30. Washington Nationals
The Washington Nationals showed their true, weak colors in April, going 5-16.
But they have a surprisingly good offense. Ryan Zimmerman continues to crush the ball, hitting .289 with five homers. Adam Dunn has six homers and a .310 average. Nick Johnson has made an admirable return, with a .338 batting clip.
However, the pitching is what's killing this team. No starter has an ERA below 4.44, and the bullpen is the worst in the majors. Last night's 9-4 loss was no exception when the bullpen blew a lead late in the game.
29. Cleveland Indians
With Fausto Carmona, Victor Martinez, and Travis Hafner going into the season healthy, it was looking up for the Cleveland Indians.
However, they have run themselves straight into the ground, as Hafner landed back on the DL, Cliff Lee has a 3.94 ERA so far compared to 2.54 last year, and Carmona is 1-3 with a 6.28 earned run average.
The Indians can rebound with the talent they have, but the month of April hasn't boosted the confidence.
They weren't helped last night when Red Sox OF Jonathan Van Every hit a homer in the 10th to win the game. It was Van Every's first career home run.
28. Tampa Bay Rays
I would put the Rays at 29, but the game they had last night against Boston moved them up a spot. Matt Garza took a perfect game into the seventh, throwing seven and two-thirds innings of one hit, shutout ball.
Evan Longoria went 3-for-5 with a home run, making that six on the season, and four RBI.
The Rays, however, stand at 9-14, worst in the AL East. If the Rays can use Thursday's game as a catalyst to turn it around, great. But, in the division they're in, it won't come easy—nothing does in the East.
27. Baltimore Orioles
After starting 6-3 and winning the first three series of the year against the likes of the Yankees, Rays, and Rangers, the O's have quickly faded.
The offense is still hitting the ball well, but not nearly as well as it once was. The O's have lost seven of 10 and 10 of 13, now standing at 9-13, a half game ahead of the Rays for fourth place in the East.
The O's have suffered some embarrassing defeats, but most of their losses have come in save situations, losing seven games by two runs or less.
One of their few bright spots is Nick Markakis, an MVP candidate, as he is in the top five in seven different batting categories.
26. Colorado Rockies
With star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki returning fully healthy from injury, many were expecting Colorado to surprise and possibly win the NL West, or at least a Wild Card. However, the Rockies have been rather disappointing.
Tulowitzki is batting .200 (12-for-60) with just five RBI.
The Rockies are clearly missing Matt Holliday, who was traded to Oakland. Jorge De La Rosa has been a pleasant surprise so far in the rotation, with a 3.57 earned run average, but Aaron Cook, who made the All-Star Game in 2008, has a 7.11 ERA.
25. Houston Astros
Not much was expected out of the Astros going into the year. However, remained hopeful. They had a powerful offense, with Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee, Miguel Tejada, Hunter Pence, and others.
The problem was pitching.
Roy Oswalt is still a good pitcher, but didn't have much support in the back end of the staff. Pence, one of the bright young outfielders in baseball, has had an awesome start, but it doesn't appear to be enough to hold the team up.
24. Arizona Diamondbacks
With Brandon Webb on the disabled list, Dan Haren would have to carry the Diamondback rotation.
Through 35 innings, he has a whopping strike-to-walk ratio of 36 to 5, has a 1.54 ERA.
However, the D'Backs are just 9-13, 4th in an NL West division run by the Los Angeles Dodgers. The D'Backs have a mediocre offense, after losing power hitter Adam Dunn to the Nationals. Poor guy.
After hitting .300 last year, Conor Jackson has gotten off to a miserable start (.203, one HR).
23. New York Mets
It is absolutely unacceptable for the New York Mets to be this low. They have one of the most talented teams in baseball, with Carlos Delgado (472 career HR's), Jose Reyes (294 SB's, 73 career triples), David Wright (consistent 30-100 guy), and Carlos Beltran (265 career HR's).
That's just the offense.
They have a solid rotation consisting of Johan Santana, John Maine, Mike Pelfrey, Oliver Perez, and Livan Hernandez. The problem with the Mets last year was a lack of bullpen presence.
They added that over the off-season with JJ Putz and Francisco Rodriguez. They currently stand at 9-12. Wow.
There's no explanation for this disappointment.
22. Los Angeles Angels
If you have a fantasy team consisting of only players on the DL, you'd have a lot of Los Angeles Angels.
The Halos already have Kevin Jepsen, Darren Oliver, Dustin Moseley, Vladimir Guerrero, Kelvim Escobar, John Lackey, and Ervin Santana on the DL.
So, as you could imagine, the Angels have an unimpressive 9-12 record. Right now, the Angels 1-2 punch is Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver, who combine for a 5-2 record, but they aren't a legitimate 1-2 punch.
21. Chicago Cubs
It never ceases to amaze me that rich teams like the Cubs, Angels, Mets, Yankees, and Nationals are off to such sluggish starts. The Cubs didn't make many moves over the off-season, but why would they after such a successful 2008 season?
To bolster an already powerful offense, they added Milton Bradley, who batted .321 with 22 home runs for the Texas Rangers. That right away put the Cubs in contention for a World Series title.
However, Bradley is hitting a mere .118 with 10 strikeouts in 34 at bats. After amazing 2008 seasons, Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster have also gotten off to slow starts.
20. Oakland Athletics
Last season, the Oakland Athletics got great pitching from Justin Duchscherer, the converted set-up man. Before the 2009 season started, he went down with an injury. The A's would need a starter to step up—actually, they would need multiple starters to step up.
So far, 25-year old southpaw Dallas Braden has been the only guy to answer the call. Braden, 6'1", 195, is off to a great start with three wins, two losses, and a 2.10 ERA.
However, he needs help from other guys in the staff, like Brett Anderson, Josh Outman, Dana Eveland and Trevor Cahill. Also, newcomer Matt Holliday is hitting just .240 and hit his first homer on Thursday.
19. Atlanta Braves
Despite it being a weakness going into the off-season, one of the Braves new strengths is the pitching rotation. Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, and Jair Jurrjens are all proven starters.
The only question mark was how rookie Kenshin Kawakami would react to signing a contract with Atlanta. Lowe has been solid (2-1, 3.10), as has Vazquez (2-2, 3.38), and Jurrjens has been dominant (2-2, 1.72).
However, the Braves don't have a lights-out closer or a killer instinct offensively, putting them at 10-11.
18. Texas Rangers
Playing in Arlington, the Texas Rangers have never pitched well. Playing in the hitter's ballpark they do, it's no surprise the Rangers have always been an offensive ball-club.
There's been no exception this season.
Ian Kinsler is batting .322 with seven homers and 20 RBI, amazing for a lead-off man. Michael Young has backed off from his trade demands, slugging six home runs, and Andruw Jones is in the running for Comeback Player of the Year.
However, the achilles heel for this team hasn't changed—pitching. Kevin Millwood is off to a fantastic start, but we have no reason to believe it'll keep up. Vicente Padilla is not a No. 2 by any stretch, and the 3, 4, and 5 starters are iffy.
17. San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants have one of the brightest futures in all of baseball. They have some young talent already in Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Fred Lewis, and Pablo Sandoval, and some promising prospects on the farm, like Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey.
They have the potential to be a future consistent division winner—but not just yet.
Right now, they are seconnd in the NL West, with a 10-10 record. Despite being in second place, they are already three and a half games behind the Dodgers. I like the Giants in the future, but not just yet.
16. Minnesota Twins
The Twins, at 11-11, are disappointing. They have a solid pitching rotation, consisting of Francisco Liriano, Kevin Slowey, Glen Perkins, Nick Blackburn, and Scott Baker, one of the most talented rotations in baseball. Joe Nathan is a lights-out closer.
The Twins also have a very talented outfield, with Carlos Gomez, Delmon Young, and Michael Cuddyer.
They have an MVP candidate in Justin Morneau, a talented second baseman in Alexi Casilla, and a powerful third baseman in Joe Crede. However, catcher Joe Mauer has yet to play, and it has hurt them dearly.
I like the Twins chances in the Central, but Mauer will have to return to form—now.
15. San Diego Padres
The Padres are a middle-tier team.
They fall right in between the worst team and the best team in baseball. I'm very impressed by what they've been able to do so far.
After a horrid 2008 season, the Pads, led by first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (9 HR's, 20 RBI's, .333), and closer Heath Bell (0.00 ERA, 8 saves) are 11-11.
While it's doubtful they will make the postseason, they could surprise fans with a winning season, and that would be something to build on for future seasons in San Diego.
14. New York Yankees
This is unacceptable. The New York Yankees—without a doubt the most talented team in baseball—stand at a mediocre 12-10.
Their lineup is packed. Derek Jeter is a future Hall-of-Famer, Jorge Posada is an accomplished catcher, Mark Teixeira is one of the best sluggers in baseball, Nick Swisher is off to an incredible start, CC Sabathia is a potential Cy Young Candidate, and so is AJ Burnett.
However, the Yanks are third in the AL East, behind Toronto and Boston. The Yankees are clearly hurting without A-Rod, but when he comes back, they certainly won't be helped with all the hoopla he'll cause.
13. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox have one of the most potent lineups. Carlos Quentin is a 30 HR, 100 RBI-a-year type of guy, Jim Thome is a future Hall-of-Famer, Paul Konerko has over 300 career homers, as does Jermaine Dye.
On top of that, they have a talented rotation, consisting of Gavin Floyd, Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Jose Contreras, and Bartolo Colon. Right now, they have an 11-10 record, good for second in the Central, one half game behind the Kansas City Royals, led by Zach Greinke.
The Pale Hose have a legit shot at winning this division, and are off to a decent start.
12. Detroit Tigers
Despite having a confidence-crushing 2008 season in which the Tigers went in with huge expectations and left with massive disappointment, the Tigers have rebounded well.
Right now, they are tied for second with the White Sox, but the perseverance they have shown thus far pushes them a spot above the Pale Hose.
The funny thing is, ace Justin Verlander has struggled, but Edwin Jackson has stepped up big time, with a 2.25 earned run average.
Miguel Cabrera is off to an MVP-like start, as he has four homers, 14 RBI, and a .377 average.
11. Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pittsburgh Pirates are a ball club to root for right now. After 16 consecutive losing seasons, they clinched a winning April.
That's right, the Pirates have a winning record.
Despite being 1-3, Ian Snell is off to a good start. Paul Maholm and Zach Duke are a combined 6-1, a very good 1-2 punch. Maholm is an All-Star-caliber pitcher and showing it.
Outfielder Nyjer Morgan is batting .307 with 16 RBI and six stolen bases as the starting left fielder, and at 28, has a bright future.
10. Cincinnati Reds
Along with the San Francisco Giants, Baltimore Orioles, and Tampa Bay Rays, I think the Cincinnati Reds have one of the brightest futures in baseball.
They have two good young pitchers in Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto, two great young hitters in Jay Bruce and Joey Votto, who is off to an incredible start (.346, 3 HR, 20 RBI).
Brandon Phillips is off to a sluggish start, with a .188 batting mark, but the way he has hit in recent years tells me he is on some kind of decline. Closer Francisco Cordero is 0-1, but has an ERA of three with seven saves.
9. Kansas City Royals
The Royals in the top 10 doesn't sound right from what we've seen in recent years. But the Yankees barely cracking the top 15 doesn't either, does it?
The Royals are off to a fantastic start, due to Zach Greinke, who is 5-0 with a 0.50 ERA (36 IP, 24 H, 2 ER, 8 BB, 44 K).
Greinke may not go 5-0 with a 0.50 ERA every month, so a small drop off would still be a phenomenal month.
Mark Teahen is off to another good start at third base, and the Royals have an outside shot to be this year's Rays.
8. Milwaukee Brewers
You would expect the Milwaukee Brewers would be completely devastated by CC Sabathia following the green and Ben Sheets becoming a free agent. Nope.
So far, the Brewers are 12-10, led by Yovani Gallardo, who is 3-1 with a 2.86 ERA in five starts. Not bad for a 23-year old. Prince Fielder is off to a sluggish start, hitting just .234, but with 17 RBI.
Ryan Braun is off to a great start, batting .317 with five home runs and 16 RBI. I don't expect the Brewers to make the playoffs, but they can have a surprising year.
7. Philadelphia Phillies
When the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies got off to a sluggish start, some immediately compared them to the Angels, who won a World Series Title, and then showed lack of effort the following year.
However, the Phillies have shown that prediction is erroneous. Nine of the Phillies last ten wins have come from behind, including a dramatic 13-11 victory over the Nats that ended with a Raul Ibanez grand slam.
Chase Utley is an MVP candidate, batting .342 with seven homers, but we remember the start he was off to last year. While Cole Hamels is getting hurt time and time again, the Phightin Phils keep finding ways to win.
6. Seattle Mariners
This is a temporary ranking.
The Mariners have been impressive so far, I'll admit. At 13-9, they are first in the AL West. However, they won't be first when John Lackey and Ervin Santana and Vladimir Guerrero return to the Los Angeles Angels.
I will applaud the M's for their effort they've shown, but I think it'll eventually be for naught, as the M's don't really have the look of a playoff club.
They have a solid 1-2 with "King" Felix Hernandez and Erik Bedard, but I'm not sure they can take this into August.
5. Toronto Blue Jays
Like the Mariners, this is a temporary ranking, and it shows how fans can be fooled by fast starts.
The Jays are off to a phenomenal start. At 15-9, they are second in the AL East, led by Roy Halladay, Adam Lind, Vernon Wells, and a seemingly washed up Scott Rolen.
The Jays probably won't be a top ten team when it's all said and done, as they do play in the AL East, easily the toughest division in all of baseball. The Jays don't have the power to compete just yet.
4. Florida Marlins
After an 11-1 start, the Florida Marlins would be a unanimous decision for the No. 1 spot. However, the Fish have lost eight of 11, and rookie center fielder Cameron Maybin continues to struggle.
Hanley Ramirez, as you could guess, is having a good start, with a .289 average, two home runs, 12 RBI, and nine runs. Jeremy Hermida is batting just .239, disappointing for a guy with his talent level.
Like the Jays and M's, I don't expect the Fish to be this high at the end of the year. I'd be surprised for them to finish higher than fourth.
3. Boston Red Sox
After a sluggish 3-6 start, the Boston Red Sox turned it around against the Baltimore Orioles, sweeping the Birds in a four-game series.
Since then, the Sox have won seven of nine and are 14-8, a half a game ahead of the Jays for first place in the East.
The Sox have yet another MVP candidate in Kevin "The Greek God of Walks" Youkilis, who has proved his power surge last year was no fluke, currently batting .395 with five home runs and 15 RBI.
Dustin Pedroia hasn't been outstanding thus far, but is hitting .281. The Sox have the making of a World Series team, and have shown it the last 15, going 13-2.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers
People hate Manny Ramirez—me being no exception.
But we can't deny any team Manny is on immediately is a better team. In 53 games with Los Angeles in 2008, Manny hit .396 with 53 RBI.
However, it may have been Manny's last 53 RBI in the majors, as he wasn't getting much interest in free agency, and was demanding a hefty price for an extension.
The Dodgers were willing to cough up $45M over two years to extend the 37-year old future Hall of Famer.
It was clearly a smart thing to do. ManRam is hitting .372 right now with five homers and 15 RBI and is leading the Dodgers to a solid 15-8 record.
I don't see them slowing up with Manny in town.
1. St. Louis Cardinals
In the years I've followed baseball, I've noticed Albert Pujols is pretty good. At 29, he has over 300 career home runs, has been to an All Star Game seven times in eight seasons, has won two MVP awards, and has a career average of .334.
Other than that, he's not that good.
Pujols is off to another incredible start (what else is new), with a .337 average, eight homers, and 28 RBI.
If you take Pujols out of the Cardinals lineup, the Birds aren't very dangerous, but Pujols completes them.
Not only is he off to an amazing start, the Cardinals have one of the best, if not the best, pitching coach in baseball in Dave Duncan.
Last year, Duncan created a phenom in Kyle Lohse. The Cardinals rotation has a 12-2 record and 3.43 ERA. I rest my case.
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