Sunday, July 3, 2022

MLB Power Rankings: Braves making things interesting vs. Mets in NL East; Yankees keep No. 1 spot

MLB Power Rankings: Braves making things interesting vs. Mets in NL East; Yankees keep No. 1 spot

The Mets once had a 10 1/2-game lead, but might there be an NL East after all?

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On June 1, the Mets won with relative ease, topping a hapless Nationals team, 5-0. I say “relative” because nothing is actually ever easy in Major League Baseball, as we all know. Aces Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer were on the injured list, for example, so overcoming that to sit where they were in in the standings was very difficult. 

Still, the Mets had been making things look easy. They had a 10 1/2-game lead over the defending champion Braves and a 12 1/2-game lead over the Phillies.

Heading into the season, at least the Phillies and Braves were expected to contend while the Marlins were one of the possible breakout teams. And the Mets were heading into the third month of the season with a gigantic lead over everyone. It may still prove to be insurmountable. We’ll see. 

The plot is thickening, however. The Mets haven’t even played that poorly. They split four games in L.A. against the Dodgers, lost two of three to an excellent Padres team and then took two of three in Anaheim. And yet, the standings have shifted. 

The Phillies just won nine in a row heading into Sunday to work their way within eight games. Their winning streak snapped on Sunday and the Mets won, pushing it back up to nine. Still, it inched back to where it wouldn’t be the most absurd comeback of all-time. They aren’t the real threat, though. 

The Braves still haven’t lost in June. The defending champs have ripped off 11 victories in a row and are within 5 1/2 games of first place. Youngsters William Contreras and Michael Harris are providing a spark while veterans Matt Olson, Dansby Swanson, Austin Riley and Ronald Acuña are all hitting well. The bullpen has been great while Max Fried looks like a Cy Young contender and Kyle Wright resembles a frontline starter. They also have that championship swagger. You know what it is. That aura where they walk around looking like they know they are those, um, guys. It’s probably annoying to opposing teams, but that’s one of the many cool things about being the champs. 

The smart money remains on the Mets to win this thing. After all, they still have banked a 5 1/2-game lead. SportsLine projections have them as 80 percent favorites to win the division. The main takeaway would be that this now has a chance to be a race when it looked like a laugher just a week and a half ago. 

Oh, and there’s all kinds of potential for head-to-head fun. 

There are 15 games remaining between the Braves and Mets and also 15 between the Phillies and Braves. There are seven between the Phillies and Mets. 

Buckle up. 

Biggest Movers

Rk

Teams

 

Chg

Rcrd

1

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Yankees

They are on pace to win 119 games. Yes, that would be a record. 44-16
2

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Mets

We know about the rotation injuries, but Chris Bassitt isn’t hurt and he’s posted a 7.62 ERA in his last five starts. 40-22
3

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Dodgers

They’ve now lost nine of their last 13 games. 37-23
4

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Astros

In his last 13 games, Yordan Alvarez is hitting .500 (25 for 50) with three doubles, a triple, five homers and 16 RBI. He actually has an argument for being the scariest hitter in baseball. 37-23
5

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Padres

There was an opening here for the second spot with numbers two through four all stumbling, but then the Padres lost two straight to end the week. Tsk, tsk. 1 37-24
6

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Twins

The Twins have more starting pitchers on the injured list than in their rotation right now. And though the White Sox seem determined to leave them alone, the Guardians are becoming a problem. 2 35-27
7

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Blue Jays

It’s a bit modest, but Vladimir Guerrero, Jr. is starting to power up. He has five homers in 11 games this month. 2 35-24
8

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Braves

Ronald Acuña, Jr. has only played in 32 games to this point, but just six NL players have better MVP odds. Keep an eye on him. 5 34-27
9

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Rays

After two straight division titles, it certainly feels like anything less than first would be a disappointment. They are a whopping nine games out right now, but they have six of their next nine games against the Yankees. Can they carve a chunk of that deficit out? 1 35-25
10

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Giants

What a funny game, huh? The Giants have been mediocre for a while. For example, if you’ll indulge me on the arbitrary endpoints, from April 27 through June 9, they were 17-21. And then they swept the Dodgers in three games. 1 33-26
11

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Cardinals

They are in first place, but only by a half-game and it just makes you wonder if they’ll regret down the road not taking better advantage of the Brewers’ eight-game losing streak. 6 34-27
12

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Red Sox

I was armed and ready to move the Red Sox into the top 10 this week, but there’s just such a glut here in the upper-middle tier that there wasn’t room. Pay attention, though. The Red Sox just went 8-2 on a West Coast trip and they’ve won 22 of their last 32. The rotation injuries are certainly a concern, though. 32-29
13

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Guardians

They are surging, having won 10 of their last 13, but now comes a tough test. They’ll head west for three against the Rockies and three against the Dodgers before hitting Minnesota for a three-game bout that could be for first place. And, actually, after that Rockies series, the Guardians don’t play a team with a losing record until July 4. 2 29-27
14

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Phillies

Remember when Crash Davis discussed superstition with Nuke LaLoosh? The basic point is that if a player or team believes they are having success for a reason, then they are. My hunch is they believe they are playing better due to the manager switch, which means they are. I don’t argue with Crash. 3 30-30
15

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Brewers

This might seem an overly aggressive plummet, but, as mentioned in the Red Sox comment, there’s a big group of teams all bunched together here. Plus, there are all kinds of concerns. The rotation is banged up and struggling, the offense is uninspiring and the bullpen isn’t nearly as deep as a few years ago. 8 34-28
16

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Rangers

Martin Perez would be a fun All-Star story. He came up with the Rangers as a top pitching prospect and while he certainly wasn’t a bust, he never lived up to the hype. After three years away, he’s back with Texas and is having a career year. 28-31
17

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White Sox

I’m not sure Jerry Reinsdorf would allow the front office to fire Tony La Russa, so they need to start randomly sending people to have conversations with La Russa about how great retirement would be. Start slow, but build toward multiple times a day until he’s convinced it’s his own idea. He then announces his retirement before the middle of July. It’s a foolproof plan. 3 27-31
18

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Angels

You know what might help? If Anthony Rendon started playing like it was 2019 again. Of course, I’m sure many of us would like to blissfully go back to 2019, totally unaware of what came next. 29-33
19

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Diamondbacks

Ketel Marte’s full season numbers don’t look great, but he’s actually been very good since a brutal April. In his last 37 games, he’s hitting .338/.412/.551. 29-33
20

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Mariners

Everyone should be voting for Ty France for AL first baseman in All-Star balloting. Who would’ve thought that one, huh? 27-33
21

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Marlins

Sandy Alcantara leads the majors in innings pitched and even batters faced, and he still has a 1.61 ERA. What a year he’s having. 3 27-31
22

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Orioles

Adley Rutschman is a good illustration of how hard the transition to the majors can be. He’s still very widely considered a can’t-miss player. He’s also hitting .179 with zero homers and zero RBI through his first 19 career games. 3 26-35
23

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Rockies

When you loop in range components, it’s always going to be tougher for the Rockies, but they are still one of the worst defensive teams in the majors by almost every metric and it makes their pitchers look far worse than they actually are. 27-34
24

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Cubs

I don’t know what it’s going to take for this front office to cut its losses with Jason Heyward. There is not a single argument where it makes sense that they not only keep him on the active roster, but continue to play him every day. He’s a sunk cost. Do something, Jed. 3 23-36
25

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Tigers

They only have 30 homers as a team. They could hit 13 tomorrow and they would still rank dead last in the majors (also, it would be amazing if they hit 13 homers in a game — the MLB record is 10, set by the 1987 Blue Jays). 2 24-35
26

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Pirates

Ah yes, they are back. After a 5-1 week in which the Pirates swept the Dodgers, they went 0-6, including losing two to the Tigers. All is right with the world again. 4 24-34
27

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Nationals

Nelson Cruz stole a base Sunday. It was his second steal of the year and it got me curious. He hasn’t stolen more than three in a season since 2014. But did you remember that in 2009 for the Rangers he stole 20? And that he had 17 the next season? It had completely slipped my mind. That was my “fell down a rabbit hole” moment for the week. 1 23-39
28

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Reds

Remember when I was all, “hey, look at their record since the 3-22 start and they actually aren’t that bad!”? Yeah, they are. I was dumb. They’ve lost seven of their last 10. 21-39
29

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Royals

Remember when they could’ve gotten a nice prospect package for Whit Merrifield but held onto him for dear life? He’s hitting .225/.268/.316 this season at age 33. 1 20-39
30

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Athletics

They snapped their 10-game losing streak on Saturday. Don’t fret, though, Phelps, er, I mean Fisher family. They lost on Sunday, presumably starting another extended streak. They are on pace to lose 107 games and be one of the worst home teams in the history of the sport. Pitiful. 1 21-41

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