The turn of the calendar from April to May has some teams disappointed to see the first month of the season end, while others hoping April showers will bring May flowers (no pun intended). The Chicago White Sox continue their torrid start and currently own the best record in the American League. The defending NL champion New York Mets and the Washington Nationals both enjoyed excellent Aprils that have culminated in a jam-packed NL East. On the other hand, the New York Yankees and Houston Astros both are in the cellars of their respective divisions, and trying desperately to claw out of last place. Jake Arrieta threw his second no-hitter in as many seasons in a 16-0 romp over Cincinnati. In what could be called the first meaningful power rankings of the season, find out how far your team fell or rose in this week’s rankings.
30. Atlanta Braves (6-18)
Previous Ranking: 30
They won a game yesterday. If they win one today, that is two in a row. If they win one tomorrow, that is called a winning streak. It has happened before, so progress?
29. San Diego Padres (9-16)
Previous Ranking: 29
It has to be demoralizing to lose two games in one week by the score of 1-0. You can add Johnny Cueto and Clayton Kershaw to the list of pitchers who have thrown complete game shutouts against the Padres. Overall, San Diego has been shut out seven times in their first 25 games. The Padres are currently in the process of trying to get a rule passed that says you can win with 0 runs.
28. Milwaukee Brewers (9-15)
Previous Ranking: 27
The good news is Milwaukee was in the news this week. The bad news is it was because they were getting no-hit for 7.2 innings by Marlins starter Adam Conley. They have not won a series since taking two out of three against Houston in the first week of the season. It has been a rough start for the Brew crew.
27. Minnesota Twins (7-18)
Previous Ranking: 28
After they regained their footing a bit, the Twins were swept in two of their last three series by the Washington Nationals and Detroit Tigers. They have called up prospect Jose Berrios who some say could be the best pitcher the Twins have had since Johan Santana. Unfortunately for the Twins, it seems like they are going to spend the entire year trying to climb out of their 0-9 hole.
26. Cincinnati Reds (10-15)
Previous Ranking: 20
It cannot be fun getting no hit. The Reds became Arrieta’s second no-hit victim and were rendered powerless in a 16-0 blowout loss to the Cubs one week ago. They had also lost eight out of nine before winning in extra innings yesterday against the Pirates 6-5. In their defense, they did play the Cubs and the Mets, two of the better teams in the National League.
25. Houston Astros (8-17)
Previous Ranking: 19
Can someone please remind Houston that the games they are playing actually count towards their record? Houston has been flat-out awful so far in 2016 and is dangerously close to digging themselves into an insurmountable hole in the AL West. The Astros’ starting pitching continues to struggle as they rank 27th in starting rotation ERA at 5.10. Ken Giles has been a major disappointment out of their bullpen. When is Houston going to wake up?
24. New York Yankees (8-15)
Previous Ranking: 15
You know things are bad when even Dellin Betances is blowing games in the late innings. Betances’ recent struggles have been part of a cacophony of errors that have plagued the Bombers in the early going. Michael Pineda has looked absolutely lost on the mound but the bigger concern is the offense, where the Yankees finished April with the least runs in the majors for the first time in 32 years. Yikes.
23. Arizona Diamondbacks (12-15)
Previous Ranking: 26
There are very few pitchers in the MLB off to a worst start than Shelby Miller. Miller is 0-3, maintaining a dreadful 8.49 ERA and has struggled to make it past the fifth inning. To make matters worse, Arizona was swept by division rival Colorado this weekend on their home field which is never good. However, the only positive may be that the NL West is down for now.
22. Cleveland Indians (10-12)
Previous Rankings: 16
Get this. The Indians have remarkably played six consecutive one-run games and have come out of them 1-5. I doubt manager Terry Francona can take any more of these nail bitters. On a more serious note, pitcher Carlos Carrasco is expected to be out for over a month with a hamstring injury that he suffered while trying to cover first against the Tigers. Let’s see how the Indians can absorb an injury to one of their best arms.
21. Miami Marlins (12-12)
Previous Ranking: 23
Just when they thought things were going well, reigning NL batting champion Dee Gordon was suspended 80 games for PEDs. It is truly a shame that players feel the need to resort to cheating to compete at the highest level. But I guess it is safe to say that Marlins’ hitting coach Barry Bonds is making his presence felt in Miami.
20. Oakland Athletics (13-13)
Previous Ranking: 24
I would commend Oakland for taking two out of three from the Astros, however, pretty much everyone has beaten up on Houston so far this season. One of the more impressive stories in baseball has been the pitching of Rich Hill. The 36-year-old journeyman had an excellent April and currently has a 2.53 ERA with 41 strikeouts in just 32 innings pitched. It will be interesting to see how long Hill can sustain his flying start.
19. Tampa Bay Rays (11-13)
Previous Ranking: 21
If Tampa does not contend in the AL East this year it will not be because of their rotation. Tampa currently ranks sixth in starting rotation ERA at 3.39 and Chris Archer has yet to hit his stride. Drew Smyly and Jake Odorizzi both have a chance to be really good pitchers for them for years to come.
18. Anaheim Angles (12-13)
Previous Ranking: 17
The Angels impressively swept the defending World Series Champion Royals three games early last week and are beginning to play better baseball. Short stop Yunel Escobar has proven to be a solid addition for the Halos and is currently hitting .286 in the leadoff spot. With Houston struggling, teams like the Angels need to seize this opportunity within the division.
17. Colorado Rockies (12-12)
Previous Ranking: 22
If baseball was all about offense, Colorado would be one of the league’s best. The Rockies are currently fifth in runs scored and lead the league with 39 home runs. Trevor Story and Nolan Arenado both have already hit double-digit home runs. As usual, the key for Colorado is finding decent enough starting pitching.
16. Philadelphia Phillies (15-10)
Previous Ranking: 25
If you predicted that the surprise team in the National League after one month of the season was going to be the Phillies people would have laughed at you. Yet, after completing another three game sweep, this time at the hands of the Cleveland Indians, the Phillies are beginning to open some eyes. Philadelphia also swept the Nationals last week who have seldom lost games so far this season. Vincent Velasquez, Aaron Nola, and Jeremy Hellickson, yes Jeremy Hellickson, have exceeded expectations. It has been an impressive start by the Phillies.
15. St. Louis Cardinals (12-13)
Previous Ranking: 10
Since 2008, the Cardinals have not ended April in lower than second place in the NL Central until this season. After getting swept by the Nationals this weekend, it is fair to say that St. Louis is not off to their typical hot start. Adam Wainwright has been a disappointment thus far, yielding a 7.16 ERA and 36 hits through just 27.2 innings. While it is still early in the season for the Cardinals, there is no time to waste in the loaded NL Central.
14. Seattle Mariners (13-11)
Previous Ranking: 18
Mariner fans have to be pleased with the April performance of starting pitcher Taijuan Walker. Walker is currently 2-1 with an excellent 1.80 ERA after showing flashes of dominance towards the end of last season. With the Mariners desperately looking for someone in their rotation to slot in behind King Felix, Walker could be an excellent candidate to fill that role.
13. Toronto Blue Jays (12-14)
Previous Ranking: 8
Blue Jays’ first baseman Chris Colabello is another prominent player who fell victim to an 80 game PED suspension. While losing a player like Colabello is not as significantly as losing a player like Bautista or Donaldson, his absence will certainly hurt their depth. For the Blue Jays as a whole, they have been very mediocre so far in 2016, ranking in the middle of the pack in both runs scored and ERA
12. Detroit Tigers (14-10)
Previous Ranking: 6
How about the April for Jordan Zimmerman? The right hander is 5-0 with a 0.55 ERA in his first five starts and has given the Tigers all they could have hoped for in his first month in Detroit. To go alongside Zimmerman’s dominance, third baseman Nick Castellanos has been on a tear recently, hitting .361 on the young season.
11. Texas Rangers (14-11)
Previous Ranking: 12
AL Rookie of the Month Nomar Mazara continues to open up eyes in Texas. The rookie is currently hitting .324, good for second best on the team behind Elvis Andrus. In addition, Mazara possesses a team-best .380 on base percentage. After losing four in a row to the surging White Sox and Yankees, Texas responded well by putting together a four-game winning streak
10. Los Angeles Dodgers (13-13)
Previous Ranking: 5
If Clayton Kershaw pitched every game against the Padres, he would finish the year with an ERA under 1.00. Kershaw’s combined stat line in two starts against the Padres would be difficult to duplicate in a video game: 16 innings pitched, 23 strikeouts, 1 walk, 4 hits, and 0 earned runs. The stuff Kershaw is able to do day in, day out is simply astounding.
9. San Francisco Giants (13-13)
Previous Ranking: 4
The Giants have still managed to stay .500 despite suffering a four-game sweep at the hands of the Diamondbacks at home. It also had to be a pleasant sight for Giants’ fans to see Madison Bumgarner finally look like an ace Sunday at Citi Field. The 2014 World Series MVP out dueled Noah Syndergaard over six scoreless innings while racking up seven strikeouts.
8. Baltimore Orioles (14-10)
Previous Ranking: 9
One player who is sad to see the calendar turn from April to May is Manny Machado. The Orioles third baseman is currently tied for the league lead in hits with 33, extra base hits (17), total bases (64) and is second in batting average at .344. No wonder he was named AL Player of the Month. If Machado can keep up this torrid start and the O’s can keep up their winning ways, Machado could be a dark horse candidate for AL MVP.
7. Kansas City Royals (13-12)
Previous Ranking: 2
The main thing we learned about the Royals last week is that they are in fact human. Kansas City sputtered on the road this past week, by losing five out-of-six in their west coast road trip to Anaheim and Seattle. Throughout the Royals’ rut, starting pitching hasn’t been the problem as Kansas City ranks sixth in all of baseball in team ERA (3.34). Starters Edinson Volquez and Ian Kennedy have brought durability in the rotation, not to mention an ability to eat up innings — so far the combination of the two starters have ripped through 68.1 innings.
The Royals’ offense, however, is laboring. Lorenzo Cain and Alcides Escobar are both currently hitting under .230, two hitters that make up a good portion of Kansas City’s offense. Basically, outside of Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas and Jarrod Dyson, absolutely no one is doing damaging with runners in scoring position — going 3 for 34 the past eight games. To compound matters, star left fielder Alex Gordon hasn’t shown anything worthy of his contract extension last winter (at least offensively), where he has struck out 32 times out of his 98 total plate appearances.
The good news for the Royals is that they are still over .500. Kansas City is too good of a team to be in a rut like this for so long.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates (15-10)
Previous Ranking: 13
Andrew McCutchen broke out of his slump in a big way against Colorado on Thursday, belting three home runs to pace the Pirates to a 9-4 victory. They’ve also won eight out of nine in this stretch and have been playing much better ball of late. It is too early to panic over Gerrit Cole’s early season struggles, but the talented right hander is 2-3 with a 4.28 ERA and has recorded less than a strikeout per inning.
5. Boston Red Sox (15-10)
Previous Ranking: 11
The last two Sunday Night Baseball games illustrate how difficult it is to figure out the Red Sox. Two Sundays ago against the Astros, big-name closer and off-season acquisition Craig Kimbrel gave up a two-out two run homer to Colby Rasmus which sent the game into extra innings, before the Red Sox ultimately prevailed in 12 innings. This past Sunday night, big name starter and also off-season acquisition David Price had next to nothing and gave up seven runs in his first five innings pitched, yet the Red Sox still prevailed 8-7 thanks to a late home run by Christian Vasquez. The sign of a good team is finding ways to win even when your best players are not performing and Boston is certainly doing that.
4. New York Mets (15-8)
Previous Ranking: 14
The Mets are beginning to look like the team that took the MLB by storm in mid to late August last season and are winners of 13 of their last 16. Yoenis Cespedes is beginning to swat again and ripped seven homers in the month of April. The bigger story though has been the slugging of Neil Walker. The 30 year-old second baseman, who has never hit more than 23 homers in his career, already has nine and is on pace for over 50 home runs. The likelihood of Walker sustaining his power is slim, but he certainly has eased the pain of losing Daniel Murphy.
3. Chicago White Sox (18-8)
Previous Ranking: 7
Wow. The White Sox walked into Toronto this past week and swept the Blue Jays three straight games and outscored the defending AL East champs, 21-7 including a 10-1 victory in the series finale behind Chris Sale. Despite the success of the club as a whole, ace Chris Sale has been the catalyst. Sale’s 6-0 start is the first for a leftie since Randy Johnson in 2002, and his 1.66 ERA is not too shabby either.
2. Washington Nationals (17-7)
Previous Ranking: 3
The most impressive number from the Nationals’ sweep of the Cardinals this past weekend is 0. Zero represents the number of hits Bryce Harper got in the entire series. This should quell some of the notions that the Nationals are a one-man show.
1. Chicago Cubs (17-6)
Previous Ranking: 1
Not a lot of debate here. On the pitching side, there is not much more to say about Jake Arrieta. The guy is flat-out dominant. Arrieta’s no-hitter vs Cincinnati (this has been said a lot) put to bed once and for all the talk about 2015 being a fluke for the Cubs’ ace. Arrieta is 5-0 in 2016 and with the way the Cubs hit, he could very well be on his way to another 20-win season. Offensively, leadoff man Dexter Fowler has been tremendous. Fowler is currently hitting .357 with an OPS of .1095 and is the perfect table setter for the Cubs ferocious lineup.