It’s been a little more than a month since our first baseball power rankings of the 2009 season. In that time, we’ve seen several teams nosedive (Royals, Mariners, Cardinals, Marlins) and plenty of teams climb the ranks (Yankees, Giants, Brewers). Number one is still reserved for the Dodgers, who have gone 19-13 since losing Manny Ramirez to suspension. Kevin Youkilis is no longer hitting .400, but .350 isn’t too shabby. Someone finally caught Carl Crawford on the base paths — three times, actually. But a man can make a living going 35-for-38 in swipes.
Most folks didn’t figure on Adrian Gonzalez and Raul Ibanez to be battling it out for the home run crown heading into the hottest months. But we sure got it right when we guessed that Albert Pujols might have a good season this year. If you drafted Edwin Jackson (2.24 ERA), Johnny Cueto (2.33), Jered Weaver (2.21), Matt Cain (2.55), and Josh Johnson (2.71) for your fantasy rotation, we tip our cap to you. But it’s more likely you went with Cole Hamels (4.62), Roy Oswalt (4.66), AJ Burnett (4.89), Jon Lester (5.09), and Francisco Liriano (5.99).
Some things rarely change. The Dodgers can pitch, the Yankees can hit, and Scott Boras is going to make another No. 1 draft pick very, very rich. Cubs fans are grumbling about their offense. Cardinals fans are wondering about theirs, too. And White Sox fans, well, we don’t know any White Sox fans. But we’re sure they’re probably just glad they didn’t waste a fourth round fantasy draft pick on Alexei Ramirez. Ouch.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers, 40-21 (1; previous rank)
So the best pitching staff in the game just got its Opening Day starter back from the DL. Scary. When Raffy Furcal and Russell Martin straighten themselves out and Manny returns, this is going to be one phenomenal ball club. The even scarier thing? Six of the team’s best players are 26 or younger.
2. Boston Red Sox, 35-24 (4)
It’s hard to dislike David Ortiz (pictured, right), which is why watching him flail at the plate is particularly tough to stomach. While the men upstairs attempt to invent ailments to explain away his offensive crisis, Big Papi’s teammates continue to do what they do best: kill opposing pitchers. Still, the Sox need to acquire another top arm for their rotation if they hope to impose ultimate damage down the stretch. They still have $50+ million to spend to close the financial gap on the Yankees, so they can probably get someone good with that kind of change.
3. New York Yankees, 34-25 (17)
Bolstered by a 9-game win streak in the middle of May, the Yankees — with A-Rod in tow — jumped a gazillion spots in our rankings to land at No. 3. That’s a bit too high in hindsight. New York has beaten up on some weaker teams — 11 wins against Baltimore and Cleveland alone — while struggling against the elite — 0-7 against Boston and just 13-10 against Detroit, Toronto, Texas, Tampa Bay, and Philadelphia. We’re not convinced. Is it too late to change these rankings?
4. Toronto Blue Jays, 34-27 (2)
The Jays have cooled off a bit from their torrid April, going 19-18 since May 1. Roy Halladay has been holding together a rotation of no-names, and Lyle Overbay, Aaron Hill, and Adam Lind are carrying the load for underachieving Vernon Wells and Alexis Rios. Do they have enough to contend for a whole season? Time will tell.
5. Philadelphia Phillies, 34-23 (8)
I think any of us could pitch for the Phillies this year. They don’t have a single starting pitcher with an ERA under 4.62 and Brad Lidge (bad knee) has already surrendered more runs than he did in all of last season. What’s going to happen when Raul Ibanez (.671 slugging percentage!) gets suspended for roids? No need to fear, Phils fans, because Antonio Bastardo has come to save the day.
6. Texas Rangers, 33-25 (11)
The Rangers had a helluva May (20-9), but Josh Hamilton is out for a month-plus with an abdomen injury and Crash Davis has yet to find last year’s groove. Thank goodness for the Ballpark in Arlington, where Texas bashes the ball to the tune of a .507 slugging percentage. With Frank Francisco (pictured, right) back from the DL, all those 8-6 games should be a cinch to sew up.
7. Milwaukee Brewers, 33-27 (18)
The Brew Crew have been slumping as of late, but the rest of the NL Central has been too busy playing .500 ball to notice. The resurgence of Prince Fielder (.301/15/55) has partially made up for weak campaigns from JJ Hardy, Jason Kendall, Bill Hall, and Corey Hart. But let’s give credit where it’s really due: Who among us thought that Trevor Hoffman would be a perfect 15-for-15 in the save department with a miniscule 0.47 WHIP? That’s sick.
8. New York Mets, 31-26 (12)
Considering how much money the Metropolitans have invested in their offense, you’d expect something better than mediocre. But a slumping Jose Reyes is out with a bum hamstring and Carlos Delgado has been on the shelf even longer with a reconstructed hip, leaving guys like Fernando Tatis, Alex Cora, and Gary Sheffield to get more than their fair share of at bats. The bullpen has been particularly stingy, though.
9. Detroit Tigers, 33-27 (9)
After jettisoning Sheffield in spring training, the Tigers have been holding their own, mixing a few youngsters into a lineup led by Brandon Inge (wah?) and Miguel Cabrera. Veterans Carlos Guillen, Magglio Ordonez, and Placido Polanco have struggled up to this point, so there’s still room for improvement in Detroit. Justin Verlander has been dominant, and Edwin Jackson and Rick Porcello have been worthy sidekicks.
10. Tampa Bay Rays, 30-31 (16)
Tampa Bay has the second-best run differential in the majors: +60. So why are they only .500? For starters, they play in the toughest division in the land and they just can’t get on a roll. And while they’ve bludgeoned several teams to death by wide margins, their record is a miserable 6-13 in one-run games.
11. Chicago Cubs, 29-28 (10)
Are the Cubs starting to show their age? You tell me: Derek Lee has a .433 slugging percentage, Alfonso Soriano is hitting .236 and is on pace to strike out a career-worst 180 times, and the team’s offseason acquisitions are all hitting around .200. Shall we bring up the bullpen?
12. St. Louis Cardinals, 33-28 (3)
The Cardinals were swept at home by the Rockies in a four-game set last week and are 16-21 since May 1. The offense has been largely absent in that span. Good thing Chris Carpenter (44 IP, 1 HR allowed, 0.71 WHIP) looks like his old Cy Young self. Still, this team needs an offensive infusion, and fast.
13. Cincinnati Reds, 31-28 (15)
Few expected the Reds to contend this season, but they’re in the hunt thanks to some solid performances at the plate and on the mound. Did you know the Reds are playing someone named Adam Rosales (pictured, right) at third base darned near every day? I was not aware, either. More relevant is the play of Johnny Cueto (6-3, 2.33), whose control has taken a big step forward allowing him to capitalize on some of the potential he showed flashes of last season.
14. Los Angeles Angels, 29-28 (23)
Early injuries and a fatality kept the Angels down in April, but even after John Lackey’s return their improvement has been modest. Matt Palmer (5-0, 4.08) has come out of nowhere to serve as a solid starter and Torii Hunter (.313/.392/.576) has been the shining light in a subpar lineup. Vladimir Guerrero looks only marginally better than Big Papi at the plate.
15. Seattle Mariners, 29-30 (7)
Seattle is dead last (by a hefty margin) in the majors in runs scored. The fact that they are playing .500 ball is owed entirely to their pitching staff, which boasts the second-best ERA in the league. The addition of Jason Vargas to the rotation gives the M’s three above-average lefthanders to distract viewers from the spectacle that is The End of Junior Griffey’s Career.
16. Atlanta Braves, 29-30 (20)
Tommy Hanson’s (pictured, right) AAA numbers this year as a 22 year old: 90 Ks in 66 IP with a 0.86 WHIP. First start in the majors against a rather pedestrian Brewers lineup: 6 IP, 6 ER, 3 HR allowed. Welcome to the big leagues, kid. Who did they drop to make room for him? Mr. Tommy Glavine, who at the age of 67 finally lost all zip on his fastball. I imagine a conversation between the two would go something like this:
Hanson: What’s that shit on your chest?
Glavine: Crisco. Bardol. Vagisil. Any one of them will give you another two to three inches drop on your curve ball.
17. Minnesota Twins, 30-32 (13)
Lineups don’t get much more uneven than the Twins’, who have two MVP candidates (Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau), four solid performers (Jason Kubel, Michael Cuddyer, Denard Span, and Joe Crede), and guaranteed dreck from whoever patrols the other three lineup spots. The rotation has been more consistent, but that’s not to say it’s been good — Nick Blackburn’s the only starter with an ERA under 4.00.
18. San Francisco Giants, 31-28 (24)
When someone other than Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain get the decision, the Giants are 18-26; fortunately the dynamic duo have combined for a 13-2 mark to keep the Giants above .500. San Fran is trying something novel and allowing a few people younger than 35 to play in the field this year. Some of them, like Pablo Sandoval (.322/.362/.503), are actually halfway decent. Some, like Emmanuel Burriss, are not … but hey, change is hard.
19. Chicago White Sox, 28-33 (19)
The kids aren’t all right. Most nights, the Sox start five position players under 30. Carlos Quentin is the only one of those with an OPS over .700. Aging warriors Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome continue to carry the lineup’s load, but their time is short. Beyond Mark Buehrle, the rotation has been rough, too. Fortunately, Chicago is in the AL Central, where contention is just a three-game winning streak away.
20. Cleveland Indians, 26-35 (22)
The Indians are a few months from their second disappointing season in a row and the third out of four. They continue to send out talented players, but when the rotation is clicking, the bullpen is falling apart, and if they’re getting on base, they can’t drive people in. It’s a frustrating cycle — one that doesn’t have a clear cause. Maybe they’ll turn it around, but they could just as easily fold their tents.
21. Florida Marlins, 29-33 (5)
Florida won 14 games in April. They’ve won 15 games since. Now you know why they sunk 16 spots in our rankings. (That, and we had them ranked too high to begin with. Man, we’re suckers.)
22. Oakland A’s, 27-32 (27)
Kurt Suzuki. Adam Kennedy. Jack Hannahan (pictured, right). Ryan Sweeney. Jack Cust. They are names that you never want to see on your team’s lineup card. I mean, seriously — who the fuck is Jack Hannahan?
23. Kansas City Royals, 25-33 (6)
The Royals seem to be making an annual tradition of racing out of the gate, getting their fan base fired up, and then collapsing spectacularly soon afterward. One difference this season has been the consistent dominance of Zack Greinke (8-2, 1.55), who’d win the Cy Young if the season ended today. If only they had a few more guys who could hit … or pitch.
24. Pittsburgh Pirates, 28-32 (14)
Adam LaRoche has every right to be pissed off that the team traded away its lone offensive threat to the Braves for more prospects. But let’s get real for a second. Nate McLouth was too much of a household name to satisfy Bucs fans. Give me your Delwyn Young, your Nyjer Morgan, your Jason Jaramillo. How is this team within five games of first place?
25. Houston Astros, 27-31 (25)
Hey, look at us! We’re fumbling our way toward complete mediocrity. One hundred million dollars doesn’t buy much anymore.
26. Colorado Rockies, 28-32 (26)
Is there a less inspiring team in baseball this season? Okay, other than the Nationals? Seriously, how long can one team milk someone as nondescript as Todd Helton to be its poster boy? We’re jumping on the Dexter Fowler (pictured, right) bandwagon. Care to join us?
27. San Diego Padres, 28-31 (28)
The Padres have had a 10-game win streak this season and are 19-11 at home, which may lead one to think that they deserve to be ranked significantly higher than 27th by us. But they are also just 9-20 away from Petco Park and have been outscored this year by a whopping 47 runs. If I was Jake Peavy, I would stop vetoing my trades. (Side note: Isn’t it fun to look at the team’s batting stats and see Tony Gwynn with a .345 average? Makes me feel like a kid again.)
28. Arizona Diamondbacks, 26-35 (21)
Poor Dan Haren. Someone rescue him. Isn’t it about time for the Yankees to offer to subsidize the D-backs for the next three seasons in exchange for Haren, Justin Upton, Max Scherzer, and the 2001 World Series trophy?
29. Baltimore Orioles, 25-34 (29)
I want to like the Orioles this year. Sure, they suck, but if you put them in the NL Central don’t you think they might be right in the thick of things? If you merged them with the neighboring Nats they might be good for fourth in the AL East. Eh, who am I kidding?
30. Washington Nationals, 16-42 (30)
When four-fifths of a team’s rotation has an ERA over 5.00, chances are they are going to draft the most highly touted pitcher in the universe with the No. 1 overall pick — even if that pitcher is seeking a $50 million contract. But that’s what a team does when its drawing comparisons to the 1962 Mets. That Strasburg guy had better be as good as advertised.
Compiled by Doug Hoepker and Joel Gillespie