What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions

The Dubsism Baseball Power Rankings: The Labor Day Edition – The Contenders vs. The Pretenders Edition

In my last baseball rankings, I said the All-Star break to me has always represented the “far turn” in the horse race that is the Major League Baseball season. This means Labor Day marks the beginning of the home stretch; everybody has less than thirty games to play; everybody’s made their non-waiver and waiver trade deadlines, and everybody is bring up the September “cups of coffee.”

But this is also the time of year where we discover who the “contenders” are; that select group at the front of the pack who may still be playing baseball a month from now. It’s that time we can start looking at how those teams will fare in that wonderful month of October.  Not to mention, this another great opportunity to see how wrong we really were.

1) Philadelphia Phillies – Previous Rank #1  ↔

What We Said Originally:

Upside: The pitching rotation – who else has three proven aces on their staff, with a chaser of Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton? Nobody.  Not to mention, this team won 97 games last year despite being crippled by injuries, and whoever wasn’t hurt kinda sucked.

Downside: The loss of Jayson Werth means if nobody emerges as protection for Ryan Howard, he won’t see 20 pitches to hit all year. It also means this line-up is waaaaay left-handed, and the Chase Utley injury doesn’t help. Oh, by the way, the bullpen sucks; and that was before the injury to Brad Lidge.

And Coming Into the Homestretch:  Contender

I said it before, and I will say it again. Take all the stuff we said in April and put it in the “So What?” file. This team is the front-runner until somebody beats them.

2) New York Yankees – Previous Rank #4 ↑2

What We Said Originally:

Upside: They are a mirror image of the Red Sox; that offense will score runs in droves.

Downside: They will need to score, because their pitching staff is going to give it up faster than a cheerleader on prom night. CC Sabathia is a legitimate ace, but it gets dicey quickly after that. Is AJ Burnett finished? Is Phil Hughes for real? Do Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia know it isn’t 2003 anymore?

And Coming Into the Homestretch:  Contender

The story has been the same all season – The pitching hasn’t been horrible, but there’s a major warning sign in the fact that Ivan Nova is the next best pitcher behind CC Sa-Fat-thia. Offensively, this team is far too dependent on the long-ball, which makes them incredibly susceptible to an injury or slump-related fold.

3)  Boston Red Sox – Previous Rank #2 ↓1

What We Said Originally:

Upside: They are going to score runs by the buttload.  Jacoby Ellsbury and Dustin Pedroia setting the table  in front of a 3-4-5  Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez, and Kevin Youkilis means there’s is going to be a lot of crooked numbers on the Fenway scoreboard.

Downside: I don’t give a damn what anybody says, I don’t buy this pitching staff.  Jon Lester is over-rated in my book, although he is still pretty solid. The rest of the starters are coin-flips; is the book out on John Lackey? It sure looks like AL hitters have figured him out.  For being some sort  of “wunderkind,” Clay Buchholz walks a lot of guys. Like it or not, this is as good as it gets, Josh Beckett and Daisuke Matsuzaka are non-factors. The addition of Bobby Jenks to the bullpen means, like me, the Red Sox have no faith in Jonathan Papelbon.

And Coming Into the Homestretch: Contender, but could be the first to fold

Again, they are a mirror-image of the Bronx Bombers. The Yankees’ money-sucking hole in the pitching staff is AJ Burnett, in Boston its John Lackey. The difference is in the free-agent outfielder who was supposed to spark-plug the offense. In New York, that guy is a potential MVP candidate (Granderson), and in Boston it’s Carl “Mediocre-at-MVP-Money” Crawford.

4) Atlanta Braves – Previous Rank  #3 ↓1

What We Said Originally:

Upside: While they are a collection of “what-ifs” built around a solid core of just enough hitting and just enough pitching, too many of those “what-ifs” look pretty likely.

Downside: How long is this Chipper Jones thing going to last? My fear is that the “resurgence” we saw this spring will fade, and far too many at-bats will be tossed into a hole hoping the dream returns.

And Coming Into the Homestretch: Contender, but could be great or could be like warm, flat beer

With the addition of Michael Bourn, and the awakening of Dan Uggla, the Braves are who can’t be taken lightly in a seven-game series.

5) Milwaukee Brewers – Previous Rank #13 ↑8

What We Said Originally:

Upside: There’s a love fest in Milwaukee. Everybody loves Zack Greinke in the NL.  Everybody loves the Shaun Marcum acquisition. Everybody loves Prince Fielder in a contract year.

Downside: All this love is still in Milwaukee. The Brewer line-up is thinner than light beer, and that will only get worse when Fielder gets traded.

And Coming Into the Homestretch: Pretender

I don’t care about this latest hot streak, I still don’t buy this team. Granted, the lineup is scary good, but I still look at the teams they are dominating and I’m not impressed. Its’ one thing to beat up on the Astros, Cubs, Pirates, Mets, and Dodgers; I want to see this team beat somebody that doesn’t suck.

6) Texas Rangers – Previous Rank #8 ↑2

What We Said Originally:

Upside:  They can still be competitive in the AL West, even with the loss of Vlad Guerrero’s bat and the inevitable return to earth of C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis.

Downside: It won’t take much to remain competitive in the AL West, which means it more than likely looks to be another long summer in Arlington.

And Coming Into the Homestretch: Contender, if the bats get hot at the right time

It’s still the same. You can go a long way in a division which is a race to 90 wins with 2 guys on a pace to hit ~ 30 home runs, and 4 to drive in ~ 90 runs.

7)  Tampa Bay Rays – Previous Rank #6 ↓1

What We Said Originally:

Upside: The off-season is over, so it can’t get any worse…the Rays have had the worst off-season in recent memory, having lost Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, Jason Bartlett, Rafael Soriano, Joaquin Benoit, and Grant Balfour. At least they can still pitch.

Downside:  After Evan Longoria, the line-up gets pretty scary. If Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez have nothing left, this could be a tough year.

And Coming Into the Homestretch: Stanley Kowalski – They could have been a contender, but…

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…did you ever notice that every team Manny Ramirez left improved? And who saw the resurgence of Casey Kotchmann coming?

8 )  Los Angeles Angels – Previous Rank #7 ↓1

What We Said Originally:

Upside: This team has ownership that isn’t afraid to make a move, and you can look for the Angels to be lurking in the weeds at the trade deadline. Everybody saw this team roll over and die after losing Kendrys Morales; the acquisition of Dan Haren was a move for the future, so don’t be surprised when the Angels make another big mid-season move.

Downside: The whole season may be riding on one move; the Vernon Wells acquisition. It could be a stroke of genius, or it could become a money-sucking vortex in the middle of the Angel lineup.

And Coming Into the Homestretch: Pretender

This team has a complete power outage, with only rookie Mark Trumbo looking to top 30 HR/90 RBI.  The strength of this team is in the top three in the starting rotation – Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, and Ervin Santana.

9) St. Louis Cardinals – Previous Rank #10 ↑8

What We Said Originally:

Upside: At least they still have Albert Pujols. If Lance Berkman has anything left in the tank, if Colby Rasmus can become an All-Star, and if Jake Westbrook can pitch as well as he did in the 2nd half of last year, the Cards can keep the Reds honest in the NL Central.

Downside: This might be the end for the LaRussa era in St. Louis. Even if Pujols stays with the Cardinals, Adam Wainwright’s future is now a question mark, Chris Carpenter’s dominating ways are nearing an end, Jamie Garcia can’t be counted on to be as good as he was last year, and it wasn’t that long ago Colby Rasmus was making trade demands.

And Coming Into the Homestretch: Possible Contender – See Texas Rangers

The pitching staff is mediocre, but the combination of Matt Holliday, Albert Pujols, and the rejuvenated Lance Berkman drives this team. Had they been able to add a starting pitcher, I’m not sure we would be talking about the Brewers right now.

10) Arizona Diamondbacks – Previous Rank #12 ↑2

What We Said Originally:

Upside: Kevin Towers has taken over as GM, so the rebuilding can begin.

Downside: It’s going to get worse before it gets better in Arizona. This was a team on the rise just a few years ago, now there will be a long rebuilding process. It starts with trading Justin Upton.

And Coming Into the Homestretch:  Contender – This  team can hit, and if the pitching is just good enough, who knows…

Don’ t look now, but this team has 10 guys with slugging percentages of .400 or better, which is the major reason they are six games ahead of the defending World Champions.

11) Detroit Tigers – Previous Rank #12 ↑1

What We Said Originally:

Upside: They have a “good enough” rotation, and they added some punch to an offense which already features the best offensive weapon in the AL.

Downside: Does the Miguel Cabrera situation become a distraction? If so, and the key to the Tiger offense goes in the tank, Detroit flounders faster than the Edmund Fitzgerald. If not, they could steal this division out from under the Twins and White Sox.

And Coming Into the Homestretch: Pretender – Just not enough bullets in the gun

This team is all about Justin Verlander, Jose Valverde and just enough other pitching to support a line-up which has 4 players batting in the .300 area, and 4 on a pace to drive in 80 RBIs.

12)  San Francisco Giants – Previous Rank #4 ↓8

What We Said Originally:

Upside: Hey Philadelphia, you can phorget about Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee; the best 1-2 big game pitcher punch is in San Francisco in the form of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain.  Last October showed that.  The same rotation that led them to the title is still intact, and if Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner continue to develop, this entire staff if healthy could be better than the Phillies top-to-bottom.

Downside: We still don’t know if they can hit.  Miguel Tejada was the only upgrade made on the offensive end, and Buster Posey is the real deal, so it will all come down to Aubrey Huff, Pat Burrell and/or Cody Ross, and the newly-svelte Pablo Sandoval.

And Coming Into the Homestretch: Pretender

Well, you can phorget about what I said in April. I’ve watched Lincecum start to believe that anytime he gives up more than two runs, he’s going to lose.  He’s usually right.  This team’s offensive leader in the triple crown categories is Carlos Beltran, and most of that production came when he was wearing a Mets’ uniform.

13) Cleveland Indians -Previous Rank #12 ↓1

What We Said Originally:

Upside: They have one good hitter in Shin-soo Choo, one good pitcher in Fausto Carmona, and one excellent catcher in Carlos Santana, and rumors keep swirling the Tribe has some interesting youngsters down on the farm.

Downside: The heyday for this team was fifteen years ago, and unless you can find a way to add Roger Dorn, Pedro Cerrano, Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn, and Jake Taylor to the roster, there will be more than one long summer in Cleveland’s near future.

And Coming Into the Homestretch: Pretender

Well, they did add a guy from fifteen years ago; Jim Thome. However, that doesn’t stop this team from being the roller-coasters of major league baseball. . We really have no idea how this team was the first to 30 wins, then plummeted to .500, then had a resurgence, and are now floundering back toward mediocrity.

14) Toronto Blue Jays – Previous Rank #14 ↔

What We Said Originally:

Upside: This team has talent that should really give them a bright future.

Downside: The future isn’t today. The Blue Jays had a great season last year due to a rejuvenated offense led by Jose Bautista’s 54 homers. That isn’t likely to happen again, but if it does, Toronto could be in the three-way fight to finish third in the AL East.

And Coming Into the Homestretch: Pretender

Two words – Jose Bautista…and his major-league leading 39 homers, along with 91 RBI and a .301 average.  His consistent production is the reason this team rates this high; if Toronto can put some other bats around him, this team could be on its way to a future.

15)  Cincinnati Reds – Previous Rank #15

What We Said Originally:

Upside:  This team has one of the two young pitching staffs with  huge potential. They also have a reigning MVP in Joey Votto, and all signs point to this being the breakout year for Jay Bruce. Plus, they are in the NL Central, where nobody is going to be any good.

Downside: That pitching staff is managed by Dusty “The Ligament Shredder” Baker, and there’s no telling how long the Scott Rolen miracle will continue.

And Coming Into the Homestretch: Pretender

The Reds have a really nice starter set for a contender in Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Drew Stubbs, and certain parts of the pitching staff. But, they don’t have the supporting characters.

16) Chicago White Sox – Previous Rank #18 ↑2

What We Said Originally:

Upside: This is another line-up that will score runs, especially with the addition of Adam Dunn and the fact they will be no longer wasting at-bats on Manny Ramirez and Andruw Jones.  If  Alex Rios’ resurgence wasn’t a fluke, if they can get Carlos Quentin healthy, and if Gordon Beckham plays like he did late last  year, they could run away with the AL Central.

Downside: Also known as the reasons why they won’t win the division, namely a pitching staff that is completely fraudulent after Mark Buehrle, and the fact they have no depth. A couple of key injuries, and this team suddenly becomes the Royals.

And Coming Into the Homestretch: Pretender

The good news: Their are a lot of people who thnik this team can make it into the playoffs.

The bad news: None of those people are not on the White Sox payroll.

17) Washington Nationals – Previous Rank #17 

What We Said Originally:

Upside: This team certainly seems to get the idea that their time starts in 2012 or 2013, and they are building to that. There future is so bright, they may in fact need to wear shades.They’ve cracked open the piggy-bank, even to a ridiculous level, but in that spend-gasm they have sent the message they intend to field a competitive team built around the young phenoms in Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.  The pitching staff is solid, although unspectacular.

Downside: Timing…this is the year the Gnats take a step toward the future by finishing in front of the meltdown known as the Mets. But this year is the last year before the expectations are going to go up. They can still be terrible this year, but if they finish fifth in 2013, they may just become a red version of the Cubs.

And Coming Into the Homestretch:

It may not be 2012, and it may not even be 2013, but this team has a bright future. As usual,  Jayson Werth is not included in this vision.

18) Los Angeles Dodgers – Previous Rank #22 ↑4

What We Said Originally:

Upside: They have a couple of decent starters, they have some interesting arms in the bullpen, and Frank McCourt likely won’t own this team much longer.

Downside: Here’s the Dodgers represented in punctuation ???????????????????????????????????? This team is nothing but a parade of questions, not the least of which is who will own it this time next year? Who will pay the bills until then? Who, if anybody on this offense is actually going to do something at the plate?

And Coming Into the Homestretch:

The Dodgers are like a Hollywood sequel which has the same plot as its predecessor; Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp, and Andre Ethier tend to hide how truly lousy this team is.

19)  Colorado Rockies – Previous Rank #18 ↓1

What We Said Originally:

Upside: They have 3 of the most exciting young players in baseball in Ubaldo Jimenez, Troy Tulowitzki, and Carlos Gonzalez.

Downside: That’s really all they have.

And Coming Into the Homestretch:

Another season that started in Colorado with promise sees that promise broken.

20) Pittsburgh Pirates – Previous Rank #20 ↓4

What We Said Originally:

Upside: All things considered, the Pirates have actually cobbled together some pieces that threaten to put them on the verge of respectability. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t there yet, but with some young talent like Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez, they at least have something to build on.

Downside: But will they build on it? You don’t go through two decades of being a laughing stock without making a science out of bad decision making. Also, if they decide to build, will they finally invest in some pitching?

And Coming Into the Homestretch:

The Pirates were the “feel-good” story of the year; the last time the Bucs were  over .500 at the All-Star break the Minnesota Twins were the defending World Champions, George H.W. Bush was president, and a gallon of gasoline cost $1.13. But those days, like the Pirates’ play-off hopes, are gone.

21) New York Mets – Previous Rank #22  ↑1

What We Said Originally:

Upside: If you believe in rays of hope, here’s a couple.  Brad Emaus will have double digit home runs and stolen bases for the Mets…his on-base percentage in the minors the last two years was .402 and .395, respectively.  Jose Reyes will score 100 runs, steal 40 bases and hit double-digit home runs…he’s in a contract year, and numbers like that could make him baseball’s next $100 million.

Downside: Right after any of those things happen, we can all join hands and visit the fairy princess together. Not only does the ownership situation threaten to sink the ship, it completely kills the ability to make the moves the Mets need to stay relevant in the NL East. Let’s face it, meltdown, dumpster fire, train wreck…they all are synonymous with “Mets.”

And Coming Into the Homestretch:

They are as much of a train wreck ownership-wise as the Dodgers, but they don’t hae the talent of the Dodgers. This team didn’t have a guy with 50 RBIs after the Beltran trade until a few days ago, and still doesn’t have a guy with 15 homers.

22) Oakland Athletics – Previous Rank #24 ↑2

What We Said Originally:

Upside: This is the other team with the fascinating young pitching staff. The top four starters in Oakland combined for a 3.16 ERA in 700 innings pitched last season.

Downside: Their offense was what let them down last year, and they only added Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham. There aren’t a lot of guarantees on engine performance when you only add two used spark plugs.

And Coming Into the Homestretch:

This team simply doesn’t have enough talent to matter past July, and I’m not sure when that will change.

23) Florida Marlins – Previous Rank #21 ↓2

What We Said Originally:

Upside: Don’t look now, but this team can pitch.

Downside: What will the offense be without Dan Uggla, and what will Mike Stanton do in a full season?

And Coming Into the Homestretch:

This team never recovered from the swoon that got Fredi Gonzalez fired, and Jack McKeon isn’t exactly the “new blood” this team sorely needs. Ozzie Guillen will be the manager of this team about 45 seconds after he get fired by the White Sox.

24)  San Diego Padres – Previous Rank #25 ↑1

What We Said Originally:

Upside: You really can’t beat the weather in San Diego…and they still have a nice, albeit thin,  pitching staff.

Downside:  The competitive days are over, at least for a while. With the departure of Adrian Gonzalez, this team will be in rebuilding mode for a while.

And Coming Into the Homestretch:

The pitching is carrying this team – the Padres are fourth in team ERA, and fifth in hits and runs allowed. However, at the plate they are dead last in team batting average.

25) Chicago Cubs – Previous Rank #25 

What We Said Originally:

Upside: Its spring, when Cubs fans everywhere have hope that at long last, this will finally be the year the winning drought in Wrigley Field ends.

Downside: The Cubs have an average-at-best rotation, and aging stars on offense. Spring becomes summer; the drought continues.

And Coming Into the Homestretch:

The Cubs faithful are now looking forward to year #104 of abject futility. Firing Jim Hendry wasn’t overdue, but it did need to happen.

26)  Seattle Mariners – Previous Rank #19  ↓7

What We Said Originally:

Upside: Felix Hernandez. Here’s how a guy wins a Cy Young Award on 13 measly wins: 2.27 ERA, 249.2 innings, 232 K, 1.06 WHIP, and a .212 BAA. He’s either the lynchpin of your pitching rotation for the next decade, or he’s the guy you will get a king’s ransom for some July in the future.

Downside: The line-up. After Ichiro, Seattle becomes a black hole of offense. This team will struggle to score three runs a game. If this team wins 75 games, I will eat my keyboard.

And Coming Into the Homestretch:

This team has 28 games to play, and has 58 wins. To get me to eat my keyboard, the Mariners will have to win 18 of those remaining games; a .643 winning percentage. I think both my keyboard and my stomach are safe.

27) Kansas City Royals – Previous Rank #29 ↑2

What We Said Originally:

Upside: They got rid of the over-rated and soon-to-be-oft-injured Zach Grienke, and the monstrously overpaid Gil Meche. Now all they have to do is get rid of humps like anybody currently in the Royal outfield and the entire pitching staff except for Joakim Soria, so they can start bringing up the talent they are over-stocked on in the minors.

Downside: General Manager Dayton Moore is a bit of an unproven commodity, so there’s no guarantee that he isn’t going to mortgage the future if the fans expectations suddenly outstrip the team’s talent.

And Coming Into the Homestretch:

This team didn’t move up because they got better; the teams under them got worse.

28) Baltimore Orioles – Previous Rank #28

What We Said Originally:

Upside: Don’t look now, but this team doesn’t suck.  Seriously, it jumped out at me how not terrible this line-up is: Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Derrek Lee, Vladimir Guerrero, Luke Scott, Adam Jones, Mark Reynolds, Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy…and with Jake Fox crushing the ball this spring, Buck Showalter is going to have some interesting options on the line-up card.

Downside: Even though Brian Matusz and Chris Tillman show a ton of potential in the rotation, the rest of the pitching staff is thinner than an Ethiopian swimsuit model.

And Coming Into the Homestretch:

This team is why Mike Flanagan shot himself.

29) Minnesota Twins – Previous Rank #26 ↓3

What We Said Originally:

Upside: No matter what, this team always gets a miracle out of somebody when they need it, as in Jim Thome last year.

Downside: They might need that miracle, because this team really underwhelms me on paper, especially if this Morneau concussion situation keeps dragging on. Besides, to be honest, I’m growing weary of the Twins model – start slow, finish strong, get crushed by the Yankees in October.

And Coming Into the Homestretch:

At least Twins fans won’t need to worry about how they lose to the Yankees in October.

30) Houston Astros – Previous Rank #29 ↓1

What We Said Originally:

Upside:  See the Tampa Bay Rays…hopefully the nightmare is over soon.  Last year saw the Astros had a fire sale which leaves them arguably as a Texas version of the Pirates, although I’m not sure the are as good as the Pirates. After the carnage, they are left with a team consisting of a pitching staff starring a warmed-over Brett Myers and a pseudo-talented outfield. Hunter Pence is entering his prime and coming off a .282/25/91 season and now carries the torch as Houston’s best player. In left field, Carlos Lee still can put up some power numbers, although he’s is begin to show the signs of age. Michael Bourn swiped 52 bases last season and  Jason Michaels can play all three outfield positions.

Downside: Look at the Upside. Hunter Pence is your best player. Brett Myers is your best pitcher.  The credible concept has been floated you are worse than the Pirates.

And Coming Into the Homestretch:

The only bright spot for the future of this team was the new ownership of Jim Crane, but even that is now on hold. This team will suck for at least a decade.

About J-Dub

What your view of sports would be if you had too many concussions

7 comments on “The Dubsism Baseball Power Rankings: The Labor Day Edition – The Contenders vs. The Pretenders Edition

  1. Dick Marple
    September 5, 2011

    You have the Twins way over-rated. I haven’t seen any AAA games this year, but there must be at least 10 teams out there who could win 2 of 3 from this gang of under-conditioned, fundamentally-unschooled wimps. Worst GM and Mgr/coaches combination I’ve ever seen. Watch for my longer rant after the season.


  2. Dick Marple
    September 5, 2011

    To paraphrase Steve Buscemi : “Why do I have to be Mr Pink ?”


    • JW
      September 6, 2011

      Would you rather be Mr. Pink or get stuffed into a woodchipper?


  3. ChrisHumpherys (@SportsChump)
    September 5, 2011

    Have you ever seen better pitching out of three quality starters with double-digit losses (Price, Hellickson, Shields) than this year’s Rays staff?

    These guys are pitching LIGHTS OUT and don’t have the records to show for it.

    It’s September. Can someone please stop hitting the snooze alarm on the Rays bats?


  4. Bobby Charts
    September 6, 2011

    its sad to see my Mets so far down on this list, but man i cant wait for playoff baseball, i think this years playoffs should be great, nice post and work.


    • JW
      September 6, 2011

      Honestly, I thought the Mets have had a fairly good season considering all the drama that has surrounded that team.


    • JW
      September 6, 2011

      How many teams can say that same thing? Angels, Giants, Padres, and to a lesser extent the Phillies all are being carried by their pitching.


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