MLB Power Ratings
As we approach Memorial Day weekend, WagerTalk handicapper Tony Finn offers his Week 8 MLB Power Ratings. Which teams have over-achieved through the first two months of the season? Which ones are still trying to find their footing? Tony offers his thoughts on how the season has played out thus far.
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MLB State of the Union
Major League Baseball has faced challenges throughout the history of the game. There isn’t a season that goes by in which some part of the game is scrutinized. Be it the players or the equipment where overwhelming performances or questions about the balls or bats create editorials, dialogue, and even conspiracy theories around sign stealing, collusion, and gambling.
The period of baseball between 1900–1919 is commonly referred to as the “Dead-ball era.” The label is much more accurate than the label that the 2021 baseball is receiving. The first two decades of the 20th century were a period of low-scoring games that pitchers dictated. Those pitchers were ferociously dominant and reign today as some of the greatest to play the game. Pitchers such as Walter Johnson, Grover Cleveland Alexander, and Cy Young made their mark.
The “dead-ball” reference in baseball’s history was spot-on but was different due to technological advances. Also, the construction of the ball was expensive. Comparing what a baseball cost to manufacture in the early 1900s is equivalent to today’s ball costing in the neighborhood of 100 dollars apiece.
The expense of the balls puts owners in the position of being creative. The cost-saving measures at that time found teams using the same ball for the entire game and security in the stadium whose sole job description was to retrieve balls that found their way into the stands.
Needless to say that when the games final out was recorded, the pitchers had a significant advantage. The condition of the balls by the game’s end made hitting the baseball much more challenging than pitching it.
The 1900 to 1919 time period is a frame in which owners had many of the same challenges today’s owners have. Salaries were not what they are today, so gambling by players was prevalent. Many players, star players even, such as Hal Chase, Ty Cobb, and Tris Speaker, had reputations for fixing games. The Black Sox scandal forced Major League Baseball to make changes following the 1919 World Series.
Challenges inside of the baseball orbit have existed for nearly two centuries. The early 1900s campaigns led to the 1920 rule change that outlawed tampering with the ball. A challenge that baseball is experiencing today. Be it old school “spitballs,” “shine balls,” or substances today that are believed to create a higher spin rate, resulting in a record number of strikeouts. The pitchers of the last decade have taken technology and turned it into a tool to increase the velocity of a thrown pitch.
After the 1919 World Series, the Black Sox scandal, Major League Baseball hired the first commissioner. That appointment was given to Federal judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis. His first directive as commissioner was to ban the “Black Sox” from professional baseball for life.
Challenges are a part of the game of baseball. In the 1940s, organized baseball had been racially segregated for many years. The black press and understanding beat writers across the county were never shy to campaign for the integration of baseball.
Baseball itself has created as many complicated situations as it has been presented. The current state of baseball is no different today than it was 150 or so years ago. However, the current state of baseball has reached a dysfunctional state that jeopardizes the sport. The role that this sport, baseball, American’s pastime, has played in my life and the culture of America and family, cannot be denied.
I wholeheartedly believe that baseball is on the verge of becoming extinct. That the growth of the sport cannot support what the dying generations before us built. I have a professional relationship with baseball. It has been a part of my family’s summers. I have coached minor league, my daughters’ middle school softball teams, and it is one of the great American traditions I have played myself and written about. Furthermore, the obvious, that baseball is a tool that helps support a portion of my livelihood.
For decades, the powers that operate and organize the daily operations of North American sports, in this case, baseball, have declared the evils of gambling on sports, again, in this situation, baseball. The truth is, gambling and include fantasy sports which is all things equal a form of gambling have already started and will save sports, baseball.
The 2018 Supreme Court ruling clearing the way for legalized sports betting across the United States has forced the governing powers in all major sports to begin to take a harder look at the benefits and potential pitfalls of a changing landscape.
It was seemingly just yesterday that sports companies, e.g., MLB, NBA, and the National Football League, were engaged in legal battles with independent companies running and operating fantasy leagues and sports gambling.
Today they are funding them.
In all seriousness and everything but parody, when I sat in on a meeting of Major League Baseball minds and not only heard but reread it, and again and again, it was difficult not to be somewhat and somehow sick.
Meaning it was the equivalent of a Tijuana Donkey Show. That comparison that I am using, a Donkey Show, is an event, a form of entertainment that many explain off as frolic and intrigue. It is, in fact, an event, one that I experienced in my youth. And for those who have not, let me give you the best description of what you have missed.
That “Show” is something you can’t possibly watch once you see what it is, yet it becomes a can’t “not watch” moment in your life.
The senior vice president of Major League Baseball’s investigations, compliance, and security, Bryan Seeley, spoke to the challenges of baseball upon the Supreme Courts declaration that cleared the way for legalized sports gambling and he said;
“This is really a key moment now for baseball and the other sports leagues,” said Bryan Seeley, MLB’s senior vice president of investigations, compliance, and security. “It’s pretty rare that you have a huge industry that gets unlocked almost all at one time. The conversations about this and the decisions that state legislators and regulators are going to make in the next year and the next few years are going to have significant effects on our game. It’s really important that we get this right.”
I have read the final sentence of his rhetorical presentation. The rhetoric he used to close his address and briefly outline his task at hand now that gambling on baseball was legal in the United States. With a straight face, he calmly and collectively told the media, baseball fans, casual baseball followers, and all of the fanatics worldwide, “It’s really important that we get this right.”
My first, my second, my third, yada yada yada, and still my first thought three years later;
God help us.
May 28 MLB Power Ratings
1. Los Angeles Dodgers – Record 24-18
Last Ranking: 1
The semi-slump and the demons that the Dodgers fought after a 13-2 beginning to the 2021 season have come and gone. From mid-April through the first week of May, skipper Dave Roberts and his merry men went 5-15 to fall out of first place in the National League West. Since the first week of May, the Chavez Ravine boys are 13-3 and back where they should be, and will be, until the first week of October, which is a restart, a second season that crowns baseball’s champion.
2. San Diego Padres – Record: 27-17
Last Ranking: 5
The top two pitching staffs in baseball reside at the top of my MLB Power Poll. And it isn’t just surface numbers that the NL West Padres and Dodgers stand tall with the underlying peripherals of each are overwhelmingly the best, from the five who serve in the rotation to the back of the pen. The Padres don’t have as many options as the Dodgers do, keeping them hogtied to the second spot in these rankings.
3. Atlanta Braves – Record 24-25
Last Ranking: 2
The determination of the Atlanta Braves front office is difficult not to admire. After coming within one win of reaching the World Series, the Braves spent the offseason evaluating ways to strengthen what they had and have continued to work the phones in quest of a championship formula, according to my reports.
The Braves kept critical power in their lineup by re-signing Marcell Ozuna to a four-year, $65 million contract in February. The organization was able to get Charlie Morton on a one-year $15 million deal. Also, the front office captured a lefthanded vet in Drew Smyly, another sharp one-year move.
The team’s 24-25 mark as the league approaches, having completed one-third of the regular season, the Braves have maneuvered injuries to Ozuna, their star Ronald Acuna Jr. and their ace Max Fried. Before September arrives, they will have the return of Mike Soroka, Touki Toussaint, and a much-needed vet at the catcher position in Travis d’Arnaud.
The group mentioned above, Ozuna, Acuna, d’Arnaud, Morton, Smyly, Fried, Soroka, and Toussaint, are tied together with the likes of currently disabled Huascar Ynoa, Ozzie Albies, Austin Riley, Dansby Swanson, and Freddie Freeman. A healthy Braves in September make for a nightmarish opponent in October.
4. Chicago White Sox – Record: 28-20
Last Ranking: 3
The New York Yankees have the shortest American League future price as the league readies to exit May, but it is the White Sox who have been the most balanced and most efficient offensively in the AL. The severe connection, the ratio between runs scored and home runs is league-wide, but there is a handful of teams that score as much by bunching hits as by the long ball. One of those talented groups is the White Sox.
5. San Francisco Giants – Record: 30-19
Last Ranking: 6
The Dodgers, who were without four starting position players this past weekend, finished a series sweep of division rival San Fran on Sunday. The Dodgers arrived in neighboring San Fran, with the Giants owning the best record in baseball. If there is one team with one manager that I would worry about if I were Dave Roberts and Jayce Tingler, it would damn sure be the San Francisco Giants and Gabe Kapler.
6. New York Yankees – Record: 28-21 – Last Ranking: 4
7. Tampa Bay Rays – Record: 32-20 – Last Ranking: 11
8. Houston Astros – Record: 27-22 – Last Ranking: 14
9. Boston Red Sox – Record: 30-20 – Last Ranking: 9
10. Oakland Athletics – Record: 29-22 – Last Ranking: 8
11. Milwaukee Brewers – Record: 25-25 – Last Ranking: 10
12. Toronto Blue Jays – Record: 25-23 – Last Ranking: 12
13. Cleveland Indians – Record: 27-21 – Last Ranking: 13
14. Chicago Cubs – Record: 27-22 – Last Ranking: 17
15. St. Louis Cardinals – Record: 27-22 – Last Ranking: 15
16. Philadelphia Phillies – Record: 25-26 – Last Ranking: 16
17. New York Mets – Record: 24-20 – Last Ranking: 7
18. Washington Nationals – Record: 21-24 – Last Ranking: 18
19. Miami Marlins – Record: 24-26 – Last Ranking: 20
20. Cincinnati Reds – Record: 21-26 – Last Ranking: 19
21. Kansas City Royals – Record: 23-25 – Last Ranking: 25
22. Los Angeles Angels – Record: 22-27 – Last Ranking: 22
23 Minnesota Twins – Record: 20-29 – Last Ranking: 24
24. Arizona Diamondbacks – Record: 18-32 – Last Ranking: 21
25. Texas Rangers – Record: 22-29 – Last Ranking: 29
26. Baltimore Orioles – Record: 17-32 – Last Ranking: 23
27. Pittsburgh Pirates – Record: 18-31 – Last Ranking: 26
28. Seattle Mariners – Record: 23-27 – Last Ranking: 28
29. Detroit Tigers – Record: 19-31 – Last Ranking: 27
30. Colorado Rockies – Record: 19-32 – Last 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.
The First Pitch Betting Guide
Each day during the MLB regular season, WagerTalk handicapper Ralph Michaels releases his First Pitch betting guide. The PDF download contains home-road splits, righty-lefty splits and a plethora of other useful betting information for that day’s starting pitcher matchup. To access the First Pitch guide, go to Ralph’s page (http://wt.buzz/rm) and find the link on the right side under Downloads. If you are already a WagerTalk user, sign into your account. If you’re not a WagerTalk subscriber, create a free account with just your email address. After you add the item to your cart, it will be available in your downloads.
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