Braves make biggest leap in Power Rankings

Atlanta jumps from 9th to 4th thanks to its mighty offense

June 25th, 2018

The halfway point of the season is coming up, and nearly every division is lacking, so far, a runaway winner.

The American League Central might be the only division that doesn't fit this description. A combination of the Indians' seven-game winning streak and the Tigers' five-game losing streak, along with Cleveland being the only club over .500, suggests that race may be over. But at least two or three teams in each other division are either in first place or within a couple of games of overtaking the lead.

The National League continues to prove to be the most competitive. Only one team -- the Padres -- has a double-digit deficit.

Biggest jump: The Braves jumped five spots, from No. 9 to No. 4. Atlanta, tops in the NL in OPS (.756) and slugging (.428), has relied on that offense during a stretch in which its pitching is being tested. The Braves scored 56 runs over their past 10 games but also allowed 43, and now they may be without their closer, (sore shoulder) for a period of time. The upcoming series with the Reds should be a good one -- Cincinnati, six games over .500 since May 8, is coming off a four-game sweep of the Cubs.

Biggest drop: The Nationals dropped five spots, from No. 7 to No. 12. Entering their finale with the Phillies on Sunday night, the Nats had lost nine of 12, mostly due to a slumping offense. is struggling mightily -- over his past 12 games through Saturday, he was hitting .103 with no homers and two RBIs.

Power Rankings Top 5:

1. Astros (1 last week)

Houston has lost five times all month and is an MLB-best 28-9 vs. sub-.500 teams. While the Astros, Yankees and Red Sox continue to compete for the top record, the Astros have arguably the most complete team -- there are simply no holes in their rotation or their lineup, and any stumbles by the bullpen are masked by the relentless offense. That attack is led by , 11-for-25 in his past eight games. Another major contributor this month has been Evan Gattis, who has eight homers and an MLB-best 25 RBIs in 21 June games.

2. Yankees (2)

Under the category "You Can't Predict Ball," we present the Yankees, who swept a three-game series from the contending Mariners, then were swept by the under-.500 Rays. Prior to their weekend in St. Petersburg, the Yanks hadn't been swept in a series of three or more games since dropping three to the Indians last August. The Yankees' schedule doesn't let up for a while -- their upcoming series are against the Phillies, Red Sox and Braves.

3. Red Sox (3)

The Red Sox had a mediocre week, going 3-3 against the Twins and Mariners. Win or lose, though, the offense has been relatively consistent throughout -- in those six games, Boston scored 33 runs. If every team goes through a lull in the season, the Red Sox may be in the middle of theirs -- they've lost five of nine, and, before Chris Sale shut down the Mariners on Sunday, pitchers had allowed 40 runs over eight games.

4. Braves (9)

Atlanta is proving to be a major player in the NL East and, three months into the season, should no longer be presumed to be weaker than the Nationals based solely on last year's standings. What's impressive is that the young Braves are going through growing pains while maintaining their place among the elite teams. Still, if proof is needed that baseball is indeed a long season, consider this: Atlanta's rotation, entering the finale with Baltimore on Sunday, had allowed 16 runs over 21 1/3 innings over four games, but in their previous six, had allowed just two runs over 36 innings.

5. Brewers (5)

Milwaukee has the most wins in the NL and were helped in the standings by its rivals, the Cubs, who dropped four straight to the Reds. The Brewers have the second-lowest cumulative ERA, at 3.41, and their bullpen has the best weapon in baseball -- reliever , who has 148 strikeouts over 87 1/3 innings and a 0.87 WHIP.

The rest of the Top 20

6. Indians (10 last week)

7. Mariners (4)

8. D-backs (8)

9. Cubs (6)

10. Dodgers (11)

11. Phillies (14)

12. Nationals (7)

13. Angels (13)

14. Cardinals (12)

15. Athletics (16)

16. Rockies (15)

17. Giants (17)

18. Rays (19)

19. Twins (NR)

20. Tigers (23)