By Ted Keith
August 20, 2009
MLB Power Rankings
11 Florida Marlins
Last Week: 13
The game's most potent offense now belongs to ... the Marlins? That just might be the case now that the Fish have recorded at least 10 hits in 15 consecutive games, the longest streak in the majors in 72 years and only four shy of the all-time mark. How rare is that? I'm not nearly smart enough to figure out the math on just how rare that is (although I did flip a coin 15 times and get heads eight times and tails seven times -- does that mean anything?) but fortunately there are people who do this stuff for a living. The Miami Herald asked a statistics professor to calculate the odds and found it was "so freaky ... one that denies statistical definition." Kind of like these rankings.
12 Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 11
Still holding just a three-game lead in the AL Central, the Tigers aren't finished looking for ways to improve their club. First they acquired lefty starter Jarrod Washburn from the Mariners on deadline day, then this week they got Aubrey Huff from the Orioles. Huff is being asked to boost an offense that is just 11th in the AL in runs scored and 12th in batting average. (Is it conceivable that his arrival could cause enough of a shuffle elsewhere that Magglio Ordonez doesn't get the 80 plate appearances he needs the rest of this season to trigger the $18 million option for next year? Almost certainly not, but it will be interesting to see.) They also might be getting Dontrelle Willis back soon, and just in case they were still looking for players, they held an open tryout in Toledo last week that drew more than 350 hopefuls. Nobody was signed, but you never know what kind of talent will show up at those things.
13 Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 12
What is it with players and dizzy spells this season? Earlier in the year, Denard Span and Joey Votto were just two of the players to have puzzling bouts of dizziness, and now it's happening to the Braves' Martin Prado. On Saturday, Prado left the Braves game with a headache, was scratched from the lineup each of the next two nights, and left Tuesday's game after the top of the first inning with another headache and dizziness. Prado isn't exactly Chipper Jones, but with a .308 average he has become a decent player offensively, and his ability to play three infield positions made him especially valuable defensively. Without him and Nate McLouth (who was sent to the DL with a bad hamstring), the burden becomes that much heavier on the Braves' pitching staff to keep them in the playoff chase.
14 Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 16
The White Sox are underachievers. Says who? Says the team's own general manager, Ken (excuse me, as my White Sox fan friend likes to remind me, it's Kenny) Williams. "We've thrown away about a dozen games this year, where we would be where I thought we would be, which is in first place and in a good position," said Williams. "But we deserved what we got. I'm not happy with a lot of what I see. We're underachievers." Manager Ozzie Guillen, no stranger to direct language himself (seriously, these guys are like a dream to reporters), agreed. "I read it [Tuesday] I said, 'Oh good for you, that's the same thing I was saying.' Different language" (of course), Guillen told the Chicago Tribune. While it's true that the White Sox look better on paper than they've been on the field, their Pythagorean W-L record (taking into account what a team's record should be based on runs scored and runs allowed) was 61-59 entering Wednesday's game (which they won). Their actual record? 61-59. So, technically, they're not underachievers or overachievers (or even Little Lebowski Urban Achievers). They're break-eveners.
15 Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 15
A 2-4 week that dropped them 12 games out officially answered the question, Are the Mariners a playoff contender? But this week we get a new question: Is Adrian Beltre the toughest player in baseball or stupidest? How about both? Beltre took a ground ball off his ... um ... bells on August 12 and despite tearing and bleeding, stayed in the game for five more innings, even scoring the winning run. On the other hand, the injury was caused because he doesn't wear a cup, and -- brace yourselves -- never has! Not only that, Beltre isn't sure he'll wear one even when he comes off the disabled list. "That's a good question, I don't know," he told FanHouse. "If it happens every 10 years and you get hit there, it's not bad. I have never been hit right on the spot. It's been close, which hurt but not right on one of the testicles. So this was my first." I think I speak for everyone when I say, let's hope it's the last. To replace Beltre, the M's acquired Bill Hall from the Brewers. Hall is batting just .201 and his confidence had sunk so low that he recently told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, "I feel like I can do nothing to help this team right now. It's really difficult when you feel like everybody's lost confidence in you. People tell you (negative) things so many times and you start to believe it yourself, and that's what I'm fighting with."
16 Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 14
For everyone waiting for this Cubs team to provide some memorable moments, I don't think this is what they had in mind. A 21-year-old Cubs fan tossed a beer on the head of the Phillies' Shane Victorino last week and actually got away with it for a few days, leading to the biggest manhunt in Chicago since the days of Elliot Ness. "He's probably thinking he got away with it," said Victorino, who filed a police report. He probably was. Until he wasn't, turning himself into police the day after the game. At least this gave Cubs fans someone new to turn their blame on in the midst of a 4-9 stretch that began with them tied for first in the NL Central and now leaves them six games out. Kevin Gregg, officially demoted as the team's closer this week, is an old target. Who's next?
17 Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 17
I thought we were done with this whole Joe-Mauer-might-bat-.400 thing (especially after this). But then he had to go and hit .500 -- Yes, .500. Unreal -- since August 2 to jack his batting average back from .353 on August 1 to .380 entering Thursday's game. Mauer may have been overshadowed lately in Minnesota, but let's hope it's temporary. Besides, with the Twins having fallen to their biggest deficit of the year in the AL Central, there doesn't seem to be much else worth paying attention to with this team. Unless you're excited about grass growing.
18 Houston Astros
Last Week: 18
Normally, trading a 37-year-old catcher who's batting .251 with a .280 on-base percentage would not be seen as a drastic move, but in dealing Pudge Rodriguez to the Rangers, you can pretty much start the clock on next year for the Astros. They're now nine games out in the wild card, 10 in the NL Central, and even their best player thinks it's about time they moved into rebuilding mode. "I guess that's the process of trying to build the club for next year," ace Roy Oswalt told "That's what I'm hoping they are doing now. There is a time where you have to start rebuilding, and if you wait until the end of the season, you may not get the pieces you need for the next year ... why not do it now rather than wait and have to go up and bid against somebody in the offseason in a bidding war."
19 Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 19
The Brewers were ideally positioned to make a serious post-All-Star break charge. They began the second half 46-43, in second place in the NL Central (just two games out), and with an extremely favorable schedule in place. But aside from a three-game set with the Dodgers in Los Angeles (which they actually won), the Brewers have gone backward. In nine series against some of the worst teams in the league -- including the Nationals (twice), Padres (twice), Astros (twice), Pirates (twice) and Reds (once) -- the Brewers won just one series, dropping them 10 games back in the NL Central and nine out in the wild card. Between this and the Brett Favre news, it's tough to be a sports fan in Wisconsin right now.
20 Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 20
How does a once-promising season go from bad to worse? When you decide it's time to start over and then you can't sign three of your top-four draft picks, including two homegrown Canadian players. "It's just a different world today," Jays general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "Kids say no to a lot of money. What can I tell you?" How about that there is some hope for a team that has the second-worst record in baseball over the past three months, a team that traded two high-priced players nobody wanted but kept the one that everybody did want, and a team that now seems to have hit a major snag in its rebuilding efforts.
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