Category Archives: SPORTS

Phillies have something real in Adam Haseley

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Haseley has enjoyed a fine rookie season with the Phillies

 

For the Philadelphia Phillies, an injury-marred season is now winding down to a disappointing finish. It appears more likely with each passing day that there will be no postseason baseball at Citizens Bank Park.

For an eighth straight year there will be no cool October nights filled with playoff drama for fans to enjoy as the calendar and the weather turns to fall.

However, there will always be some positive developments to be taken away from even the most disheartening campaigns. For fans of the Phillies, the play of rookie outfielder Adam Haseley should be one such positive.

Had it not been for the devastating torn left ACL to Andrew McCutchen‘s left knee that prematurely ended the veteran outfielder’s season at the start of June, we probably would not be talking about Haseley in this manner.

In the immediate aftermath of the McCutchen injury, the Phillies promoted Haseley for the first time to help provide some outfield depth in the short term. It was only an emergency measure, and Haseley would play in just two games before being returned to the minor leagues.

The club had traded for veteran Jay Bruce to bolster their bench. Now, Bruce was going to be forced into an everyday role. Unfortunately, after more than a month of solid play, Bruce was also lost to injury.

Haseley had been enjoying a strong season in the minor leagues, one that saw the 23-year-old receive his first promotion to the Triple-A level. He was slashing .275/.360/.481 with 10 home runs, 26 extra-base hits, 30 RBIs, and 38 runs scored.

That production, combined with his display of maturity as a person, resulted in the Phillies bringing Haseley back to the majors. Within days of his return, Bruce suffered a strained right oblique. Returning three weeks later, an arm injury would immediately put Bruce back on the Injured List until early September.

It has been the combination of injuries to McCutchen and Bruce that has opened the door for Haseley to receive far more playing time in Major League Baseball than the Phillies could even have imagined when the season opened.

The youngster struggled for awhile to find his footing while adjusting to pitching talent at the highest level of professional baseball. On August 25, he was hitting just .233 over his first 129 plate appearances.

It was two days later that things began to turn for Haseley. A two-hit night at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates started a streak of three straight multi-hit games, and it all began to click.

Over the last 17 games, Haseley has slashed .327/.431/.531 with a half-dozen extra-base hits and eight runs scored in 58 plate appearances.

In addition to a more consistent level of offensive production, Haseley has begun to put together an impressive highlight reel of fantastic defensive plays.

Haseley has mostly appeared in center field, making 25 starts there with another four appearances in the middle of the Phillies outfield. However, manager Gabe Kapler has not hesitated to use him on the corners either. Haseley has appeared in 18 games out in left field (14 starts) and nine games in right field, including seven starts.

Even with the emergence of veteran Corey Dickerson as an impact player following his acquisition at the July 31 trade deadline and the return of Bruce, Haseley has remained an almost daily fixture in the Phillies lineup.

This is exactly the level of play that a team expects from their top draft picks. Haseley, an Orlando, Florida native, was the Phillies selection at eighth overall in the first round of the 2017 MLB Draft out of the University of Virginia.

One area in which Kapler has been somewhat babying the lefty-hitting Haseley has been in facing southpaw pitching. Scott Lauber at The Philadelphia Inquirer recently quoted the Phillies manager on his thinking in limiting his rookie outfielder’s exposure to left-handers:

He has historically hit left-handed pitching, but we are trying to kind of ease him into this role with some sensitivity and try to set up Hase for success. One of the ways to do that is to try to look for the matchups that might be especially difficult and give him a break in those matchups.

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In looking forward to next season and beyond the question will be, how do the Phillies envision Haseley’s role? Bryce Harper will be manning right field for the foreseeable future. McCutchen will be ready to return in spring training and is signed for at least two more years through the 2021 season. Bruce is signed through next season and should also be back.

Have the Phillies seen enough to hand Haseley the everyday starting center field role for the 2020 season? Will they try to re-sign Dickerson and use Haseley as a backup across all three outfield positions for the next couple of years?

Whatever their ultimate long-term plans, the Phillies seem to have found something in Haseley. Whether he can become a star, even an everyday player for a truly contending team, remains debatable. But he has demonstrated the talent to be counted on as a valuable contributor for years to come.

 

MLB 2019 Power Ranking: Mid-September

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The Oakland Athletics ascend to the top of the MLB Power Rankings as we head down the stretch

 

For the fourth straight period, my hometown Philadelphia Phillies find themselves at 14th overall in the 2019 MLB Power Rankings as we reach the stretch run in the middle of September.

The club also remains ranked in the 7th position among teams from the National League. Sitting at four games behind the 9th-ranked Chicago Cubs in the actual race for the final NL Wildcard playoff berth, the Phillies 2019 season is now officially on life support. They still have not won five games in a row all year long.

The Phillies embark on a three-city, 11-game road trip taking them to Atlanta (3), Cleveland (3) and Washington (5) leading up to a season-ending series at Citizens Bank Park against the Miami Marlins. The Fish have the worst record in the National League, but sport a winning 9-7 mark against the Phillies this season.

As stated each period, my own  feelings have no input into these MLB Power Rankings. Instead, each team’s position is all about actual performance: their results in the standings, as well as key statistical categories.

RANKINGS METHODOLOGY

My formula for compiling the rankings is always being researched to see if it can be improved upon.

Currently, that formula is made up of the following categories: winning percentage, runs-per-gameOPS against, and “Defensive runs saved” as measured at Fangraphs.

However, as the current season has unfolded, some teams have improved dramatically while others have slipped. So, here in September, overall winning percentage has been replaced by each team’s win percentage over their most recent 30 games.

The ‘Win-Loss’ component reflects each team’s ability to actually win ball games. ‘OPS against’ reflects a pitching staff’s ability to control the game and limit damage.

The runs-per-game component acknowledges that teams play various numbers of games as of the time of each ranking. For example, it wouldn’t be fair to consider a club that had scored 100 runs over 50 games as effective as a club who scored 100 runs over just 45 games.

Each club’s place in the four component categories gets them assigned a 1-30 numerical value. Those are added up to determine a final ranking points total.

Where there are any ties, those are broken using each team’s winning percentage over the last 30, and then by their current overall winning percentage since, in the end, winning is what it’s all about.

2019 SEPTEMBER 16 –  MLB RANKINGS

The Oakland Athletics have made a dramatic surge up the Power Rankings over the course of the summer. At 8th place in the first rankings back on June 1, Oakland fell to 12th on June 15.

But then by July 1, the A’s had risen to become the 5th-ranked ball club. They have remained in the top five ever since, finishing as runners-up to the Houston Astros on Labor Day.

Houston ranked first back on both June 15 and July 1, then returned to the top on Labor Day, and now flip places with Oakland.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were the National League’s top team for most of the summer. But on Labor Day they were passed by the Atlanta Braves. Now, both Atlanta and the red-hot Saint Louis Cardinals are ahead of the Dodgers among the NL ball clubs.

The Dodgers, however, have clinched their seventh consecutive NL West Division crown. The following are the “Magic Number” for each team to clinch their respective division title:

AL East: New York – 3, AL Central: Minnesota – 9, AL West: Houston – 5, NL East: Atlanta – 4, NL Central: Saint Louis – 12. Teams have between 11 and 13 games remaining on their 2019 regular season schedules.

In addition, each league’s Wildcard race features three teams within three games of one another in the loss column in the battle for two available spots. In the AL those are Oakland (60), Tampa Bay (62) and Cleveland (63), while in the NL the teams are Washington (66), Chicago (68) and Milwaukee (69).

In parentheses below are each team’s total ranking points this period, as well as their place in the last Power Rankings back on Labor Day.

  1. Oakland Athletics (15-2)
  2. Houston Astros (23-1)
  3. Atlanta Braves (28-3)
  4. Saint Louis Cardinals (33-6)
  5. Minnesota Twins (33-5)
  6. Los Angeles Dodgers (35-4)
  7. Washington Nationals (37-7)
  8. Tampa Bay Rays (37-11)
  9. Chicago Cubs (37-12)
  10. New York Yankees (39-9)
  11. Boston Red Sox (42-13)
  12. Cleveland Indians (42-10)
  13. Arizona Diamondbacks (42-8)
  14. Philadelphia Phillies (52-14)
  15. Milwaukee Brewers (65-19)
  16. New York Mets (65-15)
  17. San Diego Padres (68-16)
  18. Los Angeles Angels (70-17)
  19. Cincinnati Reds (71-18)
  20. Texas Rangers (74-20)
  21. San Francisco Giants (74-21)
  22. Kansas City Royals (80-23)
  23. Colorado Rockies (81-24)
  24. Pittsburgh Pirates (89-22)
  25. Seattle Mariners (90-28)
  26. Toronto Blue Jays (95-25)
  27. Miami Marlins (95-26)
  28. Chicago White Sox (99-27)
  29. Baltimore Orioles (107-29)
  30. Detroit Tigers (113-30)

The next MLB Power Rankings will be the final for the 2019 regular season. They will be released here following the final game of the regular season.

However, if there are any play-in games for a Wildcard berth, the final rankings will include and be released following any such game(s) played.

MLB 2019 Power Ranking – Labor Day

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The Philadelphia Phillies find themselves once again at 14th overall in the 2019 MLB Power Rankings as we push past the Labor Day weekend and move into the final month of September.

In this early September version of the Power Rankings, the Phillies remain right where they were on both August 1 and August 15 among all teams in Major League Baseball. They also remain as the 7th ranked team in the National League.

On August 1, the Phillies were the sixth-highest ranked team and were involved in a three-way tie for the two NL Wildcard spots. They slipped a notch by mid-August, to seventh in the NL, and the standings continue to reflect that slippage.

The club remains two games in back of the second National League Wildcard playoff berth. That is exactly where they stood on August 15, showing just how difficult it is to make up ground without going on an extended winning streak. The Phillies still have not won five games in a row all year long.

The Phillies are now in the midst of a September stretch that has them playing 18 of 23 games on the road. That will lead up to a season-ending series at Citizens Bank Park against the Miami Marlins, who have played the Phillies tough all year.

The Cubs are the team in the second Wildcard spot. That is where the attention of Phillies fans who are still holding out hope of a 2019 postseason berth now needs to focus. The Phillies trail Chicago by two games in the loss column as of this moment.

My own personal feelings never have anything to do with the MLB Power Rankings. Instead, the rank is all about actual team performance: results in the standings and statistical breakdowns.

I take what I have found to be key statistical categories and rank each of the 30 teams in Major League baseball on their ability to win ball games and perform on offense, the pitching mound, and in the field.

There is never any subjectivity or opinion involved. The MLB Power Rankings will again be updated here at my website on the 15th of September, with a final ranking to come at the end of the regular season using the following methodology.

RANKINGS METHODOLOGY

Introduced and then upgraded during the course of last season, my formula for compiling the rankings is always being researched to see if it can be improved upon.

That formula carried two categories over from the 2018 season: winning percentage and OPS against. However, as the current season has unfolded, some teams have improved dramatically while others have slipped.

So, for this month of September that “winning percentage” is being replaced. Instead, to get the ‘Win-Loss’ component, each team’s record over their most recent 30 games is being used.

The ‘Win-Loss’ component is simple, reflecting each team’s ability to actually win ball games. The second reflects a pitching staff’s ability to control the game and limit damage.

Also for the 2019 season, runs-per-game replaced last year’s “runs scored” in order to get the offensive component. This was an acknowledgement of the fact that teams play various numbers of games as of the time of each ranking. For example, it wouldn’t be fair to consider a club that had scored 100 runs over 50 games as effective as a club who scored 100 runs over just 45 games.

Earlier this summer, the defensive component was changed as well. The defensive metric beginning with the July 15 rankings was switched to “Defensive runs saved” as measured at Fangraphs, replacing the previous “fielding percentage” to gauge a team’s defensive effectiveness.

I then assign each of those four component category team rankings a 1-30 numerical value, and simply add those values up to determine an overall final ratings score. Where there were any ties, I broke those using each team’s current overall winning percentage since, in the end, winning is what it’s all about.

2019 SEPTEMBER 4 –  MLB RANKINGS

The Houston Astros, who were ranked first back on both June 15 and July 1, return to the top of the Power Rankings. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who were at the top in my last rankings back on August 15 and have been the National League’s top team all year, have slipped.

The Atlanta Braves are now the new top team in the National League. The Braves and Washington Nationals, who have moved into the overall top ten for the first time this season, are tied for baseball’s best record over the last 30 games.

In parentheses are each team’s total ranking points this period, as well as their place in the last Power Rankings back on August 15.

  1. Houston Astros (24 – 2)
  2. Oakland Athletics (25 – 4)
  3. Atlanta Braves (27 – 9)
  4. Los Angeles Dodgers (31 – 1)
  5. Minnesota Twins (31 – 3)
  6. Saint Louis Cardinals (32 – 12)
  7. Washington Nationals (33 – 13)
  8. Arizona Diamondbacks (35 – 8)
  9. New York Yankees (37 – 7)
  10. Cleveland Indians (38 – 5)
  11. Tampa Bay Rays (39 – 6)
  12. Chicago Cubs (40 – 10)
  13. Boston Red Sox (43 – 11)
  14. Philadelphia Phillies (53 – 14)
  15. New York Mets (65 – 19)
  16. San Diego Padres (65 – 18)
  17. Los Angeles Angels (68 – 15)
  18. Cincinnati Reds (71 – 17)
  19. Milwaukee Brewers (72 – 16)
  20. Texas Rangers (78 – 21)
  21. San Francisco Giants (79 – 20)
  22. Pittsburgh Pirates (83 – 28)
  23. Kansas City Royals (84 – 22)
  24. Colorado Rockies (88 – 23)
  25. Toronto Blue Jays (89 – 25)
  26. Miami Marlins (92 – 24)
  27. Chicago White Sox (93 – 26)
  28. Seattle Mariners (93 – 27)
  29. Baltimore Orioles (109 – 29)
  30. Detroit Tigers (112 – 30)

Confession of a Phillies fan who left the Harper walkoff slam game early

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I have a confession to make. I’m a lifelong Phillies fan. A partial season ticket holder. I write about the team frequently here at my website.

I was at Thusday night’s game in which the team rallied scoring seven times in the final two innings to come from five runs down and win on Bryce Harper‘s walkoff grand slam.

And I saw none of it. None of the runs. No part of the rally. Not live and in person anyway.

I gave up, and I left early.

To set the stage for you, this was perhaps the eighth game that I had been to this season. After an early season hot streak, things had deteriorated, for me and the ball club.

In each of the previous two games that I had been to, the Phillies had been blown out. Not only that, but they had not even shown up. Both times they were nearly shutout, had few hits, and the games were over by the middle innings.

Thursday night was much the same. The Phillies were down 5-0 when the top of the 8th inning rolled around. They had just four hits. Yu Darvish of the Cubs was dominating, striking out ten batters over seven innings.

So, as the 7th inning rolled around, I turned to my daughter with whom I was attending the game and told her that we would give it one more inning.

Really, I wasn’t hoping for much from the Phillies at that point. The club was down 5-0 on the scoreboard and showing no life. This night on the field appeared to be solely for the many Cubs fans in the stands, including one who was seated directly behind us and had been chirping all night long.

No, I was willing to stay through the 7th inning to see, of all things, the Phillie Phanatic. Hey, the big green furry guy puts on a nice show in that frame, dancing on the Phillies dugout roof. He didn’t disappoint, doing a nice number with a dance troupe from Temple University.

And so, as the action got underway in the top of the 8th, we left.

There was a good crowd at the ball park on a beautiful night. More than 37,000 showed up. Many left, both before us and as we were leaving. But there were still many who stayed. Those who stayed to the end would be the lucky ones. Well, at least those rooting for the home team.

We headed to the car, down towards I-95, and up onto the highway northbound. At somewhere between Bridge Street and Academy Road, the Phillies scored a run. I told my daughter, who was flipping through her phone in the passenger seat, that we scored a run. “Yay” she said, with sarcastic feigned enthusiasm.

I dropped her off at her house, and continued on to home. On the way, my wife asked me to make a stop at Wawa. As I drew nearer to our neighborhood, the Phillies had put two runners on base with one out in the bottom of the 9th inning, still down 5-1.

I slipped through the dark and quiet streets of our neighborhood, my headlights streaming out and the street lamps helping light the way, and as I pulled into the Wawa parking lot a base hit by Brad Miller scored Cesar Hernandez to make it a 5-2 ball game.

Things were getting a little interesting. Roman Quinn, who has been hot for awhile now, was coming to the plate. He would be followed by Rhys Hoskins and Bryce Harper. Dare we dream?

As Cubs skipper Joe Maddon went to the mound to make a pitching change, I went into the Wawa.

Got myself a coffee, and the night manager, a nice guy who I’ve seen in there many times, saw my Phillies t-shirt and cap and said “I guess they lost, huh?

I told him that I had been down there, left when it was 5-0, but now they had a little rally going in the bottom of the 9th, down 5-2. He asked who was up, and I told him that it was Quinn. He kind of nodded with an “oh well” look on his face.

As I walked through the store to find an item for my wife, a notice came over my phone that Quinn had delivered an RBI single to make it a 5-3 game. I rushed back to Mr. Wawa Manager to let him know, and he said “guess I better find a place to listen.” I hope he did.

I got my items, paid, and left the store. Back in my car, I heard that Rhys Hoskins had somehow reached base – I just assumed a walk at that point – and that Bryce Harper was now up with the bases loaded.

Harper battled reliever Derek Holland during my four block drive home. I had just pulled in front of my house and was parking my car when…

You know the rest. Scott Franzke’s typically fantastic voice raised with the call “Swung on…hit high and deep…right field…and that…ball…is……goooooone!

Needless to say, finishing my parking job got a little bit tougher with that adrenalin jolt.

I got out of the car and hurried into my house. My wife, knowing that I was on my way and knowing her husband, had the game on, watched that ending, and had rewound it so that I could watch the end.

Watching it on TV was just as dramatic, even knowing how it ended. I rewound a little further so that I could enjoy the entire rally. When that TV coverage got to the home run, chills again thanks to John Kruk‘s now legendary “Oh my God!!” as soon as the ball left the bat.

So, I was there on Thursday night. I was at Citizens Bank Park for the game in which the Phillies rallied from down 5-0 in the 8th inning and 5-1 in the 9th to win on a walkoff grand slam by Bryce Harper.

I had a nice evening. My daughter and I ate and had a couple of beers before the game at Pass & Stow. We enjoyed each other’s company and chatted as we watched the game.

But we were not there at the end. We didn’t get to enjoy “the moment.”

You tell yourself a lot of things when you leave early, as I have done many times over the years. Gotta beat the crowd, the traffic being the main thing. I don’t believe that what happened last night has ever happened in a game that I left early before.

So, the question is – will I ever leave early again? Of course I will. Probably the very next game that I attend. And if the Phillies are losing, even losing big, I’ll hope and pray that I get to listen on the radio and/or watch on TV as they rally again.

 

MLB 2019 Power Ranking: August 15

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The Philadelphia Phillies find themselves once again at 14th overall in the 2019 MLB Power Rankings as we reach the heart of the dog days of August.

Five clubs will make the playoffs from the National League. Each division champion will be joined by a pair of Wildcard teams.
In this August 15 version of the Power Rankings, while the Phillies remain right where they were back on August 1 among all teams in Major League Baseball, they have slipped a notch in the National League.
On August 1, the Phillies were the sixth-highest ranked team and were involved in a three-way tie for the two NL Wildcard spots. Now they have slipped a notch, to seventh in the NL. The standings reflect that slippage, as the club is now two games in back of the second Wildcard.
The Phillies have four games left head-to-head with the Nationals, who now control the top NL Wildcard spot, three games ahead of the Phils. Those will take place in Washington at the end of September.
The Cubs are the team in the second Wildcard spot. The Phillies have captured the first two games of a head-to-head series between the two teams, and are 4-2 against Chicago this season.  On Thursday night, the Phillies try to sweep the series and move within a game of the Cubs.
My own personal feelings never have anything to do with the MLB Power Rankings. Instead, the rank is all about actual team performance: results in the standings and statistical breakdowns.
I take what I have found to be key statistical categories and rank each of the 30 teams in Major League baseball on their ability to win ball games and perform on offense, the pitching mound, and in the field. There is never any subjectivity or opinion involved.

The MLB Power Rankings will be updated here at my website on roughly the 1st and 15th of the month for the remainder of the regular season using the following methodology.

RANKINGS METHODOLOGY

Introduced and then upgraded during the course of last season, my formula for compiling the rankings is always being researched to see if it can be improved upon.
That formula carried two categories over from the 2018 season: winning percentage and OPS against. The first is simple, reflecting each team’s ability to actually win ball games. The second reflects a pitching staff’s ability to control the game and limit damage.
As of my first ranking for the 2019 season, runs-per-game replaced last year’s “runs scored” in order to get the offensive component. This was an acknowledgement of the fact that teams play various numbers of games as of the time of each ranking. For example, it wouldn’t be fair to consider a club that had scored 100 runs over 50 games as effective as a club who scored 100 runs over just 45 games.
Also this summer, the defensive component was changed. The defensive metric beginning with the July 15 rankings was switched to “Defensive runs saved” as measured at Fangraphs, replacing the previous “fielding percentage” to gauge a team’s defensive effectiveness.
I then assign each of those four component category team rankings a 1-30 numerical value, and simply add those values up to determine an overall final ratings score. Where there is a tie, it is broken by win-loss percentage since, in the end, winning is what it’s all about.

2019 AUGUST 1 –  MLB RANKINGS

The Los Angeles Dodgers are again technically at the top of the Power Rankings. It marks a second straight period at the top for the Dodgers, and their third top-ranked position of the six rankings that I’ve done this season.
However, the new top team from the American League was actually tied with the Dodgers in points. That would be the Houston Astros, who held the top position themselves during two of the three periods in which the Dodgers didn’t control the top spot.
Houston was only slotted in at #2 due to the tie-breaker that I use, which is their overall win-loss record. The Astros did pass the Minnesota Twins, who are the only other team besides  the Dodgers or Houston to hold the top position, as the top AL ball club.
The Cleveland Indians continue to move up, now a top five team. The Arizona Diamondbacks, who sit 3.5 games out in the Wildcard race in the actual standings, remain the biggest enigma, with the formula spitting them out as the second-best team in the National League and eighth overall.
On the rise further back are the New York Mets, who have moved into the top twenty for the first time all season.
In parentheses are each team’s position in the June 1, June 15 , July 1, July 15 and August 1 rankings, shown in that order from left to right.
  1. Los Angeles Dodgers (1-3-2-2-1)
  2. Houston Astros (3-1-1-5-3)
  3. Minnesota Twins (2-2-3-1-2)
  4. Oakland Athletics (8-12-5-3-4)
  5. Cleveland Indians (18-18-15-10-6)
  6. Tampa Bay Rays (4-4-4-4-5)
  7. New York Yankees (5-8-9-6-10)
  8. Arizona Diamondbacks (9-5-6-9-7)
  9. Atlanta Braves (12-9-7-12-12)
  10. Chicago Cubs (10-13-11-7-9)
  11. Boston Red Sox (6-6-10-8-8)
  12. Saint Louis Cardinals (14-15-14-14-15)
  13. Washington Nationals (24-19-13-13-13)
  14. Philadelphia Phillies (15-14-18-16-14)
  15. Los Angeles Angels (19-17-19-11-11)
  16. Milwaukee Brewers (7-10-16-19-16)
  17. Cincinnati Reds (13-16-17-18-17)
  18. San Diego Padres (17-20-20-17-20)
  19. New York Mets (22-23-24-25-24)
  20. San Francisco Giants (29-27-25-21-18)
  21. Texas Rangers (16-11-8-15-19)
  22. Kansas City Royals (21-21-22-22-22)
  23. Colorado Rockies (11-7-12-20-21)
  24. Miami Marlins (23-26-21-23-23)
  25. Toronto Blue Jays (28-28-26-28-27)
  26. Chicago White Sox (25-24-28-27-28)
  27. Seattle Mariners (26-22-27-26-26)
  28. Pittsburgh Pirates (20-25-23-24-25)
  29. Baltimore Orioles (30-30-30-30-29)
  30. Detroit Tigers (27-29-29-29-30)

SPOTLIGHT TEAM: ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Previous spotlight teams: Minnesota (6/01), Atlanta (6/15), Texas (7/01), Oakland (7/15), Tampa Bay (8/01)
 
The Arizona Diamondbacks woke up on Thursday morning at 61-60, just barely above the .500 mark. They are a distant second in the NL West Division, 19 games behind the Dodgers in the loss column. They also sit a game ahead of the division-rival Giants.
Manager Torey Lovullo is in his third season at the helm in the Arizona desert. During his first season back in 2017, Lovullo guided the Dbacks to a playoff berth and was named the NL Manager of the Year. Last season, Arizona led the division into September but collapsed in much the same way as did the Phillies.
 
This year, the Dbacks have bounced back and forth between second place and third in the division since the start of July. They have also again mirrored the Phillies in a way, in that they have not been able to go on either a long winning streak to solidy a playoff berth or a deep losing skid to fall out of the race.
 
Arizona ranks as the top team in baseball defensively – by a wide margin – and that is a major reason for their high finish in the Power Rankings. They also rank 8th in runs-per-game, and their 11th ranked pitching staff is also solid. 
 
Despite a strong defense, productive offense, and that solid pitching the Dbacks just cannot seem to win consistently. With a bunch of really good ballplayers, they seem to be lacking that one big star, the “straw that stirs the drink” type player.
 
Here in the middle of August, eight teams are within 4.5 games of one another in the battle for the two NL Wildcard playoff berths. My bet is that by the time these MLB Power Rankings are next updated on September 1, at least a couple of those will have fallen out of the race. My bet is that Arizona will not be one of those.