MLB Power Rankings: Who's the New No. 1 Team After Week 4?
We are four weeks into the 2011 baseball season, and order is finally being restored. The Red Sox are no longer baseball's worst team, the Indians are no longer the best and Albert Pujols' swing is starting to return.
As the planets begin to realign themselves, we will take a look at the top teams in baseball by ranking all 30.
Here are your MLB Power Rankings going into the fifth week of the season.
No. 30: Chicago White Sox
Baseball's worst team so far, the White Sox (8-14) have stunk up the South Side with a miserable combination of an anemic offense, subpar pitching rotation and mediocre bullpen.
The big offseason acquisition, Adam Dunn, has three times more strikeouts (24) than he does hits (eight). The usually reliable pitching rotation has been inconsistent. Despite good performances from John Danks and Mark Buehrle, the other starters have posted high ERAs.
The Sox were swept this past weekend by the Tigers and were outscored 21-3. If Ozzie Guillen doesn't get his team turned around soon, the heat under his seat might be turned up a few notches.
No. 29: San Diego Padres
For a team with one of baseball's better pitching staffs, the San Diego Padres (8-14) have sure done a crappy job of supporting it.
Despite sub-4.00 ERAs from four of the team's five starters (the only one over is last year's ace, Mat Latos), the Padres have been outscored by 10 runs this year. What does that mean? The offense just flat-out stinks.
No Padres hitter has more than three home runs, just one has 10 RBI and only two everyday players are hitting over .300. These guys are really missing Adrian Gonzalez.
No. 28: Seattle Mariners
It's hard times as a Mariners fan. The team is off to yet another dismal start (8-14), there still isn't a middle-of-the-lineup bat to scare pitchers, and two relievers have ERAs over 10.00.
But there are some bright spots for the M's. Young Michael Pineda has been phenomenal and, at 3-1 with a 1.78 ERA, has been a great temporary ace while Felix Hernandez continues to shake off the winter rust.
Offensively, there is little reason for hope. Ichiro is (barely) above .300, but Chone Figgins has been a non-factor, and Jack Cust has been horrific. Despite good years from Justin Smoak and Milton Bradley, the Mariners have a ways to go offensively.
With the King Felix trade rumors continuing to swirl, Seattle fans have to wonder how long this rebuilding process will take.
No. 27: Houston Astros
At 8-14, the Astros have consistently been in baseball's cellar this season. But recently there have been some signs of life. They are 5-5 their last 10 games, including winning a series in New York last week.
The big problem for Houston is the pitching. The only consistent starter has been Brett Myers, whose 3.31 ERA is hardly flattering. The other starters have ERAs ranging from 4.91 to 8.55. It all starts with the starting pitching, and the 'Stros haven't found that yet.
Offensively, they are getting decent production from Brett Wallace, Michael Bourn, and Hunter Pence.
No. 26: Arizona Diamondbacks
As Arizona prepares to host the 2011 All-Star Game, the Diamondbacks are putting on a clinic of how not to pitch so far this season. At 8-12, the D-Backs have been losers of seven of their last 10, including a weekend sweep at the hands of the Mets.
The culprit? The Diamondbacks pitching staff has been horrible, with no starter having an ERA under 4.98. Armando Galarraga, despite his 3-1 record, has already given up eight home runs. Daniel Hudson (pictured), expected to be the team's ace, is 0-4 with a 5.92 ERA. All of this is happening while Stephen Drew is on fire, Ryan Roberts is off to a great start and Justin Upton has been producing well.
For the team to even think about climbing in the standings, the pitching needs to be better.
No. 25: Pittsburgh Pirates
The Pirates have been bad this season. But if you're a Bucs fan, that should be a good word to use given the awful teams of years past. This year, there appears to be some form of coherent baseball being played in Pittsburgh. At 9-12, the Pirates are slowly but surely showing signs of life.
What's going right? The pitching staff is starting to come together (James McDonald notwithstanding), with Kevin Correia, Charlie Morton and Jeff Karstens leading the way. On offense, Jose Tabata is hitting, Neil Walker has been solid and once Garrett Jones, Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen get going, the runs should start to trickle in.
No. 24: Baltimore Orioles
An opening-weekend sweep of the Rays had many believing that the Fightin' Showalters were the real deal—a legitimate AL East contender. But the Orioles have gone 5-12 since and have returned to the all-too-familiar cellar of the division.
The team really hasn't been that bad. The hitters are sort of hitting, the pitchers aren't horrible and there have been many close games. Once the O's young trio of Jake Arrieta, Chris Tillman and Brad Bergesen starts pitching at a higher level, this could be a scary rotation.
Brian Roberts has been the catalyst offensively, off to a great start. Of course, it doesn't help to have the entire middle of your lineup (Adam Jones, Luke Scott, Derrek Lee, Nick Markakis, Mark Reynolds) hitting under .240.
No. 23: New York Mets
Four games ago, the New York Mets were 5-13, heading towards yet another disappointing year at Citi Field. But now they are riding a four-game winning streak, including a sweep against Arizona, and the Mets are starting to feel pretty good about themselves.
Ike Davis has been off to a monster start and has been helped by great production from Jose Reyes, a healthy Carlos Beltran and David Wright. With the offense finally starting to come around, it is up to the young pitching staff to continue the Mets' rise.
New York will have to rely on Jonathan Niese, Mike Pelfrey and Chris Capuano to start better and for K-Rod to continue his strong start. If everything comes together soon, the Mets could get very, very hot.
No. 22: Toronto Blue Jays
Has anyone in baseball been hotter than Toronto's Jose Bautista? When he lined out in the fourth inning of today's loss to Tampa Bay, Bautista ended his streak of 11 straight plate appearances reaching base. He hit two home runs off David Price on Saturday night.
Unfortunately, his team is lagging very far behind. The Jays lost two of three to divisional rival Tampa Bay this weekend, dropping them to 9-12 on the season. Despite strong performances from Ricky Romero and Kyle Drabek, the pitching staff has been relatively disappointing so far.
Besides Bautista on offense, Aaron Hill just went on the disabled list, and the other hitters are not playing up to par. In the AL East, there is little room for slumps. Toronto must start playing more consistent baseball if it is to contend.
No. 21: Minnesota Twins
Finally, things are starting to come together for the AL Central favorites. The Twins had a horrible start to the year but now, following a weekend sweep of Cleveland, are 9-12 and feeling pretty good about themselves.
Jason Kubel has to be feeling great. He is hitting .347 to lead the offensive charge for Minnesota. As concerns about Joe Mauer's health mount, guys like Kubel, Denard Span and Delmon Young will need to step up to help power the Twins offense.
With a disappointing start to the year for ace Francisco Liriano. The Twins have had to rely on Brian Duensing and Scott Baker for good starting pitching. Once the bullpen mess sorts itself out, the Twins should be fine. Joe Nathan won't have a 9.82 ERA all season.
No. 20: Chicago Cubs
Riding their young star(lin), the Chicago Cubs are hanging around the very tight top of the NL Central division. Shortstop Starlin Castro has been playing out of his mind, hitting .376 and scoring 16 runs for the Cubbies.
Behind the power of Alfonso Soriano and the hot bats of Darwin Barney and Aramis Ramirez, the Cubs have shown lots of potential on offense. The pitching rotation, however, has been miserable. With Ryan Dempster's 7.63 ERA and Carlos Zambrano over 5.00, the Cubs have a ways to go in that department. But the back end of the bullpen, with Kerry Wood, Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol, has been superb.
At 10-11, the Cubs are very much alive.
No. 19: San Francisco Giants
Kung Fu Panda is back! Pablo Sandoval has been red-hot to start 2011, hitting .319 with five home runs and 13 RBI.
The rest of the lineup hasn't been too bad either. Buster Posey has been great, as have Pat Burrell and Freddie Sanchez. And one can't bash the Giants' pitching, right?
Well, when Madison Bumgarner has a 7.79 ERA, Brian Wilson's at 7.94 and Barry Zito has pitched 13 innings in three starts, there is some major cause for concern. The world champs have to get their pitching back in order if they are to get back into the discussion of baseball's elite. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez have been pitching.
It's the other guys that need to step it up.
No. 18: Washington Nationals
The key adjective to describe this year's Nationals team is solid. The Nats haven't been spectacular by any means. But they've pitched, hit, run and fielded well enough to be a .500 team and stay afloat in the NL East.
The surprising pitching rotation has been crucial for Washington. Only one starter has an ERA over 4.00, and the veterans at the top of the rotation, Livan Hernandez and Jason Marquis, have been better than expected.
With Ryan Zimmerman on the DL and Jayson Werth dancing on the Mendoza line, the Nats have relied on guys like Danny Espinosa and Laynce Nix to pick up the slack offensively. This team is not and will not be great, but it is very, very solid.
No. 17: Atlanta Braves
The most exciting part about the Braves (11-12) is their dominant, young trio in the bullpen. Eric O'Flaherty, Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel have been phenomenal, with 1.00, 0.84 and 0.96 ERA respectively. They have shut the door on the opposition this season.
Coupled with a solid starting rotation, this has been an excellent year for the Braves when the bats remain in the dugout. But the offense has not been particularly good, except for Brian McCann and his great start. With Jason Heyward, Dan Uggla and Martin Prado all underperforming, the Braves' record is really not a good indicator of how good this team can be.
If the hitters start playing to their potential, the Braves will be scary.
No. 16: Tampa Bay Rays
After his complete-game shutout of the Blue Jays on Sunday, James Shields became the first Ray since 2002 to throw back-to-back complete games. That just about puts the icing on the cake for a great run for Rays pitchers in recent weeks. Actually, the team itself has been great since its 1-8 start.
With the offensive production of Sam Fuld, Johnny Damon and Ben Zobrist leading the way and Evan Longoria due back in a week, the Rays (11-11) should be in decent shape offensively. The only starter struggling is 6'9" righty Jeff Niemann. The bullpen, expected to be the weak spot for the team, has been relatively strong.
But what's keeping this team from being higher on the list is who it's beat. Aside from sweeping Boston, the only Rays wins have come against lesser teams such as the White Sox, Twins and Blue Jays.
No. 15: Oakland Athletics
If pitching really does win games, then the Athletics are destined to win a lot. At 11-11, the A's have benefited from superb starting pitching so far this season.
Four of the team's five starters have ERAs under 2.50, and the fifth, Dallas Braden, isn't far behind at 3.00. Brian Anderson has been particularly dominant at 2-1 with a 1.56 ERA so far. With a workable bullpen, the A's have been terrific pitching-wise.
Unfortunately, as has been the case in recent year, Oakland's offense is keeping it down. Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham are both hitting .240, and no regular starter is over .285. But at this point, Oakland's pitching is so good that even a small improvement in offense will vault this team into contention.
No. 14: Milwaukee Brewers
Can you remember a time where one division had three hitters as electric as the NL Central has now? Between Joey Votto, Albert Pujols and the Brewers' Ryan Braun, the Central's elite hitters are three of baseball's best. Braun has started this year on an absolute tear, hitting .377 with seven home runs and 18 RBI so far.
With Prince Fielder not far behind at .363 and contributions from Casey McGehee and Rickie Weeks, the Brew Crew has been brewing up a great offense.
The pitching has been very good so far. When Yovani Gallardo has the highest ERA on the starting staff, something is going right. Once Zack Greinke returns from his injury, and as long as the bullpen improves, Milwaukee (11-10) will have a stellar staff.
This is a team that will be at the top of the NL Central all the way to the finish.
No. 13: Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers, at 12-11, have had a great start to the season. The team has finally started to get production from Matt Kemp, and he has done so in a huge way. He is hitting .402 with five home runs and 18 RBI and, coupled with fellow white-hot outfielder Andre Ethier, has put the Dodgers on his back.
The starting pitching has been solid, but there is much room for improvement. Ted Lilly's ERA should come back down to earth, and once it does, the Dodgers will have the NL West's second-best (behind the Giants) pitching rotation.
The only thing separating the Dodgers from greatness is their bullpen. If they can get that figured out, the Rockies might be getting a tap on the back pretty soon.
No. 12: Los Angeles Angels
It seems as if Jered Weaver is this year's Ubaldo Jimenez. The talented righty has started the year 5-0 with a 1.23 ERA to lead a very good Angels team to its current second-place standing in the AL West.
Coupled with Dan Haren, who is 4-1 with a 1.46 ERA, Weaver anchors an up-and-down pitching staff for the Halos. With Ervin Santana and Michael Palmer struggling and the bullpen relatively inconsistent, the Angels need more production across the board.
Offensively, the role players are picking up the slack for the ice-cold Vernon Wells (.169) and Torii Hunter (.200). Maicer Izturis, Alberto Callaspo and Peter Bourjos have all been great for Los Angeles, which needs an overall offensive improvement to have a shot at fending off Oakland and catching the Rangers. Getting swept by the Red Sox this weekend didn't help.
No. 11: Cincinnati Reds
The Reds are a perplexing team. They are 11-10, leaving them tied with the Brewers and Cardinals for the NL Central lead. Yet they have had dismal performances from their starting pitching staff, and all of the bats haven't started swinging yet.
But the bright spot for Cincy has been the bullpen. Between Logan Ondrusek, Francisco Cordero, Aroldis Chapman and Bill Bray, Cincinnati has had four relievers who have allowed three earned runs over 38.2 innings. That is making up for the struggles of the starters, none of whom have an ERA below 4.00.
With Joey Votto's .392 average leading the charge, the Reds offense has great, leading the majors in runs. Once Scott Rolen and Jay Bruce return to form, the bats for this team will be scary.
No. 10: Boston Red Sox
This one will make people angry. The Red Sox, sporting a losing record, have found their way into the top 10.
How? Well, for one, I'm finally buying into their hype—and two, they've played fantastic baseball the past 10 days. The 8-2 stretch has left them now at 10-11 and half a game behind the Rays for second place in the AL East.
Everything is starting to go right for the BoSox. Josh Beckett is pitching better than ever, Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey are throwing very well and the hitters who were nowhere to be found a few weeks ago are starting to appear.
With Carl Crawford starting to show his worth and Kevin Youkilis finally climbing out of his slump, Boston looks to be in great shape for the rest of the season. Barring injuries, this is finally starting to look like the elite team everyone expected it to be.
No. 9: Kansas City Royals
Yes, this is real life. The Kansas City Royals are one of baseball's 10 best teams. Granted, this probably won't last more than a few more weeks, but the Royals are enjoying it while they can. At 12-10, they are right behind fellow upstart Cleveland atop the AL Central.
Leading the charge have been journeyman outfielder Jeff Francoeur, who is hitting .325 with four home runs and 18 RBI, and Alex Gordon, who is hitting a cool .356. The Royals have a very well-balanced offense that has been very effective at overcoming the struggles of the starting pitching.
While no starter has been great, it is never a good sign when Bruce Chen is your best starter. But as long as Aaron Crow keeps making up for Joakim Soria's struggles, the holes in this team are going to be clogged for the time being. As of today, this is a very solid baseball team.
No. 8: St. Louis Cardinals
There have been rumors swirling around about where Albert Pujols' power was the first part of the season. My personal guess was fighting the Decepticons on planet Cybertron. But the home runs have come back for the King of Baseball, and coupled with the excellent start of Lance Berkman, aka Big Puma, the Cardinals (11-10) have a tremendous middle of the order.
The pitching staff has been very up and down. For as good as Jaime Garcia has been, Jake Westbrook has been just as bad—and as good as Mitch Boggs is out of the bullpen, Ryan Franklin has been much worse.
But the ship will be righted for these guys, and provided Garcia, Kyle Lohse, Chris Carpenter and Kyle McLellan keep pitching well, the Cards will be favorites to win the NL Central.
No. 7: Cleveland Indians
Who are these guys, and what did they do with the miserable Indians team we all expected? The 13-8 Cleveland Indians have been baseball's biggest surprise so far, and they have done it in a dazzling way.
They have gotten poor performances from the guys expected to be the best hitter (Shin-Soo Choo) and pitcher (Fausto Carmona) and had surprising contributions from Travis Hafner, Asdrubal Cabrera and Justin Masterson. This team has almost no star power, no real name recognition, yet it gets the job done.
Again, this success probably won't last long in the top 10, but this is very exciting for the fans of the Indians, who have had so much suffering.
In other news, Grady Sizemore has called for a one-hour ESPN special during June to discuss his future.
Too soon, Cleveland?
No. 6: Detroit Tigers
It took a while, but the Detroit Tigers (12-10) finally have found their roar. After a very slow start, the Tigers are 7-3 in their last 10 and have moved to within a game of the Indians in the AL Central.
The Tigers have benefited from stellar starts from the likes of Brennan Boesch, Miguel Cabrera and the surprising Alex Avila on offense. Though the starting pitching has not quite been up to standards, Detroit has gotten great performances out of the bullpen from Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit. If Brad Penny can deflate his 6.35 ERA, the Tigers have a very potent starting rotation that will be invaluable moving forward.
If the Royals and Indians fall off, expect the Tigers to take possession of first place.
No. 5: Florida Marlins
As surprising as it may be to hear this, the Marlins may be one of the more complete teams in baseball right now. The 13-7 Marlins have very few holes on their team, possessing a balanced offense, stellar starting pitching and an effective bullpen.
Obviously, Josh Johnson's start has been ridiculous and a major boost for this team. At 3-0 and a 1.06 ERA, Johnson has established himself as the man to beat for the NL Cy Young this year. Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez have been terrific behind him. The men closing out the games have been good too, with a big boost from lefty Michael Dunn.
With Logan Morrison leading the charge offensively, the Marlins have outperformed expectations under new manager Edwin Rodriguez. If this team remains so balanced, it could be a dark horse wild-card candidate.
No. 4: Colorado Rockies
It's been a different year and the same story for the 14-7 Colorado Rockies. They have Troy Tulowitzki's hot bat, contributions from all over the lineup, an effective top of the rotation and a surprisingly good bullpen.
The concern moving forward for the Rockies will be Ubaldo Jimenez, who has a 6.75 ERA so far this year. If he can return to his dominant 2010 form, the Rockies rotation, which has thus far been anchored by youngster Jhoulys Chacin, will be very dangerous. With the bullpen in good shape, the pitching may finally be in place for a deep playoff run.
Carlos Gonzalez won't hit .228 all year, so expect the Colorado offense to get even better as the year progresses. With Todd Helton, Seth Smith and Dexter Fowler all playing great, the Rockies are one of the NL's best teams.
No. 3: Texas Rangers
Is it possible that this year's Rangers team is better than last year's AL championship team, even without Cliff Lee? Absolutely. At 14-7 and atop the AL West, the Rangers have played terrific baseball in April, and the biggest key has been strong starting pitching.
The great surprise for Texas is the emergence of Alexi Ogando, a reliever last year who is 3-0 with a 2.16 ERA as a starter this year. Behind him, C.J. Wilson, Derek Holland and Matt Harrison have all been great to start the year. With Neftali Feliz back to his usual shut-the-door ways, Texas' pitching is better than ever.
It goes without saying that the Rangers offense is one of baseball's best. Texas is getting great offensive production across the board, and its lineup has few, if any, holes in it. Once Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus get out of their respective slumps, this team will be hard to beat.
No. 2: New York Yankees
If I were to tell you before the season that the biggest reason for the Yankees' success would be Russell Martin, you would not believe me. But so far, that is the case. The New York catcher is hitting .328 with six home runs and 16 RBI, serving as a spark plug for an already potent Yankees offense.
With what can be described as a dangerously shaky pitching rotation, the Yankees have managed to put together a 12-6 record despite poor starts from Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova. But with CC Sabathia being his usual self and veterans Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia picking up the slack, the Yanks will be fine.
No team has a better lineup right now than the Yankees, who are getting great production from almost every spot in the lineup. Curtis Granderson is finally making use of the short porch in right field, and Alex Rodriguez appears headed for an MVP-caliber season.
The pitching is a concern, but these are the Yankees. They'll be just fine.
No. 1: Philadelphia Phillies
Any guesses as to which Philly starter has the worst ERA? You guessed it! Joe Blanton's 5.92 is the sole blemish in an otherwise ridiculous rotation for baseball's best team. The 15-6 Phillies have been the beneficiaries of great starts from their Big Four of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels.
It's good the pitchers are throwing so well, because the offense has definitely been a step behind. Sure, Chase Utley's out, but the production from the Phillies lineup has been good but not great. The only guys really hitting are Placido Polanco (.366), Shane Victorino (.289) and Ryan Howard (.284), but those are good guys to have hitting.
If the other five guys in the lineup can start hitting consistently, given the Philadelphia rotation, this will be a hard, if not impossible, team to compete with. Times are good at Citizens Bank Park.