Major League Baseball Power Rankings: Deadline Edition

August 1, 2009

by Griffin Cooper… This is week two of my weekly power rankings. With so many rosters having changed in the last two days, it might get a little crazy, so please bear with me!

I will not be taking things like divisional factors into account very much, although they are very real, I don’t think that’s the purpose of power rankings. So we’re now about a week into the second half, let’s see where each team stands.

1. New York Yankees (62-40)

Although the Yankees didn’t make any big moves at the deadline, it looks like they probably won’t need to. Even if the Red Sox are able to overtake them for the AL East title, I just don’t see anyone challenging them for the wild card.

The Yanks have continued to play great baseball, even without much quality starting pitching. Their amazing offense has carried them, and they’ve been helped by a few role players stepping up. They remain 2.5 games up in the East.

2. Los Angeles Dodgers (63-39)

The Dodgers haven’t been playing well over the last 4 or 5 days, but they still have the best record in baseball, and that’s hard to ignore. The only piece the Dodgers added at the deadline was lefty reliever George Sherrill from the Orioles, but he should be able to solidify their bullpen a little bit. They remain the heavy favorites to win the NL West.

3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (60-40)

The fact that the Angels have continued to surge without Torii Hunter or Vladimir Guerrerro baffles me, and I still don’t see anyone overtaking them in the AL West. They’re 11-3 since the All-Star break, and you have to assume that they’ll only get better when they get their star outfielders back.

4. Philadelphia Phillies (58-42)

With the Phillies recent acquisition of reigning American League Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee from the Indians, they have pretty much solidified their playoff chances. With that offense, and with Hamels and Lee heading their rotation, I don’t see any other team even coming close to challenging them. At this point, they may be the favorites to win it all.

5. Boston Red Sox (59-42)

The Red Sox greatly improved their team today, by acquiring all-star catcher Victor Martinez from the Cleveland Indians. They lead the wild card, and I think still have a really good shot at overtaking the New York Yankees in the AL East. David Ortiz heating up as of late hasn’t helped them as much as you would expect, but you have to figure it’s going to be big for them in the long run.

6. Texas Rangers (57-43)

The Rangers have been playing great baseball. They’ve managed to nearly keep pace with the Angels, despite the fact that they’ve gone 11-3 since the break. The Rangers don’t have the pitching to hang with the Angels for the next two months, but I still think they made the right choice for their future by not cutting a deal for Roy Halladay.

7. San Francisco Giants (56-46)

With their acquisitions of Ryan Garko and Freddy Sanchez, the Giants become the favorites to win the NL Wild Card. Offense has been their problem all season, and they made great strides towards fixing it. If their pitching can hold up, which it should, they have a good shot at making a postseason appearance.

8. Chicago Cubs (54-46)

The Cubs just came out of nowhere, surging out of the gate after the all-star break. The reasons they weren’t winning in the first half were mainly the poor offensive efforts from Alfonso Soriano and Milton Bradley, and the loss of Aramis Ramirez to the DL. Now that all three of those problems have corrected themselves, they’re winning games, and they’ve passed the Cardinals and now sit atop the NL Central.

Alfonso Soriano had three long balls and 10 RBI in his last 10 games.

9. Tampa Bay Rays (55-47)

The Rays are a really good team, but they have the ultimate misfortune of playing in the AL East. They still have a shot at the wild card, but it’s a long shot, and they’ll probably have to wait until at least 2010 to see the playoffs again. I think they did the right thing in staying pat at the deadline.

10. Colorado Rockies (55-47)

The Rockies are still right in the thick of things in the NL Wild Card race, and if they’re going to stay in contention they’ll need to continue getting good contributions from both Jason Marquis, and Ubaldo Jimenez. The only move they made at the deadline was the acquisition of reliever Joe Beimel from the Nationals - I thought it was a good move, but I just don’t know if marginally solidifying the pen is going to be enough to give them the push they need.

11. St. Louis Cardinals (56-49)

The Cardinals are the most talented team in the NL Central. They just are. They a great lineup, highlighted by Albert Pujols and new addition Matt Holliday, and they have Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter topping off their rotation. They’re half a game back of the Cubs, but I expect that to change in the very near future.

12. Detroit Tigers (53-47)

The Tigers took three out of four from the White Sox in a big series this week, and re-gained sole possession of the AL Central lead in the process. Despite not getting much offensive production this season, the Tigers opted to go for pitching at the deadline, and they ended up cutting a deal for Jarrod Washburn from the Mariners. Now, Washburn isn’t going to be as good in Detroit as he was in Seattle - Comerica Park is smaller than Safeco, and their outfield defense isn’t as good - but he’ll be alright, and may be enough to get them to the playoffs.

13. Florida Marlins (53-49)

The Marlins don’t have any chance at making a run for the NL East, but with today’s acquisition of Nick Johnson from the Nationals, they most certainly could make a run for the NL Wild Card. I think the key for the Fish going forward will be what they get out of young pitcher Ricky Nolasco.

14. Seattle Mariners (53-49)

The Mariners made the right decision by selling high on Jarrod Washburn today, but they aren’t waving the white flag, and they aren’t giving up on playoff hopes for this season. Their chances are slim to none, but general manager Jack Zduriencik was able to both buy and sell, while improving the team both now, and for the future. I look forward to the M’s contending as soon as 2010.

15. Minnesota Twins (52-50)

Will the acquisition of shortstop Orlando Cabrera be enough to get the Twins over the hump? Probably not, but that isn’t to say they aren’t going to make the playoffs. Orlando Cabrera won’t make a huge difference, but they also have arguably the best 3-4-5 hitters in baseball (Mauer, Morneau, Kubel). I’m not huge on their chances though, especially with Kevin Slowey apparently out for the remainder of the season.

16. Atlanta Braves (52-50)

I’m still not ready to count the Braves out, for one reason: Pitching. They have a great pitching staff, and that’s what has kept them in contention this season. There’s always a chance that an acquisition like the one they made today, in which they got Adam Laroche from the Red Sox, will be enough to give them a surge. We’ll have to wait and see.

17. Chicago White Sox (52-51)

I think the AL Central race is most likely going to come down to the Tigers and the White Sox. I wouldn’t be saying that if not for Chicago’s acquisition of Jake Peavy today from the Padres, and although he’s injured, if he’s able to return within the next month he may be able to carry them to the postseason. It should be interesting to watch that race unfold.

18. Houston Astros (51-51)

Once you get into the middle of the NL Central it’s pretty much a crap-shoot, but I don’t see the Astros going anywhere this season. They’re still only four games back of the Cubs, and 3.5 back of the Cardinals, but I don’t think they have the pitching to stay in that race. They have a somewhat powerful offense, but I don’t see that as being enough in that division.

19. Milwaukee Brewers (51-51)

I feel about the Brewers almost exactly the same way as I feel about the Astros. They have a great lineup, better than Houston’s but they also have almost no starting pitching, probably even less than Houston’s. They have Yovani Gallardo, who is a great young pitcher, but aside from him, almost nothing. I see that race coming down to the Cubs and the Cardinals.

20. Toronto Blue Jays (49-53)

The Blue Jays opted to keep Halladay at the deadline, but they did move another aging veteran. They dealt third baseman Scott Rolen to the Reds today for Edwin Encarnacion and a minor leaguer. I applaud JP Ricciardi for that move, by the way. Since they still have Halladay, they should continue to play respectable baseball for the next couple of months, but due to the fact that they’re in the AL East, they clearly won’t contend for anything. In fact, they probably won’t contend for anything for at least two or three years.

21. New York Mets (49-53)

There’s really not all that much to say about the Mets this year. They’ve been killed by injuries to most of their stars, and it’s impossible to figure out what position they’d be in if not for that fact. They would probably right up there with the Phillies, but alas, that isn’t the case.

22. Baltimore Orioles (44-57)

The Orioles didn’t go into full fire-sale mode at this deadline like a lot of people expected, but they did yet again add to their minor league talent yesterday by dealing George Sherrill to the Dodgers. They continue to have one of the better farm systems in baseball, and will probably contend in the not so distant future.

23. Cincinnati Reds (45-56)

Now it’s clear that the Reds aren’t going to contend for anything this season, so the fact they traded for Scott Rolen today really baffled me. I guess they just don’t like Edwin Encarnacion. As for their playoff chances in 2009, the loss of Jay Bruce to the DL pretty much put the final nail in the coffin.

24. Arizona Diamondbacks (44-58)

I was very surprised when the Dbacks didn’t trade more of their veterans. They don’t have much of a farm system, so you would have thought they would try to bolster it, and they’re obviously not going to the playoffs this season. Should be interesting to see where that organization goes.

25. Oakland Athletics (43-58)

The A’s have had a rough season, but their future looks bright. They have a ton of young pitching talent, on top of recent acquisition Brett Wallace, who could be big for their future, offensively at least. They’ll be back to contending in the AL West before you know it.

26. Pittsburgh Pirates (43-58)

The Pirates got a great haul at the deadline. They knew they weren’t going to contend, so they committed to sell mode, and improved their farm system greatly. They got a good load of high ceiling prospects, highlighted by Giants pitching prospect Tim Alderson. It might take awhile, but if they stick to the plan they could be a great team in a few years.

27. San Diego Padres (41-62)

The Padres are in a similar situation as the Pirates, only on a slightly smaller scale. They really only dealt one valuable veteran, and that was Jake Peavy to the White Sox. They got a really good haul for him, though, and I would expect that it was the right move. As for their 2009 season? Well, they’re having a really bad year. Bad pitching, bad offense.

28. Cleveland Indians (42-60)

The Indians were yet another team in fire sale mode at this years deadline, and they also did fairly well. I’m not sure if I would be happy with the package they got for Cliff Lee, it was alright, but I would almost definitely be happy with the three players they got from the Red Sox today for Victor Martinez.

They’ve had a good offense all year, but they’ve had terrible pitching after the #1 spot.

29. Kansas City Royals (40-61)

The Royals were another team that you would expect to be selling off veterans - the only problem is, they didn’t have any veterans to trade. They really had no one of value that was a realistic trade candidate. The way I see it, the Royals aren’t going to go anywhere until they get rid of Dayton Moore.

30. Washington Nationals (32-70)

Everything that can be said about how bad the Nationals are has already been said. They’re absolutely God awful. One thing I will say, though, is that it was a really stupid move holding onto Adam Dunn. Come on Rizzo.

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Building the Most Expensive Team of Under Performers in Baseball

July 25, 2009

by Griffin Cooper… Inspired by the 2008 Seattle Mariners season, in which they became the first team in history to lose 100 games with a $100 million payroll, I’ve decided to write an article in their honor.

I’ve set out on a mission to put together the most expensive team of under performers possible.

I’m basing this entirely on 2009 salaries, and will not include any players that have only been busts because of injuries. My goal is to easily surpass a $100 million payroll, without taking into account bench players or a full bullpen.

I hope you enjoy.

Catcher - Kenji Johjima

Kenji Johjima isn’t a bad catcher, but his most recent contract was a big mistake, and his production over the last two years just hasn’t cut it.

Not to mention the fact that he has basically been reduced to the backup role in 2009, splitting time with Rob Johnson.

2009 Salary: $7.6 million

2009 Numbers: 34 games, 3 home runs, 12 RBI, .270 BA, .299 OBP

Plus, he’s already proven that he is more than capable of being a starter on a 100-loss team.

First Base - Adam Laroche

There wasn’t a lot to choose from among first basemen, as it seems most of the under performers at the position aren’t getting paid much.

It came down to Laroche or Jason Giambi, and with Adam raking in almost twice as much, I went with him.

His numbers aren’t awful, but his production has been among the worst of all starting first basemen, which makes his fat salary seem pretty undeserved.

2009 Salary: $7 million

2009 Numbers: 83 games, 12 home runs, 39 RBI, .246 BA, .331 OBP

Second Base - Dan Uggla

After having a breakout season in 2008, Dan Uggla is having a rather pedestrian 2009. The power numbers are there, but he’s continuing to strike out a lot while not getting on base very often.

He’s also a really bad defensive second baseman. His salary isn’t outrageous, but once again there wasn’t a whole lot to choose from here. Second basemen just don’t get paid that much.

2009 Salary: $5.3 million

2009 Numbers: 90 games, 16 home runs, 50 RBI, .224 BA, .339 OBP

Shortstop - Jimmy Rollins

Former NL MVP Jimmy Rollins is having a terrible season for the Phillies.

Not only as he gone from 30 home run power to 10-15 home run power in a matter of two years, but he also isn’t hitting for average or getting on base.

Even his stolen base numbers and defense at short are significantly down. He’s just not earning his paycheck this season.

2009 Salary: $8.5 million

2009 Numbers: 84 games, 7 home runs, 34 RBI, .231 BA, .286 OBP

Third Base - Melvin Mora

At the ripe old age of 37, Melvin Mora is still raking in a lot of money…He just isn’t earning it anymore.

His production has been really bad this year for the last place Baltimore Orioles, as he seems to have lost all of his power. He’s not hitting for a whole lot of average or getting on base much, either.

2009 Salary: $8 million

2009 Numbers: 69 games, 3 home runs, 24 RBI, .267 BA, .333 OBP

Left Field - Alfonso Soriano

Alfonso Soriano is making a ridiculous amount of money, but isn’t coming anywhere near earning it in 2009. He’s hitting for some power, but he’s striking out a lot and not getting on base nearly enough.

The Cubs have already tried benching him and moving him down in the order, but nothing has seemed to work so far. That huge contract is beginning to look more and more like a huge mistake.

2009 Salary: $17 million

2009 Numbers: 82 games, 14 home runs, 33 RBI, .234 BA, .301 OBP

Center Field - Chris Young

Chris Young isn’t getting paid all that much, but he’s having such an awful year I felt like I had to include him. The little money the Diamondbacks are paying him for this season is being completely wasted.

He’s barely hitting for any power, he’s not walking, and he’s not getting hits. That pretty much sums it up.

2009 Salary: $1.9 million

2009 Numbers: 82 games, 6 home runs, 25 RBI, .198 BA, .292 OBP

Right Field - Milton Bradley

His lack of production coupled with his bad attitude has almost definitely made the Cubs regret this signing. You can’t really blame them, though, as he appeared to have turned his career around with the Rangers in 2008.

Unfortunately, he’s back to his old ways with the Cubs in 2009. Like many of his teammates, he just isn’t getting the job done, not hitting for power or average.

2009 Salary: $7 million

2009 Numbers: 74 games, 6 home runs, 21 RBI, .239 BA, .374 OBP

Starting Pitcher - Barry Zito

The Giants are still hurting from what may go down as one of the worst signings in baseball history.

You can’t blame them for signing Zito, as he had been an ace in Oakland, but they had to know they were taking a huge risk by giving him such a huge contract.

He’s been a little bit better this season than any other with the Giants, but he’s still having a mediocre season, and that’s not what the Giants paid for.

2009 Salary: $18.5 million

2009 Numbers: 19 games started, 5 wins, 9 losses, 80 strike outs, 5.05 ERA, 1.41 WHIP

Starting Pitcher - Carlos Silva

In yet another terrible Bill Bavasi move, the Mariners signed Carlos Silva to a fat contract following the 2007 season.

Silva had been okay with the Twins, but he has been absolutely terrible since signing with the Mariners.

He went 4-16 in 2008, with a 6.46 ERA, and looked as though he was attempting to do even worse than that in 2009 before landing on the DL.

2009 Salary: $12.2 million

2009 Numbers: 6 games started, 1 win, 3 losses, 10 strike outs, 8.48 ERA, 1.64 WHIP

Starting Pitcher - Scott Kazmir

After being a big part of the Rays World Series run in 2008, Scott Kazmir has come back with a mediocre first half of 2009. He’s getting paid nearly twice as much as last season, but he’s pitching about half as well.

He’s still young, and has a lot of talent, so you have to think the Rays will be able to get him back on track. For now though, he isn’t earning his money.

2009 Salary: $6 million

2009 Numbers: 13 games started, 4 wins, 5 losses, 51 strike outs, 6.93 ERA, 1.79 WHIP

Starting Pitcher - Bronson Arroyo

Bronson Arroyo went from a pitcher with ace type numbers in 2006, to a mediocre pitcher getting overpaid in 2008, and especially 2009.

The Reds offered him a generous extension in early 2007, and unfortunately it hasn’t really worked out for them this far. He’s pulling in a lot of cash this season, but statistically is having one of his worst years.

2009 Salary: $10.1 million

2009 Numbers: 19 games started, 10 wins, 8 losses, 65 strikeouts, 5.07 ERA, 1.46 WHIP

Starting Pitcher - Chris Young

Wow, both of the Chris Young’s are under performing this season. Now, this Chris Young hasn’t been nearly as bad as the other, but he is having a disappointing season.

The Padres aren’t paying him a huge salary, but he’s making decent money without doing much for it. He’s been on the DL for awhile now, but his numbers were pedestrian when he was healthy.

2009 Salary: $4.6 million

2009 Numbers: 14 games started, 4 wins, 6 losses, 50 strike outs, 5.21 ERA, 1.45 WHIP

Reliever - Miguel Batista

After Miguel had a disastrous season as a starter in 2008, the Mariners moved him to the bullpen. Now he’s been slightly better in relief, but he’s still been mediocre and is ridiculously overpaid.

I’m not sure where I could find out for sure, but I would think he has to be one of the highest paid non-closer relievers in the game.

2009 Salary: $9.5 million

2009 Numbers: 34 games, 8 holds, 30 strike outs, 3.33 ERA, 1.50 WHIP

Closer - Brad Lidge

After having a phenomenal 2008 season, in which he did not blow a single save, Brad Lidge has been almost the exact opposite in 2009.

He has been a little better as of late, but he had an atrocious first half, blowing six saves and posting awful numbers.

The Phillies are leading the NL East in spite of Lidge, unlike last year where he was a huge contributor.

2009 Salary: $12 million

2009 Numbers: 36 games, 19 saves, 6 blown saves, 37 strike outs, 7.09 ERA, 1.85 WHIP

How’d We Do?

So, with all of those players, my final payroll comes to $135.2 million. Success!

Now, how bad of a team would that be? Usually, that team would look pretty good on paper, but with the way they have performed this year, I’d say that’s close to a 100-loss team.

With so many horrible contracts out there, I sincerely hope that in the future, general managers will be more cautious before serving up those eight-year, $120 million contracts. I hope you enjoyed.

Honorable Mention:

Magglio Ordonez, Kerry Wood, David Ortiz, Jeff Suppan, Vernon Wells, JJ Putz, JD Drew, Jose Guillen, Julio Lugo, Garrett Atkins, Austin Kearns, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Chien-Ming Wang, Gary Matthews Jr., Kosuke Fukudome, Dontrelle Willis, Jason Giambi, BJ Ryan, Luis Castillo

If you have any other ideas for honorable mentions, please let me know!

Or check out my Mariners blog at http://sodomojo.com

Major League Baseball Power Rankings: A Shift in the East

July 24, 2009

by Griffin Cooper… I’ve decided to start a series of weekly MLB power rankings. My rankings will, for the most part, be based on standings, and how the team has been playing lately. If a team has been over performing all year, hey, they’re playing good baseball, and they’re going to be high up in my rankings.

I will not be taking things like divisional factors into account very much, although they are very real, I don’t think that’s the purpose of power rankings. So we’re now about a week into the second half, let’s see where each team stands.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers (61-34)

The Dodgers have continued to play great baseball since the return of Manny, and continue to be the heavy favorite in the NL West. They’re currently riding a five game winning streak, highlighted by Manny’s go ahead, pinch hit, grand slam against the Cincinnati Reds last night.

2. New York Yankees (57-37)

After spending most of the season in second place, the Yanks finally overtook the Red Sox for sole possession of first place in the powerful AL East this week. Increased contributions as of late from players like Hideki Matsui, AJ Burnett, A-Rod, and Phil Hughes have played a big part in their recent surge.

3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (55-38)

As much as it pains me to say this, the Angels are basically unbeatable right now. Yes, their last three wins have been against the lowly Royals, but they also completed a three game sweep against the Yankees just before the all-star break.

What’s even more amazing, is that they’re 9-1 since losing star outfielders Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero to injuries.

4. Boston Red Sox (55-39)

They’re having a bad week, but let’s not forget that they’re still the Red Sox. They are still an incredibly talented team, and you can never count them out.

Their recent acquisition of Adam Laroche from the Pirates, for virtually nothing, may help them out in the near future. They’ve lost their last five, but they’re still only two games behind the Yanks.

5. Philadelphia Phillies (53-39)

The Phils recently had a nine game winning streak by the Chicago Cubs, but that streak has them now sitting six games up on the Braves and Marlins, and they are starting to establish themselves as the very heavy favorite in the NL East.

Having Raul Ibanez healthy again has been big for them, and if they’re able to acquire Roy Halladay they can pretty much start thinking about the playoffs.

6. Tampa Bay Rays (52-44)

The Rays are going to have a really tough time passing both the Red Sox and the Yankees, but the wild card may still be a very realistic possibility for them. Word has it that they have entered the Halladay sweepstakes, and also have their eyes on the Indians’ veteran catcher Victor Martinez.

Acquiring either of those two would be huge for them.

7. Colorado Rockies (52-43)

The surging Rockies have now passed the surprising Giants for the NL wild card lead, and their offense has been no little part of that. Brad Hawpe and Todd Helton have both been red hot, while Jason Marquis and Ubaldo Jimenez are both having great years to anchor their pitching staff.

8. St. Louis Cardinals (51-46)

The Cards’ NL Central lead has diminished to one game, due to a sweep at the hands of the Astros, but I would still consider them the favorite in that division. It is also rumored the they have been talking to the A’s about a possible trade sending Matt Holliday to St. Louis.

With Pujols and Holliday at the heart of their order, and Carpenter and Wainwright at the top of their rotation, I don’t see how any team would be able to challenge them.

9. Texas Rangers (52-41)

Despite having mediocre pitching and a streaky offense, the Texas Rangers have been able to hang tough in the surprising AL West.

Their much improved defense has been huge, mostly due to rookie shortstop phenom Elvis Andrus. (Getting Michael Young to a position that doesn’t require much range helped, too.)

Unfortunately, the Rangers don’t have the budget to take on any salaries, which may prevent them from keeping up with the Angels.

Author Poll

Who is currently the best team in baseball?

10. Seattle Mariners (51-44)

The Mariners defense and pitching has continued to keep them in the AL West race, and they are seven games over .500 despite having a lackluster offense.

General manager Jack Zduriencik is going to have some tough decisions to make. But if they can have a good last week before the deadline, he may acquire a bat, which would give them a huge boost.

11. San Francisco Giants (51-44)

The San Francisco Giants are still very much in the NL wild card race, almost exclusively due to their pitching. Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain are both having Cy Young caliber years at the top of their rotation, and they have been able to win despite having almost no offense to speak of.

If they can acquire just one impact bat, watch out Rockies.

12. Chicago White Sox (50-45)

Don’t be surprised to see the White Sox, who are now tied for first place in the AL Central, go on a surge, now that they have their star left fielder Carlos Quentin back from the DL.

Also very worth noting, Mark Buehrle pitched a perfect game today against the Rays, the 18th one pitched in history, and the first one by a White Sox pitcher since the 20’s.

13. Chicago Cubs (48-45)

Don’t look now, but the under performing Cubs are right back in the thick of things in the NL Central. Despite terrible first half performances by players like Alfonso Soriano and Milton Bradley, guys like Derrek Lee and Carlos Zambrano have kept them very much in contention. Look for them to have a good second half.

14. Detroit Tigers (49-44)

Great first half performances by Edwin Jackson and Justin Verlander are what got the Tigers to first place, but it’s going to take some offense to keep them there.

Brandon Inge has picked up a lot of the offensive slack, but his knees are in bad shape and they are probably going to need to pick up a bat before the deadline if they want to take that division from the Sox.

15. Houston Astros (49-46)

The red hot Astros just finished off a three game sweep of the division leading St. Louis Cardinals, and now find themselves only one game back of the division lead. They are still very much in that race, but today’s loss of Lance Berkman to the DL could hurt their chances a lot.

16. Atlanta Braves (49-47)

The Atlanta Braves are not out contention yet, but with the way the Phillies are playing it’s going to take the acquisition of a big bat to keep them in the NL East race.

If their two young aces, Jair Jurrjens and Javier Vasquez, can pitch as well in the second half as they did in the first half, the Braves may at least have a shot at challenging the Giants and Rockies for the wild card.

17. Florida Marlins (49-47)

The Fish have just continued to hang tough this year, mainly propelled by the excellent season their star shortstop Hanley Ramirez is having. Due to the fact that they have two pitchers like Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco (who has been very unlucky this year), it’s still tough to talk about wild card contenders without mentioning them.

18. Minnesota Twins (48-47)

The Twinkies are still right in the mix in the wide open AL Central, and have as good of a chance at taking that division as anyone. They have three of the top hitters in baseball on their team, but the key to them making a second half run is going to be pitching.

Acquiring a good bullpen arm or a solid starter could make a big difference for them.

19. Milwaukee Brewers (48-47)

The Brewers have a great offense, highlighted by sluggers Ryan Braun and home run derby champ Prince Fielder. But I just don’t think they have the pitching to challenge the Cardinals. Going after someone like Jarrod Washburn or Erik Bedard, or both, might be a good idea.

20. Toronto Blue Jays (47-49)

The Jays are probably the best example of a team that would be a contender if they were in any other division. But unfortunately, they’re in the AL East, the toughest division in baseball, and they will continue to be.

They’ve gotten a lot of good performances this year, from guys like Aaron Hill, Adam Lind, Marco Scutaro, and Roy Halladay, but they won’t contend for anything this year and should be in full on sell mode.

21. Cincinnati Reds (44-50)

The loss of young outfielder Jay Bruce, possibly for the rest of the season, should get rid of any thoughts the Reds had of making the playoffs. They aren’t quite there yet, in any aspect of the game, but they have the type of young talent that could help them make a splash in 2010.

22. Baltimore Orioles (41-53)

The Orioles are in a similar situation as the Blue Jays, as both teams are in a tough division, but both have a lot of good young talent.

The Blue Jays may not contend in that division for a bit longer, but with players like Matt Wieters, Adam Jones, Chris Tillman, and Brian Matusz in their organization, the Orioles should be a force within two years.

Their offense has been good this year, but they’ve had really bad pitching, and that’s why they’re 12 games under .500.

23. New York Mets (44-50)

The Mets aren’t going to make the playoffs this season, but you really can’t blame them. They’ve lost Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran, JJ Putz, and Carlos Delgado all to serious injuries, and their one remaining star, David Wright, hasn’t hit for any power.

When you’re facing that kind of adversity, not even Johan Santana can keep you in contention.

24. Pittsburgh Pirates (42-52)

The Pirates already have appeared to pack it in for 2009, as they’ve already begun trading veteran talent for prospects. As of right now, they just don’t really have any pitching or hitting, and when you don’t have pitching or hitting, you aren’t going to win very many games.

Look for them to be good in 2011 or so.

25. Arizona Diamondbacks (40-55)

Dan Haren and Justin Upton are having great years, but the loss of Brandon Webb and a lack of offensive production has done the Dbacks in.

Hopefully, for their sake, and for the sake of my fantasy team, Webb will come back strong and be ready to help them have a good 2010 season.

26. Oakland Athletics (40-53)

Almost nothing has panned out for the A’s this year. The Matt Holliday trade was a bit of a bust, as he hasn’t had the type of season the A’s, or their fans were expecting. Meanwhile, their ace Justin Duchscherer has been on the DL all season.

They’ve continued to fall in the AL West standings and are now 15 games behind the Angels.

27. Cleveland Indians (38-58)

The Indians were the favorites to win their division at the beginning of this year, but terrible pitching has spoiled those hopes. Reigning Cy Young award winner Cliff Lee has pitched well, but he’s received no run support.

As for the rest of their rotation—it’s been really bad. Their offense has been okay, but it just hasn’t been enough.

28. San Diego Padres (37-58)

The Padres are 2-8 in their last ten games, and continue to be a non factor in the NL West. Adrian Gonzalez accounts for almost all of their offense, but he can’t do it alone. Their starting pitching has also been mediocre, as ace Jake Peavy has spent a lot of time on the DL.

29. Kansas City Royals (37-57)

The Royals have lost nine games in a row, and despite good starting pitching, have not been able to find ways to win games all year. Zack Greinke has been phenomenal, but playing on such a poor offensive team may seriously hamper his Cy Young chances, as I don’t see him winning that many more games.

30. Washington Nationals (28-66)

The Nationals are horrible. They’re a decent offensive team, but their starting pitching, bullpen, and defense are all terrible.

They’re on pace to lose well over 100 games and finish with the worst record in baseball.

But look at the bright side, they’re the heavy favorite to win the Bryce Harper sweepstakes!