Who said there's no parity in baseball? When I sat down to do the MLB Power Rankings for this week, I started at the top. Without regard to specific order, there was a clear-cut top three in my mind, and then the next two teams were pretty clear as well. Then I looked to the bottom of the league. No. 30 was the easiest choice on the board (sorry, Baltimore). Finding the two teams to precede the hapless Orioles was again relatively easy.
Now, look at six through 27 in the rankings. Sure, it's easy to surmise the Bay Area teams as being better than the two Ohio teams, for example. But, generally speaking, the middle 22 teams are a bastion of mediocrity. The entire group is separated by just 3 1/2 games. It seems like naming who is hot and who is cold changes on the basis of just one series. Take the Brewers: they came home riding a four-game winning streak, but were swept by the Cubs -- and they were utterly dismantled, getting outscored 25-4 in the three-game series. Yes, the same Cubs who entered the series having lost five of six, but have now won four of five.
You could do this with almost any two teams in that 6-27 group. It is a mess. So I fully expect a bunch of "Team X is better than Team Y! You are stupid," comments. Just remember, arguing one team over another is much more simple than trying to accurately rank all 30.
That said, bring on the venom, because the only thing that can't be plausibly disputed is the Baltimore Orioles are the worst team in baseball. Everything else is up for debate.
- 1. Rays | Record: 14-5 | Previous Week: 2
There are stats that are illuminating and stats that are merely interesting. The fact that the Rays have outscored their opponents 24-9 in the eighth inning this season is somewhere in the middle. It says something good about their bullpen, a preseason question mark, but it mostly serves to justify the feeling that this young team "knows how to win." Also justifying that feeling? David Price. - Josh Alper
- 2. Yankees | Record: 12-6 | Previous Week: 1
They lost their first series of the season in Anaheim and Mark Teixeira still isn't hitting, but the biggest reason for concern about the Bombers is that Javier Vazquez pitched poorly again on Sunday. He looks a lot more like a mediocre back-end starter who nibbles in fear of getting pasted than the guy who struck out 238 batters and walked 44 in Atlanta last season. He has just 18 strikeouts in 20 innings this year and already has 11 walks. - Josh Alper
- 3. Twins| Record: 13-6 | Previous Week: 3
The M&M boys have a combined OBP of .488 with five home runs and 27 RBI so far this season, and the Twins trail only the Rays in runs scored in the American League with 101. And all this is coming while Jason Kubel is hitting .168. Meanwhile, Francisco Liriano may not be throwing as hard as he did when he first emerged, but he's getting similar results, with a 2-0 record and a 1.29 ERA in his first three starts. - Tom Fornelli
- 4. Cardinals | Record: 11-7 | Previous Week: 4
With four starts under his belt, Brad Penny is 3-0 with an ERA under 1.00. His strikeout rate is a tad low and his homerless streak is unsustainable, but he's certainly improved from his struggles in the last two seasons. With great work from Penny and all of their rotation so far, the rest of the scuffling NL Central should be worried. - Pat Lackey
- 5. Phillies | Record: 11-7 | Previous Week: 6
J.A. Happ, Joe Blanton, Jimmy Rollins and Brad Lidge are hurt, while Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, Ryan Madson and Cole Hamels are struggling. Had you peered into a crystal ball before the season started, would you think the Phils would have a 1-1/2 game lead in the NL East, considering the above circumstances? Actually, maybe. That's just how good they are. Even in what appears to be an incredibly strong division, they are the class of it.
- 6. Padres | Record: 11-7 | Previous Week: 22
Bud Black has changed the culture of the Padres from slow and scared on the basepaths to quick and opportunistic. Exploiting unaware pitchers and sluggish defenders, the Padres ran their way to pivotal runs in recent sweeps of the rival Giants and Diamodbacks. The hitters, ecstatic to be out of Petco Park, then frolicked in Cincinnati, pushing the winning streak to eight games before Sunday's loss to the Reds. These guys aren't pushovers, despite the $38 million payroll. - Tom Krasovic
- 7. Athletics | Record: 12-8 | Previous Week: 9
You wouldn't think 12-8 would be that noteworthy of a start, but it is for this team. Since 1992, the A's have won as many as 12 of their first 20 just one other time. They were also 12-8 in 2008. Still, it doesn't mean much, because they started poorly in many of their winning seasons (1999-2006). That hot start in '08 turned into a 75-86 record at the end. - Jeff Fletcher
- 8. Angels | Record: 10-10 | Previous Week: 14
After starting out the season 2-6, the Scioscias won eight of 12 games and became the first team to win a series from the Yankees. Reliever Fernando Rodney offset the struggles of injured closer Brian Fuentes. Maicer Izturis helped out at third base while slump-ridden Brandon Wood got some time off. If Scioscia plugs Izturis into the No. 2 spot, the lineup might grow deeper, but the organization wants to give Wood more chances to get going. - Tom Krasovic
- 9. Giants | Record: 10-8 | Previous Week: 7
New hitting coach Hensley (Bam Bam) Meulens made it a priority to get the Giants to be more disciplined at the plate. How's it gone so far? They have seen 3.62 pitches per plate appearance, exactly the same as last year. They were worst in the league in 2009 and are the same so far in 2010. Their scoring is up by about 8 percent, though. - Jeff Fletcher
- 10. Rockies | Record: 10-9 | Previous Week: 10
It's difficult to imagine losing one of your own as suddenly and as unexpectedly as happened when Colorado president Keli McGregor died last week. For the Rockies to have been able to keep any kind of focus on the game says great things about manager Jim Tracy and his staff.- John Hickey
- 11. Marlins | Record: 10-9 | Previous Week: 5
One of the many examples of the Marlins getting the better end of trades with other teams? They got Leo Nunez for Mike Jacobs before the 2009 season. The Royals moved on without Jacobs after one year and the Mets recently released the first baseman. The 26-year-old Nunez, meanwhile, has worked 8 1/3 scoreless innings and gone 4-for-5 in save chances. He's struck out 10 and looks the part of a bona fide lock-down closer.
- 12. Nationals | Record: 10-9 | Previous Week: 17
That's a 6-4 homestand against the Brewers, Rockies and Dodgers -- so I'm definitely convinced the Nats will be a solid team at home this season. Heading to Chicago and Florida for six on the road will be another test in the building of this franchise. Oh, and just in case you're wondering ... Stephen Strasburg is 2-0 with a 0.73 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings for Double-A Harrisburg. Things are definitely looking up in Washington.
- 13. Mets | Record: 10-9 | Previous Week: 28
Just when we thought they were in for another long year, they have a stellar 6-1 homestand against the Cubs and Braves. The best news, though, was not the solid debut of Ike Davis or the fact that Johan Santana appears to be dominant again. It was ... Jose, Jose, Jose, Jose! Jose Reyes hit .391 with a .481 OBP, three steals and six runs during the successful stretch. His return to form, and the according wins, are no coincidence.
- 14. Cubs | Record: 9-10 | Previous Week: 19
If they can keep the offense going and fix the bullpen (for example, if the Carlos Zambrano experiment pays off), this is going to be a tough team. Why? Starting pitching. Since the Opening Day debacle by Zambrano, the starters have gone 8-3 (and had four wins blown by the bullpen) with a minuscule 2.34 ERA. And now Ted Lilly's back in the fray.
- 15. Tigers | Record: 10-9 | Previous Week: 11
The Tigers won't be too happy with the results of their 11-game road trip when they return home on Tuesday, but they shouldn't be too upset with themselves either. Aside from an 11-3 loss to Seattle to start the trip, they were in every single game. What would make them really happy though would be for Justin Verlander to pitch into the sixth inning. He's only managed to get there once in his four starts this season. - Tom Fornelli
- 16. Braves | Record: 8-10 | Previous Week: 8
Five straight losses and now they head to St. Louis for four. You rarely can call the last series in April a big one, but the NL East looks awfully tough right now. Can the Braves really afford to lose three or four in St. Louis and fall behind the Phillies by five-to-seven games -- in addition to looking up at the Marlins, Mets and Nats?
- 17. Blue Jays | Record: 10-9 | Previous Week: 16
It was a .500 week for the Jays but a very good week for general manager Alex Anthopoulous. Brandon Morrow allowed three runs and struck out 16 in 13 innings over two starts. That kind of arm is why the Jays traded for him this offseason. Jose Molina threw out four would-be base stealers on Sunday, the first time that's happened in one game in eight years. That kind of arm is why the Jays signed him. Good work on both fronts for a team that's going to need help from every corner. - Josh Alper
- 18. White Sox | Record: 8-11 | Previous Week: 26
While the offense continues to struggle, the good news in Chicago is that the White Sox won their first series of the season by sweeping the Mariners this weekend, including consecutive wins in walk-off style. The bad news is that after four starts this season Jake Peavy has as many walks as strikeouts (15) and an ERA of 7.66. - Tom Fornelli
- 19. Mariners | Record: 9-10 | Previous Week: 15
Time was when the Seattle bullpen was a weapon. Right now it's just an ammunition dump that blows up at unexpected times. Three consecutive losses in the White Sox' last at-bat this weekend -- all on home runs -- may just be a passing thing, but it's just the kind of thing that will keep the Mariners from living up to expectations. - John Hickey
- 20. Astros | Record: 8-10 | Previous Week: 29
The Astros are 8-2 after their 0-8 start. Sure, three of those wins came against the scuffling Pirates, but with Lance Berkman back in the lineup the 'Stros are on an undeniable tear. They don't play a team that's currently over .500 until the Padres at the end of next week, so there's no reason to think it can't continue for a least a bit longer. - Pat Lackey
- 21. Diamondbacks | Record: 8-10 | Previous Week: 24
From the perspective of someone who has no vested interest in the team, this is one of the most fun groups to watch -- at least offensively. The Snakes are tied for the major league lead with 26 home runs and lead the majors in slugging percentage. Of course, they need more timely hitting, as they are sixth in the majors in runs and just 8-10 where it matters.
- 22. Red Sox | Record: 8-11 | Previous Week: 23
Homestands that end with 4-6 records usually aren't reasons for celebration in Boston, but all things are relative when they start off with four straight losses. The Sox could have spun into full on panic mode last week, but were able to keep things together thanks to the unlikely duo of Jeremy Hermida and Darnell McDonald. Jon Lester also turned in a decent start and David Ortiz actually homered so perhaps better days are ahead. - Josh Alper
- 23. Dodgers | Record: 8-10 | Previous Week: 13
Their rotation figured to be a question mark, and it has been (Vicente Padilla hurt, Chad Billingsley still awful), but the surprise is that the bullpen has struggled too. The Dodgers 5.14 relief ERA ranks 12th in the league. They've blown four saves and converted just one. Jonathan Broxton (0.00) has been fine, but the rest of the relievers have been ineffective. - Jeff Fletcher
- 24. Brewers | Record: 8-10 | Previous Week: 20
After destroying the Pirates by a scoring margin of 36-1 over a three-game series at PNC Park last week, the Brewers came home to face the Cubs and were outscored 25-4, giving the three games right back. They've been pretty schizophrenic so far this year, but there's good news in at least the immediate future: the Pirates open a three-game set at Miller Park tonight. - Pat Lackey
- 25. Rangers | Record: 8-10 | Previous Week: 18
This is a team of hitters, right? Well the hitters have a .172 batting average with two outs and a .137 average when facing two strikes. So what's happened to the offense? The game is all about situational hitting, and pitchers have been able to take advantage of those situations so far. - John Hickey
- 26. Indians | Record: 8-10 | Previous Week: 21
The Indians have to be very pleased with what they've seen from Fausto Carmona and Mitch Talbot in the first month of the season, along with the entire pitching staff, because it's been better than most people expected. If only there was somebody in the lineup who could hit besides Shin-Soo Choo. The Indians have plated merely 60 runs in their first 18 games. - Tom Fornelli
- 27. Reds | Record: 8-11 | Previous Week: 25
After a five-game losing streak that included a humiliating sweep at the hands of the Pirates, the Reds split a six-game home series with Los Angeles and San Diego that included a series win against the Dodgers and the snapping of San Diego's eight-game winning streak. The bad news is that their rotation has been terrible this year, with only rookie Mike Leake acquitting himself well through 3-plus turns of the rotation. - Pat Lackey
- 28. Royals | Record: 7-11 | Previous Week: 27
Seriously, who wasn't expecting Scott Podsednik to be leading the AL in hitting three weeks into the season? Those same people probably didn't think Yuniesky Betancourt would be hitting .338 either. Too bad they have the worst team ERA in the AL at 5.55, or they might actually be able to take advantage of all this early offense. - Tom Fornelli
- 29. Pirates | Record: 7-11 | Previous Week: 12
In what may be the worst week in franchise history, the Pirates dropped three games to the Brewers, including last Thursday's 20-0 abomination, then dropped three more to the Astros. Their best moment of the week was when pitcher Chris Jakubauskas was able to walk off the field without serious injury after a scary incident involving his head and a line drive off of Lance Berkman's bat. Everything directly baseball-related? Bad, bad, bad. - Pat Lackey
- 30. Orioles | Record: 3-16 | Previous Week: 30
The arrival of Rhyne Hughes to play first base puts a spotlight on the two things going on in Baltimore right now. The positives are that Hughes is another promising young hitter in a lineup that's starting to teem with them and that he made himself right at home in the big leagues. The down side is that the O's are paying Garrett Atkins $4.5 million to sit on the bench because they decided they needed to pepper a team with veterans in hopes of winning 75 games instead of 70 in a season that is all about prologue. - Josh Alper