MLB Power Rankings: Cardinals Find a Branch, Build a Nest Near the Top

Nino Colla@TheTribeDailySenior Writer IApril 28, 2009

ST. LOUIS, MO - APRIL 2: Ryan Franklin #31 of the St. Louis Cardinals delivers a pitch against the Colorado Rockies on April 2, 2008 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

People define power rankings in different ways.

I define them as whatever I want.

Isn't that how most people define them?

There really is no rhyme or reason for most power rankings. You have to take past and current production into account, but a lot of it also has to do with potential, even though that potential may have not happened yet.

These things change from week to week, so your weekly power rankings really are quite pointless. But monthly power rankings, that's a whole different story.

They are only half pointless!

So because counting down is much more fun than counting up, monthly power rankings, the only way I know how to do them...my way!


30. Washington Nationals

Things got so bad for Washington that they actually had a mass change in bullpen arms.

Bright Spot: Elijah Dukes has taken one of the outfield spots and is running away with it, despite all the off-the-field problems. He needs to shape up, though, because not even his bat will keep him around.

Room for Improvement: Scott Olsen came over from Florida and has been awful. A 7.29 ERA isn't going to cut it.

29. Houston Astros

Carlos Lee, Lance Berkman, Miguel Tejada, Hunter Pence...the names are there—where's the offense?

Bright Spot: Wandy Rodriguez has struck out 22 in 25 innings for a team that needs starting pitching. The 1.80 ERA doesn't hurt either.

Room for Improvement: The Astros need all the wins they can get, so Jose Valverde blowing two games in the month of April will not work.

28. Colorado Rockies

They have talent that is better than this. Right now only the Nationals have fewer wins, but that should change.

Bright Spot: Dexter Fowler has been a pleasant presence at the top of the Rockies lineup, stealing nine bases and scoring nine runs.

Room for Improvement: After hitting three home runs in the first five games, two in the first two, Troy Tulowitzki has just five RBI and is hitting a scary .167.

27. Milwaukee Brewers

Their pitching is mediocre at best; hopefully Trevor Hoffman can help solve their pen problems.

Bright Spot: They aren't Texas, and they don't play in the new palace in New York, but this team knows how to slug the baseball. Six hitters with three or more home runs play for the Brewers.

Room for Improvement: Saves = three, Blown Saves = seven. The defense rests.

26. Baltimore Orioles

Lots of offense, good for the AL East; no one to hold down the other offenses, bad for the AL East.

Bright Spot: Hard to pick just one offensive player, but Adam Jones was pegged as the breakout player by many people. Those many people are looking good.

Room for Improvement: They've given up the most runs on the season going into Monday's action. Their pitching is collectively bad.

25. New York Yankees

This might come to a shock to some people, but New York can't throw the ball, and you get no respect from me when you can't do that.

Their bullpen is not only injured but was depleted to begin with. The honeymoon is over for both CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett in the rotation as well.

Bright Spot: Robinson Cano leads the team in RBI, finally not off to a slow start.

Room for Improvement: One inning, 14 runs.

24. Cleveland Indians

They'll have to earn their way up, even though I think they are better. Again, you will get no respect from me if you can't pitch. But I know they can, and they are showing signs of that aspect coming around.

Bright Spot: Victor Martinez is a slam dunk All-Star, and it looks like Travis Hafner is back—breathe easy.

Room for Improvement: A 6.00 bullpen ERA going into Monday’s action—the pieces were put in place, but a slow start from Rafael Perez and the starting pitching has taxed this pen early.

23. Arizona Diamondbacks

They are better than this, but their offense needs to grow up and do it fast.

Bright Spot: With Brandon Webb on the disabled list, Dan Haren has stepped up to the role of ace with a 1.54 ERA.

Room for Improvement: It took them till April 26, Sunday, for someone to get up to double-digit RBI.

22. Oakland Athletics

So much for that revamped offense and young pitching staff.

Bright Spot: Kurt Suzuki leads the team in average—mahalo.

Room for Improvement: Hey, Andrew Bailey has been awesome with his 15 strikeouts. But that leads the team. He's a relief pitcher.

21. Los Angeles Angels

This team is really hurting without their starting pitchers, but once John Lackey and Ervin Santana get back, watch out.

Bright Spot: Torii Hunter has seven home runs already? You could have tricked me with that one.

Room for Improvement: The back end of the bullpen, usually reliable, is really suffering right now. Their prime setup guy, Scot Shields, has an ERA of 10.80.

20. San Francisco Giants

Sputtering offense, stellar pitching: The book published on them came as is, but it isn't translating into many wins.

Bright Spot: Fred Lewis leads his team in batting average, but he has just one RBI. Go figure.

Room for Improvement: Dead last in offense, again.

19. New York Mets

They can hit, and the bullpen additions have paid big dividends, but their starters are only better than Philadelphia's in terms of ERA.

Bright Spot: Johan Santana. Period.

Room for Improvement: Oliver Perez. Period.

18. Minnesota Twins

Joe Mauer coming back, Scott Baker getting himself right...they'll be fine.

Bright Spot: Jason Kubel might finally be on the road to success. Add a healthy Joe Mauer, bump Justin Morneau down a spot, and who knows what else he may do?

Room for Improvement: Minnesota's minus-29 run differential is the worst in the game.

17. San Diego Padres

It can't possibly last, but it sure is fun to watch.

Bright Spot: Together, Scott Hairston and Jody Gerut create one fantastic center fielder. Their combined season line: .320 AVG, 4 HR, 15 RBI, 19 R, 3/0 SB/CS.

Room for Improvement: When Chad Gaudin starts on Tuesday, they'll have had seven different pitchers start a game; not the worst, but the warning signs are starting.

16. Tampa Bay Rays

It was no secret that their starting pitching was going to have a tough time repeating their successful 2008, but give it some time, and maybe give James Shields some runs!

Bright Spot: Jason Bartlett has surpassed last year's home run total by two already.

Room for Improvement: The team's offensive stars are getting it done, but an injury-riddled B.J. Upton is struggling to find his footing.

15. Texas Rangers

Surprisingly, the Rangers don't have the most runs scored right now. But they can still hit. They also still can't really pitch all that well.

Bright Spot: Ian Kinsler...enough said.

Room for Improvement: Brandon McCarthy's been passable, but besides Kevin Millwood, their starters are laboring.

14. Chicago White Sox

The homers are back in Chi-Town, with Paul Konerko, Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye, and Carlos Quentin having all but three of the White Sox's home runs.

Bright Spot: The 0.95 ERA from John Danks has a lot of White Sox fans believing he's definitely for real.

Room for Improvement: Brent Lillibridge needs to be cut out of second base playing time, because Chris Getz is hitting .340 and he does hit at the top of the order.

13. Atlanta Braves

Derek Lowe and Co. are settling in, but so far the Braves are where I expected them to be. They've got a bit of a four-man rotation going, as Jo-Jo Reyes will make only his second start on Tuesday.

Bright Spot: Jeff Francoeur's swing and stance may have been fixed because he leads the team in RBI and is looking very good at the plate.

Room for Improvement: The assimilation process to American baseball for Kenshin Kawakami isn't going smoothly so far with 17 runs given up.

12. Seattle Mariners

They're a much improved team in all the different aspects of the game. Much more disciplined. That being said, as good as Erik Bedard and Felix Hernandez have looked at the top, they'll eventually run into issues.

Bright Spot: Franklin Gutierrez and Endy Chavez being added have given the Mariners the best defensive outfield with Ichiro.

Room for Improvement: So much for contract year production. Adrian Beltre needs to get it going with a .176 average and no home runs. At least they've done this without him, though.

11. Kansas City Royals

Light up the sticks, the Royals have a spark! Their pitching is carrying them, and I think it will continue to keep them in the discussion a little while longer.

Bright Spot: Their team ERA leads all of baseball, and their bullpen has pitched a major league-low 46 innings pitched.

Room for Improvement: Maybe Mike Aviles' run is over. Don't give up yet, but a .203 on-base percentage with 15 strikeouts isn't encouraging.

10. Cincinnati Reds

What is with the Reds? They aren't scoring as many runs, they're better on the road—did someone change things up? They're above .500 and look pretty decent, so whatever was changed, keep it for now!

Bright Spot: Joey Votto is second in the National League in runs batted in. The kid can hit.

Room for Improvement: Micah Owings is the unofficial leader in batting average. Granted, it's only 10 at-bats, but it's fun to make fun. In more serious news, Brandon Phillips is hitting just .172, and that needs work.

9. Chicago Cubs

Did they figure out their closer situation yet? I couldn't tell.

Bright Spot: Kosuke Fukudome's team-best 15 runs batted in is very encouraging, but is it for real?

Room for Improvement: Milton Bradley, Derrek Lee, and Geovany Soto are a combined 20-for-133 to start the year. Injuries have played a part, but that needs a boost.

8. Detroit Tigers

Justin Verlander's latest start is something to smile about, and in a cluttered division, they have just as much chance as anyone else, if not more of one.

Bright Spot: Brandon Inge, not Miguel Cabrera, leads the team in runs batted in and home runs.

Room for Improvement: Carlos Guillen is struggling with the stick. He's knocked in just five runs this year with no home runs.

7. Pittsburgh Pirates

Break up the Pirates! Nyjer Morgan is making fans wait for Andrew McCutcheon, their pitching is lights out, and even Andy LaRoche is starting to catch on.

Bright Spot: 11 career March and April home runs for Adam LaRoche coming into 2009. This year, he's hit five, and a slow starter is off to a fast start for once. Bonus stat: The Pirates are one of three teams with a save percentage of 100 percent.

Room for Improvement: It's up to Jason Jaramillo to hold down the catching duties while Ryan Doumit is out for an extended period of time.

6. Philadelphia Phillies

You know their record doesn't look good, and from the looks of it, their start was a little sluggish. But they are still the defending champions, and they have turned it around here.

Bright Spot: Raul Ibanez was as advertised and more for the Phillies; he leads all their big time sluggers in home runs.

Room for Improvement: A .231 on-base percentage at the top of the Phillies lineup for Jimmy Rollins isn't going to work.

5. Toronto Blue Jays

Their offense is hitting on all cylinders. Really, they aren't getting it done with pitching like last year; they are outscoring everyone. Not just with homers either. It probably won't last, but it's good to have offense in a high-scoring division. But they've also not lost a series yet, and that is how you sustain success.

Bright Spot: Adam Lind is coming into his own as a run producer, and it's good to see Aaron Hill not only playing, but playing very well. They co-lead the team in runs batted in.

Room for Improvement: They can't keep losing starting pitchers. Young Ricky Romero got off to a great start, but he's now joined Jesse Litsch, Shaun Marcum, and Dustin McGowan on the disabled list.

4. Florida Marlins

Remember, what goes up must come down. They were up and now they're down. They'll even out and be back on track. They've run into some issues the past week or so, but this team will stick around if they can get their bullpen ironed out.

Bright Spot: Jorge Cantu has had some injury issues that have shuffled him in and out of the lineup, but when he plays, he rakes. He's picking up from where he left off last year as a run producer.

Room for Improvement: Closer Matt Lindstrom's 10.80 ERA isn't going to fly.

3. Los Angeles Dodgers

Fourth in runs, ninth in ERA, and third in number of errors committed equals a very well-rounded team that is playing dangerously.

Bright Spot: Andre Ethier leads the team in RBI and home runs, while Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Casey Blake, and James Loney have all knocked in 14. That's great veteran-youngster distribution.

Room for Improvement: Russell Martin still hasn't hit a home run, and he's batting .239 for the year. The good news is that they haven't needed him yet.

2. St. Louis Cardinals

Albert Pujols and Ryan Ludwick are carrying the offense, while the rotation of the Cardinals is quietly thriving. Playing as the best team in the National League, and excuse me if I'm ready to buy into them long term.

Bright Spot: Ryan Franklin should have been in consideration for the closer's spot from the get-go. He's the man for the job.

Room for Improvement: The injury to Chris Carpenter isn't world-ending, but it certainly is disappointing after he looked so good.

1. Boston Red Sox

An 11-game win streak has carried them to the top. They're the best team all-around and are proving it, even with injuries to Jed Lowrie and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

Bright Spot: What trade? Mike Lowell is doing it again. After being the subject of a possible trade if the Red Sox signed Mark Teixeira, Lowell is second in the AL in RBI. Also, an 8-2 record against their own division is something to smile about.

Room for Improvement: The bullpen is keeping them afloat as Tim Wakefield has really been the only consistent starting pitcher. Jon Lester and Josh Beckett have had their spots, and Brad Penny is 2-0, but their best is yet to come.

Monthly Awards

Best Hitter: Kevin Youkilis

Best Pitcher: Zach Greinke

Best Rookie: Ricky Romero

Best Single Game: Ian Kinsler: 6-for-6 and the cycle

Godsend of the Month: Ryan Franklin

May's another Month for: Alexei Ramirez

Player Stat of the Month: Edinson Volquez walks to hits = 20 to 18

Team Stat of the Month: Oakland stolen base percentage = 46 percent

Wishes April Won't End: Brandon Inge

Largest Jump in May: Arizona Diamondbacks

Biggest fall in May: San Diego Padres

Long-Lasting Stay: St. Louis Cardinals


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.