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MLB Power Rankings: October 2012

10/05/2012 12:28 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Even without Stephen Strasburg at the end, the Nationals finished with MLB's best record.(AP)
The 2012 MLB regular season is over, but as Derek Jeter eloquently stated moments after the Yankees concluded their finale with the Red Sox, the “real season begins now.”

But oh, what a wacky season it was. From Strasburg’s shutdown to Melky’s mistake, Triple Crown chases to Cy Young knuckleballs, Oakland’s late rise to Pittsburgh’s late fall, there was no shortage of in-season storylines.

It was a season of ups and downs for all, but in the end, all that matters – at least to the teams playing on into October – is that they’re there. Ten teams are left, and within 12 hours of the first pitch of the postseason, two will be gone from the chase for the Commissioner’s Trophy.

So, with that, we present our final YESNetwork.com MLB Power Rankings for 2012. All season, the rankings were based on a mix of overall record, recent success, and in-the-moment factors (like injuries or acquisitions), and we’ve done the same here with one exception: the 10 playoff teams are ranked Nos. 1-10.

After all, if they’re the only ones left, they might as well be on top, right?

RANK
TEAM
NOTE
MOVE
1 They had the best record in baseball (98-64), and even without Stephen Strasburg, have arguably the deepest rotation in the game. Destiny has already struck in the form of Teddy Roosevelt finally winning a Presidents’ Race, could a Commissioner’s Trophy be next?
UP
2 By now, you surely know the stigma Dusty Baker has earned in regards to burning out young pitchers. That noted, the fact that Cincy’s Cueto-Latos-Arroyo-Bailey-Leake quintet started 161 of their 162 games is a remarkable feat.
DOWN
3 Almost as remarkable? San Fran’s rotation of Cain-Lincecum-Bumgarner-Zito-Vogelsong started 160 times total. Perhaps it’s more remarkable, given that no Reds pitcher had a line close to as bad as “The Freak’s” 10-15, 5.18 mark.
UP
4 The last three games of the season against Boston showed that the Yankees are a very dangerous team in any situation, and they’re peaking at the right time. Robinson Cano hitting .615 over his last nine games is just downright filthy.
UP
5 They were 13 out on July 1 and five out with nine to play, but the A’s never stopped believin’ and their lone day in first place was the only one that counts. Even if they get swept by Detroit, this season was far beyond their wildest dreams.
UP
6 Perhaps its best the Braves didn’t win the NL East, because they were able to set up their rotation and rest guys like Chipper and McCann. Speaking of Larry Jones, if you count his 1993 debut and the 2010 postseason he personally missed, this marks his 14th playoff appearance in 19 seasons.
UP
7 All season, the Orioles battled, but lost two of three to the Rays when it mattered most. They’ll be a tough out for the Rangers, Yankees, or anyone else, but has their confidence been rattled too much?
DOWN
8 Given their record, I can’t in good conscience put them any lower, but after 176 days atop the AL West, they’re lucky to even find themselves in a do-or-die game against a hot and hungry Orioles team. Hate to say it, but a third straight World Series berth looks like a longshot now.
DOWN
9 The Tigers are the opposite of the O’s, a team that hung around all year and peaked at the right time while Chicago fell apart. That said, if Miguel Cabrera doesn’t win the AL MVP, something is wrong.
UP
10 Last year, they snuck in as a wild card on the final day of the season and won it all. This year, they snuck in as the second wild card on the penultimate day of the calendar…so yeah, even if they’re the “worst” team there, don’t be surprised if they repeat.
UP
11 The magic wasn’t quite there at the Trop this year, but their third straight 90-win season is nothing to sneeze at, and they did have the fifth-best record in the AL. If Evan Longoria played every game like it was Game 162 though…
DOWN
12 Even with 89 wins, the Halos have to be considered MLB’s biggest disappointment. Not only that, but after an 8-15 April, they’re proof that sometimes it is how you start and not how you finish that matters, because even a .500 April makes them a playoff team.
DOWN
13 A tale of three trimesters: LA went 32-19 in April/May, 24-30 in June/July, and 30-27 over the final nine weeks to finish two games out of a playoff spot. Apparently, small stretches of costly play was a Hollywood epidemic this year.
EVEN
14 The Brewers got better after they traded Zack Greinke, which is remarkable. If the kids keep developing and they can hang on to Shawn Marcum, they’ll definitely be back in the hunt in 2013.
UP
15 While their “collapse” isn’t as baffling as Texas’ fall, the fact that they didn’t have the Wild Card wiggle room makes it much more disappointing. Still, it was a very solid freshman outing by Robin Ventura, one made better by Chris Sale’s development into an ace.
DOWN
16 Playoff hangover? Maybe, but when you consider that they lost 18-game winner Daniel Hudson after nine starts, got little to nothing out of Chris Young and Justin Upton for months at a time, and traded away their entire left side of the infield, 81-81 isn’t that bad a hangover.
DOWN
17 Like the Brewers, Philly made a run after selling off their veterans and got a “lost” season back to .500. Player to watch in 2013: Darin Ruf, who hit 38 homers at Double-A and was .333-3-10 in 33 MLB at-bats; he’s a first baseman, but played a lot of left field in September and could be there again in April.
EVEN
18 Oh, what could’ve been. On the bright side, 79 wins ties for their best total since 1992, they get another year of A.J. Burnett (16-10, 3.51) at discount cost, and Andrew McCutchen is the dictionary definition of “franchise player.”
EVEN
19 San Diego was another team that made a surprise late-season, last-gasp go of it. They have some good pieces around the emerging Chase Headley, and if they can upgrade the back end of their rotation, they can do the same next year without the “last-gasp” notion.
EVEN
20 R.A. Dickey could (should?) be the NL Cy Young Award winner, Johan Santana threw the team’s first no-hitter, and David Wright sounds like he wants to be a Met forever. In another subpar season, those three notes are reason enough to keep the faith.
EVEN
21 Stats that help you understand why bad teams are bad: The Mariners had 14 guys make 162 or more plate appearances, and the highest batting average, .276, belonged to backup catcher John Jaso. Next in line? Ichiro at .261, and he was gone in mid-July.
EVEN
22 Injuries killed them, plain and simple. Player to watch in 2013: Colby Rasmus, who some have whispered is already (at just 25 years old) at the point where his power potential isn’t worth his poor plate discipline and batting average.
UP
23 Year two with the kids went well despite a sophomore slump from Eric Hosmer, and Alcides Escobar (.295-5-59. 35 SB) was a pleasant surprise. Next step: jettison Jeff Francouer (.235-16-49, 119 K) and see if Jarrod Dyson and Lorenzo Cain can hit enough to co-exist in the outfield.
DOWN
24 Since 2010, the Indians have given Grady Sizemore $18.6 million for 101 games. It’s time to cut bait with him, and Travis Hafner, and perhaps Ubaldo Jimenez at this point too.
EVEN
25 Amidst the chaos and inflated spending, the Marlins do have a few positives. Giancarlo Stanton is a franchise talent, Josh Johnson looks healthy, and perhaps a move to first base will save Logan Morrison’s knees and help LoMo’s offensive output match his Twitter output.
UP
26 They’ve already fired their manager, what more can you say? Well, they cut payroll by a ton, and more comes off the books with Matsuzaka and perhaps Ortiz. Plus they probably won’t have to overspend too much to keep Cody Ross.
DOWN
27 Justin Morneau has been a cornerstone of the franchise for almost a decade, but if a team (like say, the Red Sox?) comes calling, they should jump at the chance to move him. He’s in the final year of his deal, and Joe Mauer is going to end up at first base soon enough anyway.
DOWN
28 Whether Project 5,183 was a boom or bust is hard to tell, given that on a 64-win team, just one man (Jeff Francis) pitched more than 100 innings and the wins leader was lefty reliever Rex Brothers, who pitched 67.2 innings over 75 appearances yet won eight games.
EVEN
29 Better days are ahead, especially if Alfonso Soriano has another hot season and carries some trade weight in August. Fun fact: their two primary first basemen, Bryan LaHair and Anthony Rizzo, hit a combined .257-31-88 with 32 doubles in 677 total at-bats. That’s not bad.
EVEN
30 Fun fact: Jose Altuve was the only Astros player to record 400 at-bats. Their first two or three years in the AL might be really tough ones, but they’ve got a plan in place and get the No. 1 pick next year.
EVEN
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