In this article…
We are about a third of the way through the 2012 Major League Baseball season and there have been notable surprises, both in under and overachieving fashions. In my opinion, the eastern divisions are the most competitive, top to bottom, than any of the other divisions in the majors. The division a team plays in must be taken into consideration when coming up with subjective power rankings and I intend on following that idea. I will also consider the entire body of work from each team this season so far and not just indicating who the hottest teams are in baseball at this very moment. With that being said, my MLB power rankings through approximately the first third of the 2012 season are as follows.
1. Dodgers (37-22) – With Frank McCourt out and Magic Johnson & Co. in as new owners, second year manager Don Mattingly has his team playing outstanding baseball despite the absence of all-world center fielder Matt Kemp. After a disappointing 2011 campaign, the Dodgers are the team to beat in the National League right now and should remain that way throughout the season and into the playoffs.
2. Rangers (34-25) – Josh Hamilton has been playing out of his mind, but most importantly staying healthy, and the rest of the Ranger offense have completely overshadowed what has been a disappointment in the starting pitching staff. Nevertheless, principle owner Nolan Ryan must be happy to see his $108 million investment pay off so far in Yu Darvish as well as a rejuvenated Joe Nathan. The two-time defending American League Champs are poised for another run at the coveted World Series Trophy.
3. Nationals (33-23) – Despite 3B Ryan Zimmerman not showing up for most of this season at the plate, the Nationals are pitching their way to most of their wins, with a sprinkle of some timely hitting. Gio Gonzalez has been awesome since coming over from the American League this year and the likes of Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson have been very good as well, despite their poor W/L records. The Nationals also have one of the deepest bullpens in baseball and that's without their normal closer Drew Storen. Mike Morse just came off the DL and should add potency to the lineup for the Nats moving forward.
4. Rays (33-25) – On paper the Rays have one of the best starting pitching staffs in baseball. However, James Shields and Matt Moore have not quite lived up to the built up hype from last season. Still, with David Price and Jeremy Hellickson, and all-star 3B Evan Longoria coming off the DL in the coming weeks, the Rays are poised to make a run at the postseason, barring major injuries. The Rays are under .500 on the road this season.
5. Yankees (32-25) – In what has been a rather disappointing start to the season, Joe Girardi's Yankees aren't in all that bad of shape considering the inconsistent starting pitching, clutch hitting, and the loss of Mariano Rivera. Rafael Soriano has done rather well in the absence of Mo and David Robertson. Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano and CC Sabathia are currently the nucleus of this team. Also, Andy Pettitte is pitching great in his return from retirement and if he can keep it up, it will go a long way for the 27-time World Champs moving forward.
6. Orioles (32-26) – Maybe the biggest surprise in all of baseball to this point of the season. Buck Showalter has this team playing tremendous baseball in what is probably the best division in the majors. This is all happening without a clear cut ace type pitcher in the starting rotation. Also, Adam Jones is a budding star and is finally showing the baseball world that he could potentially be an MVP candidate one day. It's hard to see O's winning the AL East but that's what was said a few years back about the Rays before they took home the AL East crown.
7. Giants (33-26) – Former Yankee outfielder Melky Cabrera is currently leading the National League in hitting. Despite Tim Lincecum struggling mightily for most of the season, the likes of Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, Madison Bumgarner, and even Barry Zito are making a claim that they have one of the top rotations in the big leagues. As their pitching staff goes, so do the Giants. Remember, they won a World Series title with unbelievable starting pitching and very little hitting. This year they'll be contending without closer Brian Wilson.
8. Braves (33-25) – Brandon Beachy is in the discussion for NL Cy Young to this point through the season. Closer Craig Kimbrel is having an outstanding sophomore campaign for a team who failed to make the postseason last year due to a devastating September collapse. To avoid the same thing from happening this year, Kimbrel must be on his game late in the year and the offense must come up with timely hitting in big spots down the stretch. The NL East is very competitive, but with the new wild card system put in place, the Braves have a better shot at glory this year than last.
9. Reds (32-25) – The soft spoken Joey Votto is the heart and soul of this team. Right fielder Jay Bruce is on the cusp of being a bona fide superstar, and if it wasn't for his inconsistent batting average, he probably would be one. Mat Latos must become more consistent because the Reds will look to him to provide quality starts in big games down the stretch. Aroldis Chapman, who finally gave up his first run of the season on Thursday, could very well be the best closer in baseball right now.
10. Marlins (31-27) – It seems like a long time ago when Ozzie Guillen was ridiculed and suspended by the Marlins for his dubious statements made in regards to the Cuban community. Gullien, after a shaky beginning, has his team playing inspired ball. Hanley Ramirez is having a much better season than he had a year ago where he was awful, to say the least. Giancarlo Stanton is becoming one of the most feared hitters in the National League. Despite Josh Johnson not meeting expectations, he is staying healthy and if he and the rest of the Marlin pitching staff performs well they have a chance to contend for a division title.
11. Mets (32-27) – Probably the biggest surprise in the National League this season. The Mets in recent years have been described as a team with bad luck, some of it being self inflicted. There is something different going on with the Amazin's this year however. Johan Santana threw the franchise's first no-hitter, David Wright is 3rd in the league in hitting, and R.A. Dickey is well on his way to becoming an all-star in about a month from now. The Mets must stay healthy and continue their fine starting pitching and clutch hitting if they want to have a shot at the postseason come September.
12. White Sox (32-26) – After a poor start to the season, the White Sox have come on strong of late. Paul Konerko is still raking it at the plate, despite his advanced age. A.J. Pierzynski is one of the best hitting catchers in all of baseball this season Adam Dunn is back to being Adam Dunn. Following a move to the starting rotation, Chris Sale is looking like one of the best young starting pitchers in the American League. With this all being said, however, the White Sox must get consistent starting pitching from the rest of the staff and hope the Tigers don't come out of their early season funk and make a hard push for the division title.
13. Indians (31-26) – Another surprising team in the American League this year is the Cleveland Indians. Second year player Jason Kipnis might one day be considered one of the best second baseman's in all of baseball, and may quite possibly be in the discussion already. Asdrubal Cabrera is one of the best hitting shortstops in the American League for the second straight season. It is the starting pitching that makes me weary of the Indians' chances going forward. If they want any shot at contending for a playoff spot they need a couple of starters to step up, along with some late season timely hitting.
14. Cardinals (30-29) – The defending World Series have their work cut out for them this year without Albert Pujols. Carlos Beltran has been a monster for most of this season, and the Cardinals offense, with others players such as Matt Holliday, Allen Craig, David Freese, and Yadier Molina, must continue their potent start to the season. The starting pitching staff must be solid and healthy (getting back Chris Carpenter) the rest of the way if they want a shot at another postseason run.
15. Blue Jays (30-28) – The reason the Blue Jays are slightly above mediocrity this season rather than being their typical average selves is that their pitching staff has shown signs of brilliance at times. Ricky Romero, Kyle Drabek, and Brandon Morrow have been anywhere between good and tremendous thus far. Edwin Encarnacion has been a nice surprise for the Jays this year and Jose Bautista, despite the low average, is one of the most feared hitters in baseball. It's hard to see the Jays contending for the division title, but with the new wild card system in place, they might have a punchers chance at a post season berth.
16. Angels (30-29) – The team many had as the favorites in the American League struggled mightily early on but has come to life in the last few weeks. Albert Pujos is gaining back his form from his MVP years with the Cardinals but is still a ways away from living up to the $24 million a year contract he signed with the Halos. Mark Trumbo has come up huge thus far in his second year, and Mike Trout has transformed the lineup. This team does have one of the best starting pitching staffs in all of baseball, and despite the slow start, they will be in the running for a post season berth and could possibly push the Rangers for the AL West title.
17. Red Sox (29-29) – Bobby Valentine's seat cooled down a bit since the dubious start to his managerial stint with the Red Sox. Andrew Bailey is looking more and more like a bad signing for the Sox the longer he's on the DL. Josh Beckett lost some of his form from last year's tremendous campaign. Jon Lester has not ascended to that ace type starting pitcher most had expected him to be at this point. A couple of years back fans and the media were writing off David Ortiz but he's continued his brilliance at the plate since, and it has continued into this season. The Red Sox need Jacoby Ellsbury back and healthy as well as more consistent starting pitching if they want a chance at making the post season.
18. Pirates (30-27) – This team is over .500 but is only 18th on my list because of the combination of the weak division they are in as well as what they displayed last season starting off well and ending horribly. A healthy Erik Bedard has been a pleasant surprise for the Pirates so far but their starting pitching as a whole is nothing to write home about. Andrew McCutchen is a stud in a lineup with a bunch of duds. If they weren;t in such a poor division they would have almost no shot to make the playoffs but as long as the Cardinals don't run away with the NL Central the Pirates could with their first division title in 20 years.
19. Phillies (29-31) – The loss of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley are devastating for the Phillie offense. Their pitching staff remains one of the best in baseball, especially when Roy Halladay is healthy. The status of Howard and Utley will go along way for a team who desperately needs help with run production. Without those two big sticks in the lineup the Phillies have no shot at making a postseason run, and could be in danger of watching the playoffs from their respective living rooms.
20. Tigers (26-32) – In what many people believed were the team to beat in the American League this year, the Tigers have severely underachieved to this point. They may have the best 3-4 combo in the middle of their lineup with Cabrera and Fielder, however, it has not translated into a winning record, so far. With that being said, the inconsistent starting pitching behind reigning AL Cy Young and MVP Justin Verlander, as well as the bullpen, would have to be the main culprits to their slow start. Also, after a perfect save percentage in 2011, Jose Valverde has been slightly off his game through the first 1/3 of this year. The tigers need better pitching accross the board, minus Verlander, if they want to a shot at glory this season.
21. Diamondbacks (28-30) – All star right fielder Justin Upton is having a down year and the Diamondback can ill-afford that to happen. Also, 21 game winner the previous year, Ian Kennedy has not been nearly the same pitcher this season. The rest of their starting staff, as well as their bullpen have not been good, including Daniel Hudson and newly acquired Trevor Cahill. The reigning NL West champs cannot forget about defending their division title if Upton continue to struggle and the pitching remains very inconsistent.
22. Brewers (27-31) – The loss of Prince Fielder severely diminished the pop of the Brewer lineup. Ryan Braun remains the constant, as he is having another stellar campaign. Jonathan Lucroy was a huge asset to the offense before landing on the DL. The pitching has been adequate to this point of the season. Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum have both pitched well this year, but Yovani Gallardo has been lost at times. The Brewers have no shot at defending their NL Central division title if hitters outside Braun don't step up and Gallardo doesn't improve.
23. Athletics (26-33) – Rookie Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick have been the only bright spots in what is a very dull and weak lineup. With the combination of a thin lineup and inconsistent starting pitching and shaky bullpen, the A's are going to going to struggle to win 75 games this season. There is no guarantee that Manny Ramirez will make a significant impact for this team going forward.
24. Mariners (27-33) – Ichiro is beginning to show his age, batting 47 points under his career average this season. Michael Saunders leads the team in hitting with a .276 average, which shows the lack of consistency at the plate for the Mariners. Felix Hernandez, Jason Vargas and Kevin Millwood are pitching well respectively so far this year. With that being said, the Mariners will sit in the basement of the AL West with the Athletics for the remainder of the 2012 season.
25. Royals (24-32) – This team has a collection of good young hitters with the likes of Billy Butler, Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, Alcides Escobar, and Alex Gordon. Their offense is not to be blamed for their poor record. The Royals don't have many pitchers, in the rotation or the bullpen, that they can consistently rely on. As a result, competing for a post season berth is unrealistic.
26. Rockies (24-33) – Carlos Gonzalez is having himself an MVP season so far for the Rockies. They can also count on players like Troy Tulowitzki, Michael Cuddyer and Dexter Fowler to produce the rest of the year as well. The Rockies pitching, top to bottom, has been and will continue to be the achilles' heel of this team. The only thing to look forward to here is an MVP award potentially for Carlos Gonzalez.
27. Astros (25-33) – Jed Lowrie is having himself a very nice 2012 season in the 2nd hole for the Astros. Besides that, there isn't much else to talk about in terms of this team's offense. Wandy Rodriguez is the Astro's only respectable starting pitcher. Closer Brett Myers has pitched well in a bullpen that has struggled for most of the year. Even though the NL Central is wide open for the most part, the Astros shouldn't scare the Cardinals, Pirates and Brewers come September.
28. Twins (23-34) – It's nice to see Justin Morneau healthy and playing, but it hasn't translated to much success for the Twins this season. Joe Mauer continues to frustrate fans with his lack of power. With that being said, the Twins pitching is an enigma to say the least this season and they may end up owning the worst record in the American League by season's end.
29. Cubs (19-39) – The Cubs have said that they are willing to listen to offers for just about anyone on their roster. Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija and especially Ryan Dempster are pitching well this season, but their efforts have been wasted. Starlin Castro, Bryan LaHair, and Alfonso Soriano are having nice years at the plate, but other than them it's been pretty quiet for the Cub offense. They have one of the worst bullpens in all of baseball and will have to fight hard to avoid losing 100 games this season, which had only been done twice in their long history to this point (1962 and 1966).
30. Padres (19-40) – There isn't much to say here but that they are quite simply the worst team in baseball. They struggle to hit for power in a ballpark that doesn't yield many home runs to begin with. Their starting pitching is rather inconsistent and their bullpen is mediocre at best. The loss of Cory Luebke severely hurts their chances of pitching their way out of the basement of the majors. It's not inconceivable to think that the Padres lose over 105 games this season.
Do you agree with the rankings?