It's been a while, so let's get right into it.
Note: The team records and power rankings themselves are current as of Saturday.
- New York Yankees (35-24, +1) - While the injuries continue to mount, the Yankees slide up to the top spot. They lead the league in run scoring (5.9 R/G), and a lot of that has been spurred by the highly effective Derek Jeter. Still, Sheffield and Matsui were legitimate offensive players, and I'm not sold on Melky and Co. Expect a bit of regression, but this team is still a contender.
- New York Mets (37-23, +3) - Hello, Alay! He's been great in back-to-back starts, pitching a complete game shutout (although only fanning 2) in Arizona. One of the problems that the Mets have had is that the bullpen has been worked to death; it leads the NL in innings. It's a good group, but you don't want to overwork them... (see Paul Quantrill).
- Toronto Blue Jays (34-26, +4) - Surging up to #3, Toronto has done it with superb offense from a bunch of different spots. Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, and Shea Hillenbrand are all hitting above .330 with power, and, while you'd like to see a few more walks, the production has been outstanding. Casey Janssen, though, is a great story and I haven't heard very much about him at all; the Toronto Star describes him as a control freak, and that seems like a good description. He's posted a 3.07 ERA in 9 starts and has a 27/8 K/BB. That'll do.
- Boston Red Sox (35-23, -1) - Our third AL East team in the Top 4. No one is good enough to sustain a .30 ERA, but Jon Papelbon's success is sustained by not having given up a HR and having a 7.75 K/BB ratio. He has been stellar. Kevin Youkilis is getting a lot of mainstream attention these days, but statistically, he's put together a full season's worth of stats on his career and has been a .287/.401/.449 hitter, in all. I would argue that Youkilis is an outlier in the same sense that Vladimir Guerrero is an outlier. It is simply superhuman to have the plate discipline that Youk has, much like Guerrero's plate coverage. (The moral is that there won't be very many hitters like Youkilis coming out of college).
- Los Angeles Dodgers (34-27, +4) - If he qualified for the batting title, Nomah would lead the league with a .367 average. Among hitters with >100 PA, he is only behind Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer, and Marcus Thames in VORPr (essentially a rate-stat version of VORP). So far, so good on that end. Let's hope he stays healthy.
- Detroit Tigers (38-23, -5) - It's worth noting that the Tigers haven't played poorly over these last couple of weeks, but it's been a long time since I did the power rankings (hence the big drop). While Chris Shelton was fantastic in the early going, he has hit .265/.320/.350 since May 1. What's carried this team has been the superb pitching, led by the potent front-3 of Kenny Rogers, Nate Robertson, and the phenomenal Justin Verlander. Jeremy Bonderman's 4.29 ERA is deceptive, too; he has been exceptional in his own right; he has a 3.06 component-ERA, and the difference between ERA and ERC are usually due to poor situational pitching (which is generally random). So, this team is good. I'm buying, right now.
- Chicago White Sox (37-23, -3) - So, what's up with Jon Garland? Let's put in a table for the week; these are Jon Garland's first 12 starts in each of the last two seasons.
IP/GS HR/9 BB/9 K/9 FIP ERA 2005 7.2 0.6 1.5 4.4 3.62 3.23 2006 6.4 2.2 2.0 5.1 5.93 6.19
The major difference is in the longball; Garland did a good job limiting it last year and simply hasn't, this year. His K/BB has dropped off a bit, and he's been a bit unlucky with BABIP, but the big problem is in all the flyballs. Garland's G/F is usually right around 1.3 or 1.4. This year, it's at .97. That has to change, or he won't be seeing too many starts come August and September.
- Texas Rangers (32-28, +3) - Gary Matthews Jr. currently leads the Texas Rangers in OPS and it's June 11. I'm sure that if you were making odds for a pool of "who would lead the Rangers in OPS on June 11," you would have made a great deal of money for a dollar or two on Matthews. Most importantly, though, Texas is still leading the AL West, and they've done it with a subpar performance from their best hitter (Teixiera). So if he turns it around and the pitching holds together, this team might have a shot.
- Cincinnati Reds (36-25, +5) - I heartily bashed the Reds' management and organization in the offseason, but the truth is they hit so well that it doesn't really matter what their doing with pitching right now. Most importantly, the sans Pujols Cardinals have gone into a tailspin and the Reds have cleaned up the mess. Adam Dunn's .590 secondary average better shows his contributions than his .231 batting average, of course, but we should hail him as the undisputed champion of the Hallowed Three True Outcomes: in 53% of Adam Dunn's plate appearances, he walks, homers, or strikes out.
- Cleveland Indians (29-31, +3) - Much like in 2005, the Indians are playing below their expected level in all metrics; they've probably played approximately 5 games worse than they should have. You would think that they have another run for the division in them, and I'll second that idea. They've outhit their opponents by over 55 points in OPS and they're still below .500. I don't expect that to continue at all.
- Arizona Diamondbacks (34-27, -1) - The D'Backs and their opponents have basically hit identically (.271.337/.427 to .268/.334/.429), and the D'Backs are still far over .500. This includes the fact that they've lost a bunch in a row, including a sweep by the Phillies. The NL West is certainly stronger this year than it was last year (for one, injuries haven't been quite as nasty to the Dodgers), but I don't think that there's a juggernaut who could run away with it. The D'Backs are certainly good enough to hang around, and Brandon Webb should quietly hear whispers about a potential MVP, if there's any justice in baseball right now.
- St. Louis Cardinals (36-24, -4) - The Mighty Pujols has fallen, and the Cardinals are slipping with him. Like Joe Hardy to the Washington Senators, Pujols was a gift from someone to the Cardinals and has summarily made the team amazing. But without him, the Cardinals are mere mortals, and they've lost 7 of their last 10.
- San Francisco Giants (32-29, +7) - Bonds is day-to-day, so we don't get to hear anything about the baseball team from San Francisco, unfortunately. Rounding into midseason form? That would be Jason Schmidt. He's second in the league in pitcher-VORP and in THT's PRC. He also schooled Florida's young bats in the art of failure on June 6, striking out 16 batters and flatly overpowering the Marlins (Game Score: 84). Schmidt + Bonds = contender. No doubt about that one.
- Milwaukee Brewers (29-33, -8) - As much as I like the kid, Rickie Weeks can't play second base at this point. He's second to last in the bigs in zone rating at the position and has made 20 errors. Yes, 20. Prospectus' RATE has him at 84, which is atrocious. He's a really good hitter and a great prospect, but it might be time to move him along the defensive spectrum a little bit.
- San Diego Padres (32-29, --) - It's a little strange, but the Padres play worse at home on "both sides of the diamond," if you will. They hit .224/.293/.336 at home, and their opponents hit .246/.308/.406. But on the road, they hit .279/.348/.442 and their opponents hit .237/.302/.403. I don't really understand that and I'll assume that it's just random fluctuation, but it's certainly a little peculiar.
- Philadelphia Phillies (32-29, +1) - Pat Burrell has quietly hit very well this season, with a .263/.382/.540 line. He's surrounded by better stories (Utley and his "Dirtball" persona, Rowand's amazing catch, Rytan Howard's emergence, Bobby Abreu's HR derby win), so he's often forgotten. But he's done real well, even on a bum foot.
- Colorado Rockies (29-31, -5) - Not to go negative on what has been a pretty positive season, but I need to ask: Why does Clint Barmes still have a job? He's hitting .208/.234/.315 with a FRAA of -3 (his ZR is right around average; I'm compelled to think that he's average at best, defensively). In Coors Field. Granted, Coors might not be the hitters' park it was when it first opened, but that's atrocious anywhere, especially in Coors. Someone has to be better... right?
- Washington Nationals (29-33, +4) - Those pesky Gnats have put together a strong stretch, but I think that we should talk about Alfonso Soriano. I'm not really sure what I can say about my own feelings on the Sori/Wilkerson trade, which, so far, have been proven wrong tenfold. So I'll throw a couple of points out there:
- We need to get better at adjusting stats for context (in this case, park).
- I should have taken the contract season factor into account (see: Adrian Beltre).
- Regression is still a strong possibility, but I can't see him finishing too poorly.
- We should give Jim Bowden some credit on this one, at least so far. I don't know what they saw that we didn't.
- We need to get better at adjusting stats for context (in this case, park).
- Los Angeles Angels (27-33, +2) - As of writing, the Angels have descended into last place in the AL West. Their offense is pretty bad, but I am surprised that they have been so bad in the early going. On the plus side, Jered Weaver has been everything that Jeff Weaver hasn't been: good. He's thrown 3 quality starts, he's only walked 3, and he's struck out 17 batters in less than 20 innings. Good stuff.
- Atlanta Braves (29-33, -4) - It's been a tale of two seasons for John Thomson in the early going...
IP HR/9 BB/9 K/9 FIP ERA Pre-5/15 43.3 0.8 3.3 6.4 4.08 1.87 Post-5/15 23.7 1.9 3.8 3.0 6.54 10.27
His ERA was far better than his components in the early going, but that doesn't explain the sudden lack of success. There's nothing good happening with John Thomson right now. Nothing at all. And, if it weren't the Braves, I think that most people would be writing them off. But it's the Braves, and I won't fall into that trap again.
- Oakland Athletics (30-31, -2) - Well, golly. The A's just swept the Yankees in the Bronx. They hit well in the last week, too, posting a .190 isolated power as a team and an OPS of above .800. That's well within the realm of random fluctuation, much like a sweep of the Yankees is. But anecdotally, this is right around where the A's explode for an 18-5 stretch, it seems. Keep an eye on them; the AL West race could get boring in a hurry. But not unless they start getting more consistent offense from 1B and the non-Swisher OF positions.
- Florida Marlins (21-37, +2) - Why so high? Well, the Marlins are the NL's version of the Indians, as far as underperforming their expected records. Part of me is tempted to put that on things like rookie mistakes in absence of another explanation, but the best thing you can say about the Marlins is that they've only been outscored by 22 runs. For a team with 536 rookies, it seems, that's a hell of a performance. Worth noting is Mike Jacobs, whose poor April is looking a lot like the product of randomness right now (the components of his .192.310/.370 line are better than they seem); he has hit .303/.390/.504 since May 1 (although he has not been good against lefties at all). Now, if they can build some quality pitching for next year, you might have something there.
- Houston Astros (31-31, -5) - ESPN might have a new go-to guy for its SportsCenter broadcasts, now that Roger Clemens is working his way back to the big club. They're treading water right now with Oswalt on the DL and Pettitte lost right now. They'll need a few more things to go right to take that division, but the Rocket in midseason form would be a big help.
- Seattle Mariners (29-34, -1) - No longer in last place... but more importantly, Long Live the King, who might be back on track. Sure, the Angels aren't too great offensively, but he was masterful in his 94-pitch complete game on Sunday. The only thing that would worry me about that are the flyballs; he got 10 flyouts and is most notably a pronounced groundball pitcher. But it's good to see Hernandez starting to live up to the monstrous expectations. Here's something a tiny bit scary:
FIRST 13 GS IP HR/9 BB/9 K/9 FIP ERA J. Santana, 2004 75.7 1.6 2.7 8.4 4.46 5.11 F. Hernandez, 2006 78.3 1.3 2.9 8.8 4.01 4.94
It's just eerie, more than predictive.
- Baltimore Orioles (28-34, --) - For all the pitching problems they've had, they're only 6 games under .500. That's not terrible. It's a strange game that we love, for Brian Roberts has not yet left the yard this season a year after exploding for a ton in the early going. He's been a productive hitter, though, and you'll take his .387 OBP at the top of the lineup any day.
- Pittsburgh Pirates (23-39, +2) - I'm pretty sure someone, somewhere, has to be calling Jason Bay the Canadian Crusher, but if they're not, they should be now. And Google isn't finding anything, so I'm more than a little disappointed. He's third in the league in VORP right now, behind only Travis Hafner and Albert Pujols, and, since his... very good April (.937 OPS), he has been simply unbelievable (.336.445/.693 since May 1). Imagine the Pirates without him. It's a little scary.
- Minnesota Twins (27-33, -1) - I have to talk about Joe Mauer in this spot, and with good reason. Since May 1, Joe Mauer is hitting .418. He has brought his season totals up to .386/.448/.538, and, to steal from Prospectus' Howie Kendrick comment, this is what could be called HITTING FOR AVERAGE rather than hitting for average. Accordingly, he is 5th in the bigs in VORP. No, I don't think that Joe Mauer will hit .380 for the year, but I would not be surprised if he were right around the top of the league in batting average at the end of the year. He's also thrown out over 40% of would be basestealers. His M-named counterpart, Justin Morneau, has also hit much better since a poor April. Outside of those 2, Mike Cuddyer, Joe Nathan, and Johan Santana, there's just not much here right now.
- Chicago Cubs (24-36, -1) - I can't imagine that Juan Pierre is aging already, but part of me is thinking that Pierre is falling victim to lacking a balanced skillset. The only thing even comparable to his .238/.282/.303 line is that he's done most of it from the leadoff spot. Then again, there aren't all that many run producers to drive him in here, anyway, especially with Lee on the DL.
- Tampa Bay Devil Rays (24-37, --) - Being a Devil Rays' fan must be pretty difficult. I mean, there's a lot of talk about the future, but seriously, they've never had a winning season, and their two best young hitters, Delmon Young and B.J. Upton, have been troubled, to say the least. I still think that they'll be difficult to face within a couple of years, but there are immense pains in the process, it seems.
- Kansas City Royals (16-43, --) - The Hochevar pick was interesting, to say the least. I think that the Law of Large Numbers might prevail here and something might go right for the Royals. But we'll see.