Welcome to the fortnightly instalment of Baseball Canadiana’s Power Rankings. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of power rankings, you must know that it has very little to do with the standings. Even though the Indians currently hold baseball’s best record, it’s difficult to say that they are better than Philadelphia, the Yankees, or even Boston. Power rankings are meant to look past the standings and are therefore not reactionary to hot and cold streaks, as they take into account the unreliability of small sample sizes.
I made a decision with the Power Rankings here at Baseball Canadiana; I’m making them bi-monthly. Why you ask? Because at this time of year, teams start to show who they really are and very little changes from week-to-week. I feel like there is more to talk about when it’s done every two weeks. This instalment is no different; here are the rankings:
The Top Ten
Nothing changes at the top with the Philadelphia Phillies staking their place as the best team in baseball so far in 2011. Even without debatably their best hitter in Chase Utley, the Phillies have been rolling through the National League at breakneck speed. They’re the best team in the NL’s best division and sit tied for the best record in baseball at 22-11. Losing two out of three at home against the Braves this weekend shows you just how competitive the NL East is and it looks like it will be a great race all season long.
The Braves and the Marlins join the Phillies in the top five at fourth and fifth respectively. After a slow start, Atlanta burned through the last half-month going 8-4 and look to be rounding into form. Their pitching staff leads the NL in ERA at 2.87 and they’re also fourth in the NL in runs scored. The Braves are a very complete team and appear capable of taking on anyone in baseball. The Marlins, on the other hand, have been a big surprise to most so far this year (although not to me, I must admit). A lineup that includes Hanley Ramirez, Mike Stanton, and Gaby Sanchez and a rotation with Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, and Anibal Sanchez ensures that the Marlins will stay close in the NL East.
The AL East triumvirate of the Yankees (2), Rays (3), and Red Sox (6) round out the top six; New York went only 7-7 this half-month, but still scored far more runs than they allowed in that span (61-50) and appear to be the best team in the AL. With the farm system depth to nab another starting pitcher at some point during the season, the Yankees could be a scary second-half team. The Rays, meanwhile, have turned it around going 19-6 since their dubious 1-8 start. The best pitching staff in the AL and a lineup that should hit enough now that Longoria is back should keep them in the top five all year long.
Finally, I had to kick the Red Sox out of top spot in the AL after a disappointing fortnight that sees them remaining under .500 (the only team in the top team that can say such a thing). The re-emergence of Josh Beckett is promising, but the failings of Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka, and John Lackey have raised a lot of questions. Falling to sixth doesn’t mean they’re far from returning to the top; in my opinion, they are still much better than the teams directly behind them.
Oakland (7) leads the Majors in team ERA and that has been enough to keep them around the .500-mark all season. If they start hitting at all, they will be a very dangerous team. Meanwhile, Texas had the worst record in the AL over the past two weeks and have fallen two spots to eighth, only a game above .500.
Rounding out the top ten are the NL West duo of San Francisco and Colorado. The Giants have yet to find much consistency this season, but they’ve hovered around the .500-mark and went 8-5 in the last two weeks. Their weekend sweep of the Rockies at AT&T Park keeps them ahead in the division. The Rockies, however, have fallen hard after a quick start having gone 6-11 in the last three weeks.
The Central Divisions
In the NL Central, the Reds (11) still sit atop in the Rankings with a 7-5 fortnight, while the Cardinals continue to be hot and moved up three spots to 12th. Another good week could push them past the Reds. Milwaukee, meanwhile, posted the worst record in baseball over the last two weeks at 4-10 and have fallen all the way to 16th in the rankings, third in the division (fifth by standing). The Cubs continue to be slightly less than mediocre and sit 18th ahead of both the Pirates (more on them later) and the Astros who still occupy the bottom of the rankings.
The AL Central is both the worst and somehow the most intriguing division in baseball. The standings are literally the inverse of what many thought they would be and therefore the division is the hardest to rank. With the rest of the division either over or under achieving, the Tigers (15) are the only team that is sitting about where most thought they would, at 17-18, third place. This is good enough to grant them tops spot in the AL Central in the rankings. The Indians (17) are tied with Philadelphia for the Majors’ best record and they were also a major-league best 9-3 over the last two weeks; this was good enough to finally bring them into the top 20 and with another solid week or two could pass the Tigers for tops in the division.
With Minnesota and Chicago looking about as bad as possible, it was no longer justifiable to keep them in the top 20. Even though both could have been considered top-ten teams at the season’s commencement, they now sit 22nd and 24th respectively, just above the worst teams in the league.
Kansas City continues to play well enough and that has moved them to third in the division in the rankings and up four spots to 21st overall.
The Bottom Five
As mentioned earlier, the Astros sit at the bottom of the rankings once again and continue to cement themselves as the worst team in baseball. The Pirates solid play has not only brought them out of the bottom five to 25th, but they also sit at the .500-mark and are 3rd in the standings ahead of both the Cubs and Milwaukee.
The Mets (26) weren’t terrible over the last two weeks at 6-6, but their mediocrity caused them to fall two spots with a lot of upward movement around them from teams like Kansas City, Cleveland and Pittsburgh and back into the bottom five.
The Mariners, meanwhile, played well going 8-4 since we last checked in and move up from 29th to 27th, but are still at the bottom of the AL in the rankings. The White Sox and Twins are certainly within spitting distance, however.
San Diego (28) and Arizona (29) continue to battle for last in the NL West but I decided to keep the Padres ahead of the D-Backs because they won two out of three against them this weekend. The Diamondbacks did play well over the last two weeks however going 7-6 and scoring 58 runs while allowing just 46 over that span; another week or two like that should move them up.
The Blue Jays (19) continue to hold steady just barely in the top 20 after going 6-7 over the last two weeks. They looked great winning three of four in Texas and have since lost six of nine. This is about what we should expect from them going forward.
The Dodgers had a rough fortnight going 4-8 and falling four spots to 14th in the rankings and now look pretty far behind both the Giants and the Rockies. Their pitching staff is still solid and Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp continue to hit so they could easily go on a run and trend back up toward the top ten.
The Angels (13) continue to play well and could be poised for a quick move-up. I still think it’s mostly smoke and mirrors at this point which is why I still have them quite a ways behind both the A’s and Rangers despite their standing.