Power Poll: No need for Rays to panic

Their sub-.300 days didn’t intersect, but they weren’t far apart.

Hard to imagine that Joe Mauer, a career .327 hitter entering the season, and Albert Pujols, a career .334 hitter entering 2010, would find themselves hovering in the upper .200s at any point in July. And after watching their performances over the past week or so, it’s even harder to imagine. Mauer was sitting at .295 after a win in Baltimore on July 24. Since then, he’s had six multiple-hit games—including a five-hitter and one with four hits—and is batting .537 with 16 RBIs, 12 runs scored, a .604 on-base percentage and a 1.384 OPS.

Pujols was sitting at .295 after a win against Pittsburgh on July 30. Since then, he’s had multiple hits in six of his seven games and is batting .500 with five homers, 11 RBIs, 10 runs scored, a 1.031 slugging percentage, an otherworldly 1.531 OPS and only one strikeout.

No moral to the story or lesson to learn. Just two of the best getting back on track. Anyway, on to the poll.

Josh Hamilton is a leading MVP candidate.
Josh Hamilton is a leading MVP candidate.

1. Yankees (last week: 1). In the 46 at-bats between his 599th and 600th home run, Alex Rodriguez had only nine hits (a .196 average) but he still managed eight RBIs. It’s good to be part of that lineup, eh? For the year, he has 88 RBIs, which is second in the majors.

2. Rays (2). Yes, they’ve lost five games in a row entering the week, but there’s no reason to panic in Tampa Bay. The Rays are still only 2 1/2 behind the Yankees, and they’re still 4 1/2 games ahead of the Red Sox and Twins in the wild-card race. The sore shoulders for Jeff Neimann and Wade Davis? Rays fans can worry about those.

3. Rangers (5). With every game Miguel Cabrera and the Tigers lose, Josh Hamilton’s MVP candidacy takes a step forward, right? He’s hitting .355 with 24 homers and 77 RBIs for the most surprisingly dominant team in baseball. (Not "most surprising" … "most surprisingly dominant")

4. Braves (9). The two primary lefties in the Braves’ bullpen—veteran closer Billy Wagner and rookie Jonny Venters—have thrown a combined for 106 innings with a 1.36 ERA and 130 strikeouts. The other lefty in the pen, rookie Mike Dunn has contributed six scoreless innings after he was called up to replace Eric O’Flaherty, who had a 2.30 ERA in 41 games before he hit the disabled list. So, yeah, left-handed relief is a strength in Atlanta.

5. Reds (10). We’ve pointed this out before but it bears repeating … the Reds are 16 games over .500 (34-18) against their Central division rivals and exactly .500 (30-30) against everyone else. After their huge three-game series with the Cardinals that opens today, the Reds play their next 12 games out of the division.

6. Padres (3). Sure, it’s early, but trade acquisitions Ryan Ludwick and Miguel Tejada have hit a combined .200 (13-for-65) with five RBIs for the Padres. Maybe it’s the water.

7. Phillies (12). The Phillies sure looked like a team that was dead in the water a few weeks ago. Since losing to the Cardinals on July 21, though, the Phillies are 14-3 and have climbed back into contention for the NL East and the wild card. The primary offensive contributors: Raul Ibanez (.407, four homers, 16 RBIs), Jayson Werth (.406, three homers, eight RBIs) and Carlos Ruiz (.368, three homers, 11 RBIs).

Alexei Ramirez has been red hot in the second half.
Alexei Ramirez has been red hot in the second half.

8. White Sox (8). Second baseman Gordon Beckham has gotten most of the attention for his hot start to the second half (.372 since the All-Star break) but his double-play partner, Alexei Ramirez, hasn’t been too shabby with the stick, either. Ramirez is hitting .337 with an .849 OPS and 21 runs scored in the second half.

9. Twins (7). He’s not putting up Delmon Young or Joe Mauer numbers lately, but Jason Kubel has quietly and consistently rebounded from a slow start. In his past 54 games, Kubel is hitting .301 with nine homers and 37 RBIs.

10. Giants (4). Odd stat coincidence: Relievers Brian Wilson and Sergio Romo have both appeared in 46 games, and they both have a 2.23 ERA. Wilson has more strikeouts (67 to 46) but Santos has the better WHIP (1.015 to 1.283).

11. Red Sox (7). The nasty road trip that started with four games in Yankee Stadium continues this week with three in Toronto and three in Texas.

12. Cardinals (11). Here are the earned runs Adam Wainwright has allowed in each of his past eight games, starting with a June 29 contest against Arizona: 0, 1, 0, 0, 0, 6, 1, 0.

13. Blue Jays (15). The Blue Jays are 11-1 against the AL East in the second half (6-0 vs. Baltimore, 3-0 vs. Tampa Bay and 2-1 vs. New York).

14. Rockies (13). OK, I’ll say it: Carlos Gonzalez belongs in the MVP conversation. CarGo has 25 homers, 77 RBIs and 18 stolen bases to go with his .327 average and .933 OPS. In his past 13 games, he has a .482 average, eight homers, 15 RBIs, and a 1.528 OPS.

15. Dodgers (14). Adjusting to life as a part-timer wasn’t easy for Garret Anderson. His average hadn’t been above .200 since April 17. He’d had 25 starts this year, and had multiple hits in just two of them. He was hitting .153 as a starter, .228 as a sub. For the year, he was hitting .181 with 12 RBIs in 155 at-bats before the Dodgers finally designated him for assignment.

16. A’s (19). With Ben Sheets out for the year, Dallas Braden is by far the oldest starter in the A’s rotation. He’ll be 27 on Friday.

17. Angels (18). With 60 RBIs, it looks like Bobby Abreu’s streak of seven consecutive 100-RBI seasons will end this year. That’s probably equal parts reflection on his age (36) and an Angels lineup that’s struggled this season (team .318 on-base percentage this year; was .350 in 2009).

18. Mets (17). Carlos Beltran is a borderline Hall of Fame guy (if he stays healthy) but he hasn’t exactly helped the Mets since his return to the lineup. He’s hitting .195 with seven RBIs, and the Mets are 7-16 since he came off the disabled list.

19. Marlins (16). With 25 homers and 67 RBIs through the Marlins’ first 110 games, Dan Uggla has a good shot at eclipsing his career highs of 32 homers and 92 RBIs. His current .882 also is a career-best.

20. Brewers (21). Somebody, please pay attention to Rickie Weeks. He’s hitting .272 with 23 homers and 71 RBIs—as the Brewers’ leadoff man. Those homer and RBI totals easily lead the majors among leadoff hitters, and his .364 on-base percentage is best for any player with more than 70 games as the leadoff man.

21. Tigers (20). It’s a cryin’ shame that Miguel Cabrera’s season—he’s at .343 with 26 homers, 93 RBIs and a 1.066 OPS—will be wasted for a team that just couldn’t stay healthy enough to contend.

22. Nationals (22). Livan Hernandez has a 3.03 ERA for the Nationals this year. His previous career best? The 3.20 he posted for the Expos (yep, the Expos) back in 2003.

23. Royals (24). With Jose Guillen out of the picture, Billy Butler is the team leader with 10 home runs. Alex Gordon, who has four homers in his past nine games, has a real shot to catch and pass Butler before the end of the season.

24. Indians (26). With Jhonny Peralta and Austin Kearns out of the picture, Shin-Soo Choo is the only Cleveland player with more than seven homers, 33 RBIs or a .267 average.

25. Astros (23). The Astros can’t hit for average (next-to-last in the NL at .247) or for power (74 homers, .669 OPS are both last in the N.L.) and they can’t draw a walk (300, last in the N.L.) but one thing they don’t do is strike out. Every team in the N.L. has struck out more than the Astros; they’re at 671 for the season (the D-backs lead at 1,029 strikeouts).

26. Diamondbacks (27). If the Diamondbacks win tonight against Milwaukee, it will mark the first time all season they’ve had a 10-game stretch that didn’t include back-to-back losses.

Paul Maholm has been one of baseball's most inconsistent starters.
Paul Maholm has been one of baseball’s most inconsistent starters.

27. Cubs (25). The Cubs have won just one of their past 11 games. The one win in that stretch? A 15-3 beatdown of the Brewers, two nights after the Brewers beat them 18-1.

28. Orioles (30). That 5-1 mark under new manager Buck Showalter was enough to lift the Orioles out of last place in the poll.

29. Mariners (28). Seattle’s winning percentages the past four seasons, starting with 2007: .543, .377, .525, .375. The dichotomy between those last two numbers most likely cost manager Don Wakamatsu his job on Monday.

30. Pirates (29). Paul Maholm’s past three starts: 14 innings, 11.57 ERA. The three before that: 22 innings, 2.45 ERA. The three before that: 12 innings, 9.75 ERA. The three before that: 19 innings, 3.32 ERA. Consistency hasn’t been his calling card this year.

Ryan Fagan is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at rfagan@sportingnews.com, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ryan_fagan.

Their sub-.300 days didn’t intersect, but they weren’t far apart.

Hard to imagine that Joe Mauer, a career .327 hitter entering the season, and Albert Pujols, a career .334 hitter entering 2010, would find themselves hovering in the upper .200s at any point in July. And after watching their performances over the past week or so, it’s even harder to imagine. Mauer was sitting at .295 after a win in Baltimore on July 24. Since then, he’s had six multiple-hit games—including a five-hitter and one with four hits—and is batting .537 with 16 RBIs, 12 runs scored, a .604 on-base percentage and a 1.384 OPS.

Pujols was sitting at .295 after a win against Pittsburgh on July 30. Since then, he’s had multiple hits in six of his seven games and is batting .500 with five homers, 11 RBIs, 10 runs scored, a 1.031 slugging percentage, an otherworldly 1.531 OPS and only one strikeout.

No moral to the story or lesson to learn. Just two of the best getting back on track. Anyway, on to the poll.

Josh Hamilton is a leading MVP candidate.
Josh Hamilton is a leading MVP candidate.

1. Yankees (last week: 1). In the 46 at-bats between his 599th and 600th home run, Alex Rodriguez had only nine hits (a .196 average) but he still managed eight RBIs. It’s good to be part of that lineup, eh? For the year, he has 88 RBIs, which is second in the majors.

2. Rays (2). Yes, they’ve lost five games in a row entering the week, but there’s no reason to panic in Tampa Bay. The Rays are still only 2 1/2 behind the Yankees, and they’re still 4 1/2 games ahead of the Red Sox and Twins in the wild-card race. The sore shoulders for Jeff Neimann and Wade Davis? Rays fans can worry about those.

3. Rangers (5). With every game Miguel Cabrera and the Tigers lose, Josh Hamilton’s MVP candidacy takes a step forward, right? He’s hitting .355 with 24 homers and 77 RBIs for the most surprisingly dominant team in baseball. (Not "most surprising" … "most surprisingly dominant")

4. Braves (9). The two primary lefties in the Braves’ bullpen—veteran closer Billy Wagner and rookie Jonny Venters—have thrown a combined for 106 innings with a 1.36 ERA and 130 strikeouts. The other lefty in the pen, rookie Mike Dunn has contributed six scoreless innings after he was called up to replace Eric O’Flaherty, who had a 2.30 ERA in 41 games before he hit the disabled list. So, yeah, left-handed relief is a strength in Atlanta.

5. Reds (10). We’ve pointed this out before but it bears repeating … the Reds are 16 games over .500 (34-18) against their Central division rivals and exactly .500 (30-30) against everyone else. After their huge three-game series with the Cardinals that opens today, the Reds play their next 12 games out of the division.

6. Padres (3). Sure, it’s early, but trade acquisitions Ryan Ludwick and Miguel Tejada have hit a combined .200 (13-for-65) with five RBIs for the Padres. Maybe it’s the water.

7. Phillies (12). The Phillies sure looked like a team that was dead in the water a few weeks ago. Since losing to the Cardinals on July 21, though, the Phillies are 14-3 and have climbed back into contention for the NL East and the wild card. The primary offensive contributors: Raul Ibanez (.407, four homers, 16 RBIs), Jayson Werth (.406, three homers, eight RBIs) and Carlos Ruiz (.368, three homers, 11 RBIs).

Alexei Ramirez has been red hot in the second half.
Alexei Ramirez has been red hot in the second half.

8. White Sox (8). Second baseman Gordon Beckham has gotten most of the attention for his hot start to the second half (.372 since the All-Star break) but his double-play partner, Alexei Ramirez, hasn’t been too shabby with the stick, either. Ramirez is hitting .337 with an .849 OPS and 21 runs scored in the second half.

9. Twins (7). He’s not putting up Delmon Young or Joe Mauer numbers lately, but Jason Kubel has quietly and consistently rebounded from a slow start. In his past 54 games, Kubel is hitting .301 with nine homers and 37 RBIs.

10. Giants (4). Odd stat coincidence: Relievers Brian Wilson and Sergio Romo have both appeared in 46 games, and they both have a 2.23 ERA. Wilson has more strikeouts (67 to 46) but Santos has the better WHIP (1.015 to 1.283).

11. Red Sox (7). The nasty road trip that started with four games in Yankee Stadium continues this week with three in Toronto and three in Texas.

12. Cardinals (11). Here are the earned runs Adam Wainwright has allowed in each of his past eight games, starting with a June 29 contest against Arizona: 0, 1, 0, 0, 0, 6, 1, 0.

13. Blue Jays (15). The Blue Jays are 11-1 against the AL East in the second half (6-0 vs. Baltimore, 3-0 vs. Tampa Bay and 2-1 vs. New York).

14. Rockies (13). OK, I’ll say it: Carlos Gonzalez belongs in the MVP conversation. CarGo has 25 homers, 77 RBIs and 18 stolen bases to go with his .327 average and .933 OPS. In his past 13 games, he has a .482 average, eight homers, 15 RBIs, and a 1.528 OPS.

15. Dodgers (14). Adjusting to life as a part-timer wasn’t easy for Garret Anderson. His average hadn’t been above .200 since April 17. He’d had 25 starts this year, and had multiple hits in just two of them. He was hitting .153 as a starter, .228 as a sub. For the year, he was hitting .181 with 12 RBIs in 155 at-bats before the Dodgers finally designated him for assignment.

16. A’s (19). With Ben Sheets out for the year, Dallas Braden is by far the oldest starter in the A’s rotation. He’ll be 27 on Friday.

17. Angels (18). With 60 RBIs, it looks like Bobby Abreu’s streak of seven consecutive 100-RBI seasons will end this year. That’s probably equal parts reflection on his age (36) and an Angels lineup that’s struggled this season (team .318 on-base percentage this year; was .350 in 2009).

18. Mets (17). Carlos Beltran is a borderline Hall of Fame guy (if he stays healthy) but he hasn’t exactly helped the Mets since his return to the lineup. He’s hitting .195 with seven RBIs, and the Mets are 7-16 since he came off the disabled list.

19. Marlins (16). With 25 homers and 67 RBIs through the Marlins’ first 110 games, Dan Uggla has a good shot at eclipsing his career highs of 32 homers and 92 RBIs. His current .882 also is a career-best.

20. Brewers (21). Somebody, please pay attention to Rickie Weeks. He’s hitting .272 with 23 homers and 71 RBIs—as the Brewers’ leadoff man. Those homer and RBI totals easily lead the majors among leadoff hitters, and his .364 on-base percentage is best for any player with more than 70 games as the leadoff man.

21. Tigers (20). It’s a cryin’ shame that Miguel Cabrera’s season—he’s at .343 with 26 homers, 93 RBIs and a 1.066 OPS—will be wasted for a team that just couldn’t stay healthy enough to contend.

22. Nationals (22). Livan Hernandez has a 3.03 ERA for the Nationals this year. His previous career best? The 3.20 he posted for the Expos (yep, the Expos) back in 2003.

23. Royals (24). With Jose Guillen out of the picture, Billy Butler is the team leader with 10 home runs. Alex Gordon, who has four homers in his past nine games, has a real shot to catch and pass Butler before the end of the season.

24. Indians (26). With Jhonny Peralta and Austin Kearns out of the picture, Shin-Soo Choo is the only Cleveland player with more than seven homers, 33 RBIs or a .267 average.

25. Astros (23). The Astros can’t hit for average (next-to-last in the NL at .247) or for power (74 homers, .669 OPS are both last in the N.L.) and they can’t draw a walk (300, last in the N.L.) but one thing they don’t do is strike out. Every team in the N.L. has struck out more than the Astros; they’re at 671 for the season (the D-backs lead at 1,029 strikeouts).

26. Diamondbacks (27). If the Diamondbacks win tonight against Milwaukee, it will mark the first time all season they’ve had a 10-game stretch that didn’t include back-to-back losses.

Paul Maholm has been one of baseball's most inconsistent starters.
Paul Maholm has been one of baseball’s most inconsistent starters.

27. Cubs (25). The Cubs have won just one of their past 11 games. The one win in that stretch? A 15-3 beatdown of the Brewers, two nights after the Brewers beat them 18-1.

28. Orioles (30). That 5-1 mark under new manager Buck Showalter was enough to lift the Orioles out of last place in the poll.

29. Mariners (28). Seattle’s winning percentages the past four seasons, starting with 2007: .543, .377, .525, .375. The dichotomy between those last two numbers most likely cost manager Don Wakamatsu his job on Monday.

30. Pirates (29). Paul Maholm’s past three starts: 14 innings, 11.57 ERA. The three before that: 22 innings, 2.45 ERA. The three before that: 12 innings, 9.75 ERA. The three before that: 19 innings, 3.32 ERA. Consistency hasn’t been his calling card this year.

Ryan Fagan is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at rfagan@sportingnews.com, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ryan_fagan.

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