"This is a simple game. You throw the ball. You hit the ball. You catch the ball."
Bull Durham summed up baseball as perfectly as any movie ever made. At its core, it’s all about the simple things.
Those simple things add up in a 162-game season, but it’s still very early. A lot can happen between now and October, and MLB power rankings will be constantly changing with every week of the season.
With a little more than a week in the books, there are very few things we know for sure. Good teams look good and bad teams look pretty bad, but a lot of squads in the middle of the rankings will find themselves in one of those groups by the time the year ends.
Let’s take a look at where each team stands at this point in the season, taking into account preseason expectations, long-term projections and current performance.
1. Atlanta Braves
The Braves loaded up in the offseason and added to an already impressive roster that has come through so far this season. With just one loss in its first eight games, Atlanta is showing no signs of slowing early in the season. Washington and Detroit may prove to be better squads by the end of the season, but there isn’t a better team in the league right now.
2. Washington Nationals
The Nationals entered the season with loftier expectations than any team in the league. They’ve lived up to expectations so far (5-2), and the NL East race should be the premier playoff hunt to follow throughout the season.
3. Detroit Tigers
This is an example of a ranking that favors preseason expectations and long-term projections. The Tigers won’t remain in fourth place for very long. A nine-game West Coast road trip won’t be an easy way to pick up steam, though.
4. Cincinnati Reds
Series wins over the Angels and Nationals were good ways to get the season going, but the Reds dropped two of three to the Cardinals, including a 10-0 drubbing on Wednesday. Look for Cincinnati to regain their composure with a three-game set against the Pirates this weekend.
5. San Francisco Giants
Despite a statistically slow start, the Giants are 6-3 and tied with Arizona atop the NL West. The Diamondbacks will be a team to watch this year, but San Francisco and Los Angeles will likely pull away by the All-Star break.
6. Los Angeles Dodgers
Don’t let a mediocre 4-3 start fool you. The Dodgers are one of the most talented squads in the National League. The real question is how long it will take them to put it all together.
7. Los Angeles Angels
Like the Tigers, the Angels haven’t gotten off to the best start. They are, however, a tremendously talented team with plenty to be optimistic about. Three-game sets with Houston and Minnesota should get Los Angeles out of its funk and back to the top in the AL West.
8. Texas Rangers
Losing Josh Hamilton doesn’t seem to have slowed Texas’ offense at all this year. Paired with some strong pitching performances, the Rangers are in position to contend in the AL West the rest of the season. Los Angeles is sure to rebound, but Oakland could be the team to ultimately upend both by the end of the year.
9. Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto headlines the All-Underachievers Team at this point in the season. With a 3-5 record and a home in the basement of the brutal AL East, the Blue Jays have to get things turned around quickly. Fortunately, they have tons of talent to make that happen.
10. Oakland Athletics
A 6-2 record would look a lot more impressive had three of those wins not come against the Astros, but wins over Seattle and Los Angeles are good signs. If the A’s can remain in the top 10 in all major offensive categories, another playoff appearance will certainly be in the picture.
11. Baltimore Orioles
And so begins the string of three AL East squads in the top half of the rankings. Having Baltimore, Tampa Bay and Boston grouped together is apropos considering the standings will likely look equally bunched by September. Baltimore gets the edge right now, but don’t be surprised to see Tampa Bay earn a top-10 ranking in the very near future.
12. Tampa Bay Rays
An extremely slow offensive start hasn’t made things easy on the Rays, especially after a couple subpar performances from David Price. Matt Moore has picked up the slack, though, and Tampa Bay should be back on track very soon. Its weekend four-game series with Boston should be a good test.
13. Boston Red Sox
A 5-2 start could have the Red Sox higher in the rankings, but can they continue to pitch this well all season? The offense is certainly there though, and Boston is already easing concerns about the rejuvenated roster that raised some questions this offseason.
14. St. Louis Cardinals
The NL Central is going to be a tight race from start to finish. St. Louis and Cincinnati will be battling all season for a first-place finish, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Pittsburgh get hot in the coming weeks. As it stands, the Cardinals are where they need to be right now at 5-4 with series against Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia on the horizon.
15. Arizona Diamondbacks
Arizona has hit the ball extremely well in the first week-plus, but there are a lot of question marks concerning its pitching. The Diamondbacks may prove everyone wrong and remain competitive with the Dodgers and Giants, though it will take more than nine games to convince me they can sustain such a hot start.
16. Chicago White Sox
The AL Central is wide open. Yes, we’re less than 10 games into the season, but it doesn’t look to be a division that will get much stronger any time soon. Chicago has put itself in position to keep pace with Detroit (and potentially Kansas City), but a lot of questions still have to be answered about the American League’s weakest division.
17. Kansas City Royals
Kansas City will be a strong sleeper pick for the playoffs this season, and a 5-3 start proves it. With a ton of youthful talent and a lineup that should score plenty of runs, the Royals won’t make it easy for Detroit and Chicago.
18. Philadelphia Phillies
Age continues to be a concern for the Phillies. Their lineup still packs a punch and the pitching rotation remains among the best in baseball, but there’s no guarantee they can put it all together in long stretches. A 3-5 start in the NL East isn’t an encouraging sign either.
19. New York Yankees
There’s not much point in even ranking the Yankees before the second half. Like it has been known to do in recent years, New York has gotten off to a mediocre start as a result of age and injuries. Expect things to come together when the playoff race starts heating up, and expect New York to be back in the hunt by September.
20. Colorado Rockies
Pitching has been Colorado’s calling card so far this season. The Rockies are always a good hitting team, but if the pitching holds up like it has so far, things could get extremely interesting in the NL West.
21. Minnesota Twins
There’s always a team that exceeds expectations against quality opponents early in the year. Minnesota has done just that, pulling off series wins over Baltimore and Detroit in its first six games. Things have slowed of late, though, and there wasn’t much offense to go around in their three-game set with Kansas City. That may be a problem this year.
22. Cleveland Indians
Expectations were extremely high for Cleveland to start the season. An usual free-agent spending spree brought in the bats the Indians needed, but their pitching staff remains a huge hindrance. Between injuries and poor performance, Cleveland’s early-season pitching may be a sign of things to come this year.
23. Seattle Mariners
It’s hard to tell what to expect from the Mariners this season. Their pitching staff has performed up to snuff, but lack of consistent production throughout their batting order may be reason to worry. Seattle won’t make it very far this year batting at a .221 clip.
24. New York Mets
Things don’t typically start out too well in New York. This year has been a pleasant change, but how long will it last? Top-14 marks in every major category are good signs, though the Mets will have to prove they can sustain their momentum to move up in the rankings.
25. Milwaukee Brewers
Milwaukee’s 2-6 start has been a direct result of some untimely injuries and bad relief pitching. The injuries will heal, but a shaky bullpen is always cause for concern.
26. Pittsburgh Pirates
Will this be the year the Pirates finally eclipse the .500 mark? I certainly hope so, but starting 3-6 with the league’s worst offense isn’t a promising sign.
27. San Diego Padres
Pittsburgh’s offense may be the only unit in the league worse than San Diego’s to start the season. Paired with shaky pitching that has given up a slew of long balls, the Padres are already in dangerous territory.
28. Miami Marlins
At 1-7, Miami has the worst record in baseball with very little hope of a massive turnaround. It’s hard to not feel badly for Marlins fans after the team’s offseason dismantling, but the woes will likely continue. Don’t expect them to climb out of the bottom of a tough NL East division any time soon.
29. Chicago Cubs
Starting pitching is a big component to winning baseball, but offense and relief pitching have to at least be serviceable. Chicago hasn’t gotten much from its bullpen or lineup the start the year, and a 3-5 record is the result.
30. Houston Astros
Where to begin? At least the Astros don’t have the worst record in the league. They do, however, have one of the worst pitching staffs in the league and their overachieving offense probably won’t last very long. Expect Houston to remain at the bottom of this list for most of the season.