MLB Power Ratings
WagerTalk handicapper Tony Finn offers his MLB state of the union heading into Friday’s trade deadline. Which teams have waived the white flag on their season? Which teams are primed to make a playoff push? Tony offers his thoughts on how the last two months of the season will play out.
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MLB State of the Union
Major League Baseball’s trade deadline is set for July 30. What most traditional fans, this likely includes you, expect or wait for, is that one big barter that the media paints as the potential trade changes the landscape of a division or league. Big names with big salaries move from one city to another on or before baseball’s trade deadline every season. However, adding a rental to a roster in August is rarely the one deal that creates a champion.
Whatever you read, hear, or are told by your boys, girls, or co-workers, understand that most teams already know what and who they are before July arrives, let alone the final day of the month. There is much more to the end of July than a quid pro quo of a player or players. When the baseball winter meetings occur, there is more than one watercooler conversation between front office personnel. The franchise played the July game of tug-of-war and player-personnel chicken best in July.
The honest-to-goodness end-game for most MLB GMs on or around the trade deadline pushes other divisional or league brethren to spend too much, create negative clubhouse chemistry or create one or three trades that set some other franchise back a year or two. Watching a team in their division take a step back essentially crowns the chicken-winner with the chicken-dinner in, which is the equivalent of two steps forward.
Teams, successful franchises, and past champions that have made personnel moves before the drop-dead-tradeline have rarely been concerned with becoming more balanced. The goal is to morph into being more dominant in a variable the roster is already good at.
Acquiring a veteran with postseason experience and a former All-Star at the end of July creates a positive. In addition, making a trade deadline move of any kind is a public relations coup if that player upgrades a team and assists in providing wins over that whom he replaced.
Adding a power-bat that also hits for average or trading for that 100 mph four-seam fastball that comes in the silhouette of a setup man or stop-the-clock closer doesn’t happen every summer.
The team or teams that make that Plain Jane trade at the last minute on the last day is almost always the quiet winner in August and September. Also, those late July chess moves by a team or teams that sell less for more are the pay-me-later winners, even if it takes a season or two for the obvious to become a reality.
I can rattle off a handful of yester-year July trades that appeared to be nothing-burgers but were, in truth, the contrary. So it isn’t embellishment to note that the smallest acquisition on Deadline Day typically ends up being the September difference-maker. But, of course, that maker being turning September’s success into a date with baseball’s October postseason.
One of the best examples of a front office and general manager making the most from July buyers was the Lucky Seven that Philadelphia GM Lee Thomas wheeled and dealt in 1989. The seven players that the Phils acquired in that July of 1989 drop-dead date made Philadelphia the National League representative in the 1993 Fall Classic.
The players that Thomas traded for and signed led to then-Phils skipper Nick Leyva building a quality squad. Leyva laid the groundwork for the next Fighting Phils skipper, Jim Fregosi, to direct, manage and win a pennant and a spot in a World Series.
What Thomas was able to negotiate at the 1989 deadline was nothing short of a “wow-moment.” Thomas acquired seven players across three trades. The most recognizable names being Lenny Dykstra and John Kruk.
In the next 48 hours, expect to see more rumors than reliable Intel and many games with unrecognizable lineups and sport sloppy play.
There is no escaping the annual torture Major League Baseball gamers endure at this point of July each summer. Tossing bitch-bombs at MLB, navigating the uncertainty of late July and early August starting lineups, squinting into a crystal baseball, walking on water, and playing soothsayer while squinting into a crystal baseball that’s clouded with lockerroom animosity is what we do every July.
Before you dive into the Finn Factor, MLB Power Chart, note that I am labeling the 2021 trade deadline. So a glance at the first-place teams in the six divisions is more likely than not exactly what you will see at the end of September.
From the first of August to the end of September, a change in the current standings is something I wouldn’t bet on. Rather expect the current divisions to remain as they are with any drama formulating in the Wild Wild East of both the Junior and Senior circles.
The White Sox hold an 8.5 game lead over the punchless Cleveland Indians in the American League Central. The National League Central won’t change between now and October 1st. The Brewers are not surrendering a seven-game gap to the Cincinnati Redlegs. The Brew Crew have subtlely begun talking about adjusting the current five-person starting staff into a 3-pitcher postseason rotation that will align with the NL side of the playoff bracket.
The Houston Astros have a better chance of returning to their in-season hobby of stealing signs than being passed up in the AL West standings by the vanilla-flavored Oakland Athletics. Furthermore, call me what you will but call me correct when stating the Chavez Ravine troupe will not master any NL West team that doesn’t have a reptile in their juju as long as Dave Roberts is making the Dodgers game decisions.
The Mets will need to rid themselves of that doomed posture they wear when taking the diamond to battle their slated opponent. Watching the boys from Queen’s walk, talk, and play ball is as exciting as spending a Sunday afternoon picking out my D-Day ern.
Trust that I passionately believe the Philadelphia Phillies will be tough to shake in the NL East if the new King of Queens, Rich Hill, doesn’t win five or more games across late July, August, and September.
Finally, that the Boston Red Sox will likely have to offer the baseball gods a sacrificial lamb to fend off those pesky Devil Rays that call Tampa Bay home, rumor has it that there is a militia in Boston planning a cataclysm that will be called a natural disaster when the Bucs, Rays and Tom Brady are buried at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.
If there is to be Major League Baseball drama in September, it will be found in New York, New York, Philadelphia PA, Griffin’s Wharf in Boston, Mass, and the Death Metal Capital of the music world in late September.
And “The Rest of the Story” is …
July 29 MLB Power Ratings
1. Houston Astros – Record: 63-40 (Previous ranking: 1)
The Astros were money in June. The month of July has not been equal to its predecessor, but Altuve and his ‘mates were 7-3 before the break and are 8-4 since. Houston recorded a .679 winning percentage in June, winning 19 games against nine losses.
The team won their first six games in July before entering the All-Star break with a 7-3 record to begin the month.
In June and July, the Houston pitching staff was the best of the American League, with an ERA south of 3.50. However, the Houston offense outscores what the pitching staff allows on most nights, and so far in the final week of July, the Astros have made the biggest splash at the trade deadline picking up two quality bullpen arms.
Houston has the sixth easiest remaining schedule in the American League.
2. San Francisco Giants – Record: 63-38 (Previous ranking: 2)
The Giants finished April in the first place. San Francisco stood a half-game ahead of the Dodgers in the National League West with a 16-10 record on the morning of May 1.
San Fran entered July with a 50-29 mark on the season. The Giants are 63-38 with a winning percentage of .624, the best in baseball. On August 1st, I believe that the Giants will still be in the first place and the Dodgers in the second.
If consistency matters to you as it does to me, then note that the last time this Giants franchise entered May in the first place was in 2014. Yes, the World Series-winning club.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers – Record: 62-41 (Previous ranking: 3)
The Dodgers and ace Walker Buehler earned an 8-0 victory at Oracle Park and the Giants on Wednesday, July 28th. The current leave of absence that right-hander Trevor Bauer is on is serious. Bauer’s paid administrative leave is still in limbo, and his return is a date yet to be determined.
It wouldn’t, or shouldn’t be, a surprise if Bauer doesn’t return to active duty this season. LA’s rotation is missing two starters, and skipper Dave Roberts knows his reign in Dodger Blue is in jeopardy if this LA clan isn’t playing and defending their 2020 World Series title in October.
4. Tampa Bay Rays – Record: 60-42 (Previous ranking: 4)
Starting pitching, the middle and late relief, as well as the addition of Nelson Cruz are the reasons that Tampa Bay will threaten the American League with a second straight AL East title.
Tampa Bay’s bullpen has had an AL-best ERA of less than 3.00 since April 22. So despite being offseason sellers, the Rays are right back in the postseason mix.
5. New York Mets – Record: 54-46 (Previous rank: 7)
Until I prove, this Mets team is like all the rest since the turn of the century; they get the Finn Factor benefit of the doubt and points for navigating a division that is undervalued as a whole. New York’s rotation has morphed from an injury-riddled to stable.
The acquisition of veteran southpaw Rich Hill (acquired from Tampa Bay) has already won a late July win. First-year Queenie Carlos Carrasco, who made his third rehab start with Triple-A Syracuse on Sunday, is expected to make his Mets debut this weekend or next week at the latest.
Young-gun Tylor Megill, a 2018 eighth-round pick, has the fourth-lowest ERA in Mets history after six career starts. The three that have been better? Terry Leach 1.73, Noland Ryan 1.98, and Dillon Gee 2.09.
6. Milwaukee Brewers – Record: 60-42 (Previous ranking: 8)
7. Chicago White Sox – Record: 60-42 (Previous ranking: 9)
8. Boston Red Sox – Record: 63-40 (Previous ranking: 10)
9. Oakland Athletics – Record: 57-46 (Previous ranking: 7)
10. San Diego Padres – Record: 59-45 (Previous ranking: 5)
11. Toronto Blue Jays – Record: 50-48 (Previous ranking: 11)
12. Cincinnati Reds – Record: 53-49 (Previous ranking: 12)
13. Philadelphia Phillies – Record: 50-50 (Previous ranking: 14)
14. New York Yankees – Record: 53-47 (Previous ranking: 16)
15. Cleveland Indians – Record: 50-49 (Previous ranking: 15)
16. Atlanta Braves – Record: 50-52 (Previous ranking: 13)
17. Los Angeles Angels – Record: 51-50 (Previous ranking: 17)
18. Seattle Mariners – Record: 55-48 (Previous ranking: 18)
19. Washington Nationals – Record: 46-54 (Previous ranking: 19)
20. Miami Marlins – Record: 44-58 (Previous ranking: 20)
21. Chicago Cubs – Record: 50-53 (Previous ranking: 21)
22. St. Louis Cardinals – Record: 51-51 (Previous ranking: 22)
23. Detroit Tigers – Record: 49-55 (Previous ranking: 24)
24. Minnesota Twins – Record: 43-60 (Previous ranking: 23)
25. Kansas City Royals – Record: 44-56 (Previous ranking: 25)
26. Baltimore Orioles – Record: 35-65 (Previous ranking: 27)
27. Colorado Rockies – Record: 44-58 (Previous ranking: 28)
28. Pittsburgh Pirates – Record: 38-63 (Previous ranking: 29)
29. Texas Rangers – Record: 36-66 (Previous ranking: 26)
30. Arizona Diamondbacks – Record: 32-71 (Previous ranking: 30)
MLB First Pitch
Now that the dust has settled from last year’s abbreviated baseball schedule with limited travel, how will teams handle the grind of the 2021 MLB season? Get MLB picks, predictions, and odds every Monday-Friday on WagerTalk TV during First Pitch, hosted by Drew Martin.
MLB First Pitch
The MLB Trade Deadline is on Friday and the sprint to the playoffs has officially begun. Get MLB picks, predictions, and odds every Monday-Friday at 1:45pm ET / 10:45am PT on WagerTalk TV during First Pitch, hosted by Drew Martin.
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