By Ted Keith
August 20, 2009

Is the West best? At least one prominent big leaguer thinks so, and when it comes to the Power Rankings, it just might be. For the second straight week, five of the top nine teams play in the American or National League West, while the Yankees -- the resident beast of the east -- had to endure the always difficult West Coast swing through Seattle and Oakland to solidify their grip on the top spot.

MLB Power Rankings
1 New York Yankees
Last Week: 1
Despite losing back-to-back games for the first time all month this week, the Yankees still went 5-2, stretched their AL East lead to seven games and became the first team in the majors to reach 75 wins. They are also starting to deserve comparisons to some of the best teams in franchise history. At their current pace, the Yankees would win 101 games and set a franchise record for home runs. Already eight Yankees have hit at least 15 home runs and the club is on pace for almost 250 this year, which would top the club mark of 240 set in 1961. Of course, I doubt anyone will want to make a movie out of this year's team like they did with that one, but with each passing day it seems more and more likely that this year's edition is headed for a storybook ending.
2 Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 2
The Angels have taken advantage of helpful scheduling to beef up their record and soar to their biggest lead of the year in the AL West. They also got Torii Hunter back from injury (he had missed five weeks with a strained adductor), which means Hunter is back to blogging. In his latest post, Hunter makes the case for the AL West being the best division in baseball, "whether the media recognizes it or not" and points out that the Angels, Rangers, Mariners and A's are a combined 34 games over .500. That may be true and Hunter makes some valid points, but what he fails to mention is that the AL West is also the smallest division in baseball, and with only four teams it's overall record is not weighed down by a fifth team. In fact, entering Wednesday night, the average games under .500 for a fourth-place team like the A's is 12.7. The average for a fifth-place team is 24.4.
3 St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 5
The Cards have added one former NL Cy Young winner (John Smoltz), and seen the former NL Cy Young winner they already have (Chris Carpenter) pitch like he should win another. Carpenter leads the National League in ERA (2.27). ranks second in wins (13), third in winning percentage and second in WHIP (0.966), BB/9 (1.3) and K/BB ratio (5.3/1). Given his recent injury history, he's also been remarkably durable, pitching 138.2 innings after throwing just 21.1 innings combined over the previous two seasons. Carpenter did spend a month on the DL earlier this year, however, and given his fragile injury history, this may be a little premature.
4 Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 4
For all the attention given to the arrivals of Cliff Lee and Pedro Martinez, and the shuffling of Jamie Moyer to the bullpen, there's another former member of the Phillies starting rotation who had been a bit forgotten about lately. Until, that is, Brett Myers got involved in an altercation in a Florida bar last Friday night. Myers, who hasn't pitched since late May and is still rehabbing from hip surgery, missed his rehab start on Saturday from a swollen eye he says he suffered when he face-planted after getting home the night of the incident. Of course, that's better than his original excuse to the team, which is that he got hit in the eye with a baseball while having a catch with his four-year-old son. And now it may just be that he was punched in the eye after all. Even his manager isn't standing behind him. "I don't believe any of it," Charlie Manuel said. "He's a grown man. I'd like to see him be a professional." Myers hasn't exactly been needed lately; the Phils finished a three-game sweep of the Cubs at Wrigley last week (overcoming another alcohol-related incident), took two of three from the Braves and the first two in their current series against the D-backs to maintain a comfortable lead in the NL East. But with Brad Lidge's continuing struggles, Myers could have provided serious help in the bullpen.
5 Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 3
All the attention paid to the beanball wars last week in major league baseball overshadowed what might be called a reverse beaning. The Dodgers' Hiroki Kuroda was hit in the head by a line drive off the bat of the Diamondbacks' Rusty Ryal on Saturday. Kuroda stayed down for several minutes before being taken away on a stretcher. He hasn't spoken to the media since, but in case you're wondering what it feels like for a pitcher, here's what a few guys who have had similar experiences had to say: "The last thing I remember was the ball being a few inches from my head. It was a strange pain, but a lot of it was fearing what else had happened. What went on? Am I bleeding? Turns out I just had a couple cuts on my ear and head," said Horacio Ramirez, who was hit in June of 2006. Billy Wagner got hit back in 1998 while with the Astros and said, "It never hurt. I had a mild concussion, and it took my balance away, but it happened so quick there was no pain. [But] there was blood everywhere. The shock of being hit was worse." Now the Dodgers must bounce back from the shock of losing a valuable starter until further notice and seeing their NL West lead shrink to just 3 1/2 games.
6 Texas Rangers
Last Week: 7
The Rangers are ready to party like it's 1999. First they moved, temporarily, into the outright wild-card lead, the first time they'd been alone in a playoff spot this late in the season since they won the AL West 10 years ago. Then they went out and traded for Pudge Rodriguez, the future Hall of Famer who spent 12 years in Texas from 1991-2002, including an MVP season in '99. Rodriguez's acquisition may not be the difference in their pennant chase, but it certainly highlights the need for depth in any playoff club. Before the season, the Rangers boasted the most catching depth in baseball, with Taylor Teagarden, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Max Ramirez. But Ramirez just came off the DL in the minors, Saltalamacchia has something called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, and the Rangers were forced to use a guy who doesn't even have his own Wikipedia page to make his major league debut after spending eight years in the minors. Despite all that, they took two out of three from the Red Sox and are now 7-2 against Boston this year.
7 Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 6
Look on the bright side, Red Sox fans: It's fairly amazing that despite having the 10th worst record in the American League since the All-Star break, Boston is still a game in front in the wild card race. That is even more impressive considering their disappearing offense, which averaged 5.28 runs per game before the break, but just 4.7 since then. It was even lower (4.2) during their recent stretch without Kevin Youkilis, who was suspended five games for charging Detroit's Rick Porcello last week. Among those who thought Youkilis got a raw deal with a five-game suspension is Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, who said giving equal punishment to Youkilis and Porcello was "outrageous." You can't blame Boston fans for being a little touchy about beanball incidents, I suppose. They've seen their share of devastation. (Any chance Youkilis spent his time off doing this? Doubtful.)
8 Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 8
It would seem that the biggest aid for the Rockies in their quest to hold off the Giants for the NL wild card -- and perhaps overtake the Dodgers in the NL West -- is their remaining schedule. The Rockies have played just 55 games in Denver all year, the fewest in baseball, and their 32-23 home record is just the 11th-best in the majors. But they've actually thrived on the road as well. Their road mark (34-30) is actually fifth-best in baseball, and they've already won more games away from Coors Field than they did all of last season. Despite the humidor effect that has lessened the impact of the thin air in Denver (the Rockies actually average more home runs per game on the road than at home), their much-improved pitching staff is the biggest reason for their success on the road. Colorado's pitchers have a 3.88 road ERA, 1.30 WHIP and .292 average against on balls in play on the road, compared to 4.64, 1.53 and .325 at home.
9 San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 10
Matt Cain has quietly emerged as a potent No. 2 behind Tim Lincecum in the Giants rotation, so quietly in fact, that Cain made his biggest noise this season with a pitch that ricocheted off the helmet of the Mets' David Wright last Saturday. For all the attention rightfully paid to Wright, few people inquired about Cain, who was visibly upset and spent much of Saturday night unable to get the image out of his mind. "My mom called to see how I was doing," he said at his locker the next day. "That was about it." Cain watched repeated replays of the pitch on SportsCenter in his hotel room while trying to fall asleep, and said that while he will still pitch inside when he has to and will protect his teammates, he may think twice about pitching up and in again. "I've had that come across my mind, like what if I miss?" he says. "A lot of guys throw hard in this league. What if you miss up and hit someone in the head? That's a situation I don't want to be in." In the meantime, Cain's stellar pitching (12-4, 2.49 ERA and an NL-best four complete games) has the Giants in an enviable position: just one game out in the wild-card race.
10 Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 9
Joe Maddon's new look is causing a stir. The Rays manager, who has already scored points in the past for his fashionable eyewear, dyed his once silver hair jet black. (At least he didn't go back to this look). The Rays hirsute history is a mixed bag. In 2003, then-manager Lou Piniella dyed his hair blond after his team put together a three-game winning streak. That year's Devil Rays finished 63-99. Last season, the Rays started a revolution with the Rayhawk, which became all the rage when the Rays advanced to the World Series. This year's move may not have been to change their fortunes, but it can't hurt, after the Rays lost six of seven before bouncing back with three straight wins. We'll get a decent sample size to see how if this latest move is to dye for. Maddon has pledged to keep the look all year, but the early returns are promising: The Rays beat the Orioles in their skipper's first two games as the man in black.
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