MLB Power Groupings: Baseball, the Game of Rapid Changes, of Course

Nino Colla@TheTribeDailySenior Writer IMay 26, 2009

PHOENIX - MAY 25:  (L-R) Chris Burke #8 of the San Diego Padres congratulates teammates Kevin Kouzmanoff #5, Henry Blanco #28 and Adrian Gonzalez #23 after they scored against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the eighth inning of the major league baseball game at Chase Field on May 25, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

I swear, things change so much in a week. Last week it seemed like San Diego was out of it, and now all of a sudden they are on a 10-game win streak.

That's what's cool about baseball—it always keeps you guessing.

Toronto is on the flip side of that coin, looking very good a week ago. But now all of a sudden, they're facing teams that have records above the .500 mark, they've put together a losing streak, and Boston has gotten a few cracks at them.

Memorial Day is a mark people like to set at certain points in the season and say, "If we aren't doing such and such by Memorial Day, do such and such."

Like, fire Eric Wedge if the Indians are eight games out of first place.

Well, Memorial Day has come and gone, and that phantom mark that some people have set is no more. The next phantom mark is the All-Star Game, which isn't really a phantom mark, but one teams really actually do use as a measuring stick.

Teams still have time to make their move. As we've seen with Toronto falling back to earth, now that they've started facing teams within their tough division, plenty of things can happen in a week.

That is exactly what you'll see in this week's version of Power Groupings. A few teams have joined the bottom, one busted out, and there are many more changes at the top as well.

Still no progress? Start thinking of unloading.

Washington, Baltimore, Houston, Colorado, Oakland, Arizona

Boy, did this group expand over the week.

Houston, Oakland, and Arizona haven't really made enough progress to keep themselves out of this bottom group. Let's be honest, this is the bottom group. When you are joining the ranks of Baltimore and Washington, you are low.

I thought Oakland was making progress, a little bit—they haven't. Houston, meanwhile, has lost five in a row, which pretty much kills them or any chance they had to get back to some sort of respectable state.

Arizona, on the other hand, was left for dead, and they are now officially in the dead group. Could they get out of it? I don't know, but they only have one more win than Colorado. To me, that isn't enough to keep them out of this group. They are not teetering on the brink of disaster; they are on the line and ready to fall over the edge.

There is nothing new to report in Baltimore or Washington. Baltimore is trying to take advantage of a reeling Toronto team, and Washington's mascot is trying to avoid any more sausage cannon malfunctions.

Colorado is just Colorado. As of Tuesday, they are actually the farthest back in their division out of any other team in this group.


San Diego

What is with this team? They are so flawed and not as talented as some of the other teams out there, yet they won't die. A week ago I was throwing them away. Now they've done enough to create their own category.

Check out this statistic. The Padres are in the midst of a 10-game win streak, but last night they had the interesting tandem streak of a nine-game win streak and an 11-game road losing streak.

They snapped that and got up to 10 games, of course, but how many times do you see a team have two streaks like that in progress at the same time? This team is flat-out weird.

Teetering on the brink of disaster.

Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Seattle

Pittsburgh was a week away from joining the disaster club. Oakland and Houston couldn't avoid it, but Pittsburgh did as they've won a few games to keep themselves around. They did lose three in a row last week at one point, but they also won five in a row before that. They are a team of streaks.

The other two teams in this category are recent additions thanks to the departures of Houston and Oakland. The Mariners have won just eight games in the month of May and are slowly slipping back into the standings into the area we all thought they'd be at from the get-go. A week or two more of this and they'll be goners.

Cleveland is showing some life, but the brink of disaster is actually a downgrade from their position last week. Detroit has gone on a run and put some distance between themselves and the rest of the pack, which is bad news for the Tribe. But Monday night's comeback against Tampa might be their last hope.

We traded for Jake Peavy and all we got was...nothing.

Chicago White Sox

Consider this a cop-out. I've got nothing with Chicago. They want to contend, by evidence of trading for Jake Peavy, but they are kind of just middling around the five games back mark.

This isn't a .500 team though; no, it's a below average team in a below average division right now. They are as weird as San Diego is, without the streaks.

Once so pretty, now we've got shifty eyes.

Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Florida, New York Mets, Chicago Cubs

Shifty eyes are what I like to call the position of nervousness. All of these teams at one point were looking good or at least on the path to getting themselves where they needed to be.

Now the panic has to start setting in.

Starting with Tampa Bay, for reasons only because of their division’s toughness. Toronto is starting to realize what it's like to face the teams in their division, so they'll be in third place sooner or later, but Boston and New York are starting to run away.

San Francisco is a second place team once San Diego realizes that they can't have nine-game winning streaks and 11-game home losing streaks. But they've been losing some games lately, and that doesn't do well for their own personal record.

Florida is just floating around wondering what's going on. They were in first place some time ago, and now they are fighting just to get back to the .500 mark.

They should just rename the Mets the New York Roller Coasters. This team was so hot and ready to make a move, but now you just have to wonder, “What is this team about?” Their defensive letdowns were actually painful to watch. I'd be nervous if I were the Mets with some of the games they've thrown out there.

The Cubs are falling behind in a race for the division, and things are not getting any better with their eighth straight loss on Monday. Chicago better start panicking because a week ago they were in a group that was biding their time. Now all of a sudden, not just two teams, but three teams if you include Cincinnati, are starting to pull ahead.

One of those teams is definitely for real, the other is probably a player away from having staying power, and the other has real good pitching to stick around and make things difficult. If anything, the Cubs should be panicking the most.

Here they come!

Minnesota, Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees

The only reason the New York Yankees are in this group is because they are charging hard. They aren't where they should be, they aren't in the middle, and I think their hotter position makes this a spot for them. One more week of this and they can consider themselves a modest contender; they need more pitching though.

Los Angeles and Minnesota stick around as they continue their ascents. Joe Mauer is doing everything in his power (it was unavoidable), to get this Twins team back on top of the division, but they still haven't had that bust through you've been looking for.

The Angels are in that same spot, but the difference is they're above .500 and have a narrower margin to make up with the team ahead of them.

I like the middle, where the center is warm.

Atlanta, Cincinnati, Kansas City

Here are your around .500 teams that seem to want to compete, but will only compete at certain times.

Atlanta hasn't really been a legit contender, but if you look up they are just a game and a half back of the NL East-leading Philadelphia Phillies. If they could just bust out of that middle of the road area for a week or two, they could put themselves in a good position for the long run.

Cincinnati is in a great position but a tough division. They're getting wins and keeping above the mark you want to keep above, and just a few games back of the leaders. Cincinnati is quietly making their mark, and with starting pitching they can stay there. Edinson Volquez needs to get healthy though.

Finally we have Kansas City, who isn't above the .500 mark but because of their division are sticking around. Detroit looked like they were going to run away for a bit, but I guess the definition of running away in the AL Central is only five games.

Hold on and you can do things.

Milwaukee, Texas, Toronto, Detroit

Milwaukee is much different than their fellow teams in this group. I'm not ready to anoint them as a legit contender, but I think a holding pattern might be a little bit disrespectful. Either way, we are in a holding pattern with them as the NL Central leaders. This could change rather quickly though.

Texas and Detroit were playing hot and they ran into each other, and Texas took the brunt of that heat. They still both are leading their divisions though. Things may chance with Texas rather quickly, but Detroit seems to be playing well enough to stay above the fray.

Toronto, meanwhile, is running out of that fortune that was talked about last year. They're now seeing what it's like to face Boston and teams in their division. I hate to say it, but I told ya so.

Here we are, where we should be.

Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Boston

All is right in the world as four contenders are, well, contending. Boston, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia are all leading their divisions. Philadelphia's record is starting to grow to the point where Boston and Los Angeles are at.

Meanwhile, St. Louis isn't leading their division, but they are right in the thick of things of a tough top half of a division. They are in a good position either way and right where you'd expect them to be.

Extra Bases

Measuring Stick: The top four teams in the AL East all have positive run differentials. The bottom four teams of the NL West have negative run differentials. Best and worst divisions maybe?

Don't Pass Nine: If you have a bad bullpen, you won't win in extra innings. The bottom five teams in bullpen ERA are a combined 4-13 in extra innings. Get a better bullpen, or just be Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

More on Pens: Since we are talking about bullpens, one of the bottom five previously mentioned is Colorado. Their pen actually has surrendered the fewest walks in the entire game with 39, 15 fewer than the next most, Toronto. Bad pens usually walk a lot of hitters, so that is a bit of a surprise.

The Worst Pen of Them All: Final bullpen note of the week goes to Washington. I'm struggling with how I can word this, so I'm just going to say it: They've blown 13 saves this year, and that is as many or more than the number of saves converted by 23 teams.

Early Interleague: Early advantage for which league in interleague play? That would be the American League with 22 wins to the National League's 20.

Evened Out: Look at a statistic like grounded into double plays and see a team like Texas with the smallest number in the MLB with 19. But then you can look at their strikeouts and realize that's why they don't have a ton of double plays.

Mechanically Sound: I'm a big fan of doing the little things and taking into account the little nuisances that no one might notice. The best defensive catcher in the entire game? Give it to Yadier Molina, who's commanding a staff that has just nine wild pitches. He's also allowed just seven stolen bases and has thrown out the other half of runners that have attempted to steal. Only one downside—two passed balls.

Defensive Duo: Best middle infield duo defensively? Aaron Hill and Marco Scutaro. They've turned 65 total double plays and have committed just six errors combined. Jhonny Peralta and Asdrubal Cabrera aren't far behind with just four errors and 58 double plays turned. That's more Cabrera than Peralta, who's now taken over shortstop full-time.


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