Every week, the PL team publishes an update to our power rankings, reviewing the biggest risers and fallers of the past seven days. As always, the full rankings can be found at the bottom of this article…but where’s the fun in that.
It’s already been a busy week of baseball, with several teams playing doubleheaders over the weekend to make up for last week’s rainouts. With the season now 20% done for most teams, we’re reaching the point where strong starts can be considered meaningful and underperforming teams should be viewed pessimistically.
This week, we see a new number one, a major jump into the top-10, as well as a team that continues to prove we’re undervaluing them. No major drops this week, although the Mariners and Red Sox are teetering. Seattle (who Colin Fong profiled in last week’s rankings) drops three spots to 16th, as they’ve gone 2-8 over their last ten. Their 14-18 record places them just a half-game up of the last-place A’s, while their -9 run differential is the worst in the division.
The Red Sox also fall three spots this week as their abysmal start to the season continues. They sit dead-last in the AL East, while their 11-20 record is fifth-worst in all of baseball. They land as the #20 team in our rankings, buoyed above teams like the Rockies and Rangers, solely due to the intrinsic talent of the underperforming lineup. Boston’s rotation – a major question mark entering the season after losing Eduardo Rodriguez to free agency and Chris Sale to injury – has a 3.44 ERA, good for ninth in baseball.
Meanwhile, the lineup has been better than only the Royals and Tigers, scoring a measly 3.5 runs per game. Perennial stars Rafael Devers (.313 AVG/.343 OBP /.508 SLG), Xander Bogaerts (.345/.397/.466), and J.D. Martinez (.298/.337/.500) have been as good as ever, but the supporting cast is nowhere to be seen. Major signing Trevor Story is hitting .206 and only just hit his first home run on Wednesday, while postseason hero Kiké Hernández, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Bobby Dalbec are all batting sub-.200. The Sox are more talented than their record, but if they fail to right the ship they’ll be dropping further next week.
New Number One
New York Yankees – #1 (23-8, +2):
For the second straight week, we have a new number one coming out of New York. The Mets and Yankees traded spots as the Bronx Bombers just seem unstoppable right now. Since April 21, they’ve gone 16-2, have the fourth-best team ERA in baseball (2.87), second-best FIP (3.01), and the best offense – and it’s not even close. In the past few weeks, NYY hitters have posted a 148 wRC+ with a .813 OPS. The Brewers are a distant second at 124 wRC+.
Most of the major contributors are the same as when I profiled the team in the Week Four power rankings.
Houston Astros – #6 (21-11, +7):
The Astros are simply the hottest team in baseball right now. Their 5-0 win over the Twins last night marked their 10th straight victory, a streak that has vaulted them a half-game above the Angels for first place in the AL West and completely erased their slow start to the year. Houston returns to the top-10 for the first time since week 2, finally looking like the team that everyone considered a preseason heavyweight.
When the Astros fell to #12 on our rankings on May 1, they ranked 23rd in team OBP – since then, they’re fifth with the second-best wRC+ to boot. Jose Altuve has been great (.821 OPS) since returning from the IL and Yordan Alvarez has been stellar, trailing only Aaron Judge with 10 home runs and ranking fifth among qualified hitters with a .992 OPS. Kyle Tucker has begun to shake the early-season deficit between his expected and actual stats, raising his batting average to .255 on the year, including a .357/.500/.548 slash-line in May.
While the lineup has finally begun hitting like, well, an Astros lineup, the pitching staff has been transcendent. Since May 1, Houston starters lead all of baseball with an insane 1.25 ERA, while the bullpen has been even better at 0.87. Throughout the win streak, the staff has held their opponent scoreless five times and allowed more than two runs once. The stars of the show here are Justin Verlander and Luis Garcia. Verlander has returned to form after missing all of 2021, sporting a 1.55 ERA thus far. While the strikeouts (8.0 K/9) are down compared to the JV of old, he’s been as dominant as ever, highlighted by eight innings of one-hit ball versus the Twins on Tuesday. Garcia has been superb recently, boasting a 0.75 ERA and 13.5 K/9 over his last two starts while recentering his repertoire around his elite cutter (37% CSW).
Arizona Diamondbacks – #19 (17-15, +7):
In the shadow of other NL West heavyweights, the Diamondbacks have quietly been vastly outperforming expectations. While their -7 run differential likely predicts some regression, the recent results cannot be ignored. Arizona has won its last five series, including taking two of three from the Dodgers and three of four from the Cardinals.
The Diamondbacks are a mismatched team – their offense ranks 23rd in the league (although Daulton Varsho has been productive) while their pitching staff has allowed just 4.0 runs per game, good for 11th. The starting rotation deserves most of the credit. They’ve been excellent thus far, posting an incredible 2.43 ERA, which trails only the Dodgers. The staff is led by the (surprising) three-headed monster of Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, and Madison Bumgarner. Gallen paces the group – after a disappointing season last year, he has rediscovered his 2020 brilliance, having only allowed three earned runs in 28.1 innings, good for a 0.95 ERA and completely-absurd 426 ERA+.
Kelly is not far behind. While Gallen doesn’t yet qualify for the ERA leaderboard, Kelly is currently third in the NL with a 1.71 ERA. Never known for his overpowering stuff, he revamped his changeup in the off-season, now throwing it 7% more often. The early results are obviously encouraging; outside-swing %, swinging-strike%, and CSW are all up 6-8%, while xAVG on the pitch is down 100 points.
Bumgarner, refusing to be left behind by his fellow starters, also boasts a sub-2 ERA at 1.78. While his xERA (3.62) thinks that he’s gotten a little lucky, that’s still plenty respectable for a veteran topping out at about 91 MPH. Speaking of which, Bumgarner is throwing that fastball about 10% less than in 2021 while throwing his cutter a full 50% of the time. So far, that approach change has worked, but there’s room for some severe regression here. That fastball (which he still throws about 25%) has a ridiculous 64% flyball rate – the fact that he hasn’t been hurt by that likely speaks more baseball drag than to MadBum.
Nobody does or should expect this team to compete with the Dodgers, Giants, and Padres come September, but all the same, Arizona is better than we thought. If the staff can stay healthy and productive, the D-Backs may only be a move or two from making the Wild Card race a little extra interesting.
Week Six Power Rankings:
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)