Cruz and Kinsler have been major factors to the Rangers hot start
With only three series completed in the 2011 MLB season, very few things are clear. You can tell what some of the strengths and weaknesses of some teams are going to be, but it's unclear how those will play out. There have been a decent amount of surprises so far this year, and it looks like it's going to be another great year of baseball.
30. Houston Astros (2-7)
The Astros rotation wasn't great the first time through, but the second time around it has been much better, putting up three quality starts this past week. The Astros would probably fare better if the starters could go a little longer and keep the ball away from the bullpen.
29. Seattle Mariners (2-7)
The Mariners haven't been able to rely on either side of the ball this year. The pitching ranks 22nd in the league with a 4.56 ERA and the hitting comes in 26th in the league, only scoring 29 runs in nine games. After winning their first two games, the Mariners have dropped their last seven. With their anemic offense, 26th in the league might be the highest they rank all year.
28. Arizona Diamondbacks (4-4)
Who has been the worst team so far?
I don't believe that you can tell too much in the first couple weeks of the season and the Diamondbacks illustrate that point. A 4-4 record would lead you to believe that a team deserves a ranking higher than 28th, but I don't believe the Diamondbacks are that good of a team. There are positive signs, as they are tied for eighth in the league with 44 runs scored in only eight games, but I don't think the offense will keep producing at that level for the whole year.
27. Washington Nationals (4-5)
The Nationals haven't gotten off to too bad of a start, going 4-5 in their first nine games, but it's hard to expect too much from this team. They are right about in the middle of the league in both hitting and pitching, but it's hard to imagine it staying that way for too much longer. They have the potential to have a good team in two or three years, but just not yet.
26. Pittsburgh Pirates (5-5)
In my preseason rankings, I had the Pirates 30th, but I said that I fully expected them to move out of that spot quickly and not end up there at the end of the year. Again, a 5-5 record might lead you to believe a team would be ranked higher than 26th, but we are still talking about the Pirates. After starting 4-2 with series wins over the Cubs and Cardinals, the Pirates dropped three of four to the Rockies, bringing them back to Earth a little.
25. Detroit Tigers (3-6)
This might be a little low and too big of a drop for this early in the year, but I just really don't like what I've seen from the Tigers so far this year. They didn't have a good first week, going 3-6, and they dropped two of three to the Royals at home. It's hard to worry about anything this early, but only three hits off of Bruce Chen is never a good thing.
24. San Diego Padres (4-4)
You can pretty much write out one description of the Padres, and it will be true for every year. They will get good pitching, but they won't hit at all. The Padres rank third in the majors in team ERA, but are 24th in runs scored. The Padres have arguably the best bullpen in the majors, so if the offense can just give them a one- or two-run lead heading into the seventh inning, the Padres will win that game 90 percent of the time.
23. Tampa Bay Rays (1-8)
Again, I'm not a big fan of putting too much stock in the first two weeks of the season, but some things are really hard to disregard. The Rays rank dead last in the majors with only 20 runs scored in nine games. In addition to that, they're hitting just .163 with a .232 on-base percentage. I'll say that again, .163 batting average!
Which team is off to the most disappointing start?
22. Minnesota Twins (3-6)
The Twins are another team that have gotten off to a very slow offensive start, scoring just 24 runs in nine games. The pitching hasn't been much better, ranking 21st in the league. The only good news for the Twins so far is that they were able to come back late and get a win in Yankee stadium, something that has been close to impossible for them recently.
21. St. Louis Cardinals (3-6)
Once Adam Wainwright went down for the year, people counted the Cardinals out of the division race. Early on, they're not doing much to disprove those people. I don't expect this to last too long though, as Albert Pujols has gotten off to a slow start. One good thing, if you want to look at it in a positive light, is that the Cardinals have been on the verge of winning ballgames, but Ryan Franklin has already blown three saves. He might not have those chances for much longer.
20. Kansas City Royals (6-3)
The Royals have gotten out to a fast start, but I'm not sure how long it will last. There have been positive signs. The Royals are leading the American League with 39 walks by their hitters. These are some early signs that might actually mean something, because it shows that the batters are more patient at the plate and have a good feel for the strike zone. The Royals might stay around .500 for a while, but I don't expect them to finish that way.
19. Oakland A's (4-5)
Oakland's rotation has been terrific so far, throwing 62 of the 79 innings that they've played. However, they have the same problem they've had the past few years, they just can't score. Out of all the teams at the bottom of the league in runs scored, the A's are one of the most likely to continue down this path for the whole season. If the A's could even manage a league average offense, they have a legitimate chance to make the playoffs, but that looks like it could be easier said than done this year.
18. Chicago Cubs (4-5)
The Cubs offense has been right about league average so far, but their pitching has struggled. Cubs starters are currently 2-3 with a 4.89 ERA, bad enough for 22nd in the majors. They do have talent, but it is unclear if they will have enough pitching to actually compete this year.
17. Toronto Blue Jays (5-4)
The Blue Jays look good so far, but that doesn't change the fact that they play in the hardest division in baseball. The Blue Jays rank eighth in runs scored and second in ERA, but that has only led to a 5-4 record. This leads me to question what will happen when one of these areas start to fade, or both.
Which team's record is most surprising?
16. Florida Marlins (5-4)
After losing two of three to the Mets to open the year, the Marlins have won four of their last six. However, those last two series were against the Astros and Nationals, so it's not sure how much we can tell from them. This next week should be a lot more telling, with series on the road against the Braves and Phillies.
15. New York Mets (4-5)
After offense being the major problem for the Mets last year, it's a good sign that they currently rank eighth in league with 44 runs scored. The problem so far has been pitching, which has led to the 4-5 record. The starting rotation, with the exception of Chris Young, has been inconsistent and the bullpen has been downright ugly. The Mets already made a major move in the pen, calling up Jason Isringhausen and Ryota Igarashi while designating Blaine Boyer for assignment and sending down Lucas Duda.
14. Cleveland Indians (7-2)
The Indians are another case of not putting too much stock in what happens early in the season. Although Travis Hafner getting off to a hot start is great for the Indians, I have a very hard time believing they will continue to play this way for much longer. Look for the Indians to come back to Earth rather quickly.
13. Boston Red Sox (2-7)
I actually wanted to have the Red Sox higher because I don't think you can read too much into their slow start, but I didn't feel I could with a 2-7 record. They looked much better in the series against the Yankees, and the early season series against their biggest rival might have been exactly what they needed to get them going.
12. Milwaukee Brewers (5-5)
After a slow start, Prince Fielder has gotten red hot. He currently leads the NL in RBI and with this, the Brewers have played much better. After an 0-4 start, the Brewers have won five of their last six. Another nice surprise is Chris Narveson, who hasn't given up a run in 13 innings.
11. Los Angeles Angels (5-4)
The Angels have been good so far, especially Jared Weaver. In his last outing, he struck out 15 batters, the most by an Angels pitcher in almost 20 years. The Angels tend to a find a way to compete every year, and this could be another year where they make it competitive until late in the season.
10. Baltimore Orioles (6-3)
The Orioles made a ton of moves this offseason to improve both their offense, defense and bullpen, so who would have thought that the best part of their team early in the season would be their starting rotation? They were slightly humbled in their last series by the Rangers, but they also managed to give Texas their first loss of the season. It'd be hard to imagine Baltimore's pitching staff continuing to perform at this level, but I think the Orioles could keep playing good baseball for a while longer.
9. Los Angeles Dodgers (5-4)
The Dodgers started off great, winning three of four against the division rival and defending World Series champion Giants. However, they dropped three of their next five against Colorado and San Diego. The Dodgers have the talent to compete this year, but they will need everyone to contribute. Their best early sign in how Matt Kemp looks like his good old self, with an OBP over .500 and a perfect six for six on steals.
8. Atlanta Braves (4-6)
The Braves took two of three to open the year against the Nationals, but then dropped five of their next seven against the Brewers and division rival Phillies. The pitching has been good, but the offense has sputtered lately. It will be hard to take the division away from the Phillies, but if the offense can produce this year, the Braves will be serious contenders for the Wild Card.
7. San Francisco Giants (4-5)
San Francisco has gotten great pitching so far this year, but the hitting hasn't been there. However, the hitting wasn't there for much of last year when the pitching carried them to a World Series win. I expect the Giants to rebound fairly quickly.
6. Colorado Rockies (6-2)
Colorado has gotten off to a fast start, splitting two games with the Diamondbacks, but then sweeping a two-game set from the Dodgers and taking three of four from the Pirates. How the Rockies fare while Ubaldo Jimenez is on the DL will be a good sign of how strong their team is.
5. New York Yankees (5-4)
Only in the Little League ballpark that is Yankee Stadium could a team be 20th in batting average but sixth in runs scored. That might be fine at Yankee Stadium because they have a team full of sluggers that is built to win at home, but it is a troubling sign for when they play on the road. They lost two of three in their first road series of the year against the previously winless Red Sox.
4. Chicago White Sox (6-3)
In my preseason rankings, I thought the White Sox might be able to slug their way to a division title. Well, so far they're first in the league in runs scored and are hitting over .300. That's also with Alex Rios struggling in the early going. The White Sox will have a powerful offense all year, now they just need their pitching to step up a notch.
3. Cincinnati Reds (6-3)
Cincinnati is winning solely on offense right now, with its offense scoring 61 runs in nine games. However, their pitching has struggled mightily so far, with a 4.90 ERA. However, I take this as a sign that if their pitching improves, which it should, they will only get better.
Who should be #1 in the rankings?
2. Philadelphia Phillies (7-2)
The Phillies pitching is only ranked 12th in the league at this point, which is surprising to most people, but their offense has picked up the slack. The offense has scored 59 runs in nine games, good for third best in the majors. Not much to say about the Phillies right now other than the 7-2 record is basically what everyone expected.
1. Texas Rangers (8-1)
It took seven games for someone to hand the Rangers their first loss. Texas is looking like it wants to show everyone that Cliff Lee wasn't the only reason that it reached the World Series last year. The Rangers lead the majors in run differential, outscoring opponents 58-26.