30. Washington Nationals (13-35) - The Nationals last? You don't say! The Nationals are a very unlucky team.
While they stand at 13-35, there are plenty of positives. They have some bright rookies (Shairon Martis, Jordan Zimmermann, Ross Detwiler), and while Zimmermann has been good at times, he has been rather inconsistent, sporting a 6.07 ERA. While Martis is 5-0, he has an ugly 4.86 ERA. The thing that his killed the Nats all year long: bullpen.
Right now, the Nats have just one guy in the pen with an ERA under four, and all year long, it has meant their downfall. The Nats also have a solid offense, led by Ryan Zimmerman (11 HRs, 35 RBI, .325) and Adam Dunn (16 HRs, 42 RBI, .276), but don't have any pitching.
29. Oakland Athletics (18-29) - Where is Matt Holliday nowadays? Nope, I don't know either. The slugger who batted .321 with 25 home runs last season and drove in 137 the previous year is hitting just .264 on the year with six home runs. He's not having a lackluster year just yet, but a very quiet one.
Youngster Dallas Braden (4-5, 3.69) is so far the A's best pitcher, who are just 18-29 and eleven games behind the Texas Rangers. The A's feature, an, as always, unintimidating offense, but now they very much miss Justin Duchscherer, who has yet to throw a pitch this season.
28. Colorado Rockies (20-28) - With a healthy Troy Tulowitzki and Todd Helton, you'd expect that the Colorado Rockies would return to prominence. However, the Rockies are currently 18-28, sitting in the cellar of a weak NL West division.
Chris Ianetta, who was a breakout candidate going into the year, hit just .231 with 18 RBI before landing on the disabled list on May 24th. Brad Hawpe (7 HRs, 39 RBI, .343) and Todd Helton (6 HRs, 33 RBI, .321) are off to good starts, but they need someone to help out, because right now, the Rockies are a whopping 12.5 games out of first place. It's that bad in Colorado right now.
27. Houston Astros (19-28) - Remember last season? When Lance Berkman was hitting .344 at July's end? That Berkman is gone. After a 6-1 win over Pittsburgh on Friday, Berkman has 10 home runs, but also is batting a mere .235 and is 0-for-2 in stolen base attempts, compared to 18-of-22 last year.
The Astros are in the basement of the NL Central, and Cecil Cooper has to wonder if he'll have a job next week. Wandy Rodriguez is having a good year (5-4, 2.), but Roy Oswalt continues to struggle and the Astros are falling fast.
26. Arizona Diamondbacks (22-28) - And the most unlucky pitcher in baseball is...Dan Haren, Arizona Diamondbacks. Last year, Haren had a solid season, going 16-8 with a 3.33 earned run average. He has exceeded all expectations so far in 2009, as he has a 2.54 ERA, has exhibited amazing control (71 strikeouts, 9 walks), but is a mediocre 4-4.
The Diamondbacks have gotten solid offensive contributions from Justin Upton (.329, 9 HRs) and Mark Reynolds (13 HRs), but not much else. The Diamondbacks are fourth in the NL West and are 11.5 games behind the Dodgers.
25. Cleveland Indians (21-30) - I still believe this Cleveland Indians team can make the playoffs. While they are just 21-30, last in a tough AL Central (7.5 GB Detroit), they have some solid offensive players, like Grady Sizemore (9 HRs, 31 RBI), Victor Martinez (.350, 7 HRs, 36 RBI), and Asdrubal Cabrera (.315, 2 HRs, 27 RBI).
However, Cliff Lee, your 2008 AL Cy Young Award winner, is having a surprising year, at just 2-6. While he sports a 3.16 ERA, he doesn't seem to get the run support he got last year. The Indians are on a rise as of late, as they have won four of six, and it's about time they turned it around.
24. Pittsburgh Pirates (22-27) - While the Pittsburgh Pirates aren't off to the greatest start, it is, nonetheless, a good one. Freddy Sanchez is batting .333, Zach Duke has five wins and a 2.75 earned run average, and Nate McLouth has eight home runs.
The Pirates simply aren't yet good enough to compete in an NL Central that features the Chicago Cubs, St. Louis Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds, and a Astros team that is bound to turn it around. The Pirates have the making of a competitive team. But a winning one? Not so much.
23. Florida Marlins (22-27) - The Marlins have always been a team that relies on their minor league system to have success. They did it in 1997, and again in 2004. However, they have unloaded their roster each time.
The Marlins have a solid nucleus of young, future stars (Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, Cameron Maybin, Chris Volstad, Josh Johnson), but play in the wrong division, to put it simply. 22-27 isn't a bad record, but it certainly isn't at the level of the New York Mets (27-20), or Philadelphia Phillies (25-20, 2008 WS Champions).
The Marlins have the makeup to compete—just not now.
22. Seattle Mariners (24-26) - Last year, the Seattle Mariners were a complete disaster. Bringing in Erik Bedard in a trade, many expected they'd grab a Wild Card spot. However, Seattle was a huge disappointment, losing 101 games, 27 more than the previous season. The Mariners started the 2009 season hot, but have cooled off as of late.
Felix Hernandez is having a good start, with a 5-3 record and 3.41 ERA. The disappointment of the year so far is Brandon Morrow. Coming into the year, many expected he'd be a very good closer, but he has been everything but, with a 7.63 ERA and 14 walks in 15.1 innings.
21. Baltimore Orioles (23-27) - Things have just gotten better and better for the Orioles over the last week. After an ugly 8-5 loss to the Washington Nationals, the O's have won five of six, including a sweep of the Toronto Blue Jays. Over the last five games, two young O's pitchers have made their debuts—Jason Berken and David Hernandez.
They both got wins and combined to pitch 10-2/3 innings, allowing three earned runs. But that's not even the good news. On Friday night, Matt Wieters, the No. 1 prospect in baseball, made his MLB debut.
Even ESPN analyst Tim Kurkjian referred to him as the "switch hitting Jesus." On Saturday night, he showed why he's the No. 1 prospect in baseball, going 2-for-4 with a triple and a double.
20. Chicago White Sox (23-25) - The White Sox are definitely a frustrated team right now. After Jake Peavy used his no-trade clause to stay in San Diego and not join the Sox, the Pale Hose suffered an embarrassing loss to the Minnesota Twins, 20-1.
The White Sox are getting no production out of their shortstops thus far, and are mulling calling up Gordon Beckham, their 2008 first round draft pick. Beckham is currently in Triple A, and I don't like what they're doing with him.
He wasn't dominating the competition in Double A (4 HRs, 22 RBI, .298), but earned a promotion to Triple A, and they will likely call him up soon, despite having just 55 games of minor league ball under his belt.
19. Tampa Bay Rays (22-26) - Going into the year, I didn't anticipate the Tampa Bay Rays would make the playoffs. However, I insisted the same thing last year, and we saw how that scenario worked out.
The Rays are off to a gruesome start this year, at just 22-26. While Carl Crawford is having an MVP-type year (.317, 30-for-30 in steals), as is Evan Longoria (51 RBI, .324), the Rays haven't gotten the consistent infield play.
Jason Bartlett, unbelievably so, was hitting above .370 with seven homers before he went down with an injury. Believe it or not, he was the guy who made it happen for the Rays defensively.
18. Chicago Cubs (25-23) - The Cubs have been very disappointing this year. Coming off a heartbreaking playoff defeat to the Los Angeles Dodgers last year, you'd expect the Cubs to come back firing on all cylinders, eager for revenge.
However, the Cubs are just 25-23, 4th in the NL Central. Derrek Lee and Alfonso Soriano are having troubles, and guys like Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster, who were very consistent last year, are struggling.
The Cubs, in my opinion, are an aging offensive ballclub and are going to need to make a big time trade.
17. Toronto Blue Jays (29-23) - We baseball fans saw the hot start the Toronto Blue Jays got off to. They didn't have the best offense in baseball, but a timely one, led by Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, Adam Lind, and Aaron Hill. The thing the Jays always had was pitching.
They obviously had Roy Halladay, along with solid youngsters like Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil, and Scott Richmond. However, the Jays have shown their true colors lately, losing nine consecutive games. After losing eight straight, the Jays would have Roy Halladay on the mound against the Orioles.
That sounds like an immediate win, and even though Halladay was solid through seven, the bullpen blew it, and the O's won, 12-10. The Jays have won two straight against the Red Sox, but I'm not impressed with Toronto's play of late.
16. San Francisco Giants (24-24) - If I'd told you before the season that the Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants would have nearly identical records entering the month of June, you would've slapped me across the face—and I would have understood. The Giants are a weak hitting team.
They have some good, young stars like Pablo Sandoval, and some solid young pitching, with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, but are still a bat or two away from truly competing for an NL West crown.
It's very possible the Giants could pursue Orioles first baseman Aubrey Huff, who is still productive and could draw some heavy interest.
15. San Diego Padres (24-25) - I understand that some teams the Padres are ahead of, like the Giants, Cubs, and Blue Jays, have better records than the San Diego Padres.
However, after the miserable season the Friars had in 2008, I'm impressed by the way they have rebounded. Adrian Gonzalez leads all of baseball with 19 home runs, along with a .627 slugging percentage.
Another reason the Padres are this high? Jake Peavy. Had he left for the White Sox, the Padres would have a revamped rotation, but they get to keep their ace (5-5, 3.67, 84 K, 24 BB).
The Padres chances of making the playoffs are VERY slim, but chances of having a winning season? Reasonably high.
14. Atlanta Braves (24-25) - After the start we saw the Braves get off to and how slow the Phillies also started the year, it looked possible that the Atlanta Braves would take an NL East title. They have pitching, with Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, and Jair Jurrjens in their staff.
They don't have the type of offense the Phillies do, but do have some pop in the lineup, one featuring Chipper Jones, Brian McCann, and Yunel Escobar. However, the Braves have since slipped, with a 24-25 record. The chances the Braves even nab a Wild-Card spot are slim to none.
13. Minnesota Twins (24-26) - One of the reasons the Twins are so high on this list is catcher Joe Mauer. Some call up-and-coming Orioles prospect Matt Wieters a "Joe Mauer with power." However, now they are calling Wieters just plain old "the next Joe Mauer". Mauer missed a lot of time, so has just 99 at bats.
In those 99 at-bats, he has slugged 11 home runs, has a .414 batting average, and a 1.338 OPS.
So far, the guy leading the Twins staff is Kevin Slowey. Despite a mediocre 4.11 earned run average and just 44 strikeouts, he has walked just five and sports a solid 7-1 record. The Twins, while behind, have a very good chance to win the AL Central.
12. Los Angeles Angels (24-24) - Going into the year, the Los Angeles Angels were easily the AL West favorite. They lost both Mark Teixeira and Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez, but they also got Brian Fuentes and would give more time to Kendry Morales, a promising young slugging first baseman.
The Angels have been devastated by injuries. Vladimir Guerrero, Ervin Santana, and John Lackey have all missed time. Also, we all know what happened to the promising young right hander, Nick Adenhart.
The Angels have a very good chance to win the West. The Rangers are on a roll at the moment, but don't have the pitching to go deep into the playoffs or survive the dog days of August.
11. Kansas City Royals (23-26) - Before the season started, the Royals appeared to be a team who had a small chance to win the AL Central. Zach Greinke, who some thought to be a bust, has blown away the competition this year. If the season ended today, the clear cut American League Cy Young winner would be Greinke.
In 10 starts, the promising right hander has thrown five complete games, and is 8-1 with a 0.84 ERA. The Royals may not deserve to be above the Giants, Angels, Rays, or Blue Jays, but I'm very impressed by what they've been able to accomplish so far in the 2009 season.
10. Cincinnati Reds (26-22) - The Cincinnati Reds are, without a doubt, a team with a bright future ahead of them. They've got some bright offensive talent, with Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, and some solid young pitching, with Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto.
The outlook going into 2009 was, frankly, pretty shaky. However, the Reds are playing pretty well at the moment. Jay Bruce has 14 home runs, Joey Votto is hitting .357, Bronson Arroyo is 7-3 with a 3.12 ERA, and the Reds are 26-22, just 2.5 games out of first place in a tough, to say the least, NL Central.
9. New York Mets (27-21) - When the Mets acquired slugger Gary Sheffield, I was sure it was "Sheff" signing with a team so he could hit his famed 500th home run. However, Sheffield has been very good for the Mets so far, with five home runs, 19 RBI, and a .293 batting average.
The Mets have at times, showed that they can be baseball's best team, but because they play in the same division as the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies, can't lose too much ground.
Johan Santana continues to pitch incredibly well, with a 7-2 record, 1.77 ERA, and 86 strikeouts in 66 innings. Francisco "K-Rod" Rodriguez has been very good in the closer role (0.76 ERA, 13-for-13 in saves), but what else is new?
8. Detroit Tigers (27-21) - The Detroit Tigers are a team who have World Series Title potential. They have a solid offense, featuring Placido Polanco, Curtis Granderson, Magglio Ordonez, and Miguel Cabrera. Detroit also has a pretty solid rotation, led by Justin Verlander (6-2) and Rick Porcello.
Until Matt Wieters really shows production for the Orioles, Porcello gets my vote for American League Rookie of the Year. He has just been dominating as of late, and is one of the main reasons for the Tigers being in first place.
At 20 years old, you wouldn't expect a young right-handed pitcher years removed from a record-breaking signing bonus to be 6-3 with a 3.48 ERA, but Porcello is special.
7. Philadelphia Phillies (27-20) - If you watch Baseball Tonight frequently, you'll hear Peter Gammons talk a lot. Gammons is definitely knowledgeable, but he made one huge mistake last week.
He made one when he said that Edwin Jackson (4-3, 2.58 ERA) is the best free agent signing by any team, when we all know the best one is Raul Ibanez by the Philadelphia Phillies. Ibanez has never been a guy who can hit 35-40 homers a year, but rather one with 20-25 potential, and someone who can easily drive in 100 runs.
However, the 36-year old left handed hitter already has 17 home runs. The Phillies could be in a lot worse shape than the Mets down the road, because Cole Hamels continues to struggle and Brett Myers is injured. The Phillies are going to need someone to step into Myers's shoes—and fast.
6. Boston Red Sox (28-22) - Who would've thought that in May, the Boston Red Sox best starting pitcher would be Tim Wakefield? So far, the Sox have been anemic in their starting rotation.
Jon Lester has a 6.07 earned run average, Daisuke Matsuzaka has pitched just 16 innings and has an 8.82 mark, and Josh Beckett has a 4.60 clip. I don't expect their struggles to continue, however.
It's just a matter of slow starts. In late June, I'm sure we'll be talking about how well the Red Sox starters are doing of late. Offensively, the charge is being led by Kevin Youkilis (.362, 7 HRs, 29 RBI) and Jason Bay (14 HRs, 48 RBI). David Ortiz continues to struggle (.185, 1 HR, 18 RBI, 47 Ks in 143 ABs).
5. Milwaukee Brewers (29-20) - After losing CC Sabathia AND Ben Sheets, not many anticipated the Brewers would make a playoff run, or even finish above third place, for that matter.
However, the Brewers are surprising the baseball world, with a 29-20 record, tied for first in a tough division. Prince Fielder continues to tear the cover off the ball, with 12 homers, 48 RBI, and a .292 average.
Ryan Braun is having a typical start to the year, with a .318 average, nine homers, and 32 RBI. With Sabathia and Sheets gone, youngster Yovani Gallardo has really stepped it up, with a 4-2 record and solid 3.38 earned run average.
Do I expect the Brewers to make the playoffs with an NL Central Title? No. But am I impressed? Of course.
4. St. Louis Cardinals (29-20) - Hey folks. Here's a shocker: Albert Pujols is having an MVP-type year! I'm in shock, as well. So far, Pujols has 16 home runs, 42 RBI, and a solid .329 batting mark. Pujols is carrying the Cardinals offensively, but Skip Schumacher is also having an impressive start (3 HRs, 16 RBI, .313).
Dave Duncan continues to prove why he is the best pitching coach in all of baseball. He has revived careers like Joel Pineiro, Kyle Lohse, and Chris Carpenter. Carpenter has started five games—and allowed just two runs, with a 3-0 record and 0.62 ERA.
Pineiro, whose career seem doomed years ago, is 5-5 with a respectable 3.86 ERA. Lohse is also impressing, with a 4-3 record and 3.98 mark.
3. New York Yankees (29-20) - Had the Yankees started the season better, there is no doubt in my mind that the Bombers would be sitting comfortably in first place. As it is, they are 1.5 games above the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox.
Offseason acquisitions Mark Teixeira (15 HRs, 40 RBI), Nick Swisher (10 HRs, 29 RBI), CC Sabathia (5-3, 3.46), and AJ Burnett (3-2, 4.78) have filled in nicely.
None of them are dominating, as Teixeira is hitting just .276 despite making $22.5M, Swisher is hitting just .227, CC hasn't been the workhorse some imagined, and Burnett has a weak ERA, but they are all doing a good job. Alex Rodriguez has returned and in 21 games, is hitting .260 with seven home runs.
2. Texas Rangers (30-19) - I'm still not sold on these Texas Rangers. We know they have an offense. Ian Kinsler is arguably the best second baseman in the majors, Josh Hamilton is an RBI machine, Nelson Cruz is a breakout player, Andruw Jones is a Comeback Player of the Year candidate, and Chris Davis has 30 home run potential.
However, I'm not convinced with their pitching.
Kevin Millwood and Scott Feldman are both having solid years, but I'm definitely not convinced that they can go deep into the playoffs - or make them, for that matter. Am I impressed? Sure, I have to be if the Rangers are 30-19 entering June. But sold? Definitely not.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (34-17) - After losing Manny Ramirez, I, along with many other baseball fans, was sure the Los Angeles Dodgers would slip. However, since Manny departed, the Boys in Blue are 13-9. Second baseman Orlando Hudson, who received little interest in free agency, is batting .335 with 30 RBI.
Outfielder Juan Pierre has stepped it up big time since Manny's absence, and is hitting .384 with ten stolen bases. Pitching wise, the Dodgers are deep. Chad Billingsley and Randy Wolf are off to great starts, while youngsters like Clayton Kershaw and Eric Stults have showed promise.
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