MLB Power Rankings: Picking each team's first half MVP


MLB Power Rankings: Picking each team's first half MVP

We're at the unofficial halfway point of the 2015 season, and we've seen plenty of surprises, like the Twins (in a good way) and the Mariners (in a bad way). It's also not too surprising the St. Louis Cardinals have been at or near the top of our rankings ever since spring training wrapped up three and a half months ago.

With that comes another week of MLB Power Rankings from's Tony Andracki and JJ Stankevitz. This week, we're listing our first half MVPs for each team.

Stay tuned for updated rankings every Monday throughout the 2015 campaign. Here's where we're at so far: Preseason rankings | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13

Rank Team
Last Week Comment
1 1

Jhonny Peralta. Hard to argue here given all the injuries the Cardinals have faced. Peralta's .828 OPS and 2.1 WAR have been a godsend to STL.

2   2

A.J. Burnett. Andrew McCutchen is an obvious choice given how he's turned his season around after a slow start, but did anybody expect this out of the 38-year-old Burnett in the first half??

3 3

Lorenzo Cain. He’s a legitimate star who’s powered Kansas City’s offense and paced a great defense that’s allowed a so-so pitching staff to be successful.

4   6

Joc Pederson/Yasmani Grandal. Zack Greinke's been unreal, but his contributions were expected. Pederson (.851 OPS) and Grandal (.927) have been welcome - and much-needed - surprises for the Dodgers.

5 5

Bryce Harper. C'mon, how could it be anybody else?

6 8

Albert Pujols. Mike Trout is the best player in the AL, maybe in baseball. But Pujols’ resurgence (26 HR, 2.1 WAR) has been critical in vaulting the Angels back into first place at the All-Star break.

7 9

Alex Rodriguez/Mark Teixeira. Combined, these two aging sluggers have 40 home runs that’ve been critical in supporting a pitching staff with a 3.96 ERA, 11th-highest in baseball.

8 7

Jake Arrieta/Jason Hammel. With a rotation that has been inconsistent, Arrieta (2.66 ERA, 0.99 WHIP) and Hammel (2.86, 0.95) have been essential to Cubs' success thus far.

9 11

Brian Dozier. His dramatic walk-off home run against Detroit last week was the exclamation point on Minnesota’s out-of-nowhere first-half success.

10 4

Dallas Keuchel. He started the All-Star Game and has a 2.23 ERA/2.82 FIP at the break, but unfortunately for the lagging Astros, he can’t start every game.

11   14

Joe Panik. The Giants have had so many underrated contributors (Aoki, Duffy, Crawford, Belt), but nobody's been better than Panik (.820 OPS).

12 16

Jacob deGrom. The reigning NL Rookie of the Year proved he's for real with a stellar first half (2.14 ERA, 0.92 WHIP) and added a dominant All-Star apperance to boost.

13 13

Chris Archer. If his nickname isn’t “Codename Duchess” yet, we’ve failed. His 2.74 ERA is a big reason why the Rays aren’t buried in the up-and-down AL East.

14 10

Manny Machado. At 23, his monster first half (4.2 WAR, 19 HR, 13 SB) puts him in the MVP discussion, where he’ll stay if Baltimore makes a second-half run.

15 12

Josh Donaldson. Remember when Oakland traded him for Brett Lawrie? Whoops. His 4.7 WAR is the third-highest total in the American League. Lawrie: 1.0 WAR.

16 15

J.D. Martinez. With Miguel Cabrera out for the next few weeks and Victor Martinez struggling, he and Yoenis Cespedes (3.3 WAR) will have to prop up this shaky, .500 team.

17 17

Paul Goldschmidt/A.J. Pollock. Goldschmidt was expected to produce, but nobody expected his ridiculous first half (.340/.455/.610 slash line, 21 HR, 70 RBI, 16 SB). Pollock has emerged as a must-needed spark atop the lineup with an .814 OPS and fantastic CF defense.

18 20

Jason Kipnis. He leads all players not named Harper or Trout in WAR (4.8) and is making his 2014 regression (0.8 WAR) look like a major fluke.

19 21

Clay Buchholz. He’s the only player (3.26 ERA/2.62 FIP) keeping a generally awful starting rotation from the abyss.

20 27

Chris Sale. Baseball’s most dominant first-half pitcher and someone who the White Sox shouldn’t trade, even if he’d fetch a massive haul in return.  Baseball’s most dominant first-half pitcher and someone who the White Sox shouldn’t trade, even if he’d fetch a massive haul in return.

21 18

Yovani Gallardo. With a 2.62 ERA, the right-hander should fetch the spinning-their-wheels Rangers a decent prospect at the trade deadline.

22 19 Shelby Miller. Miller's 2.38 ERA and 1.15 WHIP established him as an All-Star and ensured the Braves undoubtedly won the Jason Heyward trade.
23 22

Nelson Cruz. Unfortunately, his 21 home runs and .308/.373/.546 line haven’t translated into much offensive success for one of baseball’s biggest first-half disappointments.

24 21

Justin Upton. He's the only offseason big-ticket acquisition to actually play up to his potential this season.

25 25

Sonny Gray. His 2.04 ERA leads the American League and is only bested by Zack Greinke’s 1.39 mark.

26 24

Todd Frazier. In a lost season for the Reds, Frazier (.922 OPS) has taken his game to the next level and given Reds fans reason to cheer all year, including his chilling Home Run Derby performance.

27 28

Nolan Arenado. The 24-year-old established himself as a bonafide offensive star (.926 OPS, 24 HR, 70 RBI) to go with his awesome defense.

28 26

Adam Lind. A .292 AVG and .887 OPS has helped stabilize the lineup.

29 29

Dee Gordon. I wanted to give it to Giancarlo Stanton (.952 OPS), but Gordon's 122 hits, .338 average and good defense has been a welcome addition to the Marlins.

30 30

Cole Hamels. Hamels has been a stud (3.63 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 9.49 K/9) and will bring a big return back to the Phils...if their front office is smart enough to trade him.

What the Cubs can learn from the 2019 MLB postseason so far


What the Cubs can learn from the 2019 MLB postseason so far

For the 10 teams that qualify for MLB’s postseason, October represents a chance to climb baseball’s mountain and secure a championship. For the 20 other teams sitting at home, though, October is a chance to evaluate those in the Big Dance.

Less than two weeks into the postseason, here’s some things that the Cubs can take away from the action thus far.

1. Starting pitching matters

With bullpens being relied on more than ever, starting pitchers aren’t used the same way as just a few seasons ago. The Brewers rode their bullpen all the way to Game 7 of the NLCS last season, while the Rays used an “opener” (a reliever who starts a game and pitches 1-3 innings) in Game 4 of the ALDS this season – beating the Astros 4-1.

And yet, the Astros and Nationals are proving how important it is to have a difference-making rotation. The bullpening method can work, but being able to throw Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke at an opponent in a single postseason series is downright unfair.

The Nationals have Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin in their rotation, as formidable of a trio as any in the National League. They also have Anibal Sánchez, who took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of Game 1 of the NLCS against the Cardinals on Friday. No big deal...

And despite getting eliminated, the Rays — Blake Snell, Tyler Glasnow, Charlie Morton — and Dodgers — Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Hyun-Jin Ryu — have talented rotations, as do the Cardinals and Yankees.

Meanwhile, the Cubs rotation didn’t have as big of an impact this season as they expected, a contributing factor to the team not making it to October.

“We had really high hopes for our starting group this year," Theo Epstein said at his end-of-season press conference. "You looked at it 1-through-5, we had a chance to roll out a really quality starter on a nightly basis, and that might be an area that was a separator for us versus some of the teams we were competing with. While we had a couple guys who had really good years and all our starters had their moments, it didn't prove to be a separator.

"There was some injury and regression (especially after injury) that led us to be closer to the pack certainly than we had envisioned. It’s an accomplished and experienced group, but with experience means that we could stand to add some younger talent, refresh the group as well. We certainly need to add depth and we need to add some youth and a little bit of a different look to the staff, as well, going forward.”

Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester are under contract for 2020, while Jose Quintana has an $11.5 team option. The Cubs don’t have an Astros or Nationals-esque trio, but their rotation can still be good enough to lead the charge in 2020. They’ll need them to do just that if they are to return to the top of the NL Central.

2. Manager decision-making is far more important in October than regular season

The Dodgers’ season came to an abrupt close in Game 5 of the NLDS, with manager Dave Roberts being smack dab in the spotlight.

With the Dodgers leading 3-1 in the seventh inning, Roberts called Clayton Kershaw’s number to get Los Angeles out of a two on, two out jam. Kershaw did just that, but the Nationals opened the eighth with home runs from Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto (on consecutive pitches) to tie the game.

Kershaw is one of the best pitchers in his generation, a three-time Cy Young Award winner and one-time NL MVP. However, his postseason woes are real (4.43 ERA, 32 games/25 starts), and therefore, Roberts made a questionable decision going with Kershaw in that moment. 

Where was Kenta Maeda to face Rendon? Maeda had allowed just a single hit in 3 2/3 innings at this point in the postseason. He took over for Kershaw after Soto’s home run, striking out three-straight Dodgers to end the eighth. 

Roberts also didn't bring in closer Kenley Jansen to start the 10th inning, when the game was still tied 3-3. Instead, he left in Joe Kelly, who allowed a decisive grand slam to Howie Kendrick. Only then did Jansen come in, but the damage was done. Not bringing in your closer in an extra-inning postseason game is inexcusable, and while it may be outcome bias, this game proves why.

Roberts has 393 wins in four seasons as Dodgers manager, leading them to World Series appearances in 2017 and 2018. Even with that experience, though, he made a bad decision at a terrible time. The postseason is a different animal, not only for players, but the coaches in the dugouts, too.

Of the known candidates the Cubs have interviewed for manager — David Ross, Joe Girardi, Mark Loretta and Will Venable — only Girardi has big-league managing experience. And while Epstein noted at his press conference that it isn’t everything, he added that experience is important.

"Lack of experience - and I'm speaking broadly for the group, not necessarily [about Ross] - is always a factor,” Epstein said. “It's not a determining factor, but it's a significant factor. I always have greater comfort level hiring for roles in which the person has done the role before. Especially with manager.

“But I think there are ways for that to be overcome - there are a lot of different ways to get experience in this game - beliefs, skills, personal attributes, those can outweigh a lack of experience, but experience certainly helps.”

3. Winning in the postseason is tough

After the Cubs won the World Series in 2016, there was a feeling that baseball’s next dynasty was underway. After all, the Cubs had a talented, young position player group that reached the promised land early in their time together. It made sense.

Those talks have died down, of course, as the Cubs haven’t even appeared in the World Series since 2016. And while they've had plenty of success since 2015, it feels like they could’ve had more.

The thing about baseball, though, is that it’s extremely hard to sustain those high levels of success. A few teams (Red Sox, Cardinals, Giants) have won multiple World Series this century, none have repeated as champions since the Yankees, who won three-straight from 1998-2000.

The Twins won 101 games this season and were swept out of the ALDS. The Braves won 97, only to lose Game 5 of the NLDS in brutal fashion at home to the Cardinals.

The Dodgers made it to the World Series in 2017 and 2018 and came up empty both times. They won 106 games this season, a franchise record, only to be eliminated in the NLDS by the Nationals — a Wild Card team, nonetheless.

Does that make last few seasons even more frustrating for the Cubs and their fans? Probably. October is a crapshoot, meaning as long as a team gets in, they have a shot at winning it all, no matter their record.

At the same time, the Cubs made things look easy in 2016. They had brilliant injury luck, a historic defense, a deep position player group, a loaded starting rotation and the right manager for their young core. Even so, it took erasing a 3-to-1 series deficit against the Indians to win it all, not to mention a dramatic Game 7 win that nearly didn’t go their way.

This isn’t an excuse for the Cubs shortcomings in 2019, but merely a reminder: they won the 2016 World Series, and that's no small feat. This offseason offers the chance to improve as a team for 2020, when they’ll set out to win again.

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Cubs Talk Podcast: Kap breaks down the Cubs managerial search

USA Today

Cubs Talk Podcast: Kap breaks down the Cubs managerial search

David Kaplan shares his thoughts on the Cubs, the decision to move on from Joe Maddon (0:50), the process in hiring a new manager (2:40), and who should be in the dugout next season (4:05).

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 

Cubs Talk Podcast