MLB Power Rankings: Why the Astros, Yankees, Cubs and three others have a legitimate claim for No. 1
Who is the best team in baseball? More than a handful of teams have a claim
A long-standing phrase in the baseball lexicon has been that we can't really judge a team until we've seen 40 games. It makes sense and lines up with all the "it's early" talk we've been painstakingly enduring here to this point. Now that the league is right around the 40-game mark -- some have a few more games played, some have fewer -- I see a pretty fun likelihood: There is no clear-cut No. 1 team.
We have seen some total dominance in recent years that we aren't seeing right now. Remember the 2016 Cubs? How about the 2017 Astros and then the Dodgers. Last season, I had the Red Sox, Yankees and Astros as an easy top three in whatever order every single week by now.
This time around, it's a lot more crowded at the top.
Who is No. 1? I see six possibilities and they all have a legitimate claim.
• The Rays have sat in the No. 1 spot more than any other team since the season started, they sit in first place in the AL East and have the second-best run differential in baseball.
• The Yankees are only a half-game behind the Rays and just won two of three in Tropicana Field. They're also presumably getting reinforcements back from the injured list and having more talent on the way is always a plus.
• The Twins have the best record, so obviously they have an easy claim to say they are the best team in baseball. There isn't really much more explanation needed.
• After a 2-5 start, the Astros returned home and went back into crush mode. They've gone 24-10 since. They also sport the best run differential in baseball.
• Similar to the Astros, the Cubs started 3-8 and have gone 21-6 since. They have the best NL run differential despite having played five fewer games than the Dodgers.
• Those Dodgers are as deep and talented as any team in baseball. They lead the majors in wins (27). Among these six, they have the best record against .500 or better teams at 16-11 (the Cubs are second at 14-10).
I don't see a strong argument for any other team for the top spot. These six are so close to me that-- before any of the teams above had finished their respective games -- and had a totally different order. That's how close they are. One game -- well, to be honest, it's who wins series (singular this time) that swung some things -- is determining how I order these six after around 40 games.
Order them however you want. There's no wrong answer here. This is how they shake out for me.
|1||Cubs||Here's how I actually settled on this selection: Baseball is about winning series (plural this time). Whereas other sports it's just about winning the game, series (singular!) are tantamount to baseball's version of, say, regular-season football games. After a miserable 2-7 start that included three series (plural!) losses, the Cubs have not lost a single series (OK, I'll stop being annoying now). In fact, they've only split once. In terms of series, since the Cubs returned home from a season-opening 2-7 road trip, they have gone 9-0-1 in series. That one tie was their second home series, too, so they've won eight series in a row (the first time for the franchise since 2008). In a hotly contested week atop the rankings, that consistency gets them the nod. Number two was unbelievably close, though.||1||30-20|
|2||Astros||To reiterate, the Astros could easily be first, but the Cubs just haven't lost their past eight series while the Astros dropped three of four to the Twins to open up this month. It's a razor thin margin here. Also, George Springer has been unstoppable.||4||35-18|
|3||Yankees||The Yankees have one of the best records in baseball and their top four in plate appearances are Luke Voit, Gleyber Torres, Brett Gardner and DJ LeMahieu. Gio Urshela has been overly important. Just like they drew it up, no?||1||34-17|
|4||Dodgers||I originally had the Dodgers above the Yankees, but I docked the Dodgers for losing two games to the Nationals. They stink. Scroll all the way down to 27 if you would like more information.||1||34-18|
|5||Twins||Yes, they recently won three of four from the Astros, but the Twins also lost a series to the Yankees and just split with the Tigers. The strength of schedule is weak, too. These are nitpicks, but, as noted, my hand has been forced into nitpicks with this top six.||--||35-16|
|6||Rays||A 3-3 week against quality competition when they hadn't played any in a while and now they're without Tyler Glasnow for a bit. This is still a very strong team, but someone had to sit last of the big six. Better to be last of the six than not be in it.||5||30-19|
|7||Phillies||In looking at the personnel, I can't help but think the offense should be much better. And yet, they still have a three-game lead in the NL East.||2||31-21|
|8||Red Sox||And here they come. The resurrection is real. That's 11 wins in 13 games and the run differential is now a robust +27. They host the Astros this coming weekend in a series bound to be lots of fun.||6||27-25|
|9||Brewers||Gio Gonzalez falling into their lap has worked out pretty well through three starts. Why can't the Brewers hit away from home, though?||1||29-24|
|10||Cardinals||The Cardinals have lost nine of their last 11 games and sit in fourth place. They had the best NL record before this stretch.||3||26-25|
|11||Padres||You know a relatively obscure player who is really fun to watch? Franmil Reyes. Easy power. He's slugging .563 with 11 homers.||--||28-24|
|12||Indians||This is pretty remarkable: The Indians have played 39 games and only 10 have come against teams with a current .500-or-better record (they are 4-6 in those 10).||--||26-25|
|13||Pirates||I mentioned this off the cuff last week, but let's go a bit further. Regular readers of the rankings know that nearly every year, we unEarth a "roller coaster" team and it appears the Pirates are the 2019 version. Check out this ride: 1-3 start, win four in a row, lose three of five, win five in a row, lose eight in a row, win eight of 11. I'm exhilarated.||4||25-24|
|14||Braves||The Brian McCann homecoming is working beautifully, as he's slashing .311/.389/.508 right now. Limited at-bats, sure, but this is related. They are perfectly deploying the 35-year-old.||1||29-24|
|15||Diamondbacks||That's losses in six of their past eight after one of the more impressive stretches from a team we've seen this season.||7||27-25|
|16||Rockies||In my preseason rankings, I noted the effect Coors Field has on batting average, due to the spacious dimensions and outfielders needing to play deeper. I then predicted Daniel Murphy would win the batting title. He's hitting .203 right now. The lesson, as always, is that I'm an idiot.||--||23-27|
|17||Athletics||I really bought into the Jurickson Profar breakout last season and figured it would carry over into this season. Instead, he's hitting .184/.247/.312 and has battled a case of the yips on defense. I'd bet those are related, too. This game can mentally destroy you. Also, see the comment directly above. Sigh.||1||27-25|
|18||Angels||Tommy La Stella entered the season with 10 career home runs in 947 career plate appearances. This season, he has nine in 117. #Baseball||3||23-28|
|19||Mets||Choose your own spin. 1. The Mets are good but just can't beat the Brewers, as they are 1-5 vs. the Brewers and 18-15 against everyone else. 2. The Mets are bad, but load up against the hapless Marlins. They are 5-0 against the Marlins and 14-20 against everyone else.||1||25-26|
|20||Rangers||It's tough to have a series much worse than the Rangers just did in Houston. They lost four games and were outscored by 22 runs. The good news is they head to Kansas City next.||5||25-24|
|21||Reds||Look at Paul Goldschmidt's line in late May last season compared to where it ended up and there's hope, but he was 30. Joey Votto (.206/.325/.338) is 35. I'm at least mildly concerned. I keep hearing "everything ends badly or else it wouldn't end" in the background and I'm getting so annoyed.||4||23-28|
|22||Giants||This *was* one of the most boring teams in baseball. Then Pablo Sandoval made history by stealing a base (his first since 2012), hitting a home run and pitching in the same game and a few days later Derek Holland mentioned something about a "fake injury" while appearing to complain about the new front office. I just leaned forward with an *intrigued* look.||2||21-30|
|23||Tigers||Shane Greene is now on pace for 64 saves. The Tigers are on pace for 77 wins.||3||19-30|
|24||Mariners||This has gone from ugly to spiraling out of control. The Mariners have lost 21 of their last 28.||5||23-31|
|25||White Sox||Might things be coming together for Lucas Giolito? In his last four outings, he's pitched to a 1.63 ERA and 0.95 WHIP with 28 strikeouts in 22 innings. It might seem like we've been waiting on his breakout for a while, but he's only 24 years old.||2||23-28|
|26||Blue Jays||It's been frustrating and annoying to watch Vladimir Guerrero get off to such a rough start, but only a fool would draw conclusions about this amazingly-talented 20-year-old.||4||20-32|
|27||Nationals||Do you know how many teams have a worse record than the Nats? Three! The obvious three worst teams in baseball and that's even after the Nats managed a four-game split against the Dodgers. Pathetic Nattitude out here. Call Drogon because there's some firing that needs to be done.||4||21-31|
|28||Royals||Hunter Dozier was a career .261/.346/.426 hitter in the minors . This season in the bigs, he's hitting .318/.413/.621. Decent, eh?||--||17-34|
|29||Orioles||This is pretty amazing. The Orioles are on pace to go 57-105 and there are two teams with a worse winning percentage.||--||16-36|
|30||Marlins||Kudos to the Marlins for playing the Cubs tough in Wrigley Field. All four games were close. Then again, I'm complimenting a team for losing three of four. That's where we are here with Derek Jeter's troops. Never thought we'd see this commentary, right, "Derek Jeter is a winner" crowd?||--||16-33|
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