Thursday April 30th, 2009

Another week, another top team in the Power Rankings as the hottest club in baseball takes over the No. 1 spot. One note for the readers who wrote me as late as today asking how I could rank the Brewers 29th last week: These rankings are written on Wednesday and posted on Thursday and are not updated during the week. If you don't like where your team ranks, you're better off politicking for where it should stand next week than complaining about where it currently sits. Or maybe your team should avoid losing for a week or more. That's one sure way to move up.

MLB Power Rankings
1Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 5
Dreadful Tuesday night defense snapped their 11-game winning streak, but that didn't take the shine off the fact that the Red Sox have established themselves as the team to beat in the AL East. No one has been more clutch than Jason Bay, who hit a monstrous two-run home run off Mariano Rivera to tie the game on Friday night, then broke a scoreless tie with a three-run home run off Kerry Wood to beat the Indians on Monday.
 
2St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 6
The Cards swept the Mets and took two of three from the Cubs to complete an impressive homestand. Perhaps no Cardinal has been a bigger surprise than Joel Pineiro, who's won all four of his starts after winning just seven games in 2008. Pineiro credits his rise to becoming a sinker-ball devotee, which has helped him rank fifth in the league in groundball/flyball ratio and groundball percentage. Good thing, too, since he's only struck out six batters this season.
 
3Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 4
The pitching, led as always by Roy Halladay, has been better than expected, and the offense has been the best in baseball, so it's time to start crediting Cito Gaston for the job he's done in his second go-round as Blue Jays manager. After an inexplicable 11-year absence between stints, Gaston returned to the bench last June 21. Toronto has gone 66-45 since, the best mark in the majors.
 
4Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 1
Manny Ramirez has impacted the Dodgers' lineup and clubhouse. He can't make much of an impact in the stands -- the Dodgers have always been one of the hottest tickets in baseball, and they rank second in average attendance this season at 43,257 per game after ranking third in '08 and second in '07 -- but the Dodgers have found a way to capitalize on his presence anyway. This week, they'll introduce a new section of field level seats in the left-field stands called Mannywood, which will cost $99 a pair. T-shirt included, high-fives not.
 
5Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 7
Felix Hernandez just turned 23 years old, but he's already playing in his fifth major league season. And, five seasons in, he may finally be pitching the way everyone expected "King Felix" would when he made his debut at 19 years old in 2005. At 4-0 with a 2.38 ERA, Hernandez is off to the best start of his career and hasn't allowed a run in his last 19 innings of work.
 
6Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 18
Just in case leading the Phils to their first World Series title in 28 years wasn't enough to forever immortalize Charlie Manuel in Philadelphia lore, there's now a Manuel bobblehead doll. Too bad it can't talk and spout some of Manuel's Yogi-esque gems, such as his reaction this winter after finding out about the doll: "If somebody would have told me when I first took this job that I'd have a bobblehead, I would have told you at the time that I'd be headless," he said that day. The only thing better than that? Jimmy Rollins' reaction.
 
7Florida Marlins
Last Week: 3
The seven-game losing streak was certainly troubling, but the Marlins impressed by taking two games from the Mets in New York to maintain their hold on first place in the NL East. Closer Matt Lindstrom's performances during that stretch served as a fitting microcosm of the team's struggles, as he got blasted for seven runs in the ninth inning against the Phillies on Friday but bounced back to save two straight against the Mets mid-week.
 
8Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 2
Chicago Cubs (10-10)
Milton Bradley hasn't gotten off to the best start. There was the bumping-the-umpire incident in Chicago (which Cubs manager Lou Piniella admitted he'd forgotten about), the groin injury that has limited him to just 12 games and 37 at-bats, and, of course, the .107 batting average. Oh, and there's Bradley's proclamation that he would like nothing to do with the media, please. "I don't particularly like the media, and the media doesn't like me. So let's not pretend we're buddies or you're trying to do anything for me. If anything, you hurt me more than help. So I don't see any benefit of really talking to the media," Bradley said after breaking a media boycott last week. Bradley probably shouldn't worry. It's not like the Cubs get all that much attention from the press anyway. Oh, wait ...
 
9New York Yankees
Last Week: 8
The Yankees corrected one overpriced mistake this week, and another overpriced mistake is about to arrive. The Yankees adjusted seat prices at the new Stadium just as Alex Rodriguez nears his (ahead of schedule) return from hip surgery. A-Rod can't arrive soon enough. Entering Wednesday, his replacements at third base were hitting a combined .169/.213/.265 with no home runs and six RBIs.
 
10Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 12
The Tigers continue to lead the mediocre AL Central, but attendance has fallen off by about 13,000 from a year ago. The solution? Celebrating the '80s, of course. This Monday night, the Tigers are asking fans to "tease your hair, put on some shades and, like totally, get pumped for '80s night." Among the giveaways: Cabbage Patch Dolls, autographed Def Lepard CDs and Pat Benatar concert tickets. Because nothing eases a major American city's economic woes like being reminded things were almost as bad 20 years ago.
 
11Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 10
The Brewers swept the Pirates this week, and if that sounds familiar, it should. The Bucs have now lost 15 consecutive games to the Brew Crew, the longest stretch of dominance by one team over another in three years. The Pirates get a chance to break that streak next Monday and Tuesday when the Brewers come to Pittsburgh for a two-game series.
 
12Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 13
The early leader for best story of the season has got to be SI cover boy Zack Greinke. Forget for a moment all of Greinke's personal drama; he is the (very) early leader for the Cy Young award. Greinke leads or is tied for the lead in the AL in wins, ERA, complete games, shutouts, strikeouts, Ks/9, WHIP and glowing stories written about.
 
13Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 11
Perhaps the only thing more remarkable than the fact that the White Sox and Mariners played a doubleheader in just over four hours on Tuesday was the fact that Mark Buehrle didn't pitch either game. Buehrle has developed a reputation as one of the most efficient pitchers in the game, and he's been one of the best this season once again, notching a 3-0 record, 3.00 ERA and 1.292 WHIP. And in case you're wondering, his games average slightly longer than two-and-a-half hours.
 
14Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 17
The Reds' offense ranks 16th in the National League in home runs, 15th in batting average and slugging percentage and 14th in runs scored and on-base percentage. Blame the infield. The Reds have gotten just a .182 batting average from their second baseman, shortstop and third baseman (primarily Brandon Phillips, Alex Gonzalez and Edwin Encarnacion, who just went on the disabled list with a wrist fracture).
 
15Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 14
Since getting off to a 5-1 start, the Braves have gone just 5-9. The missing offense has hurt the most. Entering Wednesday night, the Braves had scored 44 runs in their past 14 games, but 21 came in just two games (11 runs against the Pirates on April 19 and 10 runs against the Reds on April 25). In the other 12 games combined they'd scored just 23 runs.
 
16San Diego Padres
Last Week: 9
Padres general manager Kevin Towers said this week he hasn't discussed trading Jake Peavy in weeks. Asked whether teams have inquired lately about the ace, who's sporting a less-than-stellar 2-3 record, 5.74 ERA and sizable price tag, Towers said, "With his contract, he needs to perform a little better [to raise the interest level.]"
 
17Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 16
Voting began this week for fans to select the all-time Metrodome team. Despite the presence of such immortals as Ron Coomer, Pat Meares and Matt Lawton, this seems like a pretty easy team to pick: Mauer catching, Morneau, Knoblauch, Gagne and Gaetti in the infield, Hunter, Puckett and Brunansky in the outfield and Molitor at DH.
 
18San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 27
Barry Bonds came out to watch the Giants beat the Dodgers earlier this week, the first time since last summer he had attended a game in the ballpark he made famous. Bonds hasn't played since the end of 2007, but hasn't retired yet, either. The Giants, currently last in the NL in home runs, walks, slugging percentage and OPS could probably use him in their lineup, but one columnist has a different destination in mind for the all-time home run king.
 
19Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 29
Trevor Hoffman earned career save No. 555 on Monday night, but it was his first since joining the Brewers in the offseason and only the third of his career that didn't come in a Padres uniform. Seeing the all-time saves leader nail down a win for a different team wasn't the only adjustment. Hoffman told MLB.com that Hells Bells, his signature entry song, wasn't loud enough when he entered the game. "Mr. [Mark] Attanasio may need to get some more speakers in here," Hoffman said of the Brewers owner.
 
20Texas Rangers
Last Week: 20
The Rangers lead the majors with 39 home runs, but their pitchers have given up 32, which gives them the most home runs in one team's games at this point in the season in major league history. Five Rangers have hit at least five home runs, including Chris Davis, who's notched five homers, but managed only eight other hits all season.
 
21New York Mets
Last Week: 15
When the Mets spent big on relief pitching this offseason, they did so to aid the entire ball club, but specifically Johan Santana after their poor excuse for a 'pen blew seven of his games last year. But on Wednesday, newcomer JJ Putz, part of a much-improved relief corps, cost Santana a W when he gave up two eighth-inning runs to the Marlins. "I trust them. I have confidence in them," Santana said. The Mets can't afford to give away any more of Santana's starts. He boasts a 1.10 ERA. The other Mets' starters have combined for a 6.64 ERA.
 
22Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 19
Carlos Pena leads the majors in home runs with nine and his 24 RBIs tied the club record for April. It's been an unusually hot start for Pena, who entered this season batting just .209 in the season's first month with only 23 home runs.
 
23Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 24
Many folks in LA blame poor defense for the Angels' underwhelming start, and with good reason. The Halos rank last in the American League in errors and fielding percentage and 28th in Team Defensive Efficiency, as measured by Baseball Prospectus.
 
24Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 23
From the You Can't Say That files: Orioles relief pitcher Jamie Walker questioned home plate umpire Angel Hernandez's motives after a balk call on Tuesday night during a 7-5 loss to the Angels. "I don't know if he was betting on the game or what," said Walker. Three guesses: One: Hernandez didn't place money on the game. Two: Walker will be suspended. Three: Umpires will not look kindly on any player, much less a fairly anonymous middle reliever, wondering whether they are breaking baseball's cardinal rule (during a random April game, no less).
 
25Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 22
The Indians briefly featured a 14-man pitching staff this week after sending Travis Hafner to the disabled list with a bum shoulder. Too bad none of the 14 has been particularly effective. Three starters have ERAs north of 7.00, and of the five most frequently used relief pitchers, four have ERAs over 5.50.
 
26Houston Astros
Last Week: 28
Alex Rodriguez has a torn labrum and hasn't played yet this season. Chris Sampson has one and he's been on the roster all year. Clearly Sampson is stronger than A-Rod, right? Well, not exactly. Turns out Sampson's tear is not that serious, though it could require surgery after the season. That's good news for the Astros bullpen, where Sampson has been the most productive member, going 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA.
 
27Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 26
Tom Verducci wrote earlier this week about the Diamondbacks' struggles, so I don't want to pile on here. But I'll say this: Trying to right your ship with your best pitcher out for several more weeks won't be easy. Good luck, Bob Melvin.
 
28Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 21
With a 1.32 ERA in 13.2 innings, A's reliever Andrew Bailey's stock is rising. Bailey knows a little something about stocks, too, having interned for five consecutive offseasons in the finance industry, most recently for UBS. Bailey, a finance major at Wagner College, told the Oakland Tribune "It's nice to use my degree for something. It keeps your mind away from baseball a little bit. I like the [stock] market. For some reason, math has always been good for me. Right now it's on the back burner. Baseball's obviously the No. 1 thing."
 
29Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 25
Dexter Fowler tied a rookie record by stealing five bases in one game this week against the Padres. Not to dampen the achievement or anything, but San Diego catcher Nick Hundley has yet to catch a potential base stealer all season. Still, Fowler's stolen nine bases on the year, tops in the NL, and boasts a .394 on-base percentage.
 
30Washington Nationals
Last Week: 30
No misspelled jerseys this week. Plus, the Nats notched their first two road wins. If they keep this up, they might actually be mistaken for a legitimate major-league franchise. Still not enough to move out of the Power Rankings cellar, though.

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