By Mike Ivcic
The MLB season is now just about at the quarter pole, with most teams having played just under 40 games so far this season. With that in mind, we at The Tenth Inning couldn’t think of a better time to break out our first annual power rankings. Here’s the full list, grouped by category, with a brief commentary after each group. As always, disagreements are welcome – just keep them to yourself!
Group A: Elite Contenders
1. St. Louis Cardinals (23-13)
2. Texas Rangers (24-13)
3. San Francisco Giants (23-15)
4. New York Yankees (23-13)
5. Detroit Tigers (20-15)
If I had told you after the 2011 World Series that both participants would lose their top starting pitcher and top offensive player from their respective teams and that in mid-May of 2013 they would be the two best teams in baseball, you would have called me crazy – or Skip Bayless, both of which would have been highly insulting. But C.J. Wilson and Josh Hamilton each bolted Arlington for L.A. in the past two offseasons and were joined by Albert Pujols, while Chris Carpenter attempts to return from what I believe is surgery number 476 on his right arm, and yet here we are – Cardinals at 1, Rangers at 2. The organizational depth and upper management deserve the credit here, as well as the managers and players who have stepped up, filled the necessary roles, and led these teams to the top of their respective leagues. The same is true for the Yankees, who have more payroll on the DL than half of the teams have on the field and still lead the AL East. The group is rounded out by last year’s World Series teams, who both look like very good bets to duplicate last year’s October success. If we keep this elite top group at just five teams, it’s going to be a very difficult club to crack.
Group B: Almost-Elite Contenders
6. Cincinnati Reds (22-16)
7. Boston Red Sox (22-16)
8. Baltimore Orioles (23-15)
9. Washington Nationals (20-17)
10. Atlanta Braves (21-16)
I almost moved the Reds up to the first group, but I need to see just a bit more from them, especially considering their home/road splits (16-6 at GAB, 6-10 elsewhere). Likewise the Nationals, my preseason pick to win the NL, is a little worrisome with their -12 run differential, but they have the talent to straighten themselves out – and some easy division games down the line. Ditto for the Braves. The interesting teams here are the AL East duo, who both have had much-needed strong starts and affirmed their status as contenders. But Boston is now 2-8 in their last 10 games and the Orioles are still getting by with a smoke-and-mirrors pitching staff thanks to their MLB-leading 190 runs, a pace I don’t think they can maintain for a six month stretch.
Group C: Welcome Back To Relevancy
11. Cleveland Indians (20-15)
12. Pittsburgh Pirates (21-16)
13. Kansas City Royals (18-16)
1985, 1992, 2007. Sure, Indians fans don’t have the long wait that the fans in Pittsburgh and Kansas City do, but maybe if we change 2007 to 1948, more fans in Cleveland will cringe as they remember just how long they’ve been without a championship. Having watched all three groups for a decent stretch, it’s safe to say that they will all be playing meaningful September baseball. I predicted that would be the case for the Royals (1985) and Pirates (1992) in the preseason, and ultimately I think the Pirates have the best chance at ending their postseason drought this year, but for all three organizations this season is a major step forward for the game of baseball in their respective cities, and that can’t be understated.
Group D: Don’t Let Us Get Hot
14. Arizona Diamondbacks (21-17)
15. Tampa Bay Rays (19-18)
16. Oakland Athletics (19-20)
17. Colorado Rockies (20-17)
While it may surprise a lot of people that don’t live in the Mountain Time Zone, I’m sure it’s not a shock to anyone in Phoenix or Denver that their teams have played as well as they have. Both groups are young, talented, and in Colorado’s case also healthy for the first time in a while, and both have surged into contention in the NL West. Each has a little bit of a “been there, done that” confidence that will bode well in the second half. Likewise Tampa and Oakland are no strangers to crunch-time baseball, and while Oakland has the easier rode with only one team ahead of them as opposed to three, each of these teams should still be considered quite capable of snagging at least one of the two Wild Card berths.
Group E: We’re Surprised We’re This High, Too
18. Minnesota Twins (17-17)
19. Seattle Mariners (18-20)
The Twins may be the most surprising team of the season, considering this was once again expected to be a bottom-dweller in the sport’s weakest division. Instead Minnesota’s managed to avoid extensive losing streaks and at least shake the cages of the three teams ahead of them in the AL Central. Seattle’s also built a competitive group, and have been the recipients of the Angels struggles all season and the recent nosedive from Oakland. One half-game out of second place in the AL West is fairly impressive for this team.
Group F: So About Those Preseason Expectationsâ¦
20. Philadelphia Phillies (18-21)
21. Los Angeles Angels (14-23)
22. Los Angeles Dodgers (15-21)
23. Toronto Blue Jays (15-24)
I know what you’re thinking – how is the third-worst team record-wise in all of baseball ranked 21st on this list? Well, this isn’t a standings list, it’s power rankings – and I still think the Angels will ultimately rise to at least .500, if not over it. I can’t say the same thing for the other three teams here, who are a deadly combination of old, injured, and expensive. The Phillies are done without Roy Halliday, the Blue Jays likewise without Reyes, and the Dodgers are quickly realizing why Boston didn’t win the last two seasons. The Angels are the only team here that even has the potential to rebound and make a serious postseason charge, though I wouldn’t go putting any significant amount of money on that actually happening, either.
Group G: At Least We Have Someone Worth Watching
24. Milwaukee Brewers (15-20)
25. New York Mets (14-20)
26. Chicago White Sox (15-20)
Matt Harvey (Mets) and Chris Sale (ChiSox) have become must-see TV every time they pitch, with each carrying perfection into the seventh inning of a start this past week. Guys like Ryan Braun and David Wright are also good reasons to go to the ballpark, but the issue with all three of these teams is that the drop-off from “elite” to “below average” is huge – and it happens fairly early on down the roster. It’s about finding the bright spots in a season that otherwise, for these three teams, is all but over already.
Group H: Yes, We Still Play Baseball
27. San Diego Padres (16-21)
28. Chicago Cubs (15-22)
The Padres are actually legitimately decent, but there’s no way they’ll actually be able to sustain a full 162-game season within the NL West and get to 70 wins. I just can’t see it happening. Meanwhile the Cubs are still slowly building towards this coming offseason, when they’ll have Soriano’s contract off the books, but right now it’s more about what’s going on around Wrigley than what’s going on inside Wrigley.
Group I: Please Don’t Demote Us To AAA
29. Miami Marlins (11-27)
30. Houston Astros (10-28)
I don’t know that there’s a whole lot to say here. Neither of these teams were supposed to be good, everyone predicted they’d be bad in the preseason, and they are. I do believe that both organizations will have a bright future, but there’s absolutely no way to look at either roster and accurately predict just when that “future” will become the “present,” and that’s not a good thing for Astros or Marlins fans.
Three series to watch this week…
1) ATL @ ARZ (5/13-5/15) – Wild Cards are not always won or lost in September – if these two teams want to play postseason baseball, this could wind up being a critical three-game series.
2) TEX @ OAK (5/13-5/15) – How do you stop a tailspin? Beat the division leader at home. Simple mission, A’s, but easier said than done.
3) BOS @ TAM (5/14-5/16) – The Rays have rebounded from their slow start and get a Boston team going to wrong way. This could help set up the direction of each team’s summer.
Three series to watch this weekend…
1) SFG @ COL (5/16-5/19) – How do you stay within range of first place in the division? Beat the division leader at home. Seems the Rockies and A’s have a lot in common this week…
2) CIN @ PHI (5/17-5/19) – The Reds will get Lee and miss Hamels in this series, so winning two of three is crucial. It would go a long way towards helping answer some of the questions about winning away from home.
3) TOR @ NYY (5/17-5/19) – I know it’s only May, but I’m going to watch this series closely because if the Jays leave the Bronx with a series loss, it could just about spell the end of any playoff chances for Toronto.
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