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Texas tough: AL champion Rangers ascend to No. 1 in Power Rankings

Welcome to the SI.com Power Rankings, powered by FanGraphs. You will probably notice that these Power Rankings don't look like most other Power Rankings you'll see around the web, as our system 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.

Those traits -- getting on base, hitting for power, running the bases effectively, getting strikeouts while avoiding walks and home runs from their pitchers, turning hits into outs on defense -- are summed up in our Wins Above Replacement metric, and then we've translated each team's total WAR into an expected winning percentage based on the number of games they've played this season. By utilizing WAR, we can better identify which teams are actually playing well and will likely sustain their success going forward.

It's early, but the Texas Rangers are serving notice that the road to the World Series still goes through Arlington. The two-time defending AL champs are running over every team in their path, even thumping a quality Detroit squad over the weekend. They have the best record in baseball, and according to our calculations, they've earned it. While the Angels and Tigers made the big offseason splashes, early returns suggest that Texas is the best team in baseball.

NOTE: This week's rankings written by Ben Duronio. All stats through Sunday.

MLB Power Rankings
1Texas Rangers
Last Week: 2
WAR Winning Percentage: .838; Current Winning Percentage: .813; WAR Wins: 13; Current Wins: 13

Josh Hamilton's quasi Babe Ruth impression has powered the Rangers offense, which is currently the third best in baseball. But Texas also boasts the third-lowest starting pitcher ERA and the third-fewest hits allowed on balls put in play, a promising sign for its defense. Factor in an AL-best 2.39 bullpen FIP, and it's easy to see why the Rangers are on top. Ranking among the league's best at pitching, offense, and defense will do that.
 
2St. Louis <a href=Cardinals" title="St. Louis Cardinals">
Last Week: 1
WAR Winning Percentage: .782; Current Winning Percentage: .688; WAR Wins: 13 Current Wins: 11

The importance of Matt Carpenter is already being felt in St. Louis. The Cardinals' corner infielders and outfielders have a history of injuries, and Carpenter provides depth to a team that heavily relies on their production. With Lance Berkman out, the Cardinals have not missed a beat in part due to Carpenter, who has a .347 wOBA. Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina and David Freese have paced an offense that has the highest on-base percentage, slugging percentage and home run total in the National League.
 
3New York <a href=Yankees" title="New York Yankees">
Last Week: 9
WAR Winning Percentage: .698; Current Winning Percentage: .600; WAR Wins:10; Current Wins: 9

The Yankees maintain the top offense in baseball after a weekend of drubbing Boston's beleaguered bullpen, despite relatively slow starts from Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano. Four home runs apiece from Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher have helped fuel the attack. The starting pitching has been awful, posting the league's second-highest ERA at 5.84, but the bullpen's impressive 2.14 ERA (second-lowest in the league) has come to the rescue.
 
4Atlanta <a href=Braves" title="Atlanta Braves">
Last Week: 20
WAR Winning Percentage: .620; Current Winning Percentage: .625; WAR Wins: 10; Current Wins: 10

After starting the season 0-4, the Braves have lost just two games en route to a 10-6 record. They've done it with both their offense and pitching, as the Braves have scored more runs than any team in the NL. Meanwhile, Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor are thriving (Beachy leads the league in ERA; Minor is quietly putting together the makings of a breakout season). Jason Heyward is off to a good start rebounding from a rough 2010 with a 1.1 WAR.
 
5Los Angeles <a href=Dodgers" title="Los Angeles Dodgers">
Last Week: 5
WAR Winning Percentage: .601; Current Winning Percentage: .750; WAR Wins: 10; Current Wins: 12

Matt Kemp already has nine home runs and an on-base percentage over .500, and Andre Ethier and Mark and A.J. Ellis are also performing well offensively. The pitching has been impressive, as the Dodgers have the only staff in the National League that averages a strikeout per inning pitched. The question is: how long can this hot start last? Kemp will seemingly have to cool down at some point, and the pressure will be on other position players to produce if the Dodgers hope to maintain their current ranking.
 
6Washington <a href=Nationals" title="Washington Nationals">
Last Week: 3
WAR Winning Percentage: .588; Current Winning Percentage: .750; WAR Wins: 9; Current Wins: 12

There is only one pitching staff in baseball with an FIP under 3.00, and it's that of the Washington Nationals (2.30). The Nats have easily been the best pitching team thus far, allowing just three home runs through the first 16 games. To illustrate how impressive that is, the Red Sox have allowed 26 long balls. Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche are beginning big comeback years with on-base percentages above .380, and have helped provide just enough offense to support the Nats' stellar pitching.
 
7Kansas City <a href=Royals" title="Kansas City Royals">
Last Week: 11
WAR Winning Percentage: .544; Current Winning Percentage: .200; WAR Wins: 8; Current Wins: 3

Here's a case where a team's WAR winning percentage can be more telling than its current record. Judging by wins and losses alone, the Royals have been atrocious. But their offensive line of .254/.316/.408 is pretty close to league average and their pitching hasn't been disastrous. The problem has been when the hits have come: Kansas City has hit just .198 in high-leverage situations. The Royals don't have to play much better in order to start winning games -- they just need to start coming through in the clutch.
 
8Chicago <a href=White Sox" title="Chicago White Sox">
Last Week: 22
WAR Winning Percentage: .544; Current Winning Percentage: .600; WAR Wins: 8; Current Wins: 9

The White Sox have the fourth-lowest park-adjusted ERA in baseball, and have received great early starts from Jake Peavy and Phillip Humber -- a perfect game does wonders for a pitcher's early-season numbers. White Sox starters have the highest strikeout percentage in the majors (24.4 percent), and keeping that rate up will be vital in a homer-friendly ballpark. Their defense has also aided run protection, as they've allowed the third-lowest amount of balls in play to land for hits in the American League.
 
9New York <a href=Mets" title="New York Mets">
Last Week: 10
WAR Winning Percentage: .529; Current Winning Percentage: .571; WAR Wins: 7; Current Wins; 8

Lefthanded power hitters Ike Davis and Lucas Duda have struggled mightily, netting a combined -1.0 WAR. The rest of the offense has performed well for the most part, but the struggles of young lefty bats could be a concern as the season continues. The Mets have pitched well, netting the fifth lowest FIP in the Majors at 3.29, but their defense needs to improve for their 3.77 ERA to come down and match their FIP. The Mets have currently allowed the fifth-most balls in play to land for hits, something bound to happen when a third baseman is playing second and a first baseman is playing right field. The Mets are sacrificing defense for hitting, a tendency not uncommon among Sandy Alderson-constructed teams.
 
10San Francisco <a href=Giants" title="San Francisco Giants">
Last Week: 15
WAR Winning Percentage: .529; Current Winning Percentage: .500; WAR Wins: 7; Current Wins: 7

Tim Lincecum's struggles may seem troublesome, but his 4.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio is far above his career mark of 2.98, and he's striking out batters at a higher rate than ever (albeit through just 13.2 innings). The rest of the rotation has been solid, and most of Lincecum's statistics point to him turning it around. The Giants' offense has struck out in an NL-low 14.2 percent of their plate appearances, which has helped them maintain an offense just below league average.
 
11Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 18
WAR Winning Percentage: .520; Current Winning Percentage: .375; WAR Wins: 8; Current Wins: 6

The Angels have struggled offensively, generating an AL-low .279 on-base percentage from their outfielders. The entire team has just 11 home runs, and their starting pitching has been surprisingly ineffective, with just a 4.10 combined ERA. The offensive struggles have been the biggest issue, but take solace, Angels fans: We're guessing that Pujols guy won't go the entire year without a home run.
 
12Philadelphia <a href=Phillies" title="Philadelphia Phillies">
Last Week: 12
WAR Winning Percentage: .513; Current Winning Percentage: .438; WAR Wins: 8; Current Wins: 7

Only the Pirates have hit worse than the Phillies, meaning Pennsylvania is currently home to the two worst offenses in the majors. Countering that is the Phillies' dominant ERA (second in the majors), a major reason behind their high WAR ranking despite their underwhelming offense. Only the Nationals have a lower FIP from their starting pitchers, so the offense will need to perform better in order for their real winning percentage match their WAR winning percentage.
 
13Cleveland <a href=Indians" title="Cleveland Indians">
Last Week: 7
WAR Winning Percentage: .508; Current Winning Percentage: .571; WAR Wins: 7; Current Wins: 8

No lineup has a higher walk percentage in the majors than the Indians -- a terrific stat to lead the league in. Over the past three seasons, the team leading the majors in walks has finished no lower than sixth in runs scored. Cleveland's pitching has been middle-of-the-road in both the rotation and the bullpen -- its overall FIP equal to the league average -- so its ability to get on base is the reason for its above-average WAR ranking. The Indians rank in the top 10 in on-base percentage and home runs, a great combination.
 
14Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 4
WAR Winning Percentage: .507; Current Winning Percentage: .625; WAR Wins: 8; Current Wins: 10

The Tigers have allowed the fourth-most amount of balls in play to land for hits, a stat which has significantly hurt their run prevention. The staff has the seventh-best strikeout-to-walk ratio and the ninth-lowest home run allowed rate, but poor defense has pushed their ERA to 3.67, just 13th in the majors. Poor production from second base has also been a problem: the Tigers have an AL-worst .167 on-base percentage from the position.
 
15Tampa Bay <a href=Rays" title="Tampa Bay Rays">
Last Week: 19
WAR Winning Percentage: .495; Current Winning Percentage: .563; WAR Wins: 8; Current Wins: 9

The Rays' pitching staff has the lowest strikeout-to-walk ratio in baseball (1.52), which correlates with their fourth-highest team ERA of 4.83. Their offense has been solid, as they have the second-best walk rate in the league behind the Indians, but the Rays have just six stolen bases. That's odd considering they've led the AL in steals every year since 2008, so it's certainly an early trend certainly worth monitoring.
 
16Houston <a href=Astros" title="Houston Astros">
Last Week: 13
WAR Winning Percentage: .482; Current Winning Percentage: .375; WAR Wins: 8; Current Wins: 6

The Astros have hit for very little power so far, with J.D. Martinez blasting three of the team's nine home runs. But Martinez and centerfielder Jordan Schafer have shown great patience at the plate, both boasting walk rates above 14 percent (the league average is 8.4 percent). Lucas Harrell and Wandy Rodriguez have also had good starts -- with ERAs south of 3.00 -- but have posted low strikeout rates, which could lead to issues in the future.
 
17Arizona <a href=Diamondbacks" title="Arizona Diamondbacks">
Last Week: 8
WAR Winning Percentage: .470; Current Winning Percentage: .500; WAR Wins: 8; Current Wins: 8

A shoulder injury to Chris Young came at the worst possible time, as he was hitting as well as he ever had to begin a season. The Diamondbacks have a good deal of outfield depth with Gerardo Parra filling in for Young -- Parra had a 2.8 WAR in 2011 and belted a grand slam on Sunday which led the Diamondbacks to their first win in seven games -- but their injuries are something to monitor. In addition to Young, Upton is nursing an ailing thumb and Daniel Hudson hit the DL with an impinged right shoulder.
 
18Oakland <a href=Athletics" title="Oakland Athletics">
Last Week: 25
WAR Winning Percentage: .469; Current Winning Percentage: .471; WAR Wins: 8; Current Wins: 8

Great defense has helped the Athletics maintain solid run prevention, as only the Blue Jays have allowed fewer balls in play to land for hits. Bartolo Colon has also had a great start to his Oakland tenure (he currently ranks fourth in WAR among all MLB pitchers) and their pitching staff has induced weak contact, tallying an extremely low home run rate of 0.64 per nine innings. But they will need to strike more batters out to prolong their success. Currently, only the Twins strike out fewer batters per plate appearance, and although their defense has been great, their 2.99 ERA is unsustainable with such a low strikeout rate.
 
19Baltimore <a href=Orioles" title="Baltimore Orioles">
Last Week: 14
WAR Winning Percentage: .463; Current Winning Percentage: .563; WAR Wins: 7; Current Wins: 9

The Orioles have the league's third-highest isolated slugging percentage (slugging percentage minus batting average) to go with the second-highest strikeout rate, which speaks to the feast and famine nature of their offense. Matt Wieters, Adam Jones and Nolan Reimold each have five home runs, and the pitching has been solid thus far. Jake Arrieta, Jason Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen all currently have sub-3.30 FIPs.
 
20Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 21
WAR Winning Percentage: .458; Current Winning Percentage: .600; WAR Wins: 7; Current Wins: 9

The only Blue Jay regular hitting better than projected is Edwin Encarnacion, the owner of a .368 on-base percentage and a .420 wOBA, but Toronto has still been a league-average offense with a 99 wRC+. That speaks to how deep the lineup is, as the Jays can produce despite a lack of overachieving position players. Their starting pitching is a serious issue, however, as the Blue Jays and Twins are the only teams to receive negative WARs from their starting staffs.
 
21Colorado <a href=Rockies" title="Colorado Rockies">
Last Week: 16
WAR Winning Percentage: .451; Current Winning Percentage: .533; WAR Wins: 7; Current Wins: 8

The Rockies' offense is off to a sensational start thanks in large part to new acquisition Michael Cuddyer, who is hitting .345 with 11 extra-base hits. None of their starting pitchers has an FIP under 4.00, though, with Jeremy Guthrie being the worst with a 6.02 mark. Guthrie and Jamie Moyer have combined for a paltry 11 strikeouts through seven starts, a number that seven different pitchers have reached in a single appearance.
 
22Miami <a href=Marlins" title="Miami Marlins">
Last Week: 26
WAR Winning Percentage: .438; Current Winning Percentage: .467; WAR Wins: 7; Current Wins: 7

Veteran starters Anibal Sanchez, Mark Buehrle and Carlos Zambrano all possess ERAs under 3.00, and Josh Johnson's 5.94 ERA should come down to approach his 3.09 FIP. The bullpen has a collective ERA that is 26 percent below league average, so despite Heath Bell's two blown saves and woeful 7.20 ERA, the bullpen has remained rather effective. Infielders Hanley Ramirez, Omar Infante and Emilio Bonifacio have also gotten off to strong starts, but new acquisition Jose Reyes has struggled. Reyes has been a below replacement-level performer over the first three weeks, with a -0.2 WAR.
 
23Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 6
WAR Winning Percentage .401; Current Winning Percentage: .286; WAR Wins: 6; Current Wins: 4

Sluggish starts from Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez coupled with an injury to Jacoby Ellsbury have slowed an otherwise potent offense, but pitching has been Boston's biggest issue: only the Yankees and Twins have a higher starting pitcher ERA than the Red Sox figure of 5.75. Boston is also the only team with a bullpen FIP above 5.00 (6.05) and has allowed a barrage of long balls. The Red Sox have surrendered a league-worst 26 home runs, 11 of which have been served up by relief pitchers.
 
24San Diego <a href=Padres" title="San Diego Padres">
Last Week: 30
WAR Winning Percentage: .386; Current Winning Percentage: .294; WAR Wins: 7; Current Wins: 5

Who is the second most valuable player in baseball right now according to WAR? If you answered Chase Headley, you're correct. Headley has done it all so far, with four home runs, a .293 batting average and the fourth-highest walk rate in baseball. Cory Luebke and Anthony Bass have been the only strong members of an otherwise inconsistent rotation, and -- outside of Headley -- the Padres haven't done enough offensively to compensate for their starting pitching issues.
 
25Milwaukee <a href=Brewers" title="Milwaukee Brewers">
Last Week: 24
WAR Winning Percentage: .382; Current Winning Percentage: .438; WAR Wins: 6; Current Wins: 7

The Brewers have only two starting pitchers with an ERA under 5.00, Shaun Marcum and Yovani Gallardo. Zack Greinke has the second-highest ERA-FIP split in baseball (his ERA is 3.80 runs higher than his FIP), meaning that he should receive better results as the season continues. A poor defense behind their starting pitching is also a concern, as no NL team has allowed more balls in play to land for hits than Milwaukee.
 
26Cincinnati <a href=Reds" title="Cincinnati Reds">
Last Week: 27
WAR Winning Percentage: .382; Current Winning Percentage: .438; WAR Wins: 6; Current Wins: 7

Sporting a team OBP of just .294, the Reds have sputtered out of the gate offensively. Their low on-base percentage has led to a low run total, as their 53 runs scored ranks above just three NL teams. Scott Rolen and Jay Bruce have been the main culprits. Neither has an OBP above .262.
 
27Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 23
WAR Winning Percentage: .370; Current Winning Percentage: .313; WAR Wins: 6; Current Wins: 5

The good news is that Josh Willingham, Denard Span, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau are all hitting well. The bad news is that the Twins' pitching staff has been the worst in the league according to WAR, accumulating a terrible -0.2 mark. Their best starter has been Carl Pavano, the owner of a sizable 4.76 ERA, and the Twins focus on contact pitchers has produced the lowest strikeout rate in the game -- just 13.7 percent of opponent plate appearances have resulted in a strikeout.
 
28Chicago <a href=Cubs" title="Chicago Cubs">
Last Week: 17
WAR Winning Percentage: .363; Current Winning Percentage: .250; WAR Wins: 6; Current Wins: 4

The Cubs have just five home runs in 2012, the lowest total of any team in the league. Four different players have more homers than their entire roster, a major reason behind the Cubs' unmistakably slow start. Adding injury to insult, the team's top starter, Ryan Dempster, just hit the DL with a right quad strain. At least this much is positive: though Chris Volstad and Jeff Samardzija have poor ERAs, their strong strikeout-to-walk ratios and home run allowed rates indicate that their results should improve going forward.
 
29Seattle <a href=Mariners" title="Seattle Mariners">
Last Week: 28
WAR Winning Percentage: .351; Current Winning Percentage: .412; WAR Wins: 6; Current Wins: 7

No AL team gets on base at a lower rate than the Mariners, something that Philip Humber took advantage to throw a perfect game on Saturday. No Seattle position player with at least 20 plate appearances has a wRC+ above 100, a pretty poor formula for offensive success. The M's pitching has been solid, however, and Tom Wilhelmsen has been a delight as the team's new set up man. He has a 2.45 ERA and 1.39 FIP.
 
30Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 29
WAR Winning Percentage: .331; Current Winning Percentage: .400; WAR Wins: 5; Current Wins: 6

The Pirates have not allowed more than five runs in a game, but they've been miserable offensively: they haven't scored more than five runs in a game, either. Their pitching and defense have been solid -- they're above average in ERA and allowing balls in play to land for hits -- but outside of Andrew McCutchen, they haven't generated an offensive threat. A team on-base percentage of .249 is the main reason why Erik Bedard is 0-4 despite posting a 2.63 ERA.

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