Before we dive into this week's rankings, a quick note: Let the 13-2 Mariners becoming the 23-26 Mariners serve as a reminder at how quickly things can turn in a league where the teams we follow play damn near everyday. They went from the best record in baseball to a non-contender really fast. Things could flip again, too!
Keep this in mind as we proceed.
Onto the NL East.
The sentiment heading into the season was that there were four teams that could legitimately take the division this season. Braves to finish fourth (and definitely didn't mean it as an insult). I thought the division would be competitive four deep.
Instead, there might be a bit of a divide emerging.
At 27-19, the Phillies are the third-best team in the NL and a clear division favorite at this point. They've been above water all year after starting 4-0 and never falling back to .500. It's safe to say this is a good team.
The Braves have dealt with injury issues to the pitching staff but are starting to get settled and now sit 25-22 after having won seven of their past nine games all against quality competition. It looks like they are going to hang around.
The Mets have lost five in a row Marlins. The Marlins were a pathetic 10-31 before the series. The Marlins managed to shut out the Mets in back-to-back games. The Mets now have a negative-23 run differential and only have a better record than two NL teams -- the Marlins and the ... Nationals.by the
The Nats are now seven games under .500 with a negative-29 run differential. While the Mets have the same record as both the Rockies and Giants, the Nationals trail. Of the 15 teams, the Nationals have the 14th-best record, topping only the Marlins.
Think about that. There are zero teams worse than the Mets in the NL Central or NL West by record and they sit in third place in the NL East right now. The Mets are exactly the same distance (6 1/2 games) away from first place as they are from the Marlins, who are on pace to win 48 games this season.
Again, back to what we said about the Mariners above: Things can change fast.
But it really looks like the division where we thought it might go four deep is starting to divide into 2/2/1 (contenders/non-contenders/horrible). We'll see if it holds.
|They have had two different 10-game winning streaks and have only played 47 games. That's laughably impressive.||1||6-3|
|Series wins over the Rays each of the past two weekends shows this is the team to beat in the AL East.||1||4-5|
|They weren't going to win every series the rest of the year and they were damn close to winning that one in Cincy, too (and without Anthony Rizzo). Still, they now won 10 of the past 12 series (including a split) since their first road trip.||2||4-5|
|Hyun-jin Ryu has a 31-inning scoreless streak going and a 1.52 ERA overall. Last year, he had a 1.97 ERA. Lord.||--||8-2|
|The Twins are slugging .505 this season. They've never even slugged .440 in a season before. The franchise record is .437 (2002).||--||5-4|
|They've been .500 (13-13) for more games than they were stellar (14-4 start) and have a tough upcoming week. Time to start beating good teams like they did in the season-opening series.||--||4-5|
|Last week I asked why the Brewers couldn't hit on the road. They went out and scored 4, 6, 5, 11 and 8 runs in their first five games last week, which happened to be on the road. Glad I could motivate, guys, and thanks for reading!||2||5-4|
|Something to watch: Only the White Sox have played an easier schedule than the Phillies. This week they visit the Cubs and Brewers before hosting the Cardinals and then heading to road series against the Dodgers and Padres.||1||6-3|
|It was a 2-3 week, sure, but to salvage one against these Astros right now was honestly pretty impressive at this point. They'll get another shot at the Astros next weekend (why are so many of these back-to-back weekend series happening this season, by the way? It's a bit annoying to see so many matchups clustered).||1||6-3|
|Jose Ramirez. My man. We're getting close to "lost season" territory, no? Hey, things can still turn. Paul Goldschmidt didn't start recovering until the end of May last season.||2||5-3|
|Austin Riley, like Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuna, is younger than 23 years old. Mercy that's some seriously great and seriously young talent.||3||4-5|
|It's only 28 plate appearances, but Zack Greinke hitting .292/.346/.708 with two doubles, a triple(!), two home runs, four RBI and a stolen base is something to watch.||3||4-6|
|We've seen teams defy this before and this early in the season, things can easily skew it, but the Pirates are going to be the team everyone tells you is due for a backslide. Why? They are 24-20 but have a negative-39 run differential.||--||3-6|
|It's gone from a rough patch to a near-tailspin. The Cardinals started 20-10 and have gone 4-13 since. They are losing games in lots of different ways, but a good number of the losses have involved a lack of offense. In this stretch, they've scored two runs or fewer eight times.||4||5-4|
|And just like that, our early-season darling is now under .500.||4||7-3|
|Thirty-six-year-old Hunter Pence is hitting .299/.358/.619 with eight home runs and 28 RBI in only 97 at-bats. Amazing.||4||3-6|
|Last week the Angels called up a two-way player. No, not Shohei Ohtani. Jared Walsh. He hasn't pitched yet, but he's 3 for 7 at the plate. He was destroying the ball in the minors (.302/.398/.604, 10 HR in 139 at-bats) and also pitched five innings (3.60 ERA).||1||6-3|
|Glass half-empty: The Reds are in last place again. Glass half-full: The Reds are 20-18 since a 1-8 start, have a plus-24 run differential (which is second to the Cubs in their division) and just went 3-3 against the two best teams in the NL.||3||6-3|
|Will Smith has 26 strikeouts against four walks in 18 2/3 innings so far. I know a lot will focus on Madison Bumgarner possibly being traded, but Smith is going to get the Giants something pretty nice in front of the trade deadline.||3||6-3|
|At least if the team is going to be bad, make it a fun team to watch. The Mariners lead the majors with 90 home runs.||4||5-4|
|We've seen the A's turn it on in a major way in late May or even late June (like last year) before. Don't sleep on them.||4||3-7|
|The White Sox playing somewhat competent baseball at times only makes this past offseason more frustrating. They would have been so much more aggressive, even if that didn't mean Manny Machado (they sure could have used pitching). Also, let me further lament the schedule thing I mentioned in the Red Sox comment. The White Sox have now gone an extended stretch of Tigers, Orioles, Tigers, Orioles, Red Sox, Indians, Blue Jays, Indians, Blue Jays. That's incredibly annoying and as far as I can tell, it's happening with nearly every team.||3||4-5|
|Last season looked like the breakout campaign for 25-year-old former first-round pick Kyle Freeland. He topped 200 innings and pitched to a 2.85 ERA, earning fourth place in NL Cy Young voting. After another disaster on Sunday, he sits with a 6.02 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in 2019.||7||3-7|
|They've actually gone 5-5 in their past three series and their next eight games come against the Mets and Marlins. There's a shot to do some good and render their portion of my intro moot.||3||1-5|
|They lost games where Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard were starting against a team on pace to win 48 games. Is that good?||6||2-3|
|Last week I mentioned only a fool would draw conclusions on Vladimir Guerrero Jr.'s rough start in the majors. He then went out and hit four home runs in a week.||--||4-5|
|The Tigers knocked the A's out of the playoffs in 2006, 2012 and 2013, the latter two in do-or-die games. It would appear the Tigers used up all that good karma in this series, because they've now lost 15 straight games against the A's.||4||3-6|
|There was a story a few days ago that said the Royals' front office believes they have a shot at a wild-card spot this season. The Royals are 16-31, which is the pace of a 55-107 season. Only one AL team has a worse record and it's by a half-game. Confidence is good, but delusion really isn't.||--||4-3|
|Look, I like that Chris Davis has been much better since his record in futility, but I recently saw talk about him possibly being the Orioles' All-Star. He's hitting .179/.267/.333. Trey Mancini is hitting .304/.351/.561. In the immortal words of George Costanza: "You know we're living in a society!"||--||4-5|
|Great job against the Mets!||--||2-6|