This week’s Fab 5 is once again led by the St. Louis Cardinals, despite a rough ending to last week in which they were swept at home by the visiting Texas Rangers. That being said, their various number one rankings in polls throughout the sports media is a testament to the overall quality of this ballclub.
As always, there were several changes to this week’s power rankings that included several teams dropping off of our list after making their first appearance of the season in last week’s edition. The Baltimore Orioles, Cincinnati Reds, and Oakland Athletics, all found themselves on the outside looking in for the seventh edition of our MLB power rankings.
Of course, there were also a few teams such as the Atlanta Braves Arizona Diamondbacks, and the aforementioned Oakland Athletics, who deserved consideration, but in the end fell short for various reasons. Also worth mentioning, Texas has won their way back into the top five and the Pittsburgh Pirates are making their first appearance of the 2013 season.
1. St. Louis Cardinals
48-29, Previous: 1
Last 10: 5-5
After starting last week by winning three of four against the lowly Chicago Cubs, the Cardinals were unexpectedly swept at home by the Texas Rangers in a three-game weekend series.
While losing three straight at home is never advantageous, St. Louis managed to maintain their lead in the National League Central and currently own a slim, one-game lead on the surging Pittsburgh Pirates.
As a team, the Cardinals rank fifth in runs (372), second in team batting average (.274), and third in on-base percentage (.335), while their pitching staff continues to dominate, most evident in their major league-leading (3.21) team earned run average. Starting pitchers Lance Lynn (10-1, 3.42 ERA), Adam Wainwright (10-5, 2.31 ERA), and Jake Westbrook (4-2, 2.21 ERA), have all continued to pitch very well, whereas Shelby Miller (8-5, 2.35 ERA) has lost two of his last three outings. Nevertheless, this team is capable of doing great things and is poised to make a deep run in this year’s playoffs.
2. Boston Red Sox
46-33, Previous: 3
Last 10: 5-5
The Bosox have somehow continued to hold on to the American League East lead despite the Orioles, Yankees, Rays, and even the Blue Jays, all being within reach of first place.
After taking two of three from Tampa Bay to start last week, Boston earned a split with the Tigers in Detroit over the weekend. Unfortunately, the Red Sox are still without their best starting pitcher, Clay Buchholz (9-0, 1.71 ERA), who remains on the DL with a shoulder injury.
Also concerning, starter Jon Lester (7-4, 4.57 ERA) has a 7.30 earned run average over his last seven starts after beginning the year an impressive 6-0 with a 2.72 ERA. This team can hit however, and as usual, have been led at the plate by the consistent hitting of Dustin Pedroia (.316 AVG, 45 RBI, 10 SB) and David Ortiz (.317 AVG, 16 HR, 56 RBI). Outfielder-1B Mike Carp (.321 AVG, 8 HR, 25 RBI) has also played a large part in Boston’s recent success, but this team badly needs more quality starting pitching if they plan to outlast the rest of the pack in the A.L. East.
3. Texas Rangers
44-33, previous: NA
Last 10: 6-4
The Rangers have once again made the Fab Five and played their way back into at least a share of the lead in the American league West with the Oakland Athletics.
Much like the Bosox however, this team also badly needs some quality starting pitching and cannot continue to rely solely on the arm of the struggling Yu Darvish (7-3, 2.95 ERA), who hasn’t won a decision since May 16. Texas was an impressive 6-1 last week, taking three of four from the troublesome Athletics before heading to St. Louis and sweeping the Cardinals.
The return of first baseman Mitch Moreland (.277 AVG, 12 HR, 31 RBI), combined with the solid hitting of outfielder Nelson Cruz (.268 AVG, 19 HR, 55 RBI), are just a few of the reasons that the Rangers have won six of their last eight overall. In order to regain their division lead and hold off Oakland for the remainder of the regular season, starting pitching must be the priority and look for this team to be active prior to the trade deadline attempting to improve their rotation.
4. Detroit Tigers
42-33, Previous: NA
Last 10: 5-5
Detroit is clearly one of baseball’s most well-rounded ballclubs and when it comes to the A.L. Central, seem to be the only horse, in a one-horse race. Losing two of three to the visiting Orioles to start last week wasn’t ideal, but the Tigers quickly rebounded on the weekend and took three of four from the Red Sox in Detroit.
Leading the majors in both team batting average (.283), as well as on-base percentage (.351), has helped to give their starting rotation some well deserved run support. Starter Max Scherzer (11-0, 3.04 ERA) earned American League Player of the Week honors (June 17-23) after winning two starts and is 4-0 with a 2.00 ERA in the month of June.
On the other hand, Justin Verlander (8-5, 3.89 ERA) has been having some control issues that need to be remedied in order for this team to make a serious playoff run. Still, Miguel Cabrera (.368 AVG, 21 HR, 77 RBI) is having another Triple Crown-caliber season and currently shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. With the solid hitting middle infield of Omar Infante (.299 AVG, .331 OBP) and Jhonny Peralta (.320 AVG, 34 RBI, .378 OBP) setting the table for Detroit’s power-hitters, this will be a team that nobody wants to play in the fall.
5. Pittsburgh Pirates
47-30, Previous: NA
Last 10: 7-3
Having won five straight has led Pirates into second-place, just one game back of the division leading Cardinals. Overtaking the Cincinnati Reds is an accomplishment within itself for this team, who’s playing the best baseball that the city of Pittsburgh has seen in nearly 20 years.
Rookie Gerrit Cole (3-0, 3.44 ERA) has so far been as good as advertised and starter Jeff Locke (7-1, 2.06 ERA) is second in the N.L. in earned run average, as well as third in winning percentage. While Francisco Liriano (6-3, 2.30 ERA) has looked like the pitcher that he was early on in his career with Minnesota, the Pirates desperately need to get starters AJ Burnett (4-6, 3.12 ERA), Wandy Rodriguez (6-4, 3.59 ERA), and James McDonald (2-2, 5.76 ERA) back from the disabled list as soon as possible.
Centerfielder Andrew McCutchen (.291 AVG, 8 HR, 38 RBI), isn’t hitting for as much power as originally projected and Pittsburgh could definitely use another home-run type hitter in their lineup to offer him some protection. Going forward the Pirates will need to stay healthy long enough to be relevant when it matters most. For now, keeping pace with the Cardinals and holding off the Reds is a full-time job.