Preemptive rankings have always driven me crazy. In college football and basketball, teams are granted superiority even before starting the first contest of the year, and especially with football, the subjective rankings can actually help determine who will play for the national title.
Luckily, with professional sports, only the actual performances of players and teams ultimately determine the outcome. On the other hand, ranking the teams by more than just their records can be a worthwhile exercise to try and predict the course of the season. After allowing MLB clubs to knock off almost half the year of play, I find it apt to rank the squads heading into the second half of June in my initial 2012 power rankings.
1. New York Yankees (Record: 40-25, Last 10: 9-1)
2. Texas Rangers (39-27, 6-4)
3. Los Angeles Dodgers (41-25, 6-4)
4. Cincinnati Reds (38-27, 7-3)
5. Washington Nationals (38-26, 6-4)
New York, my preseason World Series pick, continues to establish itself as the best team in the league after sweeping the past three series against the Mets, Braves, and Nationals. The Rangers, however, continue to appear as the greatest threat to New York with the best offense statistically in baseball. In the National League, the Dodgers, Reds, and Nationals each appear to be separating themselves in their respective divisions, all the more impressive for L.A. given the absence of superstar Matt Kemp.
6. Los Angeles Angels (35-31, 7-3)
7. Baltimore Orioles (39-27, 7-3)
8. San Francisco Giants (37-29, 6-4)
9. Tampa Bay Rays (37-29, 6-4)
10. Chicago White Sox (35-30, 4-6)
After early-season struggles, the Angels continue to be playing some of the best baseball in the game of late and will soon catch the Orioles and Rays in the wild card race. Baltimore, however, appears to be more than just a flash in the pan, rebounding well after a poor stretch last week. The Giants, behind Matt Cain’s 14-strikeout perfect game, are the frontrunner for a wild card spot in the National League with the return of slugger Pablo Sandoval. Meanwhile, Chicago’s days in the top ten are numbered, as the Tigers are fast approaching in the rearview mirror in the AL Central.
11. St. Louis Cardinals (34-32, 6-4)
12. Detroit Tigers (32-34, 7-3)
13. Atlanta Braves (35-31, 4-6)
14. Toronto Blue Jays (34-32, 4-6)
15. Pittsburgh Pirates (34-31, 6-4)
You can never count out the St. Louis Cardinals after their two recent World Series run, and despite an injury to starter Jaime Garcia, St. Louis has significant depth in the minors to survive and an excellent (and underrated) offense to keep them around. Likewise, the Braves will be in the hunt all year round in Chipper Jones’ swan song season. As mentioned before, the Tigers are finally starting to look like the World Series contender they were expected to be at the beginning of the year and should be in the top ten sooner rather than later, while the Blue Jays and Pirates are two overachieving teams that are average at best.
16. Cleveland Indians (33-32, 3-7)
17. New York Mets (35-32, 4-6)
18. Boston Red Sox (32-33, 4-6)
19. Arizona Diamondbacks (32-33, 7-3)
20. Miami Marlins (33-33, 2-8)
This next group of five contains several interesting clubs that could see their stocks rise in the next few weeks. Despite successes by starters Johan Santana and R.A. Dickey, I remain convinced that the Mets will tail off. The Red Sox, Diamondbacks, and Marlins, however, are all capable of jumping right back into playoff contention with strong weeks ahead.
21. Philadelphia Phillies (31-37, 3-7)
22. Milwaukee Brewers (30-35, 6-4)
23. Oakland Athletics (31-35, 7-3)
24. Kansas City Royals (28-35, 5-5)
25. Seattle Mariners (28-39, 3-7)
26. Minnesota Twins (25-39, 4-6)
27. Houston Astros (27-38, 3-7)
28. Colorado Rockies (25-40, 1-9)
29. San Diego Padres (23-43, 4-6)
30. Chicago Cubs (22-43, 3-7)
With the exception of the Phillies and Brewers, the rest of the clubs in the bottom ten really have no shot at the playoffs in 2012. Philadelphia, still awaiting the return of sluggers Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, needs to rebound quickly in order to regain supremacy in the difficult NL East.