Another Monday means another slate of OFFICIAL POWER RANKINGS from the panel at Barstool. Klemmer, Hubbs, Castellani and myself meet each Sunday evening to review the week of action and come up with a list.
Bias aside, this week's list is dead on balls accurate and involves a lot of fluctuation despite just 3 games since the All Star Break.
I have some quick observations and then I'll offer up some general guidance for casual fans on the top teams.
- Klemmer enjoyed his victory lap on the Reds going 0-3 against the Brewers. It was a hard fought series and there's a lot to take away from it. Notably, the Brewers own a tiebreaker over the Reds now so if they finish with the same record, there will be no 163 to determine the NL Central champ. Another takeaway is Graham Ashcraft looks fucking great. And then of course, the Brewers are very hard to beat this time of year and I have a weird suspicion they're going to get better next 6 weeks.
- Klemmer knows a shit load about baseball and I very much enjoy listening to his takes. If you're not paying attention to his angles and approach then you're missing out. Encyclopedic at times. Instinctually informed. Oddly insensitive and diametrically opposed to owners' collectively self-interest. I still think he's wrong about the Reds, but I respect the process.
- The Giants are the best team that nobody really cares/talks about. Most casual fans would be stunned to know that 12/13 regular position players carry an OPS+ north of 100. The one outcast is 36 year-old Brandon Crawford, just two seasons removed from a torrid top-5 MVP finish. He's awful now and getting worse. BUT - when that's your lone weakness, you're doing just fine.
- The Flyover States and Rust Belt are getting molly whopped week-in, week-out
- I suggested before recording that we wouldn't have much to debate from last week's 1st Half Show.
I was wrong.
1. Braves: we're comfortably far enough along in the year where Braves' fans can expect to represent the National League in October. The lineup isn't just good. It's not even great, or outstanding. It's textually Historic. They're very likely breaking the season HR record, which has (off the top of my head) maybe 2300 entries in the annals of baseball history.
This Braves team is poised to be #1 all time, and that's just one statistic. They dominate nearly all of them even with a marginally average Austin Riley. Imagine the Golden State Warriors after trading for Durant but without Klay Thompson. That's my meatball analogy with the position players but missing some key starting pitching. Even so, they're so dominant and the standard is so high.
2. Orioles: we're not trying to be cute or funny. This is dead serious. A 3-game sweep over the Marlins to kick off the 2nd half is more impressive than April predictions would've ever suggested. The key takeaway: the Orioles simply won't lose and we can all acknowledge the lack of dominant starting pitching while they cruise.
But then you dig into Tyler Wells game log and you see he's been striking guys out at about an 11 per 9 innings rate since mid May. You see Kyle Bradish on a similar trajectory since June 1st. Maybe even enough to comfortably start them in a 5-game playoff series? Yes.
The only pitching question until then is Who Else starts? The lineup is stacked. They have elite young talent and depth and balance. Brandon Hyde is probably the manager of the year. Bullpen is fuckin nails. Literally everything is cooking and the last step is adding one more starting arm that and start a playoff game. Simple enough, right?
Over my actual dead body.
3. Rays: It's not a product of the Rays doing anything to drop as much as the Orioles to leap frogging them with such a good series to start the 2nd half. Let's not get crazy here. The Rays have a better record right now. They've got arguably the best player in the American League that doesn't pitch & hit on the same day. There's a ton of reasons to say this is stupid, and maybe it is with Shane McClanahan coming back to face the Rangers tonight.
We're gonna find out.
For now, the Orioles are red hot and we want that to be reflected more than just crowning the Rays week after week for being the #1 team the first 3 months.
Interesting enough - the most compelling thing about the Rays to chew on is a trade for Shohei Ohtani. They're my dark horse candidate because they have the ammunition. They're constantly retooling their farm system and a hit to their prospect/young base is much different than nearly any other organizations. The buzz for a new stadium grows much stronger when you make a World Series and I just want to be on record that the Rays have just as much of a case to get him as anyone else in baseball.
4. The Team That Will Sign Shohei - Dodgers: Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts are top-15 players in baseball. Will Smith isn't far behind and that's the most important thing when we talk about the Dodgers. The pitching staff has been shuffling chairs all seasons. The bullpen is a Who's Who of Who The Fuck Is That Guy?
The lineup consistently features the ghost of Jason Heyward and a .284 slugging percentage from Miguel Rojas. They're moving Mookie around to accommodate mediocre platoon guys. The underlying narratives are preposterously disgusting relative to the Dodgers' pedigree for good lineups.
And yet they're still a dominant force - 2nd in OBP, 3rd in SLG and 2nd in OPS (all behind the Braves) - because of the 3 names I lead off with: Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts and Will Smith. These three alone are enough for you, whoever you are, to feel urgency with your own front office to make some goddamn moves. It for about $85M in Market Value, you too can have a rock solid lineup impervious to the routine appearance of Austin Barnes.
JD Martinez also gets a beef. I forgot to mention that. He deserves so much more respect.
5. Rangers: in line with the Rays in that they've been very good, but lately the Dodgers have been better. A couple of bad series losses before the break sat heavy with the panel and washed out an otherwise great series sweep of the Guardians.
And while we're here, Wyatt Langford could very much help this pitching staff.
That makes ZERO sense
Langford was the 4th overall pick this year. A quick riser in the minors loaded with power. His presence in the lineup, if remotely similar to Josh Jung, then allows the Rangers to spend in free agency and get aggressive at a trade deadline IF THEY WANT.
An already deep farm system just got a bat that could comfortably hit 35 homers and cost the league minimum for a number of seasons. The budget and opportunity to get weird just increased.
Texas should be encouraged with this development.
In other news, Corey Seager is a front runner for MVP if Shohei gets moved to the National League.
6. Blue Jays: have they arrived? Not entirely.
The top 5 teams here are a class above the next 4 teams. Apologies to Toronto.
The good news is that they're much better than a few weeks back. Signs are pointing up. Alek Manoah was great in his 1st start back and here's where that's really interesting:
The Blue Jays lineup has gotten worse since June 1st.
That's not what you expect for a team going 24-14 since June 1st, and it's all because the pitching staff has been about 10% better in that time.
HUGE TAKEAWAY = when the Blue Jays pitch above average, they're a phenomenal team. I repeat PHENOMENAL TEAM.
We're seeing that surge now, and that's with a lineup down about 10%. So imagine when these two things converge. It could make for a remarkable 2nd half run.
7. Astros: they suck but they're good. Let that marinate because I'm going to need you to believe me here. They are not the Astros you came to know and hate. The lineup is overwhelmingly mediocre without Yordan Alvarez. He's been out a month and his rehab was delayed, vaguely, this past weekend.
Here's the thing though: they're only 3 games back in a loaded AL West. Think of how good the Rangers have been. Then consider:
- Jose Abreu has a .352 slugging percentage.
- Altuve isn't playing and hasn't played much.
- Corey Julks is your every day LF. (Above average but you didn't even know that guy existed.)
- Urquidy and Garcia are toast
Some regression, generally across the board. Others have been outstanding like McCormick and Kyle Tucker without protection. I'm not saying they all suck.
It's just a sign of a great team to take such adversity in the lineup and pitching staff, yet still be this competitive. While many organizations grasp at relevancy year-to-year, the Astros simply cling to it. Until otherwise proven this October, they're the American League gold standard.
8. Giants: we briefly touched in the intro, but the Giants have so much balance from so many quality players. Interesting enough, only three in today's mix will earn more than $9 million this season: the aforementioned Brandon Crawford ($16M), Michael Conforto ($18M) and Joc Pederson ($20M).
You can add Mitch Haniger's $14M luxury tax hit too - but he's on the 60-day and under contract for just 2 more seasons.
After that, it's all arbitration and league minimums up and down the lineup card, which is the broader point about the Giants. Nearly the entire roster is playing for another contract. You want to talk about motivating a professional athlete? There's some common-sense genius coming out of San Francisco if that's their secret sauce 1-9.
Meanwhile the pitching staff has enough to win a 5-game series behind two Logan Webb starts and the resurrection of Alex Cobb.
Obviously they should make a move at the deadline for more. But the bigger point right now is that they're quite good and playing even better. A team you could and should consider an NL pennant future at +1400. That's 5th best odds in the NL, but I like them more than the Dbacks (+1200) and Phillies (+1000). The Dodgers (+250) are getting way more value than the Giants so there's your big take on them. Get it now before they do some crazy trade for Ohtani.
9. Phillies: red hot after 3-4 from the dead Padres in San Diego to kick off the 2nd half. That includes a rare double-header sweep on the road and even better is they dropped Friday night's game. So to bounce back with the DH sweep then hanging on Sunday for what could have been a real tough getaway loss… That's high quality shit right there.
The Phillies are obviously a slugging lineup with some MAJOR questions about the esoteric. Are they clutch? Can they ever get some consistency? Why are they almost dead last in Average Runners Left On Base Per Game?
This is not what you expect from the NL pennant defenders that added Trea Turner. Even with Bryce Harper out the first month of the season, there's absolutely no reason that 3 of your 4 top players according to bWAR are Bryson Stott, Brandon Marsh and Taijuan Walker. And to go one step further, I respect the shit out of Matt Strahm but simply can't be more effective than Aaron Nola and Zack Wheeler when we tally up the 2023 final stats. Should either of those two return to pre-pitch clock form, the Phillies could easily keep climbing their way up the NL ranks.
Personally I think that's a big ask but that's why you play the games.
These are the 1-9.
Go listen to the show if you want to hear 4 guys argue about it.