Power Ranking MLB's 6 Divisions by Difficulty
Coming into the 2013 Major League Baseball season, it was obvious which divisions would be the best.
The NL East had the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Nationals, while the AL West had the Los Angeles Angels, Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics.
However, through the first quarter of the season, those thoughts can be thrown out the window, as only one of those five teams has met expectations.
But what about the divisions? Has each division met or exceeded its expectations for the season?
Are there any surprises?
Here's a ranking of every division in baseball.
Note: Best hitter/pitcher/rookie selections are based on players that are having the best 2013 seasons thus far. Previous seasons were not taken into account.
6. AL West
Top Pitcher: Yu Darvish, Texas
Leading the league in strikeouts with 86, Darvish is also dominating in many other facets. He's had more dominating performances than anyone else in the division.
Top Hitter: Nelson Cruz, Texas
Many would say teammate Mitch Moreland is having a better statistical year, but the biggest difference comes in terms of batting average with runners in scoring position. Cruz is batting .286 with four home runs and 23 RBI in that situation, while Moreland is hitting .233 with one home run and 10 RBI.
Top Rookie: Justin Grimm, Texas
Grimm has had a decent start to the year at 3-3 with a 4.02 ERA and 36 strikeouts. Most impressive was his May 18 performance against the Tigers in which he went 6.2 innings, giving up two earned runs.
Outside of the Texas Rangers, the AL West is struggling this year. No other team is above .500, as none can stay consistent.
The Houston Astros are where we thought they would be with one of the worst records in baseball.
The biggest surprise has been the Los Angeles Angels, who actually have the third-worst record in all of baseball. Only the Astros and Marlins are worse.
There's a decent amount of star power in this division, but top to bottom, it's the weakest in baseball.
Unless the Angels can recover with their star-studded lineup and the Oakland Athletics can recapture the magic from 2012, this race will be none too exciting.
5. NL East
Top Pitcher: Jordan Zimmermann, Washington
For this pick, Zimmermann and the New York Mets' Matt Harvey were really close. Most of their numbers are close, but the difference was in quality of competition each has played.
Harvey's only real standout wins were against the Pittsburgh Pirates and Washington Nationals, while Zimmermann has gone toe-to-toe with the Detroit Tigers, Cincinnati Reds and Braves in three straight starts, giving up one earned run total.
Top Hitter: Justin Upton, Atlanta/Bryce Harper, Washington
This is the one selection where I went with dual picks because without Upton and Harper, neither the Braves nor the Nationals would be in the position they're in. The other players on their clubs will eventually pick up the slack. But it's hard to discount what each has meant to their team.
Top Rookie: Evan Gattis, Atlanta
El Oso Blanco, as he commonly referred to, Gattis wasn't even one of the top Braves' prospects entering the season. However, with Brian McCann starting the season out on the disabled list, Gattis showed he belonged in the major leagues. While his batting average could stand to improve from .250, the fact that he's a home-run threat every time he steps up to the plate makes him the top rookie in the division thus far.
Prior to the start of the 2013 season, the NL East was thought to be one of the strongest divisions, with the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals at top. Early on, the Braves were holding up their end of the bargain, while the Nationals struggled.
Recently, the Braves have been slumping, and the Nats have pulled close.
The Philadelphia Phillies have been having difficulties, but not in areas they thought they would. Cole Hamels has only posted a 1-6 record with a 4.61 ERA.
4. AL Central
Top Pitcher: Justin Masterson, Cleveland
Before anyone gets started, Masterson is in no way a better pitcher than Justin Verlander. However, the beginning of the season has been all Masterson. He's gone the distance twice, including a 1-0 shutout of the Yankees.
Top Hitter: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit
Cabrera has followed up his Triple Crown season from a year ago and isn't missing a beat. To mention any other hitter here would simply be a travesty.
Top Rookie: Conor Gillaspie, Chicago
Gillaspie isn't being asked to do much for the White Sox, but he's making the most of his opportunities. Batting .279 with three home runs and eight RBI, he is doing better than Jeff Keppinger, who was thought to be a big signing in the offseason.
The AL Central is one of the more surprising divisions, but mainly for the fact that the Detroit Tigers haven't run away with it. Detroit has looked good with Cabrera and Max Scherzer, but has yet to hold a decent lead over its rivals.
The Royals may be the most surprising of the bunch, as they have allowed the fewest runs (153) in the division this year. That could be due in large part to the acquisitions of Ervin Santana and James Shields during the offseason. Nonetheless, the Royals might be in this race for a long time.
Still, this division has a long way to go to climb in the rankings.
3. NL West
Top Pitcher: Patrick Corbin, Arizona
This was a close one between Corbin and Clayton Kershaw. While a few more starts will more than likely push Kershaw over the top at the rate he's going, Corbin earns the top spot for now. While Kershaw has one more start than his counterpart, Corbin has also been more impressive in his starts, having not given up more than two earned runs in any start.
Top Hitter: Paul Goldschmidt, Arizona
Goldschmidt is showing why the Diamondbacks signed him to a long-term extension this year. He's made fans in Arizona say, "Justin Who?" with his .333 batting average, 12 home runs and 35 RBI.
Top Rookie: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles
Ryu has been a godsend for the Dodgers as they've battled injuries to their rotation. He's only had a few bad starts this year, but has faced some of the best teams in the league. Outside of the Marlins and Mets, Ryu has faced teams with winning records all year.
With all of the money the Los Angeles Dodgers have on the payroll, one has to wonder why they aren't running away with the NL West. Instead, it's been three teams who have taken charge of the division.
The San Francisco Giants are again at the top, with Pablo Sandoval absolutely tearing the cover off the ball.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have surprised many, especially after they traded Justin Upton in the offseason. Not many expected the Diamondbacks to be doing this well, but behind Corbin and Goldschmidt, they've impressed.
The Dodgers are in last place in the division, but have dealt with their fair share of injuries. Unless the ship gets corrected soon, heads will begin to roll.
2. NL Central
Top Pitcher: Adam Wainwright, St. Louis
After going back and looking at the numbers, Wainwright is the better selection here over teammate Lance Lynn. Wainwright has eight quality starts to his credit, as he's going deeper into ballgames and coming out on top.
Top Hitter: Brandon Phillips, Cincinnati
Phillips is having one of the best years of his career thus far, and while you can credit some of his success to the presence of Shin-Soo Choo, you have to give Phillips a lot of credit. He is leading the NL in RBI with 36 and is batting .281.
Top Rookie: Shelby Miller, St. Louis
Miller could also be in the discussion for top pitcher, but this is where he's at right now. With a 1.44 ERA and 0.88 WHIP this year, Miller is putting up some of the best numbers in baseball.
For some reason, people doubt the St. Louis Cardinals every year to begin the season. This season is no different, as the Cardinals are once again at the top of the division, along with the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds.
The Pirates were in this same spot at this time last year and fell off the wagon. Will this year be any different?
Cincinnati upgraded in areas it needed most and looks as if it could be a title contender—especially after winning 10 of its last 13 games.
What keeps the NL Central in the No. 2 spot is the bottom two teams in the division.
1. AL East
Top Pitcher: Clay Buchholz, Boston
Buchholz is finally getting the respect he deserves outside of Boston. Standing at 6-0 with a 1.78 ERA and 69 strikeouts, Buchholz is looking as if he is the ace of the rotation.
Top Hitter: Chris Davis, Baltimore
Davis is absolutely tearing the cover off the ball. He leads the league in slugging percentage (.664) and is second in home runs (12). What's been most memorable was his early season tear in which he had four home runs and 16 RBI in the first four games of the year.
Top Rookie: None
Who would have thought the New York Yankees would have been in first place with their patchwork of a lineup? With Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez and others on the disabled list, the Yankees were expected to just try and hang on until everyone got healthy.
They've done more than that, as they lead the division.
In fact, the one team (Toronto Blue Jays) that was expected to do very well has struggled thus far, although winning eight of their last 11 games is an improvement.
Top to bottom, the division looks good.
It should be a tight race all the way down to the wire.