Power Numbers: Front-runners

Power Numbers: Front-runners
By Ryne Sandberg, Yahoo Sports
May 16, 2005

Ryne Sandberg
Yahoo Sports
Each week during the regular season, I will rank the 10 best teams – and the five worst teams – in the major leagues. I will also single out a team that is on the rise and a team that is on the decline.

To view previous rankings, click here.

Team records are through May 15.

THE TOP 10

White Sox 1. Chicago White Sox (27-11) – They set a major league record by holding a lead in 37 straight games. This tells me that they jump on opponents early and don't give up leads late.

Cardinals 2. St. Louis Cardinals (24-13) – Their status will drop now that Scott Rolen is out with a bad shoulder, but for now they're still the best team in the NL. They'll not only miss Rolen's bat but they'll also miss his steady glove at third base. He's an incredible fielder who saves multiple hits every game.

Orioles 3. Baltimore Orioles (24-13) – They had an interesting series with the White Sox in Chicago in what could be the ALCS matchup. I like the Orioles' lineup and their willingness to prove people wrong. It's like they have a chip on their shoulder and want to show that they are contenders.

Braves 4. Atlanta Braves (23-14) – What a surprise. The Braves are on top of the NL East and their starting pitching is dominating (although Mike Hampton was pulled from Saturday's game with tightness in his left forearm).

Red Sox 5. Boston Red Sox (22-15) – They're an experienced team that has the ability to win close games. Boston's starting pitching is getting better and its offense will always be solid with Johnny Damon leading off and Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz driving in runs.

Twins 6. Minnesota Twins (21-15) – Their lineup is impressive. Shannon Stewart is heating up at the top of the order, and Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau remain hot. Also, Joe Nathan is doing a great job closing with 11 saves. I picked the Twins to win the AL Central, so I expect them to challenge the White Sox.

Marlins 7. Florida Marlins (19-15) – Any team that has that many dominant pitchers will always find a way to win. They'll never have a long losing streak because one of their starters will come to the rescue.

Dodgers 8. Los Angeles Dodgers (21-16) – Getting closer Eric Gagne back will give the Dodgers a boost. He gave up back-to-back home runs in his season debut Saturday, but it won't be long before he returns to his unstoppable form.

Angels 9. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (21-16) – They still haven't reached their potential. They rank third in the AL in team ERA but their .243 average is near the bottom of the league. You just know that with Darin Erstad, Vladimir Guerrero and Garrett Anderson they are bound to score some runs.

Diamondbacks 10. Arizona Diamondbacks (23-16) – They're the new leaders in the NL West, a division where it'll be a four-team race all the way. Javier Vazquez, Russ Ortiz, Shawn Estes and Brandon Webb are all pitching well in the rotation, and Brandon Lyon has been great as the closer. Craig Counsell has been a positive addition in the leadoff spot.

ON THE RISE

Padres San Diego Padres (22-16) – They just swept the Marlins and they've won 13 of their last 16 games. It seems that things turned around shortly after the hiring of CEO Sandy Alderson, who's been brought in to turn the Padres into a force in their new ballpark.

ON THE DECLINE

Athletics Oakland Athletics (14-23) – They have lost eight straight games and haven't recovered from their back-to-back, walk-off losses in Boston. They've suffered from injuries (Bobby Crosby, Nick Swisher and now Rich Harden) and a lack of production from Jason Kendall, Eric Chavez and Erubiel Durazo. The A's are taking their lumps in a rebuilding year, and it could be hard for them to come out of this funk.

THE BOTTOM FIVE

Devil Rays 26. Tampa Bay Devil Rays (14-25) – This team just isn't ready to compete yet. Give them five years and they might be contenders … if they could get out of the AL East.

Indians 27. Cincinnati Reds (14-23) – Yet another team that has struggled with its pitching. If they had some reliable arms, they might've been able to contend because of their offense (namely Sean Casey, Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn), but it hasn't happened.

Astros 28. Houston Astros (14-23) – The Astros have seemed to age quickly. The only bright spot is the day that Roger Clemens pitches. That's the only time I'd buy a ticket to watch this team.

Rockies 29. Colorado Rockies (10-25) – It remains a task to build a pitching staff when you play half of your games in Denver. Mike Hampton is proof that Coors Field is where good pitchers struggle and lose it. Hampton had a lot of trouble getting outs in Colorado but he's back to his old form with Atlanta.

Royals 30. Kansas City Royals (11-27) – The only thing they have to look forward to is their young players, such as big left-hander Andrew Sisco and third baseman Mark Teahen. Plus it's always a bad sign when there's a managerial change this early in the season. I was surprised by the resignation of Tony Pena.


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Updated on Monday, May 16, 2005 3:29 pm, EDT

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