Every week, the PL team publishes an update to our power rankings, reviewing the biggest risers and fallers of the past seven days. As always, the full rankings can be found at the bottom of this article…but where’s the fun in that.
Happy July! Last month, we watched a number of teams soar up the rankings as they turned things around after a tough start. Atlanta, Boston, and Cleveland find themselves well within the playoff picture thanks to strong months in which they won 21, 20, and 18 games, respectively. However, not even those hot clubs could match the continued dominance of the Yankees, who won 22 games in June and continue to win at a historic rate.
We’re going to switch things up a bit this week. In lieu of top risers and fallers, I want to spend some time with our top 5 as we ring in a new month of baseball.
New York Yankees – #1 (56-21, – ):
The Bronx Bombers simply show no sign of slowing down as they continue their unbelievable season. Even amid hot stretches from the Red Sox and a 14-game winning streak from Atlanta, the Yankees still managed to win more games this month than either. They have the best run differential in baseball at +150; their three runs allowed/game is the best in the league, while their 5.1 runs scored/game fall just behind the Dodgers.
Aaron Judge is the clear MVP of the team – his 29 home runs lead baseball, and he’s posted a 3.9 WAR and .988 OPS in the process. More surprising has been the success of the starting rotation. Led by ace Gerrit Cole, the staff pitched to a 2.94 ERA en route to those June 22nd wins. The bullpen has been lights-out as expected, although its excellence is coming from unexpected places. Michael King and Clay Holmes lead MLB relievers in WAR, more than making up for the losses of Chad Green and Aroldis Chapman to injury.
Looking ahead, New York plays the second-place Red Sox seven times between July 10th and July 17th. If the Yankees can continue to avoid both injury (Judge and Giancarlo Stanton have – uncharacteristically – been mostly healthy thus far) and regression in the rotation, look for them to truly put a stranglehold on the AL East in July. They’ll get another weapon in their arsenal to do so, as Chapman makes his return from the IL tonight, giving manager Aaron Boone an additional dominant 9th inning option.
Houston Astros – #2 (48-27, +3):
The Astros make a significant jump up the rankings, breaking up the top-3 for the first time in weeks. They more than deserve the boost – they played the Yankees and Mets nine times in a row over the past two weeks. Despite facing the two top-ranked teams in last week’s rankings, Houston walked away from the Big Apple gauntlet with an impressive seven wins, including a no-hitter.
After a slow start to the season, the Astros now have a .640 winning percentage (second-best in baseball) and an 11.5 game lead over the Rangers in the AL West. Yordan Alvarez leads baseball with a 1.070 OPS, Kyle Tucker is on pace for a 30/30 season, and Justin Verlander has returned from his extended absence without missing a beat, holding a 2.03 ERA over 97 innings. Knock on wood, but it seems that Houston’s reign over the division remains well in hand.
Los Angeles Dodgers -#3 (47-28, – ):
The Dodgers’ play this year is probably underappreciated, given just how expected it was going into the season. Sure, they brought in yet another former MVP in Freddie Freeman, but their +131 run differential is only 19 runs behind the Yankees, and LA’s offense has actually been slightly better than New York’s this year. By expected winning percentage, they’re playing like a 110-win team.
Their performance is only made more impressive by how little has gone according to plan. Walker Buehler was often ineffective before landing on the 60-day IL with a flexor strain in his pitching arm. Max Muncy, returning from injury himself, has yet to find his swing as he’s batting just .166. Even Freeman, the blue-chip offseason acquisition, has left a bit to be desired (despite his .304 AVG) with only nine home runs on the year.
Of course, as you’d expect on a team like the Dodgers, there’s plenty of talent to pick up the slack. Mookie Betts is an early favorite for NL MVP, Clayton Kershaw is brilliant despite his limited workload, and even Tony Gonsolin has found himself in the Cy Young conversation with a 1.58 ERA through 75 innings. They’ve got plenty of competition in the NL West, and the Yankees are overshadowing everyone this year, but don’t even begin to think the Dodgers aren’t still a World Series favorite.
New York Mets – #4 (47-29, -2):
Speaking of being overshadowed, the Mets have put together a tremendous few months to begin the year. While Atlanta has made things close thanks to their dramatic June winning streak, the Mets still have a 3.5-game lead over them and a 7-game lead over the Phillies in what was expected to be one of the tightest division races.
Like the Dodgers, they’ve accomplished this despite tremendous losses to injury – Jacob DeGrom hasn’t pitched an inning this year, and offseason acquisition Max Scherzer has been on the IL since May 18th. While Taijuan Walker and David Peterson have both pitched well in their absence, most of the credit likely goes to the team’s offense, which has been the fifth-best in the majors this season. Franciso Lindor, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, and Pete Alonso have all been top-30 position players in baseball by WAR, with Lindor leading the way at 2.5.
With that said, the Mets drop two spots in the rankings this week after the Astros beat them four times in a week. Even with the tough stretch, there’s good news in Queens – they’ll have a chance to get back on track with upcoming series vs. the Rangers, Reds, and Marlins. Even better than that? Max Scherzer is expected to make his return on Tuesday.
San Diego Padres – #5 (46-32 ,-1):
I think the Padres deserve more credit given that they’re keeping pace with the Dodgers at all – let alone the fact that they’ve done so without Fernando Tatis Jr. As of Friday, San Diego is only 2.5 games behind Los Angeles, and they even had sole control of first place at one point this month, albeit briefly.
While Tatis hasn’t played a game this season, Manny Machado has shouldered the additional burden in stride. He leads all players in WAR at 4.3, posting a .327/.398/.545 slash line with 12 home runs, seven stolen bases, and, as always, exceptional defense at third base. On the mound, Joe Musgrove has one-upped his breakout campaign from last season, posting a 2.25 ERA and 9 K/9 across 90+ innings.
The Padres are actually in a bit of a skid – they were swept by the Rockies in mid-June and have lost five of their last seven. It’s a bit of poor timing as they square off with the Dodgers for a four-game set. They dropped the opener last night 3-1 but will be looking to make up some ground in the division over the weekend.
Week 13 Power Rankings:
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)