For the second consecutive week, the Tampa Bay Rays sit atop the Internet's most prestigious power rankings. It's the middle of June. Let's give them their due and sing their praises.
After going to the World Series last season, the Rays turned things over in the rotation, trading Blake Snell and letting Charlie Morton walk in free agency. There was some other roster shuffling as well and they lost top-shelf reliever Nick Anderson to a major injury before the 2021 season even started. Ji-Man Choi has missed most of the season with injuries, too.
It took them some time to get their feet under themselves. They were two games under .500 after May 1 and sitting at 19-19 after two straight losses to the Yankees in the middle of May.
And then, the proverbial switch was flipped.
The Rays have gone 23-5 since then. They've outscored their opponents 174-88 in those games. They are truly a "sum of their parts" team, as there very likely won't be any All-Star starters from this group. Randy Arozarena is certainly good, but he's not what he was for September and October last season. Tyler Glasnow is a frontline starter and Austin Meadows is a very good offensive weapon. Diego Castillo is a top-shelf reliever.
It's just so much more than the big -- modestly big, even -- names.
Mike Zunino doing his thing behind the plate and slugging at it. Joey Wendle putting together an amazing season. Brandon Lowe slugging. Yandy Díaz getting on base. Brett Phillips coming through in the clutch.
No team embodies the "next man up" spirit more than the Rays as presently built. It seems like the organizational philosophy is to simply plug-and-play guys and see if it works, while knowing how to best use said players and get the most out of them. It doesn't always work (see Yoshi Tsutsugo and the somewhat lackluster season by Michael Wacha), but it does more often than not.
It's certainly all working for the Rays right now. They are the best team in baseball.
|Playoff preview with three against the White Sox coming up? ALCS preview?||--||60-39|
|Carlos Rodon took a no-hitter into the seventh inning on Sunday after already throwing one earlier this season. He now has a 1.89 ERA and will be an All-Star less than a year after the White Sox non-tendered him.||--||58-40|
|Do with this whatever you want: The Giants have played more road games (38) than anyone else. They've only gotten 27 home games so far and they are 18-9 there.||1||61-37|
|The Max Muncy injury is a bummer, given the season he was in the process of putting together. Maybe Mookie Betts gets scorching hot. He went 2 for 3 with a home run on Sunday.||2||60-40|
|In June, the Astros are hitting .307 with a .535 slugging percentage and are averaging 6.17 runs per game. I'll let others take the low-hanging fruit with the jokes about you-know-what.||2||60-39|
|Very impressive extended run. They've gone 26-11 since May 2. Only the Rays have been better. They've beaten up on good non-Giants teams, too, having gone 8-1 against the Dodgers and Padres in that stretch.||2||48-51|
|The rotation has fallen apart. In 13 June games, Red Sox starting pitchers have a 6.26 ERA.||4||60-39|
|The A's haven't played anyone with a winning record (at the time they played them) since May 20. This week they've got dates with the Angels and Yankees, though that's one team that just barely climbed above .500 and one that is in a major rut.||1||56-44|
|The Brewers season can be divided into three vastly different records. They went 17-10 and then went 4-13 and are now on a run where they've gone 17-4.||2||58-41|
|The Mets have played the fewest number of home games in the majors. They are 17-7 at Citi Field and 12 of their next 16 games are at home.||--||51-44|
|Nice win Sunday in Queens, which the Padres will hope is the end of their funk. They had lost 10 of 13 and fallen out of playoff position before that.||6||58-43|
|It's easy to let Vladdy distract you from everyone else -- and I'm not blaming anyone for this being the case because he's amazing -- but Bo Bichette is pretty impressive in his own right. He leads the majors with 56 runs scored. That's a pace of 144 runs for the season. No one has topped 140 runs since A-Rod in 2007.||--||49-45|
|Sunday, Shane Bieber gave up five earned runs in a game for the first time since July 19, 2019. He made 38 starts in between. Get ready for the annoying spin rate discussion if he gets knocked around again sometime soon.||--||48-48|
|Injuries and underperformance (Sonny Gray and the bullpen) have the pitching staff mostly in shambles, but the Reds have won 10 of their last 13 games and resemble a contender again.||2||51-47|
|Here they come again! The Phillies have won six of their last seven, a stretch that included three straight walkoff wins. I've mentioned it before, but it really seems like they are just gonna be hot-and-cold all season. Sit back and enjoy the ride, Philly.||4||48-49|
|They've now lost 13 of their last 18 and look pretty broken. They just went 2-3 in a week where they got to play the terrible Twins and mediocre Phillies.||2||51-46|
|Well lookie what we have here! The red-hot Halos have won six in a row, 11 of 14 and are above .500 for the first time since they were 13-12. Now if they could just get Mike Trout back from injury we'd really be talking.||3||48-49|
|It's now been two and a half months. The Braves have climbed to .500 and done the following: Lost four straight, lost four straight, lost three straight, lost two straight and this past week lost four straight after getting to 29-29. At some point, they just aren't very good. Are we there yet?||3||48-49|
|Just a complete meltdown. They've lost 11 of 13. They had a 3 1/2 game lead on May 20. They are now six games back on June 14.||2||49-50|
|Kyle Schwarber has hit leadoff in two of the Nats last three games. He led off both of those games with a homer and has three homers and five RBI in those two games. Interesting.||2||45-52|
|Uh oh, another terrible stretch. The Royals have lost seven of their last eight. Remember, they lost 11 in a row earlier this season. They've been great other than those two stretches, but those are season killers.||3||41-55|
|He's only played in 30 games due to missing time with an injury, but Starling Marte is hitting .348/.439/.563. That's some fire.||3||42-57|
|The Tigers would like to request a geographical move, I hear. They are 11-24 against their fellow AL Central teams. They are a break-even 15-15 against everyone else.||--||47-53|
|The Mariners' win probability Saturday in the bottom of the ninth was over 99 percent. They were one strike away with a three-run lead. They lost. Brutal. As far as the ranking, I understand the Mariners are five games better in the standings, but I ended up with them right next to each other and the Tigers went 5-1 against the Mariners this year.||3||53-46|
|The only two players ever to top 30 homers in their age-40 season (or later) are David Ortiz (38 in 2016) and Darrell Evans (34 in 1987). Nelson Cruz is on pace for 32 homers at present.||1||42-57|
|Saturday's emphatic 12-1 win over the Dodgers broke the Rangers' 16-game road losing streak. They started a new one Sunday, though.||2||35-64|
|Remember how much promise Gregory Polanco had at one point? He was a top-10 prospect and we saw some of the skills translate to the majors early. From 2018-20, he's been worth negative-2.1 WAR. He's hitting .203/.270/.350 this season. It's possible his major shoulder injury at the end of 2018 caused all this. Regardless, he's totally fallen apart.||3||38-60|
|The Rockies are now 5-27 on the road. That's a .156 winning percentage. The lowest road winning percentage in baseball history is .167 (the 1935 Boston Braves). Only five teams have even been below .200, with the most recent being the 1945 Philadelphia A's. The worst in a full season in the expansion era would be .210 (the 2010 Pirates and 1963 Mets at 17-64). This is really something.||1||43-55|
|Adley Rutschman is hitting .294 with a .999 OPS, 10 homers and 27 RBI in 34 games in Double-A. Even better, he's walked as many times as he's struck out (28). He's 23 and played three years in college, so hopefully they don't keep him in Double-A all season.||--||33-64|
|Well, the time is now. The Diamondbacks have lost 19 straight road games. They are three away from tying the record. They have four games in San Francisco to start the week. Better not lose them all!||--||31-69|