By yet another unanimous vote, the Athletics remain No. 1 in our rankings. For a fourth week in a row, Oakland defeated all comers to keep its hold on the top spot, garnering all seven first-place votes. But there was some shuffling in the top five, as the Angels (No. 2) and Dodgers (No. 3) knocked the Brewers (No. 4) down, and the surging Nationals bumped the Tigers from fifth to sixth.
They’re No. 1: Athletics
Oakland has the best record in baseball, the most All-Star-bound players of any team in the majors and, at 99 percent, the highest odds of making the postseason, per Baseball Prospectus’ Playoff Odds Report. But as the Tigers showed in sweeping three straight from the A’s in Detroit last week (improving to 5-2 against Oakland this season), this team is hardly a lock to reach its first World Series in 24 years. Last week’s blockbuster trade to acquire Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel from the Cubs can only help, though. Samardzija had a stellar outing (7 IP, 4 H, 1 R) in his Oakland debut on Sunday, helping the A’s cap a four-game sweep of the Blue Jays heading into a four-game showdown with the Giants that should feature Hammels’ first turn in the green-and-gold.
Cellar Dweller: Astros
For all the recent positive momentum Houston has made — like, say, championship dreams that might not be very far-fetched — Houston is back in a familiar spot: last place in the Power Rankings and the owners of the worst record in baseball. The Astros carry a seven-game losing streak into the new week and have lost 16 of 20 overall, during which time their deficit in the AL West has doubled from 10 games to 20. On Sunday, their two prized rookies who have done much to boost hope of brighter days in Houston, George Springer and Jon Singleton, went a combined 0-for-8 with seven strikeouts. While Springer (17 home runs, 46 RBIs) has shown the makings of a star, Singleton is now down down to .168/.264/.336 on the season and may soon have to head back down to the minors.
Biggest Riser: Rays
Maybe that medicine man is working after all. Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon had one from the Seminole tribe come talk to his floundering team on June 9, and after a couple more losses, his Rays have finally started to resemble the annual contenders they had been under his watch. Since June 11, Tampa Bay is 17-8, tied with the Pirates for the most wins in baseball, and has nearly cut its AL East deficit in half. That recent success could be complicating the team’s plans for David Price, however. If the Rays get any closer to a postseason berth, they may have to hold on to their ace. If the medicine wears off, though, Price could still be headed out of town in a blockbuster trade that has long been anticipated.
Biggest Faller: Reds
Yes, Cincinnati took two of three from first-place Milwaukee over the weekend, but it’s hard not to penalize the Reds for becoming the first team all year to be swept by the Padres in a series of at least three games. Even the state of the Joey Votto’s locker has been cause for consternation lately. Still, Cincinnati is sending four players to the All-Star Game and is still just three games out of a playoff spot, so its modest five-place drop in the rankings looks for now like more of a hiccup than a real sign of trouble — although Votto's upcoming disabled list stint isn't making Reds fans breathe any easier.
A Few Words About The...
Giants: San Francisco spent most of last week in damage control, trying to stop its miserable slide out of first place in the NL West after a disastrous 10-16 month of June. Although the Giants went just 3-3 last week, that included a much-needed series win over San Diego, their first since taking two of three from Arizona back on June 20-22. That .500 week helped San Francisco stay just 1/2-game behind the Dodgers in the division race. Up next: a massive test against the best team in baseball, the A's, with two at home and two on the road.
Cubs: The Cubs aren't going to challenge for the top spot in these rankings any time soon, and with their two best starters in Samardzija and Hammel now plying their trade elsewhere, it's going to be a long second half on the North Side of Chicago. But give the Cubs credit for being a tough out even as they cruise toward another last-place finish in the NL Central. Chicago is 18-15 since the start of June and went 4-2 last week, including a three-game Fenway Park sweep of the slumping Red Sox. Plus, the addition of Addison Russell from Oakland gives the Cubs a ludicrous amount of talent in the minors. He's now part of a superb group of top prospects that includes Albert Almora, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant.
Rockies: Colorado's ship is taking on water faster than the team can bail it out. A 1-6 week featuring a sweep at the hands of the Nationals and three losses against the Dodgers has the Rockies just 1/2 a game ahead of last-place Arizona in the NL West and edging closer and closer to last place in our rankings. It's gotten so bad in Colorado that the team, desperate for pitching, dug up Jair Jurrjens for a start against the Dodgers last weekend. Jurrjens, who has made just 11 MLB starts since being named an All-Star in 2011, was roughed up for eight runs on 12 hits in 4 2/3 innings in L.A.'s 9-0 win.