Every week, the Pitcher List team publishes an update to our MLB 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?
Mid-May is when things start to settle down a bit. Team identities are still not fully formed, but there is enough info to start to make a hard analysis of what each of the 30 teams is up to. There are two things that stand out to me. 1) The Tampa Bay Rays and Atlanta are the two best teams, with the Los Angeles Dodgers not far behind. 2) The Oakland A’s are easily the worst team, with the Kansas City Royals next in line. In between? Some teams belong in the top 10, others in the bottom 10 with a lot of mediocrity all around.
Movin’ On Up
Rank change: +9 (15 to 6)
This team has certainly surprised me. I had the Boston Red Sox penciled in for last place in the American League East. And while their start wasn’t smooth, they never fell more than two games below .500. A recent eight-game winning streak that came against the Cleveland Guardians, Toronto Blue Jays (four-game sweep), and Philadelphia Phillies has given Boston life.
How are they doing it? Most of the credit goes to the offense, which ranks third in MLB in runs (216) and OPS (.788). Outfielder Alex Verdugo is having a career year thus far with a .308/.380/.500 slash line with five homers and 18 RBIs. Masataka Yoshida, another outfielder, is proving doubters wrong thus far by slashing .298/.377/.496 with six homers and 24 RBIs. In his first season after playing in Japan, Yoshida also just had a 16-game hitting streak.
Overall, the pitching staff has a 4.89 ERA, but the starting rotation has settled down and the bullpen is starting to establish itself. New closer Kenley Jansen notched his 400th career save Wednesday, with Josh Winckowski and Chris Martin also anchoring the relief corps.
The AL East will be a battle all season, so the Red Sox will need to continue to have success outside of the division if they want to contend.
Hittin’ The Skids
Rank change: -5 (4 to 9)
How do you explain a team dropping five spots and still being in first place? Two things: 1) It is the Pittsburgh Pirates. 2) It is the National League Central.
The Pirates have been the feel-good story of the first six weeks, spending about half of that in first place. They have been in the Movin’ On Up section of the Power Rankings twice, climbing seven and eight spots in back-to-back weeks after starting out the season 24th. Their high point came April 29 after sweeping a doubleheader from the Washington Nationals and being 20-8. But that immediately led to losing eight of their last nine, including a six-game losing streak, entering Friday’s series opener against the Baltimore Orioles. Granted, three of those losses came at the hands of the Rays.
Still, the Pirates have remained in first place throughout that stretch — and it wasn’t because they had a huge lead that evaporated. No, they had a 1½-game lead after the doubleheader sweep and today have a half-game lead. That is because the second-place Milwaukee Brewers have been scuffling as well (more on that below).
Pitching has been at the forefront of the Pirates’ success. Whether they have the ability to remain a contender is still a small question, especially with star shortstop Oneil Cruz still out, but the fact that the Pirates seem to have turned a corner and are on a winning path is a terrific sign.
Rank change: -5 (7 to 12)
The Brewers have been in or around the NL Central lead for the first part of the season, which isn’t exactly unexpected. Yet their play, especially recently, has been very uneven. Losing the finale of a three-game series against the Red Sox was the start of a 5-10 stretch — including six straight losses — they are on entering tonight’s series opener against the Royals.
And considering their schedule at that time had only one contender, the Los Angeles Dodgers, losing series to the Detroit Tigers, Colorado Rockies (three-game sweep), and San Francisco Giants is not exactly establishing confidence. Pitching, supposedly the Brewers’ strong suit, has struggled in May, posting a 4.86 ERA and opponents are hitting .261, both in the bottom 10 in MLB.
Combine that with an offense that has produced a .700 OPS and 4.35 runs per game this season, the result is inconsistency. While Rowdy Tellez has supplied the power with a team-best 10 homers, only one of the seven players with 100 plate appearances is hitting better than .242.
The fortunate thing for the Brewers is that they are playing in the NL Central, where the St. Louis Cardinals are tripping all over themselves and the Pirates lead the division but are having their own issues.
Week 6 MLB Power Rankings
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The Orioles took a series against the motorboatin’ Rays and dropped a slot??