Wednesday, May 7, 2008
MLB Power Poll
The League is bi-polar right now as half of the division leaders have leads of at least 3 games (AL East, NL Central, and NL West) while the other divisions all have at least one team within a game of the front-runner, and in the case of the AL Central, all 3 teams are within 3.5 games. What does this mean in the world of baseball? Well there's a pretty significant gap between the elite teams and the rest of the pack. Let's dissect.
1.) Arizona Diamondbacks (22-11)- The D-backs hold onto the top slot in the rankings for the 4th week in a row (constituting every week of the power poll so far), but their claws are loosening. Arizona has a .500 record in their last 10 games and they've failed to hold their opponents to under 4 runs in every game since last week Monday. Brandon Webb keeps rolling (7-0) and is the current top contender for the NL Cy Young Award. Keep an eye out for Mizzou Phenom pitcher Max Scherzer who will make his first career MLB start on Saturday at the Cubs.
2.) Boston Red Sox (22-13)- Boston is currently on a 5 game win streak going into tonight's game against Detroit. The Red Sox took the first two from the Tigers and have won 4 of 5 of them this season. After getting swept by the Rays a week and a half ago, the BoSox got redemption by sweeping Tampa Bay at Fenway in their previous series. Dice K has been surprisingly consistent this year with a 5-0 record to pair with his 2.43 ERA and 33 K's. This rotation is shaping to be better than most expected at the beginning of the season. Red Sox Nation happily welcomed back David Ortiz to relevence this month. Papi is 9 for 21 with 2 Jacks in May.
3.) St. Louis Cardinals (22-12)- These Red Birds are flying high by winning 8 of their last 10 games. It's all about the Cards starting pitching. The only pitchers with more than one loss are Jason Isringhausen and Joel Pineiro (2 each). My apologies to Rick Ankiel. Last week I said he was slumping, but that couldn't be further from the truth. He has 12 hits since last Monday. He's aided St. Louis in winning all but 1 game since my last post. Props to Tony LaRussa who's put down the bottle long enough to help the Red Birds surprise the nation with their inspired play.
4.) Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (22-13)- The Angels are another streaking team, which is why they land in the top 5 for the 4th straight week. Like the Cards, LAA has had stellar starting pitching from some unlikely names. Joe Saunders and Ervin Santana both sport dazzling 6-0 records and each have ERA's South of 3.00. With ace John Lackey nearing his return to the rotation, this could be the cream of the pitching crop in the American League. It's not just the rotation that rolling though, the offense has scored at least 3 runs in every game since the last Power Poll. 1st Baseman Casey Kotchman has been the surprise leader of the charge placing in the top 5 in the AL in Average and Slugging Percentage.
5.) Oakland Athletics (22-14)- I can't ignore the A's any longer. They deserve the 5 spot in the poll and I've been shafting them the past few weeks. Can you blame me though, this is still a team without name value. Like the Angels, the Athletics are on a 4 game winning streak and have been within a game of the division lead (or on top) for the great majority of the season. They don't blow you away, but they get the job done every game thanks to smart baseball and great management.
6.) Los Angeles Dodgers (19-15)- The Dodgers are one of the hottest teams in the majors. They're 8-2 in their last 10 and have won 4 series in a row. Brad Penny was rolling before today when he got absolutely shelled by the Mets giving up 10 runs and 10 hits in less than 5 innings. The key for LAD has been their outstanding offense. Matt Kemp has led the blue wave with a 10 game winning streak. 7 of those games were multi-hitters for the Right Fielder. Juan Pierre has started to pick up his game, but what the hell is wrong with Andruw Jones? He's batting just .170 and only has 1 bomb all year.
7.) Philadelphia Phillies (19-15)- The Phightin' Phils sat just a half game back of the NL East Division lead going into tonight's game against the top seeded D-backs. The teams have split the first two games of the series. Philly is 4-2 in their last 6 and have played in close contests throughout the week (only one game was decided by more than two runs since the last power poll). Thanks to their strong bullpen, they're able to win these close games. Brad Lidge won his first game of the year on Sunday and still has yet to give up an earned run all year. He's got 7 saves on the season. The Phillies are looking for their starting pitching to get up to speed with their potent offense as their Top 4 SP's have a .500 record on the year.
8.) Chicago Cubs (19-15)- The Cubbies represent our first cold team of the power poll this week. They're a chilly 3-7 in their last 10 games. In Jon Lieber's first start as a Cub since 2002, he gave up 5 runs in 2 innings of work including 4 dingers in the 2nd. 5-1 Carlos Zambrano has been the bright spot in a pretty dismal rotation. Rich Hill looked like an up and comer last year, but he was demoted to Triple-A Iowa this week after another sub-par performance. Luckily, the North-Siders hitting has been prolific so far to make up for their pitching bretheren. Derek Lee is in the top 7 in runs, homers, and hits in the National league and young Geovonny Soto is tied for the league lead in doubles (13) while sporting a .345 average, good enough for 8th in the NL. The Cubs hitters will have to keep firing on all cylinders if they want to stay close with the dangerous Diamondbacks in a 3 game series starting on Friday.
9.) Florida Marlins (19-14)- The Marlins lead the NL East thanks to victories in 3 of their last 4 games. Scott Olsen (4-1) and Mark Hendrickson (5-1) each notched W's for Florida this week to help stabilize a shaky rotation. Kevin Gregg had been 3-0 as a closer until he lost twice last week to leave Florida second-guessing their situation. The Marlins have found consistency in their batting lately thanks to the top shortstop in baseball, Hanley Ramirez. He's tied for third in the NL in steals and ranks in the top 12 in hits and runs. After their final game with the Brewers tommorow, they've got a 6 game road trip against the Nats and the Redlegs.
10.) Minnesota Twins (16-15)- This may come as a shock to some, but the before falling to the ChiSox yesterday, the Twinkies had been cruising (winners of 5 in a row...they're also up big right now after a lengthy rain delay). Similar to the A's, the Twins don't have the brand name players that most of the other teams on this list have, but they're getting the job done thanks to some newbies like Carlos Gomez (tied for the AL lead in Steals). Joe Mauer is once again proving that when healthy, he's arguably the best hitting catcher in the big leagues. He's currently third in the AL in average at .337. Meanwhile, the pitching staff has mean pretty boo-urns, but they're doing enough to get credit. Look for Francisco Liriano to be back up in the rotation in the next couple of weeks after a pretty solid minor league stint so far. Big props to Ron Gardenhire for his brilliant managerial skills after losing so much in the off-season.
Others Receiving Votes: Atlanta Braves (17-15), New York Mets (17-15), Houston Astros (18-16)