By Joe Lemire
June 24, 2010
MLB Power Rankings
21 Washington Nationals
Last Week: 19
The Nationals have now sent their Opening Day starter to Double-A and effectively replaced him in the rotation with a guy who began the year in Double-A, so essentially John Lannan and Stephen Strasburg have merely traded places, even if they might be complete opposites. Strasburg is a fireballer with an electric curveball drafted No. 1 overall; Lannan is a soft-tossing lefty who entered pro ball with no hype as an 11th-round pick. After starting each of the past two Opening Days, however, Lannan has struggled mightily and was demoted to the minors to work out the kinks. Strasburg, meanwhile, continues to impress.
22 Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 22
A vote of confidence from a minor-league-rehabbing, .168-batting third baseman might only go so far, but Aramis Ramirez told ESPN Chicago that manager Lou Piniella is not the problem on Chicago's North Side. "Lou's good, he knows what he's doing," Ramirez said. "He's been a good manager for [many] years, and he played the game, too." Ramirez rejoined the team on Monday after the club lost two of three at home to the Angels over the weekend.
23 Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 23
The Brewers are one of only three teams that has five players with at least 10 home runs, though their unlikely leader is Corey Hart with 18 and not Prince Fielder (13) or Ryan Braun (10). In fact, Braun has just two home runs since May 26, a span of 26 games, while Hart, who also has 15 doubles, is leading the NL in slugging at .586. With Milwaukee continuing to scuffle, Hart may be auditioning for other teams, as Brewers general manager Doug Melvin may be inclined to trade the in-his-prime 28-year-old right fielder for prospects, replenishing the supply exhausted when the team got CC Sabathia from Cleveland in 2008.
24 Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 24
Scott Podsednik is ageless. With four hits on Monday night -- as many as the opposing Nationals had as a team -- the 34-year-old Royals left fielder raised his average above .288 to go along with his 20 stolen bases. He's on pace for 44 steals, which would make him only the 12th player to be at least 34 years old, bat at least .285 and have at least 40 stolen bases. (The feat has been accomplished 17 times by such luminaries as Honus Wagner, Eddie Collins, Rickey Henderson, Ichiro Suzuki and Lou Brock, the latter of whom in 1974 batted .306 with 118 steals at the age of 35.) Fun fact: Podsednik's page says his nickname is "The Podfather."
25 Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 26
The Mariners need to add a power bat more than anything, but a former 15-game-winning left-handed starter might have to do. Just as talk increases that Cliff Lee might be traded soon, Seattle is putting Erik Bedard -- who went 15-11 in 2006 and finished fifth in the AL Cy Young voting in '07 after going 13-5 with a 3.16 ERA -- on a rehab assignment. He'll start in the rookie league but could pitch in Triple-A within the week. Bedard has battled several arm ailments and hasn't pitched in the majors in 11 months.
26 Houston Astros
Last Week: 25
Last year was a breakout year for starter Wandy Rodriguez, as he won 14 games and had a 3.02 ERA. But he's regressed terribly so far this season, going 3-10 with a 6.09 ERA. What happened? His fastball is on average a mile-per-hour slower (89 as opposed to 90); he's throwing a career-low percentage of pitches for strikes (45 percent, nearly seven percent lower than his career average); and batters are teeing off on his curveball. As a result, his strikeout rate has dipped from 8.5 per nine innings to 6.2, and hitters are batting 60 points better against him (.309 to .249).
27 Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 27
Maybe he has a guilty conscience over his undeserved hit, but middle infielder Jason Donald has struggled since incorrectly being called safe by Jim Joyce for the infamous infield single that cost Tigers starter Armando Galarraga a perfect game. In 18 games since then, Donald is 11-for-57 (.193) with 13 strikeouts and has seen his batting average sink from .280 to .234.
28 Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 28
Remember Brandon Webb? You know, the 2006 NL Cy Young winner and runner-up for that award in '07 and '08? He's starting to show some slow but gradual progress in his return to the majors after not pitching since Opening Day 2009. He has thrown three bullpen sessions in a week, which he said went well, and manager A.J. Hinch added that he is "optimistic" Webb will pitch this season, despite sarcastic blog headlines such as this recent one that read "Webb 'On Pace' For Return To Mound in 2037."
29 Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 29
The Brewers race sausages, the Nationals race presidents and the Pirates race pierogis. But Pittsburgh was one baked dumpling short for a while last week, after firing one of the pierogi mascots when the man made derogatory comments about the team on his Facebook page. He was later rehired. This is a club, after all, that strangely leaked news about offseason contract extension for its manager and general manager while the team was in the midst of a 12-game losing streak.
30 Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 30
In recounting Lady Gaga's bird-flipping incident at Citi Field and reported intrusion into the Yankees clubhouse, David Letterman joked, "It's been ... what she's doing now ... she's going to go from stadium to stadium, making a fool of herself. It's like the Orioles."
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