Each week, we labor over the power rankings. And by the all-star break, the teams that appear there are well-established. (Cardinals No. 1? Yawn.) There is some churn, and there will be going forward, but we mostly know the contenders, and now they must merely sort themselves out.
But that essentially leaves half the majors uncovered. So now, as the second half begins, we offer you the dregs, a sort of reverse — and perverse — power ranking that might remind Nationals fans, even with their current woes, how life once felt.
So, in order from least worst to most worst, the futile four.
4. Milwaukee (39-56). This comes with a tint of scandal, because Ryan Braun, the Brewers’ best player, is one of the marquee names tied up in the Biogenesis scandal. Their pitching staff has allowed the most homers (109) in the National League. Remember how Prince Fielder once played first base there? Their most frequent first baseman this year is Yunesky Betancourt, who is hitting .198 and slugging .336.
3. Chicago White Sox (37-56). Is this what Manager Robin Ventura signed up for? Since June 26, the White Sox are 4-13. They are last in the American League in runs and have lost at least four straight games six times, including an eight-game skid. Is help on the way? Baseball America placed the Sox 29th of 30 teams in their 2013 organizational talent rankings.
2. Miami (35-59). Of all the struggling franchises, only one counts as reprehensible. The Marlins pulled off what amounts to a bait-and-switch with the people of South Florida, getting a new ballpark, fielding one expensive team there, then trading away most of the parts and sending out this outfit, which has a combined on-base-plus-slugging percentage of .630 — 44 points worse than the next-worst team. They are hitting .232 as a team, the lowest average since the 1981 Blue Jays hit .226.
1. Houston (33-62). These Astros excel in no facets of the game. Enjoy the strikeout? Here’s the place. Astros strike out once every four plate appearances. Their ERA (4.89) is highest in baseball by nearly half a run, they have allowed the second-most homers (122) and no team has committed more errors (70). At least, though, they have a plan: GM Jeff Luhnow is preaching a grow-through-the-farm-system approach that could pay off in years to come. But from the heat of the summer of 2013, that feels a long way off.