A third of the way through the season, it’s time for the early June Power Report. For each team I have a ranking and a few interesting stats/observations for not just last week, but also the last month and the season to date. I tried to keep everything consistent, but some stats are based on Saturday, some on Sunday. Enjoy!
30. Marlins. If April wasn’t bad enough, the Marlins scored just 79 runs in 28 games in the month of May, running their season total to 152 runs in 55 games. They rank last in runs, doubles, homers, average, on-base percentage, slugging, and hit into the third most double plays. When your team leader in batting average is at .228, that explains a lot. Their pitching yields the highest opponents’ on-base percentage in the NL. Miami is actually 6-3 against the Mets, but 10-39 versus everyone else. On the bright side, slugger Giancarlo Stanton should come back sometime this month, and Miami plays the Mets again this week!
29. Astros. Just like the Marlins can’t hit, the Lastros can’t pitch. They rank last in earned runs, unearned runs, walks, hits, doubles, triples, home runs, batting average against, on-base percentage, and run differential. Astros batters have struck out an amazing 523 times, a record pace of 9.5 whiffs a game, while their opponents have struck out just 353 times. Houston does have a 14-6 record against the Angels, Mariners and Rockies, but are 7-31 against the rest of the league.
(Just like last month, the Marlins and Astros are so bad that for the rest of the league, if I say worst/lowest/fewest/ most/highest, it means among everyone else.)
28. Mets. So much for the excitement of sweeping the cross-town rivals. Matt Harvey is still 5-0 and a reason to watch the Mets, but the rest of the Amazin’s are 17-32. And as noted, New York is 3-6 against the miserable Marlins. Poor starting pitching, poor bullpen, poor hitting, poor fielding…
27. Brewers. Milwaukee had a month to forget. Even with their win over the Phillies on Friday, the Brewers were only 6-22 in May and went from half game back of the Cardinals to 15 back. Milwaukee’s pitching has significantly underperformed, especially starters Yovani Gallardo, Wily Peralta, Marco Estrada and Kyle Lohse. They do have one of the league’s most productive outfields with Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez and Norichika Aoki, and shortstop Jean Segura leads the league with a .354 batting average.
26. Padres. Figuring out the Padres All-Star rep will be a real challenge. Isn’t much to say about this team.
25. Cubs. Chicago has a nice foundation of starting pitchers. Jeff Samardzija, Travis Wood and Scott Feldman all have an ERA under 3 and the staff’s batting average against is league-best .231. Anthony Rizzo leads the team with 10 homers and 36 RBI but he should have a lot more; he’s hitting .175 with runners in scoring position. Cubs have NL-best .805 OPS at home, and NL-worst .619 OPS on the road.
24. Twins. To show how bad the Twins pitching has been, they have registered a quality start (6 innings, 3 earned runs or less) just one-third of the time. None of the Twins starting pitchers have recorded even 30 strikeouts yet this season.
23. Royals. A month ago they were at #14 but I expected they would have a rough month. Yes they sure did, going on a 4-19 skid. James Shields went 0-4 in five starts, despite giving up two or fewer runs four times. Mike Moustakas is batting .081 (3 for 37) with runners in scoring position. The Royals have 29 home runs; their pitchers have allowed 66.
22. Mariners. M’s have two pitchers with ERA’s under 2.40 and three pitchers with ERA’s over 5.50. Michael Morse has just 12 RBI since April 11.
21. Dodgers. It is really strange to see that the Dodgers can’t get any higher than this with all the talent (or at least money) on their roster. One of the biggest problems is that they can’t get hits when it counts. Dodgers hit .265 with bases empty (5th in baseball), but .233 with runners in scoring position (5th worst) and just .146 with the bases loaded. Before landing on the disabled list, Matt Kemp had just 2 home runs in 51 games. That’s not the end of the trouble, as fellow outfielder Carl Crawford also joined Kemp on the DL Monday.
20. Blue Jays. Toronto’s rotation stability was supposed to be their biggest strength; instead it has been their biggest weakness. Due to injury and ineffectiveness, the Blue Jays have already used eleven different starting pitchers, and just as Josh Johnson is ready to return, Brandon Morrow and Ramon Ortiz get hurt. Things are getting better overall, especially on offense where in May the team OBP was .337, up from .294 in April. The biggest problem is nobody else in the division is losing.
19. White Sox. It’s hard to describe just how bad the Sox offense is, especially in the AL with a designated hitter. They have scored 186 runs in 54 games, .289 OBP, and have 428:128 K:BB ratio. Yet a week ago they reached .500 at 24-24, a testament of some really good pitching (Chris Sale, Jake Peavy).
18. Angels. Just when things were starting to turn around the Angels lost four in a row at home to the Astros. Josh Hamilton should have stayed in Texas; he’s hitting a woeful .216 as an Angel. At least Mike Trout is exciting, and Jered Weaver is finally healthy again.
17. Rockies. Still have the best offense in the National League, and even on the road they have the best slugging percentage and OPS. Carlos Gonzalez is a big reason why, leading the NL with 42 extra bases. Jorge De La Rosa is 5-0 with an ERA of 2.45 at Coors Field.
16. Phillies. Read about Domonic Brown below. As someone who owns Cole Hamels on multiple fantasy teams, I am painfully aware that the Phillies are 1-11 in Hamels’ games. At least Cliff Lee is making sure that one of the four Phillies making $20 million this year is playing like it.
15. Nationals. Bryce Harper is on the DL, Stephen Strasburg has a back strain, Nats have lowest OBP in baseball, batting just .212 on the road, 8-14 since May 10… I am much less optimistic about the Nats than I was one or two months ago.
14. Giants. Pitching has been surprisingly poor in San Francisco, where the staff has only 23 quality starts in 57 games. On April 28, Marco Scutaro was hitting just .215; since then he’s hitting a sizzling.418.
13. Indians. Mark Reynolds and Carlos Santana followed up their .389 and .301 April with .200 and .208 May, yet the team played well anyway, going 18-12 during the month and is right up there with Detroit in the Central.
12. Rays. Those Rays that we all figured wouldn’t be able to score actually led all of baseball in runs in May. Since starting 14-18, Tampa Bay is 17-7, even without David Price.
11. Yankees. The Bronx “Bombers” have scored fewer runs than the Astros and Twins. Teixeira and Youkilis are back (and Tex finally started producing Monday night) but more often than not it seems the Yankees just can’t score runs with their lineup. Fortunately, the pitching overall has really been outstanding; especially in May when they had the lowest ERA in the AL (3.25).
10. Diamondbacks. Paul Goldschmidt is your NL MVP through the first 56 games, batting .337 with 13 homers and 73 runs produced. Not only is Patrick Corbin 9-0, but the D-Backs have won all 11 games he pitched.
9. Orioles. As AL Beast Notebook writer, I watch a lot of Orioles games. They are really one of the more entertaining teams in baseball. Chris Davis (yeah, I write about him every week) is hitting .357 with MLB-most 20 home runs. But everybody contributes: Manny Machado, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, J.J. Hardy and Nate McLouth are all doing great things. The Orioles have hit 81 home runs (most in MLB), but their pitchers have given up 78.
8. Athletics. No team is hotter right now than the Oakland A’s, who have won 14 of their last 16 games, and their next 13 games are against pitching-deficient Brewers, and hitting-deficient White Sox, Yankees and Mariners. Bartolo Colon has issued just 4 walks in 70 innings. A’s have the best bullpen ERA and OBP in the American League. A’s batters have the league’s most walks (and hit-by-pitches).
7. Pirates. They don’t do much hitting (shutout for first nine innings in four of last five games), and their starting rotation isn’t very scary but the bullpen is practically unhittable. While the Pirates bullpen has thrown more innings than just about everyone the batting average against them is just .210. In his first year as a full-time closer Jason Grilli is 22/22 in saves, has given up just 12 hits and struck out 41 batters in 25 innings. Pirates, Reds and Cardinals each won at least 19 games in May; no other team did.
6. Braves. Despite the expectations otherwise, Atlanta’s pitching is back near the top while the offense has been just average. Justin Upton hit 12 home runs in April and just two in May. Dan Uggla, B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward are hitting .161 after 448 at-bats. Kris Medlen has just one win in his last nine starts despite a respectable 3.48 ERA. Mike Minor is having an All-Star year, currently 7-2 with 2.48 ERA and holding opposing hitters to a .203 batting average. Freddie Freeman batting 20/40 with runners in scoring position.
5. Red Sox. Boston had a tough stretch earlier in the month losing 9 of 11, but other than that the season has been smooth sailing for the Red Sox. A favorable May schedule makes way for a much, much tougher June, starting off with the Rangers again. As demonstrated last night, David Ortiz is killing righties, hitting .386 with nearly as many home runs (7) as strikeouts (9). Clay Buchholz continues to impress, leading the AL in wins, ERA, and opponents’ OPS. It’s nothing new, but there’s probably no big league player I’d rather have my son emulate than Dustin Pedroia.
4. Reds. Second best offense and second best pitching in the NL is a great combination. I’ve written a lot about Votto and Choo but there’s a reason: the duo are both getting on base in over 49% of their plate appearances against righties. There is no weak link in the rotation; everyone has an ERA under 3.9. And Aroldis Chapman has racked up 43 Ks in 25 innings.
3. Rangers. Weird to see, but even with a bunch of rookies and second year guys the Rangers have a better rated pitching staff than offense. In fact, Texas has the lowest team ERA in the American League, including a 2.83 ERA at the hitter-friendly Ballpark in Arlington. Adrian Beltre is having another monster year, but he may get lost in an overloaded third base All-Star group.
2. Tigers. Two months into the season and here’s what we have: four top of the rotation arms (Verlander, Scherzer, Fister and Anibal Sanchez), the reigning MVP Miguel Cabrera (the favorite for another one), a shortstop and right fielder both hitting over .310, Prince Fielder, and World Series experience. They are a pedestrian 29-24 right now, but that’s still about five games better than one year ago. The Tigers have one of the best offenses in baseball and a pitching staff good enough to again go deep in the postseason.
1. Cardinals. The one thing they lacked was a closer and they have certainly found a good one. Edward Mujica has been lights out, allowing just 14 baserunners in 24 innings for a 0.58 WHIP and 1.88 ERA. He has not walked a batter since April 3, and is 17/17 in save chances since taking over the job.
The starting pitching has been perhaps the best group in baseball, led by Adam Wainwright and Lance Lynn, but also rookie Shelby Miller (6-3, 1.82 ERA), who retired 27 straight batters in a game earlier this month. And top prospect Michael Wacha has also burst into the majors, providing even more quality depth.
And of course, it’s not only about pitching in St. Louis. The hitting has also been perhaps the best (and certainly the deepest) group in the National League. They are certainly on fire right now; four players had a May OBP over .410, and four hitters (Yadier Molina, Matt Carpenter, Allen Craig, and Carlos Beltran) are legitimate All-Stars. The most impressive feature of the 2013 Cards is clutch = .324 average and .427 on-base percentage with runners in scoring position and two outs. Tack on a 20-9 road record as the cherry on top.
Pitching, hitting, relief, and fielding (league’s lowest 19 errors) are why the St. Louis Cardinals are an easy pick for the best team in baseball.
Biggest Leap: White Sox (+6), Cardinals (+5)
Biggest Tumble: Nationals (-11), Royals (-9)
Players of the Week
AL: Chris Davis, Orioles. Four more home runs this week as he collected 13 hits in 27 at-bats, but what may be more amazing is that pitchers didn’t walk him six games in a row.
NL: Domonic Brown, Phillies. Brown has taken over by storm. Last week he hit .444 with 7 home runs and 13 RBI. 13 teams failed to hit 7 home runs. Brown now leads the NL with 17 bombs.