In all these years of as the Official MLB power ranker -- I started doing it here at CBS Sports in 2012! -- I'm certain that I've never gone back-to-back weeks with the Pittsburgh Pirates as the primary topic up here on top. Firsts are fun, though, so let's talk about those Pirates.
After taking two of three from the Dodgers and then whipping up on the eminently whippable Washington Nationals Saturday, the Pirates are now 20-9. Yeah, it's still a bit early, but not absurdly so. Since the NFL mindset has permeated the rest of sports, let's point out that we're the equivalent of three NFL games into our season. So while there's still plenty of time for changes, we've seen enough to start making judgements.
The Pirates were the second team to 20 wins this season and it took a historic start from the Rays to beat them there.
Speaking of, the Rays are 23-6 right now. They were one of the fastest teams in MLB history to 20 wins and have already topped 100 in run differential. It's not as if they haven't faced adversity, either, as there have been several injuries to prominent players. They have just been that damn good.
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That's two teams to 20 wins before we even hit May. It's often said that while you can't win the division (or a playoff spot) in April, you can certainly lose one. While you can't cement a playoff spot, getting off to a hot start and spotting yourself a lead for a postseason berth generally bodes well for a team's playoff chances.
For illustration purposes as it relates to these two teams, let's take a look at teams reaching 20 wins before May in the Wild Card Era -- while also realizing a good portion of said era only had one Wild Card and now there are three.
|Team||Year||March/April record||Final record||Playoffs?|
Won AL West; lost ALCS
Won AL East; lost World Series
Won AL East; World Series champs
Won AL West; lost ALCS
Los Angeles Dodgers
Won NL West; lost NLDS
We can add the Pirates and Rays to that chart after this season and it'll be fun to see where they end up in the two columns on the right. Here's guessing they'd like to avoid the 82-win parade by the D-Backs and Brewers.
Further, look at the upcoming schedule for these two. It gets fun right away. The Rays host the Pirates for a three-game series in The Trop starting Tuesday. The Rays have the best record and run differential in baseball while the Pirates take both of those titles on the National League side. A World Series preview, perhaps? I feel strongly that it would be difficult to find anyone who would've predicted that a month ago.
For now, though, these have been the two best teams in baseball. We can't be sure it'll continue, but it's been long enough to stop clinging to preseason expectations and the "it's early" trope. It is now May and nearly 20 percent of the season has been played.
|Is it a bit disheartening to get out to this kind of start and still only have a 4 1/2-game lead? It has to be, right? At least just a little?||--||97-62|
|An area where the Pirates are making major headway this season is on the basepaths. The lead the majors in stolen bases and rank toward the top in bases taken and the percentage of baserunners to score a run. With the bigger bases and shift limitations, there's an added emphasis on baserunning this season and the Pirates are making themselves a big beneficiary.||11||75-84|
|Spencer Strider is just ridiculous. Wow. Keep in mind he was a fourth-round pick in 2020, so even the Braves passed on him multiple times. Quite a rise.||2||102-56|
|I understand the concerns after last season and then the numbers from his first two starts, but José Berríos has a 1.42 ERA, 0.68 WHIP and 18 strikeouts in 19 innings in his last three starts. An awful lot of good signs across the board on him, actually. What a plus for the Jays if he is his old self.||1||87-71|
|I assume they'll take care of business in Kansas City to start the week and then there's a nice, early-season-measuring-stick series in Atlanta. After that, the Orioles host the Rays. Fun stretch. Keep your eyes on 'em.||5||100-59|
|The Dodgers have won six of eight and it seems like the series loss was more "running into a buzzsaw" (the Pirates?!?!?) and a rash of paternity leaves than anything else.||2||98-60|
|Small sample? Yeah, but José Abreu definitely has me worried that he's in his age-related decline.||5||87-72|
|OK, it's May. Christian Yelich has had 117 plate appearances. He's hit .223 with a .340 slugging percentage and has struck out nearly 30 percent of the time. If he was coming off his MVP-caliber seasons, it would be a slow start. We're firmly in "trend" territory, though.||4||90-69|
|The Padres haven't been more than two games over .500 all season. They are one game over right now and get the Reds for three games at home to start the week. Seems like a good time to get rolling before the Dodgers visit, right?||--||79-80|
|The best of times, worst of times, etc. ... Jacob deGrom's elbow injury followed by Nathan Eovaldi's first career nine-inning shutout (he previously only had one and it was his last start last season in a game that ended after five innings).||1||89-69|
|In Byron Buxton's last eight games, he's hit five homers, doubled three times and has 11 RBI.||5||85-74|
|Given what they've gone through to this point in the season, it's remarkable that the Phillies are already back over .500. And now here comes Bryce.||6||89-70|
|They've lost five of six, but the schedule is very soft for a few weeks once they finish with the Braves.||7||72-86|
|What a total gut punch. Corbin Carroll was hitting .370/.460/.648 in the last 16 games before his injury.||--||84-75|
|The Yankees have lost six of eight and have looked every bit that bad in doing so. They are tied with the Red Sox for last place (that's quite a sentence, huh?).||8||81-77|
|Anyone remember all the hand-wringing about run differential and record in one-run games regarding the 2012 Orioles? It was incessant and excruciating. I bring this up because the Marlins have a -35 run differential and are 10-0 in one-run games. Uh oh.||1||82-76|
|That Drew Smyly near-perfecto in a blowout against the Dodgers was awesome. The Cubs have gone 2-6 since then. Meanwhile, Christopher Morel and Matt Mervis are killing the ball in Iowa. The weird thing about the situation is that some moves seem to indicate that Jed Hoyer is content with not contending this season. If that's the case, why not play the kids and let them develop at the big-league level? And if he is trying to win now, where are they? And why did Caleb Kilian start Saturday? Baffling roster decisions so far in Wrigleyville.||5||82-76|
|Where did Anthony Rendon's power go? He's on a bit of a surge right now, hitting .304 with a .429 on-base percentage in his last six games, but he has zero home runs all season along with only three doubles and a pitiful .290 slugging.||2||71-88|
|Time to find out what the Red Sox are made of. They've got the Blue Jays (four games), Phillies (three) and Braves (two) here in the next week and a half.||4||76-83|
|The Guardians already have five players with at least five stolen bases.||1||75-84|
|They were exactly 12-16 at this point last season, too. Maybe that provides some hope, but do the Mariners really have another 14-game winning streak in them?||--||85-73|
|The revival of hope was short lived, as the Giants followed their five-game winning streak with three straight losses.||1||78-81|
|Post-hype breakout coming? Nick Senzel (remember him?) is 10 for 18 with a double, two homers and eight RBI in his last five games.||4||81-78|
|In seasons with at least 20 games played in March/April, this is the worst start in Cardinals history. They were 8-14 in 1988, 10-14 in 2007 and 9-12 in both 1969 and 1978. The Cardinals finished below .500 in all of those seasons except 1969. If we dropped the games played criterion down to 15, we'd have to go all the way back to 1932 (5-10) to find the only start worse for this franchise.||2||69-90|
|If Eduardo Rodriguez keeps throwing like this into July, he's going to be a big name on the trade block. He is signed through 2026, technically, but he has an opt-out clause after this season.||--||76-83|
|Josiah Gray was one of the main pieces the Nationals got back in the trade that sent Max Scherzer and Trea Turner to the Dodgers. Gray led the league in homers and walks allowed last season and had a rocky first start this year, but he's been nails since. In his last five starts, he's pitched to a 1.57 ERA.||--||69-90|
|It took a crazy, comeback walk-off homer to finally break the 10-game losing streak. Overall, it's still pretty ugly.||3||61-98|
|The Rockies have never had a 100-loss season. They are currently on pace to lose 112.||--||57-101|
|The 21 losses tied a Royals record for losses in any month.||--||54-105|
|Thanks to the win on Sunday, the A's are now on pace to go 34-128.||--||49-110|