The Call to the Pen: August 22nd, 2016

Welcome back to The Call to the Pen! Missed last week after my schedule was thrown off last week thanks to an ice rink not knowing how to freeze water. Neither Matty D nor myself knew how to react; at least I didn’t have to cry myself to sleep after our playoff loss. Probably a sign of how our upcoming fantasy football season will go. BEFORE I dive into another sport, let’s talk baseball. The last two weeks saw the end of A-Rod, the return of Chase Utley to Philadelphia, and the playoff chases starting to form. Let’s get to it…

Power Rankings

Quick Note: As I missed last week, the up/down will reflect from my last ranking two weeks ago. Sorry to any teams who may have been higher last week and you’re welcome to any who would have been lower.

The Bottom:

30) Atlanta Braves (45-79): Even
29) Minnesota Twins (49-75): Even 
28) Arizona Diamondbacks (51-73): Even
27) LA Angels of Anaheim (52-72): Down 4  

26) San Diego Padres (53-71): Down 2 
25) Tampa Bay Rays (52-70): Up 2
24) Oakland Athletics (53-71): Up 1
23) Milwaukee Brewers (53-70): Down 1
22) Cincinnati Reds (53-70): Up 4
21) Philadelphia Phillies (58-67): Even

Nothing too shocking from the teams in The Bottoms aside from the Angels’ continued fall to bottom of the barrel. LAA isn’t that awful to have this record. In fact, their luck rating (games over/under expected W/L based on run differential) is the 2nd-lowest -6 behind Tampa Bay’s -8. The Phillies are the second “luckiest” team at +8 behind the Rangers’ +10. The Phillies “luck” is fairly easy to explain: the NL isn’t that talented and the good teams are capable of exploding to victory while the Phillies were notorious during their hot start (and still are) for the their 1-run victories. Guess who the top-two at winning 1-run games? The Rangers and Phillies. The Angels are interesting to explain though. They’ve played in much fewer one-run games, their pitching staff isn’t stellar but not the worst and the their offense is decent–Mike Trout has been Mike Trout and Albert Pujols has hit a good amount of homers and is fourth in the Bigs in RBI. To put it simply: other teams are just better.

The Middle:

20) Chicago White Sox (59-64): Even
19) Colorado Rockies (60-64): Down 3 
18) New York Yankees(63-60): Even
17) Kansas City Royals (64-60): Even  
16) New York Mets (62-62): Down 2
15) Pittsburgh Pirates (62-59): Up 2
14) Houston Astros (57-54): Up 1
13) Miami Marlins (65-59): Down 1
12) Detroit Tigers (65-59): Down 2
11) Seattle Mariners (66-57): Up 2

I really wish I could have split the American and National League teams in The Middle. Teams 18-12 are in striking distance at the second Wild Card spot for the respectively leagues but the issue was deciding who gets be ahead of their cross-leagued counterparts. I put the Mets ahead of the Royals and Yankees despite being further out of the NL WC2 than the two AL teams because the Mets just won two of three in San Francisco. Same reasoning for the ‘Stros absolute dominant sweep of the Orioles in Baltimore putting them ahead of the Pirates. The Tigers fell back into the middle mainly due to the team seemingly topping off. Detroit is only 2.5 games out of the Wild Card but will need to find some holding to stay in the race. Good thing the Tigers play the Twins and Angels this week.

The Top:

10)St. Louis Cardinals (66-57): Up 1
9) Baltimore Orioles (67-56): Down 4  
8) San Francisco Giants (68-56): Down 2 
7) Boston Red Sox (69-54): Up 2
6) LA Dodgers (68-55): Up 2
5) Toronto Blue Jays (70-54): Up 2

4) Texas Rangers (73-52): Down 1
3) Cleveland Indians (71-51): Up 1
2) Washington Nationals (73-50): Up 3
1) Chicago Cubs (78-45): Even 

The Giants have started to skid out again, not horribly, but still skidding enough for the Dodgers to take control of the NL West. The Cubbies cooled off of their loooong winning streak but they continue to prove they are the best in the Bigs. The race I’ve really enjoyed watching has been for the top seed in the AL–and because the AL won the All Star Game, it’ll determine home-field for the entirety of the playoffs. The Rangers have been “lucky,” having won the most one-run games and a RD of +1.  Texas’ offense has been fun to watch, especially since the trade deadline–Lucroy has exploded and Beltran continues to turn back the clock–but the pitching has been suspect. Yu Darvish can be the team’s X-Factor if he returns to his pre-injury-form. The Indians have a dominant pitching staff that just plain fun to watch and their lineup knows how to come through in the clutch. If you missed it, here’s Friday’s game highlights:

If these two meet in the playoffs, it’ll be a chess match of home runs and strike outs.

Phillies Update:

The last two weeks have been fun to watch, frankly speaking. While we did see the Dodgers pour it on the Phils for four of the six games they played, the slugfest weekend series with the Rockies had its thrills as did this past weekend’s series with the Cardinals. Granted, Jeanmar Gomez has been trending downward since June (if he completes every save opportunity, he’d be the NL Saves Leader), but the rest of the team, particularly the lineup has been fun to watch. Everyone has pitched in and contributed to have their own breakout games. The pitching staff has been more suspect as of late but has had its moments recent. It’s tough to expect the Phillies to be a good team considering how young they really are but nonetheless, they are a lot of fun to watch. Enjoy watching the rebuild move along swimmingly instead of the pain we had to bare last summer.

The one topic I wanted to talk about last week about didn’t get a chance to was the return of Chase Utley. Despite last year’s aggressive slide in playoffs and other incidents, Chase is one of my all-time favorite players behind Ken Griffey, Jr. Completely different players, but both will always hold a special place in my heart because they always gave 100%. To see Chase welcomed back the way he was last Tuesday night made me incredibly happy. He may be a a-hole (to the right people), but he was and always will be, our a-hole. Utley’s aggressive play made it fun to watch the Phillies because you could tell that he was leaving everything on the field, and that’s all I could ever ask of out someone.

 The Phils travel to the Southside of Chicago to play the White Sox for a two-game series before traveling to Queens this weekend to face the Mets.

Disagree with the Rankings? Let me know in the comments

(cover photo via)

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