1. Detroit Tigers (69-47) —
The Tigers dropped two of three in the Bronx, but twice they came back from two runs down against the great Mariano Rivera. In the process, Miguel Cabrera added to his growing legacy. He hit a dramatic two-run bomb after fouling a pair of cutters off of his knee on Friday, then took Rivera deep again on Sunday. Cabrera became the second player ever to homer twice off Rivera in the same season. The last time it happened was 18 years ago when Edgar Martinez did it.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (67-50) +1
A weekend sweep of the Rays showed the depth of the Los Angeles pitching staff and that’s what makes them so dangerous. In a short series, there might not be a better rotation one-two then Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. At least not outside of Detroit.
3. Atlanta Braves (72-46) +1
There was a long stretch where Atlanta was treading water and keeping the rest of the division kinda sorta in the race. All that changed with a 14-game winning streak and 15 victories in their past 16 games. All of a sudden, the Braves look every bit as good as they did in April and Justin Upton is red-hot again.
4. Pittsburgh Pirates (70-47) -2
Coors Field can make even the best pitchers look bad and it did a number on Francisco Liriano this weekend, who surrendered career-highs in hits and runs allowed while working just 2.1 innings. His ERA jumped from 2.02 to 2.83 in the process. Ouch.
5. Texas Rangers (68-50) +6
No Nelson Cruz, no problem for the Rangers who have won seven straight and added Alex Rios from Chicago this week. Adrian Beltre has picked up the offensive slack, hitting .426 over his last dozen games including eight games with at least two hits.
6. Boston Red Sox (71-49) -1
Boston has already surpassed their win total from 2012 and might have already taken the best punch from their divisional rivals. Third base has been a problem area and Will Middlebrooks will have to hit better this time around than he did before getting demoted.
7. St. Louis Cardinals (67-50) -1
The Cardinals have scored runs in bunches thanks to a major league-best batting average with runners in scoring position. They’ve also been extremely hit lucky this year, posting a collective BABiP of .319, which paces the NL and is 23 points higher than league average. If and when those numbers revert to the mean, the Cardinals could struggle.
8. Kansas City Royals (61-54) +2
They don’t seem to be going away. The Royals took three of four from Boston and looked every bit the better team over the weekend. Thanks to a Cleveland skid, the Royals have caught up to the Tribe and still have 11 games remaining with Detroit, who leads KC by 7.5 games in the division.
9. Oakland Athletics (66-50) —
Josh Reddick came into the weekend with five home runs and a .203/.287/.306 line this season. He left the Rogers Centre with 10 homers and a .215/.299/.385 line, raising his OPS nearly 100 points thanks to a huge weekend.
10. Tampa Bay Rays (66-50) -2
You think the Rays aren’t happy with their off-season trade that sent ace James Shields to Kansas City? The Rays brought in three promising prospects in addition to outfielder Wil Myers, who has hit .331/.384/.518 in 44 games since coming to the big leagues. They way he has played, Tampa would have been thrilled if Myers had been the only player they got; anything they get from the rest of those guys is just gravy.
11. Baltimore Orioles (65-52) +1
Chris Davis continues to mash, but the Orioles could really use another bat. Two-time all-star catcher Matt Wieters has 15 home runs this season, but has posted a sub-.300 OBP and is hitting just .235 this season. Having an offensive force behind the plate would make up for a weak showing from their DH spot, but it hasn’t happened this season.
12. Cleveland Indians (63-55) -5
Swept at home by the Tigers then very nearly swept again by the Angels. That rough week probably takes them out of contention for the divisional crown, but they remain in the thick of the wild card hunt. If, they can turn it around again, that is.
13. Cincinnati Reds (65-52) —
So, let me get this straight: they give Joey Votto $200 million and then they want to complain that he walks too much?!? Sure, his slugging percentage is at a five-year low (of .516, by the way), but he still leads the league in OBP and has an OPS of .954. He might not be who you thought he was, Cincinnati, but he is clearly the best offensive player in the National League so you might just want to get over that.
14. New York Yankees (59-57) —
Swept by the hapless White Sox, and watched as Mariano Rivera blew three consecutive saves for the first time in his career. The good news is that thanks to Brett Gardner, the Yankees won a series from Detroit even after Rivera was made to look human a couple of times.
15. Arizona Diamondbacks (59-57) —
They have grit and hustle and all of the other nice things you say about a team that manages to hang around with a bad bullpen and no staff ace. But they also have Paul Goldschmidt and he’s a beast.
16. Washington Nationals (57-60) —
Remember when Dan Haren was on the free agent market after the Angels declined a seemingly reasonable $13 million team option on him even though they had many holes in their rotation? Looks like Jerry Dipoto knew what he was doing. Haren got his money from Washington, but has pitched to a 7-11 record and 4.99 ERA this season.
17. Seattle Mariners (54-63) —
The M’s have gotten better results than they probably should have to this point in the year which is partly thanks to Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, and partly thanks to Raul Ibanez. That said, they need some players to mature quickly heading into next season and hope that the offense can make up for a lousy defensive infield and outfield. It makes a big difference when Brendan Ryan and Franklin Gutierrez aren’t in the lineup.
18. Colorado Rockies (55-64) +2
17-year veteran Todd Helton is in the final year of his deal and may well retire when the season is up. Considering how his production has fallen it’s easy to forget how great he once was. From 1998-2004, Helton averaged .340/.434/.620 with 35 home runs and 118 RBI.
19. New York Mets (54-61) +6
Matt Harvey and the young starters of the Mets get all the headlines, but 40-year-old LaTroy Hawkins is still getting it done in New York’s bullpen. In his 19th big league campaign, Hawkins has a 2.75 ERA and has assumed closing duties in the absence of Bobby Parnell.
20. San Diego Padres (53-64) -2
Will Venable is having a nice year overall with 15 home runs and a .777 OPS, but nearly half of his at bats have come from the two spot in the order; a place where he has produced a .194/.250/.373 line.
21. Los Angeles Angels (53-63) —
Mike Trout has proven last season was no fluke, but the Angels had better hope that 2013 was a fluke year for former MVPs Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols. Los Angeles owes the duo a combined $326 million before their respective contracts end.
22. Minnesota Twins (52-63) —
Brian Duensing picked up wins in both ends of a doubleheader sweep over the White Sox last week, becoming the first pitcher since 2007 to pull off the feat. There had never been a Minnesota Twin to do it, but the original Washington Senators, who became the Twins in 1961, had it happen once before. In 1923, some guy named Walter Johnson won both ends of a doubleheader versus the St. Louis Browns.
23. Toronto Blue Jays (54-63) -4
Why have the Blue Jays been such a disaster? Look no further than the starting pitching. Toronto rivals only Minnesota in fewest quality starts and fewest innings per start. Even the best offenses and best bullpens can’t win with that formula.
24. San Francisco Giants (52-65) —
In his last three starts, Tim Lincecum has posted a 1.23 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 22 innings. Giants GM Brian Sabean suggested he’d like to re-sign the two-time Cy Young award winner when Lincecum’s contract ends this season and it looks as if that might be a wise move, even with diminished velocity.
25. Chicago Cubs (52-65) -2
The poor play of shortstop Starlin Castro has to be concerning given that he’s under contract through at least 2019 and seems to have regressed in each of the past two seasons. Still just 23 years old, it’s too soon to write him off, but he’s always had the reputation of a player that maybe doesn’t take his game seriously enough and it could be that he’s no longer getting by on talent alone.
26. Milwaukee Brewers (51-67) +1
The Brewers put up 10 runs in consecutive games in Seattle this weekend before getting blanked by King Felix (no shame in that). The better news is that Aramis Ramirez could return from the DL this week and, if he can show he’s healthy, Milwaukee might be able to deal him away.
27. Philadelphia Phillies (52-65) -1
The Phillies missed another chance to get younger when they re-upped with Chase Utley for another two years plus an option. Utley has shown this year that when he’s healthy, he’s still an elite offensive player, but on a team with dinosaurs roaming all over the roster, most of whom are locked in to long-term deals, this was one spot where they could have made a deal to replenish a barren farm system.
28. Miami Marlins (44-72) —
Logan Morrison got a late start to the season but has an OPS of nearly .800 and has been driving the ball well. After a disastrous 2012, it’s good to see the still young first baseman bouncing back and having a solid year.
29. Chicago White Sox (44-72) +1
They dropped three of four to the Twins over the weekend, but swept the Yankees in the series just prior, when they came into that series on a 10-game skid. You can’t predict baseball.
30. Houston Astros (37-79) -1
Houston is in full-blown let-the-kids-play mode and things have a chance to get very ugly from here on out. There is talent, sure, but plenty of youthful mistake are going to be made by guys that should probably be playing Double-A ball this season. They have 46 games to go and need seven more wins to pass the 2003 Tigers, who set the American League standard for futility with a 43-119 record. I think Detroit is safe, I doubt Houston gets to 50 wins this year.