And we're back!
It's been almost two weeks since we last did this, so let's get right to it. We've changed the notation slightly; we're now including each team's record, in addition to their movement from the prior power rankings.
(Records are current as of 1:30 PM, Wednesday, May 17.)
Holding steady at #1, we have...
- Detroit Tigers (25-13, --) - We're not quite the point in the season where you can start doing things like "If the ___ plays .500 ball the rest of the way..." but it's still interesting to look at. If the Tigers play .500 ball the rest of the way, they'll finish 87-75, which won't be enough for the wild card. A lot of people have discussed Detroit's defense as a big reason for their success, and it is worth noting. While you'd assume regression is inevitable, it's not necessarily impossible to finish the season w/ a .735 DER; Seattle did it in 2001, and Cincy approached that in '99.
- New York Yankees (22-15, +1) - The formula doesn't account for injuries, but if it did, you'd have a case for lowering the Yankees a bit. Matsui is not a spectacular player, but he's consistent and, before his injury, simply didn't miss games. You were pretty certain to get above average production from left, but now, it's a bit more of a crapshoot for the Yanks. My guess is that the Yanks will stand pat with what they have for the time being and reevaluate come the All-Star Break.
- Boston Red Sox (23-14, +11) - Sure, maybe doubles hitting isn't a skill, but it's damn valuable, and Mike Lowell is smacking doubles all around the park, still; he has 20 in 135 ABs. More importantly, though, one of the greatest revelations to me as a baseball fan recently is that there is really no such thing as a doubles hitter. And, while I was skeptical at first, it does make a lot of sense, and, if you watch enough games, you'll start to notice things like, "Man, that ringing double he hit down the line wasn't hit that much harder than the single he roped to left field earlier in the game," or "if that flyball had been to deep right rather than up the gap, it would have been an out." So, prediction: Lowell's pace wears off soon, but he'll still hit 45-50 doubles on the season.
- Chicago White Sox (25-13, --) - Like last year's club, the White Sox are relying on the longball to score runs, only it seems much more pronounced with Jim Thome's presence. Jose Contreras has been spectacular this year, and is now spectacularly on the DL. He's still in the Top 5 in the AL in VORP.
- New York Mets (24-14, --) - Those crazy, crazy Metsies. They've given Jose Lima two starts and plan to give him a third. Quite simply, the Mets are top heavy in their rotation, and, unlike last year, probably do need to add a pitcher through trade. Their stubbornness with Mr. Heilman aside, at this point, it might be easier said than done to stretch out Heilman's arm.
- Milwaukee Brewers (20-19, -4) - The Brewers look a lot better here than their record because of two things: 1) they've severely outhit their opponents (.812 OPS to .719 OPS), and 2) they've played a tough schedule. I'll credit Bill Hall in this space again; the guy has 20 extra base hits and 12 singles, and he's just been very impressive. If Hardy's out for an extended period of time, the Brewers will survive.
- Toronto Blue Jays (21-17, +4) - Statistical analysis has marginalized the importance of batting average, but seriously, having two guys hitting >.355 is a good way to be. Wells and Rios have been superb thus far this year. Also good news for Toronto: they're surviving defensively without Orlando Hudson, last year's stud second baseman. Part of that is due to Aaron Hill, who has been serviceable or phenomenal, depending on who you ask. (3 errors, 8th in the bigs in ZR, 6 FRAA).
- St. Louis Cardinals (24-15, +1) - The Tigers aren't the only team in the league playing fantastic defense; the Cards are tied with the Tigers for the best DER in the league. With a staff that doesn't strike out very many people, this is important. Also, our poll indicates that a sizeable majority of respondants (61%, but the sample is small) believe that Albert Pujols will slug over .700 this year. Keeping in mind that this would be the first time he has ever done that, I think that the 61% is right.
- Los Angeles Dodgers (20-20, +6) - So far, so good for Nomah, who has crushed the ball to the tune of .341/.418/.647. What's really keeping them around, though, has been high quality starting pitching. Even with Jae Seo and Odalis Perez struggling, the Dodgers' rotation has posted a 3.76 ERA (best in the NL), on the strong work of personal-favorite Brad Penny, Brett Tomko, Derek Lowe, and the indomitable Aaron Sele.
- Arizona Diamondbacks (22-17, --) - Put these guys on a list of "teams that could use another starting pitcher." The offense is good and the defense is OK, and Brandon Webb should figure into Cy Young discussions (especially when park is considered). Check this out, though:
NAME GS IP/GS RA B. Webb 9 7.19 2.92 Not B. Webb 30 4.96 5.99
- Texas Rangers (20-18, +1) - If you missed it, the Rangers blew a nine-run lead against the Yankees on Tuesday, and, while it's difficult to prove "momentum," that would qualify as a momentum killer. Some strange years offensively on this club, but most notable is Hank Blalock's resurgence (.345.414/.552, including a higher ISO on the road than at home).
- Colorado Rockies (22-18, +1) - The Rockies actually lead the league in ESPN's RPI, but their base-run differential is merely adequate. If Jeff Francis keeps doing what he's doing (3.26 ERA, 6.7 K/9), he will get my IBA Cy Young vote. Francis' K/9 gives me a sliver of hope that he could be pretty good by the end of the year, while Aaron Cook, who has been similarly solid, does not have the same likelihood of further success (4.1 K/9).
- Cleveland Indians (18-21, -7) - If the Indians don't make the playoffs again this year, they're going to have to look back at these losses to the Royals. The White Sox beat up on the Royals, and the Indians failed to do the same. As an aside, Casey Blake is hitting .366/.440/.618.
- Cincinnati Reds (23-16, -7) - Losers of 5 straight, the Reds are rapidly descending back to where they should be. Bronson Arroyo has regressed to the mean with the bat; he's 2/21 now (with 2 homers, of course). More importantly, though, you can tie this skid to a major batting slump; they're hitting just .238/.313/.385 as a team for the month, with only Felipe Lopez, Austin Kearns, Edwin Encarnacion, and Scott Hatteberg doing anything of substance with their bats.
- San Diego Padres (22-18, +10) - Our big risers this week are the surging San Diego Padres, who remind us that the defending NL West champs can still play. A good story this year is Mike Cameron: while he has struggled with the bat, he has been impeccable in the field since coming back (118 RATE, .945 ZR would be tops in the league among CFs if he qualified). It's nice to see it from a guy who was in what seemed like the equivalent of a car accident in rightcenter at Petco last season.
- Atlanta Braves (19-20, --) - Slowly climbing back into the race, the Braves simply refuse to fade away quietly. This recent surge is a product of an easy stretch of schedule; they've played their last 9 games against the Marlins and Gnats and have won 7.
- Philadelphia Phillies (22-16, +9) - Their record is stronger than their run differential, but more importantly, Mr. Cole Hamels has arrived all in one piece; in his first start, he threw 5 scoreless, walkful innings. In other news, I was at the Rowand-smashes-into-wall game. It was one of the five best plays I've ever seen, and unquestionably the best I've ever seen in person.
- Houston Astros (22-18, -10) - Maybe I was right about the Astros this year... Morgan Ensberg has eased off his torrid pace from April (.211/.297/.439 in May), the pitching has been subpar, and the Astros are descending right along with the Reds. Clemens would make a huge difference, but so would a more functional Brad Lidge. My "against the grain" Cy Young pick has fallen into some serious problems...
- Oakland Athletics (19-19, -1) - We've seen this act before -- for some reason, the A's always seem to take a while to heat up. I'm not jumping off of this bandwagon; they've had far too many cold starts to be considered a .500 team. Their starters have a 4.94 ERA; I'll guarantee that that number is at least .50 lower by August. We'll see how it goes, but I still think the A's will emerge from the AL West.
- San Francisco Giants (20-20, -1) - This is actually the lowest spot for any of the NL West teams, and that's not really an insult. The Giants are just 2 games behind the first place Diamondbacks and are tied for last place. If Barry Bonds can ever get his act back together fully, the Giants could really run away with this thing. As it is, that seems increasingly unlikely, and, with Alou out, this team is going to struggle to score runs.
- Los Angeles Angels (17-22, -4) - This might be the Angels' down year, in between two championship-caliber groups. Kendrick's cup of coffee was a little bitter, but this team is stacked in the minors (much like its more appropriately named regional neighbor). Vlad Guerrero has been good but not VLADIMIR GUERRERO good, and there just aren't very many runs to be had (12th in the AL in run scoring).
- Washington Nationals (13-26, -1) - The Gnats have already used 9 different starting pitchers: Zach Day, Mike O'Connor, Tony Armas, John Patterson, Ryan Drese, Livan Hernandez, Ramon Ortiz, and Billy Traber. The early Livan Hernandez meltdown is a little disorienting; I had sort of pegged Livan as a "freak of nature" who would survive for the next 10 years or so. But there's still time. Considering that it's coming from RFK, the 4.67 ERA from the starters is problematic... but that's what happens when you use 9 starters for 39 games.
- Seattle Mariners (17-23, +1) - Adrian Beltre continues to be maddeningly awful here, but I'd rather not focus on that. Rob Neyer brought up a good point about the M's--Raul Ibanez is probably going to be one of the most marketable players worth trading. And, assuming that the Mariners will bow out of this race (even though they're only 3 back or so), it would make sense to try to parlay that into a few prospects.
- Florida Marlins (11-26, -2) - Rough start to the season for Dontrelle, and, apparently, he's having trouble with his mechanics. Brian Moehler's rapid demise is because of an uptick in homers and a drop in strikeouts. Generally, opponents hitting .353/.405/.600 off of you is a bad formula. I can still envision this team putting together a nice second half and finishing right around 70 wins. But there are certainly growing pains involved with a young team.
- Baltimore Orioles (18-22, -5) - One of my favorite stories from last year hasn't been helped by Leo Mazzone; Bruce Chen has posted an 8.21 ERA in 7 starts. It's too bad; I still think he's a serviceable back-of-the-rotation starter.
- Minnesota Twins (17-22, +4) - Finally getting untracked, .500 is within shouting distance. They're hitting this month; the team has posted a .305/.359/.446 line. The pitching has not come around, partially because the defense has been the worst in the league. One thing with the Twins is that they seem to deviate from "the plan" too often; did they want to get Liriano major league experience in the bullpen, or did they just think that they had better options that are no longer better options? To be fair, Carlos Silva is the rotation's casualty, and they're going to try to fix some problems he has had.
- Chicago Cubs (16-22, -4) - Yeah, a .303 OBP is crippling. The only team worse than the Cubs at scoring runs plays in Kansas City, and at least they have some hitting prospects...
- Pittsburgh Pirates (12-27, --) - Abysmal offensively; they're hitting .247/.315/.387. You'd have to think that Jason Bay will pick it up a little as the year goes on (.189 isolated power would be a career low), but the Pirates have quickly played themselves out of the race and into a high draft pick.
- Tampa Bay Devil Rays (16-23, -2) - It's often said that history is told from the perspective of the victors. Well, in the case of the Scott Kazmir trade, the tale always seems to be told from the side of the losers (the Mets). Looking at it from the side of the victors, it can be said that Chuck Lamar's legacy, when it's all said and done, might be for somehow pulling off one of the biggest heists in league history. Kazmir has been unbelievable this year: 2.80 K/BB, 9 K/9, 6 HR in 56 IP. 2.73 ERA.
- Kansas City Royals (10-26, -1) - Welcome home, Kansas City. And when I saw that Justin Huber was on the bench, I just laughed. It's one thing to start a young pitcher in the bullpen (see: Santana, Liriano, Pedro Martinez), but a top young hitter on the bench in May? On a team that has NO hope whatsoever? What are you doing?????