Orioles and Blue Jays soar into top 10 as showdown looms

Thursday June 20th, 2013

Chris Davis got off to a scorching start this season and hasn't slowed down; he leads the AL in home runs with 26.
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Baseball's hottest teams will try to cool each other off north of the border this weekend, as the Blue Jays (winners of eight straight and 11 of 13) host the Orioles (winners of 8 of 11 and employer of Chris Davis) in Toronto.

The AL East rivals are the fastest risers in this week's Power Rankings -- Baltimore jumped from No. 13 to No. 4 while Toronto soared from No. 22 to No. 9 -- and they're also atop Bill James' hottest-team leaderboard. That metric, which uses room temperature of 72 degrees as equilibrium, gauges the Blue Jays at a scorching 112 degrees and the Orioles at 94, the only two clubs above 90.

Toronto reached Power Rankings' top-10 despite a sub-.500 record this season (35-36) because of its hot recent play. As a reminder, Power Rankings is trying to objectively determine who is playing the best right now. The rankings are ordered based on a quantitative formula, half determined by season record and a quarter each attributed to last-10-games record (with a small strength of schedule component) and season run differential.

JAFFE: Chris Davis doing his best Miguel Cabrera impersonation

TAYLER: Rotation carries Blue Jays back into the hunt

NOTE: All stats are updated through Wednesday, June 19.

MLB Power Rankings
1St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 1
Edward Mujica has converted all 21 saves chances he's had while allowing just a .180 average and, most impressively, striking out 27 batters compared to just one walk. Mujica already has the fourth-best single-season K/BB ratio in baseball history (min. 50 innings) with a 12.0 when he was with the Padres in 2010, trailing only Dennis Eckersley's 1989 and '90 seasons, as well as Mariano Rivera's 2008.
2Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 4
The Reds have beaten on the NL Central's also-rans -- 10-3 record against the Cubs and 5-1 against the Brewers -- but have had trouble with the direct competition for the division title, going 3-6 against the Cardinals and 4-5 against the Pirates.
3Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 2
Jose Iglesias' recent 18-game hitting streak was a bit of a mirage in that there were few hard-hit balls. In fact, the young shortstop is tied for 10th in the AL with 13 infield hits this season despite having about half of the plate appearances as each of the players ranked ahead of him.
4Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 13
Not enough can be said about Chris Davis' slump-free monster year. His 26 homers, .720 slugging and 1.132 OPS all lead the majors. He's on pace for 51 doubles and 58 home runs this season -- only Albert Belle in 1995 has ever had a 50-50 season of doubles and homers (which he did in only 143 games in the strike-shortened season).
5Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 3
That restoration-of-Jose Valverde-as-closer experiment isn't looking so good anymore. After converting six of his first seven chances with just one run allowed in 12 innings (0.75 ERA), Valverde has blown two of his next five opportunities and allowed 11 runs in 7 1/3 innings (13.50 ERA).
6Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 5
Jarrod Parker has dramatically turned around his season. He has now rattled off eight straight quality starts in which he's cleaved three runs off his season ERA, bringing it down to 4.30. Since the beginning of this eight-start stretch (on May 11), his 2.43 ERA ranks fourth in the AL.
7Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 6
The Braves have been plagued by poor hitting with runners in scoring position this year -- except for Freddie Freeman. While the team's .227 average and .668 OPS in those situations rank in the majors' bottom five, Freeman has been the lone exception among the team's regulars with a .448 average and a 1.074 OPS.
8Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 7
Pedro Alvarez is establishing himself as a member of the all-or-nothing approach club, alongside the likes of Adam Dunn and Mark Reynolds, with a propensity for strikeouts or homers with little in between. Alvarez has 15 home runs and 83 strikeouts in 64 games, while batting just .214; he is one of four players with more than 175 PAs and at least 30 percent of his hits as homers.
9Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 22
It's not exactly the rotation the Blue Jays envisioned before the season -- Esmil Rogers and Chien-Ming Wang subbed in for Brandon Morrow and Rickey Romero (or J.A. Happ) -- but for one five-man turn through the starting staff this week, Toronto went 5-0 and allowed only four runs.
10Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 19
One way to mitigate the loss of one's closer is to not win many games, at least not closely. Cleveland has done both without Chris Perez. Since his last appearance on May 26, the Indians have gone 9-13 and have won just two games with a save, both earned by Vinnie Pestano this week.
11Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 14
Despite all the criticism of the their offseason moves, note this: The Royals have allowed the fewest runs in the AL (a year after ranking 10th), and two of their starters acquired this winter, James Shields and Ervin Santana, have sub-3.00 ERAs.
12San Diego Padres
Last Week: 15
During the Padres' protracted hot streak -- in which they've gone from 5-15 to 36-36 -- their starting pitching has been impressive. Eric Stults (2.80 ERA in 11 starts) and Andrew Cashner (3.46 ERA in 10 starts) both have K/BB ratios above three; Jason Marquis (8-0, 3.45 ERA in 10 starts) is the one more prone to regression, however, with a roughly 1-to-1 K/BB ratio.
13San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 16
The Giants have gotten across-the-board offensive contributions from their infielders: All five starters -- including catcher Buster Posey, as well as first baseman Brandon Belt, second baseman Marco Scutaro, shortstop Brandon Crawford and third baseman Pablo Sandoval -- have an OPS+ of 115 or better, which is 15 percent better than average. No other club has more than three qualified infielders that high.
14Texas Rangers
Last Week: 10
There's been no middle ground for the Rangers over the past fortnight. In their last 14 games, they've scored six or more runs four times and have won all four of those games. In the other 10 games, they've scored three or fewer runs in each and lost all 10.
15Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 12
The Diamondbacks' power has waned. For a full month, from May 18 to June 17, Arizona hit more than one home run in a game only once -- that one game, when it hit two in a win against the Cubs on June 1, ended a 12-game streak of zero or one homer before the team lapsed into another 15-game streak with no more than one homer.
16Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 8
If it weren't for the Yasiel Puig, everyone would be talking about Carlos Gonzalez this month. CarGo ranks second in the majors in OPS in June (1.222), behind only the aforementioned Dodger. Gonzalez also has hit eight home runs in his first 18 games of June to give him an NL-leading 21 for the season.
17New York Yankees
Last Week: 9
If the AL MVP is given to the most productive player this season, either Chris Davis or Miguel Cabrera will be the recipient, but the player truly most valuable to his team is Robinson Cano, who leads the Yankees in hits (77), home runs (16), RBIs (42), walks (28), OBP (.351) and slugging (.505); his .856 OPS is the best on the team by nearly 70 points.
18Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 17
Before defeating the Tigers 6-3 on Saturday, the Twins had scored four or fewer runs in 10 straight games, tied for the fourth-longest streak in the majors this year. That win coincided with Trevor Plouffe's return from the DL after a 22-game absence; he went 3-for-3 with a double, homer and walk.
19Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 11
Wil Myers made his long-awaited debut this week, starting off 2-for-12 with a double and two RBIs. He finished his time in Triple A strongly (.354 with 10 homers in his last 23 games) and had a .925 OPS against lefthanded pitching this season, which is in the ballpark of new teammates Evan Longoria and Desmond Jennings to make the Rays a threat against the lefty-heavy AL East rotations.
20Washington Nationals
Last Week: 18
Only three clubs in the last 20 years have finished a season with a team on-base percentage below .300: the Mariners of 2010, '11 and '12. Those Seattle teams won an average of 68 games; so far Washington has a .290 OBP but is on pace for 80 wins.
21Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 25
June has been a boon for a trio of Angels hitters. Howie Kendrick ranks fourth in the AL in OPS this month at 1.025, while Mike Trout is sixth at .991 and Albert Pujols is 11th at .952.
22Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 27
Alfonso Soriano's play may be torpedoing his trade value. Though his June 2012 was scorching (8 HRs, .951 OPS), his June 2013 has been anything but: .191 average, 1 HR, .506 OPS.
23Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 20
For as long as Francisco Rodriguez has been in the big leagues -- since 2002, when he had a 1.48 ERA and 41 strikeouts in a combined 24 1/3 regular- and postseason innings -- it's easy to forget that he's only 31 years old. His performance so far this year shows he can still overwhelm hitters: 13 1/3 innings allowing one earned run (0.68 ERA) with 13 strikeouts.
24Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 23
Even with expensive free-agent signings from the last two winters in Jonathan Papelbon and Mike Adams, Philadelphia still has one of the worst bullpens in the game. Its ERA is 4.63, which ranks 29th in the majors (0.01 better than last-place Houston), and its rate of allowing inherited runners to score (39.5 percent) is the worst in baseball.
25Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 26
Three Seattle starters have been stingy about issuing free passes this year. Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Aaron Harang all have BB/9 rates less than 1.75. If all three finish the year that way (and cross the 162-inning threshold to qualify, which Harang may barely clear), they would join the 2005 Twins (Johan Santana, Brad Radke and Carlos Silva) as the only teams since 1932 to have three such pitchers.
26Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 21
The Dodgers' $200 million-plus payroll seemed to boast a lineup for the ages, but they are one of three teams year that hasn't scored 10 or more runs in any game this season. They have allowed 10 or more runs twice.
27Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 24
Despite residing in last place in the AL Central, the White Sox have maintained a reasonable homefield advantage and actually have a winning record at U.S. Cellular Field at 16-14. The problem, however, is that their road record is 13-26, the worst in the AL.
28New York Mets
Last Week: 28
The Mets got a succinct glimpse of the future on Tuesday, with Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler starting -- and winning -- the two games of a doubleheader with the Braves. Harvey carried a no-hitter into the seventh innings and finished with 13 strikeouts, and then Wheeler won his debut by throwing six shutout innings.
29Houston Astros
Last Week: 30
The Astros now have two starters with winning records: Dallas Keuchel, who has a 1.96 ERA and three quality starts in June, is 4-3 in his eight starts; Jordan Lyles, who has a 3.22 ERA in nine starts this season, is 4-1.
30Miami Marlins
Last Week: 29
Giancarlo Stanton hit his 100th home run on Monday night, and doing so in his 400th career game and before his 24th birthday put him in elite company. That's a pace of one home run every four games; in the 36 games he missed, the Marlins as a team only doubled that, with about one homer every two games.

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