At what point does the term slow start not apply anymore? After all, it's easy to say you shouldn't overreact to a 2-5 first week, considering the MLB season lasts 162 games. But when you play in the same division as the mighty Yankees and Rays (who appear to be the two best teams in all of baseball) and have now entered the second month of the season, I'm not quite sure you can still say "It's early."
There are issues with the Red Sox. Several of them. They are aging and underperforming, among many other problems. Worst of all, they were just swept by the lowly Baltimore Orioles -- the same team that entered the series with the Red Sox at a dreadful 4-18 clip -- after it looked like they might be turning the proverbial corner with a sweep of the Blue Jays.
In any other division, I'd gladly still roll with the early tag and wouldn't start counting this team out. After all, the 2002 Angels started 6-14 and ended up winning the World Series. Many A's teams of this millennium suffered through awful starts and gotten hot for the rest of the season. We know about the 2007 and 2009 Rockies. The 2007 Cubs started 22-31 and still won the NL Central.
Another thing those teams have in common? They were not in the same division as the two best teams in baseball. Good luck, Boston. You're going to need it.
- 1. Rays | Record: 18-7 | Previous Week: 1
Outside of the fact that Joe Maddon's source of fashion inspiration is Bill Belichick, it's damn near impossible to find something to dislike about the Rays right now. Two losses to open their series with the Royals raised some eyebrows, but then they turned around and beat Zach Greinke 1-0 on Sunday. If they come back from a nine-game Western swing without reverting to last season's troubles away from the Trop, there really won't be much left to question. - Josh Alper
- 2. Yankees | Record: 16-8 | Previous Week: 2
The Big Apple is all atwitter about Javier Vazquez's continuing struggles, but a bad fifth starter isn't going to sink a team as good as the Yankees. Thanks to Phil Hughes and his 1.44 ERA, that's all Vazquez is as he tries to repair his game. Much more worthy of worry is the groin injury that sent Curtis Granderson to the disabled list because it will force Brett Gardner to turn his hot start into a breakout first half. - Josh Alper
- 3. Cardinals | Record: 17-8 | Previous Week: 4
Life on Albert Pujols Island is going swimmingly for the Cardinals. They're clipping along with a 17-8 record, the best in the National League, and their 4 1/2-game lead in the NL Central is three games bigger than any other team's lead at this juncture. Pujols, meanwhile, is on pace for more than 45 homers and 150 RBI and his hitting .340. The King of Pujols Island needs some kind of crown. Is it too soon to wonder if it's a Triple Crown? - Pat Lackey
- 4. Twins | Record: 16-9 | Previous Week: 3
Joe Mauer seems optimistic he'll avoid a DL stint, while his manager appears to be planning on one. The Twins have survived beautifully without their All-Star closer Joe Nathan thus far in the season, but Mauer is much more valuable than any reliever. The Twins were 74-59 in Mauer starts last season while going 13-17 in the others.
- 5. Phillies | Record: 14-10 | Previous Week: 5
Their stronghold on the incredibly tough NL East went away this past week, as the Phillies dropped four of five and fell a 1 1/2 games back -- but they stormed back with a vengeance. They lit Mike Pelfrey and Johan Santana up in consecutive starts. Pelfrey entered the game with a 0.69 ERA and had worked 24 consecutive scoreless innings, only to have the Phils rough him up for six runs in four innings. Santana entered Sunday night with a 2.08 ERA and the Phillies obliterated him to the tune of 10 earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. And that's why the Phillies are still the class of the best top-to-bottom division in baseball.
- 6. Tigers | Record: 16-10 | Previous Week: 15
What a week for the Tigers. After winning the finale in Texas, they came home to take five of six from the Twins and Angels. A pivotal early-season three-game set opens Monday night in Minnesota, but the best news right now for the Tigers is the outing Justin Verlander had Sunday. He was dominant once again after a bad start. If he's back to his '09 self, watch out.
- 7. Padres | Record: 16-9 | Previous Week: 6
They outscored the Brewers 21-2 in a four-game series at Petco, giving the Padres a 10-3 record in the pitcher's haven. They've outscored their opponents 66-24 in those 13 games. This is not some fluky early-season run -- the Padres are going to be very tough to beat at home all year, now that they've tailored their lineup to the spacious ball park.
- 8. Giants | Record: 14-10 | Previous Week: 9
Until Jonathan Sanchez blew it by allowing -- gasp -- three runs on Sunday, the Giants had a string of 13 consecutive games in which their starters had allowed two runs or fewer, just one shy of the record since 1952. The 1968 Pirates and 1965 Cubs were the only teams to have 14-game streaks. - Jeff Fletcher
- 9. Mets | Record: 14-11 | Previous Week: 13
I was armed and ready to have the Mets make a major move in the ranks. Before their Saturday game against the Phillies -- at which point the Mets had won 10 of their last 11 -- I thought to myself that I'd probably slot them in the 3-5 range with the Twins and Cards. If they were able to take down Doc Halladay and then sweep the Phillies, where would they rank? Third? Top two, ahead of the Yankees? ONE? Instead, the Mets lost to Halladay -- which really isn't bad -- but then got a stinker out of Johan Santana on Sunday. Still a great run, but they need Johan to sustain success long-term.
- 10. Marlins | Record: 13-12 | Previous Week: 11
You could call them consistent, predictable or average, but you definitely have to credit the Fish for their ability to avoid extended slumps. The Marlins have spent the entire season within the window of one game under .500 to three games over. Their longest losing streak is three and longest winning streak is two. They haven't swept anyone, but haven't been swept. So why are they 10th? Because the entire league is full of mediocrity and the Marlins have at least avoided a really bad stretch.
- 11. Nationals | Record: 13-12 | Previous Week: 12
They've got to get better starting pitching to maintain this early-season run. Craig Stammen and John Lannan have been getting hammered -- and there's no chance Livan Hernandez keeps pitching like he's Walter Johnson reincarnated. Of course, they should be adding someone relatively soon, right? Stephen Strasburg will probably be promoted to Triple-A soon after thoroughly dominating Double-A (1.64 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 22 innings). The Nats have a homestand May 19-23. I full expect the phenom to debut in that stretch of games.
- 12. Cubs | Record: 13-13 | Previous Week: 14
I wonder if Marlon Byrd thinks Cubs fans are racist (as Milton Bradley alleged)? All the Cubs' new center fielder has done is hustled, worked hard, been a positive clubhouse influence and hit .354 with a .975 OPS and become one of the most popular players -- if not the most -- among fans in less than a month. Boy, what a novel concept (work hard, play hard, succeed, be accountable and positive, etc.).
- 13. Rangers | Record: 13-12 | Previous Week: 25
From worst to first in three games? Of course, they are only two games ahead of the last-place Mariners. Welcome to the AL West in 2010. It looks like none of the teams are going to rise up and above, but none are going away, either. This should easily be the most exciting division -- from top to bottom.
- 14. A's | Record: 13-13 | Previous Week: 7
The typical East Coast Bias would have you believe that no team has had more bad luck with injuries than the Mets, but the A's would argue otherwise. They have used the DL 10 times already this season, making it 74 times since the start of '07. Kurt Suzuki (their best player) and Brett Anderson (arguably their best pitcher) are both on the DL and Justin Duchscherer will be soon. - Jeff Fletcher
- 15. Blue Jays | Record: 13-13 | Previous Week: 17
Alex Gonzalez had eight home runs in 391 at-bats last season. He has eight dingers in 105 at-bats so far this year. Unexpected productivity like that is a big reason why the Jays are still in third place a month into a season that had them ticketed for a cellar battle with the Orioles. Having Aaron Hill back in the lineup will go a long way toward keeping them out of that predicament. - Josh Alper
- 16. Angels | Record: 12-14 | Previous Week: 8
After three starts, Joel Pineiro was 2-1 with a 1.77 ERA and 13 strikeouts (to just three walks). In his past two starts, Pineiro is 0-2 with a 14.46 ERA with just three strikeouts (and three walks). The Angels badly need the Pineiro from the first three outings to take the West again.
- 17. Reds | Record: 12-13 | Previous Week: 27
Here's a good sign: Since hitting his first two homers against the Pirates two Sundays ago, Jay Bruce is hitting .348/.423/.783 with four doubles, two triples, and four homers in 13 games. It's especially good because Joey Votto and Scott Rolen have been desperate for help in an otherwise punchless lineup and because only Mike Leake has an ERA of below 5.00 in their rotation. - Pat Lackey
- 18. Diamondbacks | Record: 11-14 | Previous Week: 21
As I said last week, the offense is so fun to watch. Of course, they are being rendered meaningless by an utterly embarrassing bullpen. The Diamondbacks' relievers have a brutal 7.02 ERA -- easily good for last in the majors. The next worst 'pen (Pirates) has a 5.83 ERA.
- 19. Rockies | Record: 12-13 | Previous Week: 10
On the other hand, the Rockies 2.44 bullpen ERA is second in the majors and only stands to get better once everyone gets back in their established roles. Franklin Morales is a fine setup man, but has struggled as the stand-in closer for the injured Huston Street. But Street will head out on a rehab assignment next week, so a strength will soon get even stronger.
- 20. Dodgers | Record: 11-14 | Previous Week: 23
Forget, for a moment, about the lousy pitching and injuries. Take a second to appreciate the start that Andre Ethier is having. Ethier is hitting .365 (2nd in the NL), with nine homers (tied for 1st) and 26 RBI (1st). To think, the A's traded Ethier (for Milton Bradley) because Ethier had fallen behind Travis Buck on the organizational depth chart. - Jeff Fletcher
- 21. Mariners | Record: 11-14 | Previous Week: 19
Worth the wait? Cliff Lee was stellar Friday night in his Mariners debut -- working seven innings of three-hit ball, walking none, striking out eight and allowing zero runs. Of course, his team didn't give him any run support and the bullpen lost the game. Lee was probably saying to himself, "I thought I left Cleveland?"
- 22. Braves | Record: 11-14 | Previous Week: 16
The Bravos just suffered through a crippling eight-game skid, where they found about every possible way to lose games. The best remedy? Why, a visit from the Houston Astros, of course. We'll find out how real the Braves' three-game winning streak is when they visit Washington and Philly this week.
- 23. White Sox | Record: 10-15 | Previous Week: 18
There aren't many people around who believe the White Sox are a team bad enough to be playing .400-ball. They'll get their chance to prove the masses correct with a seven-game homestand against the Royals and Blue Jays, starting Monday night. If the Sox don't win at least four of those games, it's very reasonable to start questioning their chances of turning it around.
- 24. Red Sox | Record: 11-14 | Previous Week: 22
It's a mighty big week in Red Sox Nation. The team is reeling coming off a three-game sweep in Baltimore which isn't exactly the situation you want to be in when the Angels and the Yankees are rolling into town for the next seven. At least the starting pitching showed signs of life last week, but things won't get too much better until the lineup gets a similar wakeup call. - Josh Alper
- 25. Brewers | Record: 10-15 | Previous Week: 24
Let's just say it: Unless this team is playing the Pirates, they're not very good. In fact, they lost a series to the Pirates at home this week. Randy Wolf has been a solid addition to their rotation, but Doug Davis has been an abject disaster, as have Trevor Hoffman an LaTroy Hawkins. Their 138 runs allowed is tied for second worst in the NL. - Pat Lackey
- 26. Indians | Record: 10-14 | Previous Week: 26
Grady Sizemore continues to scuffle, as an 0-for-4 Sunday snapped a modest three-game hitting streak (of course, it was against Francisco Liriano). His .248 average last season was tolerable due to several factors -- injury, walks creating a decent OBP and power -- but the current .207 mark is tougher to swallow. He has zero home runs and hasn't been walking, either (.271 OBP).
- 27. Royals | Record: 10-15 | Previous Week: 28
Please don't judge pitchers solely on records. Zack Greinke is 0-3 with a 2.27 ERA and is allowing less than one baserunner per inning. He lost Sunday because he gave up a solo home run to Evan Longoria and his team decided to score zero runs in support. Overall, his team is 1-5 in his starts this year, despite the fact that Greinke has only allowed more than two runs one time. And yet, when he signs a big contract to play elsewhere after 2012, people will blame him -- not the Royals. When that happens, I'll be the one asking you: "So you'd turn down a huge pay raise to stay and get your teeth kicked in every night when you don't deserve it?"
- 28. Orioles | Record: 7-18 | Previous Week: 30
It's Wiggy's world, the rest of us are just living in it. Ty Wigginton hit two home runs to help beat the Sox on Saturday and then doubled in the winner in the 10th inning on Sunday. That gave the Orioles their first winning week of the season even while they continued to rearrange the deck chairs in the Titanic replica they call a bullpen. Alfredo Simon is the closer du jour, although that could change before the day is out. - Josh Alper
- 29. Pirates | Record: 10-15 | Previous Week: 29
The Pirates actually managed to win a series in Milwaukee (they hadn't even won a game there since 2007 prior to Tuesday) and string together a three-game winning streak this week, which given their prior seven-game losing streak that included losses by scores of 20-0 and 17-3 was a nice accomplishment. They're still last in the NL in runs allowed (175, 20 more than the next closes team) and second to last in runs scored (86, ahead of only Houston), so the few wins this week don't necessarily make the season outlook brighter. - Pat Lackey
- 30. Astros | Record: 8-16 | Previous Week: 20
After sweeping the Pirates to get to 8-10 eight days ago, the Astros ceased to play the Pirates and have now dropped six straight to the Reds and Braves. In those six losses, they only cracked the two-run barrier once. Never base an entire evaluation of a team on one series against the Pirates. - Pat Lackey