Wednesday, September 3, 2014

MLB September 2015 Power Ranking

Alex Gordon (4) and KC are Power Ranking royalty
When it's July 1st and you're ranked at the top of the Power Ranking, as the Kansas City Royals were back on that date, it may still be a little too early to get overly excited.

When you're an evaluator and you put a team like the Royals, who have not reached the MLB playoffs in over two decades, on top that early in the season there will be those who scoff, saying that you are just trying to get attention by being different. And scoff at yours truly they did.

No one is scoffing any longer. In fact, others have jumped on the bandwagon, now that the Royals good play has been rewarded with an actual run to the top of the A.L. Central standings. After a couple of months that saw the A's and Angels dueling for the honors, the Royals are back on top of the latest Power Ranking.

It's no longer June and early. It's September, and it's starting to get late. The Royals are still baseball's top statistical defensive team, are being led by legitimate A.L. MVP candidate Alex Gordon, and for the first time since the 1980's, Kansas City fans have a true World Series contender.

POWER RANKING - SEPTEMBER 3RD

1. KANSAS CITY ROYALS
After holding the top spot in the first Power Ranking of the season back on June 1st, the Royals dropped back a bit as summer got underway and the A's and Angels see-sawed for supremacy. But KC got hot after the All-Star break, ran down the Detroit Tigers in the A.L. Central, and moved up to the #2 spot in the mid-August Power Ranking. Now they are back on top here in early September. Their defense has been ranked #1 almost all season. With the #8 offense and pitching staff, they are one of only two clubs in MLB ranked in the Top 10 of all three areas of evaluation. 30-year old leftfielder Alex Gordon is their senior player, their unquestioned leader, and an A.L. MVP candidate.

2. LOS ANGELES ANGELS
The Halos battled all summer for the Power Ranking top spot with their division rivals, the Oakland A's. Just over two weeks ago, they had fallen to 3rd, with Oakland on top. But then the Angels got white hot. They are now on a 15-5 run that has seen them open up a 4.5 game lead on the A's in the division. Included in that run have been 5 straight wins head-to-head vs Oakland. Led by A.L. MVP candidate Mike Trout, they are the game's top offense. With the #7 defense and 10th-ranked pitching staff, they join KC as the only other MLB club in the Top 10 of all three major categories.

3. BALTIMORE ORIOLES
The fast-risers in the Power Ranking, the O's were ranked 6th in mid-August. Though they have been a regular Top 10 club all summer, they have not been able to push into the very upper echelons. But since losing 3 of 4 at home to the Rays at the end of June, they have been on a tear. Their record since that series is 38-18, and they have pulled away to a 9.5 game lead in the usually tough A.L. East. Having lost catcher and leader Matt Wieters early, and budding star Manny Machado late, and with a mediocre starting rotation, Buck Showalter is pushing seriously for the A.L. Manager of the Year award. Baltimore is ranked 2nd in both offense and defense in all of baseball. Only their middling 15th-rated pitching staff is keeping them from the top.

4. WASHINGTON NATIONALS
Back on June 1st, the Nats lost to Texas to fall a game below the .500 mark. They were not included at all in that first Power Ranking. Three months later, they are the top team in the National League. Much as with their Beltway brothers from the A.L. in Baltimore, the Washington side have been white hot ever since, having gone 51-31 since that June-opening defeat. They have opened up a 7-game lead in the N.L. East. They have baseball's #1-ranked pitching staff, and the game's 6th-rated offense. Only their mediocre 14th-rated defense holds them down a bit. Bryce Harper, baseball's erstwhile wunderkind, is finally looking fully healthy and is getting hot. They may get veteran leader Ryan Zimmerman back soon. As they get healthier, they are getting tougher to beat, and are serious World Series contenders.

5. OAKLAND ATHLETICS
The top team for much of the summer, and still at that lofty perch just over two weeks ago with the mid-August Power Ranking, the A's have slipped. After winning the first two of a big 7-game stretch with their division rivals, the Angels, Oakland dropped the final 5 straight games. The slide is part of a 7-15 mark over the past few weeks that has seen them fall 4.5 games behind the Angels in the A.L. West. It is showing in the Power Ranking now, and the A's need to rally fast. They still possess the game's 3rd-most potent offense, but it has been less so since dealing away slugger Yoenis Cespedes. With the game's 9th-rated defense and an improving pitching staff, there remains time to right the ship.

6. BOSTON RED SOX
BONUS NOTE: the Bosox stats continue to bely their position in the standings. A last-place team for much of the season, they have also spent the summer among the Top 10 teams statistically. They have the game's 3rd-ranked Defense, and 6th-ranked Pitching. The 16th-rated Offense has struggled for runs all year, and has led to the poor record. They remain a serious bounce-back candidate for 2015.

7. Atlanta Braves

8. Tampa Bay Rays

9. Saint Louis Cardinals

10. Los Angeles Dodgers

Best of the Rest:
Chicago Cubs (that's right), Seattle Mariners, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees,
San Francisco Giants, Toronto Blue Jays, Milwaukee Brewers,
Cleveland Indians, Pittsburgh Pirates

My Call:
The Orioles will win the A.L. East, the Washington Nationals the N.L. East. Every other division is too close to call, though the Angels have done an impressive job opening a solid lead on Oakland in the A.L. West. I still believe that could turn around again over a 2-week stretch that goes in the A's favor, much as the last two have gone the Halos way. The Brewers and Indians in the respective Central divisions are, to me, the two most likely to fade completely out of the races. And watch the Cubs now: 11-6 over the last three weeks, their improvement is for real. Won't win anything this year, but they will be tough on everyone they play, and are primed for contending as soon as 2015.

Phillies:
Ruben Amaro Jr has been given the old "Vote of Confidence" from interim President Pat Gillick, who is supposed to be minding the store only until ailing David Montgomery can get healthier after battling cancer. We wish Mr. Montgomery the best, of course. But Amaro has done a poor job in his tenure, and it is this evaluator's opinion that improvement will not come under his watch. The team won the World Series in 2008 with Gillick as GM. Since then under Amaro: 2009 - lost World Series, 2010 - lost NLCS, 2011 - lost NLDS, 2012 - a .500 finish, 2013 - losing record, 2014 - last place in NL East. The farm system is consistently rated no better than mid-level, and usually in the bottom 1/3 of MLB, by reputable outside evaluators. In the Power Ranking of all 30 MLB teams, the Fightins are at #28, with only the White Sox and Astros rated lower. Their pitching is 20th-rated, and that is the strong point of a club with the #24 Defense and #27 Offense. That is all Amaro's responsibility. A change at the top is needed. Desperately. Period.

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