Drumroll.... who has the coveted #1 ranking heading into September? No major surprise as for the 5th month in a row it's the Phillies. Here is the complete list. Numbers in brackets are movement from last month and their high/low rank for the season.
#1 - Philadelphia (--,1/2) - How good are they? Vance Worley who is 9-1 with a 2.65 ERA isn't likely to start in the posteason, because he's not a top 4 guy in their rotation. 'nuf said.
#2 - Boston (--,1/8) - Canadian Erik Bedard has looked like a solid #3 starter to replace Buchholz who isn't likely to return, and our catchers have gone from a liability to an asset. We can hit good pitchers so I'm not worried about facing Verlander or CC in the AL playoffs. Hitting 4 good pitchers in a row against Philly might be more of a challenge. And if we make it that far we lose a bat (Ortiz?) for up to 4 of the games.
#3 - Yankees (+2,3/10) - All season I kept waiting for the pitching to falter but it hasn't. Ivan Nova has pitched great, and Colon and Garcia continue to exceed expectations.
#4 - Milwaukee (+4,4/18) - I thought I rated them too high at the start of the year, but they're playing better than the most optimistic projections.
#5 - Atlanta (+1,5/16) - My early season RoY Freddie Freeman has been everything Braves fans could hope for, and their top 4 starters are as good as anyone's. Well except Philadelphia's. And maybe the Giants, more on that later.
#6 - Texas (-2,3/10) - Lots of hitting and mediocre pitching will get you in the playoffs, but not sure how deep they can last.
#7 - Detroit (--,7/14) - Can coast into the playoffs as Cleveland has been freefalling since the all-star break, the White Sox never really got a run together and the Twins were never a factor. Might squeek out a short series win with Verlander and um, somebody else, getting the wins, but will not challenge for the pennant.
#8 - Arizona (+2,8/27) - I kept ignoring the Diamondbacks waiting for them to fall back to earth, but eventually the results on the field mean something. They now have some distance between themselves and the Giants and Justin Upton has a good case for MVP.
#9 - Tampa Bay (+2,5/11) - Best team looking in from the outside. Franchise did a great job of replacing all the bodies they lost in the offseason.
#10 - St. Louis (-1,4/15) - With Pujols, Berkman and Holliday their offence has been as good as expected, but their pitching has been problematic all season, and they have fallen too far behind the surging Brewers to make a run.
#11 - San Francisco (-8,3/12) - All season I talked about their great pitching, and lack of offence and wondered if it would be a problem. They managed to win last year with that formula, but it's finally caught up to them and now it looks like they won't catch Arizona. But if they do, their playoff opponents better watch out. They still have shut down pitchers.
#12 - Angels (+1,11/22) - Another team that has played much better than I expected. Their pitching, led by Weaver, Haren and Santana have carried them, but like the Giants, just don't have enough offensive horsepower to sustain a run. Howie Kendrick is having a good season, but Vernon Wells is struggling to get on base 25% of the time.
#13 - Toronto (-1,12/20) - Exciting team with lots of youngsters and promise for the future. If they weren't in an East division, they might be in a pennant race right now.
#14 - Cincinatti (+2,14/18) - Joey Votto is arguably having a better season than last year's MVP season, but Arroyo and Volquez have disappointed and Johnny Cueto can't pitch every game.
#15 - Dodgers (+12,15/27) - Have started playing better lately. They're no longer one of the worst teams in the league like they looked a month ago.
#16 - Colorado (+5,2/22) - Pitching, pitching, pitching. They haven't had any all season.
#17 - Cleveland (+1,12/30) - Their winning like contenders early in the season, supported by an easy schedule, but have been pretenders ever since. They were 33-20 at the beginning of June, 35-45 since. That's a 71 win pace for the season. Maybe I should have ranked them lower?
#18 - White Sox (+4,15/23) - Tough to win a lot of games when you're DH and corner outfielder are hitting .160 and .220.
#19 - Nationals (--,17/27) - Good news around the Beltway is that Strasburg is on the way back. Start planning for next year
#20 - Mets (0,18/28) - They were at above .500 starting in August and I said they wouldn't end there. They went 10-16 during the month. That's a 62 win pace. They might not be THAT bad, but then again they might.
#21 - Florida (-7,5/21) -Streakiest team ever? 8 games over .500 in July, 13 under in August.
#22 - Oakland (+1,4/23) - Good pitching, poor hitting. Is there a Bay area theme here? Unfortunately their pitching is a mirage due to their ballpark.
#23 - Pittsburgh (-8,14/29) - That whole "America's Team" thing died down pretty quickly, didn't it?
#24 - Cubs (+1,12/26) - Who knew that only having one starter with an ERA under 4.50 isn't a winning formula?
#25 - Minnesota (-8,3/25) - Having Joe Mauer play more first base to extend his career and keep his bat in the lineup is a great idea. Except that 1st baseman usually can be counted on for more than 1 home run a season.
#26 - San Diego (-2,17/29) - They have one player with double digit home ruins, and he has 11 and is batting .240. Tough to score runs with that.
#27 - Kansas City (-1,22/28) Fans should be excited about this offence. Gordon has finally lived up to his potential, and along with youngsters Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer will anchor this lineup for years to come. But they still need some arms before they can contend.
#28 - Seattle (--,22/28) - If Felix Hernandez could pitch everyday, well, they might be a .500 team.
#29 - Baltimore (--,17/29) League worst pitching, and don't have the offence to overcome that.
#30 - Houston (--,28/30) See #29.