Thursday September 16th, 2010

MLB Power Rankings
21Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 22
The Baltimore Sun asks the million-dollar question, " When is a ballpark billboard really a TV ad?" The ads placed on the backstop at Camden Yards generate more than $1 million annually and the Maryland Stadium Authority is in line to get a quarter of all in-stadium billboards. But the Orioles contend that the ads behind home plate -- which are in the sight of television cameras on nearly every pitch of every game -- are really TV ads and have withheld some of the payments. Buck Showalter has fixed so much in such a short time as the Orioles' new manager, so perhaps he intervene here too.
22Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 19
Another great September call-up story: A 13th-round draft pick in 1995, Dodgers first baseman John Lindsey spent 16 years in the minors before he recently made his major-league debut -- and then made it for real the next day. On Sept. 8 Lindsey, who won the Triple-A Pacific Coast League batting title, was announced as a pinch hitter for what would be his first major-league at bat, but after the Padres made a pitching change, manager Joe Torre called him back to the dugout in favor of another pinch hitter. The next day he got his chance to bat and flew out to center field. Since then he got his first major-league start and his first major-league hit, a single.
23Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 23
Ryan Braun is finally starting to look like the three-time All-Star that he is. He began August barely hitting above .270 with 17 home runs -- decent production but not up to his high standards. Beginning with a 5-for-7 game on Aug. 2, Braun has started pounding the ball. He's 59-for-149 (.396) with six homers and 25 RBIs in his next 38 games, raising his season average to .305. It's too late to help the Brewers, who long ago fell from playoff contention, but it's enough to assuage any concerns about Braun going forward to 2011 and beyond.
24Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 24
When Major League Baseball announced the 2011 schedule on Tuesday, the only series it highlighted in the subhead of the press release was the Cubs' visit to Fenway Park from May 20-22, their first ever regular-season games at the Red Sox' home. But it can't be that attractive of a draw for the Cubs, who have played at Fenway once before -- in the 1918 World Series. In other words, expect the series to be dominated by discussion of the Cubs' long title drought, as the Red Sox have actually won six World Series (1912, '15, '16, '18, 2004 and '07) since the Cubs in 1908.
25Washington Nationals
Last Week: 25
There is a refreshing lack of pretense with Adam Dunn. Unlike most power hitters who publicly claim they're just trying to hit the ball hard and that home runs are a bonus, the Nationals first baseman considers homers to be a part of his identity. After powering his 35th of the season on Tuesday -- his seventh straight season with at least that many -- Dunn told the Washington Post, "Rickey Henderson steals bags. Nolan Ryan strikes people out. I try to hit home runs. That's kind of what I do. If I didn't hit home runs, I wouldn't be in this league right now."
26Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 27
When Zack Greinke won the Cy Young last year, it was a breakthrough moment. He clearly had been the AL's best pitcher but only had 16 wins, so that he won the voting suggested a philosophical shift in thinking about the value of that statistic. Asked by the Kansas City Star recently who should win this year, however, Greinke was non-committal about the award's intent despite his recent history, asking, "Is it the best pitcher or is it the most valuable pitcher?" Greinke noted that the Mariners' Felix Hernandez (best pitcher) and the Yankees' CC Sabathia (most valuable pitcher) were the two best candidates, with the Rays' David Price as a darkhorse, depending on how Tampa Bay finishes the season.
27Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 26
First baseman Russell Branyan was dealt to Seattle midseason, a move by the Mariners to bolster their anemic offense. It's helped somewhat as Branyan has hit 15 home runs with his new team, the most of any Mariner this season. While the Indians' offense has had slightly more pop than Seattle's, it's worth noting that the 10 homers Branyan hit for Cleveland in 52 games before the trade still ranks as tied for fourth, trailing only the 16 by Shin-Soo Choo and 11 each by Travis Hafner and Jason Nix. (Shelley Duncan and Matt LaPorta also have 10 apiece.)
28Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 28
Third baseman Mark Reynolds continues to push new frontiers of strikeouts. He set major-league records with 204 strikeouts in 2008 and 223 more in '09. This year he's again leading the majors. He has 196 and, unless he goes on a hitting tear, he could finish the season with more strikeouts than points in his batting average. He's currently hitting just .207, though he does have 32 home runs.
29Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 29
Thanks to a recent 13-game hitting streak that was snapped on Monday and a three-hit night on Tuesday, Ichiro Suzuki has all but assured himself of yet another 200-hit season. He's now at 189, and this would be his major-league-record-tying 10th 200-hit year, breaking his current second-place tie with Ty Cobb and matching Pete Rose for the most alltime. Unlike Rose who needed 17 seasons to amass that many 200-hit campaigns, Ichiro will have done so in each of his 10 years in Major League Baseball.
30Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 30
Reliever Octavio Dotel has been pretty good for the Dodgers, earning a 1-1 record with a save and a 3.57 ERA in 17 2/3 innings since the Pirates traded him to Los Angeles. Too bad the Dodgers fell from playoff contention quickly, making Dotel's production rather superfluous. On the other hand, Pittsburgh received 25-year-old starter James McDonald, who has thrown 15 shutout innings in his last two starts and has a 3.49 ERA in eight outings for his new team. On this trade there seems to be a clear, immediate winner.
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