The first installment of the Yahoo Sports MLB Power Rankings of 2019 falls on April Fools’ Day. And while trying to sort out the best and worst baseball teams less than a week into the season may feel like a fools’ errand, I can assure you this was an earnest exercise.
As it will be each Monday during the regular season.
Some things here might look foolish in a couple of months — ahem, Padres and Mariners — but I’m really trying to weigh early returns with long-term expectations. I don’t care so much about two bad teams splitting a series (which we saw) as I do about a team we thought wasn’t great putting a whooping on a really good team (which we also saw).
All that being said, our No. 1 team this week shouldn’t surprise you at all. And that’s no foolin’.
1. Philadelphia Phillies (3-0): The Phillies have done everything to deserve the No. 1 spot in Week 1. They haven’t lost, so let’s start there. Three wins against the defending NL East champs too. Bryce Harper has homered twice, but the whole lineup has hit, which is more encouraging. The pitching hasn’t been lights out, but it’s definitely been good enough. If this is who the Phillies are, look out.
2. Los Angeles Dodgers (3-1): Look out for the Dodgers too. They’ve scored 42 runs in four games. You don’t need to be very good at math to know that’s a good average. Their run differential is +20. Their starting pitching hasn’t been amazing — Walker Buehler lasted only three innings Sunday — but when you’re hitting like that, it doesn’t really matter.
3. Milwaukee Brewers (3-1): How about Christian Yelich? The reigning NL MVP has homered in each game this season and had a walk-off double Sunday as the Brewers took three of four from a good-looking Cardinals team. I had some pitching concerns about the Brewers, but so far Yelich is doing everything in his power to put all the attention on himself, in the best way possible.
4. Tampa Bay Rays (3-1): As someone who picked the Houston Astros to win the World Series, I’m giving the Rays extra credit for taking three of four against the Astros. I’m also taking it as a personal attack.
5. New York Yankees (1-2): I will entertain a certain bit of foolishness since this baseball season is like 46 minutes old. The Yankees not being a Top 5 team — even with two losses against Baltimore — is not among that foolishness.
6. Seattle Mariners (5-1): They will most certainly come back to Earth, but the Mariners *have* won five out of six games, including three of four against the defending champion Boston Red Sox. Seattle has scored at least six runs in four of six games. This foolishness I will entertain.
7. Minnesota Twins (2-1): There’s a theme here: If you can beat a team I expect to be good — in this case, the Cleveland Indians — I care a lot more about your three-game sample. The Twins held Cleveland to five runs in three games and got three pretty good starts out of Jose Berrios, Jake Odorizzi and Michael Pineda.
8. New York Mets (2-1): Take away a walk-off homer on Sunday, and the Mets would be 3-0 right now. Against a team like the Washington Nationals too. We knew the pitching would be good, but rookie Pete Alonso has been on fire, Robinson Cano has been good, Jeff McNeil is making strong contributions. There’s a lot to like so far.
9. Houston Astros (1-3): Here’s the portion of the show where I become an apologist for two of the best teams in the American League. Yes, the Astros lost three to the Rays. But the Rays are a pretty good team and Houston’s run differential, even with three losses, is just -3. It’s not as bad as the Red Sox. Speaking of …
10. Boston Red Sox (1-3): I can’t, in good conscience, not put the Boston Red Sox in the top 10. Losing three of four to the Mariners is bad. Their starters getting knocked around is bad. Their bullpen situation looks … umm, what’s another word for bad? The Red Sox will be a good team this season, but some issues are already popping up.
11. San Diego Padres (3-1): Are the Padres for real? It’s too early to tell, obviously, and I’m really not sure. But they won three out of four against the Giants. That doesn’t make them world beaters, but hey, they made some bold moves this offseason. Let’s give them at least a week to have a victory lap.
12. St. Louis Cardinals (1-3): This is the point in the list where I just have to admit the next four teams didn’t get off to a thrilling start in the win-loss column, but I know they’re better than this. Of these four, I think the Cardinals showed the most to like. And by that, I mean Paul Goldschmidt hit four home runs in approximately 27 hours. Of the three games the Cardinals lost to the Brewers, they lost by a combined four runs.
13. Washington Nationals (1-2): The Nats have been all over the place in three games. They lost a close one to the Mets on opening day, lost an 11-8 game, then won on a walk-off homer Sunday. I’m choosing to be optimistic about the Mets, so that also trickles down to the Nats.
14. Chicago Cubs (1-2): I’m also choosing to be optimistic about the Cubs, who have scored quite a few runs (28 total, third-most in MLB) but have given up nearly as many (23). The Chicago pitching has been rough, both starters and relievers. They’ve blown leads in both their losses.
15. Cleveland Indians (1-2): The Indians’ offense looks pretty flat without Francisco Lindor. They’ve hit only one homer and have 12 total hits, five of which belong to Carlos Santana.
16. Oakland A’s (3-3): The A’s lost their first two games in Japan against the Mariners, but came home and won three of four against the Angels. Khris Davis already has four homers. The A’s pitching staff remains a bit rag-tag, but they made the playoffs with it last year.
17. Colorado Rockies (2-2): I never know what to make of the Rockies. I’d like to say that’s changed this year — and maybe it will — but not yet. They beat the Marlins twice and then lost to the Marlins twice. They’ve got the Mets and Braves next. Maybe that will bring some clarity.
18. Los Angeles Angels (1-3): The Angels, like the Braves beneath them, oughta be better than this ranking, but already we’ve seen flaws exposed. The Angels lost Justin Upton to an injury for 8-12 weeks. Their flaw is getting production from people not named Mike Trout and with Upton out, it’s that much tougher.
19. Atlanta Braves (0-3): The Braves ran into a buzzsaw in Philly, so maybe that excuses being the only team in MLB without a win. But there’s no excuse for a 10.13 team ERA. That could just be small-sample-size stuff, or it could be early exposure of pitching problems in Atlanta.
20. Miami Marlins (2-2): The next three teams are bad teams masquerading as good ones. I trust they’ll be found out eventually. For now, credit to Sandy Alcantera, who pitched eight scoreless innings for the Marlins on Sunday against the Rockies. It was the 15th career appearance for the 23-year-old pitcher. It’s something.
21. Kansas City Royals (2-1): This season for the Royals will be about finding the positives. Jorge Soler’s five RBIs in three games, positive. Brad Keller going seven scoreless on opening day, positive. Check back next week to see if I can list off more than two.
22. Texas Rangers (2-1): Good news: The Rangers beat the Cubs two of three, including two comeback wins. Bad news: Rangers starting pitchers have the third worst ERA so far. The fact that they managed two wins in three games isn’t bad, however.
23. Toronto Blue Jays (2-2): The Blue Jays won two games against the Tigers who, like them, won’t be very good this year. I will not be bullied by two wins to go any higher than this in the power rankings.
24. Detroit Tigers (2-2): The Tigers won two games against the Blue Jays who, like them, won’t be very good this year. I will not bullied by two wins to go any higher than this in the power rankings.
25. Cincinnati Reds (1-1): The Reds, like the Pirates beneath them, are hard to assess right now. They’ve played twice — they had a day off Friday and were postponed Saturday. The Reds won the first game on a dramatic pinch-hit homer and were blanked 5-0 on Sunday. The Reds figure to be the better team by a slim margin. At the very least, more interesting.
26. Pittsburgh Pirates (1-1): Trevor Williams was the bright spot for the Pirates in their win Sunday. He pitched six scoreless innings, struck out six and had two RBIs at the plate. The Pirates will need all their young pitchers to step up this year if they’re going to make the NL Central even more interesting. Williams included.
27: Chicago White Sox (1-2): The Royals aren’t good. Their 2-1 record may end up being one of the few times they’re over .500 this season. The White Sox put them there, ergo the White Sox deserve this.
28. Baltimore Orioles (2-1): We all know the Orioles are the worst team in baseball. They’re 100-loss bad. They’ve earned themselves a temporary reprieve here by beating the Yankees in two out of three, but we know their ultimate fate.
29. San Francisco Giants (1-3): The Giants have scored five runs in four games started by Eric Lauer, Joey Lucchesi, Nick Margevicius and Chris Paddack. A non-hardcore baseball fan may not even know what team those guys play for. It’s the Padres and that’s bad for the Giants.
30. Arizona Diamondbacks (1-3): The D-backs spent the start of the season getting run over by the Dodgers — even worse, their former outfielder A.J. Pollock had five hits and four RBIs in four games. The D-backs got one win but finished the four games with a -20 run differential. Ouch.
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