By Joe Lemire
June 24, 2010
MLB Power Rankings
11 Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 8
The best veteran relief pitcher Arthur Rhodes could manage in 2007 was a minor-league contract and major-league spring training invite from Seattle. He was coming off an 0-5, 5.32 ERA campaign for the Phillies in '06. And it got worse: Rhodes developed elbow problems and had Tommy John surgery in April '07. Fast forward three years and he's the best lefty reliever in baseball, even though he's 40 years old. He has a microscopic 0.29 ERA, and he's not just a situational reliever, having pitched 31 innings in 34 appearances.
12 Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 12
Just like old times, the Angels have Francisco Rodriguez in their bullpen. This Rodriguez, a 27-year-old reliever from Mexico, is not K-Rod, the former closer of the same name from Venezuela now with the Mets, but the new Rodriguez still been reliable since his promotion to the majors in late May. He has a 2.92 ERA, has struck out 17 in 12 1/3 innings and has allowed hitters just a .159 average.
13 San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 13
Infielder Juan Uribe is apparently fond of mimicking the Staples commercial in which a customer repeatedly and annoyingly yells, "That's a low price!" It's true of himself. He signed a one-year, $3.25 million contract in the offseason and has been a solid contributor (.274, 11 HRs) to a Giants infield not getting the expected production from Pablo Sandoval (.276, six HRs).
14 Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 14
Starter Rick Porcello's demotion to the minors reinforced the difficulty of maintaining major-league production. After finishing third in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting in 2009 when he went 14-9 with a 3.96 ERA, Porcello has struggled this year, going 4-7 with a 6.14 ERA. For hope he need look no further than the Detroit rotation: Armando Galarraga, after all, made seven Triple-A starts this year before returning to (nearly) throw a perfect game and pitch effectively (3.32 ERA) in six big-league starts. Galarraga had finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year race in 2008 before similarly struggling in his second season.
15 Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 16
Though the Mets are touting their RBI-leading third baseman, the Phillies can make a strong case that Placido Polanco has been the better player this year. He's handled the bat well (.311 average) and has been the majors' fourth-best fielding third baseman, saving four runs according to UZR. While the rest of Philadelphia's offense has slowed since mid-May, Polanco has actually improved, batting .341 since May 7.
16 Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 17
The Rockies' disappointing season took another blow when shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who had been batting .326 with eight homers in his last 24 games, suffered a broken wrist when hit by Twins reliever Alex Burnett. "I was crushed by it," Tulowitzki told The Denver Post. With Todd Helton barely hitting, the Rockies' offense is in trouble.
17 Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 15
The hits have started to pile up for the Blue Jays. Having faded from their hot start ? Toronto is now seven games out of first place in the AL East -- the Jays have lost pitcher Dustin McGowan for another year. A former first-round pick and 12-game winner in 2007, McGowan hasn't pitched since having surgery to repair the labrum of his right throwing shoulder in July 2008, and his rehab was just shut down again because he needs another shoulder surgery. Toronto also designated third baseman Edwin Encarnacion for assignment, likely becoming the first player to hit three home runs in a game and be exposed to waivers a month later. Of course, since the homer hat trick, he's batted just .171 with only four more dingers.
18 Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 21
The White Sox would make a great NL team. They've won eight in a row and, at 12-2, own the majors' best record in interleague play. Unfortunately for them, they reside in the AL Central where they have the worst intra-division record. Their offense has feasted on NL pitching, batting 42 points higher than against the AL (.283 to .241) and reaching base more often (.340 to .319). Even more drastic is their improved pitching: the White Sox have a 2.83 ERA against the NL and a 4.75 against the AL.
19 Florida Marlins
Last Week: 20
With Miami rating as the best television market for watching the World Cup, the Marlins tried to capitalize on the enthusiasm, handing out 15,000 mini vuvuzelas to fans who attended Saturday night's Marlins-Rays game. But neither team was particularly enamored of the incessant noisemakers: Rays manager Joe Maddon called it a "non-cool thing" and Florida second baseman Dan Uggla pleaded that "we want to hear the crowd getting behind us, not horns." And it may have hurt the home team in the ninth inning. The Marlins were called out for batting out of order, which manager Fredi Gonzalez blamed on the home-plate umpire not correctly hearing a substitution over the blaring of the horns. Gonzalez's problems, of course, got worse on Wednesday when he was fired as Marlins manager.
20 Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 18
Humphrey Bogart tells Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca, "We'll always have Paris." Well, someone ought to remind Dallas Braden that he'll always have his perfect game, because he hasn't won since. He hasn't pitched that poorly (4.31 ERA) but is 0-5 in eight starts since his May 9 perfecto; the A's have lost all eight of those games.
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