The 2011 baseball season is nearly two months old. This past week has proven to be a week with a lot of movement in the rankings. Some teams like the Red Sox have finally started to make their move up the rankings. Surprise teams like the Indians and Marlins have held their ground. Other surprising teams like the Diamondbacks and Mariners have shot up the list. Teams I have expected to be atop the rankings like the Rockies and Twins have struggled. Lastly, some teams, Phillies, Astros, and Padres are where we all thought they would be. Without further adieu the Week 8 Rankings:
1) Philadelphia Phillies (2)
After being knocked down to the 2 spot last week, the Phillies are right back where they belong. Wilson Valdez became the first position player to get a win in the 19 inning game against the Reds last Wednesday. Who needs Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt, or Lee when you have Wilson Valdez?
2) Cleveland Indians (1)
The Indians have the best home record in all of baseball at 19-6. They sit atop their division comfortably ahead of the second place Tigers. But questions will remain throughout the season as to whether Justin Masterson and Josh Tomlin will be able to hold up over the course of a 162 game season. Fausto Carmona is showing signs of getting back to his 2007 form and that is certainly good news for the Tribe.
3) Florida Marlins (5)
Here is what amazes me about the Marlins. Mike Stanton: 21 years old. Hanley Ramirez: 27 years old. Gaby Sanchez: 27 years old. Logan Morrison: 23 years old. Chris Coghlan: 25 years old. Josh Johnson: 27 years old. Anibal Sanchez: 27 years old. Leo Nunez: 27 years old. And Old Man Nolasco: 28 years old. None of these players have reached their prime and they are the third best team in baseball. That is scary good.
4) St. Louis Cardinals (4)
Lance Berkman continues to make sure I kick myself everyday for not picking him up in my fantasy baseball league when I had the chance. He is hitting .354 with 11 home runs and 36 runs batted in. People, like myself, that have been waiting for him to cool off have been waiting for quite some time. If there is a silver lining in this whole thing it just makes me happy that in 37 games with the Yankees, he hit .255 with 1 home run and 9 runs batted in.
5) Boston Red Sox (8)
My good buddy Lopes text me earlier this week saying, “The Red Sox are fire.” I replied “Nope. The Red Sox are who we THOUGHT THEY WERE!” All kidding aside the 2-10 start is in the rear view mirror. Aceves and Wakefield have filled in great for Lackey and Dice-K. Crawford and Pedroia are starting to come out of their funks. Things are looking good.
6) San Francisco Giants (3)
There is no doubt the season ending injury Buster Posey endured earlier this week was unfortunate. But all this talk about rule changes to protect the catcher has been nauseating. The game is forever and the player is temporary. Everyone is up in arms about the collision because Posey was a fan favorite and was destined to be in the same sentence as the Jeter’s and Mauer’s of the world. The fact is: If this happened to anyone else, there would be no talk of rule changes. To prove my point: The same thing happened to Astros catcher Humberto Quinteiro the next night and no one has said a word about protecting him.
7) Atlanta Braves (10)
The Braves continue to rely on their strong pitching. They have the 3rd best ERA in the league at 3.03, the best WHIP in the MLB at 1.14, and the best batting average against at .224. Jair Jurgens has been outstanding with an ERA of 1.54 and the back-end of the bullpen of Craig Kimbrel being set up by Jonny Venters has been great. The Braves sit 3.5 games behind the Phillies and can make up some ground this week as they play the punchless Padres and Mets.
8) New York Yankees (9)
The rumor out of New York is that Yankee fans will be seeing a lot less of Jorge Posada in the lineup and a lot more of Andruw Jones. Posada will certainly not being facing left-handed pitching anymore. He is 0-26 from the right side this season and is hitting .174 overall on the season.
9) Arizona Diamondbacks (14)
All of a sudden the Diamondbacks are in first place in the NL West. They are 14-2 in their last 16 games. JJ Putz has saved 16 games without blowing one. The Diamondbacks have certainly snuck up on a lot of people including myself. At the beginning of the month they were ranked 26th.
10) Milwaukee Brewers (11)
The Brewers are 21-7 at home in Miller Park. Yovanni Gallardo is 7-2 on the season and has won his last five starts.The problem is the Brewers need to figure out how to win the road. They are an abysmal 8-17. It is no surprise that the Brewers offense is being carried by Rickie Weeks, Prince Fielder, and Ryan Braun.
11) Tampa Bay Rays (7)
Joe Maddon might be one of my favorite managers in all of sports. He is so unconventional. With his star player struggling he moved him to the lead off spot. Evan Longoria was moved to the leadoff spot on Sunday to shake things up and it worked as the Rays won easily. Also Maddon does themed road trips. On the itinerary: Grunge to Seattle, beachwear to LA, and pajamas to Baltimore.
12) Texas Rangers (12)
As is the case with a lot of teams in baseball, the Rangers are having trouble closing out ballgames. Last year’s rookie of the year Neftali Feliz has struggled mightily all year. In the off-season there was much debate as to whether he should be a starter or closer. He was on the disabled list earlier in the season with shoulder issues. And now he is not getting the job done. He has already blown three saves in 13 opportunities.
13) Seattle Mariners (18)
People have been laughing at me because I continue to keep the Mariners ranked rather high. I can’t stress enough the importance of quality pitching. That is precisely what they have in Hernandez, Pineda, and Bedard. Much like the Cardinals, the Mariners would be in a better position if their closer didn’t implode. Brandon League was pretty awful a few weeks ago. He has blown three saves so far this season.
14) Cincinnati Reds (9)
Jay Bruce has been scorching hot as of late. This week he hit .353 with 4 home runs and 13 runs batted in. Last week he hit .455 with three home runs and four runs batted in. Bruce is starting to show signs of his unlimited potential and I feel he can be one of the best offensive players in the game. And he is only 24 years old.
15) Toronto Blue Jays (15)
I remember when Corey Patterson came up through the Cubs organization and was labeled the next Ken Griffey Jr. That is the problem with labels. They are seldom true. (See Miner, Harold) Patterson bounced around from Chicago to Baltimore and on to Cincinnati with a quick stop in Milwaukee and then on to Washington, back to Baltimore before landing in Toronto. Persistence has paid off and although he is no Kid Dynamite, he is playing well hitting .301 from the leadoff spot in Toronto.
16) Los Angeles Angels (17)
The American League West is the tightest division in all of baseball as all four teams are .500 or above and within 1.5 games from top to bottom of each other. While the Angels have solid pitching, their lack of offense is troubling to me. Torii Hunter is on his last legs and there is no way he can be your cleanup hitter if you expect to be in the thick of a pennant race.
17) Detroit Tigers (16)
Last year I really believed that Austin Jackson was deserving of American League Rookie of the Year. Now I don’t know if he is going through a sophomore slump or if he really just is terrible. So far this season he is hitting .222 from the leadoff spot in the Tiger order. He gets on base 28% of the time failing to set the table for Miggy and VMart. And he is yet to cut down on his strikeouts as he is on pace for about 190 for the season (he has 62 at the time of this writing). This is not what you want out of your leadoff man.
18) Oakland Athletics (22)
The Athletics acquired second baseman Scott Sizemore from the Tigers in exchange for relief pitcher David Purcey. This trade was a curious one to me as Sizemore is a .300 hitter but isn’t very good with the leather. While the A’s do need the offense, they have a hot prospect in Jamail Weeks that is about major league ready and is a second baseman. Maybe Sizemore is going to get moved to third base? Time will tell.
19) Colorado Rockies (13)
The Rockies are in the midst of an all out free fall. Losing Jorge De La Rosa for the season and most of next season to Tommy John surgery certainly doesn’t help their cause. Ubaldo Jimenez has not been nearly as good as he was last year. As a matter of fact he’s been terrible. If the Rockies want to get back into the mix of things they will need Ubaldo to get back on his game and get help from other pitchers in the rotation like Chacin and Hammel.
20) Pittsburgh Pirates (21)
The first year player draft will be taking place from June 6 through the 8th in New Jersey. The Pirates have the first pick in the draft. After some research the name that will be announced first by Bud Selig will be Danny Hultzen, a left-handed starter from Virginia. Don’t think the draft matters? Ellsbury, Pedroia, Bard, Papelbon, Lester, and Lowrie were all draft picks that made it to the Show. The draft matters.
21) Baltimore Orioles (23)
The Orioles pitching is in flux. They have sent two of their starters, Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen, down to Triple A Norfolk. Bergesen was 1-6 with a 5.36 ERA and Tillman was 2-3 with a 4.69 ERA. The Orioles remain 5 back in the ultra competitive AL East and they will get to square off against old friend Erik Bedard Tuesday.
22) Kansas City Royals (20)
Last year he was arguably the best closer in baseball. This year has been the exact opposite for Joakim Soria. He has only 7 saves with an ERA of 5.57 and four blown saves. Last year he blew just 3 saves on the whole season.
23) New York Mets (19)
Jose Reyes is in a contract year. Much has been made about the owner of the Mets, Fred Wilpon saying that Reyes will not get Carl Crawford money. Reyes is doing everything possible this season to make his case for getting top dollar on the open market. He is on pace for setting the franchise record in hits for a single season (227). The 27-year-old is hitting .335 with 19 stolen bases. Plenty of teams are in the market for a top flight shortstop and Reyes should cash in nicely this off-season.
24) Chicago White Sox (24)
The White Sox boosted their payroll to about $125 million this season for the first time in franchise history. The results? They are one of the worst teams in baseball. Adam Dunn has been an epic bust hitting .181 with just 5 home runs. The bullpen has been awful and Ozzie Guillen is on the brink of a rant for the ages. It is only a matter of time.
25) Chicago Cubs (26)
Where has the power gone? Third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who is usually good for about 25-30 home runs a year, has just 2 so far this season. Alfonso Soriano went 21 games in between home runs this month. And Carlos Pena who is usually good for 30 home runs has 6 so far this season. The Cubs need the big hitters to get going to support the young middle infield duo of Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney.
26) Los Angeles Dodgers (27)
I can’t for the life of me figure out why the Dodgers have been so bad through the first third of the season. Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are studs and Clayton Kershaw has Cy Young potential. Then I look at the stats and see they are 26th in the league in runs scored and are hitting a paltry .248. Kershaw pitches every fifth day and Kemp and Ethier can’t carry the lineup on their own.
27) Washington Nationals (25)
It is Memorial Day and in my estimation three teams are completely out of any chance of getting into the playoffs. Washington is one while San Diego and Houston are the others. The Nationals will continue to try to build a roster around Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg. The Jayson Werth signing looks “werth and werth” everyday.
28) San Diego Padres (28)
The Padres are the latest team to be hit the by the injury bug. Nick Hundley and Orlando Hudson are on the disabled list. Cameron Maybin is day-to-day. But the Padres have been able to win 2 in a row and are only 7 games out at this point in the season. No small task for a team that seems to have zero major league talent on its roster.
29) Houston Astros (29)
This week I jokingly tweeted that I think the Red Sox will go after Hunter Pence to replace JD Drew next season. Then I thought about it a little more. Would Houston be open to the Sox sending say, Reddick or Kalish, along with Lars Anderson, Kyle Weiland, and maybe Kolbrin Vitek? Or any other possible package that doesn’t include Jose Iglesias? Bottom line I love Hunter Pence and make any moves other than sending Iglesias to bring him to town.
30) Minnesota Twins (30)
Even though the Twins are 14.5 games back, I still can’t entirely write them off yet. They have burnt me in the past and I have learned my lesson. Joe Mauer is playing in extended spring training. The team is starting to get healthy again. And I am not completely sold on the Indians being as good as what they have been so far. The AL Central is incredibly weak and that seems to be the only thing the Twins have going for them. I just can’t write them off yet.
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