By Mike Ivcic
Stop the presses â the New York Yankees arenât one of the top ten teams in baseball. No, itâs not because they just lost to the Royals, itâs because they just lost the best closer to ever play this game, likely for the rest of the year. That will seriously affect the way the rest of this season plays out in the AL East â and in the American League in general. One thing it didnât change: our top team in the power rankings. Records through Thursday, May 3.
1. Texas Rangers (17-8) 1 â Still holding on to the top spot, but it’s certainly a bit less commanding with the rise of the Rays. Derek Holland needs to get straightened out for Texas to match Tampa’s starting rotation.
2. Tampa Bay Rays (18-8) 3 â Evan who? Even with Longoria out for the next two months, Joe Maddon’s club just keeps rolling right along. What this franchise has been able to do over the past five seasons is nothing short of the best front office management job in all of sports.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers (17-8) 2 â Sure, they swept the Nationals to solidify their claim as the NL’s best right now, but there’s a gap developing between the Dodgers and the two teams above them in the rankings.
4. St. Louis Cardinals (16-9) 5 â Want a recipe for success? Lead the league in runs (138 â check) and lead the league in fewest runs allowed (76 runs allowed â check). Perhaps the Blues could take a lesson in goals scored and goals allowedâ¦
5. Washington Nationals (16-9) 4 â As long as he stays humble and continues to play the game hard and right, Bryce Harper will be a star along the lines of Derek Jeter and Ken Griffey Jr. before he’s legally allowed to drink alcohol.
6. Atlanta Braves (15-11) 10 â Yes, I picked them last, but games like Wednesday’s 15-13 thriller against the Phillies have slowly made me a believer. Their 4-0 loss to Joe Blanton on Thursday, thoughâ¦ that’s more like what I was expecting from this group.
7. Baltimore Orioles (16-9) 15 â So maybe I’m a little late to the party, but I guess it’s time to start considering the O’s a contender. Not surprising their rise has coincided with the emergence of Matt Weiters as the star he was projected to be.
8. Detroit Tigers (12-12) 6 â Back in March, I raised questions about their pitching being good enough to carry this team. It’s starting to seem like the answer to that question really is no. Playing better at home (7-8) would also help significantly.
9. Cleveland Indians (13-10) 12 â Two weeks in a row, your AL Central leaders. It’s almost as if Cleveland’s taken a page from the Rays playbook â young stars with lots of energy and a different key contributor every night. Not a bad plan if it works.
10. Toronto Blue Jays (15-11) 17 â When you beat the best team in baseball â even at home â you’ll get your props. Seeing the Angels’ winless Ervin Santana on Friday won’t hurt the efforts to stay on track, either.
11. New York Yankees (13-12) 7 â The lineup is healthy and hitting, but there’s simply no way to sustain a loss to Mariano Rivera. He was the one guy that gave the Yankees the edge over everyone else, and the one guy they had never been without â until now.
12. Arizona Diamondbacks (13-13) 14 â The D-backs thrived last season because their bullpen didn’t blow games by giving up two-out, two-run, walk-off homeruns to the likes of Ian Desmond as J.J. Putz did on Wednesday.
13. San Francisco Giants (12-13) 8 â Talk about letting a team up off the mat. After a solid road trip to New York and Cincinnati, the Giants came home to play the reeling Marlins and promptly got swept in their own ballpark.
14. New York Mets (13-12) 9 â Speaking of losing momentum, I present exhibit A: the Mets. When competing in a brutal division, it’s not really advisable to get swept by a Houston Astros team that isn’t planning on competing for at least a year or two.
15. Cincinnati Reds (12-12) 16 â It’s beginning to become apparent that this is simply an average baseball team. They have enough strengths to remain competitive all season, but just not enough talent to really threaten the Cards in the NL Central.
16. Philadelphia Phillies (13-13) 19 â They got their 2-out-of-3 in Atlanta. If they continue to get offensive production, they could do the same in Washington and at home to the Mets and be right back atop the division by this time next week.
17. Chicago White Sox (12-13) 11 â Rough week for the Sox, who lost a big series with the Indians to fall into third place. On the bright side, they are the only team in the AL Central with a positive run differential this season.
18. Colorado Rockies (12-12) 22 â Sometimes just hanging around is enough. Still, whatever the Humidor used to do isn’t working anymore â Coors Field continues to be an absolute band box â unless you’re Jamie Moyer.
19. Boston Red Sox (11-13) 18 â Injuries to the outfield have been offset by better starting pitching. That said, they won’t survive long without Ellsbury, Crawford, and Youkilis, no matter how well Lester and Beckett throw.
20. Milwaukee Brewers (11-14) 13 â It’s a bit hard to fathom that with their rotation (Gallardo, Grienke, Marcum, Wolf) and back-end of the bullpen (K-Rod, Axford) that the Brewers have given up more runs (129) than any other NL team.
21. Oakland Athletics (13-13) 24 â Brutal three-city road trip wraps up in Tampa this weekend. Already 3-3 through Baltimore and Boston, just getting one against the Rays should be a confidence builder for this young A’s squad.
22. Miami Marlins (11-14) 25 â A potentially season-saving sweep of San Fran has Miami back on the winning track. But given all of those personalities, it won’t be long before they get derailed once again.
23. Los Angeles Angels (10-16) 21 â The metrics say this isn’t a team that should be 6 games under .500, which is what makes this so surprising. In reality, career average seasons from Ervin Santana and Albert Pujols would have this club a game or two back of Texas.
24. Houston Astros (11-14) 27 â A three-game sweep of the Mets has given this team some life, and give the Astros credit â despite a significantly less-talented roster than most of the league, they still play extremely hard every single night.
25. Pittsburgh Pirates (11-14) 23 â The Pirates are going to need a better showing offensively if they want to remain afloat in the NL Central. 74 runs in 25 games simply won’t cut it.
26. Seattle Mariners (11-16) 20 â A six-game losing streak took the luster off of the four-game winning streak in Seattle’s tough 10-game road trip. The cure? How about returning home to a visit from the Twins.
27. Kansas City Royals (8-16) 30 â Somehow, the Royals managed to go all of April without a home win, then beat the Yankees in their first home game in May. Perhaps a sign of better things to come in K.C.?
28. Chicago Cubs (9-16) 26 â Already in last in the NL Central, things are about to go from bad to worse for the Cubs, as two of the NL’s best in the Dodgers and Braves come to Wrigley. Another year of waiting on the North Side.
29. San Diego Padres (9-17) 29 â Give the Padres some credit â they’ve been stingy at home despite their inability to score runs, managing their first series victory of the season after taking the last two from the Brewers this past week.
30. Minnesota Twins (6-18) 28 â The majors worst road record, second-worst home record (thank you, Royals) and worst run differential. It’s a shame fans can’t even really look forward to the Vikings, either.
Three series to watch this weekendâ¦
1) BAL @ BOS (5/4-5/6) â Big series for both teams. The Red Sox need to start winning series against division teams, while the Orioles must continue to beat teams they’re supposed to beat to stay in the race long-term.
2) PHI @ WAS (5/4-5/6) â Phillies offense seems to have woken up after their trip to Atlanta. Jimmy Rollins and company must be licking their chops to knock phenom Bryce Harper down a few pegs, too.
3) CHW@ DET (4/27-4/30) â The suddenly-reeling White Sox embark on a big trip to Detroit. While the Indians are busy battling Texas, the winner of this series could find themselves in first place on Monday morning.
Check out Mike Ivcic’s weekly column, “The Tenth Inning,” every Monday and the weekly “Power Rankings” every Friday, only at ultimatecapper.com
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