A season of 162 games is such a grind.
We're finally near the end and while the playoff picture will still take a few more games, maybe a week to clear up, the final edition of our MLB Power Rankings came together rather nicely.
Neither Tampa Bay nor the New York Yankees finished at the top, as most people expected they would. But they are in the top five, among some elite talent. The Minnesota Twins are the best in the American League and head into the playoffs with a plethora of pitching and absent one MVP first baseman in Justin Morneau.
The cream of the crop in baseball at the end of the season is, without a doubt, the Philadelphia Phillies. No team has more wins at this point in the season and it's difficult to find a rotation or a batting order to match the potency of the group that Philadelphia can trot out there every night.
On the flip side, Pittsburgh used a good showing over the last week to move out of the cellar for the first time in what seems to be forever. Apologies to Seattle for being locked in the basement until next year.
- 1. Phillies | Record: 93-63 | Previous Week: 1
There isn't a better team in baseball and it's only going to get better once the playoffs begin. If the Phillies run with a three-man playoff rotation, they get to shave off the two weakest links and run with Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt for the playoffs. They are also getting Jimmy Rollins back this week. it almost seems unfair.
- 2. Twins | Record: 92-63 | Previous Week: 2
You'll have to excuse the Twins if they're still a bit hung over from celebrating another division title. They've earned the right. They may want to clear their heads this week, though, because home field throughout the AL playoffs is still within reach. - Tom Fornelli
- 3. Rays | Record: 93-62 | Previous Week: 3
Another bad outing for James Shields on Sunday leaves the righty as the biggest question mark on the team as they prepare for the playoffs. He's gone five starts without a victory and allowed his 34th home run of the season, a franchise record that's pretty impressive given how putrid some of the early Rays staffs were. Josh Alper
- 4. Yankees | Record: 93-63 | Previous Week: 4
Better late than never. Joe Girardi remembered that the Yankees weren't guaranteed a playoff spot on Sunday and managed aggressively to beat the Red Sox. It paid off and now the Yankees can spend the final week breathing a little bit easier. The lack of urgency probably cost them first place in the AL East, though, which means they'll have to head to Minnesota where the Twins have been dominant. - Josh Alper
- 5. Giants | Record: 88-68 | Previous Week: 7
Their streak of 18 consecutive games of allowing three runs or fewer -- longest since 1917 -- was pretty impressive, but they had another streak that was just weird. For 11 games in a row, they scored either two runs or fewer, or nine runs or more, with nothing in between. - Jeff Fletcher
- 6. Rangers | Record: 87-68 | Previous Week: 6
The Rangers have two major decisions at hand. The first is how to get outfielder Josh Hamilton back and healthy for the playoffs. With Hamilton in the lineup, this Texas team can battle with the big boys. They also need to find a way to get Cliff Lee to the mound on three days of rest. That's a recipe for success as well.
- 7. Padres | Record: 87-68 | Previous Week: 10
The Padres are bouncing back and forth with the Giants for the lead in the NL West as well as with the Braves for the wild-card lead. They've exchanged the division lead seven times in the past two weeks and get to finish the regular season on the road in San Francisco. The Padres sit in the middle of two heated races for the playoffs and you won't be able to stop watching for some time.
- 8. Reds | Record: 87-69 | Previous Week: 9
With a magic number of one, the inevitability of the Reds clinching the NL Central is about to become a reality. If the Cardinals don't lose at home to the Pirates Monday, the Reds will have a chance to do it in Great American Ball Park against the Astros on Tuesday night. With the NL wild-card race yet to shake out, the Reds won't have any idea who they're playing (it could literally be anyone: Philly, Atlanta, San Diego, and San Francisco are all possibilities depending on how the final week shakes out), but at least for now that won't matter in Cincinnati. - Pat Lackey
- 9. Rockies | Record: 83-72 | Previous Week: 5
Colorado is out of the race, but here's some good news for next year: Carlos Gonzalez is going to be the best bargain in the major leagues in 2011. He still isn't eligible for arbitration, so the Rockies will be able to pay him whatever they want, certainly less than $1 million. - Jeff Fletcher
- 10. Braves | Record: 87-69 | Previous Week: 8
The bad news is the fact that the Braves wrap up the regular season against two teams they don't play well against. They are 8-7 against the Marlins this year and 7-8 against the Phillies. The good news is that the Braves get to play these two series at home where no one in baseball has a better record.
- 11. Tigers | Record: 80-75 | Previous Week: 13
The Tigers are finishing the season strong, as they're currently 15-8 in the month of September, including a sweep of Minnesota this weekend. Had they played like this in July and August these September wins may have actually meant something. - Tom Fornelli
- 12. Blue Jays | Record: 80-75 | Previous Week: 20
Nothing like getting an early start on next year's big rivalries. The Orioles plunked Jose Bautista twice on Sunday, which should mean that the first series between the two teams in 2011 will be a fun one. The Jays just hope that the whole season won't wind up being a fourth-place battle with the O's. - Josh Alper
- 13. Red Sox | Record: 86-69 | Previous Week: 11
It felt like 2004 for a couple of moments there this weekend, but Sunday night's loss all but ends the chances of an improbable playoff berth for the Red Sox. You still have to be impressed by what the team managed to pull off this season in the face of World War I trench warfare-style injuries. Biggest issue of the offseason: what to do with Jonathan Papelbon. - Josh Alper
- 14. Cubs | Record: 70-85 | Previous Week: 15
The Cubs are now 19-11 since Lou Piniella's retirement, which has them out of the range of the Pirates and more towards the Astros and Brewers in the division. So now Jim Hendry has to ask himself a question: can this aging roster make one more run at the playoffs in 2011 with a free agent addition or two? Or is it time to retool things completely? - Pat Lackey
- 15. Astros | Record: 74-82 | Previous Week: 12
After dropping five of six to the Pirates and Nationals, .500 is no longer an option for these 'Stros. The question that faces them going into this offseason is whether their strong finish is something they can build on. They traded Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman, but they're not exactly overrun with top prospects and they've out-performed their Pythagorean record by eight games thus far. - Pat Lackey
- 16. White Sox | Record: 83-72 | Previous Week: 21
The White Sox' position in the power rankings is of no importance to anybody in Chicago. The only concern is the power ranking inside the organization between Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen. Guillen wants to know where he stands and Williams seems content to let him twist in the wind. - Tom Fornelli
- 17. Brewers | Record: 73-82 | Previous Week: 23
The Brewers could still catch the Astros for third in the NL Central, but that's not exactly worth much. For the second straight year, they've got one of the NL's best offenses and one of their worst pitching staffs. It's time for Doug Melvin to ask the question: Could they get enough pitching from a Prince Fielder trade to contend right away? Would they still be able to score enough runs if they trade their slugger? - Pat Lackey
- 18. Athletics | Record: 77-78 | Previous Week: 14
The A's, who have outscored their opponents by 22 runs, have the largest positive run differential of any team with a losing record. They enter the final week with a chance at their first winning season since 2006. - Jeff Fletcher
- 19. Angels | Record: 75-80 | Previous Week: 16
Mike Scioscia spent the better part of Sunday evening trying to explain to anyone who would listen that the Angels massive defeat at the hands of the White Sox this past weekend wasn't because of a lack of motivation. According to Scioscia, his team is still fighting for second place in the division. Anyone buy that?
- 20. Cardinals | Record: 80-75 | Previous Week: 19
With seven games left on the schedule, the Cardinals' playoff hopes are reduced to this: beat the Pirates and hope for a miracle. That first part might seem easy, but the Cards have actually lost four of their last six to the lowly Buccos. If they had instead taken all six from baseball's only 100-loss team, they'd only be 2 1/2 games behind the Reds right now. - Pat Lackey
- 21. Mets | Record: 76-79 | Previous Week: 17
The Mets took two of three from the Phillies last weekend and kept them from clinching the division. Prior to that they had dropped five in a row -- two to Florida and three to Atlanta. The war of words and slides between Chase Utley and Carlos Beltran seem to have turned that series into a playoff-like atmosphere, even though only one team remotely resembles a playoff-caliber team.
- 22. Marlins | Record: 77-78 | Previous Week: 18
The Marlins are gearing up for the search for a new manager, and in the meantime reveling in Mike Stanton's laser-like arm in right field to go along with the laser-beam home runs he's able to launch with his bat.
- 23. Dodgers | Record: 75-81 | Previous Week: 22
The Dodgers have lost nine of their last 11 series, the only victories coming against the Brewers and Astros. - Jeff Fletcher
- 24. Orioles | Record: 61-94 | Previous Week: 24
It should be an interesting offseason for the Orioles as they try to build off the positive steps taken since Buck Showalter arrived on the scene this season. It would be foolish to try a repeat of this year's veteran additions to try for a slightly better record, but it would be equally foolish to not make candid assessments of young players that might not be the answers that Baltimore thought they were when this season got under way. - Josh Alper
- 25. Indians | Record: 65-91 | Previous Week: 25
With their three-game sweep of the Royals this weekend the Indians may have just secured themselves fourth place in the AL Central. Get that champagne ready, Cleveland. - Tom Fornelli
- 26. Diamondbacks | Record: 64-92 | Previous Week: 27
The good news is that third baseman Mark Reynolds likely won't surpass his strikeout total of 223 from last season. However his 206 whiffs are seven more than his current batting average of .199, which leads to the next question -- has any player in major league history ever done that? The answer... nope.
- 27. Nationals | Record: 67-89 | Previous Week: 29
There hasn't been too much good news from the Nationals lately. Without Stephen Strasburg to focus on, every move Washington makes in the wrong direction hurts just a bit more. Prospect Bryce Harper is said to not look ready for competition in the Arizona Fall League, and third baseman Ryan Zimmerman may be done for the year.
- 28. Pirates | Record: 55-100 | Previous Week: 30
The Pirates have 40 wins at home and only 15 on the road. They've got seven more away from PNC Park to close out 2010, so this is their last chance to even appear like a capable road team. They are on a bit of a roll right now, taking seven of their last nine home games, but they're also already at the 100-loss mark and pretty much assured of the first pick in the 2010 draft (Seattle is four games ahead of them in the standings). For Pirate fans the best part of the season is fast approaching: the end. - Pat Lackey
- 29. Royals | Record: 63-92 | Previous Week: 26
The Royals have spent the last month playing like a team that's just waiting for the 2010 season to be over. So now that the end is so close, expect them to really turn it off this week. - Tom Fornelli
- 30. Mariners | Record: 59-96 | Previous Week: 28
Right fielder Ichiro Suzuki became the only player in major league history to go 10 straight seasons with 200 or more hits. Simply put, that's amazing! Now, headed into the offseason, the Mariners need to figure out what to do about a manager and another youth movement on the horizon.