Tuesday, April 15, 2008

MLB Power Poll

This is a new GDB feature that I'll be doing once a week to show the movers and shakers throughout the course of the Major League Baseball Season. In honor of Jackie Robinson Day, let's play ball. Well, we're about 3 weeks into the season (if you count the Japanese series by the BoSox and A's) and while it's still too early to tell who the contenders and pretenders will be in the playoff race, there's a lot of crazyness going on in the standings. Here's the current leaders in each Division as of this posting. In parentheses I've listed what place each team finished in last year's divisional standings.

AL East- Baltimore Orioles (4th)
AL Central- Chicago White Sox/Kansas City Royals (4th/5th)
AL West- Oakland Athletics/Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (3rd/1st)
NL East- Florida Marlins (5th)
NL Central- St. Louis (3rd)
NL West- Arizona (1st)

As you can see, there are numerous surprise leaders after the first 3 weeks. Besides Arizona, the rest of the leaders are probably long-shots to win their respective divisions (although Young Cicero I'm sure feels differently about his Red Birds). Still, it seems like every year there's an unexpected team leading their division during the home stretch. Last year it was the D-backs, the year before it was the Tigers. Will one of these teams shock the baseball world and continue to dominate throughout the summer? Keep your eyes open, because like the Western Conference in the NBA, the baseball standings seems to change everyday. Without further ado, let's check out the current power rankings as seen by the Young "Knasty" Knuckleballer.

1.) Arizona Diamondbacks (10-4)- A year ago, people would have probably sent me death threats for this one, but today it's not so outlandish. Arizona currently owns the best record in baseball. The D-backs are still one of the youngest teams in baseball, but some of their young ballers (Upton, Young, Jackson) have bloomed before our eyes and turned into legit power threats. Eric Boourns is still one of the most underrated players in baseball. The two headed monster on the pitching staff, Brandon Webb and Dan Haren have come out blazing and it looks like they might be growing another head (albeit a decrepit one) in Randy Johnson who pitched 5 scoreless with 7 K's yesterday. As long as the bullpen holds up, this team is going to be sticking up near the top for most of the year.
2.) Boston Red Sox (8-6)- Don't get me wrong I'm not a fan of the nation, and while the Red Sox don't even have a top 5 record right now, they are starting to flex their muscles a bit. What the numbers don't show is that Boston has had to deal with one of the toughest schedules in the big leagues so far. Traveling to Japan definitely drained them and then they had to come back and take on the Jays, Yanks, Tigers, and now Indians. A nice comeback win over Cleveland yesterday and taking 2 of 3 from the Yankees boosted the Sawx stock. It's scary that they've been able to do this basically with no Big Papi (he's batting under .100 on the year). The bottom line is the Defending World Champs are still one of the scariest teams in the game.
3.) LA Angels (9-6)- Rumors of the Angels demise were sorely overexagerrated. While the pitching staff is very banged up right now (no Escobar, Lackey, and partial K Rod), the offense has picked up the slack in a big way. The nasty Outfield of Vlad Guererro, Torii Hunter, and Gary Matthews have been red hot powering the Angels to 3 straight wins. Howie Kendrick is really developing into a possible batting crown champ and Chone Figgins as always is tearing up the basepaths (ML leading 7 steals). If Jered Weaver can continue to eat up innings until Lackey gets back in a couple of weeks (apparently he's already throwing off the mound) then the Angels are going to be in perfect position in mid-may.
4.) St. Louis Cardinals (9-4)- Who outside of Missouri called this one (or outside of Quincy)? The Cards have jumped out to the Central division lead thanks to outstanding collective performances from their pitching staff. Kyle Lohse leads the no-name rotation with a 2-0 record and 1.04 era!!! Jason Isringhausen continues to do a serviceable job in the 9th inning racking up 5 saves on the young season. Meanwhile, Albert Pujols is burning fantasy owners and pundits that left him for dead by batting .390 with 3 jacks. Rick Ankiel is proving that he doesn't need HGH to be a potent hitter. Another positive for the Cards is that they have a sundry of pitchers coming back from injury over the next few weeks (Joel Pineiro, Mark Mulder, and Chris Carpenter). This team doesn't necessarily thrill you, but they get the job done.
5.) Milwaukee Brewers (8-4)- The Brew Crew have really heated up lately taking 2 of 3 from the Mets this weekend. Ben Sheets has been arguably the best pitcher in baseball so far and is the only current pitcher this year to throw a complete game shutout. The Brew Crew haven't even had their biggest surprise stud pitcher from last year, Yovani Gallardo, throw a pitch yet. He'll come off the DL to start sometime this weekend. If these two thugs can stay healthy and young hurler Manny Parra can develop, then this could be one of the top rotations in baseball. We'll lay off Eric Gagne for now, but I don't know how happy Ned Yost is about having this walking explosion close games right now. We'll montor the situation. I haven't even mentioned Milwaukee's imposing line-up yet. Fantasy Flames, Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder haven't gotten into their groove yet and they are still scoring runs in bunches thanks to dual threat Corey Hart. It goes without saying that the Brewers are going to be challengers all year long.
6.) Chicago Cubs (7-5)- I realize I just listed three NL Central teams in a row, but that's just how things shook out this week. This just shows what a great race this division is going to experience this year. The Cubbies haven't been a model for consistency so far, but when they're on they're clicking, this is one dangerous group of ballers. The North Siders have a nice balance on their roster featuring a mix of speed and power. Kosuke Fukudome (insert japanese-themed sex joke) has been a pleasant surprise in Wrigley showing that he was worth the money. Meanwhile, Derek Lee is bouncing back from a mediocre season last year and Aarmis Ramirez is up to his old tricks at the hot corner. Alfonso Soriano has yet to show his enormous skill set so far, but it's only a matter of time. Speaking of slow starters, Rich Hill has been very shaky thus far and needs to show that he's going to imitate his first half of last year as opposed to his second half. Kerry Wood has been an adventure, but as everyone knows he has the stuff to be dominating. After writing this I'm starting to realize that this divisional race is going to be a blast to watch.
7.) Chicago White Sox (8-5)- It's only fitting that the two windy city teams are back to back. The Chi Sox have started the year in strong fashion thanks to a total demolition of the Detroit Tigers (5-1 against the Kittens so far). This team is so hard to figure out. They have remained virtually the same since 2005 and yet it seemed like they were going downhill. Well this year, the same roster (plus Nick Swisher and Carlos Quentin) have got it back together. Somehow they are blowing up the box scores while shutting down their opponent's line-ups. Don't ask me how they're doing it, it's a mystery to me. Who would have thought that this week's series between the O's and White Sox would be a battle of Division leaders?
8.) Baltimore Orioles (8-5)- Another mystery team. The O's looked to be almost certainly headed to the AL East basement after they lost Eric Bedard in an off-season trade. However, they managed to play fundamental baseball on their way to the divison lead in the AL East. Now, we all know this isn't going to last, but it's a nice story for now. George Sherrill (part of the Bedard trade) is leads the MLB in saves with 6 and the bullpen in general has been stellar. The offense has been carrying this team. Without Miguel Tejada, it looked bleak in Baltimore, but Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts and Luke Scott (!!!?!?!) have been wielding big bats so far and somehow the O's score in the big spots. Don't expect this to last.
9.) Oakland Athletics (9-6)- What can be said about this team? Another squad that nobody expected to be in the situation that they're in, but you can't argue with the record. The A's ran into the White Sox and lost 2 of 3, but before that, they swept the jays and took 2 of 3 from the Indians. It seems like Oakland is always a team that people underestimate because they don't have the flashy players that the rest of the American League trots out, but every year they win more games than you think they're going to because they play great small ball. They're scoring runs the Old fashioned way, with walks and steals and great fundamentals. They play excellent defense and have an a very good bullpen. Don't look for these guys at the top of the AL West during the All-star break, but for now they are giving their opponents a lot of problems with their pesky play.
10.) Philadelphia Phillies (7-7)- There are a couple of teams that could have taken this 10th and final spot, but I chose the Phils because I think they're better than their record shows. They haven't been swept yet and have been 4 losses by 1 run each. This team will win these close games more often than not because of the resurgence of (gasp!) Brad Lidge. He's been rock solid so far (knock on wood) and the Phillies hope it continues, because Tom Gordon belongs in a retirement home. Another thing holding Philadelphia back is that their offense has a gaping MVP size hole without Jimmy Rollins. The star shortstop has been slowed with a sore hammy this year and has barely played. Once he returns, this automatically becomes one of the top line-ups in baseball coupled with Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, and the suddenly hot-hitting Pat Burrell.


Young Cicero said...

Redbirds are for real.

Young Por 'que said...

The Cards have as much a chance at winning that division as Cicero does of avoiding the midseason fall.

Young Cicero said...

both have a better chance than a pizza avoiding porque's belly.