Friday, June 13, 2008

Weekly Power Rankings - Red Storm

After a two-week hiatus, the power rankings are back for one last appearance before the playoffs. The Cincinnati Reds have led the way in the second half as they look to repeat as World Champs.

Current Rank (Previous Rank)

1. (1) Philadelphia Phillies: Season 107-45, Past 3 Weeks 42-18
The Phillies continue to roll and are on their way to the first 110 win season. The offense is so scary that every regular player has at least 20 home runs and Jake Clapp looks like he is headed for a third straight MVP. The guy is going to need to buy a separate house for all of his trophies as he is certainly destined for a Cooperstown plaque. What is truly horrifying is that this team has great pitching now, too. Led by the 1-2 starting tandem of Perry Harvey and Hi White, the Phillies staff has been one of the NL’s best.

2. (10) Cincinnati Reds: Season 94-58, Past 3 Weeks 43-17
The defending champs are back with a vengeance! The hottest team of the second half is looking like a real challenger to the Phillies. The call-up of Bartolo Lopez and the acquisition of Cliff Rivers have turned what was once a stagnant offense into one of the league’s finest. Additionally, the starting rotation has performed brilliantly, led by Edgardo Santos, who has returned to Cy Young form.

3. (6) Anaheim Angels: Season 93-59, Past 3 Weeks 41-19
As the temperatures in southern CA have gotten hotter, so to have the Angels. With Arthur Boggs as a strong candidate for MVP and Travis Murphy looking like a Rookie of the Year favorite, the Angel offense has been leading the charge. Another big reason for the Angels winning their third straight AL West title has been their workhorse ace, Haywood Charles. Having him going out there and giving a quality start almost every fourth game has taken a major burden off the rest of their staff. After a shaky start, Anaheim now sits as the #1 seed and AL favorite.

4. (4) Arizona Diamondbacks: Season 91 - 61, Past 3 Weeks 34-26
He’s back! After a mediocre first half, Felipe Tejada has been nearly unhittable for the past few weeks and looks like he may defend his Cy Young crown. More importantly, he is helping lead one of the best starting rotations to their third straight NL West title. On offense, the contributions have been spread around with a notable power outburst from Ivan Tolberg who has 37 home runs in only 360 at bats. This team will once again be a serious playoff threat on the strength of their pitching.

5. (2) Kansas City Royals: Season 90-62, Past 3 Weeks 30-30
The Royals have looked disappointingly average down the stretch. Their offense that did lead all of baseball in runs scored has slipped and barely leads the AL. Outside of the brilliant Patrick Rivera (20-4), the Royals staff has been inconsistent as well. The Royals currently have the look of a team that will not last long in the playoffs. We’ll see if they can get their mojo back in time.

6. (6) Boston Red Sox: Season 88-64, Past 3 Weeks 33-27
With no one coming close to threatening their three season stranglehold on the AL East crown, the Red Sox have been in relative cruise control for a good portion of the season. The offense looks solid thanks to another MVP caliber performance by Valerio Guillen and solid contributions from Marlon Swift and mid-season acquisition Glendon Allen. However, with inconsistent starting pitching, even from normally automatic ace Jeff Bollea, there is some cause for concern in Beantown. On the bright side, the lack of any pennant race means this team will be very fresh for a playoff run.

7. (3) Charlotte Knights: Season 88-64, Past 3 Weeks 32-28
Like their division rivals, the Royals, the Knights have had a mediocre second half after a dominant first half. The offense is a bit inconsistent as many games they live and die by the home run with sluggers Adam Martin, Jose Mondesi, BC. Javier, and Earl Jorgensen. Without having any dominant starters, the big blow to the Knights second half was the injury to their uniquely talented Turner Mordecai. When he went on the 60-day DL, the unconventional pitching staff that saw him starting or relieving almost every other game was forced into becoming more conventional and suffered for it. Mordecai comes off the DL in time for the playoffs so we shall see if his presence can make it happen for this squad.

8. (9) Montreal Expos: Season 85-67, Past 3 Weeks 34-26
Marte! Marte! Marte! The Expos have another offensive superstar to pair with superstud catcher Bernard Springer and his name is Kevin Marte. This rookie has taken this offense on his back in the second half to keep this team in the wildcard hunt with Red-hot Cinci taking the division. Unfortunately the rotation seems to have stopped performing. This has definitely been a tale of two seasons for Kareem Hamilton. In the first half, he looked like one of the games greatest pitchers. In the second half, he has looked like a batting practice pitcher getting hammered night after night. While the offense has the weapons, the Expo pitching makes it seem as if there will be no need to print any second round playoff tickets.

T9. (7) Portland Beavers: Season 85-67, Past 3 Weeks 33-27
The young starting staff has had their ups and downs this season, but has definitely had a fine campaign and looks to continue it with a first postseason appearance. That is if they can win this dogfight for the final wildcard spot with their Pacific Northwest and AL West rivals. With five different players with 20 home runs, the Beaver offense has spread the production around, with the most notable contribution from slugger Robert Dunham and his new team record of 42 home runs. Regardless of how things turn out, good things are happening in Portland as PGE Park is getting filled on a nightly basis.

T9. (8) Seattle Mariners: Season 85-67, Past 3 Weeks 34-26
It seems strange that if it weren’t for the Angels, we probably would have never seen the Mariners on this list. Acquired from the Angels in the off-season, Karl Turner has been the Mariners only consistent offensive threat for the entire season. Pitching is the real strength of this team as they have gotten quality seasons from their top four starters: Freddie Alston, Diego Ibarra, Fred Rolle, and Rob Tolberg. It doesn’t hurt that almost every lead going into the 8th has been protected courtesy of setup man Larry Houston and closer and rookie of the year candidate James Hutton. It’s going to be a fight to the bitter end with regional and divisional rivals Portland and Seattle.

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