Thursday, April 25, 2013

MLB Power Rankings: Rangers surging

Photo by USA Today

By Steve Roney
CSNwashington.com

This early in the season a lot can change in the space of a week, and while the Braves hold steady with the majors' best record, several teams have made big leaps -- and some have slid a mile. Here is how Nationals Insider Mark Zuckerman, Nats writer Chase Hughes, and I see the league stacking up as of today:

1. Atlanta Braves (LW: 1) – Hughes: The Braves look like the most balanced team in the majors and are playing without Brian McCann, Jonny Venters, and Brandon Beachy. It will be interesting to see what or who can slow them down.

2. Texas Rangers (LW: 9) - Roney: Josh who? They certainly don't miss Hamilton so far, and while Opening Day starter Matt Harrison is on the shelf until after the All-Star Break, Derek Holland and Yu Darvish continue to dazzle. 

3. Oakland Athletics (LW: 2) - Roney: Cleanup hitter Jed Lowrie is one of four Red Sox castoffs that Billy Beane has collected (Brandon Moss, Coco Crisp, Josh Reddick). Lowrie and Crisp, especially, are raking right now as they wait for Reddick - who led last year's team with 32 home runs - to finally get going.  

4. Boston Red Sox (LW: 4) – Hughes: Seeing the Red Sox do this well has to be a nice pick-me-up for the city of Boston. As long as Alfredo Aceves doesn’t get in the way (ed. note: Aceves was optioned to Triple-A Pawtucket Thursday morning), they could be back in the playoffs this season.

5. Colorado Rockies (LW: 6) - Roney: It feels like we say it every year, but these guys can mash. Dexter Fowler looks like a superstar so far in centerfield. 

6. St. Louis Cardinals (LW: 8) - Zuckerman: Seems like they've sorted out their bullpen woes, with Mujica taking over as closer.

7. San Francisco Giants (LW: 10) - Roney: Their vaunted pitching staff has been battered a bit this year, with Matt Cain's struggles the most surprising. Only Madison Bumgarner is holding up his end of the bargain.

8. Cincinnati Reds (LW: 13) - Zuckerman: Aroldis Chapman is sporting nearly a 10-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Simply unhittable.

9. Baltimore Orioles (LW: 15) – Hughes: Last season was no fluke, the Orioles are legitimate and look even better than they were in 2012.

10. Milwaukee Brewers (LW: 21) - Zuckerman: Snuck up on everybody with a 9-game winning streak. 

11. Arizona Diamondbacks (LW: 11) - Roney: Didi Gregorious, the main return in the Trevor Bauer trade, has hit well in limited action (.400 avg, 2 HR). The D-Backs hope they've found the long-term answer at shortstop with him.

12. New York Yankees (LW: 7) – Hughes: The Yankees are staying afloat which is bad news for the rest of the A.L. East as they are still missing key guys.

13. Kansas City Royals (LW: 14) - Zuckerman: Amazing what a difference a quality starting rotation makes. These guys could be for real.

14. Pittsburgh Pirates (LW: 16) - Zuckerman: The most anonymous closer in baseball? Jason Grilli, who has yet to allow a run.

15. Washington Nationals (LW: 5) – Hughes: Given all that has gone wrong, the Nats should feel fortunate their record isn’t even worse. Someone other than Bryce Harper needs to get hot and soon.

16. Detroit Tigers (LW: 3) - Zuckerman: Is it a good sign when you ink a guy to a minor-league deal (Jose Valverde) and immediately name him closer?

17. New York Mets (LW: 12) – Hughes: The Mets started out with about the same record last season and couldn’t keep it up. I doubt they’ll hang around all year, but for now they are a tough matchup with John Buck as hot as he is.

18. Minnesota Twins (LW: 18) - Zuckerman: Rookie centerfielder Aaron Hicks is 4 for his first 55. Hmm...maybe they shouldn't have traded Denard Span AND Ben Revere.

19. Tampa Bay Rays (LW: 25) – Hughes: The Rays are pitching well, they just can’t hit. Maybe letting big bats go each year is finally catching up to them.

20. Los Angeles Dodgers (LW: 19) - Roney: The first of two overpaid, underachieving LA teams. The good news? Carl Crawford has started the season pretty well. The bad news? All of that starting pitching depth has vanished, as starting pitching depth is wont to do.

21. Los Angeles Angels (LW: 28) - Roney: Arte Moreno has spent too much money for this. It's early, of course, but after last season's disappointment, an encore performance should have heads rolling in LA.

22. Cleveland Indians (LW: 23) - Zuckerman: Remember when Ubaldo Jimenez was one of the best young arms in the majors? Feels like ages ago.

23. Toronto Blue Jays (LW: 22) – Hughes: None of the Blue Jays’ pitching acquisitions from the offseason have panned out so far. Not much you can do when your top three starters have ERAs over 4.60.

24. Philadelphia Phillies (LW: 20) – Hughes: So far the Phillies can’t hit and can’t pitch. Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay have improved as of late, but they will have to be even better to save the Phils’ season.

25. Seattle Mariners (LW: 24) - Roney: With a lineup filled with former uber-prospects who haven't quite found their stroke, Seattle hasn't been able to score for what feels like ten years. At least Dustin Ackley has showed vague signs of life at the plate lately. 

26. Chicago White Sox (LW: 17) - Zuckerman: Adam Dunn is batting .100 and on pace for 230 strikeouts. Just isn't the same hitter anymore.

27. Chicago Cubs (LW: 27) - Zuckerman: The three scariest words in Chicago right now: "Carlos Marmol entering."

28. Houston Astros (LW: 29) - Roney: Not nearly as bad as they should be, given their extremely low payroll. Context: A dozen or so players are making more money this season than Houston's entire roster.

29. San Diego Padres (LW: 26) - Roney: At least Chase Headley is back to inject some offense, and to allow Jedd Gyorko to slide over to second base.

30. Miami Marlins (LW: 30) – Hughes: What a disaster, not even Giancarlo Stanton can get anything going.

50 comments:

NatsLady said...

I dunno about the A's. Yes, they are 13-9, but they are 6-0 against the Astros. Yes, they swept the Angels, they also lost 2/3 to the TIgers, got swept by the Rays, and lost 2/3 to the Red Sox. Very mixed recently--I would not rank them 3rd.

Section 222 said...

Figured this might be a good place to pass on a comment to Mark and the others at CSN. I've yet to see a full episode of Beltway Baseball even though I've set my DVR to record at both 11 pm Thursday and 5 pm Friday. Every time, the show has come on late, or maybe not at all. Might I suggest that sticking to your advertised schedule might lead to higher viewership? And if it's going to be shown at other, predictable times, start to finish, maybe give us a heads up?

Ok, I confess I might fast forward through some of the O's stuff. But not all, I promise.

Tcostant said...

Before the season started I was post national media love of the Nationals. Now I post these types:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/mlb/news/20130424/stephen-strasburg-washington-nationals-slow-start/?sct=uk_wr_a1

Section 222 said...

Sorry, it's The Baseball Show I'm talking about.

JD said...

Sec222 and NatsLady,

I must join you in the opinion that there are too many posters intent on proving that they are smarter, more connected and more intuitive than everyone else including the manager and the GM and it really is quite childish and irritating.

You can have as many opinions as you want and they can be as outlandish as you wish as long you are not abusive or redundant. It's also not really necessary to underscore every post with 'As I said before' or to quote yourself in an effort to prove your brilliance.

Let's just exchange opinions and move on.

JD said...

As awful and gut wrenching as this current streak feels it's really not the end of the world. Many, many teams including last year's world champions have dug themselves out from much deeper holes and at much later points in the season.

The 1st step in my opinion is to stop the bleeding and I do see some hopeful signs. The starters and the bullpen are slowly rounding into form, not dominating but much crisper.

With all the analysis of LaRoche his performance this April is not that atypical for him. He generally ends up being reasonably productive when all is said and done. Desmond and Espinosa will hit better; that's their history and Zim with all his health issues is still a vital cog and I am sure will put up good numbers before all is said and done.

natsfan1a said...

I'll third that (not that it will make a difference).

JD said...

Sec222 and NatsLady,

I must join you in the opinion that there are too many posters intent on proving that they are smarter, more connected and more intuitive than everyone else including the manager and the GM and it really is quite childish and irritating.

You can have as many opinions as you want and they can be as outlandish as you wish as long you are not abusive or redundant. It's also not really necessary to underscore every post with 'As I said before' or to quote yourself in an effort to prove your brilliance.

Let's just exchange opinions and move on.
April 25, 2013 1:39 PM

NatsLady said...

(embarrassed). I do use "as I said before." Mostly because I repeat myself. I repeat myself because not everyone reads and takes notes on every one of my posts, and because the same topics come up over and over again without new facts, so my opinions have not usually changed. Shutting up might be an option, of course.

NatsLady said...

Tcostant, not the worst article I have read. Pretty much sums up the situation--almost sympathetically.

Section 222 said...

JD, as usual I like both your analysis and your approach. And since I sometimes fall into the category of quoting myself, I will try to take my own and your advice.

Perhaps the most hopeful sign is Strasburg's six strong innings after the bad first. If he can get going (and Gio too), the Nats could turn things around pretty quickly. As I think you've said before, and I know I have (oops), it's all about the pitching.

JD said...


NatsLady,

For whatever it's worth my comments weren't directed at you. I actually find you to be open minded and reasonable with a willingness to change your mind and admit (heaven forbid) that your opinion isn't gospel and could be wrong.

JD said...


222,

My observation is that our top 4 pitchers aren't in attack mode and the same is true of Storen which leads me to believe that this is Mc.Catty's approach (pitch to contact). I disagree with this approach admitting that I do so as a observing fan and not as any kind of expert.

natsfan1a said...

I took JD's comments as agreeing with NatsLady and 222, not as being directed at them. (Disclaimer: I scrolled through much of the prior thread.)

NatsLady said...

1a, what is your new avatar?

JD, also, that adventure last year with the dropped ball was May 8. I remember thinking, "Why are there miscommunications in the outfield after more than a month of play?" There is an ad (I forget which product, which shows-ta-go-ya how effective the ad is) with the fielders talking and shouting at each other between plays. Hopefully, that's what our guys are doing.

Also, I was thinking about Solano/Strasburg. Seemed like Solano went to the mound more than Suzuki does. It's hard for me to judge--I know some pitchers (example: Verlander) have a train of thought and don't like interruptions, and Gio is the other extreme. Any idea where Stras is on the "whispering" spectrum?

DWS said...

It's a game. Many men making a fortune playing a game. I enjoy the struggles and downfalls of a group of people trying to live up to their managers expectations. If they can't do it they can look at themselves in the mirror.
This is a team that should win. Hit the ball. Simple isn't it?

Traveler8 said...

1a, is that Mr. Natural? Keep on trucking...

natsfan1a said...

It's Mr. Natural, to go along with my (prior thread alert) "Truckin'" pick for Grateful Dead walk-up music. :-)

222, you're not alone, as I've also yet to watch a full episode of the Baseball Show (sped through some segments...cough..).

1a, what is your new avatar?

natsfan1a said...

Heading off to buy Traveler a drink on the NIDO now. Well done. :-)

Sec. 3, My House by the side of the road Sofa said...

1a, what is your new avatar?

But ... what does it all mean?

JD said...


NatsLady,

I really have no idea other than I really like Suzuki and I can't see how he is a problem with the pitching staff; just doesn't strike as a difficult fellow at all.

My only observation of Stras is that he seems to be very serious and irritable and is prone to 'falling apart' when things start unraveling. Gio is usually very good at limiting the damage. He often gets himself in a mess with walks but you rarely see him give up the 3 run homer. He is a fighter.

JZimm is pretty cool and rarely gets rattled but he hates walking people and will occasionally groove one to avoid walking a hitter.

bowdenball said...

DWS-

If you think it's simple to hit the ball you need to take a look at the .gif of Yu Darvish last night that's making the rounds in the internet today

JD said...


natsfan1a,

100% in agreement with NatsLady and 222.

Sec. 3, My House by the side of the road Sofa said...

I must join you in the opinion that there are too many posters intent on proving that they are smarter, more connected and more intuitive than everyone else including the manager and the GM and it really is quite childish and irritating.

I don't think it's that many--two or three, tops. There's a lot more who can't see past the last few games, but can still remember both sides of every player's baseball card from forty years ago.

DWS said...

I guess I'll have to put "sarcasm" after posts.

natsfan1a said...

I do enjoy the reminiscences from those baseball card folks. (I like the front side best, myself.) :-)

NatsLady said...

Here is the video. It's amazing.

Yu Darvish

http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/04/25/fan-freaking-tastic-all-of-yu-darvishs-pitches-at-once/

Sec. 3, My House by the side of the road Sofa said...

Bowdenball, do you mean this one?

This is brilliant, btw. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

natsfan1a said...

I thought you were quoting "Bull Durham." :-)

Speaking of movies, and baseball, when I told my husband about Werth's feng shui comments, he opined that the hitters might need some help from Jobu.

Section 222 said...

NL, I've seen that ad a bunch of times on MLB Network, and never could remember who it's for, so I paid attention last week -- it's Dick's Sporting Goods. Who'dve thought? And is it just me or do some of the chattering infielders sounds like MLB Net personalities like Kevin Millar and Harold Reynolds?

Three cheers for Grateful Dead references 1a and Traveler. What a long strange trip it's been, gonna miss me when I'm gone!

Mark Zuckerman said...

Section 222 said...

Figured this might be a good place to pass on a comment to Mark and the others at CSN. I've yet to see a full episode of Beltway Baseball even though I've set my DVR to record at both 11 pm Thursday and 5 pm Friday. Every time, the show has come on late, or maybe not at all. Might I suggest that sticking to your advertised schedule might lead to higher viewership? And if it's going to be shown at other, predictable times, start to finish, maybe give us a heads up?


I understand the frustration, believe me. The issue is that if the Caps are playing on Thursday night and the game runs longer than 2 1/2 hours, every other show on CSN that night gets bumped a few minutes. So The Baseball Show has come on the air at 11:10 p.m. a couple of times.

We don't get a lot of advance notice, only an hour or so, but I try to post that on Twitter as soon as I know to give everyone a heads-up. Once Caps season is over, this won't be an issue anymore (though who knows how long their season will extend now?).

My best advice: If you're DVRing the show, set it to add an extra 15-20 minutes at the tail end just in case. Wish I could offer a better solution than that, but it's the best I can for now.

natsfan1a said...

Oops, meant to paste the 2:28 comment from DWS there in re. Bull Durham.

That video is cool and all, but I'm worried that some Insiders might look at it tonight and think they had one too many adult beverages.

baseballswami said...

Nothing against Suzuki personally, the pacing just seems better with Ramos. The guys seem to get in a better rhythm, less going through signs. Ramos seems to frame better. When the same pitchers are more effective with one of them, it's got to be a factor. I know it was a small sample size, but it was dramatic with Ramos.Game 1, Stras mentioned that Ramos doesn't complicate or over think. Also read how much homework Suzuki brings into the game. Not wrong, but maybe not simple enough for this rotation. Remember he was the backup in Oakland when he came here. Those folks are pretty savvy.

Theophilus T. S. said...

"Gio is usually very good at limiting the damage. He often gets himself in a mess with walks but you rarely see him give up the 3 run homer. He is a fighter."

This, of course, why he's pitched three crappy games this season. Stop making excuses for these guys. Find your fantasy somewhere else instead of making it up.

Sec. 3, My House by the side of the road Sofa said...

Dang. updating NIDO ...

Theophilus T. S. said...

The Caps may be playing after the Nats have run themselves out of contention and everyone has lost interest in Beltway Baseball.

Sec. 3, My House by the side of the road Sofa said...

That video is cool and all, but I'm worried that some Insiders might look at it tonight and think they had one too many adult beverages.

That's not mutually exclusive. Just saying.

And I thought DWS was making a Bull Durham allusion, too. But I can easily see how one might miss that, in here.

natsfan1a said...

Thanks, 222, but I have to credit Eric with getting the ball rolling a few threads ago. Now, if only a player would pick up on the idea. :-)

Good point by Mark on the DVR bracketing.

Section 222 said...

Three cheers for Grateful Dead references 1a and Traveler. What a long strange trip it's been, gonna miss me when I'm gone!

Steady Eddie said...

1a -- indeed, what a long, strange trip it's been.

NL, JD, 222 -- thank you for setting the tone on a thread for grownups. Indeed, apart from hitting, they have been picking up the rest of their game in the past couple of days.

NL -- while I mostly agree with and appreciate the good perspective your stats on hitting this April and last provide, in some respects our hitting this year has been worse on average from the standpoint of distribution.

We rarely busted out last April, but did distribute our offense more evenly across the games, which was effective to win so many one-run games because our pitching was so lights-out. This year, we've won some blowouts (6-1, 7-4, 10-3, 6-1) and some relative slugfests, by April standards (7-6, 8-7, 7-6) -- and had our bats go stone cold dead in 9 of our 11 losses (4 shut outs, 2 losses scoring 1 run, 3 losses scoring 2 runs). Feast or famine on the offensive side, and all but one of the feasts (the 8-7 win against the Reds) against mediocre to bad teams. And we've been almost entirely unable to come back from early deficits, unlike last year.

So in that sense, our offense has been worse than it seems (of course, it did help last year that our schedule was easier in April, but taking 3/4 from the Reds in our first home series was almost entirely dependent on lights-out pitching).

All the more urgent to get it in gear, especially against the tough teams we're facing for most of the next month.

Sec. 3, My House by the side of the road Sofa said...

I do enjoy the reminiscences from those baseball card folks. (I like the front side best, myself.) :-)

I don't mind the reminiscences, myself; I do it myself, just not for DC. It's the juxtaposition of that with the extreme versions of What Has [pick a player] Done Lately? that leaves me shaking my head.

NatsLady said...

Eddie, not coming back against early deficits and not adding on runs are two things that bother me a lot.

(1) I don't like the sinking feeling that an early 2 or 3 run deficit is insurmountable. It isn't.

Just peck away, play small ball if you have to, get the runs back, get to the middle reliever.

(2) I don't like the assumption that you can coast with a 5-run lead and turn it on in the later innings if you need to. You can't.

The other team will be pecking away, and if it gets close, remember their best relievers are their closer and setup guy (not necessarily in that order). Start with a 5-run lead, let it slip to 5-4 and you are back to pressure on your relievers to be perfect.

DWS said...

The beauty of baseball. Field of Dreams is my preference.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

baseballswami said...
Nothing against Suzuki personally, the pacing just seems better with Ramos. The guys seem to get in a better rhythm, less going through signs. Ramos seems to frame better. When the same pitchers are more effective with one of them, it's got to be a factor. I know it was a small sample size, but it was dramatic with Ramos.Game 1, Stras mentioned that Ramos doesn't complicate or over think. Also read how much homework Suzuki brings into the game. Not wrong, but maybe not simple enough for this rotation. Remember he was the backup in Oakland when he came here. Those folks are pretty savvy.

April 25, 2013 2:32 PM


I agree with everything you said. Strasburg agrees with everything you said. Ramos has caught Strasburg once this season and it was Opening Day and it was efficient and resulted in a W. All the other starts have been awkward in rhythm but I do believe Solano was well prepared and that drop to start the game through everything out of whack.

Suzuki has many strengths but he loses it on the interpretation of what his pitcher wants and when you communicate by sign language you better have memorized the script before you stepped on to the stage.

Catchers have to remember that when they are working with an Ace, it is the pitcher as the King and the catcher is there to serve the King like a trusted advisor and at the end of the day the King may cut your head off.

Suzuki has to remember that and be willing to adapt. I think he made strides with JZim but I don't think you keep forcing Suzuki on Strasburg. Ramos was schooled by Pudge and understands the prep work for Stras.

But every time you mention anything remotely negative about Suzuki, it seems to create a lot of anger here.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

On baseball smarts, you have 30 GMs and 30 team Presidents and 100's of scouts and still there are several teams every year that lose 90+ games.

It just goes to show you a lot of smart people can't find a way to win more then they lose.

JD said...

Theo,

'This, of course, why he's pitched three crappy games this season. Stop making excuses for these guys. Find your fantasy somewhere else instead of making it up.'

And of course you have never had 3 instances of where you've done something below your lofty standards.

The fact that he pitched at near Cy Young level all last year is lost on your sarcastic brain.

The fact that he won 15 and 16 games the previous 2 years on a mediocre team is also irrelevant to you.

Yeah, let's just concentrate on 3 crappy games this year. Good thing you are not in a decision making position.

Steady Eddie said...

NL @ 2:47, you've pithily captured the consequences of poor offensive distribution.

That's part of what I was trying to get at in a somewhat incoherent (Smartphone autocorrect-muddled) post this morning. Rather than try to peck away and play small ball if necessary, as you said, they're mostly trying to win the game all in one swing or pitch -- which I analogized to actors who come out of their roles on stage to visualize how they're doing.

Of course, the offensive drought has been so bad that small ball efforts have more often than not fallen short anyway -- think of Desi's bunt single yesterday followed by his almost-picked-off steal of second, where he got stranded anyway. But just because you can't always succeed at that where you have to try is no reason to give up entirely (not suggesting he is, though it took a bunch of win-the-game-instantly swinging from his heels before he got to that small ball effort).

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

There is certainly the time to play for crooked numbers and a time to play for add-on runs.

Davey needs runs now any way he can get them but the swinging from the heals and catching air reminds me of the me, me, me, hero approach of a guy trying to win the game with one swing where a double with a man on 2nd is better than a solo HR. Rallies start with those doubles. Just look at the 1st inning yesterday.

The double is very under-rated which is why a gap hitter like Rendon is right for this team if he can get something going.

Kirbs said...

Since the line-up for today isn't here yet, this is what I would do (and why I'm not a manager)

1-Span CF
2-Lombo 2B (Rendon when zim is back)
3-Harper LF
4-Desmond SS (Zimm when back)
5-ALR 1B
6-Werth RF (Desmond when Zim is back)
7-Rendon 3B (Werth when Zim is back)
8-C
9-P

Rich P. said...

"Sec. 3, My House by the side of the road Sofa said...

I must join you in the opinion that there are too many posters intent on proving that they are smarter, more connected and more intuitive than everyone else including the manager and the GM and it really is quite childish and irritating.

I don't think it's that many--two or three, tops."

Let's see, there's Ghost of Steve M., peric, Theophilus, Manassas Nats Fan, JayB, Laddie Blah Blah, and that's just off the top of my head. There are others. A lot more than two or three.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Rich P aka Feelwood. Yes, you told us so about Ryan Zimmerman.

Rich P. said...

"Remember he was the backup in Oakland when he came here. Those folks are pretty savvy."

Suzuki had fallen out of favor in Oakland, but that was because he wasn't hitting well, not because he was deficient behind the plate. It was Billy Beane who gave him the big contract that includes the vesting option for 2014 that he's playing for right now. That's not a backup catcher deal.

Post a Comment