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Your Monday Morning Power Rankings

Jul 11, 2011, 10:30 AM EDT

Atlanta Braves v Philadelphia Phillies Getty Images

The All-Star Break is here, and even though the season is more than half over, it’s that time when everyone assesses the so-called first half.  We’ll do the same here today. The rankings represent the current state-of-the-league, but the comments about each team are a bit more first-half all-encompassing.

As always, last week’s rankings are in parenthesis.

1. Phillies (1): They are who we thought they were. The best team in baseball. Not invincible as some predicted, but there are idiots who predict a lot of stuff.

2. Red Sox (3): Same story, though certainly a more tumultuous path to their current ranking. Slow start, pitchers’ injuries. It’s enough to keep them in a tight race. Probably tighter than everyone thought.

3. Yankees (2): It’s been a while since we’ve seen a combination of (a) a damn successful team; and (b) fan-base freaking out like we have with the 2011 Yankees. If you only paid attention to the commentary and not to the scores, you’d think they were .500 or something. Maybe worse.

4. Braves (4): Being 3.5 behind the Phillies is like being the plain Jane next to the homecoming queen. If the plain Jane were standing near anyone else, people would go “saaaay, look at her.”  I’d offer up the old Jan Smithers/Loni Anderson/WKRP analogy here, but every time I do that, I get about 10 pro-Smithers comments to every one pro-Loni comment. Which I get on some level — I’m a Bailey man myself — but it has made plain Jane/bombshell comparisons very, very tricky.

5. Rangers (11): Their place in the standings is about what we all expected. The number of games they are ahead of the second place team: not so much. Like a few teams, they look fabulous one week (like last week) and kind of blah the next. Hard to get a read, but you get the sense they’ll pull away eventually.

6. Giants (6): Winning close games, doing it without much offense. Yep, these are the Giants we’ve come to know and, well, know.

7. Angels (12): I thought they’d crater. I think a lot of people did. The only person I know who didn’t was my HBT Daily amiga Tiffany Simons, who predicted they’d win the AL West and bet me a nice meal in New York on the matter. The fact that they’re keeping it close has me worried. Then again, the fact that if I “lose” this bet, I take Tiffany out to dinner someplace in New York means that there really would be no losers here. Well, Tiffany maybe, but I don’t care.

8. Rays (5): Kind of what I figured. A little better than what I figured, but a solid third place with occasional friskiness seemed right. Losing Carl Crawford and all of that bullpen talent wasn’t nearly as big as some folks made it out to be given the young pitching. Of course, if you would have told me that they’d lose Evan Longoria for a while and that, when he came back, he’d be not-so-good, I would have guessed that they’d be behind Toronto at the moment.

9. Cardinals (8): Kind of the same thing here: a fair pick — not my pick, which I totally whiffed on (see Cubs below) — but a fair pick by anyone to be up at the top of the division. But not if you said that Pujols would struggle early and then break a bone in his friggin’ arm. Yet he did and he did and here they still are.

10. Diamondbacks (10): Anyone who says they thought the Dbacks would be here is lying. Show me the article with the time stamp verified by MLB authenticators and I’ll believe it, but this is not what anyone was expecting.

11. Brewers (9): Pre-season conventional wisdom was that the Greinke and Marcum moves could help fix the bad pitching and if that happened, watch out babies, because Milwaukee would be in it. Greinke has been the Brewers’ worst starter, but look out babies, Milwaukee is in it.

12. Pirates (14): Another shocker. I think people had generally positive thoughts about the direction of the team, but they were positive in the “OK, the sheer horror is probably over, so now we only have some run-of-the-mill misery ahead.” In contrast, this has been delightful.

13. Tigers (13)/Indians (7): The AL Central: everything you wanted in a division. And less.  Look, the Indians’ little run has been nice, but the fact that it has lasted this long without anyone else asserting themselves says less about the strength of the Tribe and more about the weakness of the division.

15. Mets (16): It was so easy back in February and March to feel like doom surrounded these guys, but so much of that was Wilpon/Madoff-related and relatively little of it was about the actual team. To me they felt like a .500 team. Maybe a skosh better if things broke right. Well, things have broke right. Or at least pretty darn well. I think folks should be pretty pleased about what has gone down, even if the future is uncertain.

16. Nationals (20): Another team that tells us how damn foolish we are to try to predict baseball. Did we expect this? Nah. Did anyone see Jim Riggleman quitting? Nah. Davey Johnson at the helm? Nah.

17. Blue Jays (18): In contrast, some things are kind of predictable: the Jays scoring well and hitting lots of homers yet being on the outside looking in in a tough division. Joey Bats is nice though.

18. Reds (15): Last year you got the sense that they caught every break. This year they have the best run-differential in the division yet they’re in fourth place. The worms turn, ya know?

19. Marlins (24): If, over the past 18 years, you said “the Marlins are gonna be a lot tougher than they seem on paper and than their payroll suggests, you’d be right most of the time. This is one of the few years you’d be wrong. Hanley Ramirez not showing up for most of the first half hasn’t helped. Nor has Josh Johnson‘s injury.  This was not the team you’d guess would be most notable for hiring the second oldest manager of all time in the middle of the season. I’d guess that Kansas City or someone might, but not the Marlins.

20. White Sox (19): Adam Dunn: .160/.292/.305?  Hell, I would have guessed 10 games out of first, not just five. Either way, disappointing.

21. Rockies (17): Speaking of disappointing. Lots of smart folks figured they’d do better.

22. Twins (27): You could say disappointing here too. Or you could say: “Mauer and Morneau would have OPSs of .592 and .619, respectively, and they’d still only be 6.5 out?”  Eh, always look on the bright side of life.

23. Mariners (21): Down and up and down again, I still think you have to look on the season as successful so far, even with the current downward trajectory.  They learned that they can win with pitching and a couple of young bats at times. Even if more young bats to go along with Smoak and Ackley would be really, really useful.

24. Dodgers (26): Just dreadful. And unlike the Mets, they really can’t leave the business stuff to the side and just play because the empty seats and the much more high-profile nature of the business stuff makes it impossible to ignore.  Some nice pitching, give ‘em that.

25. Athletics (22): Pretty dreadful here too. The idea was great: “OK, our pitching is awesome and our hitting sucks, so let’s try to fix the offense.”  The execution, though: not so good. They’re scoring fewer runs this year than last.

26. Padres (23): We now have scientific proof that, if you take away the lone elite bat from the lineup of a team that is always going to struggle to score runs, the prospects for success are somewhat diminished.

27. Royals (29): Early excitement notwithstanding, this is how it was supposed to be: awful pitching, some pop on offense, but mostly just vamping until the kids can mature.

28. Cubs (28): My pick of the Cubs to win the Central was not one of those deals where I would have been willing to bet the mortgage. I was feeling optimistic about a bunch of talented and overpaid people putting it together in such a way where the talent would show itself one final time. Bounce back seasons for Pena, Soriano and Ramirez. A good back end of the pen with Wood and Marmol. A pretty decent rotation, at least on paper.  Yeah, it would have taken some luck for it all to break right, but this struck me as a good break-right kind of club. And one, I must admit, that had I guessed right on, would have allowed me to look pretty damn clever come October.  Ah, well, you win some and you lose some. I mostly lose some when I try to make clever predictions.

29. Orioles (25): Amazingly, this wasn’t the .596 team Buck Showalter had after he took over last year.  I figured they would improve and, again, if everything broke right, challenge for 75-80 wins.  Not happening, though.

30. Astros (30): I got my Cubs, Steve Berthiaume has his Astros. Everyone has a pick like this from time to time. But really, that Astros pick was just nutso.

  1. halladaysbiceps - Jul 11, 2011 at 10:33 AM

    “1. Phillies (1): They are who we thought they were. The best team in baseball.”

    Music to my ears. Craig, from your lips to God’s ears.

  2. insaneinthemembraines - Jul 11, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    What the hell is WKRP?

    • ditto65 - Jul 11, 2011 at 10:41 AM

      Look it up on the interwebs. Darn kids. :-)

    • sdelmonte - Jul 11, 2011 at 11:33 AM

      A lost gem that will never, ever be released on DVD/Netflix/Hulu because of rights issues with music.

      Whatever those things are that were released with alternate music, they are not WKRP.

      • Lukehart80 - Jul 11, 2011 at 12:34 PM

        Also known as “The Wonder Years Conundrum.”

    • jimbo1949 - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:09 PM

      WKRP is so Gen X
      The proper reference is Ginger/Marianne.

  3. Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Jul 11, 2011 at 10:42 AM

    “My pick of the Cubs to win the Central was not one of those deals where I would have been willing to bet the mortgage. I was feeling optimistic about a bunch of talented and overpaid people putting it together in such a way where the talent would show itself one final time. Bounce back seasons for Pena, Soriano and Ramirez. A good back end of the pen with Wood and Marmol. A pretty decent rotation, at least on paper. Yeah, it would have taken some luck for it all to break right, but this struck me as a good break-right kind of club. And one, I must admit, that had I guessed right on, would have allowed me to look pretty damn clever come October. Ah, well, you win some and you lose some. I mostly lose some when I try to make clever predictions.”

    Yeah, I guess we have some things in common other than the Bravos. The difference is that I called you out for this ludicrous prediction directly after you made it. Meanwhile, you let me predict the Phils would lose to the Braves in the 3 game set on Friday and then tell me the error of my ways just this morning? Damn you! Damn you, Calcaterra and your 20/20 hindsight!

    Ah, I love the taste of bitter coffee in the morning with a side of shame. Let’s be clear: the Phillies are better than the Braves, but the Bravos can still win a random best of seven sampling (and will do so in October if there is a God) AND as the good universe knows, the Cubs suck.

    GO PHILLIES!

    • Jonny 5 - Jul 11, 2011 at 12:31 PM

      Did Hanson fix up his car yet El Bravo?

      Er is she purrrty enough already?

      • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Jul 11, 2011 at 12:58 PM

        I was referring to this Hanson. They’re suuuuper sweet.

        GO PHILLIES!

      • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Jul 11, 2011 at 12:58 PM

        EDIT FUNCTION!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! DAGNAMMMITTTTTT!!!!!!!!!!

        GO PHILLIES!

    • Utley's Hair - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:42 PM

      Technically, Craig did join you—albeit passively, mind you—in the GO PHILLIES thing this morning. And go ahead…try to tell me that coffee wasn’t Irish.

  4. minnesconsin - Jul 11, 2011 at 10:53 AM

    I know it’s pathetic to bang the drum for the Twins… but they just took 3 of 4 from the ChiSox in Chicago. They’re separated by a game and half in the standings, but the Twins are clearly the “hotter” team right now.

    MN has won 7 of their last 10. They’re 24-12 since the beginning of June, dropping only two series in that span (at MIL, at SF)

    in that same span, CWS is 18-17.

    I’m not saying the Twins are great, and I’m not saying they’re making the playoffs. I’m saying they’re a very comparable club w/ the White Sox, but I’d swap their places given the circumstances.

    • FC - Jul 11, 2011 at 11:21 AM

      “I know it’s pathetic to bang the drum for the Twins… but they just took 3 of 4 from the ChiSox in Chicago.”

      No, no, no. Banging the drum for the Marlins, when they swept that juggernaut known as the ASTROS is pathetic. What’s more they get to play the Cubs after the break. It’s easy to be great when you play the worst teams in baseball back to back.

      • losburrosinblue - Jul 11, 2011 at 7:22 PM

        Or the Dodgers sweeping SD. But they only allowed 1 run in the entire series!!! Doesn’t that count for something?!?!? I mean, besides fodder for McCourt’s “Not-Harming-the-Team” defense?

  5. yankeesfanlen - Jul 11, 2011 at 11:01 AM

    Craig, I’d thought you’d been around here awhile. Anything less than 162-0 sends tumult through the Universe corridors. I’m very mellow about the first half anyway, starting Thursday I’ll have to add a little extra heat to the Bombers’ intensity.

    STRANGE ATTRACTOR!!……………..MIRACULOUS PONTIFICATOR!!!!…………………EDIT BUTTON!!!!!Knew Gator wanted me to say something.

    • archilochusColubris - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:21 PM

      Yeah it’s been a while since we’ve seen this combination… since like, the 2010 Yankees?

  6. Jack Marshall - Jul 11, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    Since the Phillies took 2 out of 3 from Boston while the Red Sox hitting was on “pause” and they couldn’t use their DH, I can’t bitch too much about putting the Phils at #1, but I still think it’s obviously wrong. Their run differential is worse than either the Yankees’ or Boston’s; they play in a weaker division and a weaker league, and with all that and the series win at home, they are 1.5 games in front of the Sox.

    That said, this Red Sox team is disturbingly similar to the ultra-streaky 1977 edition, which went into protracted slumps after periods where they wiped the field with all-comers. They won 97 games and still only finished in a tie for second place. 97 games will win the AL East, though, this year.

    • Phillies Homer - Jul 11, 2011 at 11:16 AM

      Waaaaaaaaaaaaah!!!

    • FC - Jul 11, 2011 at 11:24 AM

      Well it’s rare for a team to fire on all cylinders ALL the time. The Phillies offense hasn’t exactly been consistent. A few measly runs here and there and the Phillies would be 5 games up on the Sox. So everything balances out. In the end it’s all meaningless because it’s the hot team that will win October baseball, at that point an 89 win season or a 116 win season doesn’t make much of a difference, While Home field advantage is a plus, it’s not the be-all and end-all of things.

    • ame123 - Jul 11, 2011 at 11:29 AM

      The Red Sox couldnt touch the Phils pitching that series, except the long relief crew. And that’s even with Papi in the lineup. And the run differential thing is overrated, its easy to beat up the on the dregs of Baltimore pitching… .try going against the Braves pitching 18 times a year.

      • Ari Collins - Jul 11, 2011 at 11:42 AM

        Try going against Yankee pitching and Rays pitching 36 times a year.

        It’s not just run differential. All of the underlying statistics support it.

      • FC - Jul 11, 2011 at 12:34 PM

        I’m not convinced. Yankees and Rays are #9 and #11 respectively in MLB team pitching. Atlanta is #2.

      • phillysports266 - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:05 PM

        The NL East has by far the best pitching in baseball. The Yankees have guys who couldnt cut it for Philly before we had Halladay/Lee

      • Ari Collins - Jul 11, 2011 at 2:47 PM

        The Sox have a middle-of-the-pack pitching staff and the best offense in baseball. The Phillies have a middle-of-the-pack lineup and the best pitching in baseball. But the Sox are doing it in in the better league, and in a division with ANOTHER team that is as good as the Phillies, the Yankees, who have an even better run differential (with the 2nd best offense and 3rd best pitching staff in the league). Even the third-best team in the division is really really good; the Rays have the 7th best record in baseball and the 6th best run differential.

    • phillysports266 - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:03 PM

      Do you know why the Phillies run differential is worse than the Yankees/Sox? Because you guys have a DH, so AL games are high scoring in general.

      • Jack Marshall - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:30 PM

        What sense does that make? Both teams have the DH.

      • Ari Collins - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:38 PM

        Yeah, that wouldn’t affect the differential. You score more runs with the DH, but so do your opponents.

      • deathmonkey41 - Jul 11, 2011 at 1:59 PM

        And think about if your pitches had to face AL lineups day in and day out instead of facing a #9 hitter in the 8 hole and a guy who bats around .100 in the 9.

  7. sdelmonte - Jul 11, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    If this were the NY Times computer football rankings, I think that we would see the top four teams with numbers very close to 1.000, and then a bit of a dropoff for SF and Texas, and then a big gulf. I think the only think stopping me from saying that the champions will not be one of the top four is that the Giants still have pitching and the Rangers could find a way to get another ace (though there is no one of the caliber of Cliff Lee on the market). Otherwise, I am ready to say that all eyes should look east for the playoffs.

  8. FC - Jul 11, 2011 at 11:38 AM

    EDIT Function
    EDIT Function
    EDIT Function

    I’m testing HTML tags

  9. felser - Jul 11, 2011 at 2:03 PM

    So how does Mrs. Calcaterra feel about the dinner in NYC bets with Tiffany?

  10. natstowngreg - Jul 11, 2011 at 2:19 PM

    Nats @ .500 @ All-Star Break? Surprising, borderline shocking. Though not as much as the Pirates being over .500.

    Jim Riggleman resigning in mid-season? Inconceivable.

    Davey Johnson managing the Nats at mid-season? Not a huge surprise; Mike Rizzo had Davey in a box with a sign, “In Case of Emergency, Break Glass.” But the emergency was supposed to be Riggleman’s firing, not his resignation.

  11. foreverchipper10 - Jul 11, 2011 at 4:35 PM

    Monday Morning Power Rankings at quick glance looked like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Sometimes I hate how my brain works.

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