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Your Monday Morning Power Rankings

Apr 11, 2011, 9:30 AM EDT

Texas Rangers v Baltimore Orioles Getty Images

People who say things like “how can the Indians not be ranked number 2 when they have the second best record in baseball” do not understand the concept of Power Rankings. Yes, the season may have begun a week and a half ago, but if we merely cared about what has happened in that week and a half, we wouldn’t do a Power Ranking. We’d merely post the overall league standings.

Power Rankings are only partially about where a team currently stands on an objective basis. We’re trying to get at the gestalt of this damn season, son. We’re wrestling with some serious metaphysics here.  If that’s too heavy for you, hey, complain about these rankings and reveal your ignorance all you want. The rest of us will try not to mock you. We don’t have the time for it anyway, however, because understand what we’re up against and appreciate that somewhere between quantum physics and alchemy, the truth of the 2011 season lies, and this ranking is but one step of a grand experiment. Sometimes I don’t know how we even sleep.

As usual, last week’s ranking is in parenthesis.

1. Rangers (6): The best start in team history. They’re hitting and pitching better than almost anybody.

2. Phillies (2): The Friday loss to the Braves is illustrative of what rotation depth is all about. Contrary to the way they were talked about all winter, the value of The Four Aces is not about one of the big guys coming in and scaring the crap out of people and dominating on any given night. It’s about how, even if one gets beat up and causes the manager to go to the pen, the next two or three straight days you can still be assured of having the better arm than the opposition, making up for the bad game. The value of a rotation like this isn’t manifested in highlight reel moments. It’s about relatively boring night-in, night-out superiority. I watched this for the entire decade of the 1990s with the Braves. It gets kinda ho-hum after a while and then you look up in late June and you’ve got a nine game lead that looks safer than anything. “Oh my,” you say to yourself. “We truly are good.”  Given just how long a baseball season is, that’s a way scarier dynamic than any one three-hit shutout.

3. Rockies (9): They’re two extra inning losses away from a perfect record.

4. White Sox (7): As suspected, they’re beating the heck out of the baseball. The Rays series helped the pitching staff some, but how much of that was the Rays’ futility and how much was a suggestion that the Sox’ pitching is rounding into shape is an open question.

5. Reds (13): Some missed chances rendered the Dbacks’ series a flop this past weekend, but all-in-all the Reds have looked OK out of the gate, even though they’re down two starters and have one — Edinson Volquez — who isn’t exactly fooling anyone.

6. Indians (26): You do appreciate, do you not, that the stuff in the intro was mostly baloney and double talk? Fact is, it’s hard to do a serious Power Ranking this early in the season exactly because teams like the Indians are 7-2. On the one hand, I want to honor them for their fine week. On the other hand, we all know this won’t last. Even their team President doesn’t think it will and is just enjoying the ride while it lasts. So shall we. They’re way up here in the rarefied air of the top 10. Lower than their actual record would have them because it doesn’t seem fair to better-constructed teams like the Rockies and White Sox, but higher than they’ll be later in the year.  If the winning keeps up? Mazel Tov, you can stay up here. If not? Remember the early part of the year, Tribe fans, when things were fun.

7. Orioles (22): This ranking is more or less on the same theory as the Indians’ ranking was. Although, to be honest, I think they’ll finish the year ahead of the Indians. The lineup isn’t perfect. The rotation isn’t perfect. But they’ve each shown that, on a night when the other isn’t working, it can carry the load. At least if the stars align. At any rate, I wouldn’t put too much stock in the Rangers’ series. A lot of teams are going to look bad facing them this season.

8. Yankees (3): After a noisy start the bats have gone fairly silent lately. Does that worry you? Worries me a bit, I must admit.

9. Blue Jays (16): It’s early to say things like this, but they feel like a better team than their 5-4 record suggests. And they’re off to Seattle now, which seems like a nice place to improve that record.

10. Dodgers (20): Lots of slow starts up and down that lineup.

11. Royals (29): Also a bit of an Indians-Orioles story. Unlike those two, though, the Royals have shown a couple of flashes of what is likely to be the more dire remainder of their season than their pleasantly surprising good start.

12. Angels (19): I and a bunch of other people talk about how Mike Scioscia would be punting offense by playing Howie Kendrick so much, and then he comes out and hits four homers, walks five times and hits .412 in his first eight games.

13. Red Sox (1):  Too high? Eh. Probably too low, actually. Yes, the losing streak was ugly, but taking two of three from the Yankees — especially behind Josh Beckett‘s strong night last night — show that this is a talented team that just fell on their face out of the gate. I wouldn’t be shocked if this was the lowest they went all year.

14. Brewers (15): Slow to start the season but they’ve righted the ship and now Zack Greinke is on his way back. Good things ahead.

15. Giants (4): The Dodgers come to town for three starting tonight. Let’s all keep our heads, people.

16. Athletics (8): It says something that all of the game stories I’ve read about yesterday’s 5-3 win lead with “wow, look at the offense!”  Five runs, people.

17. Marlins (17): With a left hammy and a right quad sidelining him in recent weeks, Mike Stanton‘s legs are something to watch all year.

18. Braves (5): Collectively, the Braves have a .296 OBP. And the offense was supposed to be a strength.

19. Padres (23): Mat Latos will make his season debut today.  After finishing the 2010 season poorly and stinkin’ up the joint in spring training, all eyes are on the kid.

20. Diamondbacks (27):  Arizona could have lost yesterday’s game against the Reds but they fought back. I make fun of Kirk Gibson’s brand of intensity. There’s a long and rich history of the football mentality not being all that well-suited to baseball, and it’s certainly not something that is usually transferable from one person for whom it worked (Gibson the player) to his charges.  But maybe there’s something to it.

21. Pirates (30): Pirates pitchers lead the NL in bases on balls.

22. Cubs (10): The Cubs haven’t stolen a base yet, and when they tried to steal one yesterday, it ran them out of a potential ninth inning rally. I’m sure there’s someone who came of baseball-watching age in the 60s and 70s having a panic attack somewhere.

23. Nationals (24): In a world of low expectations, the Nats have to be OK with being 4-5 right now

24. Mets (21): There is probably a healthy philosophical debate to be had about whether it’s better for one’s psyche to simply be bad all around or to be good in certain areas only to have the bad ones cause you to lose games. The Mets are not a bad all-around team, but they have weaknesses that will test fans’ patience all summer long.

25. Cardinals (14): St. Louis has the National League’s most punchless offense at the moment. But don’t ask Tony La Russa about it.

26. Tigers (18): Yesterday Jim Leyland said that he could smell when players are struggling. Now would be an excellent time for the second Lynyrd Skynyrd reference of the Power Rankings.

27. Twins (11):  Just no offense there, though unlike some other teams struggling at the plate, this will change for the Twins.

28. Astros (25): ESPN’s Steve Berthiaume picked the Astros to win the NL Central. No word on if he regrets that pick yet.

29. Mariners (28): It’s possible that the Indians’ sweep of Seattle is evidence that the Tribe is just way better than we thought they were. It’s also possible that it simply means that the Mariners are as bad, or maybe even worse, than we thought they where.

30. Rays (12): This ranking is unfair given what I said above about 2011 performance-to-date not counting for everything. And I am certain that they will play better baseball soon and escape the cellar. But this is simply depressing to watch.

  1. halladaysbicepts - Apr 11, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    I agree with #1 and #2, for now. Texas has (1) more win than the Phillies, scored more runs and have let up fewer runs.

    But, Texas will eventually fold like a cheap suit. Philly will be on top of these rankings shortly.

    • nhuskerjj - Apr 11, 2011 at 5:00 PM

      Message boards are fun to be a part of but its people like you that bring absolutely nothing to them. Ok so they are going to fold like a cheap suit? Do you care to tell all of us that read your comments why this will happen? Or do we just have to assume that you know nothing on this topic and are just a PHILLY FANATIC, or one of those guys that constantly say the Yankees and their 27 titles SUCK!! I will end by saying I hate the yankees but they never “suck”. I love the Rangers (30 years) and the phillies (17 years) but have no idea how the Rangers will “fold like a cheap suit” in this division.

  2. Jonny 5 - Apr 11, 2011 at 9:46 AM

    #2 ???!!!!!!

    YOU HATER!!! This bash fest on the Phillies is getting tired and old!! Or is it old and tired?? Anyway, HATER!!!

    How’d I do guys? huh? Am I Pheely enough yet? ;)

    • vader000 - Apr 11, 2011 at 1:06 PM

      Almost there, your next task is to find Donovan McNabb and boo him thoroughly then find JD Drew and hurl a few batteries his way… Extra credit if you can find a Santa Claus to pelt with snowballs ….

      • Utley's Hair - Apr 11, 2011 at 2:33 PM

        Get McNabb to stand next to a kid on a Claus-dressed Drew’s lap, and start hurling batteries encased in snowballs that have been dipped in vomit, and then Taze them as they try to run away.

        ‘Cause, ya know, that’s what all of us Philly fans do each and every time we get the chance.

  3. sdelmonte - Apr 11, 2011 at 9:51 AM

    It’s better to have some good spots, since you will get a decent number of days when the starter does his job and the bats come alive and the bullpen is on. But yeah, knowing that the bullpen is weak and that clutch hitting continues to be illegal in Flushing is gonna be frustrating.

  4. Kevin S. - Apr 11, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    Not sure what you mean about the bats going silent. They scored four runs each game against the Twins, not great but not awful, and they pretty well torched Sox pitchers not named Josh Beckett.

    • derpdederpdederp - Apr 11, 2011 at 1:40 PM

      he means that they came up with 2 hits last night, and 4runs off twins pitching can hardly be looked at as any sort of accomplishment, especially when they dropped one of those games (your $35 mil at work in that one)

  5. churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 11, 2011 at 10:05 AM

    8. Yankees (3): After a noisy start the bats have gone fairly silent lately. Does that worry you? Worries me a bit, I must admit.

    6th in the league in Runs, T-1 in HRs. Because they got shut out in one great pitched game the bats have gone silent? Before the shutout they scored 4, 6, 9. As FJM guys used to say, fuck the heck?

    • Craig Calcaterra - Apr 11, 2011 at 10:07 AM

      Jeter, Posada and Teixeira are all skidding pretty badly right now. That doesn’t concern you?

      • Kevin S. - Apr 11, 2011 at 10:27 AM

        Not particularly. Teix’s early home run spree made people forget he always sucks in April, DH’s are replaceable, and I did my worrying over Jeter when Levine and the Steinbrothers gave him that golden parachute.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 11, 2011 at 10:51 AM

        It’s what 9 games into the season, not at all.

      • derpdederpdederp - Apr 11, 2011 at 1:44 PM

        “Teix’s early home run spree made people forget he always sucks in April”

        good thing it looks like hes doing his best to remind you guys of that now. dont forget that russell martin in all likelihood will fade, jeter is in decline (i know youre in denial over that one, but tis true), phil huhges is phil hughes, granderson is gonna be a .250 hitter again, and youre one major injury away from battling it out for 3rd or 4th

      • Kevin S. - Apr 11, 2011 at 1:51 PM

        Yes, I’m in denial about a player whom I said got a golden parachute. Spot on analysis.

        I could have summed up your post in one sentence: “Every Yankee will hit his 10th percentile projection.” You keep believing that.

      • derpdederpdederp - Apr 11, 2011 at 6:05 PM

        hmm i believe i had a similar discussion with you before in which you attributed last years stats to a down year for jeter as opposed to an irreversible decline. has his start to the season caused you to change your stance?

        please indulge me as to how your summary of my comment makes any sense. martin will get injured or fade, that is an inevitability. if you think hes gonna continue at a .300 clip youre beyond naive. granderson has hit .250 the past 2 years and has done nothing to show this year wont be more of the same, not to mention gardner and swisher are off to less than impressive starts. if tex cano or CC get injured you guys are in serious trouble as theyre the only ones who seem to be contributing anything so far. oh btw have you had a chance to see hughes try to pitch? enough said

  6. mercyflush - Apr 11, 2011 at 10:15 AM

    excellent remarks about the Phillies rotation. those exact thoughts are dawning on us Phillies fans… essentially, they will not have many losing streaks this season, barring injury to that staff. They’ve gotten 3 great/very good starts to 1 bad for each of the two turns through the “big 4″ thus far.

    If that type of result continues, the Phillies are going to win a lot of games this season.

  7. cur68 - Apr 11, 2011 at 10:32 AM

    Liked the take on the Jays. It’s a matter of time before they pour the offense on top of that pretty solid pitching they got. They’ll climb up the power rankings. That’s a young rotation there and Farrell seems to know what he’s doing with them. I haven’t seen a game where I felt he left someone in for too long. If we could just get a legitimate closer I’d be happier. Rauch is good but he needs some more oomph on his pitches. I see him as a set up/8th inning guy but I get colon spasms watching him ‘close’. Maybe Dotel would be a better choice; he throws harder. Can’t wait for Brandon Morrow to get back. He’s got some lively stuff and a power arm. He’ll be our 1 or 2 guy and Jo-Jo Reyes can go polish some pine in the pen & work on his curve ball. Cecil should maybe be the 5th guy in that rotation. After watching Jesse ‘Hagar the Horrible’ Litsch break cutters left and right behind 90mph fastballs and arcing change ups I think he’s got just enough to be the #4 guy. I love this ‘World turned upside down’ stuff in the AL East! I had predicted the O’s would be good, but this good? No way! My faith in Buck Showalter is so far justified. Good manager + good talent = winning. Can’t have one without the other. Ron Washington would agree. I think the O’s are legit this season and the current trend will continue but the Sox will gain some steam and the Rays will break out of their Floridian humidity induced torpor and get in the mix. This month and next the division, IMO, will see everyone spending their time chasing the O’s & Jays with the Yankees having the best chance at it and the Ray’s dueling with the Sox as to who catches the Bomber’s first. As for the aforementioned Bombers; they are who I thought they were. Getting old as hitters, only really have 2 ace pitchers (Burnett’s going to be good if Posada and his noodle arm stays away from him), and a bullpen that has a 42 year old as it’s lone quality arm. Joe Girardi is going to age a lot this season. But hey, if you want to crown their a$$e$ then crown ‘em! But they are who I thought they were . . . at least till some team has a pitching talent fire-sale then they might be able to make some noise (but not till after they bench Posada permanently and move to Jeets to the 8th spot or play him off the bench).

    • JBerardi - Apr 11, 2011 at 10:49 AM

  8. asharak - Apr 11, 2011 at 12:00 PM

    Fun fact: the Blue Jays 5-4 start is actually a 90-win pace over 162 games. You sure you want to be on record as saying they’re a better team than that (i.e., 91+ wins in the AL East), Craig?

    They send Litsch against King Felix in Seattle tonight, which makes 5-5 a very real possibility. Winning the other two games of the set is much more likely, though, which would put them at 7-5…

    …as they head into consecutive series with Boston, New York, Tampa, Texas and New York again. If they’re still floating a win percentage around .560 after that run, then it might be time to consider them as contenders in the East. Until then, not so much.

    • derpdederpdederp - Apr 11, 2011 at 1:46 PM

      as a jays fan ive got to agree. the pitching has looked good so far but it would surprise me if guys like drabek and litsch can keep up this pace for a full season

  9. Lukehart80 - Apr 11, 2011 at 12:27 PM

    The Indians are going entirely off-script. They were supposed to scuffle out of the gate, fall about 15 games back, and then go on an incredible tear after the All-Star break. Their lead-off hitter is in prison and their closer has lost his damned mind, a lot of credit must go to the skipper, Lou Brown, for the way the boys are playing.

  10. marinersnate - Apr 11, 2011 at 1:45 PM

    What! My M’s at 29?? Thanks for the love, Craig.

    Actually I thought we would be around 32. Behind Tampa Bay. And also behind both Omaha and Pawtucket!

  11. macjacmccoy - Apr 12, 2011 at 6:52 PM

    It’s about relatively boring night-in, night-out superiority. I watched this for the entire decade of the 1990s with the Braves

    You mean until the playoffs started right?

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