MLB First Half Power Rankings – Dodgers, Astros Leading The Pack, Mariners Not Far Off

And then we arrived at the end of a not dull but actually very lurid first half of our baseball year. And baseball said it wanted to get clean. Was this a decree from the Baseball Gods? Or was this Major League Baseball trying to play god? Batting averages are somewhat better. But does anything of what anyone believes about sticky stuff on the mound matter? It seems like the major offenders are getting away with it still. What will, if any of all this, look like next season? And will Gerrit Cole still have a job at the end of the year? Who else will get banned?

The MLB is done with one full week of sticky stuff crackdowns. And sure enough, the bizarre post-inning and mid-inning stop and playfully accost routine seems somehow standard issue, a freak show, sure, but no exotic sight anymore: pitcher walks toward the chalk line then swerves because he gets swarmed by several big black, blue-shirted bodies under black caps that tell him. Freeze. Doff your cap. Surrender the game face and everything you were thinking about to win. Now hand over that glove. And unbuckle your pants in front of thousands of fans.”

Not weird at all that this completely routine in today’s game.

Right.

Maybe the cynicism of the summer heat is crushing my optimism, but what is also horribly not surprising as well is that Seattle Mariners left-hander reliever Hector Santiago is appealing his ten-game suspension for the use of banned foreign substances. And it seems he won’t win even though everyone within the Mariners universe appears to have good reason to profess their bewildering bafflement and reiterate how they’re miffed that this punishment is a misapplication of the rules. Santiago’s rosin quirk was not the true problem or the crackdown’s motivation. Still, Santiago is being banned for using some extra rosin – and not Spider Tack – on his non-throwing glove hand, where rosin is still not allowed, and therefore a clear rule violation.

Right. Again.

And no one at baseball headquarters has offered even one word to explain why the John Means no-hitter footage is somehow less damming than anything Santiago did.

Right – again. One more time…

The All-Star Break is barreling around the corner. And this is the last set of power rankings before we’re back for baseball’s second half. Onward!

Top Tier – Teams who’ll make the playoffs with no problem.

1. Los Angeles Dodgers: Hey, this seems familiar. The defending champions swept the San Francisco Giants this week. Third best run differential in baseball, second in RBI, and five straight wins. It looks like a good year to bet them as your post-first-half pick for the top seed in the National League after racking up roughly 110 wins by October.

2. Houston Astros: Not going to lie and say I don’t have trouble sleeping before the Mariners must play this team. And on an associative loop as well is also the horrific Jesse Pinkman, “Breaking Bad” dialogue where, through uncontrollable tears, Pinkman bellers, his hoarse voice breaking, cracking, “He can’t keep getting away with it!… He can’t keep getting away with it!” The Houston Astros are the ones who (hit, and hit and hit) knock(s). They have baseball’s best batting average (.277).

3. Boston Red Sox: The only team that is not named the Houston Astros that can erupt for double digits any game they like. The Red Sox are third in batting average and second in wins. The ALCS looks like it’ll be seven games between the best bats in the American League. The truth is, I would love five of these seven hypothetical games to feature four monstrous home runs from each team. I mean, wouldn’t you?

4. San Francisco Giants: What if they lose thirty-five more than they win in the second half of the season and we forget – in less than a few months – that right now, despite three straight L’s to the Dodgers, they have the best record in baseball entering the first full week of July? They’ve already overachieved in the NL West, baseball’s best division. They are tied for the most home runs by any team in the game (116).

5. San Diego Padres: And they’re back. Man, this is a fun baseball team. Is there anyone who dislikes Fernando Tatis Jr.? After sweeping the Reds last week, they swept the Dodgers. And they are 9-1 over their last ten games. The Slam Diego Gadres will make the playoffs with ease despite proof that they can lose 10-1 to the godawful Arizona Diamondbacks.

Second Tier – Very good teams we’ll see hanging around playoff contention the entire second half of the season.

6. Tampa Bay Rays: Let none of their more recent stumbles distract from the fact that at one point, this juggernaut of a strange team went from 14-15 to 35-20 in less than one month. Only great baseball teams make runs like this than remain 15 games over five hundred immediately after the first big run finally goes off the rails (like it did against Seattle). They are second in the AL East, fifth in runs, and third in WHIP.

7. Toronto Blue Jays: Absolutely the most overlooked great young team in baseball, and it’s not even close. Sure the blue feathered freaks of baseball nature are marooned in Buffalo, NY until the start of next year, it seems, when they can or should return to their home nest in Toronto and respectfully adhere to Canada’s still stringent Covid guidelines. But as of now, they are third in hits – and they found 15 against the M’s yesterday, and I had flashbacks of the Mariners-Padres series. The young, spry, mighty bluebirds are second in batting average, tied for first in home runs with the Giants, and fourth in RBI behind teams we know will make deep postseason runs, Houston, LA Dodgers, Red Sox.

8. Oakland Athletics: After spending much of the first half of the first half something like one dozen games above five hundred while sporting a negative forty plus run differential, the A’s are lining up what looks like another postseason run in the middle of a very crowded AL Wild Card chase. Today, they are 11th in runs and OBP and second in Quality Starts.

9. Milwaukee Brewers: Seven straight wins and 9-1 over their last ten? How is this even possible? Their last ten games have been against the Rockies (6), Diamondbacks (3), and now back down to earth Chicago Cubs (2). That’s how it’s possible.

10. Chicago White Sox: Wow. Long way to fall when the only thing that went well for them last weekend was escaping from the Mariners red hot bats in the last few innings of the Chaos Ball cut short after 7 in the second game of a doubleheader against Seattle. The White Sox look a little lost without Jose Abreu. But he seems like he’ll play through the bruised knee injury nonetheless.

Third Tier: Right on the edge of playing like an elite squad.

11. Seattle Mariners: In their last two weekend series, a previously top-tier American League juggernaut has squared up against the M’s and come out far worse for the wear. (I’m not surprised. Last year, around this time, I wrote something about the size of a sled dog’s puppy paws – and how the Seattle Mariners had something spectacular ready to run soon.) The Tampa Bay Rays suffered a four-game sweep in Seattle. The M’s had a blast. Then last weekend, despite the Santiago debacle, the Chicago White Sox were jackhammered in front of thirty thousand plus at home so often they fell this week to within two and a half games of surrendering the AL Central lead. And yes, this Mariners team has a mountain of problems. But they are so young and so unfathomably deep in the farm system – you and I have no idea how good it is right now – that it doesn’t even matter. Look out for the M’s down the stretch. Jerry Dipoto says that the team Seattle fields to start the second half is the squad he envisions in the playoffs for the next decade. Despite two straight losses, they are 7-3 over their last ten. I’m thrilled about the Jarred Kelenic return as well. He’s currently smashing home runs from the lead-off spot in Tacoma like he’s Taylor Trammell or Luis Torrens. (Both were sent down after slow starts, slaughtered the ball, then came back up and have hit game-winning and lead-taking home runs for the M’s since their ultra-productive demotions and subsequent revivals.) During the All-Star break, the M’s will send Julio Rodríguez, Jarred Kelenic, and Emerson Hancock to play in the MLB Futures Game.

Fourth Tier: A bunch of teams I’m not sold on calling all parts totally terrible, nor am I thrilled about enough to call post-season locks today.

12. New York Mets
13. Cleveland Indians
14. New York Yankees
15. Chicago Cubs
16. Washington Nationals
17. Cincinnati Reds
18. St. Louis Cardinals

Fifth Tier: Teams I don’t see in the playoffs as of now. But who knows?

19. Los Angeles Angels
20. Philadelphia Phillies
21. Atlanta Braves
22. Detroit Tigers
23. Minnesota Twins

Sixth Tier: Teams with misery apparent and major rebuilds imminent.

24. Miami Marlins
25. Kansas City Royals
26. Colorado Rockies
27. Texas Rangers
28. Baltimore Orioles
29. Pittsburgh Pirates
30. Arizona Diamondbacks

About Jackson Pappin 50 Articles
Jackson Pappin is a freelance writer. A 2018 WSU Edward R. Murrow College of Communication alumni, he writes fiction, journalism, columns, essays and poetry. His work has been published in Anastamos, The Oregonian, The Spokesman Review, The Seattle P.I. Reader Blogs, The Daily Evergreen, The Central Circuit, LandEscapes and at the Spectra Art Gallery. His writing is available at https://jacksonpappin.blogspot.com

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