Every Friday (in this case, Monday), the PL team publishes a weekly 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.
As April winds down, teams are now 14 to 15 games into their schedule. Obviously, 90% of the season remains to be played, but the cream seems to be rising to the top in many divisions. The Dodgers not only hold steadfast as our top team in the power rankings for the third straight week, but their .733 winning percentage (11-4) tops all of baseball. Having gone 8-2 over their last 10 games, they don’t seem to be going anywhere. However, the same cannot be said for the rest of the league. Below, the top risers and fallers in this week’s power rankings:
The Cardinals moved up nine spots this week, landing at number five. St. Louis is simply playing great baseball in every way – their 3.1 runs allowed per game rank fifth in MLB while scoring 4.5 runs per game, good for seventh-best. They lead the NL Central at 9-5, but their +19 run differential completely outpaces the rest of the division (other than the Cubs, thanks to a 21-0 beatdown of the Pirates on Saturday afternoon).
After winning the first NL Player of the Week award of the season, Nolan Arenado has remained the hottest hitter on the planet, batting a blistering .413 with a 1.329 OPS and five home runs. Tommy Edman has been a surprising offensive powerhouse as well, hitting .341 with three home runs of his own.
While lacking a true ace, the Cardinals pitching staff has been productive, with Miles Mikolas leading the way with a 1.76 ERA. Of course, the staff is pitching in front of the same defense that won five Gold Gloves last year.
That defense helps to provide a high floor for this team, but their offense will need to improve to maintain their spot atop the Central. While Arenado and Edman have raked, the rest of the starters are hovering around .200. Arenado won’t bat .400 forever – Paul Goldschmidt, Tyler O’Neill, and the rest of the St. Louis offense better be ready to pick up the pace.
The Giants jumped eight spots this week, all the way up to number three overall. It seems that for the second year in a row, the baseball community is simply missing the memo on the Giants – they are really, really good. It is still doubtful that the front office will wrangle another 107-win season out of their collection of veterans, but as of now, San Francisco seems ready and able to keep the pressure on the powerhouse Dodgers. The team currently sits at 11-5 and their +37 run differential is tied for second-best in baseball.
That dominant run differential is largely due to the Giants’ pitching – newcomer Joc Pederson and team captain Brandon Belt have both flashed their power early on, but the losses of Buster Posey to retirement and trade-deadline hire Kris Bryant to free agency are clearly being felt.
To compensate, the San Francisco staff has been unhittable. Ace Carlos Rodón has put concerns of regression from last year’s breakout (temporarily) to rest, posting a 1.06 ERA through 17 innings with an outlandish 15.4 K/9 and 29:6 K:BB ratio. Logan Webb has continued the dominance he showed in the second half of 2021, sporting a 2.55 ERA through 17.2 innings of his own. The Giants’ pitcher development department appeared to have worked their magic again with veteran Alex Cobb, who was suddenly throwing his sinker almost two MPH harder than he ever had in his career. He opened the year with a strong 10 strikeout performance vs. the Padres but has since landed on the IL.
The Giants have an easy schedule next week (four games vs. the Nationals, two vs. the Athletics) so look for them to capitalize before an intense two-game set vs. the Dodgers on May 3-4.
The Phillies, despite their busy offseason, sit mired in fourth place in the NL East at 6-10. Their -11 run differential is the worst of any fourth-place team in any division. They’ve gone 3-7 over their last ten games, tied for the worst record in that span among teams not from Cincinnati (who are untouchable in that department having lost 11 straight games), and find themselves dropping six spots on our rankings, down to 14th.
One of those free agent hires, Nick Castellanos, is living up to his 4-year, $100 million deal by batting .321 with a .952 OPS. Unfortunately, Kyle Schwarber, signed just a few days before Castellanos, has a measly .653 OPS, which is buoyed by the fact that four of his 10 hits this season have left the ballpark. A big part of Schwarber’s 2021 breakout was his eye and discipline at the plate, evidenced by his .374 OBP on the year (including a .435 OBP after he joined the Red Sox in the second half). Currently, Schwarber is reaching base at just a .246 clip and has an 20:5 K:BB ratio.
Despite Schwarber’s struggles, the team is still 10th in baseball in runs per game, partially thanks to surprising contributions from Alec Bohm and Johan Camargo. However, the Phillies rank 27th in the league in runs allowed. A pitching rotation that was supposed to feature a three-headed monster of Zack Wheeler, Aaron Nola, and Ranger Suárez is instead being paced by Kyle Gibson and his 3.57 ERA. Suarez hasn’t pitched disastrously (4.38 ERA) but he has yet to find the control he showcased at the end of 2021 – his seven walks thus far are already over 20% of his 2021 total, despite throwing a tenth of the innings.
However, the real issue lies with Nola and Wheeler. Nola now holds a 3.74 ERA through 21.2 innings (thanks to his shutout of the Brewers last night), and while his expected stats continue to support some level of optimism, he has yet to figure out his home run problem. After holding the 10th worst HR/9 rate among qualified pitchers last year, he has already given up four this season, good for a disappointing 1.70 HR/9.
Wheeler has been worse, and there is real cause for concern beyond his ugly 8.53 ERA. His average fastball velocity is down two full ticks from last year, although it averaged 96 in Saturday’s start, an improvement over his first two performances of the season. That increased velocity still failed to translate into results for Wheeler, as he gave up four runs over five innings to a relatively weak Brewers lineup. Of course, this entire saga is additionally dramatic given Wheeler’s sore right shoulder which slowed his build-up this spring. All eyes should be on his next start – if he can return to his 2021 brilliance, the Phillies and their fans should stay optimistic.
The White Sox should be a great team, featuring a strong rotation, a terrific bullpen, and a potent lineup. Unfortunately, they’re in the midst of a seven-game losing streak, sit at 6-9 on the year, and hold a -18 run differential, second-worst in the American League. They’ve fallen six spots in this week’s power rankings, but still, hold on to a spot in the top ten at number nine.
Injuries have played a major role in the team’s underperformance. Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito, the two top starters on the team, have both been out effectively since the beginning of the season. Lynn, who tore a tendon in his knee in spring training, is set to begin throwing in about two weeks, while Giolito just made his return yesterday against the Twins after he left his debut on April 8 early with an abdominal injury. Number three starter Dylan Cease has pitched well in their absence, as has Michael Kopech, whose transition to the starter role has been smooth thus far to the tune of a 0.64 ERA through 14 innings.
Injuries have also hampered the lineup, as slugger Eloy Jiménez had already been plagued by an ankle injury before he suffered a “significant” hamstring injury on Saturday that will cause him to miss six to eight weeks. AJ Pollock, freshly acquired in the Craig Kimbrel trade to the Dodgers, has already missed ten games, Yoán Moncada has yet to play this year, and budding superstar Luis Robert sat this weekend after sustaining a minor groin strain.
The White Sox are still extremely talented, and there have been bright spots throughout this rough start. Andrew Vaughn seems to be figuring out major league pitching after a disappointing 2021, hitting .300 with a .575 SLG while dropping his K% from 21.5% to 15.9%. Kopech has been outstanding, and the bullpen has been strong outside of two uncharacteristic blunders from Liam Hendriks to open the season. This team is far better than they’ve shown, and given the weak competition of the AL Central, they should be able to right the ship without too much difficulty.
Week Three Power Rankings:
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)
How do you have the Giants over the Mets when they lost a 4 game series to them this past week…
I agree here
Came here to say the same thing
Yeah, great point – I think that they’re effectively even, but I had to choose one to be on top for the rankings. I think that the argument for the Giants over the Mets is that despite losing that series, they still have both higher RS/G and lower RA/G, all against a tougher schedule per Baseball Ref. But again, I think that they’re extremely evenly matched.
How is Houston better than Seattle?
Mariners go 5-1 over the week, won a series vs the Astros, tied for 1st place in the AL… and you drop them down the list a spot? Lol. Who’s making this list?