Welcome to the fortnightly instalment of Baseball Canadiana’s Power Rankings. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of my power rankings, you must know that it has very little to do with the standings. 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.
Now one quarter of the way through the year, things start to even out in Major League Baseball. The teams at the top probably won’t waiver much and you’re starting to see the contenders play like contenders, while the teams who will soon start to rebuild for next year are starting to bottom out. There are, however, a few exceptions. All will be detailed in this edition.
The Top Ten
The top three remain the same as last time with the Philadelphia Phillies sitting at number one. They’ve now been there for several weeks and even without much in the way of offense, it’s hard to see them moving out of the top spot anytime soon. Their starting rotation is just too good. In fact, the Phillies rotation leads the majors in wins with 21, K/9 with 8.73, BB/9 with an insane 1.96, FIP at a surreal 2.53, and WAR at 9.1. They also lead the NL with a 3.10 ERA. They’re also about to get second baseman Chase Utley back from the DL. It’s unknown how much Utley will be affected by his injury, but even at his worst, he has to be better than Wilson Valdez and Pete Orr, who’ve replaced him so far this year.
The Yankees once again hold down the two spot and the top spot in the AL. The AL East race is shaping up to be a good one as coming into tonight’s action, the Rays were tied with New York, a mere half-game ahead of the surging Red Sox. For this reason, the Rays sit at number three once again and the Red Sox move back up two spots to number four after 9-3 over the last two weeks.
Despite the fact that the Rays and Yankees are tied atop the AL East and they each went 6-7 over the past two weeks, keeping the Yankees ahead overall was an easy choice. The two teams split a two-game series in Tampa last week, but the Yankees scored more runs in the two games and generally, their run differential over the last two weeks was much better. The Yankees were +12 while the Rays were -4.
All the drama in New York over the beleaguered ex-catcher Jorge Posada’s spot in the lineup does not change the fact that they are still a very good team. After struggling in the first week, they answered their critics at least a little by winning five of seven games in the second week of action.
The Red Sox meanwhile appear well past their early struggles and have now won 23 of 34 games since starting 2-10.
Rounding out the top five are the Florida Marlins who stand pat this fortnight. Despite a -10 run differential in that span, they managed to win half their games. Ace Josh Johnson was placed on the DL with a shoulder problem and will miss his next few starts so the Marlins may fall a few spots in the coming weeks.
The San Francisco Giants are starting to look more and more like the team that shocked the baseball world last October. In the last two weeks, San Fran has gone 9-3 allowing only 39 runs during that span, prompting a move from ninth in the rankings to sixth. I was tempted to put them ahead of the Marlins, but didn’t mainly because they haven’t had quite as tough of a schedule. They are, however, only a single game back of the Phillies for the NL’s best record so nothing is stopping them from eventually making a charge at the number one spot.
The Braves went 6-7 this fortnight and although they once again took two of three from the Phillies, they also went a combined 2-6 against teams with a .500 record or worse. With Jason Heyward and Tim Hudson’s health a serious question going forward, the Braves could be in trouble. They still have the talent to get hot and have a ton of minor-league pitching depth that could be used to trade for another big bat (Carlos Beltran? Andre Ethier?). Either way, they find themselves down from fourth to seventh.
They eight and nine spots were a bit of a point of contention for me. I wanted the two spots to belong to the top two teams in the NL Central but went back and forth on who should be where. I settled on the Reds at eighth and the Cardinals at ninth. The Cardinals are number one in the Majors in runs, while the Reds sit number two, while St. Louis also has a two-and-a-half game lead on the Reds in the division and the Cardinals were better over the last two weeks in terms of record at 8-5 compared to 7-6. The Reds keep the top spot in the division mainly because they swept the Cardinals last week and had won seven out of ten until running into the Indians on the weekend in Cleveland where they were promptly swept.
Rounding out the top ten are the Texas Rangers who have lost 16 out of their last 26 games, but have still managed to be tops in the AL West. They’ve had a tough schedule and have had to endure the last month without probably their two best hitters in Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz who are both due back soon.
Surges and Swoons
The Cleveland Indians still have the best record in baseball. Still. Not only that, but they also have the league’s best run differential which means they aren’t exactly winning one-run games and then getting blown out. They’ve won in every way possible and have done so with a solid all around game. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera is not a good defensive player (despite what our eyes may tell us), but I am genuinely starting to believe that he’s for real at the plate. On Sunday, he became just the fourth shortstop in history to go five for five with two homeruns and five RBI in the same game as the Tribe smacked around the Reds 12-4.
I debated long and hard on moving them past the Rangers and into the top ten and they were damn close. I still ultimately believe that they will eventually come down to earth, but they are literally impressing the pants off of me with how they’ve been able to continue this improbable run. I mean it, my pants are gone. I moved them up another six spots this week to 11th meaning that they’ve moved up 11 total spots in a three-week span and 19 spots since the beginning of the year. Even if they come back down to earth, they are much better than I thought they would be.
The Milwaukee Brewers swooned in the first part of the last month and fell to 14-20 on the season, but in the last two weeks, they have reversed the trend posting the best record in the Majors over that span. They now sit a game above .500 and are nipping at the heels of the Reds and Cards. With Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo starting to figure it out at the top of the rotation, they might be primed for another move upward in the coming weeks.
The Blue Jays moved up three spots from 19th to 16th after an 8-4 fortnight, while the White Sox are starting to figure it out going 9-4 over the last two weeks. I moved them up from 24th to 17th. The seven spot jump was the biggest in the rankings.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have been quietly on a tear the last ten days or so, winning eight of their last nine. The sweep over the terrible Twins can’t be considered too great, but they’ve managed to bring themselves out of the bottom five into 25th.
As for the swoons, the Athletics have fallen from seventh to 12th after a 4-8 stretch. They now sit in last in the AL West, but their superb pitching keeps them second in the division in the rankings. The Rockies continue to struggle having now gone 11-19 since their 12-3 start. They fall out of the top ten to 14th. Their division mates in LA are also free falling. The team I picked to win the West looks terrible and fell another five spots from 14th to 19th. The Cubs also fall three spots to 21st and into the bottom ten after a 5-7 stretch.
The Bottom Five
The Mariners and Pirates are each sitting at 22-24, which is respectable, but ultimately there isn’t much to get excited for with either of these teams. The Mariners have managed to stay relevant with some great pitching from ace Felix Hernandez and rookie phenom Michael Pineda, but they still sit 26th, one spot ahead of the Pirates.
The Twins continue their free fall, basically flipping places with the Indians since the start of the year. They fell another six spots to 28th after a league-worst 3-10 record over the past two weeks. They now hold the Majors’ worst record at 15-30.
The Padres fall another spot to 29th after a 5-8 fortnight, but interestingly enough, their anemic offense has scored more runs than any other NL team over that span with 64. However, their usually solid pitching gave up the second-most runs in that same time.
Bringing up the rear are the Houston Astros, once again. Winning two of three in Toronto was nice, but they still managed only a 4-9 record over the last two weeks. They’re terrible.