|Dan Haren's Diamondbacks have the makings of a true contender. (Getty Images)|
The Rays have the best bullpen ERA in baseball at 2.26. The Marlins are third-best at 2.81, while the A's are fourth at 2.82. The O's are tied for a baseball-high seven relief victories with their No. 8 overall bullpen (3.39) and the White Sox are No. 10 in bullpen ERA at 3.60.
Pitching does win championships, but don't count on the Rays, O's, A's, White Sox or Marlins being there in the end.
Starting pitching tends to be twice as important to winning, especially when you consider a starter should be counted on for the first six innings, while the bullpen finishes up the final three on most good nights. Twice as important, a 2-to-1 ratio seems about right.
The steady No. 1 team in our power rankings, Arizona, rounds out the top five bullpens at 2.60 and boasts the best starting ERA in the league at 3.08. Now, that is a true contender.
Granted, the A's do have the second-best starting ERA in baseball to the D-Backs at 3.30, and that is mostly with two of their top starters spending most of the month on the DL -- Rich Harden (shoulder) and Justin Duchscherer (biceps). And the White Sox are also No. 10 in starting pitching ERA (3.85) thanks mostly to the recent emergence of Gavin Floyd and John Danks.
We give the A's and White Sox at least a fighting chance. They occupy first place in their divisions with quality pitching to date and slot No. 10 and 11 spots in our latest rankings.
The starting-pitching-poor Rays, Marlins and O's are Nos. 13, 14 and 18. Little respect there.
The Marlins are a particular case of a team outperforming its suspect starting rotation. Sure, Scott Olsen (3-0, 2.06) is a nice third-year starting pitcher breakout, and Mark Hendrickson (4-1, 3.68) is enjoying a renaissance. But you cannot trust young Andrew Miller (1-2, 7.94), Ricky Nolasco (1-2, 5.13) and Burke Badenhop (0-2, 8.36) to be much more than their erratic selves.
The O's just had Adam Loewen (0-1, 7.85) go on the DL and are relying on the likes of Steve Trachsel (1-3, 6.08) on the back end. Brian Burres (3-1, 2.49) has been a pleasant surprise after Jeremy Guthrie (0-3, 4.34) was unearthed last year, but Daniel Cabrera (2-0, 4.14) has epitomized disappointment thus far in his career.
The Rays do have Scott Kazmir coming off the DL to add to a rotation of James Shields (3-1, 2.54), Matt Garza (0-0, 7.62), Andy Sonnanstine (3-1, 5.28), Edwin Jackson (2-2, 3.86) and Jason Hammel (2-1, 4.32). But, honestly, folks, do you really see them challenging the Red Sox in earnest before 2009?
Nope. Not even in this upside-down start to the season.
Heck, even the Lovable Losers are in first place.
But, no the times aren't a'changin'. Reality just hasn't set in yet.
The complete Power Rankings: