Wednesday, April 30, 2008
MLB Weekly Power Poll
We just completed the 5th week of the Major League Baseball season and most of the divisions still have surprise leaders (AL East- Baltimore, AL Central- Chicago, NL East- Florida, NL Central- St. Louis). So the question is, Should we start to accept that these teams are true contenders or will the cream eventually rise to the top. I'm a skeptic at heart and I'd be shocked in the White Sox, Marlins, or Orioles make the playoffs (let alone win their division), but the Cardinals may have some staying power. The problem is, there are 2 other teams that are just as frisky in the NL Central and it's going to be a battle. More on this in the coming weeks, but for now let's check out the power poll.
1.) Arizona Diamondbacks (20-8)- Like I said in the first edition of the poll, this team ain't going anywhere. They've still got the best record in the league, and they now lead their division by 6 games. No other division is separated by more than 1 1/2 games. I'm beating a dead horse here, but their pitching is insane. In the best matchup of the year to date, Brandon Webb outdueled Jake Peavy on Sunday to improve his record to 6-0 on the season. Brandon Lyon looked shaky early on, but since his manager said he had full faith in his closer, he hasn't allowed a run in his last 10 appearances. The D-backs could easily have this division wrapped up by mid-august.
2.) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (17-11)- The Halo's just took 2 of 3 from the Red Sox and Tigers, and haven't lost a series in their last 6 chances. Two surprises for this team have been Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana. The "other" Santana has always been good at home, but lately he's been solid on the road as well to move to 4-0 on the season. Meanwhile, Saunders pitched 8 innings of shutout ball yesterday against the A's. I've said it before, but when John Lackey comes back, this team is going to be downright scary.
3.) St. Louis Cardinals (18-11)- The Cards have rolled off 5 of their last 7 against divisional competition (Pirates, Astros, Reds). They'll get their first whack at the elite in the NL Central starting on Friday when the Cubs come to the Arch. Remember how I bashed Braden Looper last week? Well he's quietly gone 4-1 so far. Guess who else is ballin'? Adam Wainwright (3-1) and Kyle Lohse (3-0). Albert Pujols is still smoking the ball and this team has to be taken seriously now as long as their health remains a non-issue. Unfortunately, Rick Ankiel has cooled off a little. It's a good thing the Red Birds don't need him on the mound.
4.) Boston Red Sox (15-11)- I'm probably still giving this team more credit than they deserve, but it's hard to slight the defending World Champs. They did just get swept by the Red Sox, but in one of those games Josh Beckett had an absolute gem (13 K's, 1 ER) and would have won 99% of the time, but James Shields had a career start with a Complete Game Shutout. Still, the Red Sox appear to be right where they want to be...tied for the division lead.
5.) Chicago Cubs (16-10)- I almost slotted the Cubbies ahead of the Sawx, but they are currently on a 2 game losing streak (and they've dropped 4 of 5) so I left them in the middle spot. They've got a big upcoming week of divisional play against the Cardinals and Reds (and they're currently finishing up with the Brew Crew) so we'll discover just how good these Cubbies can be in our next poll.
6.) Milwaukee Brewers (15-11)- This team has really been rather mediocre this year. They're just 5-5 over their last ten and they've really got to start putting together a string of victories if they want to overtake the Cubs and Cards. Prince and Ryan Braun, it's up to you to put this team on your back and score some more runs.
7.) Philadelphia Phillies (15-12)- It's pretty amazing that this team is right on the brink of taking over the NL East Division lead without their MVP from last year. They also have received next to nothing from Ryan Howard, the MVP from 2 years ago. It's all about Chase Utley. He continues to rake along with his buddy Pat Burrell later in the lineup. I gotta tip my hat to these guys for helping this team contend without so many pieces.
8.) Florida Marlins (15-11)- I know, I know. The Marlins are ahead of the Phils in the standings, but let's be serious, they aren't as good as the Phillies and they won't be ahead of them down the stretch (and probably not in the next poll). One thing can be said about this team, they've got the best player in baseball leading off for them. There, I said it. Hanley Ramirez is the best in the bigs right now in my opinion. Whichever contender gets him on their roster after he becomes a free agent is going to be very happy (and a lot less rich).
9.) New York Mets (14-11)- That's right, 3 in a row for the NL East. The Amazin' Mets make their debut in the power poll this week at #9. I can definitely see this team making a move up the ladder as time goes on because of their superior line-up. They're stacked on offense and any time Johan's on the hill, you know it's almost always an automatic W. Right now, this club looks like they're primed for the playoff...but it's a long season.
10.) Oakland Athletics (17-11)- I almost left the A's off the list this week, but the record speaks volumes, even if the play on the field isn't exactly inspiring. They've still quietly won 5 of 7, but how long can this young squad keep it up. I would be a lot more sold on them if Rich Harden were healthy, but I guess you can't really count on that now can you. The Big Hurt was a big addition for them, and it should do wonders for this offense.
Also Receiving Votes: Tampa Rays (15-12), Baltimore Orioles (15-12), Chicago White Sox (14-12), Los Angeles Dodgers (14-13)