Posted: Thursday June 30, 2011 11:15AM ; Updated: Thursday June 30, 2011 7:19PM
Joe Lemire
Joe Lemire>MLB POWER RANKINGS

Making choices for the All-Star Game while Phillies stay on top

Story Highlights

All-Star rosters for the 82nd Midsummer Classic will be released on Sunday

MVP candidates Adrian Gonzalez and Prince Fielder should be among starters

Phillies, still No. 1, knock Red Sox, last week's No. 2, down to sixth

Voting closes on Major League Baseball's All-Star teams on Thursday, with the teams to be announced Sunday, but Power Rankings doesn't see a reason to wait. If the players were appointed rather than elected, one rendition of the roster would look as follows:

Two notes on methodology:

*Though offense was the primary consideration, as in selecting a more traditional All-Star team, significant weight was given to defensive play, which explains why Ben Zobrist edged out Robinson Cano at second base and Placido Polanco emerged from a down year at NL third base.

*The idea at NL DH was simply to pick the best hitter who wasn't already placed at a position.

Catcher
AL: Alex Avila, Tigers
NL: Brian McCann, Braves

First Base
AL: Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox
NL: Prince Fielder, Brewers

Second Base
AL: Ben Zobrist, Rays
NL: Rickie Weeks, Brewers

Third Base
AL: Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
NL: Placido Polanco, Phillies

Shortstop
AL: Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians
NL: Jose Reyes, Mets

Outfield
AL: Jose Bautista, Blue Jays
Curtis Granderson, Yankees
Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox

NL: Matt Kemp, Dodgers
Ryan Braun, Brewers
Lance Berkman, Cardinals

Designated Hitter
AL: David Ortiz, Red Sox
NL: Joey Votto, Reds

Starting Pitchers
AL: Justin Verlander, Tigers
Jered Weaver, Angels
Josh Beckett, Red Sox
Gio Gonzalez, Athletics
James Shields, Rays

NL: Roy Halladay, Phillies
Jair Jurrjens, Braves
Cole Hamels, Phillies
Cliff Lee, Phillies
Tommy Hanson, Braves

Relief Pitcher
AL: Mariano Rivera, Yankees
NL: Joel Hanrahan, Pirates

Toughest Omission
AL: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers

NL: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

NOTE: All stats are updated through Wednesday, June 29.

MLB Power Rankings
1Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 1
Expected closer Brad Lidge hasn't pitched all year due to injury. Replacement closer Jose Contreras went on the disabled list earlier this month. And most recently the backup to the backup, Ryan Madson, joined both of them on the DL, meaning hisbackups, Antonio Bastardo and Michael Stutes, ought to sleep with one eye open. Despite all the turbulence, the Phillies have converted 22 of 24 save chances, a 91.7 percent rate that ranks first in the majors. Until Wednesday they hadn't had a save since June 12, however, as their 10 previous wins didn't require a closer: five by more than three runs, three when their starter threw a complete game in a close game (Roy Halladay and Cliff both did so in the past week) and two in walkoffs.
 
2New York Yankees
Last Week: 3
Before allowing 10 runs in a loss to the Reds on June 22, the Yankees had gone 11 straight games with allowing more than four runs in a game, tied for the fifth-longest streak in the majors this season. New York then picked up right where it left off with five more straight games of yielding four or fewer runs and has gone 13-4 since the first streak began. Their starting pitchers have not only been effective but they're also going deep into games, picking up the win in 11 of those 13 victories.
 
3Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 4
A baseball player's age-27 season is often thought to be his peak year, and Braves catcher Brian McCann's recent hot streak has put him on pace for just that. In his last 11 games McCann has hits in 10 of them and has raised his average 18 points, his OBP 21 points and his slugging 47 points to boost his season line to .314/.388/.527. Amidst this 17-for-41, McCann has five extra-base hits -- all home runs -- to give him a team-leading 14 homers and 46 RBIs.
 
4Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 5
The Rays have average pitching (99 ERA+) and average hitting (103 OPS+) yet remain just 3 1/2 games off the pace in the AL East and one game behind the wild-card leader, a testament to their outstanding defense. As noted by FanGraphs, Tampa Bay has by far the best defensive efficiency in the game. Impressively, the Rays have done this without Gold Glove leftfielder Carl Crawford and without any defender ranked first in Ultimate Zone Rating at his position, though Ben Zobrist is second at second base and Sam Fuld is third in leftfield.
 
5San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 11
Tuesday was an impromptu old(ish)-timers day for the Giants in their doubleheader against the Cubs. In the first game the 33-and-older brigade led the day in a 13-7 win, as Aaron Rowand (2-for-5, 3 RBIs, 2 R), Miguel Tejada (3-for-6, HR, RBI, 2 R), Aubrey Huff (1-for-4, 2 RBIs, 2 R) and Pat Burrell (3-for-5, HR, 3 RBIs, 2 R) all crushed the ball. In the nightcap fellow 33-year-old Barry Zito made his return from the DL to earn his first win of the season while allowing just two runs over seven innings.
 
6Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 2
The Red Sox will be glad to leave Pennsylvania. The Sox unexpectedly lost two of three in Pittsburgh over the weekend and now the first two in a series in Philadelphia in a battle of last week's top two teams in the Power Rankings. With the losses Boston has fallen 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the AL East, their lowest standing since May 18. Its vaunted offense is lagging. After scoring 8.0 runs per game in their 14-2 hot spell, the Sox have scored 2.1 runs per game in their recent 1-6 stretch. Due to injuries and a lack of righty bats, journeyman Darnell McDonald was batting fifth against the Phillies' Cliff Lee on Monday. Perhaps not surprisingly, the Red Sox were shut out.
 
7Texas Rangers
Last Week: 7
The Rangers' plan for Michael Young can be placed in the file for "best-case scenario" in the season's first half. After Young wasn't traded despite the acquisition of free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre, Texas said it'd use Young primarily as their DH and as an infield super-sub. He's started 44 games at DH, 23 at first base, 11 at second base and one at third base while handling the bat very well with a .318/.353/.472 batting line. He was also AL Player of the Week last week after batting .481 with four home runs and five consecutive multi-hit games.
 
8Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 8
It was a big week for Detroit managers. Sparky Anderson, the late Hall of Famer who won three World Series with two teams, had his number retired by the Tigers, whom he managed for 17 years and for 1,331 wins and the 1984 championship. Then on Monday current Tigers skipper Jim Leyland was ejected in animated fashion after a play at first base was overturned; even Leyland admitted that the call was made correct but he argued that he had never seen such a call reversed in 48 years of baseball. Regardless, he had his club playing with fire, as that was the Tigers' third straight win before losing a pair to the Mets.
 
9Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 9
Lonnie Chisenhall arrived at just the right time. The Indians' top position-player prospect made his major league debut Monday night in Arizona with his new team having lost three in a row and five out of six -- a stretch in which they were averaging just 3.0 runs per game and had hit just .207/.284/.319 as a team in 22 games from June 3-26 -- and delivered two hits, including a double and an RBI. Chisenhall, a third baseman, has had an up-and-down season that included a DL stint for a concussion and an International League Player of the Week award upon his return.
 
10Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 10
On Tuesday the Brewers began a 24-game stretch in which 21 games are against clubs with a winning record and 17 of the 24 are on the road. This important part of their schedule got off to a wretched start with 12-2 and 5-2 losses to the Yankees in New York. Right now the Brewers have a .725 winning percentage at home and a .366 clip on the road. Prorated over the course of 162-game slate, their record would be 117-45 in a full schedule at Miller Park and 59-103 outside of Milwaukee.
 
11Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 6
The Diamondbacks hit a lot of home runs -- 91, tied for first in the NL -- but their situational hitting has been exemplary too. Their rate of grounding into double plays (41 in 540 opportunities) is 7.6 percent, the lowest in the majors. In years past such a number could be excused due to their excessive number of strikeouts, but this year Arizona is striking out less frequently with a runner on first base and less than two outs (5.9 PA/K) and batting higher (.278) than in all other situations (4.8 PA/K and .245).
 
12Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 20
Saving games is a fickle enterprise (for anyone not named Mariano Rivera, at least), as Angels rookie closer Jordan Walden has recently found out, especially when his usage pattern was changed. After converting 10 straight chances, he blew three in a row. In his first of three blown saves on June 22, he was called upon for a five-out save and inherited a runner on base for the first time since Opening Day. Walden gave up a hit to the first batter he faced to tie the game. Also of note is that he had zero strikeouts in his three blown saves after averaging 10.9 strikeouts per nine innings before that. Walden got back on track with a save on Wednesday.
 
13New York Mets
Last Week: 22
Despite the continued absences of David Wright and Ike Davis, the Mets are suddenly an offensive juggernaut. In their past four games they have scored 14, 8, 14 and 16 runs in a pair of victories over the Rangers and then two more over the Tigers. The Mets have tallied at least 14 hits in each game, tying a franchise record. It's their fourth such streak in club history, last accomplished in July 2008. New York has been scratching together runs in long rallies, as the team has gone homerless in three of the four games.
 
14St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 16
The Cardinals finally parted ways with Ryan Franklin, who had a remarkable fall from grace in three months' time. After saving 82 games the past three years and even reaching the 2009 All-Star Game, Franklin converted only one of his first five chances this year before being stripped of his title as closer. He gave up a run in 15 of his 21 appearances, had an 8.46 ERA and a .367 average against. His performance was so poor that the club didn't even wait until reliever Eduardo Sanchez returned from the DL, which is expected in early July.
 
15Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 15
Has Jake Peavy been miscast all these years? No, but he was spectacular in the first relief outing of his major league career on Saturday -- his emergency appearance out of the bullpen was preceded by an oblique injury by DL-bound John Danks -- as he threw four shutout innings, striking out seven, allowing just one baserunner and picking up the win. Peavy had started three days prior and will start again on Thursday. To facilitate his recovery, he flew in his massage therapist from San Diego, but it'll be interesting to see how he bounces back, given his recent arm injuries.
 
16Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 18
Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan is growing increasingly monogamous with his fastball. Among pitchers who have thrown 30 or more innings this year, he ranks third in the majors for greatest reliance on his heater, throwing his fastball 84.4 percent of the time, up from 61.0 percent last year. Hanrahan's faithfulness to the pitch is warranted: At an average velocity of 97.3 mph, it's second fastest in the majors behind only the Angels' Jordan Walden, and has increased from 94.3 and 96.0 the past two seasons. Hanrahan is throwing a career-high rate of first-pitch strikes (60.3 percent) and K/BB (4.0) on his way to converting all 23 of his save opportunities with a 1.21 ERA.
 
17Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 19
Give Reds supporters credit for ingenuity. In order to boost the All-Star candidacy of first baseman Joey Votto and second baseman Brandon Phillips, the Fox Sports Ohio Champions Club at Great American Ballpark offered free lunch in exchange for votes. Votto and Phillips are both having very good seasons and deserve All-Star recognition, though not as starters at the expense of the current vote leaders, Brewers Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks. But both Votto and Phillips have boosted their candidacy with some hot swinging: Votto is 7 for his last 18 with a pair of homers; Phillips had an eight-game hitting streak through Tuesday in which he went 17-for-36 (.472).
 
18Washington Nationals
Last Week: 12
The Nationals have undergone considerable upheaval in the past week: manager Jim Riggleman unexpectedly resigned despite Washington having won 11 of 12, then John McLaren took over the bench for the weekend (winning two of three at the White Sox) and now Davey Johnson will manage at least the rest of the year. McLaren used three different batting orders over the weekend and Riggleman had used 60 batting orders in his 75 games. Johnson immediately stated a preference for consistency, using the same lineup in each of his first two games and changing it in the third only when Jayson Werth was banged up. Such an approach, however, wasn't an immediate success: the Nationals lost three straight to the Angels.
 
19Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 24
Lefty starter Ricky Romero is 7-7 despite a 2.74 ERA, even calling out Toronto's offense -- or "offence" in the local parlance -- two starts ago when he threw seven innings of two-run ball but lost when the Braves shutout the Blue Jays. Romero ranks 57th out of 114 qualified pitchers (i.e. exactly halfway) in receiving 4.4 runs of support per nine innings that he's on the mound. That's deceiving, however, as it's inflated by two starts in which the Jays scored 10 or more runs behind him. He took matters into his hands Sunday, throwing a shutout of the Cardinals and driving in two runs himself with a sixth-inning single.
 
20Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 17
With Ian Stewart's season-long struggles landing him in Triple-A, the Rockies have had trouble finding any kind of offensive production at third base. As it is, their OPS at the position (.632) still ranks 14th in the NL and its OBP (.268) is one point higher than last place, but improvement has been made thanks to the recent hot hitting of Ty Wigginton. The utility player recently enjoyed a stretch of 10 hits in 11 games in which he batted .366 and clubbed six home runs, allowing Colorado to keep Stewart in the minors for now and ease him back later.
 
21Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 13
The circumstances surrounding last weekend's Mariners-Marlins series were certainly strange -- a U2 concert in Miami pushed the series to Seattle, though Florida was still the home team, and a previously-scheduled MLS game pushed Sunday's start to 10 p.m. Eastern, at which time it was blacked out on TV -- but the outcome of it was reassuring to Mariners fans after their team got swept in three games against the Nationals. Seattle won two of three against their "hosts," including the opener in which ace Felix Hernandez spun his best game of the season, allowing only two hits and one run over eight innings while striking out 10. King Felix has now thrown exactly 76 strikes in three straight starts, though the number of swings-and-misses has risen in each from seven to 14 and then 16.
 
22San Diego Padres
Last Week: 26
In their 27th series of the year the Padres got their first sweep in taking three from the AL Central cellar-dwelling Royals. By taking two of three from the Braves in the prior series, San Diego also had its first winning homestand of the year and moved fully out of the basement in the NL West for the first time since a one-day stint in sole possession of fourth place on May 16. Closer Heath Bell has saved four straight games and has been successful on 23 of 24 chances this year, though it's unclear how many more he'll get in a Padres uniform, as he's likely to be a trade target for several clubs this summer.
 
23Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 14
Nothing has gone as planned for the Twins -- who, before and after their 15-2 run earlier this month are just 19-43 -- and especially for Joe Mauer, who has battled a medley of injuries. The former MVP has a .526 OPS on his .213/.259/.267 batting line, and that OPS mark ranks 45th out of 49 players with at least 80 plate appearances and who primarily play catcher. Even worse for the Twins is that teammate Drew Butera ranks dead last on that list with a .471 OPS. Mauer does not yet have a home run, and in an effort to lessen the strain of catching he may even start playing some first base. On Monday, Mauer even used an old first base glove belonging to teammate Michael Cuddyer and took pre-game grounders at first base.
 
24Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 25
The collective opponents of the Orioles have hit 93 home runs this year -- led by a five-homer bashing by the Reds on Saturday -- a number so high that if they were to organize themselves into a team, they'd rank third in the majors, behind only the Yankees and Rangers. While the Orioles (81 HRs, fifth in the AL) and especially shortstop J.J. Hardy (9 HRs in June) have shown some recent power, they are still at a deficit. The league average is to allow a homer in 2.4 percent of opponents' plate appearances, yet nine of the 12 Orioles to have thrown 25 or more innings this year have a rate higher than that.
 
25Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 21
In the DH era (1973 onward) only two AL pitching staffs have finished the season with a sub-3.00 ERA -- the '74 A's and the '81 Yankees -- and now the 2011 A's are within striking distance of joining them. Through Wednesday Oakland's pitchers have a 3.10 ERA, and in his last two starts Gio Gonzalez is personally responsible for lowering that figure by 0.05 after holding the Mets to one run on seven innings and then shutting out the Marlins over eight innings of one-hit ball on Tuesday.
 
26Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 23
While it is farfetched to say, as Frank McCourt's lawyer did, that the Dodgers' 15-0, 25-hit demolition of the Twins on Monday night "convincingly disproves the argument bankruptcy is bad for baseball," the fact remains that it was the biggest offensive explosion of any team in any game this season. The output came hours after McCourt filed for bankruptcy protection for the franchise and commissioner Bud Selig responded by saying, "The action taken today by Mr. McCourt does nothing but inflict further harm to this historic franchise." And certainly one rout against a last-place team won't undo that.
 
27Florida Marlins
Last Week: 30
Oakland defeated Florida 1-0 on Tuesday to hand the Marlins -- who started the year 14-4 in one-run games -- their 14th consecutive loss in games decided by one run. According to Elias (via the Marlins game notes), the last time a team had such futility in one-run games was the 1958 Tigers. The alltime record for consecutive one-run losses belongs to the 1933 Red Sox, who lost 20 straight.
 
28Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 27
Carlos Peņa is heating up at just the right time for the Cubs -- because he's seemingly becoming more tradeable with every game. As of Flag Day (i.e. June 14), Peņa was batting .216/.354/.381 with nine home runs in 63 games, which equates to one every seven. On June 15 he received his first day off since late April and, coincidentally or not, he's crushed the ball ever since. He's hit eight home runs in the ensuing 13 games and though his season average (.226) and OBP (.353) haven't changed much, he's raised his slugging to .469.
 
29Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 28
The Royals have the AL's worst starting pitcher ERA (5.09) and the majors' worst average against (.292), so what's the solution? More of them, apparently. The club announced that it'll experiment with a six-man rotation until at least the All-Star break. The question is why Kyle Davies doesn't get sent to the bullpen upon his activation from the DL this weekend. This season he's 1-6 with a 7.46 ERA and 1.81 WHIP, and he's in the seventh year of his big-league career with a 43-62 record, 5.60 career ERA and 1.61 WHIP. Only once (2008) has his ERA been above league average. He hasn't worked out of the bullpen since 2005, but it's worth a shot trying him there.
 
30Houston Astros
Last Week: 29
The Astros rank 29th in the majors with 45 home runs (ahead of only the A's) and remain one of only two teams (alongside the Giants) that doesn't have a player with at least 10 homers this year, though team leader Hunter Pence has nine. Houston has received its most home runs (nine) from rightfield (Pence) and third base (Chris Johnson has six and Matt Downs has three). The latter mark actually ties them for the NL lead with the Diamondbacks and Cubs, as no team in the league has received double-digit homers from their third basemen, even though it's historically a power position.

 
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