The chemical definition of volatility, if I remember correctly, is something like "the property of a substance to evaporate readily at room temperatures." I use the term in the power rankings in its non-chemical definition, meaning very variable and unstable, at times.
And for the second straight week, we have some major changes, starting from the top.
The Orioles are no longer in first place.
And who replaces them?
A team that did not score a first place ranking in a single poll.
Baseball math can certainly be interesting sometimes. This week's selection is like a compromise candidate politically - no one is too happy about it, but few can find fault and it seemingly will avoid a fight. Sometimes, compromise candidates breed cooperation. Or, as a Calvin and Hobbes strip noted, "A good compromise leaves no one happy."
This week's rankings have but one change: SI.com's rankings have been temporarily replaced by the rankings from SportsColumn.com's IanB, because SI.com's had not been posted by "press time" (meaning that I didn't want to wait until the weekend to get the rankings out).
- Twins (3) - I'm pretty certain that Beyond the Boxscore is the only outlet who will put the Twins at the top of the league at this point, but consensus across the league, and a very small margin, got the Twins to the top spot. Their lowest score was a 4 (in the Power Ranking average), and they scored two 2s (in Pythagenport and RPI). Their overall score was an 11, which was just a point higher than #2...
- Orioles (1) - RPI buried the Orioles this week. They were all the way down at #7, and they got 1s again from the Scotto method and the Pythagenport method. This isn't a slight in their direction; I'm still high on the O's. I would guess that these ranks, this week, are a mild fluke and that the Orioles will move back up to #1, assuming that they don't get destroyed in a few different games.
- White Sox (6) - These guys just won't go away, and they rebounded nicely from the drop off to #6. They're still the league's best team, record-wise, at 40-19. Here's an interesting stat: Shingo Takatsu is way up in TTO categories: 11.6 K/9, 6.1 BB/9, and 8 homers in 16 innings. Yeah, that's not a typo, and if that pace kept up for 50 innings, that rate would be the highest of the last 50 years (that distinction goes to 2001's Kent Bottenfield, who gave up 16 homers in 52 innings).
- Cardinals (2) - The #1 in a lot of the power rankings polls, but not here. I wouldn't have touched Mark Mulder with a ten foot poll in the offseason, and so far, the results on that trade are mixed for the Cards. It's still early, but Mulder's K-rate has dropped again - it's down to 5.3 K/9 this year. Compensating for that has been his G/F ratio, which is a very friendly 2.41, his career high. The ERA is at 4.17, which isn't bad, but it's not Mark Mulder-the-ace. We'll see where this goes.
- Rangers (4) - Still highly ranked, and the 4th AL team in the top 5 (and amazingly, neither is from Boston or New York). Chris Young, the 6'10" righty, has a 3.06 ERA, and Kenny Rogers is still below 2. The fact that this staff has a 4.39 ERA at TBAP is a real accomplishment.
- Mets (10) - The Met lineup is interesting: 4 positions haven't been particularly good or reached expectations: 2nd, short, 1st, and catcher, and Beltran's been injured and only part of what he was expected to do. Compensating for that? The VORPs of David Wright, Cliff Floyd, and the right-field duo of Cameron/Diaz are, respectively, 23.1, 18.8, and 32.8. The risk of all of this is if Wright goes down with an injury or really struggles for an extended period of time. They could fairly compensate for losing Cameron or Floyd with Diaz. But Wright would be tougher with which to deal.
- Cubs (13) - If you blinked, you missed the Cubs taking the lead in the NL wild card race, ahead of the Phillies (who also surged from the dead) by percentage points. At this point, if you don't think that Derrek Lee is the NL MVP, you're not paying attention, Abreu or no Abreu.
- Padres (5) - Referencing the Grateful Dead, the Padres just caught a damn good case of the Mexicali Blues over the last week, and are all of a sudden back to the pack instead of forging forward. They'll be in the thick of it all season; no one is especially better in the NL West. Hoffman is poised to move into 2nd all time on the career saves list, passing John Franco; he needs 15 more saves to do it.
- Red Sox (7) - We're approaching the point in the season where we have to wonder what the hell happened to Manny Ramirez... His power is down, too, in addition to his batting average. I don't expect we'll see 2002 again (.349/.450/.647), but Manny's better than .254/.345/.478.
- Marlins (9) - Still trying to get going. I feel like I write this every week with this team and I don't know why. A big problem here is that Juan Pierre and Mike Lowell have been voids in an otherwise very good lineup - they've combined for a -18.4 VORP this season. Delgado has gotten himself going, though; he's now among the league leaders in various offensive categories.
- Nationals (16) - I can eat crow, saying I expected to see the Gnats reel off a 6-game losing streak this week. I was right, except for the losing part. They won all their games and made me look bad in the process. I still don't see it being sustainable; they're the only team in the NL East with a negative run differential, and in a ridiculous division, it's going to be very, very tough to keep this act up.
- Phillies (20) - Our big riser this week; they've shot up 8 spots after winning a lot of games this week. They will benefit most from the Urbina trade from the fact that Utley gets more playing time. He's already a top-10 major league 2nd baseman, especially if his walk rate stays where it is.
- Braves (11) - Our fourth straight NL East team. It speaks volumes that so many are drinking the Atlanta Kool-Aid so happily, as if they've never had anything to drink before. Chipper Jones' foot injury is bad - it could keep him out through July. Some will say how happy they are to see Andy Marte in there, but as much as everyone likes Marte, I don't think he's quite ready to tear up big league pitching. He was doing well in AAA, but not exceptionally so; his .276/.363/.497 line is only exciting because he's so young. To me, that indicates that two or three years from now, Marte will be one of the league's best hitters. But he'll probably "only" be "above average" or "good," not "outstanding like Justin Morneau down the stretch last year." And that's not going to be enough to replace Chipper.
- Angels (17) - It's funny how the subjective scores and the objective scores have become closer for most teams as the year has progressed. The Angels are again the league's biggest disagreement, but the standard deviation is only 5.72 for them. Pythagenport and Scotto put them at 20, Power and RPI put them at 8. 14 seems like a pretty fair score.
- Indians (12) - You have to sympathize for fans of the Indians on our list. In a division that should have been a fairly competitive, 4-team race, the Twins and White Sox have exploded out of the gate and left the Indians in the dust. Several analysts, including Baseball Prospectus' Keith Woolner, picked the Indians as the surprise winner of this division, but it's just very unlikely at this point. They have only a 4% chance to win the division, according to Prospectus' Postseason Odds.
- Tigers (15) - You have to sympathize for fans of the Tigers on our list. In a division that should have been a fairly competitive, 4-team race, the Twins and White Sox have exploded out of the gate and left the Tigers in the dust. Several analysts, including ESPN.com's Pedro Gomez, picked the Tigers as the surprise winner of this division, but it's just very unlikely at this point. They have only a 4% chance to win the division, according to Prospectus' Postseason Odds.
- Blue Jays (8) - HUGE drop from the Jays as the AL East all of a sudden loses its distinction of having 4 tough teams. I feel that the Blue Jays are like that guy at the beginning of Monty Python and the Holy Grail:
[Rest of AL puts a body on the cart]
Rest of AL: Here's one.
The Dead Collector: That'll be ninepence.
Blue Jays: I'm not dead.
The Dead Collector: What?
Rest of AL: Nothing. There's your ninepence.
Blue Jays: I'm not dead.
The Dead Collector: 'Ere, he says he's not dead.
Rest of AL: Yes he is.
Blue Jays: I'm not.
The Dead Collector: He isn't.
Rest of AL: Well, he will be soon, he's very ill.
Blue Jays: I'm getting better.
Rest of AL: No you're not, you'll be stone dead in a moment.
The Dead Collector: Well, I can't take him like that. It's against regulations.
Blue Jays: I don't want to go on the cart.
Rest of AL: Oh, don't be such a baby.
The Dead Collector: I can't take him.
Blue Jays: I feel fine.
Rest of AL: Oh, do me a favor.
The Dead Collector: I can't.
Rest of AL: Well, can you hang around for a couple of minutes? He won't be long.
The Dead Collector: I promised I'd be at the Robinsons'. They've lost nine today.
Rest of AL: Well, when's your next round?
The Dead Collector: Thursday.
Blue Jays: I think I'll go for a walk.
Rest of AL: You're not fooling anyone, you know. Isn't there anything you could do?
Blue Jays: I feel happy. I feel happy.
[The Dead Collector glances up and down the street furtively, then silences the Blue Jays with his a whack of his club]
Rest of AL: Ah, thank you very much.
The Dead Collector: Not at all. See you on Thursday.
Rest of AL: Right.
I think that it speaks for itself (it's edited from IMDB), but it's just that we've all been looking at our watches, waiting for the Blue Jays to fall out of this race, and it's gradually happening now.
- Brewers (18) - The Overbay trade watch continues, as Marc outlined nicely on the site. Fielder's line of .257/.369/.486, much like Andy Marte, is worth that much more because he's so young, but the PCL distorts it a bit. In either case, I think Overbay probably will be traded at some point, but the price will be very, very high.
- Dodgers (19) - So what would it take for these guys to trade Gagne? Is it feasible? In either case, I wouldn't put it past DePodesta, and this team does need some help in a few areas, most notably starting pitching. The minors here are stacked, though, and they're only getting better with the addition of Hochevar.
- Yankees (14) - A week after I cut the Yankees some slack for a big drop, they earn their next six spot slide. They were swept by Royals and lost a couple to a crippled Twins team, all while not facing Johan Santana. 59 games in and the Yankees are a game under .500. DH or no DH, it's difficult to explain the huge drop in Johnson's strikeouts. In 2004, he struck out 30.1% of the batters he faced, up from 25.6%. This year, he's only fanned 20.6%. Those extra balls in play are killing him with a bad defense behind him. Maybe it's that simple.
- Pirates (22) - The menace that is the service clock is starting to catch up to Kip Wells, so his name has been thrown around in trade rumors. And last season's trade of Benson netted the Pirates very little; Wiggy just got sent down to AAA and Matt Peterson has a 6.35 ERA, less than 4.5 K/9, and more walks than strikeouts. Isn't it funny how Allard Baird snuck into the deal and got the best of it with Huber?
- Diamondbacks (21) - Plummeting in the standings but not moving much here because, well, the stats have been predicting their return to Earth for a few weeks now, even if some industry writers love the worst-to-first story. They're just not that good and are proving a cardinal rule of conventional wisdom in sports - it's difficult to win if you give up more runs than you score.
- Mariners (23) - Enough is enough with Adrian Beltre's struggles. He's on pace for 45 XBHs, a year after cranking 80. What gives? I don't know if he's pressing or what, but the other scary figure is the deteriorating plate discipline. He has only 8 walks, compared to his 37 strikeouts. Beltre's struggles this year should show that it's awfully tough to commit $65 million to a player based on one season, even if he is "fulfilling potential." I expect Beltre to recover and hit better for the rest of the year and in future years in this contract (he's still only 26), but this year is a disaster. His PECOTA was a conservative .279/.337/.486, but who could have predicted THIS?
- A's (28) - They've done better of late, moving up to 23-35. No one could have anticipated this, but the injuries and some hugely underachieving players have been the downfall of this team. But hey, there are a few positives: Chavy's hitting again, they're going to get a high draft pick, and, of course, they're going to finish the season around .500. You heard it here first.
- Astros (25) - Not moving, for a change. I'm interested to see how a potential Roger-Koby battery in Houston would work out, even if it were just for one spring training game next year. They're now last in the NL Central, behind even the Reds, and they're averaging 3.6 runs per game. The Astros missed the boat - they should have started rebuilding the moment that Carlos Beltran signed with the Mets. There's still plenty of time until the trade deadline, though.
- Giants (24) - Clinging to postseason hopes that just aren't happening anymore. My money's on Sabean retooling for one last run at the title with Bonds and then taking a good hard look at his farm system and team and realizing that there's nothing left from years of losing first round draft picks to misguided early offseason signings and trades for middle relievers.
- Devil Rays (26) - They're actually above .500 in home games at 16-14. Of course, this means that a road win is about as rare as watching a cable news channel for an hour and not seeing something on the Michael Jackson case; they're 4-25 on the road. They have no everyday players with an OPS over .850. That explains a lot.
- Royals (29) - I think that Royals fans the world over would have rioted if the Royals went with Maybin or someone besides Alex Gordon at #2 in the draft on Tuesday. He's something to look forward to, and there are a few other nice hitters in their system who play first or third. Maybe 2008 will be a good year for the Royals. Oh, and they did sweep the Yankees, so that's their accomplishment in this abysmal season.
- Reds (27) - There are quite a few guys hitting pretty well on this team. Griffey, Casey, Randa, Dunn, Lopez, and Freel all have OPSes over .800, and Pena's back and he's slugging over .800. Of course, this means that the pitching is the problem. 21 starts have gone to Eric Milton and Paul Wilson who have combined for an ERA of 7.58. NO lineup can overcome that.
- Rockies (30) - I got a couple of comments last week that said that the Rockies were better than the Royals. I will respectively disagree and say that they're about equal. The teams are very comparable in their lack of aptitude: one exciting pitcher, one good hitter, a lot of young guys, many who don't deserve big league jobs... very similar here. How about a poll: you're building a team from scratch that doesn't play at altitude and can take one young starter from the league's cellar dwellers: who are you taking? Greinke or Francis?