New team ascends to top spot in Rankings
Cardinals, owners of MLB's best record, reclaim No. 1, while Dodgers move into top 15
At the season's symbolic midway point, the Cardinals have shoved their way into the top spot of MLB.com's weekly Power Rankings, leap-frogging the Red Sox and division-rival Pirates since last week.
Having swept the Marlins and Astros before splitting a series with the Cubs, St. Louis leads Pittsburgh by a game in the National League Central.
The top two teams in this week's rankings each have the best record in their respective league, with the Cardinals owning the best record in the Majors (57-36) and the American League's Red Sox not far behind at 58-39.
The A's, who lead the AL West, clock in at third, while the Pirates fell from second to fourth.
The Rangers and Braves held steady at fifth and sixth, respectively, while the Rays moved up from ninth to seventh thanks to a 9-1 stretch to close the first half.
The Tigers, Reds and Orioles round out this week's top 10, and they're followed by the Indians, D-backs, Yankees, Nationals and Dodgers. Cleveland jumped from 15th to 11th, while the Dodgers moved into the rankings and the Angels fell out.
For the third season, MLB.com has set up a panel of experts to vote on the top 15 teams each week. Three former Major League players -- Larry Dierker, Mitch Williams and Frank Thomas -- are part of the process, as are columnist Peter Gammons and Carlton Thompson, vice president and executive editor of MLB.com. Former general manager and current MLB.com analyst Jim Duquette, along with MLB.com columnists Mike Bauman, Hal Bodley, Anthony Castrovince, Richard Justice, Matthew Leach and Jesse Sanchez are also part of the group.
What do you think? Choose your Top 15.
St. Louis has the best run differential in baseball and is 10 games over .500 on the road (30-20). The Cardinals rank third in the Majors in runs (462), batting average (.276) and on-base percentage (.337) as well as team ERA (3.39). Closer Edward Mujica has five saves and two wins since July 5.
Last week: 3
2. Red Sox
Boston fell out of the top spot this week but still has a hold on arguably the toughest division in the game. The Red Sox lost two heading into the break and split their last 10, but still lead the Rays by 2 1/2 games. Nothing will come easy in the AL East, but if the Sox can continue to win road games, they'll be in good shape.
Last week: 1
Josh Donaldson capped his superb first half (.310 average, 16 homers, 61 RBIs) by helping the A's win a big series against Boston heading into the break. Oakland's .245 team batting average is 21st in the Majors, but the staff ERA of 3.62 is the best in the AL. A's starters are third in the AL with 57 quality starts.
Last week: 4
We've seen good starts from the Pirates before, but not quite like this. Nineteen games above .500, there's no way they'll finish the year with a losing record, right? We'll have to wait and see. But a great indication of how far this team has come under Clint Hurdle's management were the five Pittsburgh All-Stars (Mark Melancon, Jason Grilli, Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez and Jeff Locke), the most the franchise has had since 1972.
Last week: 2
It looks like we're in for another great battle between the A's and Rangers for supremacy in the AL West, as Texas went into the break trailing first-place Oakland by two games. As powerful as the Texas offense has been (10th in baseball with a .260 average and seventh with a .318 slugging percentage), the pitching has also been excellent. Rangers pitchers have a 3.73 team ERA (second in the league, with a .248 batting average against). Texas trails only the division-rival A's in team ERA.
Last week: 5
Things have really mellowed out for the Braves since their torrid start to the season, but because of the relative mediocrity of the rest of the NL East, they've been able to maintain a comfortable lead in the standings. Freddie Freeman, who leads the team in average (.308), RBIs (61), on-base percentage (.386) and hits (96) needs some help from the team's other stars.
Last week: 6
Tampa Bay jumped a couple spots this week after closing the first half in fine fashion. After winning nine of 10 down the stretch, the Rays have won six consecutive series, including sweeps of the Twins and White Sox. In doing so, they've moved to 2 1/2 games back of the Red Sox, thanks in part to a 34-19 mark at home. They're a Major League-best 41-23 since May 8, after going just 14-18 prior to that.
Last week: 9
After a so-so showing in May (14-14) and June (14-13), the Tigers are off to a better start in July (9-5) after series wins against the Blue Jays and Indians. Detroit has only played eight combined games against the White Sox and Royals, so if the Tigers can hold serve against their division (they have a combined 17-8 record against the Twins and Indians), they should be able to hold onto their AL Central lead.
Last week: 7
The ninth and 10th spots in this week's Power Rankings are reserved for the two best third-place teams in baseball. The Reds would be in first place in the NL West and the AL Central, but they still find themselves chasing the Cardinals and the Pirates in the NL Central. They've been superb at Great American Ball Park (30-16) but need to shore things up on the road (23-26).
Last week: 8
Chris Davis had an exceptional first half, entering the All-Star break already having set personal highs in home runs (37), RBIs (93) and doubles (27). If not for Miguel Cabrera, Davis would be a runaway choice for Most Valuable Player, but he's still got as good a shot as anyone. And there's plenty of baseball left to be played.
Last week: 10
Cleveland refuses to cede much ground in the AL Central, and made the largest leap of any team within the Power Rankings this week. The Indians have won four straight and they're keeping things close with the Tigers. But they'll have to improve on their 3-9 mark (and minus-30 head-to-head run differential) against Detroit in order to have a shot at first place in their division.
Last week: 15
Arizona is the lowest-ranked team of the six division leaders, but still holds a 2 1/2-game lead in the NL West. The D-backs have, by far, the lowest run differential (plus-9) among the first-place teams, but they're also the only team in the West with a record above .500.
Last week: 11
The same day the Yankees got good news, they got bad news on the same front. Derek Jeter returned to the lineup for the first time this year after breaking his ankle in last year's playoffs, only to be sidelined again with a Grade 1 strain of his right quad. He's out indefinitely, and another important spot in the Yankees lineup remains open.
Last week: 12
Whenever the Nats look like they're going to make a serious move on the Braves (like when they swept the Padres last week), the offense falls back to sleep and they drop in the standings. They've held firm onto the No. 2 spot in the NL East most of the year, but the Phillies, only a half-game back, are nipping at their heels. It's been a lot of one-step-forward/one-step-back for a team that has had trouble getting all its pieces in sync.
Last week: 13
The Dodgers are the only team in this week's rankings that was not in last week's edition as they moved into the final spot while the Angels dropped out. The loaded Dodgers are hanging around in the up-for-grabs NL West, ahead of the Rockies but behind the steady D-backs. Battling a hip injury, rookie sensation Yasiel Puig has still managed to record a hit in eight of his past 10 games.
Last week: NR