Our newest spot for Fully Loaded Sports with Trevor Amicone. Every Monday and Friday from 5-7pm only on 88.1 Weber FM and 881weberfm.org. Download the podcasts on iTunes by searching “KWCR”.
Trevor Amicone's Just Sayin' blog covers the hottest and most controversial sports topics in the world. Trevor is the Sports Director at 88.1 WeberFM "Ogden's Radio Station" and the host of "Fully Loaded Sports with Trevor Amicone" every Friday from 4-6pm on 88.1 WeberFM.
Our newest spot for Fully Loaded Sports with Trevor Amicone. Every Monday and Friday from 5-7pm only on 88.1 Weber FM and 881weberfm.org. Download the podcasts on iTunes by searching “KWCR”.
1. Philadelphia Phillies (1). Go figure. Nothing has changed at the top of this list. They have the best record in the league and they are playing the best baseball…still. They are getting what they expected out of their stars and they are getting much more than they expected from areas like the bullpen that they considered weaknesses.
2. Boston Red Sox (2). If someone would have told you that John Lackey would be tied for the team lead in wins at this point in the season, you would have thought the Sox would either be the best team in baseball or the worst. Luckily, for Red Sox Nation, it is more of the latter. That’s not even the weirdest paradox in Boston. They seemingly can’t lose to the Yankees, but they also can’t beat the teams they are supposed to…like Seattle who took two out of three to end the week.
3. New York Yankees (3). If they could beat the Red Sox—like, ever—they might be above the Phillies in my rankings. They take care of the teams they should, but shut down when they face Boston. Somehow, the pitching staff (starters and bullpen) has been the strength of this team. Who’d have thought that the rival Red Sox would rather face C.C. Sabathia than Freddy Garcia or Roberto Colon?
4. Milwaukee Brewers (8). Milwaukee has won 16 of their last 18 home runs. With Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun doing their thing, the reappearing of the long lost Casey McGehee makes the Brew Crew lineup ridiculous. They could easily distance themselves in the NL Central over the next couple of weeks with a soft schedule that includes the broken Dodgers, the lost Mets, the plummeting Pirates, and the hapless Cubs.
5. Dan Uggla—err, I mean the Atlanta Braves (4). The Braves, holding on for dear life to Dann Uggla’s coat tails, are cruising right along. Their four-game series with the struggling Giants this week may be the best series of the week. After Uggla’s 33-game hitting streak, he now leads the team in home runs, RBI and runs.
6. Texas Rangers (6). This team is near the top of the American League in most significant offensive AND pitching statistical categories. The bullpen help they got at the trade deadline is proving to be unneeded thus far as the offense has powered the Texas freight train into a more comfortable first-place lead over the Angels in the AL West.
7. Arizona Diamondbacks (Not Ranked). Kirk Gibson has the D-backs in first place in the NL West. Let me repeat that. The Diamondbacks are in first place in the NL West…in front of the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants. At some point, the country will know that and that point might be this week with series’ against the two best teams in the National League—Philadelphia and Atlanta.
8. San Francisco Giants (5). The Giants are struggling to say the least. Now two and a half games behind the surging D-backs, the defending champs are facing the very real possibility of not making the playoffs. Since our last rankings, the Giants have only won five games. Good thing they picked up the hottest name at the trade deadline.
9. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (7). The Angels have started to fade like many expected they would. It’s been quite an accomplishment to make it this far before dropping off, but this week’s series against Texas may end their hopes if they can’t take three out of four. It also didn’t help that the almost unhittable Jered Weaver ran into the Rogers Centre version of the Blue Jays.
10. Detroit Tigers (9). The AL Central is up for grabs and apparently, no one wants it. The Tigers have had ample opportunity to pull away from the rest of the division, but they have failed to do so thus far. Somehow, he’s let the barely-.500 White Sox hang in the race. If the Sox can hang around, we might be in for an interesting series in Detroit at the start of September, when our next rankings come out.
1. (1st last month) Philadelphia Phillies – Pitching has always been the name of the game as the calendar turns to August and the dog days ensue and the Phillies have the best in baseball. Philadelphia swept America’s new favorite team, the Pittsburgh Pirates in a three game series over the weekend and with the addition of Hunter Pence, the rich get richer.
2. (3rd last month) Boston Red Sox – The injury of Clay Buchholz is a huge problem for the Red Sox as October looms. With Buchholz probably out for the rest of the season, Boston is down to two front-line starters after starting the season with potentially five. Now a short series rotation doesn’t look as good to Red Sox Nation even with the historically powerful offense. Going into August, however, The Red Sox should feel safe in their AL East hopes with four of the first five hitters in their batting order legitimately in the MVP conversation.
3. (2nd last month) New York Yankees – The upcoming weekend series with the rival Red Sox may be one of the most entertaining series in recent history, mainly because both teams are depleted in starting pitching and both teams have scary lineups. The Yankees needed to get a starter at the deadline, but the offense will carry them into the postseason. The question will be: How can they get CC Sabathia to start every game in the postseason?
4. (4th last month) Atlanta Braves – Michael Bourn will add even more manufacturing capabilities to the Braves offense who desperately need to score runs down the stretch. The pitching staff is as good as any in baseball, but they are in the wrong division to hope for a title. Their hopes should be safe in the wildcard race though, as the four best teams in baseball all come from the East divisions.
5. (6th last month) San Francisco Giants – The addition of Carlos Beltran could catapult this team into World Series contention again in 2011. Their pitching joins the ranks of the Phillies and Braves and if the Beltran deal jump starts the offense, this team will run away with the weak NL West.
6. (9th last month) Texas Rangers – The young starting rotation has finally started to come into its own while the offense continues to tear up opposing starters. That balance led to a great start to the month of July but they cooled off significantly over the last ten days, losing 7 of 12 games to end July after winning 12 in a row.
7. (Not ranked last month) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim – The Angels did nothing at the trade deadline, which may lead to a lapse is clubhouse morale, but this team didn’t have a whole lot of needs that were available to be met. Any sort of lapse that may come from the lack of deadline activity may have been avoided by the near brawl on Sunday in Detroit. Dan Haren and Jered Weaver, one of the most lethal duos in the game, will keep the Angels from going on any sort of losing streak so expect to see this team hang with the potent Rangers.
8. (7th last month) Milwaukee Brewers – The Brewers ended July on a six-game winning streak, sweeping the lowly Cubs and Astros, but the schedule gets a little tougher with two series’ against St. Louis and one against Pittsburgh in the coming two weeks. It will also be interesting to see how the Brew Crew reacts to the loss of Rickie Weeks.
9. (Not ranked last month) Detroit Tigers – The Tigers have ridden the arm of Justin Verlander into first place in the AL Central. With the Indians hanging around, Detroit made a couple of good moves Sunday, but I actually believe that neither team will win the weak Central.
10. (8th last month) St. Louis Cardinals – The Cardinals really improved their pitching at the trade deadline and that will be huge down the stretch. With the injury of Rickie Weeks, I expect St. Louis to overtake the Brewers by the end of the season, but right now Milwaukee is playing better baseball. The upcoming couple of series against each other will tell us more.
Philadelphia Phillies – The Phillies got the best fit for their team, in Hunter Pence. He will fit right in in Philadelphia where they needed at least one more bat to make the push down the stretch run. He will be a shot of energy for the Phils who already have enough firepower in the rotation to be the favorite in what looks like it might be the best National League side of the playoffs in a long time. The only thing they may have needed that they didn’t get was bullpen help, but who cares when Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee can just go nine innings every night. A-
San Francisco Giants – The Giants got the big fish in the pond in Carlos Beltran and that’s exactly what they needed. The Phillies rotation gets all the pub but San Francisco’s staff is just as good. Pence may have been a better fit in the clubhouse, but Beltran was the most talented player available so it’s hard to complain about what they did at the deadline. They also picked up Jeff Keppinger and Orlando Cabrera. Cabrera might be the most underrated move that any time made at the deadline. Cabrera seems to always find himself in the middle of pennant chases and this year will be no different. He brings a lot of playoff experience and it’s still a mystery to me why he hasn’t found a long-term home yet. The Giants get my nod for the biggest winner at the deadline. A
Atlanta Braves – The Braves ended up looking as if they made a desperation move to pick up Michael Bourn after they missed out on Beltran and Pence, but Bourn may have met more needs than Beltran or Pence could have for the team. For a team with a great pitching staff and a struggling offense, they are going to need to manufacture runs if they are going to compete with the much improved offenses in Philadelphia and San Francisco. At the time of the trade, Atlanta had a total of 42 stolen bases as a team, only three more than Bourn himself has. His defense will also help a pitching staff that needs no help. The Braves had talked about wanting Bourn weeks ago, so it’s not the desperation move that it looks like. But they did need a little bit more pop in the lineup and they didn’t get that. B
Boston Red Sox – The Red Sox made the type of moves that everyone thought they would make picking up Mike Aviles and Erik Bedard. It was a pipe dream for New Englanders to think that they would get Beltran, Pence, or Ubaldo Jimenez. They spent too much money on Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez to make a blockbuster. That said, however, they wanted to get a pitcher to fill the void left by Clay Buchholz’s back injury and they it looked like they had made a great move to acquire Rich Harden from the A’s until he failed his physical. They then had to go to their backup plan in Erik Bedard. The real knock in the grade though, comes in the news that Buchholz is probably out for the season with a stress fracture. Bedard could have filled in alright for four or five starts, but he’s not going to be someone who can lead this rotation into a successful playoff run. If another pitcher in the rotation goes down, the Red Sox are in trouble, no matter how historic their offense is. B-
Texas Rangers – The Rangers didn’t need offense, they could have used another starting pitcher to rent for the second half of 2011 while they wait for their young staff to continue to develop, but they really needed to fill some gaps in the bullpen and they did just that and more. They could have gotten away with just getting Koji Uehara, but they also went out and got Mike Adams from San Diego. The move that made them successful last postseason, however, was to get a starting pitcher in Cliff Lee. This season, the Rangers rotation will not compete with other contenders in experience, but they do in numbers. They may be just inexperienced enough to make an October run again, but they could have used another starting pitcher to solidify that rotation. B+
New York Yankees – The silence out of the Bronx as July turned to August was unprecedented. The last time the Yankees didn’t make a deadline move was in 1998, and they were 15 games into first place at the deadline that year. There hasn’t been a year since then that they’ve needed to make a move more than this season. They needed Jimenez or Bedard or Hiroki Kuroda or Wandy Rodriguez or Ryan Dempster. Anyone! Their lineup is good enough to compete with anyone and it’s the only thing that is keeping them in the AL East race, but they are not getting to the World Series with the rotation they have now. Could you imagine the Yankees trying to beat the Red Sox lineup with Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, and Phil Hughes behind CC Sabathia. They had plenty of prospects to make a trade work, but that amount of quality prospects is what salvages their non-trade deadline. They get to keep their big prospects, at least until this offseason when they’re used in a trade for someone else. D
Cleveland Indians – The Indians did just about as much as they could to avoid the inevitable. This team is simply not good enough to continue to compete for a playoff spot, even in the worst division in baseball. The trade for Jimenez was a great trade for the Tribe. With his velocity back up, and an opportunity to escape the pitching perils of Coors Field it’s a mystery why the big guns like the Red Sox and Yankees didn’t take a bigger risk to try and get this guy, but that is what made him affordable for the Indians. If Jimenez wasn’t enough, they also picked up Kosuke Fukudome from the Cubs and that will make as big of a difference as Jimenez, just every day. Cleveland did everything they could to improve and they did markedly, but despite our good grade, don’t expect them to make the playoffs. A
Detroit Tigers – The Tigers got good fits in Doug Fister and Wilson Betemit, but they may have given up too much to get them. Fister was an underrated arm on the market that the Tigers snuck away with. The Indians made better moves at the deadline, but the Tigers needed less. So they essentially did more than they needed to do, but ended up giving up some future. B-
Los Angeles Angels – There were players out there that could have filled holes for the Angels, but they would have probably had to pay too much in the form of prospects to make a difference. They may have needed a move of some sort to let the team know that they were planning on making the push to the postseason, but I’ve never been a big fan of making a move just to make one. You have to get something in return, and Heath Bell’s price was probably too high for a team who likes its prospects. C
Milwaukee Brewers – They got Francisco Rodriguez, Felipe Lopez, and Jerry Hairston Jr. who aren’t top-tier players, but they are good fill-ins to make a run at the postseason. They couldn’t have foreseen the Rickie Weeks injury and their biggest hole was the bullpen, they did everything they needed to do and thus far, K-rod has worked out nicely. B+
St. Louis Cardinals – They replaced a huge defensive hole at Shortstop, picking up Rafael Furcal who will save a few runs over the course of the rest of the season. The pitching they picked up, though, was what made them a possible World Series contender. Edwin Jackson helps right away in the starting rotation, and the bullpen (the Cardinals’ most glaring weakness) will now be as deep as anyone’s in baseball. Although they still don’t have a marquee closer, they have depth in Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynksi, and now Kyle McClellan in the pen. A
Pittsburgh Pirates – Their pitching staff is as underrated as any entity in sports. They needed bats and they got two good ones who should be rejuvenated by playing for contenders again. Derek Lee and Ryan Ludwick add some pop to a lineup that has learned to manufacture a lot of runs. As they’ve run into a little bit of reality the last couple of weeks, the front office sent a message to the players that they are in it to win it this season. With what was out there for the Pirates to get, they did about as good as anyone could ask. Let’s face it, the fact that we are even grading them shows that this team is in good shape. A
Arizona Diamondbacks – Jason Marquis helps a pitching staff that is already pretty good and Brad Ziegler will be a good pitcher at the back end of games, but they needed a bat. They really became winners by managing to be good enough at the end of July to be buyers not sellers and keep Justin Upton. They could have used a bat, but it looks like they’re going for it with pitching. Good luck competing with the Giants in that regard. B
Jose Bautista. Bautista lead all of baseball in home runs at the break. Is that going to continue? Considering that he hit 31 home runs in the first half and that the next closest player to him is Mark Teixeira at 25, nobody’s going to catch him. Bautista will end the year with the league lead in home runs but he won’t maintain the pace he’s on. He’ll end the season over 50 home runs, but closer to 50 than 60. Buy
Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez had a first half that was even better than anyone in Boston could have hoped for. He led the Sox to first place in the AL East and an 8-1 record against the hated Yankees. He leads the league in batting average by nearly 20 points and RBI by 6. It’s not even close. What’s even scarier for American League opponents, he’s historically been better in the second half. I don’t buy him for the triple crown because he won’t catch Bautista in home runs, but I do buy that he will continue to torch the American League. Buy
Jose Reyes. Reyes has been on fire as the trade deadline looms, but will that last through August and September? He’s clearly a good shortstop, but he’s not as good as he’s playing right now. He will come back down to earth whether that’s before or after the trade deadline. He’s clearly playing for a contract that he will probably get. Sell
Jair Jurrjens. Jurrjens led the National League in ERA and Wins in the first half. Jurrjens is an outstanding pitcher with great stuff. He will be a great pitcher over the course of his career if he can stay healthy. His July was unreal so he won’t continue on that pace, but he will finish the season up there with Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee. Buy
Atlanta Braves. The Braves would be in first place in any other division in baseball except the AL East. This team is for real. They have a great pitching staff that is overshadowed by Philadelphia’s. Their bullpen is even better than the Phillies. They will need to get a bat at the deadline, but we all know that pitching is what gets it done into the fall. They will hang around with the Phillies in the NL East and may even get by them in a playoff series. Buy
Cleveland Indians. The Indians do play in worst division in baseball, so it’s up for grabs…but not for the Indians. They will not be able to hang around in the AL Central. They are middle of the road in every significant category and the only thing that is saving them is timely hitting. Not only will the Indians not win the Central, they will finish fourth in the division behind Detroit, Chicago, and Minnesota (in no particular order). Sell
Milwaukee Brewers. The All-Star Break move to acquire Francisco Rodriguez was an overrated move, but you can never have enough bullpen help. The question is whether or not K-Rod will be help. The real question marks revolve around the starting pitching. Yovani Gallardo has been inconsistent but Zach Greinke is getting things together having won his last five decisions. Their problem is that they play in a deep division. The Pirates are overachieving, but both the Reds and Albert Pujols are underachieving. That won’t continue. I buy the Brewers as a contender in the division, but they won’t win it and they won’t make the playoffs. Sell