17Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 14
They may have slid out of playoff contention, traded away the man who was just named AL Pitcher of the Month and are staring at several other hard choices after the season, but you can't say the Mariners aren't thinking about their fans. On Monday, the Mariners will host their fourth and final game with "peanut-controlled" sections in the stands. In an effort to make things easier on any fans with peanut allergies, anyone sitting in three different sections must agree to abide by a strict no-peanuts policy. Does that also apply to the singing of Take Me Out To The Ballgame?
 
18Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 15
The deadline deal they did make -- getting Orlando Cabrera, who's hit .385 in his first three games -- has helped, but it's the deals they couldn't make that will hurt more. The Twins are still just a .500 team, and even if they're only 2 1/2 games out in the AL Central, it's hard to imagine them closing that gap with a rotation that got shelled recently by the Angels in a three-game sweep at the Metrodome. Twins pitching gave up 35 runs and 52 hits, and their starters now rank 12th in the 14 team-American League in ERA. Scott Baker, Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, Francisco Liriano and Glen Perkins have not progressed as expected after an impressive 2008. "It's going to start with them," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said this week. "They have to suck it up and get on a roll for us."
 
19Houston Astros
Last Week: 17
The good news: Roy Oswalt and Wandy Rodriguez, July's NL Pitcher of the Month, should be fine after suffering minor injuries. The bad news: Lance Berkman is still bothered by a sore calf and not ready to come off the disabled list. The really bad news: Their playoff hopes might not survive long enough for him to get back.
 
20Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 21
It has been the same refrain for years in Toronto. If only they didn't play in the AL East ... True enough, three times in the past 11 years, the Blue Jays have amassed more wins than that of a playoff team, and three other times they've been within two games of a playoff team's win total. More often than not, the Jays can hold their own with the beasts of the East, but this season the AL East powers are the man keeping the Blue Jays down. Toronto has gone 12-24 within the division and 39-32 against the rest of baseball. For the next two weeks they'll face nothing but AL East competitors. Wait till next year.
1 - 10 11 - 20 21 - 30

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.