Jesse Pantuosco

Power Rankings

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MLB Power Rankings: Week 24

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Notice anything new this week? I’ll give you a second to scroll down (cue the Jeopardy theme). That’s right. After nine weeks at No. 1, the fading Dodgers have finally dropped from the top spot, ceding it to the surging Indians.


A quick Google search reveals that the temperature of the Sun is roughly 9,941 degrees Fahrenheit. After winning 19 straight, I’d wager the Indians must be hotter than that. This is really getting to be nonsense. Cleveland has outscored their opponents 132-32 during their streak and they’ve done it without the help of last year’s ALCS MVP Andrew Miller and All-Star left fielder Michael Brantley. Of course, when you have a Cy Young winner (Corey Kluber), a home-run-swatting superstar (Edwin Encarnacion), a 23-year-old shortstop prodigy (Francisco Lindor) and a popsicle-eating mastermind (that’s manager Terry Francona) at your disposal, things are going to go your way more often than not.


While Cleveland has taken the league by storm, the once-dominant Dodgers have completely lost their mojo, dropping 11 straight and 16 of their last 17. Reality has set in for the Dodgers’ offense as only one team in baseball has scored fewer runs this month (and that’s just because the Orioles have played two less games than them). It hasn’t been a day at the beach for L.A.’s pitching staff either. Even with a stacked rotation featuring Clayton Kershaw, Alex Wood and Rich Hill among others, the Dodgers have limped to a disappointing 6.07 ERA in September, which ranks 25th out of 30 big league teams. Maybe it’s good the Dodgers are getting this out of their system now, but it’s still cause for concern with the playoffs only three weeks away. Now for the Power Rankings and a new No. 1.


1. Cleveland Indians


Record: 88-56


Last Week: 3


At one point in time, it looked like the Astros would have a cakewalk to the AL’s best record. Then came Cleveland. Francisco Lindor has had a year for the ages, leading all major league shortstops with 29 homers including four in his last nine games. Jason Kipnis is close to coming back from a hamstring injury, but where will he play? With Jose Ramirez settled in at second base and rookie Yandy Diaz manning third, Kipnis could be headed to center field, a position he’s never played in the big leagues.


2. Washington Nationals


Record: 88-55


Last Week: 4


The Nationals became the first team to clinch a playoff berth with Sunday’s win. Stephen Strasburg was lights out in that game, blanking the Phillies over eight dominant frames for his third straight victory. His 34-inning scoreless streak is a franchise record. We finally got our first glimpse of prized prospect Victor Robles, though the 20-year-old has only logged four at-bats since arriving in the majors last week.


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3. Los Angeles Dodgers


Record: 92-52


Last Week: 1


When it rains, it pours. Corey Seager has been in and out of the lineup with elbow inflammation, Clayton Kershaw’s loss to the Rockies Thursday night was his first in four months (seriously) while the Dodgers’ .209 average this month is second-worst in the majors. Even Rookie of the Year favorite Cody Bellinger has lost his touch (6-for-34 with eight strikeouts and no homers over his last eight games). Once leading by 21 games in the NL West, the Dodgers now cling to a nine-game advantage over the surging D’Backs.


4. Houston Astros


Record: 86-57


Last Week: 2


New team, same dominant Justin Verlander. The former MVP was money in his Astros debut, notching seven strikeouts over six innings of one-run ball last Tuesday in a win over the Mariners. He holds a stingy 2.25 ERA since August 1. It’s easy to overlook him in a lineup full of All-Stars, but Josh Reddick has been as hot as anyone over the past two weeks, batting an absurd .500 over 28 September at-bats. His .315 average is the AL’s fourth-highest.


5. Arizona Diamondbacks


Record: 83-61


Last Week: 5


J.D. Martinez missed all of April and half of May and still ranks fourth in the majors with 37 round-trippers. He’s averaged a home run every 8.1 at-bats since joining Arizona at the trade deadline. Maybe that line drive to the head gave Robbie Ray superpowers. He’s been incredible since coming off the disabled list, going 4-0 with a 1.42 ERA and a 15.99 K/9 over his last four starts.


6. Boston Red Sox


Record: 81-62


Last Week: 6


Can the Red Sox ever finish a game in a reasonable amount of time? Last week’s 19-inning marathon against Toronto was their seventh game of 12 or more innings this season. Cy Young contender Chris Sale said “your move” to Corey Kluber by spanning six shutout innings in Saturday’s win over the Rays. An incredible 57 of Sale’s league-leading 278 strikeouts have come at Tampa Bay’s expense.


7. New York Yankees


Record: 78-65


Last Week: 8


After spending the past month in purgatory (aka middle relief), Aroldis Chapman has returned to the ninth inning. Dellin Betances’ reign at closer ended last Tuesday when he served up a walk-off homer to Orioles slugger Manny Machado. The right-hander has fallen on hard times, struggling to a dreadful 9.64 ERA over five September appearances. On the bright side, Aaron Judge’s 41 homers are the most by a Yankee since Curtis Granderson put 43 balls in the seats back in 2012.


8. Chicago Cubs


Record: 77-66


Last Week: 7


While it’s nothing compared to the Dodgers’ epic late-season collapse, the Cubs have quietly dropped six of eight while watching their lead slip to two games in the NL Central. That’s no bueno, but let’s think glass half-full for a minute here. Stud catcher Willson Contreras is back from a month-long absence, Jake Arrieta (hamstring) is throwing again and trade acquisition Jose Quintana killed it in his last start Wednesday versus Pittsburgh (6 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 6 Ks). No need to press the panic button, Cubs fans. You’ll be fine.


9. Colorado Rockies


Record: 79-65


Last Week: 11


Nolan Arenado got the better of Clayton Kershaw on Thursday night (1-for-2 with a walk and a three-run homer), which has actually been a rather frequent occurrence. The All-Star third baseman has hit a surprisingly competent .319 with three homers, seven RBI and only five strikeouts over 47 lifetime at-bats against the best pitcher of our current generation. Arenado is also on pace for 138 RBI, which would be the most by a Rockie since Preston Wilson plated 141 runs in 2003.


10. Milwaukee Brewers


Record: 75-69


Last Week: 9


The Brewers lost breakout star Jimmy Nelson to a strained rotator cuff but closed the gap to 2.5 games in the NL Central with a weekend sweep of the Cubs. Zach Davies notched his major-league leading 17th victory in Sunday’s series finale. He’s been automatic since the All-Star break, compiling an outstanding 2.16 ERA across 12 second-half starts. Ryan Braun’s home run on Friday was the 300th of his illustrious career.


11. St. Louis Cardinals


Record: 75-68


Last Week: 14


Like life itself, Michael Wacha’s 2017 campaign has been full of peaks and valleys. He’s followed up a three-game losing streak by winning each of his last three starts. Wacha really brought it Sunday against Pittsburgh, limiting the Bucs to five hits across eight shutout innings. Yadier Molina has also been on top of things, providing two homers with seven RBI over his last two contests.


12. Minnesota Twins


Record: 74-69


Last Week: 10


Brian Dozier won’t win a batting title any time soon (.248 lifetime average) but you have to admire his consistency. This will be his third straight season with at least 28 homers and the third time in four years he’s tallied 15-plus steals. We’ve been singing Byron Buxton’s praises around these parts lately, but he’s actually fallen into a mini slump, going 3-for-24 with nine strikeouts over his last six games while battling a bruised hand.


13. Los Angeles Angels


Record: 73-70


Last Week: 13


It’s been a rough week on the injury front for L.A. with Andrew Heaney battling shoulder issues and Alex Meyer out for the year (and maybe next year as well) with a torn labrum. Of course, it’s not all bad news for the Halos. Albert Pujols has caught fire again (.486 AVG, 15 RBI over his nine-game hitting streak) while Parker Bridwell got back on track with a quality start Sunday against Seattle.  


14. Texas Rangers


Record: 72-71


Last Week: 16


Who needs Yu Darvish when you have Andrew Cashner, am I right? The right-hander has been magnificent over his last eight starts, going 4-1 with a 2.39 ERA during that stretch. June and July weren’t the best months for Nomar Mazara (combined .204 average over 162 at-bats). Since then he’s been much better, hitting a respectable .294 with six homers and 29 RBI in August and September.


15. Seattle Mariners


Record: 71-73


Last Week: 15


Mike Leake comes bearing gifts. He’s won both of his starts since coming over in a trade from the Cardinals late last month, posting a 2.77 ERA with a 12:1 K/BB ratio during that span. Seattle’s Wild Card chances are beginning to fade, but fear not. Help is on the way in the form of Felix Hernandez (shoulder) and James Paxton (pectoral), who are set to join the starting rotation later this week.


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Jesse Pantuosco is a football and baseball writer for Rotoworld. He has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. Follow him on Twitter @JessePantuosco.
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