With the Dodgers still faltering, it seems we may be entering a period of instability with our third No. 1 team in as many weeks.
Well, after the Dodgers provided consistency at the top of our power rankings for so long, it seems we may be entering a period of instability with our third No. 1 team in as many weeks. That reflects the parity across the league, as few teams have generated consistent momentum or been completely hopeless.
Out of MLB’s 30 teams, 26 own winning percentages between .400 and .600, with only one on pace for 100 wins. If the season played out as such, that’d make for the fewest 100-win teams since 2016, when only the Cubs breached triple-digit wins.
Read on to see which team displaced the Padres from the top of the rankings, and what else is going on across the league:
30. Detroit Tigers (Last Week: 30)
The Tigers’ offense remains in a deep rut, as the team ranks dead last in on-base percentage (.277) and have the league’s highest strikeout rate (29.6%). On the plus side, third baseman Jeimer Candelario has been swinging a hot bat of late. He’s hitting .333/.387/.456 over his last 15 games, though he hasn’t yet rediscovered his power from last season.
29. Colorado Rockies (LW: 29)
C.J. Cron, who missed this weekend’s games with back tightness, has taken well to the thin air in Denver on a bargain $1 million salary. The first baseman who’s played for five teams in the past five seasons has recorded a .999 OPS with four home runs in 16 games at Coors Field, compared to a .737 OPS with one home run in 12 road games. The 31-year-old’s fly ball approach could make a partnership beyond this season agreeable.
28. Pittsburgh Pirates (LW: 28)
The Pirates got a double dose of bad injury news Sunday, with team OPS leader Colin Moran (groin strain) placed on the 10-day injured list and Ke’Bryan Hayes (wrist) transferred to the 60-day injured list. Todd Frazier, who’s 3-for-35 this season, will get the bulk of the at-bats at first base in Moran’s absence. Erik Gonzalez, the worst regular third baseman in baseball by wRC+ (56), will presumably continue to fill in for Hayes. Oof.
27. Baltimore Orioles (LW: 25)
We took a one-week break from singing John Means’s praises last Monday, and then he went out and threw a no-hitter. Means’s bread and butter against the Mariners was his changeup, and it’s a pitch he’s used to befuddle hitters all year long to the tune of a .102 batting average against and a 41.5% whiff rate. If nothing else, we hope this weekly power rank has become a must-read in the Means household.
26. Arizona Diamondbacks (LW: 22)
The D-backs lost all six games of their road trip spanning New York to Miami, scoring just 11 runs against a couple tough rotations, for the team’s first winless road trip of at least six games since 2010. Ketel Marte can’t come back from his hamstring strain soon enough.
25. Washington Nationals (LW: 23)
Trea Turner should be the frontrunner to be the NL’s starting shortstop at the All-Star Game. He and Josh Harrison have held Washington’s offense together while Juan Soto was sidelined. Turner leads all NL shortstops in fWAR (1.3), OPS (.866) and stolen bases (seven). But the Nationals, who went 1–5 against the Braves and Yankees last week, need Soto to get back up to speed quickly to bring more power to this lineup, which ranks 27th in home runs.
24. Minnesota Twins (LW: 19)
It might be a touch too soon to start looking at teams’ Pythagorean records, but the Twins are the frontrunners for the unluckiest bunch in baseball. Minnesota is 0-7 in extra-inning games this season, easily the worst record in the league. As if the Twins’ luck couldn’t get worse, Byron Buxton has found himself back on the injured list with a strained hip, which will keep him out for weeks. Minnesota has yet to win more than two games in a row since April 5.
23. Los Angeles Angels (LW: 15)
It was an eventful week for the Angels. The timing of Albert Pujols’s release caught most by surprise, though the move wasn’t wholly unexpected. On the field, the Angels’ struggles were more of the same: run prevention. The team’s subpar pitching has been exacerbated by self-inflicted miscues. The Angels have made the most errors in baseball (33) and have the highest walk rate (4.54 BB/9), while allowing the highest batting average on balls in play (.327). The result has the team in last place in the AL West, and perhaps more importantly, tied for the biggest drop in this week’s power rankings.
22. Texas Rangers (LW: 27)
Don’t look now, but the Joey Gallo of old is back. After slugging a mere .301 in April, he’s hitting .257/.297/.657 through nine games in May, with four home runs in his last seven games. Adolis García has been just as hot, batting .400/.447/.771 with four home runs during that span.
21. Miami Marlins (LW: 24)
Miami is 2–8 in one-run games, meaning the only team in the disappointing NL East with a positive run differential should feel good about its chances going forward. Especially if Miguel Rojas—MLB’s fWAR and wRC+ leader in May on the back of a .455 batting average, two homers and an NL-high nine runs—keeps raking and Sandy Alcantara—who owns MLB’s best barrels against rate (1.5%)—keeps dealing.
20. Chicago Cubs (LW: 26)
A sweep against the Dodgers doesn’t mean what it used to mean, say, a month ago. But that, plus a series win against Pittsburgh, is still impressive enough to tie Chicago for the biggest jump in the rankings this week. Kris Bryant has been the best third baseman in the Majors during his platform year. He even moonlighted in center field a bit this weekend, and may have to stick there for a little while if Jake Marisnick and Jason Heyward, who left Sunday’s game with injuries, hit the injured list.
19. Kansas City Royals (LW: 13)
Well that escalated quickly. Eight days ago the Royals were riding high and in first place, and now they’re mired in an eight-game losing streak in which they’ve averaged 2.6 runs per game. On the silver lining side, Andrew Benintendi is starting to heat up. The 26-year-old was hitting .180 on April 21 but has batted .357/.410/.554 in his last 15 games. After struggling to make contact last season, he’s cut his strikeout rate down to a much more manageable 20.2% this year.
18. Seattle Mariners (LW: 14)
Kyle Seager’s status as an underrated player seems almost obvious considering the team he’s spent his entire career playing for and his World Series MVP-winning younger brother, but his consistent production over the past decade is something to behold. The elder Seager has posted a sub-100 wRC+ just once over the last 10 years (83 in 2018), and he’s gotten off to another solid start this season. Seager’s barrel rate (13.9%) and hard-hit rate (44.6%) are his highest during the Statcast era.
17. Cincinnati Reds (LW: 16)
In response to losing Joey Votto to a fractured thumb, the Reds have reshuffled their infield, and at least temporarily, ended the Eugenio Suarez at shortstop experiment. Given he’d accounted for -4 defensive runs saved there, it’s probably a wise move. Suarez had seemingly snapped out of his slow start with three hits last Sunday, matching his total output from the previous 13 games. He hasn’t had another hit since, and his 47 strikeouts are the most in the NL. The 2018 All-Star ranks 154 out of 161 qualified batters in fWAR (-0.4).
16. Tampa Bay Rays (LW: 21)
The Rays pitching staff has been adept at keeping the ball in the yard, allowing the sixth-lowest home run rate (1.0 HR/9) in the league. The group has done so despite ranking toward the bottom in ground ball rate (41.2%), and no singular pitcher embodies this paradox more so than Ryan Yarbrough. Yarbrough has allowed just two home runs in 37.1 innings pitched, and he has the seventh-lowest ground ball rate (33.9%) among qualified starters.
15. Atlanta Braves (LW: 17)
Raise your hand if you figured Huascar Ynoa would be Atlanta’s leader in ERA (2.23), innings (40.1), strikeouts (44) and WHIP (0.89) six weeks into the season. The 22-year-old Dominican almost exclusively relies on his fastball (average velocity: 96.6 mph) and slider, with an occasional changeup mixed in, but it’s working for him. He’s also the favorite to win the NL pitcher Silver Slugger award after ripping two homers in 15 plate appearances, helping the Braves launch the most home runs in the majors—one more than Toronto.
14. Philadelphia Phillies (LW: 20)
Philadelphia tied for the biggest rise this week on the strength of its midweek four-game sweep over Milwaukee, but spirits were deflated in Atlanta over the weekend. Phillies relievers blew three leads from the ninth inning on, including a three-run advantage in the 11th, to lose a heartbreaker before going down again on Sunday night. This bullpen is still far from perfect.
13. Cleveland (LW: 18)
There might not be a more lethal back end of the bullpen than Cleveland’s trio of Emmanuel Clase, James Karinchak and Bryan Shaw. Clase is a Statcast darling, as his Baseball Savant page is littered with red text and he boasts a 100-mph cutter paired with a wipeout slider. Karinchak leads AL relief pitchers in opponents’ batting average (.061), while Shaw ranks second (.070). Cleveland’s bullpen leads the majors with a 2.71 ERA.
12. New York Mets (LW: 12)
Let’s hope Jacob deGrom’s early exit from his start Sunday was more of a precautionary measure than anything. The good news is New York’s offense has started to wake up a little bit, averaging 4.7 runs in May, helping the Mets go 7–2 this month. If these guys don’t adopt a rally rat to back up Francisco Lindor’s rat tale, then what are we even doing here?
11. Milwaukee Brewers (LW: 3)
Milwaukee tied for the biggest drop this week after getting swept by the Phillies, including three one-run losses. Christian Yelich returned from the IL for one game before his back issues sent him right back. The offense has averaged just 3.4 runs per game this month, but don’t blame Avisail Garcia. He’s gone 14-for-27 (.519) and accumulated the third-most fWAR (0.7) in the NL in May, as the surface stats have started to reflect some excellent Statcast metrics, including ranking in at least the 85th percentile for average exit velocity, hard-hit percentage and expected batting average.
10. Oakland Athletics (LW: 9)
He’s not quite all the way back yet, but it’s been a promising couple weeks for third baseman Matt Chapman after a miserable start to the season. He’s batting .326/.396/.512 over his last 12 games, hitting safely in 10 of them. Chapman hasn’t fully rediscovered the form that earned him back-to-back top-seven finishes in MVP voting from 2018-19, but it’s a good sign after he looked nothing like his old self for much of April.
9. Toronto Blue Jays (LW: 6)
George Springer might have garnered most of the attention as Toronto’s big-ticket free agent signing, but Marcus Semien was also a notable addition this winter. The former MVP finalist has started to hit his stride, batting .361/.426/.623 in his last 16 games with four home runs and three stolen bases. With Springer back on the injured list, Semien’s bat will continue to be relied upon to produce atop Toronto’s lineup.
8. St. Louis Cardinals (LW: 11)
Nolan Arenado had a nice little revenge series in his first time playing against the Rockies over the weekend, going 4-for-12 with a homer, two doubles, four runs and a walk to help his new team sweep his old one and claim the NL’s best record. St. Louis is still just 6–8 against winning clubs, however, so we’re eager to see how the Cards play against the Brewers and Padres on the road this week.
7. San Francisco Giants (LW: 10)
The Giants made up for losing a midweek series to the Rockies by taking a three-game set from San Diego over the weekend. Anthony DeSclafani has done a fantastic job of keeping hitters off balance during his first season in the Bay, as opposing hitters’ 22.4% sweet spot rate is the best among 124 qualified pitchers. The 31-year-old is clearly focusing on keeping the ball on the ground, as his 56.1% groundball rate ranks seventh out of 66 qualified pitchers and is roughly a 15% increase from his five seasons in Cincinnati.
6. Los Angeles Dodgers (LW: 2)
The Dodgers have lost five straight series, tied for their longest streak in the last decade. They’ve gone 5–15 over that span, only better than the Tigers, and hit .217 as a team, tied for last in the NL. Clayton Kershaw, coming off the shortest outing of his career earlier in the week, started Saturday on short rest for the first time ever during the regular season to help out the team’s injury-plagued rotation. The defending champs are 4–10 in one-run games, suffering the most losses in MLB in those contests. Even in blowout wins, they’re getting cranky about their opponents gifting them outs. You can feel the pressure starting to ramp up on the NL West’s third-place team.
5. Houston Astros (LW: 4)
Penciling Michael Brantley’s name into a lineup card must be among the most reassuring feelings a manager can have. Brantley has hit at least .300 in each of his last five healthy seasons, and he’s off to another strong start this year. His 7.3% barrel rate is his highest of the Statcast era, leading to a career-best .334 expected batting average. The Astros have the third-highest run differential (plus-33) in the AL and are the only AL West team that has outscored its opponents.
4. New York Yankees (LW: 8)
After failing to last five innings in his first four starts, the Klubot seems to have rediscovered its core programming. Corey Kluber has allowed just three runs in 20.1 innings over his last three starts, with 21 strikeouts and no home runs allowed. He’s leaned on his cutter more often than he ever has in previous seasons, and to good effect—opposing batters have hit just .233 against the pitch so far, with a 30.5% whiff rate.
3. San Diego Padres (LW: 1)
A .500 week isn’t enough to keep the Padres in the top spot, especially after losing two of three to the division-leading Giants. San Diego’s pitching staff still holds the best ERA (2.89), though the offense has faltered a bit, scoring two or fewer runs in half of its eight games this month. Manny Machado (.684 OPS) has cooled off significantly despite ranking in the 96th percentile of hard-hit percentage and average exit velocity. Fernando Tatis Jr., meanwhile, has hit seven homers with a .362 batting average in 11 games at leadoff, compared to two homers and a .122 batting average elsewhere around the lineup. Might he join Ronald Acuna Jr. in the new wave of powerful leadoff hitters?
2. Boston Red Sox (LW: 7)
The Red Sox pitching staff owns the lowest home run rate (0.72) in the AL, and got two more strong starts from Nick Pivetta this week, who improved to 5-0 on the season. The star in the bullpen has been Matt Barnes, who has been nearly untouchable after a so-so 2020. Opponents have a .130 expected batting average against Barnes, and his curveball has regained its elite status with a 53.2% whiff rate.
1. Chicago White Sox (LW: 5)
Another week, another new No. 1 team. This time it’s the White Sox—owners of the league’s highest run differential (plus-53), lowest ERA- (66) and second-highest on-base percentage (.339)—who take the honors. Chicago will be tested with Luis Robert on the injured list for the next couple months, and in-house replacements Billy Hamilton and Leury García don’t inspire a ton of confidence. Still, this is among the deepest and most talented teams. Will the South Siders have staying power at the top, or will the revolving door continue? We’ll find out soon enough.