Mar 4, 2008

80-Game Power Rankings: A New Sheriff in Town

1. Fargo Fuzznuts [53-26, +200 Run Differential (RD), Prev Rank(PR): 3]
The Ponies were the Fuzznuts' ownees during a much-anticipated interleague matchup, as Fargo swept previously top-seeded Pittsburgh. Couple that with a Griffey-best +200 run differential, and you have yourself a new top seed...

2. Pittsburgh Ponies (55-20, RD:+164, PR: #1)
...that said, it's way too early to send the Ponies to the glue factory. The defending champs still have the best pitching staff in the AL -- Matt Ross, Fritz Branson, and Dean Bukvich are 1-2-3 in strikeouts in the AL. That's a rotation that looks even stronger in a short series playoff scenario. Pony apologists would also be quick to point out that the Fuzznuts did not have to face Ross and Bukvich during interleague play.

3. San Antonio fighters (50-30, RD: +134, PR: #2)
The defending NL-champs suffered a brutal injury to pitcher Clarence Ogea, but have not broken stride. Left fielder Darren Charlton has been an offensive force in Season 7, and is well on pace to be a 50-50 man. While the fighters look like a lock for an NL-playoff spot, they have had difficulty delivering a knockout blow to the pesky Twisters in the NL South race.

4. New York Yank-mes (53-26, RD: +99, PR: #4)
Catcher Alan Green boasts the NL' s top OPS, ripping NL-pitching for a .298/.414/.651 line, and NY continues to be arguably the NL's top team in the field and on the mound. The Yank-mes need to make a strong statement to move up the rankings, but given their already solid position in the NL playoff race, don't figure to be strong buyers or sellers.

5. Cheyenne Duck Snorts (48-32, RD: +87, PR: #7)
Cheyenne has posted a blistering 20-9 mark since the time of the last Power Rankings to shore up their share of the AL West. The Duck Snorts have been led by little-ballyhooed 1B/DH Arthur Grace who has battered right-handed pitching to the tune of a .313/.373/.713 line. Also, 3B Julio Sanchez may be a legitimate 30-30 threat from the leadoff spot if he can stay healthy. The Duck Snorts faltered in the second half last year, and still share the division with Colorado and Albuquerque who have been dangerous for long stretches over the season already.

6. Charleston Cobras (45-34, RD:+67, PR:#10)
The Cobras have more than vindicated their controversial ranking at #10 during the last Power Rankings, having vaulted from 3rd place and one game out to a comfortable five-game perch atop the AL South over the course of the past 30 games. Charleston has to maintain focus, however, as first-year manager jeff2106 has done an admirable job keeping the Houston Bombers in contention, and mjdato has amassed a formidable pitching staff in Little Rock. An aggressive move or two from Little Rock or Houston could shift the AL South balance, but as it stands, Charleston is the team to beat. I told you so.

7. Montreal Valiants (47-33, +63, #9)
The Valiants are kind of the Keith Richards of the AL North -- they have to play second fiddle to to the Ponies' Mick Jagger, who gets all of the girls, but being the second-most popular Rolling Stone is still pretty cool. It sure beats the hell out of being 5th Beatle Pete Best, anyway. The Valiants have the 4th best WHIP in the AL, but the pitching has been supported by middling offense. Montreal is still an odds-on favorite to lock up a Wild Card spot, but adding a solid bat would help.

8 (tie). KC Twisters (43-36, RD: +34, #5), Atlanta Ripettoes (47-33, RD: +27, NR)
Unfortunately for the Twisters, they share a division with San Antonio, and may have to make a move if they want to catch the fighters. Similarly, Atlanta has been hot over the past 30 games to claim the 5th-seed in the NL, but still trail the Yank-mes by a considerable margin. On the other hand, rumblings from Anaheim indicate that the Jack A$$es may be ready to start the firesale despite trailing the Mojo by three games in their division, and the Twisters by two games for the 6th seed in the NL. There do not appear to be any other strong contenders other than Atlanta, KC, and Anaheim for the NL wild card spots, so if Anaheim waves the white flag, the Twisters and Ripettoes would seem well poised to raise another kind of flag themselves.

9. New York Cyclones (44-36, RD: +35, #8)
The Cyclones have matched pace with the Wolves in the AL East, maintaining their 2.5 game lead over the Wolves since the time of the last Power Rankings, as both teams have posted .500 marks over that stretch. However, .500 baseball doesn't keep you in the top-10 for real long, though. New York shares the division with strong Philadelphia and Charlotte teams, and could probably stand to add a bat or two if they want to maintain their lead. The Cyclones currently maintain a number 9 ranking only by virtue of leading the AL East wire-to-wire thus far. Barring a trade to bolster their lagging hitting, they may be supplanted by one of these two by the time of the next power rankings.

10. Los Angeles Mojo (44-35, RD: +34, NR)
Mr. Mojo Risin'...all the way up to #10. This may be the team to watch in a wide-open NL West, but LA will clearly need to make a trade or two to solidify their position. The Mojo are are in the middle of the NL pack offensively and only slightly better than that in terms of team WHIP. Look for the Mojo to be strong buyers in the 2nd half.

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