MLB Power Rankings: Surging Tigers take over No. 1 from Athletics
We have a new No. 1 team this week. On the strength of a six-game win streak and five first-place votes, the Detroit Tigers have displaced the Oakland A's at the top of the Power Rankings. It was a tight battle for first, but Detroit edged Oakland, 208 points to 205, with the two teams snatching up all seven first-place votes. San Francisco and Milwaukee remain in the top five at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively, followed by the Los Angeles Angels, who continue their climb up the rankings.
They're No. 1: Tigers. At 27-12, the Tigers have the best winning percentage in baseball (.692) and a whopping seven-game lead in the AL Central after a 6-0 week that featured sweeps of the Orioles and Red Sox. Detroit's +55 run differential is second in the majors, and the team is 16-4 in its last 20 games. Not surprisingly, Miguel Cabrera is doing the heavy lifting. After a slow start to the season (by his standards, anyway) in which he hit .277/.320/.415 in March and April, Cabrera has come on in a big way, with a .375/.408/.703 line in May, including five homers and 24 RBIs. He hasn't done it alone, however. Victor Martinez has also heated up in May, hitting .375/.429/.750 with six homers and 12 RBIs in the last three weeks.
Cellar Dweller: Astros. For the second straight week, Houston occupies the basement, though this week's vote was close. The Astros' four last-place votes helped them edge out the Cubs by five points. But are things looking up in Houston? The Astros went 4-2 last week, winning series against the Rangers and White Sox. One big reason for that success: Dallas Keuchel. The 26-year-old lefty threw a complete-game shutout against Texas and now has a sparkling 3.06 ERA and strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4.3 on the season.
Biggest Riser: Blue Jays/Twins. Both Toronto and Minnesota jumped five places this week, with the Blue Jays continuing an impressive rise up the rankings. Toronto is the only team in the AL East with a positive run differential, thanks in large part to the division's best offense -- the Blue Jays have scored the third-most runs in the AL and lead the league in home runs. That is helping to make up for a pitching staff that has been hit hard so far. In particular, the back of the rotation has been a constant sore spot; Dustin McGowan's 4.99 ERA got him the boot from the fifth starter job, which will now go to Liam Hendriks.
As for the Twins, they've scored the fourth-most runs in the league but the power hasn't been there. Brian Dozier's 11 home runs are far and away the best mark on the team; Josmil Pinto, who has hit six, is the only other player with more than five.
Biggest Faller: Red Sox. Losing five games in six tries will get you booted down the rankings in a hurry, and such was the case for the Red Sox, who have slumped all the way to 18th. Offense has been hard to come by in Boston, especially in the bottom of the order. A.J. Pierzynski (74 OPS+) hasn't come close to replacing Jarrod Saltalamacchia at the plate; the same can be said for Jackie Bradley Jr. (68 OPS+) in regards to Jacoby Ellsbury. But the biggest disappointment has to be Will Middlebrooks, who missed three weeks with a calf injury in April, then came back on April 25 and has posted a putrid .190/.299/.276 line since. Worse, he's headed back to the disabled list with a fractured finger, which will force Boston to use the likes of Brock Holt and Jonathan Herrera at third until Middlebrooks is healthy again.
A few words about the...
Angels: Los Angeles is in the top five for the first time this season, an impressive jump for a team that was ranked 12th just two weeks ago. Even with Mike Trout in somewhat of a slump, the Angels are averaging nearly five runs per game on the year. The resurrection of Albert Pujols (141 OPS+, 12 homers) has helped immensely, but Los Angeles' role players have stepped up, too. Collin Cowgill, Grant Green and C.J. Cron have all come up from the minors and filled in well for players who have been injured (Josh Hamilton, Kole Calhoun), ineffective (Raul Ibanez) or both (David Freese).
Royals: Kansas City is another team that has methodically climbed the rankings in the last two weeks, going from 24th to 18th to 14th. Though Kansas City's power is still lacking (the team's 20 homers are the worst mark in baseball), it has gotten enough pitching to stay above .500. In particular, Danny Duffy, filling in for the injured Bruce Chen, has been a revelation, allowing just two runs in 17 innings as a starter. On Saturday he took a perfect game into the seventh inning against Baltimore, finishing with seven shutout frames and two hits allowed.
Cubs: Chicago keeps creeping closer and closer to last place, finally letting go of the 28th spot in the rankings and falling to 29th. The only bright spots on Chicago's North side have been Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, who have mashed the ball so far in 2014. But the team needs help everywhere else, particularly in the outfield, where Nate Schierholtz (37 OPS+) and Ryan Kalish (72) haven't produced at all.