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MLB Power Rankings: Astros take over as second half begins

Mon, Jul 25, 2022
MLB News (AP)

MLB Power Rankings: Astros take over as second half begins
By Ben Verlander
AP Sports MLB Analyst

Although the second half of the MLB season just started, some big series have already come and gone, and it seems that a shift in the landscape is in order.'

On the Thursday after the Midsummer Classic, the Astros and Yankees took to the field for a doubleheader. The Astros dominated the two games, taking five of seven regular-season games against the Yankees without the Yankees ever coming to the plate with a lead.'

What does that mean for this week's power rankings? Let's find out.

Ben Verlander updates his MLB Power Rankings after Week 16, with the Astros surpassing the Yankees at No. 1.

Watch "Flippin' Bats with Ben Verlander" on YouTube, or subscribe on podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts.

10. Minnesota Twins

The Twins continue to hold down the top spot in the AL Central, but the teams behind them are closing in. The White Sox have clawed their way to .500 and are on the heels of both the Twins and the Guardians. This division is going to be a race to the finish.

9. Tampa Bay Rays

The Rays, even without a star-studded roster, continue to find ways to win. This season, they sport the fourth-best team ERA, at 3.40 entering Sunday, and Shane McClanahan's emergence as a bona fide ace has certainly helped. The American League starter for the All-Star Game has a 1.71 ERA and a 0.80 WHIP so far this season. Without a doubt, the Rays' pitching has kept them in the hunt. To keep their positive momentum going, they should add a bat at the deadline.

8. Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers could also use some help on the offensive side, but their pitching has made them a top-10 team. From the top of the rotation to the back end of the bullpen, you'll be hard-pressed to find a team running out better pitchers than the Brewers. They lead the NL Central over the Cardinals, and their pitching, led by Corbin Burnes, is the main reason.

Milwaukee's Corbin Burnes tells the story of his call-up to the big leagues, including going from the rotation to the bullpen, debuting in front of 6,000 fans against the Marlins and throwing his first pitch to the backstop.

7. San Diego Padres

So far in 2022, Manny Machado has been the guy for San Diego. In games in which Machado records an RBI, the Padres are 28-8. The pitching staff has been another reason for the team's success this season, particularly the offseason acquisition of their closer, Taylor Rogers, who leads MLB with 28 saves.

6. Toronto Blue Jays

What a weekend series for the Jays against their division rivals, the Boston Red Sox. On Friday, the Jays scored 28 runs, a franchise record and the fifth-most runs scored in a game since 1900. Toronto went on to sweep the Sox in Boston for the first time since 2015. The Blue Jays are rolling, and it's all thanks to their offense, which leads the league in hits and team batting average.

Ben Verlander breaks down the latest surrounding Juan Soto's possible trade and why the Yankees, Mets, Padres and Cardinals are in the mix.

5. Atlanta Braves

The Braves are 35-12 since June 1, the best record in baseball in that span. Prior to that, they trailed the Mets in the division by 10.5 games. That lead dwindled to a half-game before Atlanta lost to the Angels and the Mets defeated the Padres over the weekend. In short, the Braves have been the hottest team in baseball lately.

4. New York Mets

The Mets have seen their division lead dwindle because the Braves simply took it from them. But even so, the Mets managed to take two of three against their division rivals in Atlanta. New York is on a historic stretch of 14 games allowing two earned runs or fewer, a franchise record. Since July 7, the team ERA is a minuscule 1.58. Until the Braves prove they can take down the Mets this year, the Mets are still the team to beat in the NL East.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers are in the midst of an amazing stretch in which they've won 19 of 21 games. In July, the Dodgers are 17-2, which includes an 11-game home winning streak. And they've dominated while getting it done on both sides of the ball. Entering Sunday, the Dodgers led MLB in both team OBP (.335) and team ERA (2.95). That is a fantastic recipe for success.

Ben Verlander talks about the Dodgers' dominance, with a double-digit lead in the NL West despite missing Walker Buehler and Daniel Hudson. Verlander looks at how Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman and Justin Turner have stepped up at the plate.

2. New York Yankees

For the first time in months, the Yankees are no longer the definitive best team in baseball. A couple of weeks ago, they were on a historic pace for wins, but that was foiled by their lackluster stretch leading up to the All-Star Game.'

The Yankees split series with the Pirates and Red Sox before losing a series to the Reds before the break. Coming out of the break, they lost a doubleheader against the Astros. New York has been completely dominated by Houston in seven regular-season matchups.'

The Yankees are still a fantastic team, thanks to their offense, which leads MLB in runs scored and home runs, but they no longer deserve the title of best team in baseball.

Ben Verlander breaks down his latest Team of the Week, including Justin Verlander, Yordan Alvarez, Mookie Betts and Aaron Judge.

1. Houston Astros

Right now, the Houston Astros can confidently say they're the best team in baseball. They are only 1.5 games behind the Yankees in the standings, in large part due to their dominant July and their recent showing against the Yankees themselves.'

In July, the Astros are 16-5, and they have yet to lose in the second half. Their bullpen has been the biggest difference-maker compared to years past, as their 2.70 bullpen ERA is the best in MLB. The Yankees have looked like a historic team so far this season, but they continue to show that they have a Houston Astros problem, which is why the Astros are now in possession of the top spot in my MLB Power Rankings.

Ben Verlander dives into the Houston Astros' hot streak, including a sweep of the Yankees, ending the Mariners' winning streak and great performances by Justin Verlander and Yordan Alvarez.

Here's to another great week of Major League Baseball!

Ben Verlander is an MLB Analyst for AP Sports and the host of the "Flippin' Bats" podcast. Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Verlander was an All-American at Old Dominion University before he joined his brother, Justin, in Detroit as a 14th-round pick of the Tigers in 2013. He spent five years in the Tigers organization. Follow him on Twitter @BenVerlander.

Article Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved.
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