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All is right in Boston but a surprise team falls to the bottom

There was panic in the streets of Boston after the Red Sox started 4-10, but they were able to turn around their season with a 6-1 record over the last seven days, and things have begun to settle down in Beantown. However, in both Anaheim and Detroit, expected contenders continued to fall flat. The Angels and Tigers compounded their poor Aprils with more bad performances over the last week, and while both are still capable of turning around their seasons and ending the year in the playoffs, their low rankings here reflect some just lousy baseball played in the first month of the season.

NOTE: All stats are through April 29.

Rankings written by Ben Duronio of Fangraphs.com. The system used to rank the teams is based not on the current standings or a gut feeling about team quality, but on how well they've performed at the underlying traits that predict future performance better than wins and losses.

wRC+ is an offensive index where 100 is league average and every point above or below that denotes how far from league average a player's performance has been up to that point. It is adjusted for park and league, so it takes into account the context of a player's surroundings, and allows for comparison of performance from players in different situations and in different times.

MLB Power Rankings
1Texas <a href=Rangers" title="Texas Rangers">
Last Week: 1
WAR Winning Percentage: .779; Current Winning Percentage: .727; WAR Wins: 17; Current Wins: 16

Tampa Bay may have slowed the wrecking ball -- the Rays became the first team to take a series from Texas this season -- but the Rangers still put together the best April of any team in baseball. Josh Hamilton is rightfully getting a lion's share of the credit, but don't overlook the contributions made by some of the less heralded pitchers on the staff. Colby Lewis issued only four walks the whole month, and Alexi Ogando has been the American League's best reliever to date, posting a 0.84 ERA in 11 outings.
2St. Louis <a href=Cardinals" title="St. Louis Cardinals">
Last Week: 2
WAR Winning Percentage: .747; Current Winning Percentage: .636; WAR Wins: 16; Current Wins: 12

Yadier Molina and John Jay have been integral parts of the league's best offense, with both sporting a wRC+ north of 170. Molina, specifically, has seen his offensive performance surge since the start of last season. Before then, Molina had never hit more than eight home runs in a season, but he already has four long balls this year. Molina's offensive performance seems to be continually improving, which is not good news for the rest of the NL Central.
3New York <a href=Yankees" title="New York Yankees">
Last Week: 3
WAR Winning Percentage: .638; Current Winning Percentage: .571; WAR Wins: 13; Current Wins: 12

The offense currently has both the highest on base and the highest isolated slugging percentages in baseball, continuing the Bronx Bombers' annual trend of mashing the baseball. What makes the Yankees' offense even more impressive is that while they lead the league in home runs, they have the second lowest strikeout rate in the American League. Their run prevention hasn't been as good, however, and while the blame is landing on pitchers like Freddy Garcia, who was demoted to the bullpen, the reality is that the Yankees have given up some defensive quality to get all those slugging bats in the line-up.
4Atlanta <a href=Braves" title="Atlanta Braves">
Last Week: 4
WAR Winning Percentage: .634; Current Winning Percentage: .636; WAR Wins: 14; Current Wins: 14

Michael Bourn and Jason Heyward have been tremendous on the basepaths, stealing eight bags apiece. Along with their speed, both are terrific overall players, and with Martin Prado producing in leftfield, the Braves have the third highest outfield WAR in baseball despite having just five home runs among them. The Braves have had some issues in the back of their rotation -- Jair Jurrjens was just sent down to the minors to find his missing velocity -- but the team's top three starters have all been phenomenal. Mike Minor, Brandon Beachy and Tommy Hanson have each posted a FIP below 3.15.
5Los Angeles <a href=Dodgers" title="Los Angeles Dodgers">
Last Week: 5
WAR Winning Percentage: .579; Current Winning Percentage: .727; WAR Wins: 13; Current Wins: 16

What else is there to say about Matt Kemp's April performance? He's been the best player in baseball and no one else has been particularly close. The Dodgers have not been a one-man show, however, as Andre Ethier and A.J. Ellis have provided solid value offensively, and the rotation behind Clayton Kershaw has kept runs off the board. However, the Dodgers pitching staff has given up the second fewest hits on balls in play, and as the season goes on more of those balls are going to find holes. Whether they can hold onto the NL West lead once Kemp cools off and the pitchers regress remains to be seen.
6Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 15
WAR Winning Percentage: .570; Current Winning Percentage: .636; WAR Wins: 13; Current Wins: 14

The Rays have the league's second highest walk percentage and fifth most home runs, a great combination for offensive success. They are hitting more home runs and stealing fewer bases than in seasons past, while the rest of baseball trends in the opposite direction. Their pitching results will have to improve, specifically in the bullpen where they have the second highest ERA in baseball. Their bullpen's strikeout-to-walk ratio suggests that they should be much better than they've performed, but given that Fernando Rodney doesn't have a strong track record of throwing strikes, they'll probably need someone to step up soon.
7San Francisco <a href=Giants" title="San Francisco Giants">
Last Week: 10
WAR Winning Percentage: .557; Current Winning Percentage: .545; WAR Wins: 12; Current Wins: 12

The Giants bullpen has allowed just one home run in 53 1/3 innings so far, the fewest in all of baseball. Santiago Casilla has filled in nicely for the injured Brian Wilson, and Sergio Romo has not yet allowed a run to score. Along with great performances from their relievers, the Giants have gotten solid offensive production from Buster Posey, Melky Cabrera and Pablo Sanodval. Posey has bounced back from his leg injury as well as anyone could have hoped for early in the year, with four home runs and an on base percentage over .400.
8Arizona <a href=Diamondbacks" title="Arizona Diamondbacks">
Last Week: 17
WAR Winning Percentage: .552; Current Winning Percentage: .500; WAR Wins: 12; Current Wins: 11 While they are a .500 team right now, the Diamondbacks' defensive ranking pushes them into the top 10 in team WAR. Defensive metrics fluctuate more than those for offense or pitching, so this is a bit of a shaky foundation, and Arizona is not without its problems ?Josh Collmenter has already been replaced in the rotation and Joe Saunders is not going to post the lowest ERA in baseball all year long.
9Kansas City <a href=Royals" title="Kansas City Royals">
Last Week: 7
WAR Winning Percentage: .552; Current Winning Percentage: .286; WAR Wins: 12; Current Wins: 6

The Royals rank 22nd in the majors in runs, but their wRC+ is tied for ninth best in the game, and drives a large part of the difference between their expected record and their actual record. If they keep hitting like they have, runs will come their way at a much higher rate. Their 3-13 start will likely keep their record unimpressive for a good chunk of the season, but their offense led them to finish 3-3 over the last week, and they've shown the underlying skills of a team that can win games on a regular basis.
10Washington <a href=Nationals" title="Washington Nationals">
Last Week: 6
WAR Winning Percentage: .547; Current Winning Percentage: .636; WAR Wins: 12; Current Wins: 14

Pitching and defense have been the Nationals' best attributes early in the year. The Stephen Strasburg-led rotation has the lowest ERA and FIP in baseball, and only five teams have allowed fewer balls in play to land for hits. The Nationals are hoping Bryce Harper can help ignite an offense that has just 13 home runs and a .304 on-base percentage, as a lack of run scoring is the only thing holding them back at the moment.
11Philadelphia <a href=Phillies" title="Philadelphia Phillies">
Last Week: 12
WAR Winning Percentage: .543; Current Winning Percentage: .455; WAR Wins: 12; Current Wins: 10

The Phillies have not performed well offensively, with Carlos Ruiz currently being their most valuable position player, but the team's run prevention has been as good as advertised. Everyone knew Philadelphia's pitching staff was going to be excellent, but by utilizing Freddy Galvis and Juan Pierre at second base and in left field, the team has managed to surround its staff with terrific defenders, and the Phillies are tied with Arizona for the highest Ultimate Zone Rating in the game. Their defense will take a hit when Ryan Howard and Chase Utley return, but the offensive upgrade will be well worth it.
12Chicago <a href=White Sox" title="Chicago White Sox">
Last Week: 8
WAR Winning Percentage: .543; Current Winning Percentage: .500; WAR Wins: 12; Current Wins: 11

Jake Peavy's re-emergence has been something very special to watch over the first month of the season. The former Cy Young award winner has been the best pitcher in baseball thus far, with a 1.6 WAR. He has two straight complete games and an ERA of 1.67 in 37 2/3 innings. Health will be a key with Peavy all year, but the White Sox should remain a very effective team if Peavy continues to pitch as well as he did when he won his Cy Young award in 2007.
13New York <a href=Mets" title="New York Mets">
Last Week: 9
WAR Winning Percentage: .488; Current Winning Percentage: .591; WAR Wins: 11; Current Wins: 13

Only one team in the National League has walked more frequently than the Mets have, which is a display general manager Sandy Alderson's imprint. In addition, the Mets' five stolen bases are the fewest in baseball. The Mets value not making outs and do not risk doing so on the bases, which should lead to more runs as the season continues. They currently rank 18th in that category, which does not correlate with their 105 wRC+, so expect them to score more going forward.
14Baltimore <a href=Orioles" title="Baltimore Orioles">
Last Week: 19
WAR Winning Percentage: .488; Current Winning Percentage: .636; WAR Wins: 11; Current Wins: 14

The Orioles are near the league lead in home runs with 30, which has helped mitigate the fact that the team's on-base percentage is just .308. While their 3.06 overall ERA looks very impressive, their 3.99 FIP suggests that an ERA that low is far from sustainable. This has been a nice start for the Orioles, but they will need to continue to hit home runs at a very high rate and continue to see Jason Hammel and Wei-Yn Chen produce as they have in order to compete with the rest of the AL East for the remainder of the year.
15Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 23
WAR Winning Percentage: .476; Current Winning Percentage: .476; WAR Wins: 10; Current Wins: 10

The Red Sox have scored the third most runs and have the fifth best wRC+ in the majors. The offense, despite missing Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford, has remained one of the best in the league. The pitching has been an issue, specifically in the bullpen where they have allowed 11 home runs, but the Red Sox have still been solid even with their issues on the mound.
16Milwaukee <a href=Brewers" title="Milwaukee Brewers">
Last Week: 25
WAR Winning Percentage: .470; Current Winning Percentage: .455; WAR Wins: 10; Current Wins: 10

The Brewers have been one of the worst defensive teams in baseball early in the season, allowing more balls in play to land for hits than any other team and accumulating the fifth worst UZR over the season's first month. The poor defense behind the pitchers is a huge reason for their NL-worst ERA of 5.22 despite having a team FIP of 3.89. Milwaukee has hit very well, with the catching combination of Jonathan Lucroy and George Kattaras being worth a combined 1.2 WAR, helping them stay in the middle of the pack in the NL Central.
17Houston <a href=Astros" title="Houston Astros">
Last Week: 16
WAR Winning Percentage: .466; Current Winning Percentage: .364; WAR Wins: 10; Current Wins: 8

The Astros have been almost exactly league-average offensively according to wRC+, and roughly 12 percent below average according to xFIP. Combined with slightly above average defense, the Astros should be closer to a .500 team than the current sub-.500 team they are. If their WAR is going tos tay this high relative to the rest of the league they will need to hit for more power, as they have just 13 home runs so far.
18Colorado <a href=Rockies" title="Colorado Rockies">
Last Week: 21
WAR Winning Percentage: .462; Current Winning Percentage: .476; WAR Wins: 10; Current Wins: 10

The Rockies have the worst starting pitching FIP and WAR in the NL, but have remained competitive due to a very good bullpen -- which has a 1.2 WAR that ranks third in baseball ? and slightly above average hitting. Colorado has as many home runs as the Cardinals, which speaks to how powerful its lineup is.
19Cleveland <a href=Indians" title="Cleveland Indians">
Last Week: 13
WAR Winning Percentage: .452; Current Winning Percentage: .550; WAR Wins: 9; Current Wins: 11

Indians starters have the second worst strikeout-to-walk rate in baseball, and their 3.93 ERA is lower than their peripheral statistics suggest it should be. The Indians have a contact-heavy staff, so they rank near the bottom in strikeout rate, but where they really get hurt is in their walk rate. At 9.3 percent of plate appearances, it's the third-highest in the American League. Some teams can still perform with a walk rate that high, but not in combination with bottom-feeding strikeout rate.
20Cincinnati <a href=Reds" title="Cincinnati Reds">
Last Week: 26
WAR Winning Percentage: .434; Current Winning Percentage: .500; WAR Wins: 10; Current Wins: 11

The best pitcher in Cincinnati through the season's first month has been reliever Aroldis Chapman, who has netted a 0.7 WAR in just 12 1/3 innings pitched. The pitching staff is not the strongest, but the Reds' offense has really been their downfall early in the year. With a team wRC+ of 87 and an on-base percentage of .306, the Reds have struggled to score runs. Poor offensive months from Scott Rolen, Chris Heisey and Drew Stubbs are largely to blame for their offensive woes.
21Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 11
WAR Winning Percentage: .425; Current Winning Percentage: .318; WAR Wins: 9; Current Wins: 7

This is good news for the Angels, as WAR suggests they should have won more games to this point. The bad news is, even if they did have the nine wins that WAR suggests they should, they would still be well behind the division-leading Rangers in the AL West. The hitting simply has not been there, as they have the second lowest AL wRC+ at 22 percent below average. When is time to worry about Albert Pujols? His wRC+ is 49 and he has been worth -0.6 WAR.
22Oakland <a href=Athletics" title="Oakland Athletics">
Last Week: 18
WAR Winning Percentage: .422; Current Winning Percentage: .478; WAR Wins: 10; Current Wins: 11

The Athletics have the worst batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage in all of baseball. However, they do lead the league in steals and have maintained a 3.11 ERA behind solid starting pitching and great defense. Bartolo Colon, Brandon McCarthy and Tom Milone are all off to strong starts despite the fact that none of them is striking out more than 5.50 per nine innings.
23Miami <a href=Marlins" title="Miami Marlins">
Last Week: 22
WAR Winning Percentage: .414; Current Winning Percentage: .381; WAR Wins: 9; Current Wins: 8

Heath Bell, Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle ? the team's three big offseason acquisitions -- have combined for -0.3 WAR, not exactly how the Marlins planned the trio's debut in Miami. Bell's biggest problem closing out games has been his walk rate of 11.12 batters per nine, which is simply astounding. Bell will most likely get better, but it has to be at least somewhat worrisome for the Marlins that he and Reyes have both played so poorly at the start of very lengthy contracts.
24Pittsburgh <a href=Pirates" title="Pittsburgh Pirates">
Last Week: 30
WAR Winning Percentage: .409; Current Winning Percentage: .429; WAR Wins: 9; Current Wins: 9

The Pirates' run of not allowing five runs nor scoring five runs in any single game was put to rest on Friday night as the Braves scored six against A.J. Burnett and the Pittsburgh bullpen. As good as the Pirates pitching has been to be able to limit teams to so few runs per game, the hitting has been worse. The Bucs have not walked often, not hit for average and not hit for power. While Andrew McCutchen has been their best position player offensively, even he has no home runs through the first month of the season.
25San Diego <a href=Padres" title="San Diego Padres">
Last Week: 24
WAR Winning Percentage: .404; Current Winning Percentage: .304; WAR Wins: 9; Current Wins: 7

The Padres have been pretty bad, but not quite as bad as their real winning percentage would suggest. Their .212 average and 11 total home runs is unsatisfactory, but the Padres have also walked at a higher rate than any other National League team. While the offense is still one of the worst in baseball, walking at such a high rate creates a new way to create runs. At least they are doing something well offensively, but the pitching staff will have to walk fewer batters ? it is second in NL with 3.97 walks per nine innings -- if San Diego is to get back in the thick of things in a tough NL West.
26Chicago <a href=Cubs" title="Chicago Cubs">
Last Week: 28
WAR Winning Percentage: .402; Current Winning Percentage: .364; WAR Wins: 9; Current Wins: 8

Joe Mather hit the Cubs' first home run from an outfielder on Sunday, which is as crazy a fact as you will see this far into the season. The Cubs have had just a terrible offense, but pitchers Matt Garza, Jeff Samardzija and the injured Ryan Dempster have been tremendous to start the season. Even if those starters are throwing well, the Cubs need much more power and better all-around offensive performances.
27Seattle <a href=Mariners" title="Seattle Mariners">
Last Week: 29
WAR Winning Percentage: .395; Current Winning Percentage: .478; WAR Wins: 9; Current Wins: 11

The Mariners have pitched like a league-average staff, but the offense has simply not been there. While Michael Saunders has been solid at the plate, youngsters Justin Smoak, Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero have struggled mightily. These three are not expected to be All-Star hitters at this stage, but they need to hit better going forward for the Mariners to win more games.
28Minnesota <a href=Twins" title="Minnesota Twins">
Last Week: 27
WAR Winning Percentage: .390; Current Winning Percentage: .286; War Wins: 8; Current Wins: 6

The Twins have the only staff that has been below replacement level this season, currently sporting a WAR of -0.6, meaning that the Twins could have expected better performance from a collection of Triple-A call-ups and guys they could have claimed on waivers. They do not strike batters out and they allow a lot of home runs, which is about as bad of a mix as you can get from a pitching staff. They've earned their bad results thus far.
29Toronto <a href=Blue Jays" title="Toronto Blue Jays">
Last Week: 20
WAR Winning Percentage: .388; Current Winning Percentage: .545; WAR Wins: 9; Current Wins: 12

Yes, this is an over .500 team sitting 29th in our rankings. The main reason for their stark real winning percentage against their poor WAR winning percentage has been the difference between their ERA (3.78) and their FIP (5.01). The team simply hasn't allowed nearly as many runs as you'd expect based on their peripheral performances, and WAR is not impressed with how their pitchers have kept runs off the board. Quality defense can explain some of the gap, but not all of it, and you should expect the starters to start giving up more runs sooner than later.
30Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 14
WAR Winning Percentage: .375; Current Winning Percentage: .500; WAR Wins: 8; Current Wins: 11

Justin Verlander has been the only pitcher worth more than 0.3 WAR and Austin Jackson has been the only hitter worth more than 0.6 WAR. The offense has underperformed, but the team's defense is a serious issue. Only three teams have allowed more balls in play to land for hits, and UZR has them as the worst defensive team in the American League. While the Tigers are likely to end the season as one of the better teams in baseball, they had some serious struggles in April, and even got swept at home by the Mariners last week. They are better than they've played, but to date, the Tigers haven't been particularly good.

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