Views from the Baseline – Episode 24: Sports as of the Week of June 22, 2020 and the return of MLB

Chevall Kanhai gives his insight on the latest sports news coming into the week of June 22, 2020. Chevall recaps NBA Players on the fence about returning to action in Orlando, Bubba Wallace’s support from NASCAR, and how you can participate in Baseline Times first giveaway contest. Later in the show, Greg Huss from CubsInsider.com joins Chevall to talk about the MLB’s plan to return for a full preview of what to expect for most major sports to return to action by the end of July.

Follow Greg Huss on Twitter: @OutoftheVines
See more of Greg’s work on Cubs Insider at www.cubsinsider.com
Subscribe to: Growing Cubs: A Chicago Prospect Podcast

The Quarantined Anniversary of Baseline Times

What do we accomplish at three years of age as humans? Talking, walking, and maybe a whole lot of normal interaction?

Well, it’s hard to say what that translates to for a start-up digital media group three years in. As the overall creator of Baseline Times, this has been one of the great feelings but the biggest challenges to progress a dream.

The pandemic of 2020 has given me the opportunity of more time and patience to admire the work. It is year three since the initial launch of the website on May 5th, 2017. I created the brand, printed t-shirts, started a few social media accounts, and recruited genuine souls to assist in the process of launching this bad boy.

I can ever so often give credit to a handful of people who took time out of their lives to contribute to my project without asking for anything out of me. Sometimes I feel like I can never give back enough to these same folks as some have come and gone.

What do we do in a pandemic that has kept us locked in? What do we do without sports to turn to as we always do here at Baseline Times?

I’m sure millions of sports fan across the world have pondered as I right?

The pause in the world has personally given me an opportunity to admire sports moments that might have flew over the top of my head as a highlight during a time in my life something else had my attention.

Of course, as one season ends another begins. Super Bowl crowns a new champion and now we are off to fill out brackets before June hits and the NBA crowns their champion.

Baseball takes over a summer unless the Olympics are in session. August comes fast and here we are counting down the days to where weekends are no longer without football for a while.

The Fall hits and we admire the abundance of major sports all happening at once. MLB Playoffs, NBA Opening Week, NHL Opening Week, and NFL kicking off their season.

Sprinkle in the PGA tournaments, NASCAR season, and major Tennis tournaments and it’s almost an overwhelming feeling of how can I keep up?

To keep this short and sweet, I will always admire what sports can do for not only a nation but the world.

For once, we can identify with a team based on location, loyalty, or just being casual.

For once, we can bond together regardless of race, sex, size, weight, and political views.

Thank you to anyone and everyone who has held a part of Baseline Times in their lives. My incredible team of former guys and gals who are currently somewhere else in life I appreciate you.

My current team of small contributors I appreciate you. Thank you for sticking with the game plan and seeing the dream of media presence.

Whether you’re reading this as fan, follower, contributor, former Baseline Times college, I can’t express enough gratitude for the love.

Please continue to support us in a great manner. Subscribe to the podcasts, social media, and please join us one day to share your own thoughts!

Sincerely,

Chevall Kanhai



Views from the Baseline – Episode 8: MLB Cheaters & 2020 NBA All-Star Recap

Chevy brings in Greg Huss from Cubs Insider and Growing Cubs: A Chicago Prospect Podcast to discuss the latest MLB scandal between the Houston Astros and the rest of the MLB. Greg provides his insight as to what impact this scandal has on the league and what the next steps the MLB should take. Later on the show, Markus joins in to recap the 2020 NBA All-Star weekend and preview the rest of the remaining NBA season with further predictions.

00:00 – 27:00
Greg Huss discusses the Houston Astros 2017 Championship and cheating scandal. Greg gives his insight on the overall impact on the game of baseball and what should be done at this point in the MLB.

Follow Greg Huss on Twitter: @OutoftheVines
See more of Greg’s work on Cubs Insider at www.cubsinsider.com
Subscribe to: Growing Cubs: A Chicago Prospect Podcast

27:00 – 59:00
Markus Murden joins Chevy to discuss a few hot takes on the NFL’s Owners approving a new CBA, Kyrie Irving injury, and Klay Thompson ruled out for the season. The 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend is reviewed and future expectations for the rest of the NBA season are discussed.

Kershaw vs Sale: A Battle of Lefty Monsters

Tonight at 5:09 PM, the Los Angeles Dodgers are set to take on the Boston Red Sox in the 2018 World Series. Despite both teams having made the playoffs dozens of times in their respective franchise histories, this will be their first World Series matchup between the pair going back 102 years to 1916.

At the time, the Dodgers weren’t in Los Angeles, and they were not even named the Dodgers, being called the Robins back then. The Red Sox rotation featured a great young pitcher who would end up known for his thunderous bat rather than his electric arm, the great Babe Ruth. In that series, Ruth pitched just once, starting game 2 of the series, throwing an unbelievable 14 inning complete game effort allowing just 1 run on 6 hits. The Red Sox won the game 2-1.

In the opening game of the series, the matchup featured Rube Marquard for the Robins facing off against Ernie Shore of the Red Sox. While both of these pitchers were good in their day, neither one was a Hall of Fame talent. Marquard did win 26 games for the New York Giants in 1912, while Shore had a 1.64 ERA for the Red Sox in 1915, but it wasn’t exactly a historic matchup before or after game 1. Meanwhile, in the current day, fans of baseball everywhere are getting a treat with the announce game 1 matchup:

The Two Best Pitchers of This Generation

Kershaw vs Sale is a regular season matchup that baseball fans drool over. It’s a matchup that you go out of your way to make it to the game, or at least watch live. Taking the greatness of both pitchers and putting it on the biggest stage in baseball in game 1 of the World Series has the potential to be mind-blowing.

When looking at Fangraphs splits leaderboards going back to 2002, minimum 1000 innings pitched, here are Kershaw and Sales’ ranks:

ERA: Kershaw – 2.39 (1st), Sale – 2.89 (2nd)

FIP: Kershaw – 2.64 (1st), Sale – 2.84 (2nd)

WHIP: Kershaw – 1.00 (1st), Sale – 1.02 (2nd)

xFIP: Sale – 2.90 (1st), Kershaw – 2.94 (3rd)

K%: Sale – 30.2% (1st), Kershaw – 27.6% (4th)

BB%: Sale – 5.4% (T/13th), Kershaw – 6.5% (T/48th)

K-BB%: Sale – 24.9% (1st), Kershaw – 21.1% (5th)

K/BB: Sale – 5.6 (2nd), Kershaw – 4.3 (6th)

HR/9: Kershaw – 0.6 (T/1st), Sale – 0.9 (T/27th)

Batting Average Against: Kershaw – .204 (1st), Sale .217 (2nd)

wOBA: Kershaw – .254 (1st), Sale – .271 (2nd)

OBP Allowed: Kershaw – .262 (1st), Sale – .272 (2nd)

SLG Allowed: Kershaw – .311 (1st), Sale – .345 (2nd)

fWAR: Kershaw – 61.6 (3rd), Sale – 41.8 (16th)

Win Probablity Added: Kershaw – 39.89 (1st), Sale – 27.61 (6th)

Innings Pitched: Kershaw – 2096.1 (26th), Sale – 1482.1 (77th)

We have a lot of stats listed here, but things that keep coming up time after time in their ranks are “1st” and “2nd“. Kershaw and Sale rank first and second in seven categories: ERA, FIP, WHIP, BAA, wOBA, OBPA, and SLGA. These are essentially all of the most important things for a pitcher to need to do well to succeed.

Stacked Competition

One thing to remember with this time frame are the other pitchers who were around then. Yes, this was somewhat towards the end of the Maddux, Clemens, Johnson, and Pedro era, but it was the start of the Halladay, Johan, Lee, Sabathia, Verlander generation. The latter five mentioned here may not necessarily be inner-circle Hall of Fame types like Maddux, Clemens, Johson, and Pedro, but these are excellent Cy Young-winning pitchers who helped define this generation.

Add onto that pitchers such as Kershaw, Sale, Price, Greinke, and Scherzer who came a bit later. Then you’ve got guys like Oswalt, Felix, Hamels, Lester, Peavy, Haren, and some others who were Cy Young level talents in many seasons, but aren’t likely to end up in the Hall of Fame.

To see Kershaw and Sale dominate the leaderboards against so many other extremely talented pitchers says a lot about the pair and the immense talent they posses.

2018 Season

The 2018 season was a bit off for both Kershaw and Sale. Neither pitcher qualified for the ERA title, both barely missing with 161.1 and 158 innings pitched respectively.

For Sale, though in just 158 innings pitched, he was still an absolute force on the mount when he did pitch: 2.11 ERA 1.98 FIP 2.31 xFIP 13.50 K/9 1.94 BB/9 0.63 HR/9 and 6.5 fWAR. If not for the missed innings, it’s likely Sale would have easily won his first Cy Young award. Instead, he is likely to finish around the top five in voting, much like Kershaw in his excellent but injury-shortened 2016 season (1.69 ERA 1.80 FIP 6.5 fWAR in 149 IP).

On the flip-side, Kershaw may have just had the worst season of his career aside from his age 20 rookie season: 2.73 ERA 3.19 FIP 3.19 xFIP 8.65 K/9 1.62 BB/9 0.95 HR/9 and 3.5 fWAR. All of these numbers were Kershaw’s worst marks since his 2012 season. Part of this has been his decline in fastball velocity to around just 91 MPH, down from 93 even just a season ago. Even still, a 2.73 ERA and 3.19 FIP is something most starting pitchers dream of doing over a full season.

Postseason Struggles and Triumphs

Kershaw

As anyone who has been living on this planet the past five years likely knows, Clayton Kershaw has had some postseason struggles. The narrative for the uninformed, or just flat out trolls, is that Kershaw cannot handle pitching in the postseason and he chokes. The reality of it is more complex. For one, Kershaw hasn’t been exactly as good in the playoffs as the regular season, unlike what most people expect out of him. He’s also been leaned on too much in previous years thanks to thin bullpens. This has led him pitching deeper into games than necessary, and at times said bullpens have let him down in big ways once he’s left.

There, of course, have been some real meltdowns, such as 2013 NLCS Game 6 against the Cardinals, 2016 NLCS Game 6 against the Cubs, World Series Game 5 against the Astros, and 2014 NLDS Game 1 against the Cardinals. While the last 2014 NLDS Game 1 against the Cardinals started as a very nice start through 6 innings pitched, the rest went to hell early for Kershaw.

Otherwise, Kershaw’s playoff record is filled with mostly very good games, most times having very few blowups outside of a handful of games. Jon Weisman does a great job of showing this with his handy color-coded playoff game chart:

In the current postseason, Kershaw has been much better than years past. He does have a real stinker in NLCS Game 1 versus the Brewers, but that is sandwiched between two excellent starts, one against the Braves and the other against the Brewers. Add to that a scoreless 9th inning to cap off NLCS Game 7.

Going back another three years, Kershaw has a 3.50 ERA in 90 innings pitched since his last series against the Cardinals in 2014. In the 17 games he’s appeared in, the Dodgers have a 12-5 record in those games. Clearly, Kershaw is trending in the right direction.

Sale

Chris Sale had never seen the playoffs in his career until 2017, his first season with the Red Sox. This makes sense considering he was drafted by the White Sox and remained with them until he was traded, but his playoff inexperience showed in the 2017 playoffs against the Astros. In his first start, Sale was rocked for 7 runs, including 3 home runs, in just 5 innings of an 8-2 loss in ALDS Game 1. Things improved a bit in a 4.2 IP relief appearance in ALDS Game 4, but he still allowed a home run and 2 runs overall in a 5-4 loss for the Red Sox.

Sale was looking to do more for his club going into the ALDS in 2018 against the Yankees, and had a nice start with 8 strikeouts 2 walks and 2 runs allowed in 5.1 IP in ALDS Game 1, the Red Sox taking the game 5-4. Sale pitched a scoreless inning in ALDS Game 4 in another win for the Red Sox, taking the series in 4 games.

His next and only other playoff start was once again against the Astros. Sale pitched just 4 innings this time around. While he allowed just 1 hit, he walked 4 and allowed 2 runs to score. The Red Sox lost the game 7-2.

For his career, Sale has a 5.85 ERA with 26 K 7 BB 4 HR and 19 H allowed in 20 IP in the postseason. The sample size is so small that two or three good outings in the World Series against the Dodgers could change everything for him.

Game 1 Predictions

Normally when matchups like this come along, baseball, well, baseballs, and the score ends up an 8-6 slugfest. I think with legacy on the mind of both pitchers, we do end up with the pitching duel we are all craving:

Kershaw: 7 IP 5 H 2 R 8 K 1 BB

Sale: 7 IP 7 H 3 R 10 K 1 BB

I won’t pretend to know if the Dodgers bullpen can continue their great play against MLB’s best offense, so I can’t say which team would win, but I think we see two absolute monster lefties do their thing.

MLB 2018 Trade Deadline Winners and Losers

Winners

1. New York Yankees
The Yankees were incredibly active this week, as GM Brian Cashman put forth yet another example of why he’s one of the best in the business. New York would have loved to have landed a legitimate number one starter, like the Mets’ Jacob deGrom, but that was never really all that realistic. Instead, Cashman was able to add J.A. Happ from Toronto to bring stability to a rotation that is the weakest part of the Bombers roster, while also acquiring arguably the top relief arm available, Baltimore’s Zach Britton, to help shorten the game and take pressure off the starters. Right handed hitting first baseman Tyler Austin was traded to the Twins for Lance Lynn, who will bring a versatile veteran arm to the pitching staff, and while Austin was a valuable depth piece for this team, the Bombers traded for essentially the same player, St. Louis’ Luke Voit, to offset his departure. Most impressively, the Yankees were able to do all this without moving any of their highly touted minor league talents.

2. Philadelphia Phillies
Philadelphia enters the stretch run in a tooth and nail fight with Atlanta for the NL East lead, and while they were not expected to be in this position in March, you have to give their front office credit for trying to capitalize on their situation. The Phillies made a heck of a run at the crown jewel of trade season, Orioles’ infielder Manny Machado, and while their pursuit ultimately fell short, they quickly pivoted to plan B. Philly landed infielder Asdrubal Cabrera from the Mets and catcher Wilson Ramos from Tampa Bay, two moves that will add length to an offensive attack which has struggled at times and also fortified their bullpen with southpaw Aaron Loup.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers would have been considered winners solely after acquiring Machado, whose presence alone makes them likely the favorites to repeat as National League champions. On deadline day though, LA further added to their depth, acquiring second baseman Brian Dozier from Minnesota and reliever John Axford from Toronto. Neither player represents a massive haul, but Dozier had been one of the better right handed before a down 2018, but Los Angeles hopes a change of scenery and being injected into a pennant race can help reignite him.

4. Atlanta Braves
I was intially critical of Atlanta’s inactivity in the days leading up to the deadline, particuarly with their competition for the division and wild card bulking up, but they changed that narrative with a flurry of late moves. The Braves first landed reliever Brad Brach from Baltimore, and while the righty has struggled for much of this season, he’s long been one of the better set-up men in the game, and getting out of the AL East and into a pennant race makes him a candidate for a turnaround. Atlanta then traded some of their peripheral depth, righties Lucas Sims and Matt Wisler, as well as outfielder Preston Tucker to Cincinnati for power, hitting outfielder Adam Duvall. While Duvall’s numbers in 2018 are quite a bit behind the pace that watched him blast 30 homeruns in each of the two prior seasons, he still boasts a plus glove and serious power, and he should end up starting every time Atlanta faces a southpaw. The Braves power move though was another swap with the Orioles, this time landing controllable starter Kevin Gausman (as well as injured reliever Darren O’Day.) In Gausman, the Braves are adding a right hander with a career 4.22 ERA, and while he isn’t a star he should slot into the middle of this rotation for the next few years.

5. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles are currently a woeful 32-75, easily the worst record in the game, and quite obviously needed to seriously tear this thing down in an attempt to rebuild. And boy did they ever do that. Baltimore traded Machado, Britton, Gausman, Brach, O’Day, and second baseman Jonathan Schoop, and by most accounts, they did pretty well in the transactions. Outfielder Yusniel Diaz was the main piece to come back in the Machado deal, and he quickly becomes the best prospect in this system. For Britton, Baltimore was able to add righty Dillon Tate from the rivals in the Bronx, who had checked in as the Yankees’ 6th best prospect prior to the swap. In exchange for Gausman and O’Day they were able to add four young players (Two of which checked in on the Braves’ top 30 list) but more importantly, the O’s shed significant salary, particuarly in the injured O’Day. The return from Milwaukee for Schoop was even more inspiring, as while second baseman Jonathan Villar has failed to back up his ’16 season that watched him hit .285 with 19 homers and 62 stolen bases, he is unquestionaly a talented Major League asset that is under contract next year. In almost every one of their trades, the Orioles were also able to add significant bonus pool money to spend in international free-agency, which is valuable for a rebuild that promises to take some time.

Losers

1. Colorado Rockies
The Rockies enter play today in a three-way tie for the final wild card spot, and only a half game behind Arizona in a heated three team NL West race, but they did next to nothing to add reinforcements to their roster. Colorado was linked to several of the bigger names that were traded, but the only meaningful deal they were able to close brought right handed reliever Seunghwan Oh to Denver. They did add veterans Santiago Casilla and Matt Holliday on free-agent pacts, and while Holliday, in particular, could become a nice story after spending most of his career with the Rockies, there was a reason the pair was previously unemployed.

2. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers were active, and thus is feels strange calling them losers here, but it just feels like a lot of the moves they made were like trying to fit square pegs in round holes. The biggest move Milwaukee made was trading for veteran third baseman Mike Moustakas, and while the former Royal is a legitimate Major League bat, this trade made little to no sense to me. The Brewers shipped outfielder Brett Phillips and pitcher Jorge Lopez to KC, both of whom were once highly touted prospects and still possess great potential, and their departure makes this trade look like a drastic overpay. Particuarly since Moustakas was not really needed here. The left handed slugger is currently hitting .248 with 20 homers and 62 RBI’s. Milwaukee’s current third baseman, Travis Shaw, is currently hitting an identical .248, also with 20 home runs, and 61 RBI’s, all while getting on-base with much more regularity. Upon making the deal the Brew Crew expressed Shaw will be moving to second base, a position he had never played in the big leagues, but then went out and added Schoop from Baltimore to fortify position number four defensively. So what exactly is going on here? Bringing in Joakim Soria will definitely help their relief corps, but the Brewers desperately needed a starting pitcher, and despite being linked to every single available arm, they failed to land any.

3. Houston Astros
The defending champions may be the biggest loser of all, and it actually has very little to do with on the field developments. Houston did add valuable set-up man Ryan Pressly from Minnesota and catcher Martin Maldonado from their rivals in Anaheim, but their entire deadline was tained by the acquisition of controversial Blue Jays’ closer Roberto Osuna. The 23-year-old has been one of the better relievers in the game since making his debut in 2015, but he’s currently on the restricted list following serious domestic violence allegations, something that could ultimately result in jail time. The Astros had plenty of talent as constructed to win the whole thing again this October, and certainly did not need all of the drama and critisicm Osuna will bring.

4. Boston Red Sox
The best team in baseball had very few serious needs this July, and while they added depth starter Nathan Eovaldi and second baseman Ian Kinsler, they neglected to upgrade arguably their biggest weakness. Late inning relief. Closer Craig Kimbrel has once again been great, but he could have used some help, and I felt Pressly, Keone Kela, or Jeurys Familia would have been perfect fits.

5. Oakland Athletics
The A’s were not expected to seriously compete for a postseason berth this season, yet here they are just a game behind Seattle for the last wild card spot in the American League. Oakland was feverishly looking to add a starting pitcher to bolster their rotation, an effort that ultimately proved futile. The Athletics to possess a dominant bullpen that they further added to with their only significant acquisition, Familia, but I still maintain their starting staff could have used reinforcements if they hope to surpass the Mariners and wreck some havoc in what promises to be a tremendously competitive AL postseason.

Justin Mears
Baseline Times Contributor

Matt Kemp: A Star Once More?

2018’s Starpowered Season

Here we sit on the 3rd of July, just two weeks before Major League Baseball’s All-Star game. The league is littered with as many stars as many of us have ever seen. Elite players like Mike Trout and Max Scherzer continue to amaze and inexplicably get better and better. Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor make a better case each and every day to the best left-side-infield combo of this generation. Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez are absolutely assaulting baseballs in Boston. Luis Severino may have emerged as the best pitcher in the American League, a league which features Chris Sale, Justin Verlander, and Corey Kluber.

This is really just the tip of the iceberg with Aaron Judge, Freddie Freeman, Jacob deGrom, Andrelton Simmons, Jose Altuve, Scooter Gennett, Manny Machado, Trevor Bauer, Aaron Nola, James Paxton, Patrick Corbin, Javier Baez, Brandon Crawford, and countless others all having spectacular seasons in 2018. The player that is one of the more interesting stories of the 2018 season, however, was someone not expected to make anyone’s opening day roster.

Not everyone expected the breakouts of Jose Ramirez, Eddie Rosario, or Trevor Bauer, but they were all expected to be important parts of their team. This was a player that nearly everyone thought would not be an important part of any MLB team in 2018. This same player that was traded for the third time in three years, some expected to be traded before opening day or even DFAed. He also has gone on to hit .323/.359/.565 with a 150 wRC+ and 2.0 fWAR in 281 PA this season. This player is Matt Kemp, and he has looked like the star he used to be.

Kemp’s 2018 Season

As everyone has known for years, Matt Kemp’s bread and butter has been his bat. From 2015-2017, Kemp hit slightly above average at .269/.310/.470 and a 107 wRC+. This would have been fine if he was an above average fielder. However, likely being the worst fielder in the MLB, Kemp’s value was minimal having combined for just 1.4 fWAR over those three seasons. He was also a very inconsistent hitter in that time, having produced nine months of 130 or high wRC+, while also having five dreadful months of 70 or lower wRC+.

For the 2018 season, Kemp has managed to avoid any overly long bad stretches en route to his excellent .323/.359/.565 150 wRC+ line. In April he hit .319/.359/.542 with a 145 wRC+ in 78 PA. In May he upped his game hitting .361/.379/.557 with a 154 wRC+ in 103 PA. Kemp even started off the first half of June on fire hitting .326/.396/.696 and a 188 wRC+ in 53 PA. What followed was 38 PA of pure torture hitting .083/.132/.167 with a -19 wRC+ in 38 PA, bringing his overall month to .220/.286/.463 with a 100 wRC+ in 91 PA. Overall his month of June was not bad, but could have been much more with how molten-lava-hot he started.

For July it’s only been two games, but Kemp has been a triple short of the cycle in the first game and followed that with a 5-5 effort the next night, rebounding quite nicely from his late June-swoon.

Leaderboards

While Kemp is nowhere near Trout or Betts atop the wRC+ leaderboards on Fangraphs, he sits comfortably in 12th with that shining 150 wRC+. This puts him around names like Manny Machado (151), Nelson Cruz (153), Freddie Freeman (150), Jose Altuve (148), and above many other established names.

Of course, this is not the first time Kemp has been one of the top hitters in the league heading into the summer. In fact, on June 1st of last year, Kemp was in the same exact 12th spot on the wRC+ leaderboard when I wrote an article advocating for some American League teams to trade for him. From 6/2 through the rest of the season, Kemp was one of the bottom hitters in all of the MLB hitting .232/.277/.371 with a 64 wRC+, good for 24th worst of 345 hitters with at least 140 PA. Which is to say, as good as things are looking, the bottom can always drop out.

However, that was at the start of June in 2017, rather than the start of July in 2018. Factors for Kemp were different in the middle of last season:

  • Kemp fought injuries during the middle of the 2017 season and put on a lot of weight
  • The Braves were an up and coming team, but not yet ready to contend. There was less to fight for with Kemp on the young Braves than Kemp on a team that won last year’s NL Pennant
  • Kemp had not seen that no team in baseball outside of the Dodgers were even willing to trade for him, and without good effort, his career could have been over

No one can know whether Kemp will continue to hit at this level, but he’s got more motivation now than in years.

Improved Defense

One of the most well-known things about Matt Kemp over the last few years is how terrible of a defender he is in the outfield. At one point, Kemp played a solid centerfield, even winning Gold Gloves in both 2009 and 2011. Of course, this was likely more for recognition for his bat than truly being a great defender.

Thanks to a glutton of injuries in 2012 and 2013, Kemp’s defense took a massive hit. From 2014-2017, no outfielder in Major League Baseball had a worse UZR. Kemp’s -46.4 was even so awful that Andrew McCutchen’s second-worst effort was miles ahead at -27.0. Although Kemp still ranked just 58 out of 61 qualified outfielders from 2008-2013, if you take out the outlier of his lost 2010 season of a startling -25.8 UZR, that brings him to a much more respectable -9.8 UZR and 46th overall, a bit below average. Kemp was never consistent enough to truly be a good fielding outfielder, but it was not until injury after injury that he became what he’s been known for recently.

Looking at 2018, something seems to have changed. Kemp is no longer at the bottom of the pile, currently sitting at -1.1 UZR scoring 44th out of 65 qualified outfielders. There are many factors that could be causing this, such as better positioning by Dodgers coaches, a better motivation to succeed, losing 40 pounds before the season, or perhaps just finally being overall healthy. Whatever it is, for the first time in years Kemp’s overall value is not being dragged down by his fielding, giving him an fWAR around 2.0, something he has not eclipsed since his last season with the Dodgers in 2014.

Matt Kemp 2018 All-Star

Although it may be hard to believe, Matt Kemp has not been an all-star since the 2012 season. Even harder to believe is that Kemp’s only other All-Star Game appearance was his prior season in 2011 where he finished second in MVP voting. Even considering his defense, with his overall career numbers (.287/.339/.491 274 HR 975 RBI 183 SB), it’s easy to think he could have snuck in another time here or there. That looks to be changing this season, however.

As of the last All-Star voting update, Kemp currently sits second in voting at 2,046,534 votes, around 400,000 behind first place Nick Markakis, 220,000 ahead of Bryce Harper, and nearly 700,000 above Charlie Blackmon. At this point, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that Kemp will not only make the team, but that he will start the game in left field. Deservingly so, Dave Roberts choosing the lineup or not.

Before the start of the season, the idea of Matt Kemp making the All-Star team was non-existent, let alone starting the game. The idea of him even starting the season with the Dodgers was laughable to most people. Kemp was never going to regain the hitting ability that once made him a star. He was never going to stay healthy even if he did. Most certainly he was never going to be anything less than a punchline with his glove in the outfield.

Despite all of that, here we are. It is the beginning of July, over halfway through the 2018 MLB season, and Matt Kemp is playing like an MVP candidate and will be an All-Star. Of all of the brilliant stories in the 2018 season, very few of them may be better than the story of Matt Kemp’s redemption and return to star status.

 

MLB Power Rankings (5/28)

Last week

 

1) Boston Red Sox (36-17) 1

The Red Sox have reclaimed the top spot in the weekly power rankings, using a week that saw them win series with both Tampa Bay and Atlanta to do it. Something to watch in the next few days however is the status of MVP candidate Mookie Betts, who was a late scratch yesterday with tightness in his left side and is officially listed as day to day. Boston’s lead over the Yankees both in the AL East and these power rankings is as narrow as possible, and if Betts is forced to miss any of this week’s games against Toronto and Houston the Bo-Sox could be in trouble.

2) New York Yankees (33-16) 1

The Bombers gimped through a mediocre week based on the outrageous standard they’ve established for themselves early in 2018, but if 3-3 represents a down week I think this team will be just fine. New York started their last seven day stretch by disappointingly dropping two of three to the struggling Rangers, but after taking a day off last Thursday they impressively rebounded to win a home series with the Angels over the weekend. Tomorrow afternoon the Yankees will begin a must-see TV series with Houston, a rematch of last October’s epic ALCS.

3) Houston Astros (34-20) Same

How awesome is the upcoming week going to be? The defending champion Houston Astros picked up right where they left off last fall from day one in 2018, and before we speak again they’ll play seven games with the Yankees and Red Sox, the only two teams in baseball who are legitimately on their level. Their difficult week may have gotten off on the wrong foot before it even began when Houston dropped a 14 game extra inning contest with the Indians yesterday, really beating up a bullpen that had already been heavily used of late. They’ll assuredly need serious length from Justin Verlander this afternoon.

4) Milwaukee Brewers (34-20) Same

The National League’s best team kept rolling this past week, sweeping the Diamondbacks and then taking three of four from the Mets over the weekend. Milwaukee’s offense is absolutely humming right now as they’ve scored 25 runs in their past two games, getting contributions from everybody, particularly Christian Yelich and Jesus Aguilar. The only potential concerning issue with the Brewers right now is the recent performance of closer Corey Knebel, who has just not looked like himself since returning from the disabled list.

5) Atlanta Braves (30-21) Same

The Braves came back to earth a little bit since we last spoke, losing series to both Philadelphia and Boston, but that could potentially be the least of their problems. Rookie phenom Ronald Acuna Jr. landed extremely awkwardly after lunging for first base yesterday, turning his knee the wrong way similarly to what happened to Bryce Harper last summer. The Nationals’ star missed a little over a month with his injury, and Atlanta will hope for much better news when Acuna’s MRI results come back at some point today, as having him miss any significant time would be a huge blow to this team both emotionally and on the field.

6) Chicago Cubs (27-22) Same

The Cubs have finally got it going, and on a team with a plethora of big names, it’s Javier Baez who is largely leading the charge. The slick-fielding infielder reclaimed the National League RBI lead with a huge three-run homer on Sunday Night Baseball last night, providing the key hit in Chicago’s rubber game win over the Giants and giving them some positive momentum heading into this week. Starting tonight the Cubs begin a seven-game road trip with the Pirates and Mets, and with the continued success they should begin to close the gap between them and the Brewers in the NL Central.

7) Seattle Mariners (32-20) 2

The Mariners haven’t missed a beat since losing Robinson Cano to his stunning PED suspension, and right now they may be the best story going in Major League Baseball. Seattle just breezed through another dominant week, going 5-1 against Oakland and Minnesota, surprisingly climbing to only one game back of the Astros in the AL West. The schedule moving forward continues to be kind to the M’s, as their next week of games will feature contests with struggling teams in Texas and Tampa Bay.

8) St. Louis Cardinals (28-22) Same

St. Louis has been coasting along around a .500 pace for a couple of weeks now since losing Yadi Molina to the DL, and while that doesn’t sound overly impressive, lesser teams would crumble without their de facto captain. Tommy Pham continues to pace the Redbirds’ offense, Carlos Martinez has been among the best starters in baseball, and virtually every member of the Cardinals bullpen has been lights out. This club will need all three of those things to continue this week, with a huge series against their NL Central rival Brewers beginning today.

9) Philadelphia Phillies (29-21) 2

Philadelphia continues to be one of the brighter developments in baseball, and they’re showing no sign of slowing down. Last week the Phillies won a huge series with the Braves before dropping a home set with the Blue Jays, but all three of those games were close and their weekend fate could easily have been better. Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta have been arguably the best 1-2 rotation duo in baseball in 2018, combining to go 10-4 with an ERA of 2.34, and Odubel Herrera seems to have put his propensity for brain farts in the past as he’s enjoying easily his most productive season in the big leagues. We’ll know a little better if Philly is for real in the next few weeks, as beginning today they’ll embark on a 10 game road trip through LA, San Fran, and Chicago.

10) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (29-24) 3

Mike Trout and company won two of three from the Jays this past week before heading into the Bronx for a heavy-weight fight with the Yankees over the weekend, and while they emerged with only one win in the three games, they certainly showed New York they can compete in the AL. The Angels do have an excellent chance to not only rebound but go on a little bit of a run in the next few weeks, as their next 13 games are against Detroit, Texas, Kansas City, and Minnesota.

11) Colorado Rockies (28-25) 1

The Rockies have recently taken over first place in the struggling NL West, but that doesn’t exactly mean they’re on any type of a roll. Last week Colorado dropped a three-game series with the Dodgers before taking two of three from Cincinnati at home, and they’ll look to win consecutive series when the Giants come to Coors Field tonight.

12) Washington Nationals (29-22) 3

Don’t look now, but the Nationals may finally be poised to take over the NL East. Washington went 5-1 last week, easily breezing through games with the Padres and Marlins, and the schedule  continues to be kind to them with Baltimore up next. That’s not the only good news for the Nats’ though, as both Daniel Murphy and Brian Goodwin are getting set to begin minor league rehab assignments in the next few days as the pair continues to work their way back from injury. Murphy’s return in particular will be invaluable to this offense, especially for Bryce Harper, who is currently hitting just .232 as he’s attempted to carry the team on his back for much of the first two months.

13) Pittsburgh Pirates (28-24) 1

The Pirates roller coaster 2018 season endured a downswing this past week, as the Bucs dropped two of three to both Cincinnati and St. Louis, with yesterday’s rubber game with the Cardinals being particularly frustrating as their bullpen let a potential win get away. One positive development for Pittsburgh has been the performance of top prospect Austin Meadows, whose hit .455 with three home runs in the first nine games of his big league career. The week ahead will be important for this team if they intend to stay in the NL Central race, as playing poorly against the Cubs and Cardinals would seriously set them back in the divisional race.

14) Cleveland Indians (26-25) 1

The Indians went 4-2 this past week, and while that is far from dominant, the manner in which they did it provides optimism for this club that most predicted to be much better than they’ve looked to date. Cleveland just won a pair of games with the Cubs before splitting a difficult four game series with Houston, and with the White Sox up next maybe they can continue to trend upward.

15) Arizona Diamondbacks (26-26) 5

Now that they’ve fallen all the way back to .500 the Diamondbacks have officially thrown away all of their fast start, which is a real shame. This team just isn’t the same without A.J. Pollock, one of the most underrated stars in the game whose spent far too much time on the DL in recent years, something that has seriously held this team back from reaching their full potential. Arizona is in full free-fall, as this past week they were swept by Milwaukee before dropping two of three to Oakland over the weekend, dropping them to just 2-15 in their last 17 contests. If Arizona is ever going to get back on track they have the right team coming to Chase Field, as Cincinnati currently has the National League’s worst overall record.

16) Oakland Athletics (28-25) 1

The A’s have moved through 2018 largely under the radar, outperforming most preseason expectations experts had laid out for them. After a dominant seven day stretch last week, Oakland went 3-3 in the one they just completed, losing a series with the Mariners before rebounding to take one from Arizona. Up next is a four-game series with Tampa Bay, and the A’s will hope to continue to quietly play solid all along baseball without attracting too much attention.

17) Tampa Bay Rays (25-26) 5

Tampa Bay’s “opener” strategy is currently the talk of baseball, but it shouldn’t be ignored that this team has actually been winning of late. After losing the first two games of their midweek series with Boston the Rays went on to win three of their next four games, aided by a weekend series with Baltimore. Tampa has a very difficult road trip in front of them, with stops in Oakland, Seattle, and Washington, and while they’re not a serious contender in the American League this team has proven they can be competitive, and I expect them to continue to do so moving forward.

18) Los Angeles Dodgers (24-28) 1

For all of the Dodgers problems in the season’s first two months, they’ll enter play tonight only 3.5 games back in the NL West, which is bad news for the rest of their division. Los Angeles has had issues with injuries, under-performance, and even effort, but they’ve been much better lately and maybe they’re finally turning things around. Last week the Dodgers won series with both the Rockies and Padres, highlighted by yet another dominant start from Walker Buehler. Up next is four games with upstart Philadelphia, but LA is tentatively planning to activate Clayton Kershaw from the DL for Thursday’s start which should provide a lift to the entire team.

19) New York Mets (25-24) 3

Similarly to Arizona, the Mets have essentially given back all of their fast start to 2018, and things just are not going well for this team right now. Since we last spoke the Amazins’ inexcusably lost two of three to the lowly Marlins, punctuated by a devastating blown save by Jeurys Familia that wasted another brilliant Jacob deGrom start in the rubber game. New York then moved on to Milwaukee where they dropped three of four to the red hot Brewers in a series that could have easily gone the other way with even remotely competent bullpen performance. Things don’t get any easier for the Mets moving forward as they play eight games with the Braves and Cubs in the next seven days.

20) Toronto Blue Jays (25-28) 2

Toronto has proven they are not legitimate threats in the American League, and they didn’t change anyone’s mind over the past seven days. The Blue Jays went 3-3 in six games with the Angels and Phillies, with the most positive development being a strong start from J.A. Happ in Philadelphia against the team that drafted him all the way back in 2004. A trip to Fenway Park for a date with the Red Sox is up next on the Blue Jays’ road trip, and it’s hard to imagine that visit going very well for them.

21) San Francisco Giants (25-28) 1

They Giants had consistently played around .500 baseball for almost two months, but they began to dip below that level of play in the past seven days. San Francisco lost four of their five games since we last spoke, and while the schedule was admittedly difficult with games against the Astros and Cubs, if this team wanted to be taken seriously they needed a better showing against the league’s better teams.

22) Minnesota Twins (21-27) 1

The Twins made the playoffs a year ago which makes their struggles in 2018 one of the most baffling developments in 2018. Basically every member of Minnesota’s offense not named Eddie Rosario has failed to live up to expectations, which is one of the primary reasons this team has lost their past four games, including a weekend sweep at the hands of Seattle. The Indians are still leaving the door open in the AL Central but it is becoming more obvious by the day that the Twins just aren’t good enough to take advantage.

23) Detroit Tigers (23-29) Same

Detroit is clearly in the bottom 3rd of the league, and like Minnesota they are just not proving themselves to be a viable threat to Cleveland in their division. Last week the Tigers actually did play okay, but the schedule was not exactly all that difficult. Detroit went 3-3 in six games with the Twins and White Sox, but the week ahead should prove to be quite a bit harder. Before we speak again the Tigers will play seven games against the Angels and Blue Jays and let’s see how they fare.

24) San Diego Padres (22-32) Same

It was another mediocre week for the club in the southernmost city in California, as the Padres dropped series to both the Dodgers and Nationals. Carlos Villanueva’s dominant rookie season continues to be one of the best stories in baseball, but sadly aside from that San Diego just doesn’t have much else going for them. Maybe their recent trade for Phil Hughes can change that? Probably not.

25) Texas Rangers (22-33) Same

The Rangers continue to struggle through 2018, but perhaps the most distressing part of the situation is the downright awful performance of supposed ace starting pitcher Cole Hamels. Hamels got hammered again yesterday in Texas’ loss to the Royals, and they’ll undoubtedly need that to change if they intend to use him as a trade chip in July.

26) Miami Marlins (19-33) 1

The Marlins continue to be scrappier than most expected they would be, and for that they deserve a little bit of credit. This past week they used an impressive rally in the rubber game with the Mets to steal a series in Queens, and while they followed that by getting swept by the Nationals, a 2-4 week is still better than some had this time pegged for.

27) Kansas City Royals (18-35) 2

Kansas City rose a few spots this week after impressively going into their Missouri rivals in St. Louis’ building and winning a road series against a good team. The Royals followed that up by splitting a four game set with Texas, and while this week was honestly not so bad for the ’15 World Champs, this club remains one of the most obvious sellers in baseball.

28) Cincinnati Reds (19-35) 2

Similarly to the Royals, Cincinnati is a bad team that actually played competitively in the 7 day span they just completed, going 3-3 against the Pirates and Rockies, two clubs that are clearly better than them. Up next for the Reds is a date with the free-falling Diamondbacks so it wouldn’t be shocking to see them win a few more times before we speak again.

29) Baltimore Orioles (17-36) 1

The Manny Machado trade winds have to be becoming at least a little bit of a distraction for this club, but that is far from the reason they’ve struggled so mightily in 2018. The Orioles just aren’t very good and Machado remains the only reason fans have to visit Camden Yards these days. For now.

30) Chicago White Sox (16-34) Same

Baseball’s worst team remains the White Sox, who just have very little to feel positive about right now. Chicago did come through with a marginally strong showing for themselves this past week, going 3-4 against Baltimore and Detroit, but those are two of the worst teams in the league. Failing to come out of that week with a winning record is how you become last in power rankings for the 3rd consecutive week.

MLB Power Rankings (5/21)

Check out last week’s Power Rankings

1) New York Yankees (30-13) Same

The Yankees hardly played this past week as the deluge of rain that plagued the Northeast for days completely washed away their series with the Nationals. Over the weekend they did take two of three from the woeful Royals in Kansas City, and most notable in that series was the strong start Sonny Gray turned in yesterday as he had really been struggling. Overall New York has now taken eight consecutive series after a so-so beginning to 2018, and despite Boston being right on their heels, the Bombers remain the clear cut number one this week.

2) Boston Red Sox (32-15) Same

Boston is currently just percentage points behind the Yankees for the best record in baseball, and likewise they remain a virtual second number one team on this list. The ‘Sox recently completed week got off to a bumpy start when they dropped consecutive home games to Oakland, but they rallied to take four of their next five to further entrench themselves as one of the top teams in the league. Up next for Mookie Betts and company is a date with division rival Tampa Bay before returning home to face the red hot Atlanta Braves next weekend.

3) Houston Astros (30-18) Same

Any MLB insider would assuredly tell you that the top three teams in baseball right now are the Yankees, Red Sox and Astros, and the only thing left to determine would be how you’d rank those three. I’m sticking with the same order as last week, keeping the defending champions at number three, but the gap between these three clubs and 4-30 is significant. Last week Houston took series from both the Angels and Indians, two clubs many insiders predicted would join the aforementioned Astros, Yankees, and Red Sox in the postseason in October. The thing that makes the Astros so tough is they never really seem to have an off night, and play well even in their losses. This team’s last three defeats have all been by a skinny run, and they haven’t been beat by more than two in almost three weeks.

4) Milwaukee Brewers (28-19) 1

The Brew Crew have quietly been the most consistent team in the National League this year, and they’ve been creeping up this list for weeks. This past week they just continued to do what they’ve been doing, taking two of three from both Arizona and Minnesota on the road, wrapping up a highly successful 7-3 road trip that began in Colorado. And how about Jesus Aguilar? Playing regularly with Ryan Braun and Eric Thames both on the DL, the big man launched four long balls in Minneapolis, and he may be becoming the biggest power threat you’ve never heard of in the National League. Starting tonight Milwaukee will play ten straight games at home at Miller Park, squaring off with the Diamondbacks, Mets, and Cardinals, all contenders in the NL. Let’s see where they are by the end of the month.

5) Atlanta Braves (28-17) 4

The Braves can no longer be ignored or discredited. The team that will begin play tonight with the best record in the National League resides in Atlanta, something nobody would have predicted two months ago but that is the reality of the situation. Things are going so well for the Braves they are coming out on top in games they have no business winning, like yesterday when they rallied for six runs in the 9th inning to stun the Marlins with a 10-9 walk-off win. The next two weeks will be telling for this club as they will play all three of their serious competitors in the NL East (Phillies, Mets, Nationals), as well as the Red Sox. If Atlanta can get through that stretch without missing a beat and maintaining the best record in the league you might be looking at your early favorite in the National League.

6) Chicago Cubs (25-19) 1

The Cubs have been hanging in the middle of the pack in the NL Central all year long, but you just get the feeling this team is on the verge of catching fire. Last week they dropped two of three to the surging Braves before heading down to Cincinnati and snatching three of four from their division rival Reds. Chicago has two well deserved off days this week as their bullpen could use a break after playing a double header over the weekend, but when they are on the field they’ll host both the Indians and Giants at Wrigley.

7) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (26-21) 3

The bookends of the Angels’ week were good, as they defeated Houston last Monday and beat Tampa Bay yesterday. Sticking with the analogy, the rest of the book was terrible however, as the Halos dropped all five of the contests in between. This team has been up and down several times already in 2018 though, and I am confident they’ll get back on track in fast order. After taking tonight off Los Angeles of Anaheim will resume play north of the border in Toronto tomorrow.

8) St. Louis Cardinals (25-19) Same

The Cardinals continue to just be in survival mode playing without their field general and emotional leader, Yadier Molina. Last week they split two games in Minnesota before splitting a four game set with the Phillies back home at Busch Stadium, using a brilliant start from rookie Jack Flaherty yesterday to assure themselves of a 3-3 record since we last spoke. St. Louis currently sits just 1.5 games behind the Brewers in the NL Central, but with Milwaukee and the Cubs both threatening to go on a run, this team will have to prove they can string wins together rather than just get by without Molina.

9) Seattle Mariners (27-19) 1

Off the field the Mariners are currently engulfed with drama and controversy due to the recent PED suspension of injured superstar Robinson Cano, but on the field this team has surprisingly been able to avoid the noise and continue playing rock solid baseball. In the recently completed week the M’s won a make-up game with the Twins, split two contests with Texas, and then won three of four from the Tigers over the long weekend. Yesterday was especially notable as Seattle’s offense looked lost all day before a two run 9th inning homer by Mitch Haniger brought them back from the dead in a game they eventually won in extra innings. At the moment the Mariners have actually overtaken the Angels in the AL West, and let’s see how well they can maintain this level of play going forward.

10) Arizona Diamondbacks (25-21) 4

How is this team still in first place? Following an absolutely dominant beginning to 2018 the Diamondbacks are in a free-fall. They’ve dropped 10 of their last 11 games, and their weekend sweep at the hands of the Mets was particularly disappointing as they were in all three contests. A.J. Pollock is currently on the disabled list, Paul Goldschmidt looks like some sort of an impostor, and while Jake Lamb was just activated from the DL, he looks extremely rusty, and may have actually been rushed back to help a struggling offense. Long story short this team has serious issues, and if they can’t rectify them immediately they’ll likely be further down this list next week.

11) Philadelphia Phillies (26-18) 1

Odubel Herrera’s incredible 45 game on-base streak finally reached its conclusion yesterday, but that did little to slow down the Phightin Phils’ positive momentum. Philadelphia won a game in Baltimore while having another rained out this week, before heading to St. Louis where they split a tough four game series on the road. The Phillies biggest series of 2018 to date will begin tonight against Atlanta, whom they currently trail by just 1.5 games in the NL East.

12) Colorado Rockies (25-22) 3

The Rockies have not been lighting the world on fire, but thanks to the recent struggles of Arizona they find themselves just a half game back in the NL West. Last week they split two with the Padres and four with the Giants to go 3-3 since we last spoke, and up next is a suddenly hot Dodgers team on the road.

13) Cleveland Indians (22-23) 2

The story with the Indians is just getting redundant at this point. We’ve been saying for almost two months that this team should be better than they’ve played so far, but what if they aren’t? Cleveland just completed another disappointing week, going 2-4 to drop them under .500 for the year. Bad teams in Minnesota and Detroit are right on their heels, and it’s becoming clear the AL Central is the weakest division in baseball.

14) Pittsburgh Pirates (26-20) 2

Pittsburgh continues to play scrappier than expected, currently sitting just 1.5 games back in the NL Central. Last week they swept away the White Sox but frustratingly lost all three over the weekend to the lowly Padres. After taking tonight off the Bucs will get set to visit Cincinnati, a team they simply have to take advantage of if they want to be taken seriously.

15) Washington Nationals (24-21) 1

The Nationals have been hard to figure out. This is a team similar to the Indians, they should be dominant, but injuries and inconsistency have held them back. After a resounding four game sweep in Arizona, Washington wasn’t able to complete a game for five days thanks to bad weather and an odd scheduling quirk that left them with off days on Monday and Thursday. When they finally resumed playing baseball on Saturday, the layoff showed, as they dropped both games of a double header to the Dodgers and then lost again on Sunday, falling back to 4th place in their division. They do have a clear path to a rebound though, as their next nine contests come with the Padres, Marlins, and Orioles.

16) New York Mets (23-19) 1

The Mets had been unable to really string solid play together for over a month, but that finally began to change in the last few days. New York just took four of five at home this week, doing it the way they’re designed to win, dominant starting pitching from Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, lights out relief pitching, and offensively using the home run ball to score quickly. It was no doubt encouraging to see, and the Amazins’ will hope to continue their hot streak this week when the Marlins come to Queens.

17) Oakland Athletics (25-22) 3

Oakland is becoming a potential surprise competitor in the American League. Since we last spoke this team took a series from the Red Sox at Fenway before heading north and just bludgeoning the Blue Jays for four consecutive days. The Athletics are getting tremendous starting pitching from Sean Manaea and Daniel Mengden, offensive contributions from all over the line-up, and they’re currently just 2.5 games out of a potential playoff spot.

18) Toronto Blue Jays (22-25) 5

The Jays had hung around the outside of the AL East race for a while, but those days are firmly a thing of the past. After splitting two games in New York with the Mets, Toronto allowed Oakland to storm Canada and beat them in four straight contests, and it may soon benefit this club to begin planning to sell in July.

19) Los Angeles Dodgers (20-26) 2

Here come the Dodgers? Well, maybe. LA just impressively swept three games from the Nationals but prior to that they inexcusably dropped a series to the Marlins in Miami. As has been the case with this club in 2018 though, all news can’t be good, as starter Rich Hill joined fellow southpaw Clayton Kershaw on the disabled list yesterday and is expected to miss about a month. The difference Justin Turner makes with this team is evident though, as since the veteran third baseman returned in Miami, he’s hit .333 in six games and made this line-up much more formidable.

20) San Francisco Giants (24-24) 1

San Francisco has chugged along around .500 essentially all year, and it’s looking like that is going to be about the ceiling for this team in 2018. This past week the Giants went 4-3 in home games with Cincinnati and Colorado, but the road ahead will be much more difficult. Tomorrow San Francisco embarks on a eight game road trip where they’ll play the Astros, Cubs, and the Rockies again, this time at Coors Field. They’re likely to be well under .500 when that stretch is completed.

21) Minnesota Twins (19-23) 3

I tried to give the Twins the benefit of the doubt last week when they finally showed some signs of life, but since we last spoke they’ve done nothing but revert back to their losing ways. Minnesota went just 2-4 this week, but the narrative for them remains the same seemingly every week. The Indians are struggling so mightily to run away with the AL Central, and if the Twins can ever put together a run they’ll likely take over the division lead.

22) Tampa Bay Rays (22-23) 1

They continue to try to reinvent the wheel in Tampa Bay, and the rest of the baseball world is not quite sure what to make of it. Reliever Sergio Romo STARTED back to back games over the weekend as manager Kevin Cash implemented a bizarre match-up strategy, but it worked as they took three of four from the previously red hot Angels. Up next is Boston which won’t be easy, but regardless of how they play in that series the Rays are becoming one of the more interesting stories in 2018.

23) Detroit Tigers (20-26) 1

The Tigers finally got bumped out of spot number 22, but they didn’t drop too far. This team is not good by any stretch of the imagination, but similarly to the Twins, they are very much in a divisional race because of the struggles of the Indians. Beginning play tonight Detroit is only 2.5 games back in the AL Central, and with games with the Twins and White Sox up next, maybe they can make a little bit of a push.

24) San Diego Padres (20-28) 1

The Friars had been sinking into the abyss for weeks before suddenly waking up over the weekend. San Diego shockingly took three of four from Pittsburgh, making them winners of four of their last five overall. Their next six games come with the Nationals and Dodgers, team struggling squads that were predicted to be NL powerhouses in March, and it’s really difficult to generate any type of preview of those series.

25) Texas Rangers (18-30) 1

The Rangers and Padres seemingly duke it out down here in the power rankings every week, and this time Texas came out on the short end of the stick. The Rangers just dropped three of four to the pathetic White Sox over the weekend, and it’s becoming more and more obvious by the day that they’re likely headed for a tear down in a couple months.

26) Cincinnati Reds (16-32) 1

The Reds have rallied to play a lot better over the last few weeks, and while it’s hard to tell when looking at their 16-32 record, it was a lot uglier a few weeks ago. Cincinnati is getting strong seasons from Joey Votto and Scooter Gennett offensively and both Amir Garrett and Jared Hughes are pitching well out of the bullpen, setting this team up to have some marketable pieces in July.

27) Miami Marlins (17-29) 2

Say what you want about the Marlins and what their new ownership group did over the winter, but the guys on the field are playing hard and making this team much more competitive then most thought they would be. J.T. Realmuto, Justin Bour, Miguel Rojas, and Starlin Castro are all performing well offensively, and it would seem Derek Jeter and company should be able to flip all of them for more young talent at the deadline.

28) Baltimore Orioles (14-32) Same

Manny Machado continues to be the only reason to pay attention to this team, as the early favorite for AL MVP is currently hitting .343 with 14 homers and an MLB high 42 RBI’s. The only question surrounding both Machado and Baltimore is how long he will be playing home games at Camden Yards, as the O’s simply have to move the free-agent to be at peak value.

29) Kansas City Royals (14-32) 3

Kansas City has struggled for the majority of 2018 but this past week was particularly ugly. The Royals got swept by the Rays before dropping two of three to the Yankees over the weekend, and they’ll need a strong road trip to avoid falling into the last spot on this list next week.

30) Chicago White Sox (13-30) Same

Chicago occupies the cellar of the power rankings for the second consecutive week, but they actually did show a little bit of a pulse since we last spoke. The White Sox took three of four from the Rangers over the weekend, headlined by a dominant start from young Reynaldo Lopez yesterday, an encouraging sign for this year and beyond.

 

 

 

 

 

 

MLB Power Rankings (5/14)

Last week

A new number one and a sliding NL powerhouse highlight the latest edition of Baseline Times MLB Power Rankings.

1) New York Yankees (28-12) 1

For the first time all year the Red Sox are not in the top spot on here, and to make matters worse for Boston, it’s their arch rivals in the Bronx that have dethroned them. The Yankees have simply been unbelievable for the better part of a month now, and their mid week series win over the Red Sox secured them of this ranking. New York already has four players with double digit home run totals, and they’ve just been bludgeoning the opposition to death almost daily. They’ll take tonight off before embarking on an eight game road trip beginning in Washington tomorrow.

2) Boston Red Sox (28-12) 1

The Bo-Sox are no longer number one, but number two almost sounds too harsh. Realistically them and the Yankees are almost a 1 and 1A situation at present. And the fact that they are 3-3 head to head so far only adds more intrigue to what should be an incredible race all year long. Honestly it wouldn’t be surprising to see them back on top of New York next week, as they have a tremendous opportunity to string some wins together in the days ahead. Their next 10 games are against Oakland, Baltimore, and Tampa Bay.

3) Houston Astros (26-16) 1

As was easily predicted, the Astros down week two weeks ago, did not carry over into this past one. Houston five of six games from the A’s and Rangers, priming them for a huge showdown with the Angels beginning tonight.

4) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (24-16) 1

The Angels have a realistic chance to overtake Houston for first place in the AL West. All they’ll have to do is beat the champs head to head this week in a series Houston will throw Lance McCullers, Gerrit Cole, and Justin Verlander at them. It’s an important three game stretch for this team, as for seven weeks they’ve been proving they can hang with the Astros, but if they want to show their biggest rivals they’re a legitimate threat to win this division, it will have to be done head to head.

5) Milwaukee Brewers (24-17)  3

The Brewers are establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the National League, as both Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain have been everything the club could have hoped they’d be when they acquired the pair in the off-season. We should soon have a better handle on where Milwaukee stacks up in the NL heirarchy as six of their next nine games are with Arizona.

6) Arizona Diamondbacks (24-16) 3

The D’backs weren’t going to win every series all year, but still, their sudden downturn this past weekend was stunning. Arizona dropped all four games to the suddenly surging Nationals, and the task in front of them  is proving the series was nothing more than a fluke as they move ahead.

7) Chicago Cubs (21-16) 2

Chicago has been better of late, but they certainly haven’t taken off yet. Playing two bad teams (Miami and the White Sox) this past week got them pointed in the right direction as they won five of those six games, but the road ahead isn’t necessarily easy. The Cubs depth, particularly in the bullpen, will be tested in the upcoming week, as they play eight games in three cities in seven days.

8) St. Louis Cardinals (22-16) 2

The Cardinals first week with Yadier Molina in the disabled list did not go all that well. St. Louis dropped four of six games to the Twins and Padres, and to make matters worse, Adam Wainwright’s long awaited return from the DL could not have gone much worse. The veteran righty lasted only 2 1/3 innings and walked six yesterday, before coming out of the game after potentially reaggravating his elbow injury. St. Louis is already talking about him missing his next start, and this situation certainly bears watching moving forward.

9) Atlanta Braves (24-15) 2

The team with the best record in the National League is the 5th NL team to be ranked on this list, and that should tell you just how well the Braves are flying under the radar right now. Atlanta is getting terrific starting pitching, and their young offensive core is simply mashing the baseball. The Braves’ next four games are with the Cubs, and if they continue to play well in those contests it will be hard for them to remain the best kept secret in baseball.

10) Seattle Mariners (22-17) 2

Everything had been going so smooth for Seattle of late that Mariners’ fans would tell you something was inevitably bound to go wrong. Those fears were realized yesterday, when star second baseman Robinson Cano was hit by a pitch and broke a bone in his hand, an injury that will likely require surgery and send him to the shelf for several months. Losing Cano certainly changes the attitude around this team, who surprisingly currently sit only 2.5 games back of the Astros in the AL West.

11) Cleveland Indians (20-19) 1

The rhetoric around the Indians is getting redundant, but it really is becoming concerning how they can’t seem to pull away in the woeful American League Central. Cleveland continues to just chug along on a win one, lose one pace, and it is only a matter of time before another divisional team should be able to take advantage.

12) Philadelphia Phillies (23-16) 3

Philadelphia has outperformed expectations all year, doing it in large part with breakout seasons from Odubel Herrera and Aaron Nola, but everything with the Phillies is not rosy. Their 23-16 record is impressive, but it’s concerning that closer Hector Neris has now blown two straight dominant starts from Jake Arrieta, and for a team that will need every win they can get to realistically sneak into the playoffs, those games could come back to bite them.

13) Toronto Blue Jays (21-20) 6

The Blue Jays are still this high out of respect for what they had done to this point, but this was not a good week for baseball’s lone Canadian team. Toronto lost series home series to both the Mariners and Red Sox, and after taking today off they’ll have to aim to get back on track in New York against the Mets.

14) Washington Nationals (24-18) 3

What the Nationals just accomplished out in Arizona this past weekend sent shots around the baseball world that they are back. In four games against the team that previously had the best record in the NL, Washington won all four while limiting the Diamondbacks to only seven runs total. The Nats have a funky week ahead as they are off both Monday and Thursday, bracketing a two game set with the game’s hottest team; the Yankees.

15) Colorado Rockies (22-19) 2

The Rockies went just 2-4 this past week, but the best news for them came away from their own team, as thanks to the Diamondbacks getting beat up by the Nationals, Colorado is now only 2.5 games out in the NL West. With divisional road games coming up with San Diego and San Francisco the Rockies will look to get themselves back on a winning trajectory, while also attempting to gain further ground on first place Arizona.

16) Pittsburgh Pirates (23-17) 3

The Pirates have struggled to get a ton of love so far in 2018, but the way they’ve so drastically outperformed expectations is starting to get my attention. This past week they took four of five games from the White Sox and Giants, and with more games with the White Sox ahead, followed by four games with San Diego and three with Cincinnati, we may be looking at this team differently by the end of the month.

17) New York Mets (19-18) 3

The Mets went 17-9 in the season’s first month but have gone just 2-9 in May, a trend you’d like to hope will correct itself eventually. New York just inexcusably lost two of three to the dreadful Reds before splitting a rain abbreviated two game series with Philadelphia, and they’ll try to get things pointed in the right direction when they send Noah Syndergaard to the mound against the team that drafted him, Toronto, Tuesday night.

18) Minnesota Twins (17-19) 3

The Twins were a playoff team a year ago that got off to a horrific start, but they have finally begun to show signs of life. This past week they won two straight in a short series with the Cardinals before splitting a four game set with the Angels, and continued strong play moving forward should make them a threat to the Indians in the AL Central, as they currently trail Cleveland by only 1.5 games.

19) San Francisco Giants (20-21) 3

For a second there the Giants were trying to convince us they could potentially be a contender, but that was likely short lived. San Francisco’s trip to the east coast was a disaster, as they lost all four in Philadelphia before dropping two of three in Pittsburgh, and they’ll have to hope for better days ahead on their seven game home stand that begins today.

20) Oakland Athletics (19-21) 2

The A’s didn’t play all that well last week, but you can hardly blame them for that. Oakland’s schedule was brutal as they lost five of six to the Astros and Yankees, a week that just accentuated they are not good enough to play with the big boys in the American League.

21) Los Angeles Dodgers (16-24) 1

There isn’t much left to say about the Dodgers that hasn’t been said already in 2018. This team is without question the biggest disappointment in the game this year, and while they have too much talent to be written off completely, it was tempting to do just that after watching them unbelievably be swept in four games by Cincinnati.

22) Detroit Tigers (17-22) Same

Number 22 is without question the Tigers spot, they own this place in the power rankings. And that’s not really a good thing. Detroit has been steadily okay but not good, pretty much exactly how they were viewed in March. This week they get the Indians at home three times, and if they can somehow sweep them maybe they can become a factor in an underwhelming AL Central. Maybe.

23) Tampa Bay Rays (16-22) Same

Tampa Bay got off to a terrible start, played better for a few weeks, but they are currently heading on a downward trajectory again. In the recently completed week they lost twice to Atlanta and dropped three of four to the Orioles, who embarrassed the Rays 17-1 yesterday.

24) Texas Rangers (16-26) 1

The Rangers went 3-3 this past week but that was a marked improvement for a team that currently has a .381 winning percentage. Things may get a little better for them in the days ahead though, as they recently activated second baseman Rougned Odor from the disabled list.

25) San Diego Padres (16-26) 1

San Diego actually played pretty well this week, dropping a series to the Nationals before bouncing back to split a four game weekend set with St. Louis. They are not good by any means, but they’ve at least been reasonably competitive, and they’ll become more interesting later in the year when their off the charts farm system starts bubbling prospects to San Diego.

26) Kansas City Royals (13-27) Same

Kansas City’s starting pitching has been getting hammered all year, something that has been arguably the biggest factor in them losing more than twice the amount of games they’ve won. This past week they gave up at least five runs in every game they played, and 11 runs twice. Yikes.

27) Cincinnati Reds( 14-27) 3

How about the red hot Cincinnati Reds! Unbelievably Cincinnati has won their last six games, evicting them from the power rankings basement, and making their record not look quite as embarrassing as it was.

28) Baltimore Orioles (13-28) 1

Without Manny Machado the Orioles would be borderline unwatchable, but they did go an impressive 5-2 against the Royals and Rays this past week. The Phillies and Boston are up next, though, so don’t expect the wins to continue.

29) Miami Marlins (14-26) 2

The Marlins try hard, but they are just not very good. Last week they were simply over-matched by both the Cubs and the Braves, and they’ll try to bounce back by contributing to the Dodgers misery beginning tomorrow. A silver lining for Miami this year has been the dominance of a couple of their relief pitchers, most notably Kyle Barraclough, who should be a very marketable asset in July.

30) Chicago White Sox (10-27)  2

The White Sox are the new cellar dwellers, as they really don’t have much of anything going for them right now.

 

 

 

 

MLB Power Rankings 5/7

Previous Editions:  1    2     3

 

This was a strange strange week in Major League Baseball. Bryce Harper is now a lead-off hitter, perennial all-stars like Clayton Kershaw and Yadier Molina are on the disabled list, no team in the AL Central has a winning record, and the two New York clubs are headed in opposite directions. Let’s get started with this week’s power rankings.

 

1) Boston Red Sox (25-9)  Same

The Red Sox have held the top spot on this list all season, but that may soon change with the way their arch rivals from the Bronx are now ripping their way through the American League. This past week Boston continued to win series, taking 2/3 from Kansas City and 3/4 from Texas, but their biggest challenge to date lies ahead. After taking today off the Red Sox will travel down to New York for their second encounter with the Bombers, who like I alluded to a second ago, are playing much better than they were the first time these two got together.

2) New York Yankees (24-10) 3

The New York Yankees are on absolute fire, there’s really no other way to explain it. This team has gone on a 16-2 run since their off-day on April 18th and they are getting contributions from everywhere on the roster. Yesterday young righty Domingo German held the Indians hitless through six innings in a game the Yanks’ ultimately won on a walk-off three run blast from heralded prospect Gleyber Torres. New York is currently on a six game winning streak, with all six coming against the Astros and Indians, two AL powerhouses. They’ll look to slay a third American League giant, the Red Sox, this coming week, and if they do they’ll likely take over the top spot.

3) Arizona Diamondbacks (23-11) Same

The NL best Diamondbacks have just continued to play well day after day, and they show no signs of letting up. Arizona has incredibly not dropped a single series all year, and after splitting four contests with the Dodgers early this past week, they impressively beat up on Houston all weekend to take 2/3 from the defending champions. A.J. Pollock and Patrick Corbin are both early favorites for MVP and Cy Young respectively, and honestly there isn’t much that hasn’t gone right for this team so far. Two with the Dodgers and four with the Nationals make up the week ahead.

4) Houston Astros (21-15) 2

These past seven days made up a rare down week for the defending World Series winners. The Astros just limped to a 2-5 record against the surging Yankees and the dominant It’Diamondbacks, but don’t expect the downswing to continue. Houston will share the diamond with Oakland and Texas in the coming days, two divisional foes with a combined record of 31-39. This team will be the favorites in the American League until the day someone eliminates them from contention, and I expect them to play more like themselves moving forward.

5) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (21-13) 6

It’s truly been an up and down first six weeks to 2018 for the Angels. After a tremendous beginning to the season, they struggled for a few weeks, until they went out and took 5/6 from the Orioles and Mariners, actually reclaiming first place in the AL West from Houston in the process. And we haven’t even talked about Albert Pujols becoming the 32nd player in the history of the sport to record 3,000 hits. Pretty wild when you think about it that the future first ballad Hall of Famer is now easily behind Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani on his own team’s star pecking order. Life comes at you fast.

6) St. Louis Cardinals (20-12) 2

To say St. Louis has recovered from a very pedestrian first few weeks or so is an understatement. This past week they dominated their way through the Windy City, winning five straight from the White Sox and Cubs, capped by a dramatic walk-off homer last night from Dexter Fowler, stunning his former teammates with the Cubs. The schedule is kind moving forward as well, with their next eight contests coming against the Twins and Padres. Not everything is rosy, however, as losing Yadi Molina for the long-term is a tough blow, and let’s see how they’re able to handle playing without their leader.

7) Toronto Blue Jays (19-16) 2

The ‘Jays have played better than expected for the majority of the season, but they’re suffering from playing in the same division as Boston and the Yankees. This past week Toronto took a series from Minnesota, split a double header with the Indians, before frustratingly dropping two of three to Tampa Bay over the weekend. Toronto will welcome a well deserved day off tonight, before hitting a point of the schedule where they may be able to go on a run. Beginning Tuesday, 13 of the Blue Jays next 15 contests will be played at home at Rogers Centre.

8) Milwaukee Brewers (20-15) 2

Milwaukee has been consistently solid without going on a real run thus far, but they’ve still positioned themselves firmly in the thick of things in the National League Central. After sweeping the Majors worst team, Cincinnati, the Brewers lost two of three to Pittsburgh over the weekend, but the road ahead isn’t kind. After two home games with Cleveland, the Beermakers will embark on a nine game road-trip through Colorado, Arizona, and Minnesota.

9) Chicago Cubs (16-15) 3

What is going on in the Windy City? After finally appearing back on track the Cubs have now lost five consecutive games (albeit against good teams in the Rockies and Cardinals), but this is a team that was expected to be one of the absolute dominant squads in the game. Let’s hope a homestand with Miami and the White Sox is enough to get them going, because if it doesn’t, they’ll assuredly be dropping out of the top 10 on this list.

10) Cleveland Indians (17-17) 3

Is it too early to get concerned about the Tribe? On paper there simply should not be any competition for them in the AL Central, but they’ve allowed Minnesota and Detroit to both hang within 2.5 games of them by failing to distinguish themselves over six long weeks. Edwin Encarnacion is hitting .198, free-agent addition Yonder Alonso is hitting .210, and while the starting rotation has been strong, five Cleveland relievers own ERA’s higher than 5.06. The hot Milwaukee Brewers are next up on the Cleveland schedule, and if they aren’t careful they could soon dip under the .500 mark.

11) Atlanta Braves (19-14) 3

How about the first place Atlanta Braves? Following a strong showing in Philadelphia the Braves rolled into Queens last Tuesday and easily swept aside the former NL East leading Mets, shutting them out in the final two contests. Ronald Acuna Jr. has lived up to the hype, Freddie Freeman has been Freddie Freeman, and in a contract year Nick Markakis currently leads the league with a .344 batting average. Atlanta’s momentum came crashing down to earth when they dropped three straight to the Giants over the weekend, but a Florida road-trip to play the Rays and Marlins could be just what the doctor ordered to get them back on track.

12) Seattle Mariners (19-14) 1

Seattle split six games with the A’s and Angels last week, but the bigger story around this team centered around Ichiro Suzuki retiring to join the front office. The veteran should go down as the best pure hitter in team history, which is an incredible compliment when you think of all the offensive players who have called Washington state home. The M’s will take today off before opening a seven game road-trip north of the border in Toronto tomorrow.

13) Colorado Rockies (20-15) 2

The Rockies enjoyed a strong past seven days, a span that has seen them reestablish themselves as legitimate contenders in the National League. After dropping the series opener with the Cubs, Colorado won the final two games with Chicago before sweeping the Mets in New York, and climbing into an NL wild card position. Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon have paced the offense, while Adam Ottavino has been probably the best relief pitcher in the National League. The Angels and Brewers are up next for the Rox.

14) New York Mets (17-15) 10

The New York Mets just had themselves a week. Jacob deGrom and Yoenis Cespedes both left games with (supposedly) minor injuries, the Matt Harvey saga finally ended with him being DFA’d, New York was shut out three times, and lost all six games of a homestand for the first time since 2012. Things literally cannot go anywhere but up in the week ahead, and the Amazins’ are actually headed to a good place to get right, Cincinnati, where they’ll play the Major League worst Reds beginning tonight.

15) Philadelphia Phillies (18-15) 3

Philly has continued to outperform preseason expectations, but when you are playing over your head like that and lose a game like they did yesterday, it really stings. The Phils wasted a tremendous outing from ace Jake Arrieta where he actually out-dueled defending Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, allowing Washington to come back from a 4-1 deficit in the 8th. Philadelphia returns home to take on the red hot Giants and division rival Mets this week.

16) San Francisco Giants (19-15) 4

After finally reaching the .500 mark last Sunday, the Giants continued their surge with another strong week. After taking a series from their division rivals in San Diego, Buster Posey and company headed cross country where they made a statement, sweeping Atlanta over the weekend. They’ll continue their long east coast swing in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh these next seven days.

17) Washington Nationals (18-17) 2

Are the Nats finally getting right? Behind more solid play from the entire roster they just ripped through a 6-1 week against the two Pennsylvania teams, the Pirates and Phillies, while also getting Anthony Rendon back from the DL. The good news doesn’t stop there as all-star second baseman Daniel Murphy and outfielder Adam Eaton both may be headed towards a return later this month, to aid Bryce Harper who has been a one man show for much of the first six weeks. Starting tonight Washington will embark on a seven game west coast swing through San Diego and Arizona and we should have a better handle on them when they return.

18) Oakland Athletics (18-16) Same

The A’s have found a way to hang around so far, but we’ll know almost for certain what their capability is in 2018 within the next two weeks. Oakland’s next 13 games are against Houston, New York (AL), Boston, and Toronto, four clubs all in the upper echelon in the American League. If they are able to survive that stretch we may have to begin looking at them more seriously, but it is far more likely they will soon be plummeting down this list.

19) Pittsburgh Pirates (19-16) 2

The Pirates continue to remind me of that current Morgan Wallen song, Up Down. They’ve been all or nothing so far, very high highs, and very low lows. This week represented a low as they were swept away during a four game series in Washington. They did recover a little by taking a weekend series from the Brewers, but this team has been an enigma all year. Let’s see what the week ahead holds.

20) Los Angeles Dodgers (15-19) 4

The stunningly still slumping defending NL Champs actually played reasonably okay this past week, going 3-4 in seven games with Arizona and San Diego, but what happened off the field was nothing short of devastating. Star shortstop Corey Seager is done for the year with Tommy John Surgery, and the best starting pitcher on the planet, Clayton Kershaw, is now on the DL with biceps tendinitis. To say LA has problems doesn’t begin to do the situation justice.

21) Minnesota Twins (13-17) Same

The Twins went 4-3 last week and that actually represented a pretty large improvement from where they’ve been. Taking 3/4 from the White Sox over the weekend probably represented the high point of Minnesota’s play so far in 2018, and they’ll need to continue playing good baseball if they intend to survive the week ahead, with the Cardinals and Angels on the docket.

22) Detroit Tigers (14-19) Same

The 22nd spot on this list is getting awfully familiar with Detroit. The Tigers are not good, make no mistake about it, but thanks to the poor play of Cleveland, this team is only 2.5 games of first place in the AL Central and within striking distance if they can ever go on a run. They’ll need more from their better players if they intend to do that though, as Miguel Cabrera has hit only three homers to date and Jordan Zimmerman currently has a 4.88 ERA.

23) Tampa Bay Rays (15-17) Same

There generally is not much movement when you get to the bottom part of the power rankings, but if there is one team that looks poised to eventually get out of the bottom third it is probably the Rays. Following a disastrous start Tampa Bay has played much better of late, although losing to the Blue Jays on a wild pitch yesterday was awfully disappointing.

24) San Diego Padres (13-22) 1

The Friars have leapfrogged Texas thanks in large part to a nice series win over the Dodgers this past weekend. Carlos Villanueva continues to be one of the better stories in baseball, and encouragingly Eric Hosmer has finally begun to hit. The road ahead will be very difficult for San Diego though, as they will clearly be the inferior team in every game of their upcoming homestand against the Nationals, Cardinals, and Rockies.

25) Texas Rangers (13-23) 1

Really the only reason to watch the Rangers right now is to see how far Joey Gallo will occasionally hit a baseball. The Las Vegas born slugger sure strikes out a lot, (45 times in 130 at-bats) but when he makes contact he sure is capable of some tape measure blasts.

26) Kansas City Royals (11-23)  2

The Royals actually just turned in a reasonably encouraging past seven days, winning one of three from Boston before taking three of four from their division rivals in Detroit. More winnable games are ahead, with their next three contests coming in Baltimore against the struggling Orioles.

27) Miami Marlins (13-20) 3

After finally reaching the bottom of this list last week, give the Marlins a little credit. This young team is clearly playing hard, and they were rewarded with series wins against both Philadelphia and Cincinnati. Heading to Chicago to play the Cubs at Wrigley this week will likely be a challenge, but this club has not shown any quit to date, an encouraging attitude that is clearly coming from manager Don Mattingly.

28) Chicago White Sox (9-23) 2

James Shields actually flirted with a no hitter yesterday, but that was far and above the most exciting development for the White Sox in their previous seven days. Chicago won only once since we last spoke, and might not win much in the week ahead as they play some interleague games with the Pirates and Cubs.

29) Baltimore Orioles (8-26) 2

Baltimore lost all six games they played last week, getting swept by both the Angels and Athletics. Their schedule is not daunting, with the Royals and Rays the next two opponents, but the reality of the situation is the O’s themselves are the team other clubs are looking forward to playing. At this point it is only matter of time before the Manny Machado trade rumors really start swirling.

30) Cincinnati Reds (8-26) 1

The Reds relinquished the cellar dweller role last week, but they sure went out and made sure they got it back. Cincinnati was swept by the Brewers before losing 2/3 to Miami, and with the Mets and Dodgers up next more losing should be on the way.