Thursday August 5th, 2010

MLB Power Rankings
21Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 21
Ever since his three day banishment from the bullpen in late May, Trevor Hoffman has been very good. In 21 innings since, he has a 2.57 ERA and is limiting hitters to a .224 average. During that time he has two holds but zero saves, the closer's role having been handed to John Axford. As such, Hoffman is stuck on 596 saves, four away from becoming the first man ever to have 600. With the Brewers now out of contention and with Hoffman having settled his early woes, isn't it time he returns to closing so he can get the milestone? At least Milwaukee would have something to cheer this season.
22Houston Astros
Last Week: 26
The Astros' much-maligned offense, which ranks last or next-to-last in the NL in every major category, came to life recently to key a seven-game winning streak in which they scored at least five runs each game and as many as nine and 18 in a pair of wins over the Cardinals. During those seven games, the club batted .335 with a .407 OBP and 27 extra-base hits. Third baseman Chris Johnson has been a revelation, batting .480 in the streak and .350 in 143 at bats this year.
23Washington Nationals
Last Week: 25
The fear Stephen Strasburg induces in hitters has no limit, even when he's hurt and even in a simulated game. As a way to test himself as he recovers from shoulder stiffness, Strasburg will throw a few simulated innings Thursday afternoon, an otherwise mundane event if not for the fact that the Nationals' future depends upon the health of his right arm. In such an exercise hitters rarely take many live cuts, but still Willie Harris wants nothing to do with it. "I ain't coming here for that," Harris, who's batting .185 in 85 games, told the Washington Post. "I'm trying to get out of a slump, not in one."
24Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 22
Finally returned to regular playing time, catcher Geovany Soto has been baseball's best offensive catcher for the past month. From July 5 to Aug. 5 Soto, who had been splitting time with Koyie Hill, led all catchers in home runs (seven), RBIs (24) and OPS (1.077). After a disappointing 2009, this season Soto is on pace to improve slightly upon his impressive numbers from '08, when he won NL Rookie of the Year.
25Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 23
Maybe, for once, a higher power interceded on behalf of Cleveland sports fans. Still reeling from the recent departure of LeBron James -- not to mention dozens of sports calamities over the years -- Cleveland appears to have dodged a bullet. On Monday night, the Indians' best young player, catcher Carlos Santana, was carted off the field in a cast after his knee buckled while blocking the plate. The cringe-worthy video suggests he may have blown out the knee, but he somehow seems to have escaped with only a sprain and a hyperextension.
26Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 24
Royals fans got their long-awaited glimpse of the future on Aug. 4, when three of the club's best young players -- Billy Butler, Alex Gordon and Kila Ka'aihue -- were in the starting lineup together for the first time. Some fans had been clamoring for Ka'aihue with a "Free Kila" campaign ever since he had a brief call-up in 2008. He showed power and patience in Triple A, with a .424 OBP and 52 home runs in 258 games in Omaha. Those fans didn't quite get what they were hoping on Wednesday; the trio went 1-for-10 with five strikeouts in a Royals loss.
27Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 27
Cliff Lee has been traded, but the Mariners still have a solid No. 2 starter behind Felix Hernandez in Jason Vargas. The left-hander is 7-5 with a 3.19 ERA, which ranks 11th in the AL alongside Yankees ace CC Sabathia, and a 1.20 WHIP. Vargas has been consistent, too. His 16 quality starts are tied for fifth in the league.
28Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 28
The sample size is small, but the two major-league pitchers the Diamondbacks received at the trade deadline have made nice debuts in their transitions to the NL. Joe Saunders, acquired from the Angels, is 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in 16 innings over two stars, while Daniel Hudson, traded from the White Sox, won his first outing with eight innings of one-run ball over the Mets. It's a small glimmer of hope for the worst pitching team (5.2 ERA) in the league and a club whose winning percentage has actually regressed after changing managers.
29Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 29
A day after being plunked in the back of the neck, Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen got his revenge against the Reds, hitting a home run off starter off Johnny Cueto in his first at bat on Wednesday afternoon. Then again, McCutchen has been Kryptonite for Cueto the past two years, going 6-for-19 with three homers. The two of them are among the best young players in the NL Central and will have plenty more chances to spar in their careers.
30Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 30
Buck Showalter is undefeated as Orioles manager. Since taking over the team on Tuesday, Baltimore is 2-0 with a pair of victories over the Angels. Rarely do back-to-back wins qualify as a "streak" -- as they do in this Washington Post headline -- but the Orioles have different standards. Incredibly, these were the club's first consecutive wins since the All-Star break.
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