The Home Run Derby is tonight, followed by the All-Star Game tomorrow. I, for one, am excited for both and have my DVR set and ready to go, just in case I don't find myself in front of a television. One thing is for certain, these power rankings are almost exactly on par with how many people expected the season to end, with the Boston Red Sox and Philadelphia Phillies fighting to be the best of the best. Not a lot has changed in the top 10, with the top four teams remaining in their same spots.
1. Boston Red Sox (55-35)
The Red Sox have won six games in a row to enter the break while retaking the AL East division lead, a game ahead of the New York Yankees. The Red Sox will have plenty of players in the All-Star Game tomorrow (Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Jacoby Ellsbury and David Ortiz) and their players HAVEN'T backed out of the game. Ortiz and Gonzalez are doing both the All-Star Game and the Home Run Derby, so it is not as if the Red Sox will have no impact this week. They are number one in six of our 13 categories, top five in in eight of them, so it's not wonder they are first in our statistically produced rankings. They have played the best all-around baseball this season so far and are more than likely still the pick to represent the AL in the World Series.
2. Philadelphia Phillies (57-34)
The Phillies still have the best record in the majors. Considering how well the Phillies have been playing this season, they have only three All-Star game starters in, all pitchers (Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels) which should come as no surprise, as they have the best rotation in baseball. Placido Polanco and Shane Victorino, who is injured, made the reserves list. They haven't had a great offensive presence this season, but they haven't had to with the rotation they have on their side. They will try to ride their rotation all the way to a championship, and I don't see any reason why you wouldn't. It is the best rotation in many, many years and could win a championship by itself.
3. New York Yankees (53-35)
The Yankees have a new Mr. 3,000, Derek Jeter, who dominated the Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff over the weekend. He now has 3,004 hits for his career, but is not going to play in the All-Star game due to his lingering injury. He looked fine in the series over the weekend. Alex Rodriguez has also pulled out of the All-Star game, giving way to Adrian Beltre. The Yankees put seven players on the All-Star roster and one player, Robinson Cano, in the Home Run Derby as well. The Yankees have been a powerful team this season, hitting a ton of home runs and driving in a ton of runs. It's no wonder they are in third here, as they have had a good season. It is going to be a fight to the finish in the AL East.
4. Atlanta Braves (54-38)
The Braves still hold the second best record in the NL and are now just 3.5 games behind the Phillies for the NL East lead. They have been able to ride 12 game winner Jair Jurrjens and their pitching staff to a great first half. They have surprisingly finished the first half in the top three of each of our pitching rankings, ahead of the Phillies in two of them but behind them in the other two. This NL East division is looking to be where the NL wildcard team will come out of and unless there are a few big injuries or some terrible distractions, the Braves look to be that team.
5. Texas Rangers (51-41)
The Rangers have won seven games in a row to come into the break as the leaders of the AL West. They were right behind the Los Angeles Angels last week, but are not just ahead, with a one game lead. The Rangers are sending five players to the All-Star game, including Alexia Ogando, the young pitcher who didn't even know he would be in the starting rotation when the season started. There was a terrible accident last week at Rangers Ballpark when a fan, Shannon Stone, fell over the railing reaching for a ball tossed to him and his son from outfielder Josh Hamilton. Stone passed away at the hospital and his family has been distraught since. I can only hope that they can find some solace this week and that they know that baseball fans everywhere are keeping them in their thoughts and prayers.
6. Tampa Bay Rays (49-41)
If the Rays were in any other division, they would be competing for first place. However, in the tough AL East, this just doesn't look to be the season for the Rays. They have had a good season so far this season, led by a young pitching staff and some young players who have been thrown into the fray that is the AL East. They have fared pretty well so far and their record is nothing to be ashamed of. Their pitching staff has been surprisingly effective, their offense has been good enough to get them by, but it will be hard for them to keep up. They are sending three players to the All-Star Game, including the young hitter, Matt Joyce, who had a great first half for himsel, has set new career standards for himself. We will have to see if he can keep it up.
7. Los Angeles Angels (50-42)
There weren't a lot of expectation for the Angels coming into this season, as everyone just assumed the Rangers would again wih the Al West. However, they have ridden some stellar pitching form their All-Stars Jared Weaver and close Jordan Walden. Howie Kendrick was also selected to the All-Star game. Dan Haren has been a rock opposite of Weaver on the pitching staff to help the Angels along their way. They will have quite a bit of work ahead of them if they want to keep up with the high-powered Rangers, but if they can continue to get their great pitching, it could be possible.
8. San Francisco Giants (52-40)
It hasn't been easy for the Giants this season, who haven't had a lot of offensive opportunity. With the early injury to Buster Posey, questions flurried around the division as to who would overtake the Giants for the division lead. Well, the answer became the Giants themselves. They haven't given up and have ridden some clutch hitting (Pablo Sandoval has a 21-game hitting streak) and their great pitching staff to a three game division lead at the break. They are sending four players to the All-Star Game (Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Brian Wilson and Pablo Sandoval) and will look to bring World Series advatage to the NL as the defending world champs.
9. Milwaukee Brewers (49-43)
Taking three out of four from division rival Cincinnati, the Brewers have held their tie for first place in the NL Central with the St. Louis Cardinals. They won two games over the weekend in the bottom of the ninth innning against the Reds closer, Francisco Cordero, giving him four blown saves on the season, two in his last three appearances. The Brewers offense canscore nearly at will and their pitching has been good enough to get them to where they are. Prince Fielder has been an easy pick for the midseason MVP and I expect him to bring the pain during tonight's Home Run Derby too.
10. Arizona Diamondbacks (49-43)
The Diamondbacks were not really expected to compete with the Giants for the NL West title this season, but they have shown critics that they have come to play. Led by rising superstar Justin Upton and pitcher Ian Kennedy, as well as a new offensive catching power in Miguel Montero, they sit three games back of the Giants and will look to make a move after the break. As long as they can continue to bring wins to their club, the Diamondbacks can expect to stay in that division race and maybe even win it by the end of the season.
Honorable Mention: Minnesota Twins (41-48)
Did anyone actually think the Twins could get within 6.5 games of the AL Central diivision by the break? Yeah, me neither. The Twins have fought off injury and have made adjustments, most recently moving Joe Mauer to first base. Skip Bayless from ESPN's First Take last week actually picked the Twins to still win that division, but who knows? I didn't expect them to get to where they are now and I'm sure many Twins fans didn't either. We will just have to see what they have for the second half.
Enjoy the break!
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