Friday, August 22, 2008

AL Power Rankings, Week 2(ish)

The not-quite-weekly AL Power rankings return near the mid-season mark with a new #1, but the same trio of teams standing head and shoulders above the rest of the league. Apparently, frequent updates aren't all that necessary, since not much has changed in the last quarter of the season (42 games). The top three have continued their torrid pace, and the next four teams have all stayed in the same spot in the rankings.

Still, parity is the story of the season. If you take away the top three and bottom two teams, 10 of the 11 in the middle finished within 4 games of .500 over the last 42 games.

1 Oklahoma City Chickens

Record (Since Last Rankings): 52-24 (28-14)
Expected Win %: .710
Last Week: #3
Notes: Have scored more runs than any other AL team (their 541 is just one more than Wichita's 540) and have also allowed the fewest runs of any AL team. That pretty much makes them #1 automatically.

2 Madison Massas

Record (Since Last Rankings): 53-23 (28-14)
Expected Win %: .623
Last Week: #2
Notes: Roosevelt Hanson is one of the guys to watch in the second half. His batting average currently sits at .401, and he is one of three Massas with an OPS over 1000.

3 Wichita Sizzlers

Record (Since Last Rankings): 51-25 (25-17)
Expected Win %: .656
Last Week: #1
Notes: Own a nine-game lead in their division thanks in large part to an 8-2 divisional record an a completely insane 13-2 record in one-run games. Having three bullpen guys with ERAs under 3 (Edgardo Vazquez, Cody Post and closer Luther Matthews) goes a long way toward explaining that mark.

4 Monterrey Acero

Record (Since Last Rankings): 44-32 (22-20)
Expected Win %: .596
Last Week: #4
Notes: The "best of the rest" in the AL, following the dominant trio above. Jimmie Valentin pitched in parts of five previous ML seasons and never posted an ERA under 4.50. This year, he sits at a very solid 1.98 with an equally-impressive 0.98 WHIP. B.J. Kipling is getting a crack at the rotation after a very good first half in the bullpen. He replaces Erick Savage, whose 7.58 ERA is about right for a guy with splits in the 20s.

5 Kansas City McCoys

Record (Since Last Rankings): 42-34 (22-20)
Expected Win %: .576
Last Week: #5
Notes: David Seanez has managed to stop tying helpless women to train tracks long enough to post another spectacular season. He seems likely to finish with an OPS over 975 for the sixth straight season. Butch Brush continues his remarkable consistency. While he has never topped 15 wins in a season, he has already reached the 10-win mark for the eighth straight year. He has a good shot at setting a career-high, and an outside crack at 20.

6 Boston Badasses

Record (Since Last Rankings): 38-38 (19-23)
Expected Win %: .510
Last Week: #6
Notes: Their 20 "minus" plays in the field are tied with the butchers from Baltimore for the worst in the majors. Glenallen Bell continues to have an awesome season on the mound. His 2.75 ERA is more than four runs better than a year ago. The offensive attack has been very balanced. Six players have at least 11 HR, but no one has more than 15.

7 Chicago Bearcubs

Record (Since Last Rankings): 39-37 (21-21)
Expected Win %: .492
Last Week: #7
Notes: They're second in the AL with 150 homers... and dead last in the majors with 2 stolen bases. It's just another typical year on the north side. Last year, the Bearcubs jacked 295 homers and stole six bases all season. The year before that, it was 330 dingers and one stolen base. Why risk getting thrown out when you know there's a pretty good chance the guy at bat is going to hit one onto Waveland?

8 Charlotte Winstons

Record (Since Last Rankings): 37-39 (23-19)
Expected Win %: .562
Last Week: #11
Notes: How do you move three spots up the rankings? Pitching, pitching, pitching. They lead the AL in quality starts. Max Milliard and Vladimir Rodriguez are both still in their 20s and throwing well. This team has a very solid foundation.

9 New York Bombers

Record (Since Last Rankings): 36-40 (23-19)
Expected Win %: .551
Last Week: #10
Notes: Currently tied for last place in the AL North despite posting the seventh-best expected win % in the league and second-best in their division. Going 1-9 against one's division mates doesn't help matters. The pitching has allowed the seventh-fewest runs in the AL and the hitting has scored the fifth-most runs in the AL. There's ample reason to believe this lousy season is nothing more than a product of bad luck.

10 Cleveland Indians

Record (Since Last Rankings): 36-40 (20-22)
Expected Win %: .449
Last Week: #9
Notes: Tied for the ML lead with a .301 batting average. The other two teams at .301 are Madison (#2 in the AL Power Rankings) and Wichita (#3). The teams at .300 are Oklahoma City (ranked #1 in the AL) and Cincinnati (#2 in the NL). The difference between Cleveland and the rest of those teams? Pitching -- the Indians have a 5.76 team ERA.

11 Arizona Rattlesnakes

Record (Since Last Rankings): 35-41 (22-20)
Expected Win %: .447
Last Week: #13
Notes: Matt Messmer has been great in his setup role, posting a WHIP of 1.10 and an ERA of 2.08. Six different guys have made at least 10 starts for the 'Snakes this year. Two have been good, two have been decent and Harry Romero and Ed Karl have been completely awful.

12 St. Louis Stampede

Record (Since Last Rankings): 34-42 (20-22)
Expected Win %: .435
Last Week: #12
Notes: Catchers have thrown out a remarkably low 10.7% of opposing base-stealers. Yorvit Cortes is the primary culprit, allowing 90.1% of would-be stealers the free base.

13 Washington DC Old School Warriors

Record (Since Last Rankings): 35-41 (18-24)
Expected Win %: .367
Last Week: #8
Notes: From the last rankings, "Expected win % suggests they won't maintain their .500 play." This is why I include that stat. Their expected win percentage actually went UP a little and the team still plunged five spots in the rankings. They're a very solid 13-6 in one-run games, thanks in large part to three relievers with ERAs under 3.50. However, that means they're 22-35 in games decided by more than one run. Having all five starters post ERAs of 5.00 or higher will do that to you.

14 Las Vegas Gamble

Record (Since Last Rankings): 31-45 (22-20)
Expected Win %: .437
Last Week: #16
Notes: Up two spots since the last rankings, thanks to suddenly decent play. Had the season started after the first rankings came out, they'd place somewhere near the middle of the league. Their 77 errors are worst in the majors.

15 Durham Bulls

Record (Since Last Rankings): 23-53 (13-29)
Expected Win %: .318
Last Week: #15
Notes: Richie Cormier continues to absolutely rake for the Bulls, following his 59 HR season with an OPS over 1000 this year. Mike Durrington and Pedro Ortiz have combined for 13 homers in just over 100 total at-bats. But oh, that pitching. No Bull has an ERA under 4.50 and three starters have posted ERAs over 7.50.

16 Baltimore Wiretappers

Record (Since Last Rankings): 19-57 (7-35)
Expected Win %: .294
Last Week: #14
Notes: I'm not sure what can illustrate this team's struggles better than their 7-35 record over the last quarter season. Their 611 runs allowed are 92 worse than any other AL team. Willie Gonzalez has posted an almost impossibly bad 23.85 ERA this season, thanks in part to throwing at 0(0) in his last 24 appearances. In fact, 9 ML pitchers have the big red bagel in their % column at the moment. That may have something to do with the fact that the owner hasn't checked in since 8/14.

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