I’ll admit it—I read the comments.
A large percentage of the comments I get on articles like this are from diehard fans who can’t understand why I hate their teams so much (for the record, I don’t!). But last week a reader asked me what goes into my Power Rankings and I really had to stop and think about it. While I don’t have firm criteria for my rankings, I can tell you a few of the factors I consider. It’s far from scientific and maybe you would do it a bit differently, but here’s my general thought process:
Hot/Cold Streaks: Like we see in the college football and basketball polls, if you had a good week (like the Yankees just did) you deserve to go up in the rankings. On the opposite end of the spectrum, a terrible week (looking at you, Cardinals) will knock you down a few pegs. Pretty self-explanatory. I also take injuries into account. For example, I don’t see the Blue Jays moving up anytime soon with Josh Donaldson on the shelf.
Resume/Experience: That’s why the Cubs are 18 spots ahead of the Reds despite having a worse record. The Reds are off to a far better start than anticipated and deserve to move up in the rankings, but on paper the Cubs are still a much better team and I expect it to play out that way. At this juncture, I think the reigning champs are pacing themselves and deserve the benefit of the doubt. If the Cubs are still going through the motions a month from now and the Reds have built a strong lead in the NL Central, then it might be time to reconsider.
Roster Construction/Overall Talent: As you can see, half the league is bunched up at 7-6 and 6-7 right now. So what gives the Mets (7-6) the advantage over a team like the Twins, who are also 7-6? The Mets were a Wild Card team last season and boast a top-notch starting rotation with studs like Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom. And if that’s not enough, they have one of the league’s elite power hitters in Yoenis Cespedes. We’re talking about proven talent here. The Twins deserve recognition for their strong start—that’s why I bumped them up to 17 this week—but if the two teams played in a seven-game series right now (that’s a good tiebreaker if you ever do your own Power Rankings), I still think the Mets would win handily.
But mostly, I use my gut. Let’s see what my gut’s telling me this week …
1. Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 1
Maybe we need to raise the stakes a bit for Kyle Schwarber. In his career, Schwarber has slashed .364/.451/.727 during the playoffs compared to just .241/.357/.469 in the regular season. Kris Bryant found his power stroke with two homers in Saturday’s loss to Pittsburgh but is still hitting just .212 with 14 strikeouts in 52 at-bats. The Cubs were 10-3 at this point last season but with 149 games left on the schedule, I don’t think the defending champs are sweating it.
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2. Houston Astros
Last Week: 6
Jose Altuve slugged a career-high 24 homers last year but has now gone his last 119 at-bats without a round-tripper. Of course, he’s still been plenty productive with a .320 average to go with a league-leading five steals. We know about George Springer’s power but his biggest weapon might be his availability. Monday was his 200th straight game, the longest active streak in the major leagues. It didn’t look good for Carlos Correa when a pitch hit off his hand late in Saturday’s comeback win over Oakland, but luckily he escaped with just a bruise.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 3
A little rust would have been understandable after Corey Seager missed most of spring training with an oblique injury, but that’s not how Corey rolls. So far the 22-year-old has chipped in with a .283 average, two homers and 10 RBI. Justin Turner is up to his old tricks. He’s followed up last year’s breakout season by hitting .370 through his first 46 at-bats. In an alternate universe without blisters, Rich Hill might be a Cy Young contender. Unfortunately, we live in this universe where Hill is already enduring his second stint on the disabled list.
4. Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 7
It’s only a matter of time until Trey Mancini becomes a household name. So far he leads the Orioles with four homers and a booming .364 average. A strained forearm sent ace closer Zach Britton to the disabled list, but there’s no need to panic. His fill-in Brad Brach holds a stingy 1.91 ERA with a 10.8 K/9 since the start of last season. Even Baltimore’s rotation, which was thought to be the team’s Achilles heel, has impressed with a 3.67 ERA in the early going.
5. Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 5
The Red Sox can still hit with the best of them—they lead the majors in batting average at .287—but legendary DH David Ortiz’s presence has been sorely missed in the power department. So far the Sox have produced a league-low six homers including three by Pablo Sandoval. Offseason pickup Mitch Moreland has been a pleasant surprise. In addition to his reliably stellar play at first base, the 31-year-old is hitting a mighty .333 with a league-high nine doubles.
6. Washington Nationals
Last Week: 4
Bryce Harper is off to a scorching start (.333, 4 HR, 13 RBI) but let’s not forget that he did the same thing last year (9 HR, 24 RBI last April) before fading badly in the second half when teams stopped pitching to him. The Blake Treinen closer experiment is off to a rocky start. So far the right-hander is 3-for-4 in save chances with an ugly 6.00 ERA. Daniel Murphy somehow fell to the 41st pick in the Rotoworld Friends and Family League. Not bad, Jesse. Not bad at all.
7. Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 11
Well the Tigers aren’t hitting (.237) and their bullpen is still sort of a mess (6.64 ERA) but who says every win has to be aesthetically pleasing? The Tigers have had a fortunate early draw with games against the White Sox, Twins and the Red Sox when half their team was battling the flu. Could this be the year Daniel Norris blossoms into an ace? The left-hander known for living in his car has looked sharp with a 2.19 ERA in his first two starts. Think Justin Verlander is losing sleep over Saturday’s clunker? I doubt it.
8. Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 2
Corey Kluber has had to eat a lot of innings over the last few years, logging 725 1/3 frames (playoffs included) since the beginning of 2014. Maybe fatigue has been a factor in his slow start (6.38 ERA in three outings). Through his first 13 games, Edwin Encarnacion has twice as many strikeouts (20) as hits (10). That’s not what the Indians had in mind when they shelled out $65 million for him this offseason.
9. New York Mets
Last Week: 8
What does a guy have to do to get some run support around here? After outlasting the Marlins in a 16-inning marathon on Thursday night (I regret all of it), the Mets dropped three straight despite solid outings from Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Matt Harvey. Forget Six Flags. The craziest rollercoaster in town is still Yoenis Cespedes. After homering five times in a span of nine at-bats last week, Cespedes has struck out five times with only one hit in his last 11 trips to the plate.
10. Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 12
The Rockies needed somebody to step up after Jon Gray went down with a stress fracture in his left foot. Tyler Chatwood answered the call Saturday by twirling a two-hit shutout against the Giants. He’s gone 9-2 with a 1.80 ERA over his last 15 road starts. Nolan Arenado looks like the MVP candidate we all knew he would be, but the Rocks need to get Trevor Story going. He’s hitting .114 right now including an abysmal .059 at Coors Field.
11. Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 9
While Fernando Rodney technically hasn’t blown a save yet, his hideous 8.53 ERA suggests he won’t be long for the closer role. JJ Hoover should see ninth inning chances when Rodney inevitably flames out. Robbie Ray finished ninth in the majors in strikeouts last season but disappointed with a 4.90 ERA. This year he’s been a stud in both categories (1.96 ERA, 11.78 K/9).
12. New York Yankees
Last Week: 21
CC Sabathia isn’t getting any younger, but you wouldn’t know it by the way he’s been pitching. Dating back to last season, the big left-hander is 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA over his last nine starts. The Yankees were 1-4 when Gary Sanchez went down with a strained biceps. Since then they’ve gone 8-0 while outscoring opponents 49-22. Don’t expect the Yankees to go quietly in the AL East.
13. Miami Marlins
Last Week: 19
Reigning NL Player of the Week Marcell Ozuna went nuclear during his six-game hitting streak (it ended on Monday night), batting .435 with four homers and 12 RBI over that span. Giancarlo Stanton has also picked it up of late with three round-trippers over his last six games. The Marlins couldn’t reel in Kenley Jansen or Aroldis Chapman during free agency, but so far the bullpen hasn’t missed a beat with Kyle Barraclough (1.29 ERA), Brad Ziegler (1.29) and A.J. Ramos (1.50) patrolling the late innings.
14. Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 13
Jung Ho Kang’s visa issues have opened the door for David Freese to start at third base. He’s taken advantage of the opportunity, thriving to the tune of a .314/.467/.543 slash line. Only five players have drawn more walks than Freese this season. Jameson Taillon has been far and away the Pirates’ best starter, contributing a superb 0.90 ERA over his first three starts. He carries a lifetime 2.98 ERA in the major leagues.
15. Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 15
The Angels won six of eight to begin the year but have fallen on hard times by losing six straight. The offense has evaporated by scoring just nine runs during that span. Aside from the Angels’ chronic streakiness, Mike Trout has been the usual amount of awesome, hitting .327 with three home runs, 10 RBI and three steals. He said he plans to steal 40 bases this year and if Mike Trout says he’s going to do something, he probably will.