Power Poll: Red Sox vault to No. 1

The Red Sox were one game under .500—and eight-and-a-half games behind the first-place Rays in the AL East—after an 11-9 loss the Yankees on May 17. 

Big Papi is a big reason the Red Sox come in at No. 1.
Big Papi is a big reason the Red Sox come in at No. 1.

Now, they’re the No. 1 team in SN’s power poll. 

Since that ugly loss to the Yankees, the Red Sox are 24-8 and own series victories against the playoff-contending Twins, Phillies (twice), Rays and Dodgers. They’ve lost back-to-back games only twice (ironically, against the lowly Royals and Indians) in that stretch and they enter the week riding a six-game winning streak.

And, true, the Red Sox aren’t in first place in their division; they’re tied with the Rays and right behind the Yankees. But, as you know, the power poll isn’t based strictly on records—what fun would that be?—and the Red Sox have clearly been a stronger team than the Yankees and Rays. Since May 17, the Yankees are 18-13 and the Rays are 15-16. The Yankees and Rays both had three-game losing streaks last week; the Red Sox haven’t lost three in a row since the skid that ended, you guessed it, on May 17.

Anyway, on to the poll.

1. Red Sox (last week: 8). Some numbers since that loss on May 17: David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis each have 28 RBIs and Adrian Beltre has 27 and all three have eight homers. Victor Martinez has 14 doubles and is hitting .378. Jonathan Papelbon is 7-for-7 in save opportunities. Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester are a combined 11-1 with a 1.89 ERA. Most impressive.

2. Yankees (2). Taking two of three from the Mets—and besting Mike Pelfrey and Johan Santana in the process—took the sting out of losing two of three at home to the Phillies.

3. Braves (4). There must have been something in the water on May 17. The Braves lost to the other New York team on that day, and just like the Red Sox, they’re 24-8 since then.

4. Rays (1). The owners of baseball’s best record for most of the season, the Rays have lost seven of their past 10 games. Any momentum they might have gained after beating the Marlins in that crazy vuvuzelas game on Saturday was squashed by Marlins ace Josh Johnson the next day. After an off-day Monday, they host the Padres for three games.

5. Rangers (11). Josh Hamilton isn’t the best story in baseball like he was in 2008, but he’s been the game’s best hitter lately. During the Rangers’ sizzling eight-game winning streak, Hamilton is batting .528 with three homers and 10 RBIs. For the season, he’s batting .337 with 16 homers, 52 RBIs and a .981 OPS.

6. Padres (3). The key to the Padres’ stay atop the NL West? Avoiding losing streaks. They’ve lost more than two in a row just once this season—a three-game skid. At this point last year, the Padres already had four losing streaks of four games or more.

Carl Pavano has been solid for the Twins.
Carl Pavano has been solid for the Twins.

7. Twins (6). Carl Pavano is turning into an efficient workhorse for the Twins. He’s thrown at least seven full innings in each of his past six starts, and his pitch counts for those outings have been between 92 and 109. He’s 4-2 in those starts with a 3.13 ERA.

8. Mets (5). Has there been a more surprising catalyst than Mets starter R.A. Dickey? The knuckleballer is 5-0 with a 2.82 ERA and the Mets are 11 games over .500 since he made his season debut. Before he arrived, they were two games under .500.

9. Giants (9). The Giants enter the week in second place in the NL West, thanks largely to their performance against the NL Central. They’re 14-5 against the Central—including 6-0 against the Astros—and just 8-14 against the West. They play three more against the Astros this week before playing three at home against the Red Sox.

10. Tigers (13). Hard to imagine that the Tigers have had to send both Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello back to the minors this season. Even harder to imagine that, despite those performance-based demotions, the Tigers enter the week just a game-and-a-half behind the first-place Twins.

11. Cardinals (14). Small sample size, sure, but it appears that batting in the No. 2 slot agrees with Matt Holliday. In 53 games batting fourth (one spot behind Albert Pujols), Holliday hit .292 with just six homers and 23 RBIs. In six games since moving to the No. 2 spot, Holliday has hit .435 with four homers and eight RBIs.

12. Angels (12). In their three wins last week, the Angels outscored their opponents 24-7. In their three losses last week, the Angels were outscored 31-4. Yikes.

13. Dodgers (7). Interleague play has not been kind to the Dodgers. They were swept by the Angels June 11-13 and then they were swept by the Red Sox this weekend.

14. Blue Jays (15). The Blue Jays are first in the majors in homers, 27th in batting average, second in slugging percentage and 28th in on-base percentage.

15. Reds (10). When the division-rival Cardinals faced the Mariners last week, they missed both Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez and took two of three. The Reds had to face the Seattle co-aces and were swept by the M’s; they scored just once in three games.

16. Rockies (17). So, do the Rockies make a move to try and replace Troy Tulowitzki, who’s out for six to eight weeks with his broken wrist, or do they try to find an in-house replacement? They should at least see what they have in Chris Nelson, a former first-round pick who was hitting .311 at Class AAA Colorado Springs.

Brad Lidge and the Phillies have been tough to figure.
Brad Lidge and the Phillies have been tough to figure.

17. Phillies (16). The Phillies have won exactly one series this month, and that was last week against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. This is a hard team to figure out.

18. White Sox (21). Don’t look now but the White Sox have won nine of 10 and are only five-and-a-half games behind the Twins in the AL Central. All of a sudden, it’s not a given that they’ll be sellers as the trade deadline approaches.

19. Marlins (19). Yes, we talked about Josh Johnson in last week’s edition, but he tossed up two more gems this week and now has eight consecutive starts allowing fewer than two runs. His ERA is down to 1.80 for the season.

20. A’s (18). From 2007-09, 41 percent of Jack Cust’s hits went for extra bases (138 of 355). This season, it’s just 19 percent (five of 27).

21. Cubs (22). Since moving back into the starting rotation, Carlos Zambrano has a 3.63 ERA in four games. His career ERA as a starter? 3.53.

22. Nationals (20). Since Stephen Strasburg arrived in the majors, the Nationals are just 1-7 in games not started by the rookie ace.

23. Royals (23). In his past 34 games, David DeJesus is batting .402 with 19 RBIs and a .993 OPS. Those are the types of numbers that will make the veteran outfielder an attractive piece on the trade market.

24. Brewers (25). If the Brewers were thinking about trading Prince Fielder (he has one arbitration year left before he’s a free agent), the slugger isn’t making it easy for them to find proper value. Fielder has just 27 RBIs this season (fifth on the team) and is hitting just .164 with runners in scoring position. Oddly, he’s batting .458 when leading off an inning, though.

25. Diamondbacks (24). Of the 123 batters closer Chad Qualls has faced this year, 43 percent have reached base via hits (42) or walks (11).

26. Mariners (27). That sweep of the Reds has to be bittersweet for Mariners fans. Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez and Ryan Rowland-Smith combined to shut down the Cincinnati lineup for three consecutive games, which is nice. But, all that sweep did was raise the Mariners’ record to 13 games under .500, which isn’t so nice.

27. Astros (26). Second baseman Jeff Keppinger and pitcher Felipe Paulino are the only two Astros (with more than one at-bat) with a batting average higher than .269 entering the week. And Paulino (.292 in 24 at-bats) has a better mark than Keppinger (.284).

28. Pirates (29). Taking two out of three from the Indians earned the Pirates a swap of spots in this week’s poll. Hey, little things count, too.

29. Indians (28). In his first nine games, superstar catching prospect Carlos Santana is batting .393 with a pair of homers, five doubles, eight RBIs and a 1.300 OPS.

30. Orioles (30). The frustration is palpable in Baltimore these days. Here’s hoping it gets better soon.

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.

The Red Sox were one game under .500—and eight-and-a-half games behind the first-place Rays in the AL East—after an 11-9 loss the Yankees on May 17. 

Big Papi is a big reason the Red Sox come in at No. 1.
Big Papi is a big reason the Red Sox come in at No. 1.

Now, they’re the No. 1 team in SN’s power poll. 

Since that ugly loss to the Yankees, the Red Sox are 24-8 and own series victories against the playoff-contending Twins, Phillies (twice), Rays and Dodgers. They’ve lost back-to-back games only twice (ironically, against the lowly Royals and Indians) in that stretch and they enter the week riding a six-game winning streak.

And, true, the Red Sox aren’t in first place in their division; they’re tied with the Rays and right behind the Yankees. But, as you know, the power poll isn’t based strictly on records—what fun would that be?—and the Red Sox have clearly been a stronger team than the Yankees and Rays. Since May 17, the Yankees are 18-13 and the Rays are 15-16. The Yankees and Rays both had three-game losing streaks last week; the Red Sox haven’t lost three in a row since the skid that ended, you guessed it, on May 17.

Anyway, on to the poll.

1. Red Sox (last week: 8). Some numbers since that loss on May 17: David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis each have 28 RBIs and Adrian Beltre has 27 and all three have eight homers. Victor Martinez has 14 doubles and is hitting .378. Jonathan Papelbon is 7-for-7 in save opportunities. Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester are a combined 11-1 with a 1.89 ERA. Most impressive.

2. Yankees (2). Taking two of three from the Mets—and besting Mike Pelfrey and Johan Santana in the process—took the sting out of losing two of three at home to the Phillies.

3. Braves (4). There must have been something in the water on May 17. The Braves lost to the other New York team on that day, and just like the Red Sox, they’re 24-8 since then.

4. Rays (1). The owners of baseball’s best record for most of the season, the Rays have lost seven of their past 10 games. Any momentum they might have gained after beating the Marlins in that crazy vuvuzelas game on Saturday was squashed by Marlins ace Josh Johnson the next day. After an off-day Monday, they host the Padres for three games.

5. Rangers (11). Josh Hamilton isn’t the best story in baseball like he was in 2008, but he’s been the game’s best hitter lately. During the Rangers’ sizzling eight-game winning streak, Hamilton is batting .528 with three homers and 10 RBIs. For the season, he’s batting .337 with 16 homers, 52 RBIs and a .981 OPS.

6. Padres (3). The key to the Padres’ stay atop the NL West? Avoiding losing streaks. They’ve lost more than two in a row just once this season—a three-game skid. At this point last year, the Padres already had four losing streaks of four games or more.

Carl Pavano has been solid for the Twins.
Carl Pavano has been solid for the Twins.

7. Twins (6). Carl Pavano is turning into an efficient workhorse for the Twins. He’s thrown at least seven full innings in each of his past six starts, and his pitch counts for those outings have been between 92 and 109. He’s 4-2 in those starts with a 3.13 ERA.

8. Mets (5). Has there been a more surprising catalyst than Mets starter R.A. Dickey? The knuckleballer is 5-0 with a 2.82 ERA and the Mets are 11 games over .500 since he made his season debut. Before he arrived, they were two games under .500.

9. Giants (9). The Giants enter the week in second place in the NL West, thanks largely to their performance against the NL Central. They’re 14-5 against the Central—including 6-0 against the Astros—and just 8-14 against the West. They play three more against the Astros this week before playing three at home against the Red Sox.

10. Tigers (13). Hard to imagine that the Tigers have had to send both Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello back to the minors this season. Even harder to imagine that, despite those performance-based demotions, the Tigers enter the week just a game-and-a-half behind the first-place Twins.

11. Cardinals (14). Small sample size, sure, but it appears that batting in the No. 2 slot agrees with Matt Holliday. In 53 games batting fourth (one spot behind Albert Pujols), Holliday hit .292 with just six homers and 23 RBIs. In six games since moving to the No. 2 spot, Holliday has hit .435 with four homers and eight RBIs.

12. Angels (12). In their three wins last week, the Angels outscored their opponents 24-7. In their three losses last week, the Angels were outscored 31-4. Yikes.

13. Dodgers (7). Interleague play has not been kind to the Dodgers. They were swept by the Angels June 11-13 and then they were swept by the Red Sox this weekend.

14. Blue Jays (15). The Blue Jays are first in the majors in homers, 27th in batting average, second in slugging percentage and 28th in on-base percentage.

15. Reds (10). When the division-rival Cardinals faced the Mariners last week, they missed both Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez and took two of three. The Reds had to face the Seattle co-aces and were swept by the M’s; they scored just once in three games.

16. Rockies (17). So, do the Rockies make a move to try and replace Troy Tulowitzki, who’s out for six to eight weeks with his broken wrist, or do they try to find an in-house replacement? They should at least see what they have in Chris Nelson, a former first-round pick who was hitting .311 at Class AAA Colorado Springs.

Brad Lidge and the Phillies have been tough to figure.
Brad Lidge and the Phillies have been tough to figure.

17. Phillies (16). The Phillies have won exactly one series this month, and that was last week against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. This is a hard team to figure out.

18. White Sox (21). Don’t look now but the White Sox have won nine of 10 and are only five-and-a-half games behind the Twins in the AL Central. All of a sudden, it’s not a given that they’ll be sellers as the trade deadline approaches.

19. Marlins (19). Yes, we talked about Josh Johnson in last week’s edition, but he tossed up two more gems this week and now has eight consecutive starts allowing fewer than two runs. His ERA is down to 1.80 for the season.

20. A’s (18). From 2007-09, 41 percent of Jack Cust’s hits went for extra bases (138 of 355). This season, it’s just 19 percent (five of 27).

21. Cubs (22). Since moving back into the starting rotation, Carlos Zambrano has a 3.63 ERA in four games. His career ERA as a starter? 3.53.

22. Nationals (20). Since Stephen Strasburg arrived in the majors, the Nationals are just 1-7 in games not started by the rookie ace.

23. Royals (23). In his past 34 games, David DeJesus is batting .402 with 19 RBIs and a .993 OPS. Those are the types of numbers that will make the veteran outfielder an attractive piece on the trade market.

24. Brewers (25). If the Brewers were thinking about trading Prince Fielder (he has one arbitration year left before he’s a free agent), the slugger isn’t making it easy for them to find proper value. Fielder has just 27 RBIs this season (fifth on the team) and is hitting just .164 with runners in scoring position. Oddly, he’s batting .458 when leading off an inning, though.

25. Diamondbacks (24). Of the 123 batters closer Chad Qualls has faced this year, 43 percent have reached base via hits (42) or walks (11).

26. Mariners (27). That sweep of the Reds has to be bittersweet for Mariners fans. Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez and Ryan Rowland-Smith combined to shut down the Cincinnati lineup for three consecutive games, which is nice. But, all that sweep did was raise the Mariners’ record to 13 games under .500, which isn’t so nice.

27. Astros (26). Second baseman Jeff Keppinger and pitcher Felipe Paulino are the only two Astros (with more than one at-bat) with a batting average higher than .269 entering the week. And Paulino (.292 in 24 at-bats) has a better mark than Keppinger (.284).

28. Pirates (29). Taking two out of three from the Indians earned the Pirates a swap of spots in this week’s poll. Hey, little things count, too.

29. Indians (28). In his first nine games, superstar catching prospect Carlos Santana is batting .393 with a pair of homers, five doubles, eight RBIs and a 1.300 OPS.

30. Orioles (30). The frustration is palpable in Baltimore these days. Here’s hoping it gets better soon.

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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