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Power Rankings: First Edition

April 16, 2012

Although there was enough time to draw several conclusions last week at this time, the truth is most teams had only played one series and, obviously, not enough information and results were out there to compile a good list of the best and worst teams in baseball.

However, now most teams have played 10 or more games and several conclusions can be drawn from those results. These rankings are based on who’s looked the best, regardless of competition or sample size. Yes, the Red Sox probably won’t finish in last place in the AL East with a .400 winning percentage, but it’s no fun to put them in the top 10 because, simply, they haven’t looked that good and they do have a lot of question marks. Let’s let the overachievers and underdogs have their days.

I’ll be putting together top 10 and bottom five rankings throughout the season, to save both you and me time in writing/reading.

1. Texas Rangers – The Rangers are 8-2, which is best in the AL, and fresh off a sweep on the road of the Twins. While they’re not hitting the ball as well as they should be (4.5 runs a game), their pitchers have combined for a 2.3 ERA, second best in the majors, and have a stellar 75:21 strikeout to walk ratio. They’ve already got two shutouts and seven quality starts in 10 games. The pitching staff is led by Matt Harrison and Colby Lewis, who’ve combined for 26.2 innings and only three earned runs. First-year starters Neftali Feliz and Yu Darvish, while unspectacular, have showed signs of brilliance, as well. It looks like they’ll be able to withstand the loss of C.J. Wilson just fine.

2. St. Louis Cardinals – The No. 2 spot came down to the 7-3 Cards and the 6-3 Tigers, and I went with the Cardinals because they’ve got a better run differential even though two of their five best hitters, Lance Berkman and David Freese, have already missed several games due to rest and injury; and have gone 5-2 on the road, beating three teams who could easily make the playoffs.

The emergence of Matt Carpenter (.409/.417/.818) has helped fill the void left by the two stars’ absence, and the 3-4-5 combination of Kyle Lohse, Jake Westbrook and Lance Lynn all have WHIPs of under 1.00.

3. Detroit Tigers – The Tigers have beaten the Red Sox and Rays handily, but struggled this weekend with the White Sox. Their pitching is middle of the pack, but their offense has been one of the league’s best.

4. Washington Nationals – The Nats, 7-3, have only hit five home runs, but have been able to outscore opponents 39-27 by getting on base at a .334 clip, good for eighth overall. Their pitching has been even better, leading the majors in ERA at 1.99 and opponents’ average (.186), and ranking second in K/9 at 9.28. The pitching should be sustainable, with young aces Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann anchoring a staff with veteran fireballers Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson.

5. Los Angeles Dodgers – The Dodgers, 9-1,  have the best record in the league and the best player. They’re a +17 in the run differential department, and while their opponents haven’t been great their entire staff has pitched well, and their offense ranks fifth with a .340 OBP. The Dodgers are 34-12 in their last 46 games dating back to last year. LA surprised me last year finishing over .500, and with the added wild card could possibly push for a playoff spot this year if their staff stays competitive the entire time.

6. Arizona Diamondbacks – At 6-3, the D’backs have lost three one-run games, meaning they’ve been competitive in every game. In the season’s opening series they chased the Giants’ three aces after 15.1 innings and 14 earned runs.

7. New York Yankees – The Yanks went 5-1 this week, to make up for the sweep they suffered in Tampa last week. Most of their top-tier talent hasn’t been producing yet – Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez have a combined one home run – but their middle-tier talent (which is really an insult to some pretty good players) has more than made up for it.

8. Toronto Blue Jays – 5-4 – A lot of their better players have also struggled, but have been helped by Brett Lawrie’s .350 OBP and Kelly Johnson and Edwin Encarnacion, both of whom have OPS’s above .900. Their pitching staff ranks eighth in ERA and second in opponents’ average.

9. Chicago White Sox – This is where it gets ugly quick, as the White Sox sit at 5-3. They’d won four in a row before losing on Sunday, but they rank in the top 10 in ERA, quality starts, WHIP and opponents’ average.

10. Atlanta Braves – The Braves, 5-4, swept Milwaukee over the weekend, behind stellar starts from youngsters Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy. The offense should pick up soon, but it’s good to see Jason Heyward (.345/.424/.655) hitting well.

26. Milwaukee Brewers – The Brew Crew ranks dead last in runs allowed (57) and have the fourth-worst run differential (-14) in the majors.

27. Chicago Cubs – The Cubs rank 22/22/25, respectively, in the slash categories

28. San Diego – The Padres’ .200 winning percentage is the league’s worst.

29. Minnesota Twins – The Twins’ run differential of -20 is the league’s worst.

30. Pittsburgh Pirates – Pittsburgh ranks last in almost every statistical category.

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