It's back. And with a new year, I decided to refine the purposes of the power rankings we do here, in addition to actually ranking the teams.
I've simplified the formula this year and I took out the inclusion of other rankings systems. While I liked the "hybridization" of sorts that it entailed, I was unhappy with the occassional unreliability of the sources and how sometimes, I had to desperately search for replacements.
So, here's what I looked to have in the rankings:
- An evaluation of how well the team has played through the components of run scoring: Base Runs w/ Pythagenpat exponent.
- An evaluation of how well a team has actually played, adjusted by strength of schedule: ESPN's RPI.
Most of the lines I give are really just for the sake of having a comment. Remember, Chris Shelton will not slug over 1.100 this year. Just keep it in perspective...
So, without further ado, 2006's first edition of the BTB Power 30...
- Cleveland Indians - No, I didn't rig the system to have my World Series pick at the top; they've just played damn well to start things out. They're hitting .320/.381/.488 as a team, which is roughly what Victor Martinez hit last season. Travis Hafner is continuing to get name recognition and is oft-compared to David Ortiz, these days. They're 9-5 and trail the ChiSox by half a game, but so far, so good for the Indians.
- New York Mets - "Same old Mets" cries aside after a couple of losses to the Braves, this team had an easy first 9 games and capitalized on it. Early injuries to Beltran, Floyd, and the .146/.146/.146 Anderson Hernandez are worrisome, but David Wright and Carlos Delgado have been more than adequate in picking up the slack. This team will hit, but the pitching could be suspect down the stretch. Still, in an atrocious NL...
- Boston Red Sox - The AL East is highly competitive in the early going, and, from the look of run differential, the Sox shouldn't be where they are. The Greek God of Walks has acquitted himself nicely in the early going (.318/.426/.432), but the big story here is the early success of Schilling, and Beckett. The Sox have won all 6 starts by their two front-line starters, and they're 4-4 in their other games. Random stat: if that trend kept up and their top 2 started 64 games, the Sox would win 113 games.
- Toronto Blue Jays - You thought the Indians were hitting? The Blue Jays are hitting .324/.379/.532, which is like Michael Young in 2005 with a little more power. That comes from the incredible starts for Vernon Wells and Troy Glaus. The 5.73 ERA, like the huge batting line, will regress towards something more logical within the next few weeks.
- Detroit Tigers - This is the point in the power rankings where I'm supposed to wax poetic about the illustrious start to Chris Shelton's season... Instead, I'd like to mention how Carlos Guillen's health is an important part of their season, and, after a 2005 in which injuries sopped his power, Guillen is back with a vengeance in the early going, hitting .275/.351/.549. Oh, and Shelton is hitting .455/.483/1.145. That's not supposed to happen.
- Milwaukee Brewers - Rough start for J.J. Hardy, who is hitting .259/.281/.407. This fantasy owner of Bill Hall would prefer Hall's .214/.324/.500 to get some of Hardy's at bats. Please?
- Houston Astros - One of these years, I'm going to be right about the Astros. I swear it. In the early going, Ensberg and Berkman are carrying this team. No one should be surprised by Oswalt's strong start, but I am surprised by the success of Wandy Rodriguez in the early going. The Astros are tied with the Mets for best record in the NL, at this point, but I'd be shocked if they were at the top of the league come July.
- Cincinnati Reds - Being the typical TTO man that he is, Dunn has walked, struck out, or homered in 43 plate appearances already this year, for a 64.2% TTO percentage. I think that would break a league record. In other news, Milton has given up 5 homers in 18 innings. Oh, and the sun came out today.
- New York Yankees - The Yankees' record should be a lot better, considering that they're outhitting their opponents by over 150 points in OPS and outscoring them 85-62. But a lot of that was in the blowout of Oakland on the first day. I would also argue that the Yanks will have an ERA higher than 4.30 by the end of the year, especially if Scott Proctor continues to get the most innings out of the 'pen (and ones with significance! 1.06 leverage).
- Chicago Cubs - Quietly, Greg Maddux might be having one last hurrah with the Cubs... he's posted a 1.33 ERA in 3 starts. The game's most famed pitching scientist still has an outside shot at 350 wins; he's currently at 321-189 on his career. Maddux is amazing in that he's never lost his control. He hasn't walked more than 50 since 1993, and he's started 25 or more in every one of those seasons.
- Colorado Rockies - The ultimate in "it's early," the Rockies are only a game out of first in the West. You've gotta credit the pitching here; while they haven't faced any superb offenses, the ERA is at 4.19... and it's only 4.50 at Coors. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, and I figure it'll drop pretty hard.
- Atlanta Braves - Big pitching performances from Davies and Hudson, back-to-back... the Braves' pitching had been atrocious early on. Andruw Jones played the part of Chipper and carried the Braves through the Mets' series and, again, should get a lot of acclaim in MVP voting this year.
- Chicago White Sox - Coming in at #13, the defending champs do lead their division... but they've already played the Royals 5 times, and that hurts them in their RPI. The fact that they've lost two of those five doesn't help. The big offseason gamble, the trade for Thome, is working out so far, as Jim is hitting .349/.541/.907 (.419 EqA). They do miss Rowand, though; after his amazing first game, new centerfielder Brian Anderson is struggling a lot.
- St. Louis Cardinals - The greatest hitter of our generation calls St. Louis home. .354/.515/1.021 is a bit much to ask, but I wouldn't be surprised with him hitting his 90th percentile PECOTA: .368/.468/.705. Would you?
- Baltimore Orioles - So far, so good on my prediction for Mazzone's success story (Erik Bedard), who isn't being helped much by luck (.308 BABIP) in the early going. The operative word there is early, though. Perhaps the most amazing line of the season, though? .224/.418/.245: what opponents are hitting against Daniel Cabrera.
- Los Angeles Dodgers - Jeff Kent was beaned in the head by Brad Hennessey (rhymes with Tennessee) and is reportedly suffering from blurred vision, which isn't good for the Dodgers or for Kent. Brad Penny and J.D. Drew, two of Depo's most controversial acquisitions, have acquitted themselves nicely in the early going, and the Dodgers have as good a chance as any to take this division.
- Arizona Diamondbacks - Conor Jackson's .275/.375/.425 line looks more like a logical estimate of his full season than where it actually is, but it's cool to see it there.
- Los Angeles Angels - THE AL West is baseball's worst division, according to our list, and I don't expect that to keep up. Vlad Guerrero's early power struggles were somewhat erased by a 2-homer performance against Baltimore, but it's worth noting that he only has 3 homers to start things out. Guerrero wishes he could face the Angels' staff, which has surrendered 20 homers in 14 games.
- San Francisco Giants*
- Texas Rangers - The Rangers do ERAs like they do everything else in Texas: big. Thus far, though, they've done really well. Only Millwood and Dickey have been very bad in the early going, and Koronka and Loe have been real solid. With Wilkerson, Teixiera, Blalock, and Co, the lineup is stacked, so that might keep them in the race on its own.
- Oakland Athletics - After my cowardly abandonment of the A's in May, I will never do that again. I am confident that they'll eventually run away with this thing, but I don't have the statistical proof to back it up. Esteban Loaiza's rough start has gotten a lot of flak from the media and fans, but give the man some time. Other things: Swisher, Bradley, and Chavy have been excellent; Crosby, Ellis, and Johnson have been terrible. We'll see where that leads.
- Seattle Mariners - The King is struggling in the early going. If your local Mariners fan cries in public, give him/her a few minutes. Then make them stop and remind them that they had a bunch of good years in a row.
- Tampa Bay Devil Rays - The D'Rays are still at .500, Ty Wigginton has a slugging percentage over .700, and... well, OK, none of that is going to keep up. The D'Rays WILL be good, though. Just not yet.
- Florida Marlins - Leading rookie hitters in VORP... it's Hanley! Starting here, all references that I ever write about Hanley Ramirez will be prefaced by "The toolsy." So, The Toolsy Hanley Ramirez has started out hitting .364/.426/.636, and his VORP is 10.2.
- Minnesota Twins - They're averaging almost five runs per game, which is startling... but they're allowing more than that! Baseball works in mysterious ways in small doses... and often in large doses, too.
- Washington Nationals - After a dreadful start, the Gnats have righted the ship and are up to 5-9. In 33 games, Ryan Zimmerman has a career Rate of 111. Yeah, he's that good in the field.
- Pittsburgh Pirates - After a rookie season in which he allowed 3 homers in 84.2 innings, Zach Duke gave up 3 in 18 to start out this year, and Jason Repko, Olmedo Saenz, and J.J. Hardy are certainly not the most feared sluggers in the league. The NL Central is as wide open as they come, so even with their 5-12 start, there's no reason to lose hope... if you had it to begin with...
- Philadelphia Phillies - In the early going, the Phillies' defense has been atrocious; they rank dead last in the league in defensive efficiency. Cory Lidle and Jon Lieber have huge BABIPs, up at .411 and .391, respectively. Those will come down, and the Phils will do better defensively (that's more a fluke of numbers and opponents and Coors, than anything else, I think). They should be in the race this year, but they'll need better work from a bunch of spots. Eight of Chase Utley's eleven hits have been for extra bases, and that shows up in his interesting .216/.268/.529 line.
- San Diego Padres - I'm as surprised as you are by this ranking: they're only 6-8 and they're ranked 29th? Behind the Pirates? The Marlins? There are a few things at work, here: the system believes that the Padres have been lucky to score 65 runs; BsR puts them at 52 runs. Their strength of schedule is 27th in the league, so that isn't helping, either. They won't be down at 29 for too long this season, but they certainly haven't shown much in the early going.
- Kansas City Royals - Man, that was fast.
*As a silent protest for the ludicrous media coverage of Barry Bonds and the fact that every telecast of ESPNews seems to lead its baseball segment with Bonds and the Giants, I will not write a comment for the San Francisco Giants.