Mikey’s MLB power rankings

It’s hard to believe July is ending today and the dog days of summer are in full swing. It also means pennant races are heating up, and this year they are more so than ever. You can safely say the Rangers are playoff-bound, but every other division lead is no greater than 3.5 games, and we have three divisions that have the top two teams separated by 1.5 games or less. How awesome is that? I mean, this could be the greatest stretch run as far as the entire league, ever. Here are Mikey’s power rankings (yes, I just referred to myself in the third person, I need to stop that!)……

1. New York Yankees (65-37)—The Rays are inching closer, but the Yanks are still the team to beat. Adding Lance Berkman was a way for them to bully the Rays a little, like “Take that, small market team!” I also keep thinking about how they are going to sign Cliff Lee in the off-season and then they may play .800 ball next year. And really, who wants to see that?

2. Tampa Bay Rays (64-38)—Don’t think the Yankees aren’t sweating, however. Because these Rays just sweat talent.

3. San Diego Padres (60-41)—Seriously, when was the last time the Padres were contemplating trades at the trade deadline to bolster their team for the stretch? It’s such a great story this year.

4. Texas Rangers (60-43)—Speaking of great stories…..the Rangers are up by 8 games in their division and could be the first team to clinch a playoff spot.

5. Atlanta Braves (59-43)—Another great story. I wonder if Greg Maddux could come back and help these guys for a few months.

6. Boston Red Sox (58-45)—Now these guys will definitely be the odd team out, and it almost seems like if they keep winning it won’t matter.

7. San Francisco Giants (59-45)—Don’t look now, but the G-men are 2.5 games back of the Padres. And they have one of the best starting rotations in baseball, so they have the goods to contend down the stretch.

8. Chicago White Sox (58-44)—Another 5-game win streak, but barely hanging on to first place in the AL Central

9. Cincinnati Reds (57-47)—How many great team stories can there be in one year? Forget the year of the pitcher, it’s the year of the Cinderella. Sorry, Cardinals fans, I know you have a half-game lead, but Joey Votto just hit another home run. Wait, there goes another one!

10. Minnesota Twins (57-46)—It’s just a matter of time before the White Sox fade, and the Twins are putting ridiculous pressure on them with their own 6-game winning streak.

In the hunt: St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies, LA Dodgers
Fading fast: New York Mets, LA Angels, Colorado Rockies

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Top 10 active innings eaters

Chances are, you need a few pitchers on your fantasy baseball roster that can eat up innings. You know, that silly rule that prevents you from loading up on closers? Well, here is a list you could use, especially if your team if floundering and you need some steady pitchers to deliver quality innings of work. This is the list of active leaders in innings pitched. Some of the names will surprise you, but certainly not all of them:

1. Jamie Moyer, Philadelphia Phillies (3966 innings)—Remember when Jamie Moyer pitched for the Cubs? Yeah, neither does anyone else. He was a rookie in 1986, the year Mookie Wilson hit the ball through Bill Buckner’s legs. I know, most of you don’t remember that, either.

2. Andy Pettitte, New York Yankees (2984)—Though it’s early, Andy Pettitte is having a career year at age 38. And I’m just glad I had the foresight (errr, luck) to draft him for my fantasy team.

3. Tim Wakefield, Boston Red Sox (2980)—Remember when Tim Wakefield pitched for the Pirates? Seriously, he started out there in 1992 and joined the Sox in 1995. And dude is still beloved by the chowder heads.

4. Livan Hernandez, Washington Nationals (2795)—Two things are baffling. One, that Livan’s age is listed as 35. Thirty-freaking-five! Um, no. And two, that this guy is still getting hitters out with that blistering 80 mph fastball of his.

5. Javier Vasquez, New York Yankees (2532)—So this guy has banked $92 million in his career to date for losing as many games as he wins (145-144). That’s proof right there that innings eaters are worth something, but still sounds like highway robbery to me.

6. Jeff Suppan, Milwaukee Brewers (2437)—He’s relegated to the bullpen for the most part, but still racking up innings of work.

7. Kevin Millwood, Baltimore Orioles (2382)—Remember when Kevin Millwood was the fourth starter behind Smoltz, Maddux and Glavine in Atlanta? That was in 1997 but seems like it was 50 years ago.

8. Derek Lowe, Atlanta Braves (2191)—He may have peaked a few years ago, but this guy still has some of the nastiest stuff in the game.

9. Tim Hudson, Atlanta Braves (2124)—Through all of the injuries, it’s truly amazing that Tim Hudson has pitched that many innings. And hey, Javier, put this in your pipe and smoke it—a 153-79 career record.

10. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies (2123)—This dude just keeps winning, but even he’s only got 154 wins to date. Does that seem right?

Source: Baseball Reference

Top 10 active ERA leaders

As far as pitchers’ statistics in baseball, earned run average (ERA) is the batting average of those stats. ERA is how many earned runs a pitcher gives up per nine innings, and anything under 4.00 is pretty good while anything under 3.00 is very good and anything under 2.00 is bordering on sick. So here is a list of your Top 10 active pitchers in ERA:

1. Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees (2.28)—You want to know why this guy comes in and shuts the door every time he’s brought in for a save? Look no further than this statistic. Mo has been the most dominant closer in the game for over a decade and shows no signs of slowing down.

2. Pedro Martinez, free agent (2.91)—Sure, he’s not the same guy he was in Boston or even Montreal, but Pedro’s a gamer and it’s hard to believe he still isn’t on a major league roster right now.

3. Johan Santana, New York Mets (3.10)—You have to watch this guy work to fully appreciate his art of pitching. He doesn’t have an overpowering fastball, but he locates all his pitches beautifully and his change-up sometimes makes batters swing out of their shoes. He’s like a lefty Greg Maddux.

4. Roy Oswalt, Houston Astros (3.14)—At 31, Oswalt has a lot of career left, and he has one of the game’s best fastballs.

5. Jake Peavy, San Diego Padres (3.26)—Peavy was rumored to be traded to the Cubs about 12 times in this past off-season. If you close your eyes, you can someday picture him in Yankee pinstripes.

5. John Smoltz, Boston Red Sox (3.26)—One of the game’s good guys, and as a Mets’ fan, that is not easy for me to say. I’m just glad he’s now in the American League.

7. Brandon Webb, Arizona Diamondbacks (3.27)—At 30, Webb is another of the game’s bright young stars and he’ll be in contention for many more Cy Young Awards.

7. Randy Johnson, San Francisco Giants (3.27)—The Big Unit is 45 years old and creeping up on 300 wins. And yeah, he’s racked up an incredible 4801 strikeouts. But his 3.27 ERA over 22 seasons is just awesome.

9. Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs (3.50)—Is it possible that Carlos Zambrano is only 28 years old? Yes, and he’s going to be dominant for quite some time.

10. Tim Hudson, Atlanta Braves (3.48)—He’s battled injuries, but when he’s on top of his game, Hudson is one of the best in the game. And he turned out to be the best among that awesome young trio in Oakland that included Mark Mulder and Barry Zito.

Source: Baseball Reference

Top 10 MLB Free Agent Signings

On Tuesday, RealClearSports.com tackled the top 10 worst MLB free agent signings of all-time.

On Thursday they pay tribute to the best:

Barry Bonds1. Barry Bonds – Signed by San Francisco in 1992, six years, $43 million.
A six-time all-star, five gold gloves, one MVP award; his numbers were not as gaudy as they would be in the six years that followed, but he still lived up to the contract, and then some. And never, ever caused off-the-field concerns or troubles.

2. Greg Maddux – Signed by Atlanta in 1992, five years, $28 million.
It seemed almost unfair when the Braves, who already had Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, and Steve Avery, added Cy Young winner Maddux to the rotation. In the five years of his contract, he won three more Cy Youngs in the first three years, two of them unanimous; he was first or second in the league in ERA all five years; and posted an 89-33 record for the perpetual division champs.

3. Manny Ramirez (Boston, Dec. 2000, eight years, $160 million) and Alex Rodriguez (Texas, Jan. 2001, ten years, $252 million).
Both contracts were gargantuan, for amounts of money that seemed obscene at the time – and still do. Yet both, under the representation of Scott Boras, opted out of the last few years of the deals, expecting to make even more. The two were nearly traded for each other in 2003 before the Players Association rejected an agreement with Boston that would have reduced A-Rod’s compensation by $4 million per year. Both players are sure Hall of Famers, two of the greatest right-handed hitters who ever lived.

A-Rod’s opt-out brought him more years and more money; Manny does not yet know how it will work and where he’ll end up “being Manny.” Would A-Rod trade his three MVPs for just one of Manny’s two World Series titles — or even a single World Series at-bat? We’d like to think so, but honestly, we don’t know.

It’s kind of interesting to think that Bonds was very close to becoming an Atlanta Brave in 1992. I don’t think there has ever been a free agent signing in baseball that made a bigger impact than when Bonds went to San Fran. Makes you wonder if things would have been different in Atlanta and if he would have stayed in a city/state dominated by college football and NASCAR for as long as he wound up staying in Frisco.

It’s all about the pitching

Jonathan Papelbon“Momentum is always as strong as your starting pitcher is the next day.”
– Joe Maddon

Leave it to the well-read Rays manger to come up with such a profound statement. Chances are this saying is nailed up in his teams’ clubhouse alongside others from the likes of Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. Maddon’s right, and he’s used this pitching-first philosophy to propel his team into the ALCS.

If there’s one quality that ties each of the remaining four teams together, it’s that each of them can hit. They each have at least two big bats, lead-off men that can hit for average, and a bottom of the order that can consistently do some damage. When teams are this evenly matched at the plate, it’s often a single blunder on the part of a pitcher that can decide a game. As we’ve seen in the Division Series between the Angels and Red Sox, it comes down to the pitching. Both teams boasted fabulous rotations and excellent hitting, but it was the Red Sox middle relief and closer that really won the games.


Read the rest after the jump...

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