MLB Power Groupings: Time to Believe in Me

Nino Colla@TheTribeDailySenior Writer IJune 9, 2009

MILWAUKEE - MAY 14: Mike Cameron #25, Chris Duffy #16, Ryan Braun #6 and Rickie Weeks #23 of the Milwaukee Brewers celebrate a win over the Florida Marlins with teammates on May 14, 2009 at Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Brewers defeated the Marlins 5-3. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

When is it time to start believing in teams?

I found myself asking that question as I got up the groupings this week, and I felt like I said, "Let's see what happens next week" more than enough times.

So I guess it's next week that I start believing or not believing in teams?

No, it isn't, but if you get to mid-June and into July and Texas is still four games up on Los Angeles in the division race, you better start paying attention.

I've come to believe that eight or so games is the cutoff point for a lot of things. The Dodgers are eight up on their opposition; they are pretty much solid for the playoffs.

The Orioles are 10 back of the AL East leader; they are pretty much solid for another losing effort and a battle for the basement.

But then you have the Giants, who are eight back but nowhere near the awful that is Baltimore, so what do you say to them?

Ah, that is what makes baseball fun though. "If we were in this division, we'd be leading all of baseball!" or something to that effect will be said by the AL East's third place team come the final week of the season, when they are sitting at home and the top two are fighting it out in the playoffs.

Maybe they should just abolish the AL Central this year and let three AL East teams in.

Or give the Phillies and Dodgers byes and let two more teams in and just banish the bottom three of the NL West to the AL Central.

Those eight teams can fight it out for the crown of no one cares.

I'm just rambling at this point, because I've got nothing better to do but think about the oddity of the standings and how much I want to break the AL Central in half for being stupid.

Or why we still have a division with six teams and one with four. How is that remotely fair? Or am I just obsessed with even numbers? Wait a second, five is an odd number.

All of these groupings are uneven—oh man, the OCD is kicking in big time.

Still no progress? Start thinking of unloading.

Washington, Baltimore, Houston, Colorado, Arizona, Pittsburgh

Baltimore is on a fantastic five-game losing streak, while Washington decided that they might win a game for a change, but it's only their second in their last 10 games.

Houston is climbing around lately but still have some work to do, and they might even have climbed out of this group if it wasn't for their division rival in Pittsburgh.

You see, Neal Huntington's decision to trade Nate McLouth leaves me to believe that he has no intentions of competing for that winning record the Pirates fans so desperately want and deserve.

So instead of thinking of unloading, Mr. Huntington has already done so.

Colorado and Arizona have both fired their managers and are way behind in a runaway division. Just forget about it.

Teetering on the brink of disaster.

Cleveland, Seattle, San Diego, Kansas City, Oakland

Two new additions here in the disaster group, one from the bottom and the other from the top.

Oakland has put themselves in a position to give people a reason to believe that they aren't dead. Maybe it was Matt Holliday's comments? Who knows, but they are on a bit of a roll and have one last shot to get back in it. Seven-game win streaks will do that type of stuff for you.

Kansas City, meanwhile, has just one win in their last 10, and with a crucial series against Cleveland coming up this week before interleague play, the Royals are a series loss away from finding themselves in the basement of the AL Central.

But as Cleveland will tell you, that doesn't really mean you are out of things. Cleveland is decimated by injuries but still doesn't seem to be fading enough to be counted out.

Meanwhile, Seattle and San Diego are taking things easy on the left coast. San Diego is a team of streaks and could do this group-switching thing many more times before things start to get set in stone. Seattle just loves playing in a four-team division.

Shifty Eyes

Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Florida, Minnesota, Chicago White Sox

Tampa Bay has gotten themselves back in the race with their record, but they are the unfortunate victims of a tough division. Had they been in the AL Central they'd be in better shape, but in the AL East, .500 is only good enough for shifty eyes.

Ditto for San Francisco, only worse. In their case, three games above a winning record is only good enough for shifty eyes in a division that is being dominated by the Dodgers.

Florida, Minnesota, and Chicago better define this grouping—a little off the track for the division and winning records. Florida is kind of floating by, while Minnesota just can't seem to get that kick they need.

Chicago has gotten that kick they need several times and promptly fallen flat on their faces. Ozzie Guillen had one of his personal "ass kickers" this week though. Maybe that's the permanent kick that they need.

I like the middle, where the center is warm.

Atlanta, Cincinnati, New York Mets, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels, Toronto

Welcome aboard to a large group of teams because it's cool to get some change.

Atlanta is in grave danger of losing ground in this group but is still in a good position to maintain with a good week. The other original inhabitant of this group, Cincinnati, is in a good spot as they continue to stay above the good mark.

However, they didn't have a good week thanks to a new member of this group, division rival Chicago. With that move, the Cubs singlehandedly got themselves out of shifty eyes and put Cincinnati on notice.

The Cubbies aren't quite done yet and have probably fluctuated more than any team other than San Diego. They are lying low, then they are right on track, then they are falling back, and now they are making more of a move. It wouldn't be the Cubs if it wasn't interesting.

Los Angeles continues to trail Texas but is within reasonable striking distance. They are too good of a team to be skating around on mediocrity though.

Toronto is yet another victim of the AL East's dominance and the fact that they are just third despite their record. They are also not leading their division, which hurts their shock factor for the following group.

Leading, not like you thought we would.

Milwaukee, Texas, Detroit, New York Yankees

I've modified the group somewhat to reflect the teams that are leading their respective divisions, but in a somewhat surprising fashion.

Milwaukee is one good week and one bad week from St. Louis from really making me a believer. They had sort of that week last week, but that was only to get a little breathing room.

If they can put together a nice week, maybe do what they are supposed to do against a team like Colorado, and start interleague play up on the right foot and against the White Sox, maybe just maybe I'll be a permanent buyer of the Brew Crew.

Texas is a team I'm buying into but can't officially anoint yet. Let's just say I'm waiting for more than three games against the Angels before I give them the nod that I think they are capable of.

Detroit is just going to stick around until they either fall into the arms of a vampire and get their blood sucked out, or until the other four teams in this ridiculous division finally decide to play even worse than they are now, which I didn't think was possible watching Cleveland.

The Yankees...all right, one more week.

Here we are, where we should be.

Los Angeles Dodgers, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Boston

Do we even have to talk about the Dodgers? Can we just put them to bed until Manny Ramirez returns? Then talk about them for a week, and then put them back to bed until October? Because it seems really pointless to bring up their eight-and-a-half game lead in the division.

St. Louis had a little bit of a speed bump last week, and their pitching got a little shifty on them, but they are still right there with Milwaukee like I expect them to be. The pace needs to be picked back up though, especially with Ryan Ludwick back.

Philadelphia can only be stopped by the Dodgers, who beat them twice in Los Angeles over the weekend on walk-off victories. I can't wait till these two teams meet in the playoffs again.

Don't look now, but I think Josh Beckett and Jon Lester are starting to get themselves settled in. If Daisuke Matsuzaka can just be solid and Tim Wakefield can be Tim Wakefield most of the time, watch out.

Extra Bases

Road Warriors: The Phillies are the best road team in the entire game right now—the most road wins with 21 and the fewest losses with eight.

Texas Wonder: I mentioned how Texas has only faced the Angels three times this season. Well, they won all three of those games, and they've played their division the fewest number of times of the teams in their division.

However, the road to the playoffs always goes through the teams you face the most, and so far the Rangers have done a good job of that. They'll need to prove that against the Halos though.

Going West: Speaking of facing the AL West, Cleveland has played just three games against that division, and it came in the first series against Texas on Opening Week. In fact, they only face Oakland three times before the All-Star break, and you have to love only one major West Coast road trip in the second half.

Mauer Scour: I find it freaky that Joe Mauer is carrying an on-base percentage that is right around the .500 mark. I know he's really only played a month and a week's worth of baseball, but in just one month he became one of the best statistical catchers in the entire game next to Victor Martinez.

I mean, he already was, but he got the evidence in just one month worth of work. I don’t know what Mauer Scour means, but it had no relation to Mauer Power, and I’m not going to be the 15th person to say that.

Catch Me If You Can: How has Carl Crawford stolen 34 bases and only gotten caught three times? Are they sleeping behind the plate?

Run Support Needed: Pitchers that are at .500 or below with ERAs under 3.50 are the following: Cliff Lee, Dan Haren, Doug Davis, Jarrod Washburn, Dallas Braden, and Wandy Rodriguez.

Kkrdsma: Would you believe David Aardsma is third among pitchers with at least eight saves in strikeouts? No? Well, believe it. He better be though, considering he's leading all pitchers with at least eight saves in walks. In fact, out of regular relief pitchers, ones that haven't started games this year, only Carlos Marmol has more walks.

Pitch to Contact: What makes guys like Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee so good? Here is a lesson: Don't be afraid to pitch to contact. Lee and Halladay have 95 and 90 hits surrendered respectively. Lee's number leads all pitchers. However, they've walked just 17 and 12 hitters respectively and have given up a combined 10 home runs.

Compare that to, say, Fausto Carmona, who's given up nine home runs and has walked a major league-high 47 hitters.

The Exception: The lone exception to that idea is Chad Billingsley, who is the only pitcher currently with 30 walks and an ERA under 3.00. Billingsley can strike anyone out at will though and can get away with that. Just wait until he learns how to throw and becomes more of a pitcher.

Triple Machine: Andrew McCutchen has hit two triples in less than a week's worth of action. Oakland as a team has hit three all season.

Dangerous Philosophy: I've been critical of the Derek Shelton method of hitting. Shelton is the Cleveland hitting coach, and his stance is one that results in a lot of walks and a lot of strikeouts.

I thought that maybe the Indians would be the only team that is top 10 in both categories, but it turns out they are joined by the Nationals, Dodgers, Rays, Brewers, and Rockies. That's a majority of both top 10s!

*All statistics, standings, and opinions were based off their states going into action on June 9.


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