Sunday, May 3, 2009

MLB Power Rankings Week Four

A month into the season it's still too early to say which teams are for real for real and which ones are not, but it's been long enough that we've got a fair idea as to where teams are headed.

While the Pirates have regressed to what's more expected of them, the Toronto Jays are still winning, and the Seattle Mariners look like the team they were supposed to be last year.

Here are the totally arbitrary rankings for this week:

30. Washington Nationals Dude, okay, here's the deal. Unless this team can get their winning .pct, say, over .350, they aren't leaving the basement. A month into the season, it's pretty clear that not only are the Nationals the worst team in the league, there's not really any competition.

29. Baltimore Orioles Look whose come back to earth! The Yankees may never be able to beat their kryptonite, but the other teams in the division don't seem to find it much of an issue. Has the Wieters watch officially begun yet?

28. Colorado Rockies Second most losses in the league after the Nationals. Right now it's hard to believe this team went to the World Series just two years ago. They are already 7.5 back of the Dodgers, and while teams have come back from this deficit, they don't tend to do it very often.

27. Cleveland Indians Welcome to the bigs, Matt LaPorta: in his first ML at bat, LaPorta struck out against a Justin Verlander who was throwing gas: 10 K in five innings, and pitches that reached 100 mph in the 7th inning. Some day down the line LaPorta might be able to hit those pitches. For now, he should enjoy being the one exciting thing about the Indians, knocking the Carl Pavano injury over/under bets off the table.

26. Oakland Athletics I have to be honest. They're playing kind of like how I expected the Jays to play, what with the no offense and all. They're the only American League team to have not scored 100 runs, and even in the National League, where there are five teams to have not broken the plateau, two of them--the Reds and the Giants--have the pitching to pull it off.

25. Houston Astros Won a series in Atlanta, but there's still not a whole lot of confidence in this team. The NL Central, however, right now is so bunched together that this team isn't out of it--not in the way some of the other teams are. If management ever knew what they were doing, the team could have a run...but that'd be asking a lot.

24. San Diego Padres Some teams can get away with having, to this point, scored only 100 runs or less. The Padres, as evidenced by the 125 runs allowed, do not. 125 RA is still better than many other teams (I'm looking at you, NY Yankees), but there's a reason the game has an offensive component, as well.

23. Tampa Bay Rays Does winning (another) series against Boston turn it around for the Rays? The Tampa/St. Pete faithful have to hope so. Two games against NY this week should be more telling.

22. Los Angeles Angels Usually, these days, if you're taking a tie game in the Bronx to the later innings, you'll probably beat the Yankees. That is, unless your bullpen happens to be the only one in the majors that's, uh, somehow worse.

21. Arizona Diamondbacks Surprisingly, they have actually scored more runs than the Giants. The problem is, they don't have Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain among their starting pitchers.

20. New York Mets Johan Santana is basically a guaranteed win once ever five days. So when you blow a Santana start, you're really shooting yourself in the foot. Word on the street is Ollie Perez is headed to the bullpen, but unlike Joba Chamberlain crosstown, Perez probably won't be the best set up man in the league.

19. Atlanta Braves There's no way around it: losing Brian McCann hurts. Losing a series to the hapless Astros might hurt even more.

18. Pittsburgh Pirates So they've finally come back to earth, though, for most Pirate fans, going .500 would probably be a cause to celebrate. After so many losing seasons in a row, you can't really shake the air of inevitability.

17. San Francisco Giants I know they have a winning record, but these guys are last in runs scored in the league and it's not really close. I know Lincecum and Cain are good, and Zito hasn't been, well, awful of late, but you do still have to score at least some runs to win on any consistent basis.

16. Chicago White Sox Every time I am reminded that the Yankees got Nick Swisher for the cost of Wilson Betemit, I laugh a little. Okay, I'm lying. I laugh a lot.

15. Minnesota Twins Hey, they got Mauer back, and he hit a HR in his first AB, too. Face of the franchise, or what?

14. Texas Rangers Ranked a little high because I watched the game last night and I liked what I saw. Ian Kinsler grows on me every time I see him play. If only these guys stopped trading their pitchers...

13. Milwaukee Brewers Movin' on up in the world. That tends to happen when you start winning, and the Brewers are now over .500.

12. Philadelphia Phillies What I've kinda noticed, these past couple of years, is that the Phillies kind of amble on for most of the season, and then, at the precise moment that the Mets decide to collapse, they start winning. A ton. Still, losing Cole Hamels is a huge blow, and it remains to be seen how, or even if, this team recovers.

11. Cincinnati Reds This team plays in a bandbox. So where the heck did all of this pitching come from? While Cueto-Volquez-Harang might not be as dominant as Maddox-Glavine-Smoltz, it's still a whole lot of fun to watch.

10. Detroit Tigers Justin Verlander has emerged as Zach Greinke's #1 early Cy Young race challenger. If only the rest of the pitching staff--including the bullpen--could pick it up, these guys wouldn't be looking up at Kansas City for much longer.

9. Florida Marlins So these guys have come back to earth. They're still a different team, but the early season stats were inflated by playing the hapless Nationals six times. They're still in first place in the NL East, and as long as the Mets and Braves continue to struggle, they could pose a significant challenge.

8. New York Yankees In 24 games played, this team has failed to score four or more runs just three times. Despite Teixeira's below-Mendoza-line average, the offense is not this team's problem. If they ever did figure out a way to get the bullpen fixed, the Yankees might very well be unstoppable. The win on Friday evening against the Angels has to be considered one of the best wins all season.

7. Chicago Cubs These guys were probably really happy to stop facing St. Louis. However, Zambrano going down with an injury, for any length of time, has got to be weighing on the Wrigley faithful.

6. Kansas City Royals It's not enough that Greinke right now would win the AL Cy Young by a Cliff Lee-like landslide; the Royals had to go and be the only team, so far, to take a series from the Blue Jays. It's still hard to tell if the team has the offense to be for real for real, but when your runs allowed are tied for the second fewest in the league (by one run), you can get away with it.

5. Boston Red Sox The Yankees can't beat Baltimore; the Red Sox can't beat Tampa in Tampa. There's always one team like that. Right now, David Ortiz looks so done that cooking any more may set the whole grill on fire. Okay, bad pun, but still, when you walk the bases loaded to face Ortiz, there are some issues there that need to be addressed.

4. Seattle Mariners This is the team everyone thought they were getting last year, what with the pitching and the hitting and the young studs...José Lopez has something like two walk off hits in three games. My fantasy teams thank him.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers Best record and best run differential in the league. To be fair, they're getting some help from the rest of the division--the second place Giants (yes, you read that right) are only 12-11. Still, the Dodgers, at least, we knew had the potential to be legitimate. The guys sitting in the 2 slot...

2. Toronto Blue Jays While losing the series in Kansas City--the first time all season that they've lost a series--could be attributed to having to face the unstoppable Zach Greinke, this team looks more and more like it's for real. They're still leading the league in runs scored, and it's not really all that close, and are tied for the second-best run differential (the Dodgers have the best). The question you should be asking, is how did this team come out of nowhere? Did anyone--even Jays fans--see it coming?

1. St. Louis Cardinals They're a game shy of the best record in baseball right now, but if you don't like the way these guys have been playing you are probably not much of a baseball fan. Or you're a Cubs fan. Pujols already has 9 HR and 29 RBI.