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MLB Power Rankings: Cardinals flying high

May 16, 2013, 7:00 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today

By Steve Roney
CSNwashington.com

The top two spots in the rankings have held firm, with the Reds making a huge jump and Atlanta continuing to tumble. Here's how Nationals Insider Mark Zuckerman, Nats writer Chase Hughes, and I see the rest of the league shaking out:

1. Cardinals (26-13; LW: 1) – Roney: In St. Louis, having the best rotation equals having the best record — all five regular starters (who have made all but one start this season) have an ERA under 3.00.

2. Rangers (26-14; LW: 2) – Hughes: Led by Yu Darvish and Derek Holland, the Rangers have built the best starting rotation in the American League. Plus, 38-year-old Joe Nathan has been great as their closer.

3. Yankees (25-15; LW: 6) – Zuckerman: Vernon Wells: Utilityman? Hey, the Yankees are making it work right now.

4. Reds (24-16; LW: 12) – Roney: Jay Bruce's power is starting to come back, which is great news — even if he continues on his 200+ strikeout pace.

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  1. peric - May 16, 2013 at 7:43 PM

    Who says Kilgore doesn't have a sense of humor? Gallows sense … still …They weren’t the clutchiest bunch of clutches who ever clutched;

  2. Gonat - May 16, 2013 at 8:03 PM

    I'm watching the replay of last nights game on MASN. Painful to watch that 8th inning again.With men on 1st and 2nd, Mattingly sac bunted the runners to 2nd and 3rd. Davey countered by IBB to load the bases. Carl Crawford did what the Nats batters couldn't do in the top of the 8th. Took an off-speed pitch and waited back on it and just lofted it out there deep to Sac Fly the runner home from 3rd.

  3. baseballswami - May 16, 2013 at 8:22 PM

    Two nights in a row we had the same number of hits as they did. So the problem is not just making contact but situational hitting. You have got to find a way to move runners and score them. Even if it results in an out against a personal batting average. Nine hits- one run? How is that possible?

  4. Secret wasian man - May 16, 2013 at 8:33 PM

    Dodgers at 23 cubs at 25. Lost 2 of 3 to both. Padres 21st. Not looking good. MEDIOCRITY at its best.

  5. Dave - May 16, 2013 at 8:38 PM

    Nolan Ryan's son just named Astros president. So the Stros couldn't get the big guy, so they got his son?Don't know whether you've been following that story down there, but I really feel for Bo Porter these days. It's a tough gig he signed up for.

  6. Eric - May 16, 2013 at 8:39 PM

    >Nine hits- one run?Did we really have 9 hits last night? That makes me wanna tear my hair out all over again!

  7. baseballswami - May 16, 2013 at 8:44 PM

    Yes!! I did not see the game, but saw some highlights. Almost everyone in the lineup got a hit. Ramos doubled, ALR hit a home run. Singles, singles , singles, obviously not strung together. I just find that to be very odd. Apparently the Dodgers used almost every reliever to match up against our hitters. I guess it worked.

  8. Gonat - May 16, 2013 at 8:45 PM

    baseballswami said… Two nights in a row we had the same number of hits as they did. So the problem is not just making contact but situational hitting.______________________Of course! After Espi failed 3 times with RISP, he gets a single in the 9th with nobody on base. Then again, some people say there is no such thing as clutch which is why I wonder why they keep stats on it.

  9. NatsLady - May 16, 2013 at 8:49 PM

    Got new posted. Small ball is good, but ya gotta know how to do it. Here is the Mets, trying.Rick Ankiel hits a ground-rule double (4) on a line drive down the left-field line.On-field Delay.2. Ruben Tejada singles on a ground ball to left fielder Allen Craig. Rick Ankiel to 3rd.3. Jon Niese strikes out on a foul bunt.4. Jordany Valdespin bunt pops out to catcher Yadier Molina in foul territory.5. Daniel Murphy walks. Ruben Tejada to 2nd.Pitching Change: Fernando Salas replaces Randy Choate, batting 9th.Coaching visit to mound.6. David Wright lines out softly to second baseman Matt Carpenter.

  10. baseballswami - May 16, 2013 at 8:51 PM

    Here is my beef with RISP– you have to be willing to be personally out in order to produce something for the team!!! With two strikes , shorten up, battle off pitches, put the ball in play. It irritates me no end with a runner on third , zero or one out, the hitter does not sac fly, he makes an unproductive K. If that's Davey's approach, then maybe a philosophical adjustment is needed. I want a regular, healthy line up!!!! Ok- out of my system for today.

  11. NatsLady - May 16, 2013 at 8:55 PM

    Oh, and according to Terry Collins, Valdespin bunted on his own, not ordered by the bench. That guy…

  12. Exposremains - May 16, 2013 at 8:55 PM

    BowdenIf you're still out there… Kilgore doesn't want to question character and clutch, i question mental toughness and reacting well to pressure.it was on full display during the playoff and I haven't seen signs thats improving. I do think that late innings have more pressure. If you're bad against every team you're the problem. I know you don't agree just my opinion.

  13. Eric - May 16, 2013 at 8:55 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Eric - May 16, 2013 at 8:57 PM

    "Got new posted. Small ball is good, but ya gotta know how to do it. Here is the Mets, trying."That's the rub. Have we made a strategic decision to avoid it in clutch situations in favor of long ball? Or, are we just bad at it?I kinda think it's the former because we have had some success moving runners in early innings.

  15. bowdenball - May 16, 2013 at 9:00 PM

    baseballswami said…"Two nights in a row we had the same number of hits as they did. So the problem is not just making contact but situational hitting."The Nats are actually 13th in baseball in sacrifice hits. 13th is among the better leaguewide rankings for this offense. They're actually very good at situation hitting when you consider that they get fewer opportunities for sacrifices because they're 28th (!) in OBP.Speaking of OBP, I think part of the problem is walks. It's bad enough with the full lineup: the Nats are 22nd in baseball in walk rate this year. Without Harper and Werth it becomes a much bigger problem. Three walks in the last two games. That's one more than Harper drew in five innings on Monday. Although obviously part of that is due to the quality of opposing pitching.

  16. Steady Eddie - May 16, 2013 at 9:00 PM

    swami — you would think getting an RBI stat would be enough incentive to sac fly more consistently. But you have to take a professional AB to achieve that. ALR tried and just narrowly missed last night, Desi was trying for the three run HR and came up with nothing.Revealing that two of Moore's more significant, game-winning RBIs — his 2 RBI single in Game 1 and his sac fly against the Pirates two Saturdays ago — BOTH came on soft flies to the opposite field by a hitter whose strength is to pull. Those came on professional ABs.

  17. Harpo - May 16, 2013 at 9:00 PM

    If you like Fangraphs and there definition of leverage (hi to low), RISP when you are ahead by 5 runs or behind by 5 runs isn't a hi leverage situation.

  18. Harpo - May 16, 2013 at 9:01 PM

    Exposremains, I think I agree with what you are saying which is what I just posted on how players do as the pressure of the situation increases.

  19. bowdenball - May 16, 2013 at 9:02 PM

    Thanks for your thoughts, Expos. You're right of course, I don't agree at all, but I do appreciate the post.

  20. NatsLady - May 16, 2013 at 9:06 PM

    I do like fangraphs, but I don't always understand it. Clip coming in and getting that last out didn't get him a "clutch" rating (though he did get a hold, because the tying run was on deck).

  21. baseballswami - May 16, 2013 at 9:12 PM

    Let's face it-/ this line up starts looking a whole lot better with HEALTHY Werth and Harper. They have both either been on the bench or playing at less than a full tank of gas. I think we are looking at another week until they are up to speed. It does worry me, though, that Jayson is scratched from Potomac tonight.

  22. Janus - May 16, 2013 at 9:16 PM

    Dave,I saw Bo Porter ignore the rule that a relief pitcher has to face at least one batter – jeez you'd think he'd know that being around baseball his whole life. Kinda like Gibbs calling two timeouts in a row.Oh well, at least Porter got away with it.

  23. David Proctor - May 16, 2013 at 9:18 PM

    LaRoche was clearly trying to hit a sac fly. He popped it up 4 times during his AB (three went foul). He just didn't hit it quite far enough, but it was close. Suzuki just got under one. The real problem in that sequence was with Desmond swinging for the fences there. He must've thought he was getting pitches to hit because he's repeatedly been the guy preaching against trying too hard. It doesn't make sense that he'd randomly change his approach there.Just very odd.

  24. Steady Eddie - May 16, 2013 at 9:19 PM

    swami – that scratch of Werth was not good news, although Amanda and james Wagner speculated that it could be the chance of rain tonight? Though it seems odd that he wouldn't be OK with being pulled from a MiLB game if it starts raining.

  25. baseballswami - May 16, 2013 at 9:19 PM

    Game got moving too fast for all of them.

  26. Exposremains - May 16, 2013 at 9:19 PM

    Thanks Bowden. I like how our conversation turned out even though we don't agree. To be clear, I don't question them as human being, Im sure they are great guys. I do think the mental part comes with time and having deal with pressure many times. I think thats what makes the Cards so good even tough I really dont like them.

  27. David Proctor - May 16, 2013 at 9:19 PM

    For as much nausea as Clip may bring us, he's been very good lately. He had a couple of rough outings, but he's getting it done. Drew has struggled, but his advanced stats are very friendly to him. He's really running into bad luck, I think.

  28. David Proctor - May 16, 2013 at 9:21 PM

    Also, for as bad as our bench bats are, the Shark has been heating up. Moore and Tracy however…

  29. peric - May 16, 2013 at 9:32 PM

    Also, for as bad as our bench bats are, the Shark has been heating up. Moore and Tracy however…Not really all three are pretty dismal at this juncture. The Shark is way off his performance early last season. The other two are within what they had last season at this time. In Tracy's case he really hasn't been much except for a month or so last season. He's the one to watch. If he doesn't produce they might release or DFA him.

  30. JD - May 16, 2013 at 9:34 PM

    'the Shark has been heating up'Really? He has 0 extra base hits in 49 at bats. 6 singles and 3 walks. what has he done to make it appear that he's heating up?

  31. David Proctor - May 16, 2013 at 9:34 PM

    Shark has 5 hits in his last 7 games. It took him like 20 at bats to get his first hit. He's definitely playing better than he was.

  32. JD - May 16, 2013 at 9:38 PM

    Roger has played great defense though making him equal to replacement level. The other 2 are way below replacement level.

  33. JD - May 16, 2013 at 9:40 PM

    Rizzo will definitely make some bench changes in the near term if things continue as they are. We may as well give Will Rhymes, Marrero and Owings a look.

  34. JD - May 16, 2013 at 9:40 PM

    And Kobernus.

  35. peric - May 16, 2013 at 9:41 PM

    Got new posted. Small ball is good, but ya gotta know how to do it. Here is the Mets, trying.Small ball is bad. ONLY sub .500 teams with no chance offenses try this. Refresh your memory Natslady see Riggleman, Jim "smart ball". Lots of wasted outs on sacrifices. Lots of wasted opportunities on forcing hitter to always hit to the opposite field.

  36. Gonat - May 16, 2013 at 9:42 PM

    http://www.masnsports.com/index_medialounge.php?show_id=1730726&p=Can anyone understand what got Davey so ticked off at the 1:35 mark to the 1:45 mark.

  37. Eric - May 16, 2013 at 9:45 PM

    "I do think the mental part comes with time and having deal with pressure many times. I think thats what makes the Cards so good even tough I really dont like them."Absolutely.

  38. peric - May 16, 2013 at 9:46 PM

    We may as well give Will Rhymes, Marrero and Owings a look.All with the exception of Marerro must be added to the 40-man. Highly unlikely JD. Rhymes would only be brought in if they decide to give up on Tracy. And we know Davey won't easily. Owings seems very highly unlikely.What seems more likely is Zach Walters and Jeff Kobernus at this juncture if there are going to be any new additions to the 40-man.Marerro ostensibly gets swapped with Moore. I can see this if they feel the lack of AB's is hurting T-Mo. Marerro is more of an eventual sub that probably will never be a true starter.

  39. Eric - May 16, 2013 at 9:49 PM

    "Small ball is bad. ONLY sub .500 teams with no chance offenses try this."Did you miss NLDS game 5 and the April 2013 Cards @ Nats series? The birds were all over the small ball.

  40. Dominats Vobiscum - May 16, 2013 at 9:50 PM

    "Can anyone understand what got Davey so ticked off at the 1:35 mark to the 1:45 mark."Someone asked him about a report in some paper about Bryce not wanting to change the way he plays. Probably an out of town reporter or a national media guy. Didn't sound like stuttering Adam Kilgore or girly Amanda Comak.

  41. peric - May 16, 2013 at 9:53 PM

    Did you miss NLDS game 5 and the April 2013 Cards @ Nats series? The birds were all over the small ball.And the Nats and their power bats should have won that handily were it not for the relief staff pitching collapses … especially Storen. How many runs lead did he have again?The Nats were the superior team in that series bar none. But that's baseball. That's also why the Giants had an easy time with the Cards.

  42. Eugene in Oregon - May 16, 2013 at 9:53 PM

    On clutch hitting, put me in the skeptical camp — at least on the question of whether it's a measurable skill.Certainly some situations are 'clutch' but how do you define them in a comparable, meaningful way? Batting with RISP anytime? RISP only in the late innings? RISP in the late innings but only when your team is within two runs? Three runs? Within four? Does it have to be a meaningful game? Extra weight for the playoffs? Extra weight for the World Series? Reduce the weight if both teams are in last place in their division? Is leading off the ninth when you're behind by one run clutch? What about hitting in the tenth with two outs and nobody on base — is that still clutch given that any run expectancy at that point has gone way, way down? Fangraphs' 'leverage' stats are moving in the right direction, but I'm still not convinced they do a great job (just like it's hard to come up with a defensive measurement).Second, given that hitting the ball 3 out of 10 ABs is considered quite skillful, does it make sense to call someone a choker (or, at least, not clutch) if that drops to 2.5 out of 10 in 'clutch' situations? When you're probably facing one of the other team's better relievers? When the defense may be a bit more on it's toes than in the early innings?Finally, take a look at some players' various 'clutch' stats not as career stats, but year-by-year. If you assume that 'clutch' equals 'mental toughness' or some such, then those stats would presumably be pretty consistent form year to year. But the reality is that for most players (not all, I'll acknowledge) that stats that people define as 'clutch' often vary widely from season to season to season. Up, down, up, up, down, up, down. Why? Small sample size and randomness, mainly.We remember big hits and big misses (and then to label players accordingly), but for most players the 'clutch' stats — however you define them — tend to be within a standard deviation of the their career averages.

  43. David Proctor - May 16, 2013 at 9:53 PM

    I asked Dan Kolko on twitter. He said it was indeed a question about Harper going all-out and that postgame wasn't the setting for that or something.

  44. EmDash - May 16, 2013 at 9:54 PM

    Gonat – from what the beat writers said, it was in reaction to someone asking about Bryce's comments that he wasn't going to stop playing hard. Guess he was tired of being asked about it.

  45. peric - May 16, 2013 at 9:56 PM

    Guess he was tired of being asked about it.That's LA for you. Davey isn't inclined toward liking the Dodgers all that much anyway given what happened to him there. And many point to that debacle when they claim he is overrated.

  46. JD - May 16, 2013 at 9:58 PM

    Eric,Peric This is a very easy argument. There have been extensive statistical studies on the subject and the result consistently show that you score more runs when you don't give away outs via sacrifice etc. IMO the only situations which dictate giving away outs is if you feel that 1 run is all you need to win the game i.e bottom of the 9th etc. or if the hitter is so poor that he has no chance of getting a hit (mostly pitchers).

  47. Eric - May 16, 2013 at 9:59 PM

    "Certainly some situations are 'clutch' but how do you define them in a comparable, meaningful way?"Boz put it well. Something along the lines of, "you have full command and can execute your greatest abilities when the outcome matters most." I thinking was in his OpEd about the Stras Cubs meltdown.I don't know how you quantify it, but I'd say it's precisely the thing the Cards had that we didn't in NLDS G5.

  48. Gonat - May 16, 2013 at 10:01 PM

    Dominats, thanks for the translation!

  49. JD - May 16, 2013 at 10:02 PM

    Eugene, That's a very good explanation on your part and I agree. There is a well accepted theory in NY that Derek Jeter is one of the greatest clutch hitters of all time; this is perpetuated by well known talk show hosts like Mike Fransesca but statistics show that Jeter's stats in the playoffs are almost exactly the same as they are in the regular season. It's that microscope again.

  50. Gonat - May 16, 2013 at 10:04 PM

    David Proctor said… I asked Dan Kolko on twitter. He said it was indeed a question about Harper going all-out and that postgame wasn't the setting for that or something. May 16, 2013 5:53 PM EmDash said… Gonat – from what the beat writers said, it was in reaction to someone asking about Bryce's comments that he wasn't going to stop playing hard. Guess he was tired of being asked about it. May 16, 2013 5:54 PM __________________________________Thanks to both of you. Can't say I've seen Davey react like that before.

  51. Eric - May 16, 2013 at 10:05 PM

    JD, while small ball definitely includes occasionally giving up outs to move runners, I don't think it's at accurate to say that's all it entails. Bloops that fall, placing hits, etc, are all part of it. I agree that giving up an out is only worthwhile in very specific circumstances.

  52. Gonat - May 16, 2013 at 10:05 PM

    Davey went through a rough game with the Ramos and Detwiler situation plus the ongoing issues with Bryce and Werth back in DC.

  53. JD - May 16, 2013 at 10:08 PM

    Eric, I think that for the most part bloops and 'placing hits' are more a product of luck than anything else. I think G5 had a lot to do with luck. I don't think anyone chocked.

  54. JD - May 16, 2013 at 10:11 PM

    Eric, I do know what you mean though. You are talking about choking up on the bat, swinging the opposite way, shortening you swing. I just don't think that this is part of Davie's philosophy. He wants his players to try for hard contact at most times. I do agree that as a team we don't seem to have a good strategy for 2 strike hitting. As a whole we don't spoil good pitches and we strike out too often on really bad pitches

  55. Theophilus T. S. - May 16, 2013 at 10:12 PM

    "Small ball is bad. ONLY sub .500 teams with no chance offenses try this."That comes pretty close to describing this team.

  56. Gonat - May 16, 2013 at 10:18 PM

    MLB Network will be discussing Strasburg's attitude.Eric Byrnes said the Nats are still the best team in the MLB and the Cardinals are doing everything right with exceptional starting pitching including Shelby Miller.

  57. David Proctor - May 16, 2013 at 10:25 PM

    Harper is in the lineup tonight. Espinosa is not.Tonight's lineup at SDP: Span 8, Lombardozzi 4, Harper 7, Zimmerman 5, LaRoche 3, Desmond 6, Bernadina 9, Suzuki 2, Strasburg 1

  58. peric - May 16, 2013 at 10:25 PM

    That comes pretty close to describing this team.I suppose that could come to pass. Lots of singles hitter who don't like to walk. Two young seemingly legit power hitters. One who is still recovering. One who has been pretty inconsistent since coming to the Nats. One who was way over touted from his days with the Phillies. One who sits on the bench and can't buy hits at this point from off of the bench. One who seems to need the rotator cuff surgery. Me thinks they should bundle the two young power and perhaps future impact bats together in the lineup instead of spreading them out.

  59. Theophilus T. S. - May 16, 2013 at 10:25 PM

    "This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball."I don't endorse small ball. I do endorse being able to do the basics, and they're not very good at most of them right now. I think it's mental. Everyone of them heard all winter how good they are and nearly all of them decided they were so good they didn't need to listen to anyone tell them how to swing the bat, throw the ball, play their position and start with strike one. The general perception last year was that they were too young, by a year, to win a championship. It turns out they won a championship and they're still to young, except for Werth, LaRoche and Soriano (who are too old to learn anything) and three or four others. Maybe they need an 80-82 season to knock some sense in their heads — and they're working on it!Desmond goes up to the plate swinging like Adam Dunn — all or nothing. Even when a ground ball up the middle were suffice. (Is there a statistic for league average for ground balls up the middle? I'd like to see Desmond's position on that list.) Every time he swings from the heels it's like listening to chalk on the blackboard (except they don't have blackboards or chalk in the schools these days.)

  60. Theophilus T. S. - May 16, 2013 at 10:26 PM

    "too young"

  61. peric - May 16, 2013 at 10:26 PM

    Tonight's lineup at SDP: Span 8, Lombardozzi 4, Harper 7, Zimmerman 5, LaRoche 3, Desmond 6, Bernadina 9, Suzuki 2, Strasburg 1Back to left-right-left again.

  62. EmDash - May 16, 2013 at 10:27 PM

    Really don't like the idea of playing Harper…it feels like Davey's a little desperate for a win, which should never be the case in May.

  63. Gonat - May 16, 2013 at 10:29 PM

    David Proctor said… Harper is in the lineup tonight. Espinosa is not.Tonight's lineup at SDP: Span 8, Lombardozzi 4, Harper 7, Zimmerman 5, LaRoche 3, Desmond 6, Bernadina 9, Suzuki 2, Strasburg 1 May 16, 2013 6:25 PM ____________________________Good! Progress!

  64. peric - May 16, 2013 at 10:30 PM

    Really don't like the idea of playing Harper…it feels like Davey's a little desperate for a win, which should never be the case in May.Harper won't leave him alone. As someone observed last night … when Ramos went down the first guy over at Davey was Harper probably trying to convince him that he could catch. (Since Werth is out.). I bet he still carries that catchers glove somewhere.

  65. David Proctor - May 16, 2013 at 10:30 PM

    Well Bryce said he felt good in the batter's box. He said it was elsewhere he felt "terrible." I don't think Davey would play him if Bryce was in bad shape.

  66. David Proctor - May 16, 2013 at 10:32 PM

    Apparently Werth is playing tonight at Potomac. Maybe because of the rain?

  67. Gonat - May 16, 2013 at 10:33 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  68. David Proctor - May 16, 2013 at 10:33 PM

    isn't*

  69. Eric - May 16, 2013 at 10:56 PM

    "I think G5 had a lot to do with luck. I don't think anyone chocked."I agree 100% that no one choked. I would agree about the luck except the Cards swept us in April in almost exactly the same way. There's absolutely skill involved in placing bloops and grounders and bunts, IMO. Ty Cobb's thoughts about long ball v small ball are very interesting.

  70. Eric - May 16, 2013 at 11:09 PM

    Oh but again, I don't feel offense should be built around small ball, I just think it should be developed as an option. Gotta be ready for anything!

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
WASHINGTON 57 46 --
ATLANTA 58 48 0.5
MIAMI 52 53 6.0
NEW YORK 51 55 7.5
PHILADELPHIA 46 60 12.5
Through Monday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
TUE: Nats at Marlins, 7:10 p.m.
WED: Nats at Marlins, 12:40 p.m.
THU: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
FRI: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Phillies at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
SUN: Phillies at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
MON: Orioles at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
Full season schedule

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