MLB Power Rankings: Why it's time to believe in the Rays

Yahoo Sports

It’s still only Tax Day, so as far as baseball goes, we don’t know anything.

We’re still early enough in the season that one hot week or one slump can skew any results we see. Beware small sample sizes, as anyone who has watched enough baseball will tell you.

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Flukes are common this time of year, but this week we’re already starting to tell a bit about who is a pretender and who is actually good.

The hot-hitting Seattle Mariners, for instance, appear to be coming back to Earth. But the Tampa Bay Rays, baseball’s other early-season success story, they’re looking more like the real deal.

In this week’s Power Rankings, we pass the title of No. 1 to the Rays, plus see where the up-and-down New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox land, plus we see the Houston Astros climb and a bunch of nine-win NL teams clustered in our top 10.

Tampa Bay Rays' Guillermo Heredia (R) celebrates his solo home run with Mike Zunino during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto on Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP)
Tampa Bay Rays' Guillermo Heredia (R) celebrates his solo home run with Mike Zunino during a game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Toronto on Sunday, April 14, 2019. (AP)

This week’s top 10

1. Tampa Bay Rays (12-4; last week: 5)

The Rays have the best winning percentage in MLB, the lowest ERA and the highest run differential. Like some teams that are better than expected this time of year — sorry, Mariners — there’s a good reason to believe the Rays *are* actually this good. They have the best record in MLB since Aug. 1 of last season.

2. Houston Astros (11-5; last week: 8)

The Astros helped bring the Seattle Mariners back to Earth with a weekend sweep. They also brought their win streak to nine in a row, which included a sweep of the Yankees. The Astros started the season losing three of four to the Rays, but maybe that makes more sense now.

3. Milwaukee Brewers (10-6; last week: 3)

I really like the Dodgers so far this season. And the Brewers just took two of three from the Dodgers. Their pitching hasn’t been lights out, which explains the -6 run differential, but it’s pretty clear last year wasn’t a fluke.

4. Los Angeles Dodgers (9-8; last week: 1)

My heart says the Dodgers are a better team than this, but it’s hard to ignore six straight losses to the Cardinals and Brewers. That offense though! Their 102 runs (second in MLB) and 33 homers (third in MLB) prove they’re dangerous.

5. St. Louis Cardinals (9-6; last week: 15)

The Cardinals have won six of seven, including four straight over the Dodgers. To be honest, there’s not a lot of room between the Cards and the next three teams. These nine-win NL teams all have a high ceiling. This week, I’m highest on St. Louis, but that could easily change.

6. Philadelphia Phillies (9-5; last week: 2)

It was a pretty ho-hum week for the Phillies, who need to get their pitching going in a better direction. Being 22nd in team ERA isn’t going to keep them hanging in the tough NL East.

7. New York Mets (9-6; last week: 6)

As good as the Mets’ pitching should be, they’re actually behind the Phillies in team ERA. They rank 23rd. All small-sample warnings apply, of course, but who expected it would be their offense that would be keeping the Mets among the top NL teams?

8. Atlanta Braves (9-6; last week: 12)

The Braves and Mets split a four-game series. While I’m putting them fourth in this group of four good NL teams (mostly because I don’t believe in their pitching in the long term), they should be happy that they tagged Jacob deGrom for three runs and five hits.

9. Seattle Mariners (13-5; last week: 7)

I was ready to sign up for the bandwagon this week if the Mariners kept things going. The offense is still statistically the best in baseball, but getting swept by the Astros showed me that we still haven’t seen exactly who these Mariners are.

10. Oakland A’s (10-9; last week: 13)

The A’s have the second-most homers in the league and the third-most runs. Think of it this way: Take away those two losses in Japan to the Mariners and the A’s would be 10-7.

San Diego Padres Fernando Tatis Jr. celebrates with Manny Machado after hitting a solo home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday, April 14, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo)
San Diego Padres Fernando Tatis Jr. celebrates with Manny Machado after hitting a solo home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday, April 14, 2019, in Phoenix. (AP Photo)

The surprise division leaders

11. Minnesota Twins (8-4; last week: 10)

12. San Diego Padres (11-6; last week: 11)

The Padres and Twins lead their respective divisions, which is certainly a surprise, even early in the season. I’m not particularly bullish on either in the long-term, but the early-season success is commendable.

Teams I’m remaining positive about

13. Cleveland Indians (8-7; last week: 9)

14. Washington Nationals (7-7; last week: 16)

15. Los Angeles Angels (8-7; last week: 14)

After a strong week last week, the Indians got swept by the Royals, which wasn’t great. The Nationals have looked better lately and the Angels swept the Brewers, but also lost Mike Trout to injury. I’m looking at the good and still see these teams as promising. We’ll see which way they go this week.

About the AL East

16. New York Yankees (6-9; last week: 4)

17. Boston Red Sox (6-10; last week: 30)

So there’s an AL East team on top of the rankings, but it’s not the Yankees or Red Sox? April baseball is crazy. The storied rivals are moving in different directions right now. The Red Sox may be shaking off their horrible start, but the injuries are piling up for the Yankees, who got swept by Houston and then lost two of three to the White Sox.

We don’t believe you, you need more people

18. Pittsburgh Pirates (8-6; last week: 18)

19. Detroit Tigers (8-7; last week: 19)

20. Texas Rangers (7-7; last week: 20)

By record, the Pirates, Tigers and Rangers should be at least a tier higher, but there’s no way I trust these teams more than the Yankees or Red Sox. The early returns are nice, but the Tigers aren’t scoring any runs, the Pirates aren’t doing much better and the Rangers have a 5.32 team ERA. This will all catch up with them.

Chicago Cubs shortstop Javier Baez stops a ball hit by Los Angeles Angels' David Fletcher during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, April 12, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo)
Chicago Cubs shortstop Javier Baez stops a ball hit by Los Angeles Angels' David Fletcher during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, April 12, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo)

Show me something

21. Arizona Diamondbacks (7-9; last week 21)

22. Chicago Cubs (5-9; last week: 23)

23. Colorado Rockies (4-12; last week: 17)

The Rockies remain surprisingly bad, but they’re lucky the Cubs are also bad and getting more of the attention. The D-backs are barely keeping themselves out of our final group. In all cases, these teams need to show us who they really are.

The cellar

24. Cincinnati Reds (5-9; last week: 29)

25. San Francisco Giants (7-10; last week: 26)

26. Toronto Blue Jays (5-11; last week: 24)

27. Kansas City Royals (5-10; last week: 28)

28. Chicago White Sox (5-9; last week: 22)

29. Baltimore Orioles (6-10; last week: 27)

30. Miami Marlins (4-12; last week: 25)

The order might change here week to week, but it’s looking like these seven have become what we knew they’d be: the bottom of the league. Kudos to the Reds, Royals and the Giants for padding their win totals this week (the Reds won four in a row and KC swept Cleveland!) but there’s not much to believe in here.

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