SEASON 3 WEEK 2 POWER RANKINGS
To say the A's are less than impressive lately is a bit of an overstatement, but a 13-2 loss to the last place Padres and an 11-5 loss to the sub .500 Dodgers in the last week have caused quite a stir in Oakland as of late. Butch Brede (took the loss to the Padres) has been heard murmuring of early retirement, and Oscar Nunnally still has over a month before he's ready to even take BP. As long as they hold the best record in the league, they'll stick at the #1 spot, but things just don't seem as bright as they used to in Sunny California for the Athletics.
Playing the Mounties sure lifts the spirits of a team coming of a tough interleague battle with the AL West. The Giants felt pretty good taking 5 of 9 against the A's, Mariners and Angels, but are sure happy to be back in the NL, where their staff can finally take a breather. Clarence Cooke might be the happiest to be back in the NL as he shut down Vancouver with 8 strong shutout innings this afternoon. Cooke is again on pace to hit 20 wins with a sub 3.50 ERA, and even possibly an All-Star start.
3. Charlotte Dukes (45-27) LW 8
The resurgent Dukes have won 19 of 25, and suddenly look like serious title contenders. The pitching staff has been brilliant of late, as Clint Stephenson threw 7 shutout innings against the Rays while Frank Stockton (who's struggles have been well documented in Charlotte) rebounded in a 6 inning, 3 ER win versus the powerful Royals. No longer will the Dukes fly under the radar, as this team is finally on the map.
Like the Dukes, the Sox have been on fire as of late, winning 18 of 22, and the only reason they aren't ranked higher than Charlotte is due to a relatively weak schedule during the streak (although they did recently sweep the Cubs). Their rise to greatness came in a recent 13-3 whipping of Chicago, pinning 9 runs on young stud Rich Allen. The Red Sox enjoy an extremely balanced attack, as Raul Santana, Stuffy Everett and Jesse House are all having career years.
Another team on a big hot streak as of late, the Twins have won 18 of 24, including sweeps of the Phillies, Senators and Blues, plus taking 2 of 3 with the Royals, Angels and Mets. Scooter Spehr is off to a hot start so far, going 9-1 with an ERA just under 4.00, topping it off with a 7 inning, 1 ER win early this morning versus Philadelphia. Chuck Hoover and Teddy Rivera lead a balanced attack for the Twins, and are looking to lead someone other than the Indians to an AL East title for the first time in the short history of the GAP
The injuries keep piling up in Chicago, but somehow the Cubs are keeping it together. This time it was starting SS Jerry Boudreau and Setup man Louis Riley. The good news is, if this team can survive for another couple weeks, they should both come back around the same time and provide a spark for the depleted Cubbies. In positive news, early MVP polls point to Larry Charlton, who continues to defy skeptics and seems to be getting better with age. The 32 year old gap hitter has been compared favorably to a combination of Todd Helton and a young Mike Piazza, and is proving why with a .372 Avg and a 1.036 OPS so far in Season 3.
The NL South should be extremely enjoyable to watch down the stretch, as both the Astros and Dukes look poised to be in it till the end. Charlotte looks to hold the better lineup, but only the Giants have a better pitching staff than Houston. Kerry Sinclair is only 4-0 in 13 starts, but his 1.34 ERA and .199 OAV have generated whispers of "Rocket" in Minute Maid Park. Luis Lira has been Mr. Reliable thus far, averaging over 7 innings per start, and holding opponents to a .257 average. If the Astros can keep up their strong pitching, they should keep pace with Charlotte all season.
This team is obviously hit or miss lately, and my best guess is that they sorely miss Bosco Jefferson. At times they look amazing, for example, in a 9-0 shutout against the Yankees early this morning. But 3 shutout losses versus the Indians and Yankees in the last week point to some glaring issues with the reigning NL East Champs. The offense just isn't quite there, and unless they plan to win alot of 2-0 games down the stretch, this team could be in some serious trouble. They have the talent in Turner Davis, Eugene Betemit and Ted Hogan, but they are going to need to turn it up, and soon.
The Braves continue to slowly warm up and are starting to look closer and closer to midseason form. The bullpen has been dynamite thus far, as Pedro Diaz, Hamlet Perkins and Donald Xaio all hold ERA's under 2.00 and Zephyr Bennett is right behind them with an ERA of 2.55. It helps when you have guys like Malachi Carson and Ricardo Castro (a combined 16-7 in 31 starts) pitching 7 strong innings every 5th day too. The Braves are only 2 games behind the NL East leading Mets, and could overtake them any day. This team looks built for the postseason, and is definitely one of the scariest October nightmares.
They nearly slipped off the radar this week, and that's just what this team is showing so far in Season 3. They look to be barely holding on, and could totally fall apart at any second. Wes White has looked eerily human thus far, with a pedestrian 3.72 ERA, and it may be partly due to the team trading away staff ace, and best friend of White's Brandon Freeman to the Tigers. The team is going to desperately need Harry Wilfredo and Alfonso Guardado to step it up if the Mariners want to return to the postseason.
Dropped from the rankings: KC Royals (LW 5)