Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Best&Worst: Best MLB Teams Post-Deadline

This is the second installment of the "Best&Worst" segment and it details the best teams in the MLB after the deadline. The trade deadline has shaken up baseball, as is standard procedure, so here is where I rank the teams after those deals. I decided to remain consistent and just do a top 5 list (I started with a top 15 but the article got way too long). These teams all have a legitimate chance to win the World Series. This is my unintentional playoff predictions (I made the list first then noticed I had a division winner and 4 teams from each league) so call it what you want.

1) Philadelphia Phillies (69-39) - If you watch baseball you should not be the least bit surprised. Besides having the best record in baseball, they are also 7-3 in their last 10 games and on a 4 game win streak. To add to the already stacked lineup, the Phillies acquired Hunter Pence from the Houston Astros. The outfield now has him to go along with Raul Ibanez and Shane Victorino, and they shored up their one offensive weak point which was at RF. We all know how good they are with pitching, their 3.13 team ERA is the best in the MLB, but not many people know they are the second best defensive team with only 50 errors. The Phillies will win the NL East.

2) Texas Rangers (61-48) - The 2010 World Series loser is poised to make it back to the promised land again this season after a couple of overlooked deadline acquisitions. The Rangers main flaw had been their bullpen, and they have solved that lacking area by acquiring Mike Adams and Koji Uehara. The main player losses from last season were Cliff Lee, Vladimir Guerrero, and Jeff Francoeur. Cliff Lee and Francoeur were just rentals from last year's deadline, and Guerrero is an aging veteran at 36. The team did get a significant boost in the catcher position when they acquired Mike Napoli. The Rangers are of the same caliber as last season and the solidified (Adams and Uehara are a combined 4-2 with a 0.739 WHIP, 1.57 ERA, 17 walks, and 113 Ks in 92 innings) bullpen should be enough to put them back in the serious AL contenders conversation. They will Cruz (I had to do it) to another AL West championship.

3) New York Yankees (65-42) - The annual powerhouse that is the Yankees has the 3rd best record in baseball and has been hot recently (currently on a 4 game win streak and are 7-3 in their last 10). Although they didn't make any moves at the deadline for the first time since the 2001 season, I don't think they had to. Their offense, as expected, is one of the best in the league (1st in HRs and 2nd in R scored). Their pitching staff has been better then expected, and has for the most part stayed intact throughout the season. They are tied for the 6th best team ERA above rivaling AL contenders such as the Rays, Rangers, and Red Sox. Rafael Soriano will be back pitching the 8th inning very soon, and Mariano Rivera has consistently shut down the 9th inning over the years. C.C. Sabathia leads the league with 16 wins and defines the word "ace". The baseball world has been buzzing about the non-existent movement by the Yankees this deadline, but personally I'm okay with it. When September comes they will own the AL East crown.

4) Boston Red Sox (66-41) - The Red Sox lead the AL East (the 2nd best division in sports according to me) but "Objects may be closer than they appear" when it comes to the trailing Yankees. Pedroia, Ortiz, Adrian Gonzalez, Youkilis, Ellsbury, and Crawford make up the best offense in baseball (they lead the league in AVG, RBIs, hits, runs, OBP, slugging %, and OPS). They are also tied for 3rd in defense with 52 errors and a .987 fielding %. The problem is their rotation, as after Josh Beckett and John Lester I do not trust their pitchers with the ball. This is backed up by the numbers with them having a mediocre team ERA at 18th best in the league. They will still make the playoffs but their pitching will reduce them to the AL Wild Card spot.

5) Milwaukee Brewers (61-49) - The Milwaukee Brewers are the hottest team in the majors right now, riding a 7 game winning streak. Yovanni Gallardo and Zack Greinke are a formidable 1 and 2 in their rotation, and Shawn Marcum coming over from the Blue Jays has been a nice surprise (10-3, 3.33 ERA, 114 Ks, and 33 BBs in 129 2/3 innings). Randy Wolf has been turning his season around as well. In his last 10 starts he has a 3.14 ERA, has not had an outing of less than 6 IP, and has only given up more than 3 ERs in 2 starts. Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun lead a pretty respectable offense that also contains Cory Hart and Nyjer Morgan. Even with a healthy Albert Pujols the Cardinals won't be good enough to stop them from winning the NL Central.

It was very hard to cut it down to just a top 5 as I previously mentioned. So here are a couple other teams who I think will be playing in October and have an outside shot to make it to November:

Atlanta Braves (63-47) - The Braves have a nice mix of pitching and offense, with emphasis on pitching. They own the 3rd best team ERA in baseball with 3.27. Jair Jurrjens has bounced back extremely well from an injury-ridden 2010 season and in my opinion he deserves to at least be mentioned in the NL Cy Young discussions (12-4, 2.63 ERA, 1.14 WHIP). Tommy Hansen, Tim Hudson, and Brandon Beachy also have had extreme success on the mound this season. The Braves offense has just added a true lead-off hitter (their biggest missing piece) in OF Michael Bourn to go along with Chipper Jones, Freddie Freeman, Dan Uggla, and Jason Heyward. The NL Wild Card is theirs to lose, and if they're playing well they have a chance to make some noise in the playoffs.

San Francisco Giants (61-48) - The Giants are the defending World Series champions who lead their division so I have to include them in this conversation. They are near the bottom in all offensive statistics (29th in runs and RBIs, 27th in AVG and slugging %, and 28th in OBP) this season with the injury of catcher Buster Posey. They acquired Carlos Beltran at the deadline, but at 34 years old he won't be enough to make up for those awful numbers. The NL West isn't the most competitive division so they will still find a way to hold off the Diamondbacks to win it.

Cleveland Indians (54-52) - The Indians have been hurt by injuries this season, especially in the outfield, with Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore being out for extended periods of time. They would not have made this list prior to their trades at the deadline, in which they got a replacement outfielder in Kosuke Fukudome and one of the premiere pitchers in Ubaldo Jimenez. The Tigers are their only competition in the AL Central and they aren't very good. The Indians will win the division and make the playoffs, but I don't expect much else.

-Alex "Skillet" Scarlett

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