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BTB Power 30

My apologies for missing last week; this will come out most weeks, but I've flirted with the idea of making it biweekly rather than weekly.

Anyway, the formula is the same: a Pythagenpat-ed estimate of winning percentages from Base Runs Scored and Base Runs allowed, and ESPN's "RPI." You might be surprised by our #1, but it was the #1 on a similar list...

  1. Detroit Tigers (+4) - Yep, your Detroit Tigers are this year's "fluke early emergence" that could parlay itself all the way to a postseason berth. I'm very impressed in the early going, and these guys have pitched really, really well. Their "Base Runs" allowed is at 85 in 28 games. Which essentially means that their opponents are only producing enough offense to score 3 R/G. That won't last, but remember, you can't take away the 10 games over .500.
  2. Milwaukee Brewers (+4) - The difference between the Brewers' actual RS/RA and their BsRS/BsRA is fairly startling, which suggests that they haven't hit well in important situations and/or have been very unlucky. That, coupled with the league's hardest schedule thus far, catupults the Brewers into second place on our list. Making a strong ROY case early on is Prince Fielder with his .330/.393/.538 line. But make no mistake: the pitching has been solid, with the exception of their two best pitchers: Doug Davis and Ben Sheets. So watch that with interest.
  3. New York Yankees (+6) - Powered by hot starts from the Giambino (.545 OBP), Derek Jeter (.379 BA), and, well, basically everyone except Bernie Williams and the reserves, the Yankees have started things out by hitting .292/.389/.475. They're clocking in at just over 6 R/G, which will keep them in the hunt no matter what. Really good bullpen work (2.89 ERA) has kept the team's ERA strong, but they haven't gotten good work from the starters outside of Moose. The scariest number in the early going for the Yankees has to be Randy Johnson's K/9, though, which rests at 6.19. That's not an ace.
  4. Chicago White Sox (+9) - Last year, they did it on stellar pitching, but in the early going this year, they're doing it with the bats. Joe Crede has picked up where he left off in the postseason (if you believe in that sort of thing) and is hitting .319/.365/.553. I have no doubts that that can't last, much like Juan Uribe won't hit .175/.218/.338 over a full season. The Thome addition has created a formidable duo of sluggers, and Thome and Kornerko are 10th and 11th in VORP to start things out this year. So far, Kenny Williams deserves a ton of credit, and I might have to shut up about the White Sox for a while; they've been stellar so far.
  5. New York Mets (-3) - Met fans love to complain, so I'll help to indulge them with a legitimate concern: the Mets have had the easiest schedule in the league to start things out, according to ESPN's strength of schedule. More importantly, though, is that the Mets have done what they're supposed to do to weak competition and are 18-9 to show for it. After his blistering start, David Wright has slumped terribly and his line rests at .277/.353/.525. Which wouldn't be a bad second season, but it would certainly put some of the George Brett comparisons to rest for a little while. Wright should bounce back, though.
  6. Cleveland Indians (-5) - Talk about Thome and Konerko or Manny and Ortiz or A-Rod and "Other Yankee" as much as you'd like, but the league's most dynamic hitting duo, at least in the early going, rests in Cleveland. Travis Hafner and Victor Martinez rank 5th and 6th in the bigs in VORP in the early going. Their pitching has been atrocious, though, and their 5.28 ERA is what's keeping them from ascending to the top of the league. The AL Central should have a great pennant race this year.
  7. Cincinnati Reds (+1) - The NL's answer to the Tigers. I'm still not convinced by Bronson Arroyo, who has been lucky with BABIP and is still not well-suited to pitch in GABP. I'll stand by my harsh criticisms of Reds' management, and, unfortunately, cannot endorse the Reds as practioners of sound strategy. Still, these guys can MASH (or get on-base). Austin Kearns' story hasn't been publicized, but he's made a triumphant return to the starting lineup, at least in the early going (fulfilling my "breakout prediction" from last year, possibly). Adam Dunn, Edwin Encanacion, Scott Hatteberg, and Ryan Freel (one of my favorites) all have OBPs over .400. I think the Reds will probably finish right around .500 (save the addition of a great pitcher or two).
  8. Houston Astros (-1) - Again, Houston befuddles me as they continue to defy the odds. We talk about how inept their offense is frequently, but maybe we should be a little less certain of that. Morgan Ensberg might have actually established a new performance level last year; it's not entirely out of the question. Lance Berkman is one of the game's premier hitters, undoubtedly. And no, Brad Ausmus won't keep hitting the way he is, but if Clemens comes back, there's no reason that the Astros wouldn't be able to hold it together for one more run at it.
  9. St. Louis Cardinals (+5) - I was watching a game a few days back (I don't remember which one) and one of the announcers posed a question as they went through the out-of-town scoreboard: when does Pujols get the Barry Bonds treatment? He's been otherworldly this year and he is playing at the Bondsian level where he could single-handedly keep a mediocre or flawed team in contention. Speaking of flawed, when do they start thinking about giving up on the Marquis de Staten Island?
  10. Arizona Diamondbacks (+7) - With the exception of Orlando Hudson (the acquisition from the Blue Jays), the D'Backs are scoring runs a lot like the Jays did last year: no one overwhelming, but a lot of guys at a pretty strong level: Chad Tracy, Luis Gonzalez, Shawn Green, Craig Counsell, Conor Jackson, Eric Byrnes, Johnny Estrada, and Jeff DaVanon all have an OPS between .799 and .892. There's just no one very good in the NL West, so the D'Backs could certainly emerge, kind of like how John Kerry emerged in the 2004 primaries: mostly because the Dems couldn't find someone they particularly liked better.
  11. Toronto Blue Jays (-7) - Similar to the Indians, but more extreme: the Blue Jays are hitting a ton but are getting hit just as hard. Part of that comes from playing the Yankees a handful of times, but this is not the pitching that Toronto expected to have. And Aaron Hill and Russ Adams are a drag on the lineup like none other... and they're still hitting .304/.368/.498. How's that for extremes?
  12. Texas Rangers (+8) - The AL West thus far has been stunningly average, and, while I still expect the A's to rise above the mess, Texas is doing what it normally does. Except, not really. Mark Teixiera is off to a slow start, considering the park; his .279/.372/.459 is far lower than you'd think he'd be by the end of the year. Outside of Blalock and Mench, this team hasn't hit as well as you'd think they would. They've gotten solid work from both the starters and the bullpen pitchers; Koronka, Millwood, Padilla, and Loe have been positively smashing in the early going. I still think this team can win the wild card.
  13. Colorado Rockies (-2) - Jeff Francis. At Coors. Versus the best lineup in the NL. 7 innings. 4 hits. 1 walk. 5 strikeouts. No runs. No joke. Why didn't this get more press?
  14. Boston Red Sox (-11) - Slipping 11 spots over the past two weeks, the Sox have had trouble getting out of their own way in the early going. Leadoff man Kevin Youkilis is doing the seemingly impossible: .287/.405/.394. You just DON'T see that, ever. Not from a fat third baseman/first baseman. Pleasantly surprising: Mike Lowell. Not so much: lots of other people. If they don't shape up, the Yanks will blow this thing open soon.
  15. Los Angeles Dodgers (+1) - Nomar has hit really well as a healthy ballplayer, but the undisputed best hitter on this team is J.D. Drew. He's carrying a .306/.393/.541 line and if he were less injury prone would be probably be in those "can this guy make the Hall?" debates already. These guys are still a safe pick in the West.
  16. Atlanta Braves (-4) - The normally reliable Braves have struggled to get to the top of the division before (not usually to the Mets), but they've gotta be worried right now. Jeff Francoeur's poor plate discipline has finally caught up with him. They haven't gotten good work from the bullpen (with a couple of exceptions), and the rotation, aside from John Thomson, has looked positively ordinary this year. Bottom line: if they weren't the Braves, no one would give them a shot. But we've been down that road before.
  17. Los Angeles Angels (+1) - Guess what? Jeff Weaver has been terrible. Still, Lackey, Escobar, and Santana have been solid in Colon's absence. It's a damn good thing, too, because the Angels are hitting .252/.297/.386 as a team. You can't win that way.
  18. Oakland Athletics (+3) - A year after everyone (myself included) picked him as a darkhorse MVP candidate, Eric Chavez finally got off on the right foot this year and has been exceptional, only topped by Nick Swisher for "early success." Swisher and Chavy have been it for the A's, though; the rest of the team has been mired in a terrible slump. Chavez and Swisher have been good for 45 extrapolated runs on their own, and the rest of the team has been good for 67.5. That's... unbelievably bad.
  19. San Francisco Giants (--) - In the spirit of adding a new nickname to the fold every time we do these, I think that we need to call Alou and Bonds "The M.A.S.H. Brothers," (as opposed to the Bash Brothers) because it is likely that they were playing baseball in the minors or college when M.A.S.H. was still on TV. But, more importantly, they've been killing pitchers; Bonds is hitting .250/.512/.554, and Alou is cleaning up the mess at .351/.402/.649. I'm happy; I have them both in a fantasy league. :)
  20. Baltimore Orioles (-5) - There's an argument to be made that what opposing teams have done to Orioles' pitching is a crime. Fans could sue for punitive damages, because this is downright ugly. Bedard and Benson have been good, but you've gotta wonder how sustainable that is without any strikeout rates worth discussing. Opponents are hitting .285/.363/.466, and, while I won't make this a critique of Mazzone, I wonder if he wishes he stayed in Atlanta.
  21. Washington Nationals (+5) - If Alfonso Soriano keeps up what he has done so far this year all season, I think that we might have to discard the current methodology of doing park factors, because we're obviously missing something. I'd be shocked if Sori finished up with .308/.357/.556, but, then again, players DO perform better in contract years, apparently. So maybe not.
  22. Florida Marlins (+2) - Last time, we put the spotlight on The Toolsy Hanley Ramirez. This week? How about Josh Willingham? The catcher who John Sickels famously said could "f*&^#$% hit" is f$#^%&@ hitting to the tune of a .326/.415/.607 line. One thing that the Marlins should be concerned about is that they're not getting any innings out of their starters. The average length of a Marlin start this year has been just over 5 1/3 innings per start, and they're racking up 93.3 pitches on average in those starts. It's not like anyone is viewing the Marlins as a contender, but that's how you wear down a bullpen.
  23. Chicago Cubs (-13) - The Cubs took the elevator rather than the stairs in the past two weeks, I guess; they dropped 13 spots. Derrek Lee is simply an irreplacable part, guys... sorry.
  24. Seattle Mariners (-2) - There aren't many positives here. They're about where you'd expect them to be this time of year, although they've been unlucky in one-run games. Part of that is due to Everyday Eddie's problems. But how can you explain Adrian Beltre? These last two years have been unbelievably ugly.
  25. San Diego Padres (+4) - No longer visible from the bottom of the list, but they're pretty weak offensively. Weak in the sense of "no one who plays a lot has a SLG percentage higher than .412." And that's just not a formula for run scoring, big park or not. Chris Young has been as good as Adrian Gonzales has been bad, although Gonzales has certainly shown flashes. I still love that trade.
  26. Philadelphia Phillies (+2) - (See Devil Rays)
  27. Tampa Bay Devil Rays (-4) - In the offseason, there were obvious comparisons between two young sluggers who burst onto the big league scene in 2005: Ryan Howard and Jonny Gomes. The first month and a few days has seen the two look a little different after their very similar 2005s; Howard has been solid (.319/.389/.489), if nowhere near his ambitious PECOTA (.328 ISO). On the other hand, Gomes has been unbelievable, hitting .280/.429/.656. The question must be, of course: why do the Phillies always seem to end up on the wrong side of these comparisons?
  28. Pittsburgh Pirates (-1) - Bad so far, but they're better than this. I expect more from JayBay (.255/.427/.447), although he hasn't been bad. Zach Duke is doing well, too; 5 out of his 6 starts have been quality starts, and his most recent performance, a complete game shutout, earned him a Game Score of 78. Duke still reminds me a little bit of Barry Zito.
  29. Kansas City Royals (+1) - I'm shocked that they've made it out of the cellar. Enter Justin Huber, in place of Mike Sweeney. Huber might very well be Allaird Baird's sharpest pick-up in his tenure in KC.
  30. Minnesota Twins (-1) - Yeah, they've been this terrible. It's been atrocious pitching, which was incredibly unexpected, in addition to abysmal hitting. The Twins, as a team, are hitting .252/.307/.369 (think: Orlando Cabrera, 2005), and their opponents are hitting .318/.359/.510 (a little like Mike Sweeney or Miguel Tejada, 2005). Part of that is bad defense, but this just has been a nightmarish start to the season for the Twinkies. I think they'll be better, but this is, seriously, ridiculous.