For the second time in three weeks, the Brewers sport a higher WAR% than do the Phillies. At this point, the difference between the Phillies and the Brewers amounts to the weight of preseason expectations, which were somewhat muted for the Bierbrauers. They have few glaring weaknesses — a reliever or two would be nice, and they could stand to get better performance from their third baseman and shortstop, not they are alone in that respect. They even match up well with the Phillies, as while the Halladay-Hamels-Lee trifecta is still better on paper, the Greinke-Marcum-Gallardo trio is more than capable of besting them on any given day. And the righty-heavy Brewers also don’t lose any performance against lefties (105 wRC+ vs. RHP, 104 vs. LHP). Now at fourth place overall in the rankings, the Brewers are threatening to put some distance between them and the 26 teams below them, and if they can, the conversation moving into September may not be “can the Brewers win the National League Central,” but “can the Brewers beat the Phillies.” The answer to both questions very well could be “yes.”
1. Boston: Last week – 1, WAR% – .653 (2), FAN% – .605 (1), TOTAL% – .628
With 20 walks against just 7 strike outs, Dustin Pedroia has had a June to remember — just like last year. His wOBA of .471 last June and .463 this June (assuming it holds up in this last week) are two of his three best monthly marks.
2. New York Yankees: Last week – 2, WAR% – .660 (1), FAN% – .580 (2), TOTAL% – .618
As if the Yankees didn’t already have enough elite ballplayers, now it’s clear that Brett Gardner is one of them as well.
3. Philadelphia: Last week – 3, WAR% – .603 (4), FAN% – .556 (3), TOTAL% – .579
Even with Chase Utley starting to heat up, the Phillies’ team wRC+ of 91 ranks just 21st, but with Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee ranking one, two and three in xFIP, it might not matter.
4. Milwaukee: Last week – 5, WAR% – .609 (3), FAN% – .519 (9), TOTAL% – .563
It was expected that Milwaukee’s pitching troika would dominate the competition this season. Not included in that group was Chris Narveson, but he has been just as good, as his 3.38 xFIP is near-identical to the 3.34 mark for Shaun Marcum and 3.37 for Yovani Gallardo.
5. Colorado: Last week – 4, WAR% – .5567 (13), FAN% – .556 (3), TOTAL% – .556
The Rockies have played better of late, but while they have talked about adding pitching, the team’s biggest issue has been second base. Chris Nelson is getting his chance now, and while he has potential, he is — with seven whiffs in his last 16 at-bats — starting to show the same propensity for strike outs that some of his teammates have.
6. Texas: Last week – 8, WAR% – .573 (6), FAN% – .525 (7), TOTAL% – .548
Michael Young is swinging at less pitches than he has in half a decade, and making contact at a career high rate when he does. For a player who has demonstrated an ability to maintain a high BABIP, that’s a recipe for success, and that’s just what Young is enjoying, as his 327 wRC+ was tops in the Majors last week.
7. Tampa Bay: Last week – 6, WAR% – .554 (14), FAN% – .537 (5), TOTAL% – .545
The Astros will cure what ails ye. In the 10 games prior to the Houston series, Evan Longoria was 4-for-38. Against Houston, he went 8-for-14 with 3 homers.
8. St. Louis: Last week – 7, WAR% – .569 (t-7), FAN% – .512 (12), TOTAL% – .540
Playing for one run any time before the seventh inning is usually a fools errand, and the Cardinals exemplified this perfectly yesterday. After a miracle bloop double by Andrew Brown drew the win expectancy back to neutral, the Cards had Colby Rasmus lay down a sac bunt. The Cards didn’t deliver that run, and three outs later, the Blue Jays had piled on four more runs, effectively ending the game. Perhaps if the Cards had not given away an out with one of their more productive hitters at the dish, they could have stayed in the game.
9. San Francisco: Last week – 10, WAR% – .561 (10), FAN% – .519 (9), TOTAL% – .539
The Giants starters get most of the ink, but their relievers have been just as good. For the season, they rank second as a group in WAR, and not one of them has a negative WAR or an FIP over 4.00.
10. Atlanta: Last week – 11, WAR% – .569 (t-7), FAN% – .506 (14), TOTAL% – .537
Losing Tommy Hanson seemed like a big blow to the Braves’ rotation, until Brandon Beachy plugged back in and struck out 11 in his return.
11. Detroit: Last week – 9, WAR% – .560 (11), FAN% – .512 (12), TOTAL% – .535
The Tigers were one of eight teams this week whose TOTAL% went up, but their standing in the rankings went down.
12. Arizona: Last week – 13, WAR% – .595 (5), FAN% – .463 (25), TOTAL% – .528
Ever since I saw him nearly decapitate a Monster seat denizen with a rocket of a home run back in 2006, I have been firmly planted on the Wily Mo Pena bandwagon, and I am excited at the prospect of him finally shedding his 4-A label, and possibly becoming the latest feel-good story for the D-backs this season.
13. Los Angeles of Anaheim: Last week – 12, WAR% – .565 (9), FAN% – .488 (19), TOTAL% – .5254
From 2002-2010, only nine first baseman put together 20 HR / 10 SB campaigns. With 13 homers and seven steals this season, the powerful Mark Trumbo is vying to do so next (as is Michael Cuddyer, if you consider him a first baseman). Now if he would just draw some more walks…
14. Cincinnati: Last week – 14, WAR% – .5574 (12), FAN% – .494 (17), TOTAL% – .5248
The Reds have been stuck on 14th place for three straight weeks. Perhaps a trade would help matters. Aside from shortstop, where their WAR ranks 29th, they rank 18th or better at every other non-pitcher position. Jose Reyes or Hanley Ramirez would look good in red, and could salve their one glaring hole.
15. Florida: Last week – 16, WAR% – .502 (t-18), FAN% – .525 (7), TOTAL% – .514
When I first read that Jack McKeon listed Anibal Sanchez as one of his three pitchers on his NL All-Star ballot, I bemoaned the homerishness of the voting process. But upon further review, while it was probably still a homer pick, he could have done worse — Sanchez’s 2.93 xFIP is sixth-best in the NL.
16. New York Mets: Last week – 18, WAR% – .499 (t-20), FAN% – .519 (9), TOTAL% – .509
With only 25 more Games Finished to go until his $17.5 million option for 2012 kicks in, Mets fans are likely hoping that Francisco Rodriguez is used a lot more sparingly in the second half.
17. Chicago White Sox: Last week – 15, WAR% – .524 (15), FAN% – .488 (19), TOTAL% – .506
Three regulars expected to produce this season for the White Sox — Adam Dunn, Gordon Beckham and Alex Rios — all have wRC+’s of 75 or less, as does a fourth who wasn’t really expected to produce in Juan Pierre. This would be fine if they had been exhibiting defensive value, but only Beckham has. But aside from sitting Pierre, there are no obvious solutions, as their stuggles — Dunn’s in particular — have been mystifying.
18. Los Angeles Dodgers: Last week – 22, WAR% – .503 (17), FAN% – .488 (19), TOTAL% – .495
If he keeps it up, Clayton Kershaw would be just the 13th pitcher to outhit his competition since the turn of the century. He continued his good (for a pitcher) hitting with a sharp single to left yesterday, and then showed even more moxie by busting it on the bases to score the tying run.
19. Toronto: Last week – 17, WAR% – .499 (t-20), FAN% – .488 (19), TOTAL% – .4933
Adam Lind has quietly handled the transformation to first baseman quite well. His .396 wOBA is tied for 14th in the Majors (min. 200 PA), and his defense — the main concern entering the season — has graded out as essentially neutral in both UZR and DRS.
20. Chicago Cubs: Last week – 21, WAR% – .479 (24), FAN% – .506 (14), TOTAL% – .4931
If he maintains his current pace, Jeff Samardzija’s 6.59 BB/9 would be one of the ten highest marks for a reliever in the past five years. He has a good teacher — Carlos Marmol’s 7.91 mark from 2009 is the highest.
21. San Diego: Last week – 23, WAR% – .486 (22), FAN% – .494 (17), TOTAL% – .490
As Carson pointed out on Friday, this Cory Luebke fellow could be a steal if he stays in the San Diego rotation. Which he may, given that he had a sparkling starting debut yesterday and that Aaron Harang will be out for a bit.
22. Minnesota: Last week – 19, WAR% – .429 (30), FAN% – .537 (5), TOTAL% – .486
The BABIP’er of the Week award goes to Michael Cuddyer, who clocked in at .600 last week.
23. Cleveland: Last week – 20, WAR% – .514 (16), FAN% – .451 (27), TOTAL% – .480
Though his start last night registered a -.140 WPA, it was Fausto Carmona’s eighth-best start of the year, and may have saved his starting job. But it wasn’t enough to save the Indians, who committed more errors (six) than they did score runs (four) as they were swept by the Bay.
24. Washington: Last week – 26, WAR% – .502 t-(18), FAN% – .457 (26), TOTAL% – .479
Whether you’re bullish or bearish on Michael Morse going forward, right now his .383 wOBA is tied with Andrew McCutchen for 25th in baseball, and that’s just fine and dandy like sour candy.
25. Baltimore: Last week – 24, WAR% – .451 (27), FAN% – .500 (16), TOTAL% – .477
With a 16-game hitting streak that includes eight multi-hit games, Nick Markakis has both awoken from his slumber and made Mike Podhorzer look pretty smart.
26. Oakland: Last week – 25, WAR% – .446 (28), FAN% – .481 (23), TOTAL% – .4642
With many Oakland pitchers on the shelf (again), the club needed Trevor Cahill to continue to be the electric pitcher he was in April, but after posting FIP/xFIP marks of 2.85/3.06 in April, he has posted 4.76/3.85 and 3.96/4.05 marks in May and June. That’s not awful, but it’s not enough to carry a rotation either.
27. Seattle: Last week – 27, WAR% – .458 (26), FAN% – .469 (24), TOTAL% – .4639
Oh-Oh-Olivo! Oh-Oh-Olivo! Oh-Oh-Olivo! Miguel Olivo is now tied for the lead among American League catchers in home runs, and with each subsequent homer the chants from the King’s Court will only grow louder, whether Dave Cameron likes it or not!
28. Pittsburgh: Last week – 29, WAR% – .470 (25), FAN% – .438 (28), TOTAL% – .453
With a WAR% that ranks 25th and a negative run differential for the season, the Pirates are still far from legit, but you have to start somewhere, and the fact that the venn diagrams for “Pirates” and “cellar” are not intersecting this deep into the season is a good jump-off point.
29. Kansas City: Last week – 28, WAR% – .480 (23), FAN% – .420 (29), TOTAL% – .449
Signing Jeff Francis has already paid off for the Royals, but he will have the most value to them going forward as a trade chip. Coming off a quality start, and with his next two starts in ballparks he is quite familiar with, the Royals best time to deal Francis may be right after they leave Colorado and before he has to face the resurgent Tigers.
30. Houston: Last week – 30, WAR% – .431 (29), FAN% – .370 (30), TOTAL% – .400
Matt Downs has been a pleasant surprise for the Astros this season, and he is starting to steal time in the middle infield. With a patient approach and no BABIP warning lights flashing, he could end up representing a great find for the Astros’ pro scouting department.