Generally, a sweep at the hand of the Royals would knock a team down a few pegs, but this is no normal team. They’ve shown that they have the best lineup, top to bottom, of any team in baseball. If you get through Andrus, Kinsler, Young, Hamilton and Beltre, you have to face Napoli and Cruz. And after if a pitcher manages to navigate through that, they’ll have to battle against Craig Gentry and/or David Murphy at the bottom of the order. And this lineup won’t nickel and dime the opposing team with singles. The Rangers have the highest slugging percentage (.474) in baseball and mash American League pitching. They will have the occasional off night where they are shut down by Bruce Chen, but I think the league lead in runs scored (235) speaks to how lethal they can be with the bat.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Seattle 3, Toronto 3)
For the Braves, I’m going to continue playing off of the topic of batting orders. Atlanta has one of the more well constructed lineups in baseball. Up top, they have Michael Bourn and Martin Prado, both of whom’s OBP’s average out to around .385. Then, there’s the three, four, five of the lineup with Freeman, Uggla and McCann. They all are batting in the .260s and are all slugging at least .418. After that, there is the appearance of an all-time great (Chipper Jones) and an up and comer (Jason Heyward) who both can hit for power (each with a SLG above .430) and add some nice pop to the lower half of the order. And the Cy Young-worthy pitching of Brandon Beachy (1.33 ERA, 0.89 WHIP) certainly helps out the cause. Right now, the Braves look like the best team in the National League.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Cincinnati 4, Washington 3)
Matt Kemp hasn’t played since May 13th, but don’t tell the Dodgers that. Over this seven game span, the Dodgers have gone five and two and managed to sweep the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals. Outfield replacements Scott Van Slyke and Bobby Abreu have performed admirably in Kemp’s absence with averages above .330 and OBPs around .400. And when the table is set for the Dodgers, Andre Ethier is often there to capitalize as he leads the league with 37 RBI and a .375 average with runners in scoring position.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Arizona 3, Houston 3)
Hit the jump for the rest of Christian’s power rankings…
The Orioles marched into Washington and grabbed themselves a series victory against the Nationals in the first ever relevant Battle of the Beltway. This team is still rolling deep into March, but they wouldn’t be near this point without the emergence of Adam Jones. Acquired in a trade for Erik Bedard way back in 2007, Jones has finally lived up to the massive potential that he had once had. Thought of as trade bait before the season began, Jones is now playing like a cornerstone for the franchise. He is the only Orioles regular hitting above .300 (.308) and leads the team in HR, RBI, SLG, OBP, SLG and OPS. Though strong seasons from Matt Wieters and Chris Davis have certainly helped, much of the offense success for the O’s lays at the bat of Adam Jones.
(Upcoming Schedule: Boston 3, Kansas City 3)
In my opinion, the only fun thing about the Rays is Luke Scott’s beard. They don’t lead any major statistical category with offense or pitching and have a generally uninspiring lineup. But despite the lack the intrigue and stories like many contenders in the AL, Tampa still manages to find ways to win baseball games. They took care of business early in the week with a sweep of Toronto and left these seven days better off than they were seven days before. The recent leg injury of Jeff Niemann (placed on the 60-day DL) would test the depth of most rotations, but Tampa can simply plug in young righty Alex Cobb and feel no worse about their likelihood of victory.
(Upcoming Schedule: Toronto 3, at Boston 3)
After splitting two series with the woeful Padres and the punchless Pirates, the Nats dropped two out of three to the neighboring Orioles. The common theme of the losses were a lack of run production. In games in which they scored six or more runs, they were 3-0. In games where they scored five or less, they were 0-4. They have the best staff ERA in the majors, so it’s not as though opposing teams are trotting around the bases against them. They simply haven’t been able to score. Maybe with Ryan Zimmerman getting back into the swing of things and Michael Morse returning in two weeks from a lat injury, the offense can rebound and the Nats can become a true NL contender.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Philadelphia 3, at Atlanta 3)
As is customary for these rankings, it’s late May and the Jays are still in contention for that wild card I picked them to win. Anyways, Brandon Morrow showed why he could be an absolute stud this past Saturday against the Mets. He pitched a complete game, three hit, eight strikeout shut out and looked completely locked in. Though Ricky Romero is considered the ace of the Blue Jay rotation, there is no question in my mind that Morrow has the stuff to be better than Romero. It all comes down to consistency. Earlier in the week, Morrow was tagged for six earned runs in a loss to the Rays. Though quite a few of those runs wouldn’t have crossed the plate had recently optioned Adam Lind not made two errors, it was still not Morrow’s best performance as his control was a tad bit off. If he can maintain the sub-2.70 ERA and the sub-1.oo WHIP, this year can be his coming out party.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Tampa Bay 3, at Texas 3)
The Cards are going into a bit of a tailspin after such an impressive start. St. Louis’ pitching was below the standard I held it to earlier in the season and gave up an average of 5.4 runs per game last week. And the injury bug hasn’t been kind to the Cardinals either. After such a hot start to his young season, Allen Craig (1.188 OPS) was placed on the 15-day DL with a hamstring injury. And first baseman Lance Berkman has reportedly torn his ACL, so yet another major cog in the offense has gone down. Manager Mike Matheny will have to figure out a way to weather this recent poor play as the Reds are now only a half game back in the NL Central.
(Upcoming Schedule: San Diego 3, Philadelphia 4)
On a staff that includes Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Anibal Sanchez, which pitcher in the Marlins’ rotation would you think has the lowest ERA? Shockingly enough, it’s neither of those three. Carlos Zambrano (1.96 ERA) has seemed to calm his nerves to the point where he can channel the pitcher that was the bonafide ace of the Cubs’ staff. He is limiting base runners as his 1.07 WHIP would show and he seems to have found a manager in Ozzie Guillen that is as crazy as he is. Hopefully, this situation will prove to be just what Big Z needed to turn his career in the right direction.
(Upcoming Schedule: Colorado 3, San Francisco 4)
Despite paltry attendance numbers which were noted by the team’s closer (last in Major League Baseball), the Indians keep finding ways to win ballgames. And they’re winning games with Derek Lowe as their best pitcher. Lowe has a team high six wins, 2.15 ERA and 58.2 innings pitched. His advanced age (38) and career ERA (3.90) would suggest that his performance will suffer in the coming months, but for now, he’s the one member of the rotation Cleveland fans can count on for consistency.
(Upcoming Schedule: Detroit 3, at CHI White Sox 3)
In a move that relieved baseball writers across the nation, Dusty Baker finally made the decision to give flame-throwing Cuban Aroldis Chapman a chance at the closer role. And in his first appearance, he did not disappoint. Chapman pitched a scoreless ninth, with one strikeout in the bandbox know as Yankee Stadium. Though Dusty still won’t commit to Aroldis long-term as the closer, it’s hard to argue that he shouldn’t be there. In 22.1 innings, he has an ERA of 0.00 and a staggering strikeout total of 39. He has a vast advantage in terms of pure stuff compared to any pitcher in the Reds ‘pen and it would be a waste for him not to be closing out ballgames.
(Upcoming Schedule: Atlanta 4, Colorado 3)
There’s not much to say about this team other than David Wright is the National League MVP at this point of the season. The Mets are nowhere, and I mean nowhere without his presence in the lineup. It’s nearing the end of May and Wright leading the NL with a batting average of .412 and an OBP at the ungodly number of .513. The reincarnation of Johan Santana has been a great story and is certainly adding a great pitcher to a below average rotation. But Wright is heart and soul of the Mets, and I would do unspeakable things to get him on to my team.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Pittsburgh 3, San Diego 4)
A sub-par week from the Bronx Bombers finds them tumbling all the way down to number 13. And while we’re talking about sub-par, I’d like to shine the light on one of the most overrated players in baseball. Mark Teixeira, though making a healthy 23 million this season, hasn’t been nearly the player that the Yankees thought he was when he signed his lucrative eight year contract. He hasn’t hit above .260 since 2009 and has seen his OBP sink every year since 2008. At this point in his career, he has become a feast or famine hitter, as he’ll either take the pitcher deep or take an out. If New York wants to roar back and take this division, they need him to turn back the clock and hit above his current .228 average.
(Upcoming Schedule: Kansas City 3, at Oakland 3)
Every level of what Detroit could be as a baseball team was on display last week. Their loaded offense willed them back from a 6-0 deficit to a 10-8 victory over the White Sox on Tuesday. On Wednesday, their pitching was shelled by the Minnesota Twins of all teams and they lost 11-7. And on Friday, Justin Verlander came two outs away from a no-hitter as the Tigers beat the Pirates 6-0. Which one of these will be the Tigers team that appears most consistently this summer? Your guess is as good as mine, but I feel the Friday victory is on par with what we’ll see for the rest of the season. Verlander appears locked in for another Cy Young season (2.14 ERA, 0.80 WHIP) and the offense is performing far too badly to maintain their current pace of 4.4 runs per game. Things will likely get better for the Motor City Kitties, the only question is when.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Cleveland 3, at Minnesota 3)
Current Giants starter and former Giants ace Tim Lincecum left the game on Sunday with what is being described as a hyperextended thumb. But that may actually be good news for the Giants as Lincecum has been ineffective this season. Before leaving the game, Tim gave up four runs to give him an ERA above six. The Cy Young version of the young stud seems to be a distant memory, as the kid with a funky delivery is traveling on a similar career path of other weird throwers (i.e. Dontrelle Willis). Tim will need to make some adjustments if he wants to avoid joining the D-Train.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Milwaukee 3, at Miami 4)
Offense has often been an issue in Oakland and Josh Reddick has done all he can to rectify their beleaguered bats. He has slugged his way to sixth in the AL with 11 homers and is slugging a very solid .534. With a guaranteed everyday spot in the outfield, Reddick is proving that he belongs as a starter and is making the suddenly outfield-thin Red Sox very disappointed that they let him go. After a busy offseason of selling high on several hot pitchers, Billy Beane has to be happy with some of the early results of his frugal deals, namely the immediate production from Reddick.
(Upcoming Schedule: LA Angels 3, NY Yankees 3)
I know I should be high on the White Sox as they have far exceeded expectations to this point of the season, but I still am confused to what they want to do with their baseball team. There was a great sentiment across the baseball world that this team was set to enter rebuilding mode after a disappointing end to this season. They let go of franchise mainstay Mark Buehrle who signed with the Marlins and traded away their lights out closer in Sergio Santos. But then they got confused and signed John Danks to a five-year extension. This team is not built to win long-term, as Paul Konerko can’t play forever (age 36) and the rest of the infield is nothing more than a pile of garbage (Gordon Beckham, Alexei Ramirez, Brent Morel). And in the short-term, they have nowhere near the fire power to compete with the likes of Detroit, Texas and other AL contenders. Say what you what, but I’m not digging whatever is going on with this ball club.
(Upcoming Schedule: Minnesota 3, Cleveland 3)
Though the week ended on two difficult losses to the BoSox, it was a good week for the Phillies. Though four of their five wins came against the Cubs and the Astros, it showed that this team can still beat the teams that it’s supposed to beat. That being said, it has to be disheartening as a Phillies fan to know that this team would be in even worse shape without Carlos Ruiz. The aging catcher has put up career stats to this point, batting .355 with seven homers and 29 RBI. Subtract that from the Phils lineup and they are dead in the water offensively. As they should every week, Phillie fans should pray for a speedy recovery for both Ryan Howard and Chase Utley. Their injection into the offense would do wonders.
(Upcoming Schedule: Washington 3, at St. Louis 4)
This is the Pittsburgh McCutchen’s. Just look at their team statistic page on ESPN.com. Here, I’ll give you the link. He leads every major offensive category, disregarding doubles and triples. On Saturday, he single-handedly won the game against the Tigers with a pair of two run homers. I understand that this is a team that is reliant on their pitching, but they wouldn’t have half the offense they have this season without Cutch.
(Upcoming Schedule: NY Mets 3, CHI Cubs 3)
I hate to say it, but the BoSox may be putting things together. Josh Beckett put together two flawless starts, allowing only one earned run in 14.2 innings pitched and may have earned a pass for his golfing incident that was a hot button issue last week. Offensively, David Ortiz has continued to show his agelessness as he is mashing for the Sox right now. His .335 average is fourth in the AL and has gotten on base at a nice clip with a .402 OBP. I don’t know where this team will be next week. They had two good weeks in a row, so who knows what’ll happen this week.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Baltimore 3, Tampa Bay 3)
While this season has not gotten off to an ideal start for the D-Backs, the surprise of young pitcher Wade Miley(2.14 ERA, 1.19 WHIP) performing at a high level has to be encouraging. He is a contact pitcher, so his stuff is not overwhelming, but he has just the right amount of control to navigate inning to inning and become a successful starter in the majors. What should be concerning is the season Justin Upton is having. After an MVP-like season the previous season, he is batting below .240 with four home runs and 14 RBI.
(Upcoming Schedule: LA Dodgers 3, Milwaukee 3)
Though they swept the Rockies this weekend, the Mariners are going nowhere fast this season. Their staff ERA is among the top half in the league (3.96) and on offense, the highest on base percentage is Ichiro’s .317. To put that in perspective, the average OBP in modern day baseball is .340. As a team, the OBP is .291, which is second to last in baseball. There’s no way a team can possibly survive and compete in this day and age with that low of a percentage of runners getting on base. Offense continues to be a plague to the Seattle Mariners.
(Upcoming Schedule: Texas 3, LA Angels 4)
Despite not making a baseball team since middle school, Jose Altuve is giving me reason to dream again. Listed at only 5-5, 155lbs, Altuve is a 20 pound heavier version of myself. The thing that had often discouraged me from participating in organized sports was the sheer difficulty of being a shrimp in the land of giants. If Altuve can lead a team with a .318 batting average and a .369 OBP, it gives hope to me and other short, baseball loving people. Keep the dream alive, Jose.
(Upcoming Schedule: CHI Cubs 3, at LA Dodgers 3)
Who would’ve thought that the team that brought in arguably the best hitter in the past decade would have scored fewer runs than the Houston Astros? We can throw out these statements every week now and it still makes no sense that the Angels are THIS bad. The rotation has dropped off, but not bad enough to where the shoulder of the blame falls upon them. The worst ERA in the staff is Dan Haren’s 4.37, which I’m sure many teams would love to have as the worst ERA in their staff. The hitting is the issue. Pujols can’t seem to put it together, while Kendrick and Aybar has scuffled mightily (neither has a batting average above .257) and the corner outfielders named Wells and Hunter have started to show their age a little too much. Rookie Mike Trout is the lone bright spot to this dreary Angels offense (1.026 OPS).
(Upcoming Schedule: at Oakland 3, at Seattle 4)
As much as people want to blame the departure of Prince Fielder for the sub-par start for the Brewers, it’s the pitching that has been the issue this season. Milwaukee’s team ERA of 4.56 is 26th in baseball and the bullpen ERA is even worse at 4.97. Jon Axford has not been the “Ax Man” as he was last season, as his WHIP is above 1.70 and his ERA is in the high fours. The Brewers haven’t been world beaters on offense with 160 runs (19th in baseball), but giving up more than 4.5 runs per game will keep any average team below .500.
(Upcoming Schedule: San Francisco 3, at Arizona 3)
A surprising two-game sweep of the Rangers withstanding, they can’t put together things on either side of the baseball. In regards to hitting, the player that is arguably their most talented hitter, Mr. Eric Hosmer, is batting .172. And their staff ERA is 4.33, which is bad enough for 25th in the majors. It appears that, once again, after a lot of talk about potential and competition, the Royals will be looking forward to next season.
(Upcoming Schedule: at NY Yankees 3, at Baltimore 3)
What the Padres learned this week is that if you hold your opponent to two runs or less, you can add some W’s to your record. They went 4-0 when allowing two runs or less and 0-3 when giving up more than that. But the probability of the Padres continuing that trend have decreased as it looks like Cory Luebke, who is an underrated player on that team, is leaning toward having season ending elbow surgery. As much as it hurts their chances at competing, they weren’t going to win anything anyways. His absence could allow more losses to accumulate and a higher draft pick to come their way.
(Upcoming Schedule: at St. Louis 3, at NY Mets 4)
What a tailspin it has been for the Rockies. They’ve lost 13 of 16 and have continued to give up runs at an alarming rate. Giving up almost six runs per game is no way to win baseball games. Coincidentally, saying “is no way to win a baseball game” has been an all too common phrase used in these rankings. I really had higher aspirations for this team with Michael Cuddyer joining the squad, but the issues with this team seem to be beyond repair for this season.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Miami 3, at Cincinnati 3)
Not the best week for the Cubbies as they lost six of seven, but none of that was really important compared to the event that occurred on Friday. Just take a look at my piece on Kerry Wood and that should sum up all of my feelings on the Cubs.
(Upcoming Schedule: at Houston 3, at Pittsburgh 3)
The Twins, despite series victories against the Tigers and Brewers, are still incredibly bad. One positive in this whole mess has been the three starts from the young Scott Diamond. He has pitched 19.1 innings, allowing only three earned runs with 13 strikeouts and three wins. Other than that, not much is going well for the depressing Twinkies
(Upcoming Schedule: at CHI White Sox 3, Detroit 3)