A quick glance at the midseason Power Rankings suggests that even a prolonged slump didn't shake our faith in the Chicago Cubs.
Sure, the Cubs haven't been dominant for about a month. All of that chatter about their chances to break the all-time single-season wins record has all but disappeared. Their rotation, once considered superhuman, has been knocked down several pegs. Yet still, we have kept the faith, even if the North Siders don't exactly look like the second-best team in baseball at this very moment.
These Power Rankings consider not only how teams are faring in recent terms, but also how we think they'll land at the end of the season. The Cubs are still young, talented and deep, which suggests they'll make their way back eventually.
Biggest jump: Not a ton of dramatic movement this time around. The Marlins, Pirates and Royals each moved up three spots. Of the three, the Bucs may be the most interesting, considering they recently beat their two closest National League Central rivals heading into the break, taking three of four in St. Louis and two of three against the Cubs in Chicago. Given the Cubs' recent regression and the Pirates' penchant for turning it on in the second half, that division race may prove to be more interesting than expected.
Biggest fall: The Mets dropped four spots, from No. 7 to 11. Things seemed to be looking up for them when the calendar flipped to July, but whatever momentum they were hoping to gain heading into the break came to a halting thud when they dropped three of four at home to the NL East-leading Nationals. The long term will be a challenge for the Mets, given their thinned-out rotation marred by injuries.
Our top 5
Putting aside their somewhat surprising poor performance against the A's a couple of weeks ago in the home-and-home Bay Bridge Series that resulted in Oakland winning three of four, the Giants have been a model of consistency. They're the only perennial top-5 team that hasn't suffered through prolonged slumps, which best explains why they hold the best record in baseball (57-33) heading into the second half.
Even the best teams will go through some sort of regression over the course of a six-month season, but the Cubs' struggles have been going on a while. Since June 5, they're 14-20, and the rotation, as mentioned above, hasn't been good. Still, they have the biggest lead of any first-place team, seven games ahead of the Cardinals and 7 1/2 in front of the Pirates.
The Nationals, a top-5 team for the better part of a month, moved up two spots, from No. 5 to 3. They have the lowest team ERA in the Majors (3.29) and the third-lowest WHIP (1.16), and the rotation is rolling, coming in second and third, respectively, in both previously mentioned categories. Offensively, from June 1 to July 8, the Nats ranked second in the NL in OPS (.802), on-base percentage (.340), slugging (.462), runs scored (187) and homers (53).
July hasn't been nearly as fruitful for the Tribe as June, the magical month during which the club won 14 straight and overtook first place in the American League Central by an impressive margin. Cleveland is 4-6 so far this month and will open the second half with a nine-game road trip through Minnesota, Kansas City and Baltimore. But in terms of complete teams, the Tribe seems to have everything. And the rotation alone makes the Indians the clear favorites in the division.
They still have one of the best records in baseball, and their entire body of work so far this season merits a top-5 spot. That said, there are obviously issues. The Rangers are still looking for their first series win in July, having dropped three straight sets to the Twins, Red Sox and Twins again. This wasn't unexpected, considering Texas lost three-fifths of its rotation to injury. But things could improve quickly. Yu Darvish and Derek Holland are expected to return soon, and the offense is still very dangerous.