Pepper Power ~ Week 11Posted 13 June 2011 by Pony Boy
There’s more than one way to bake a cake. But ask any pastry chef and you’ll hear there’s only one right way to bake a cake. That way, of course, is vastly different from chef to chef.
Today, there is anguish on NoPepper.net. Clearly, I have a favorite baseball team. What kind of person would work — or donate hours of his time, at least — to a baseball website if he didn’t have a favorite team? A soulless cyborg intent on taking over the world, that’s who.
Perhaps a soulless cyborg would have an easier time doing power rankings. It would coolly crunch the binary data and spit out the best team. Clockwork. Question: Do you mean the best team today? That could mean that the rankings would vary by who is pitching that day. Do you mean the team with the best record over the course of the season? Then you might as well line up the teams by record, no thought or comment needed.
The answer for most sentient beings lies between the two. I give more credit for recent outcomes. Rankings should reflect which team would be favored in Vegas if a seven-game series started today. Here’s the thing: My team, the Twins, have won 10 of their last 12 games. They also have the third-worst record in baseball. I can’t argue they’re the best team, but I could argue they’re a top 10 team.
Have you ever watched CNBC? I have a lot of spare time on my hands. When an analyst comes on to discuss a stock, they disclose whether they own the stock or have clients who own the stock. You might not like these rankings, but at least you know where I stand. Don’t like ‘em? Make an uncivil comment and we’ll flame war about it. That’ll solve everything.
1. Phillies (40-26): Phillies pitching stat of the week: Philadelphia’s much-lauded pitching rotation actually has the third-best ERA for innings 1-6 in the majors at 3.30. The Giants are at 2.95 and the Braves’ pitching staff has a 3.02 ERA.
2. Red Sox (39-26): It’s possible the Red Sox haven’t even played their best baseball yet. Their 4.19 ERA is pretty pedestrian for a staff with as much talent as Boston’s, and it’s especially bad if you take away Josh Beckett’s 2.06 ERA. The Red Sox still have room to improve. And oh yeah, They enter the week on a nine-game win streak.
3. Brewers (38-28): Milwaukee has eight shutouts already this season and Prince Fielder hit .400 over a recent two-week stretch, then he hit homers Saturday and Sunday to boost his total to 19 this season. The Brewers were never as bad as they looked early in the season but they might not be this good, either.
4. Yankees (36-27): New York dropped a series to Boston, but there’s no shame in that. And the Yankees have a long history of turning the table on the Red Sox later in the season.
5. Braves (38-28): Wait, Braves starters have the best ERA in the majors? True. Jair Jurrjens continues to look downright Maddux like, with his 1.82 ERA and 11 walks. Tommy Hanson has a 2.59 ERA and a lowly .195 BAA. That doesn’t even compute. With a BAA that low, his ERA should be under 2.00. Atlanta just went 6-0 this week to leap up in the rankings.
6. Cardinals (38-29): When Ted Williams used to take batting practice, before fans filed into Fenway Park, Williams used to yell “I’m Ted Fucking Williams and I’m the greatest hitter in baseball.” (Editor’s note: He also did this when he baked cakes.) Albert Pujols ought to yell something like that. His average is up 15 points in June and he had five home runs in four games this month. St. Louis is heating up, like you knew the Cardinals would.
7. Rangers (36-31): I’m not going to hold a series loss to the red-hot Twins against the Rangers. But it’s clear they’ve got work to do, primarily on their starting pitching.
8. Diamondbacks (36-30): We can hold off on manager-of-the-year honors, but how about Kirk Gibson? He’s a winner and it appears to be contagious. Arizona didn’t do anything to move up this week, but the Diamondbacks took two of three from Florida for a .500 week.
9. Giants ( 37-30): Split a series with the Reds to remain ahead of them here. San Francisco is back in front in the West standings thanks largely to the pitching, which remains among the best in the majors.
10. Reds (34-33): Cincinnati is 24-14 against the Central but sub.-500 against the other divisions. The Reds, by their own admission, are a team on cruise control. “We’re just playing right now,” outfielder Jay Bruce said. “We’re not playing well, we’re not playing badly, but there’s more in the tank. We expect more out of ourselves, and we’ll be fine.”
11. Tigers (35-30): If only they could pitch. The Tigers have the bats, but a 4.15 ERA is hindering Detroit’s efforts to pull away with the Central lead. If Phil Coke finds his form, the Tigers could well pull away from the middling Central competition.
12. Rays (35-30): Just when you write them off — or when I write them off — the Rays bump back over .500 and show signs of life. Taking two out of three from the Orioles should give all seven Tampa fans hope that the Rays could finish as high as third in the East.
13. White Sox (33-35): Chicago continues to dig itself out of its hole. Is there any doubt the Central is the worst division in baseball? Only Oakland and Seattle have losing records against the Central. With Cleveland rocketing toward the bottom of the division – or at least rapidly approaching mediocrity – the door is open for Chicago to get hot.
14. Mariners (34-32): Seattle has a 3.42 ERA but a .228 batting average. Somebody knock Ichiro Suzuki around. He leads the team in batting average, which is normal. He’s hitting .256. Age appears to be catching up with the speedy outfielder.
15. Indians (34-29): Cleveland never had the best batting nor pitching statistics. Entering the weekend, the Indians were hitting .115 with runners in scoring position in their last eight games. They lost seven of those games … and then they lost two more games.
16. Marlins (32-32): The Marlins have won one of their last 10 games. They still have solid pitching and could rise from this spot.
17. Angels (31-36): The Angels scored three runs or less in nine games in a row, picked up a win Saturday, then got shut out by the Royals on Sunday. The offense lacks any punch.
18. Twins (26-39): Minnesota has the third-worst record in baseball, but the Twins are undeniably on a roll. The Twins took series from Texas and Cleveland this past week and have won 10 of 12. They have a winning record against the Central and West, but are 6-18 against the AL East. And, if you’re a subscriber to the law of averages, you have to “like” that they have the fourth-worst ERA in the majors, because there’s plenty of room to improve.
19. Pirates (31-33): Pittsburgh has three starters with an ERA under 3.75. If they’re making steps toward a .500 season — and, for the record, I think they’re more of a 70- or 75-win team — the pitching has to remain at least at that level.
20. Blue Jays (32-34): Jose Bautista went 49 at-bats without a home run before Sunday. He went long Sunday in a 14-1 loss to the Red Sox as Toronto got swept. Watch for Toronto to rebound a bit from this spot as Tampa Bay and Baltimore seem to be trading off turns bouncing around under .500.
21. Mets (32-33): New York isn’t exactly a phoenix, rising in the East, but the Mets have won their last four series. If I were inclined, I could argue that the Mets are simply too talented to scrape along at the bottom of the East standings. Jonathon Niese might lead them out of the cellar on the strength of his left arm. The 24-year-old has a nice 3.51 ERA and 65 strikeouts to lead the team in both categories.
22. Rockies (31-34): It’s hard to believe I had Colorado in the top 10 in April. Conversely, there’s 5.5 games separating them from the West lead. The batting continues to be Colorado batting, but hats off to Jhoulys Chacin and his 2.90 ERA (and 74 strikeouts). If Ubaldo Jimenez (4.62 ERA) continues to get his act together, look out.
23. Orioles (30-33): Classic. I write off the Orioles. Gloat a little. And Baltimore comes back with a nice little week to get close to .500. I still think the Orioles are a floater. The reason: Lots and lots of young arms in the starting rotation.
24. Dodgers (31-36): Los Angeles — my God, I still love Vin Scully — picked up a split with the Rockies after dropping the first two games on the road. The Dodgers, the last team in these rankings with a viable shot at .500, seems to have stalled after getting hot in May.
25. Nationals (30-36): Yeah, they won three straight. Against the Padres. Let’s talk about .236. Washington has three batters (THREE) who have enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title. The Nationals’ best hitter, Jayson Werth, is hitting .236. Michael Morse and Laynce Nix are having .300-ish years, but still, Washington’s bats clearly lack any pop.
26. Athletics (28-38): The freefall continues. Oakland got swept by the Red Sox in early June and hasn’t exactly recovered. The Athletics went 1-5 last week.
27. Padres (29-38): San Diego is already debuting rookies like it’s August call-up time. Padres fans have to be happy with Anthony Rizzo’s debut. The 2010 Portland SeaDog has gone 3 for 10 in his first four major league games, but perhaps equally impressive, drew five walks for a ridiculous .563 OBP. Right-handed pitcher Anthony Bass makes his debut on the mound tonight.
28. Royals (29-37): Another team in the call-up mode. Mike Moustakas played his first three games for the Royals and has a .462 OBP and a home run.
29. Cubs (25-39): Chicago lost three straight to close the week. They’re done. They’ll stop losing *every* game at some point, but they’re clearly packing the bags. And then I read this quote: “The funny thing is, this clubhouse gets better and better. Nobody has given up,” Darwin Barney said. Uh huh.
30. Astros (24-42): Your Astros pitching stat of the week: Houston has four pitchers who have started multiple games with an ERA over 5.00.