The door is quickly closing on the small-sample-size argument as the 2019 MLB season reaches the final week of April.
When the calendar flips to May and a month of the season has run its course, a hot start begins to look less like a fluke and early struggles like more of a long-term concern.
That said, it's still important to remember a team's potential and overall outlook will carry significantly more weight than anything it has shown over a handful of games. With that in mind, teams were restricted from moving more than five spots in either direction for this update. This will be the last time this self-imposed restriction is in place.
Remember, this is a fluid process. Teams will rise and fall based on where they were ranked the previous week. If a team keeps winning, it will keep climbing—it's as simple as that.
Here are the rankings:
Teams That Impressed
After a one-week hiatus, the Los Angeles Dodgers are back atop our weekly power rankings following a 6-1 week that included series wins over the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers.
Clayton Kershaw made his season debut Monday and allowed seven hits and four earned runs in 13 innings over his first two starts. Walker Buehler turned in his best start of the season Wednesday, and the offense that leads the NL in OPS (.847) and home runs (44) kept swinging it.
The Dodgers enter the week with a plus-29 run differential, tops in the NL and third in baseball behind the Tampa Bay Rays (+42) and Seattle Mariners (+32).
In the NL Central, the Pittsburgh Pirates (4-1) and Chicago Cubs (5-1) both made up ground in the division standings. The Pirates now hold a one-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals and Brewers, while the Cubs are back to .500 and 2.5 games back.
The Cubs' starting pitchers combined to go 4-1 with a 1.19 ERA in five games last week, while the Pirates got a nice boost offensively from recently promoted top prospects Bryan Reynolds (4-for-6, 2B) and Cole Tucker (2-for-7, 2B, HR).
On the AL side, the New York Yankees (5-1) climbed three spots thanks to series wins over the Boston Red Sox and Kansas City Royals.
However, it looks like slugger Aaron Judge will be sidelined for some time after suffering a "pretty significant" oblique strain Saturday. He joins a growing list of key players on the injured list that includes Luis Severino, Giancarlo Stanton, Gary Sanchez, Aaron Hicks, Miguel Andujar, Dellin Betances and Troy Tulowitzki.
The fact that the Yankees have managed to stay afloat to this point is a testament to their terrific organizational depth.
Further down the rankings, the Texas Rangers, Colorado Rockies and Toronto Blue Jays were the other teams to win both series they played last week.
The Rangers are quietly 12-8 and just 1.5 games back in the AL West after starting the season with a makeshift rotation and limited expectations. A weekend series win over the Houston Astros should put the rest of the league on notice that this Rangers team could cause some problems.
The Rockies are finally on the upswing after a brutal 4-12 start that had sent them steadily sliding down the rankings, while Blue Jays fans and the rest of the baseball world are gearing up for the debut of top prospect Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Teams That Disappointed
The New York Mets were the highest-ranked team in last week's edition to lose both of their series, dropping two of three to the Philadelphia Phillies and Cardinals.
While they're right in the thick of things in the NL East as one of four teams within 1.5 games of the division lead, a quick run-differential comparison of those four teams yields a troubling result:
- Phillies: +12
- Braves: +11
- Nationals: +10
- Mets: -19
The Mets' starting rotation has a 5.64 ERA, worst in the NL and 26th in the majors. That has to be a strength for this team if the Mets are going to hang around in the division race.
The San Diego Padres also had a tough week, going 1-5 against the Rockies and Reds after entering the week on the cusp of the top 10 at No. 11 in the rankings. They too have an alarming minus-17 run differential, which is second-worst only to the Mets among teams with a winning record.
The Los Angeles Angels (1-6), San Francisco Giants (2-4), Kansas City Royals (2-5) and Baltimore Orioles (2-5) were the other teams that lost both series last week, while the Oakland Athletics (1-4) split an early two-game series before getting swept over the weekend.
Players of the Week
AL Hitter: Joey Gallo, Texas Rangers
Stats: 11-for-23, 2 2B, 3B, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 8 R
Slugger Joey Gallo is off to an excellent start this season with a .281/.382/.734 line to go along with eight home runs and 22 RBI in 19 games.
The free-swinging outfielder has an absurd 75.0 percent hard-contact rate, which is tops among all qualified hitters and one of just three players over the 60 percent mark.
He hits the ball hard. He hits the ball far.
Aside from adding four more long balls to his season total last week, Gallo also somehow picked up the first sacrifice fly of his career Sunday. That's right, one of the most prolific power hitters in the game today did not have a sacrifice fly in his first 1,336 plate appearances.
"That was pretty cool to get that out of the way,'' Gallo told reporters. "I was pretty sick of hearing about it. I was very excited about that."
The 25-year-old now has 96 career home runs in 364 games.
AL Pitcher: James Paxton, New York Yankees
Stats: 2 GS, W, ND, 14.0 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 24 K
With ace Luis Severino watching from the sideline, the Yankees badly needed prized offseason pickup James Paxton to pitch up to his frontline potential, and he did just that last week.
After scuffling to a 6.00 ERA and 1.73 WHIP over his first three starts of the season, Paxton threw a gem against the rival Boston Red Sox on Tuesday, allowing just two hits and one walk while striking out 12 in eight shutout innings.
It was more of the same Sunday when he blanked the Kansas City Royals for six innings while racking up another 12 punchouts.
According to Mark Feinsand of MLB.com, that made Paxton just the second pitcher in Yankees history with 12 or more strikeouts in back-to-back games, joining David Cone.
In the process, he trimmed nearly three runs off his ERA.
Tip of the cap to Rangers left-hander Mike Minor, who limited the Los Angeles Angels to three hits Tuesday for his first career shutout.
NL Hitter: Christian Yelich, Milwaukee Brewers
Stats: 10-for-24, 8 HR, 16 RBI, 9 R
Ryan Braun summed it up perfectly while talking to reporters about teammate Christian Yelich:
"He's impossibly good right now. He's making something that's incredibly difficult look really easy over a really large sample size. We're looking at a long period of time now. If you go back to the all-star break last year, it's three and a half months of making something that's incredibly difficult look really easy.
For us, as teammates, you're kind of shaking your head. I think all the opponents are kind of taking the same approach right now. What he is doing is incredibly impressive, incredibly difficult. And he's made it look so easy for so long."
The reigning NL MVP hit .367/.449/.770 with 25 home runs in 65 games after the All-Star break last season, including a ridiculous month of September where he batted .370/.508/.804 with 10 home runs.
Now, he's picked up right where he left off with a 1.315 OPS and 13 home runs in 23 games to kick off the new season, making a strong early case to repeat as the league's top player.
A three-homer, seven-RBI game against the division-rival St. Louis Cardinals on Monday served as the springboard for a huge week that saw him go deep eight times in 30 plate appearances.
NL Pitcher: Kyle Hendricks, Chicago Cubs
Stats: 1 GS, W, 7.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 11 K
It was a tough start to the 2019 season for Kyle Hendricks.
The 29-year-old allowed 24 hits in 13.1 innings for a .393 opponents' batting average en route to a 5.40 ERA and a brutal 2.18 WHIP over his first three starts.
Despite that rocky performance, it was only a matter of time before a pitcher who had posted a 2.86 ERA and 1.10 WHIP over the past three seasons figured things out, and things finally clicked Friday.
He allowed just three hits and two walks in seven innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks while striking out 11 batters—his highest total since he fanned 12 on August 13, 2016.
"All the things we've been working on finally clicked," Cubs pitching coach Tommy Hottovy told reporters. "A lot of times with Kyle, he's always right there. He's always really close. And all it takes is one or two pitches to click and for him find that mechanic, that arm slot, and everything kind of falls into place and he gets rolling."
The control artist will look to keep things rolling in his next start Friday against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Must-See Upcoming Matchup
Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (Friday-Sunday)
While the Pirates had a five-game winning streak snapped Sunday, that solid stretch was enough to vault them into first place in the NL Central standings heading into the new week.
They'll have a chance to prove they belong among the early NL contenders this weekend when they square off against the NL West-leading Dodgers.
The Dodgers owned the season series last year, winning five of six with a staggering plus-27 run differential, and the Pirates certainly have not forgotten that fact.
Pittsburgh will trot out Chris Archer, Joe Musgrove and Trevor Williams for the three-game series at Dodger Stadium, while the home team will turn to Hyun-Jin Ryu, Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill.
A series win by the Dodgers would solidify their place as the No. 1 team in our rankings, while the Pirates would jump up into the top 10 with an eye toward climbing even higher in the weeks to come.