|Mike Trout leads Halos in battle with A’s for AL supremacy|
It’s the 2/3 mark of the MLB regular season, and the 2014 non-waiver trade deadline has just passed. There are clear leaders across all 6 divisions, but none with more than a 5-game lead.
In the American League Wildcard race there are 6 teams within 5 1/2 games of the final spot, 4 of them with winning records. In the National League, there are 5 teams within 6 games, 3 of them at .500 or better.
Baseball’s top individual player in WAR is LA Angels outfielder Mike Trout, the runner-up for the league’s MVP Award in each of his first two full seasons. Trout is again a leading contender for the award, and he has driven his Angels into a tie atop the Power Ranking.
The PR will now be updated twice a month, and at season’s end. So look here again on August 15th, September 1st, September 15th, and again immediately after the close of the MLB regular season.
POWER RANKING – AUGUST 1ST
1. OAKLAND ATHLETICS
The A’s were the top team in the June ranking and #2 in July. For August they are back atop, but this time they are joined by their division-rival Angels in a statistical overall dead heat. I’m listing the Athletics first, because in the actual A.L. West race they lead by 2 games. GM Billy Beane has decided to go all in to win the division, completing trades this past month to bolster the rotation by bringing in righty Jeff Samardzija and lefty Jon Lester. The acquisitions should make the team’s 10th-ranked overall Pitching become even more of a separator going forward. The A’s are ranked 2nd in Offense, and 9th in Fielding.
1. LOS ANGELES ANGELS
The Angels are 2 games behind Oakland in the A.L. West, but are in total control of an A.L. Wildcard berth, holding an 8 1/2 game lead in that race. The two division rivals are almost certain to both make the post-season. They will meet 10 more times in the final 53 games, 7 of those this month. It’s a 3-gamer in Oakland mid-month, a 4-gamer in Anaheim at end-of-month, then back to Oakland in mid-September. Both teams are talented, but it may be tough for the Halos to keep pace now with the A’s rotation pickups. The Angels rank 1st in Offense, 8th in Fielding, and 12th in Pitching. They could really use another veteran starting pitcher or two, if that is possible at this point.
3. WASHINGTON NATIONALS
The Nats are the PR’s fast-risers. They didn’t even make the June write-up, because they didn’t have a winning record. By July they had risen into the rankings at the #9 spot. Now they’re all the way up to #3 overall, and the National League’s top team. They hold a 2-game lead on Atlanta in the N.L. East race, but just a game and a half on the Wildcard, so unlike the A.L. top teams, nothing is secure for them. They have the game’s #1 ranked Pitching staff, but are rated just 12th in Offense and 13th in Fielding. A huge key has been their return to health, especially getting Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper into the everyday lineup. If Harper can find his stroke and take off, the Nats could run away and hide.
3. KANSAS CITY ROYALS
Despite being on the outside-looking-in of the A.L. playoff race, the Royals remain among the game’s top 5 teams statistically. They are tied with Washington, and are the American League’s 3rd overall team. In the A.L. Central race, they trail Detroit by 5 games, and they are just 2 games out of the Wildcard. However, they just lost 1st baseman and team leader Eric Hosmer to injury. He’ll be back, but the week’s that he will miss could be pivotal. The team is the #1 Fielding team in all of baseball, and is 11th in Pitching. But their 14th rated offense holds them back, and is the weak link that may cause them to miss the MLB playoffs for a 29th straight season, the longest current such streak in the game.
5. ATLANTA BRAVES
The Braves trail Washington by just 2 games in the N.L. East, and are just 1 1/2 games out in the Wildcard race, so they are squarely in the hunt for a post-season berth. But they were the 3rd overall team in baseball for the July rankings, so they did slip a bit over the last month. Currently the club ranks 7th in MLB in both Pitching and Fielding, but their Offense is just 13th ranked. They are one of the most inconsistent offensive teams among all contenders largely due to a debilitating propensity towards the strikeout. At least right now, this has the look of a team that may not even make the playoffs. If they do get in, they could make a quick exit. Atlanta absolutely needs to solve their offensive woes.
5. BOSTON RED SOX
Statistically the Bosox are not a bad team. They rank 3rd in Pitching and 4th in Fielding in all of MLB. But it is their 20th rated Offense that has been a killer. They’ve fallen 12 1/2 games out in the A.L. East race, and are even 10 games behind in the Wildcard chase. At the trade deadline, they swapped out free agent-to-be ace starter Jon Lester for A’s slugger Yoenis Cespedes, obviously addressing their offensive needs in exchange for some of that excellent pitching. It may be too little-too late for Boston in 2014, however.
5. TAMPA BAY RAYS
Statistically, the Rays are not a bad team. This is not a recording (see above.) Tampa dug themselves a massive hole by playing poorly for the first two months of the season. They spent the better part of June and July digging themselves out of that hole. But much like their A.L. East division rivals in Boston, they may have cashed out by dealing veteran ace David Price at the deadline. The Rays are 7 1/2 out in the division, just 5 out in the Wildcard. But the loss of Price might signal a downturn now, at least in the short term.
8. SAINT LOUIS
Best of the rest:
Detroit Tigers, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Milwaukee Brewers, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds
Baseball is setup for one of the tightest multi-team finishes in it’s history. The Athletics made the biggest moves to separate themselves at the Trade Deadline. Right now, they have to be considered the top team in the A.L. and in the game, and I would grant the Washington Nationals that same status in the N.L. heading into the Dog Days of August. No doubt that this month will shake out a few of the above teams from contending status. Still too soon to call any of the races, and that is amazing.