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Power-packed Rangers and Reds top inaugural Power Rankings

There's no disputing that 2010 was the Year of the Pitcher. There were 1,111 fewer runs scored and 429 fewer home runs hit in 2010 than in 2009 .

Through the first 80 games this season there have been 163 homers hit, on pace for 4,951 over the full slate of 2,430 scheduled games. That would be an increase of 338 over last year -- and we haven't approached the hot, ball-carrying summer months. (It should be noted, however, that most of the homer-happy stadiums have been featured prominently in Opening Week. Of the 12 teams yet to host a game, only two play in a stadium that ranked in the top eight for homers hit last year.)

As I begin my second year at the helm of the good ship Power Rankings, the commonality between the teams occupying the top two spots is, naturally, power. The Rangers are tied for major league lead in homers with 13; the Reds pace the National League with eight.

As for how the Rankings O' Power are ordered: Remember it is based not on potential or projections but on performance to date with extra emphasis on play in the most recent week. A team's talent level may be used as a tiebreaker among clubs playing at a similar level, and injuries are taken into consideration. But the real criteria are won-loss record, run differential, strength of schedule (opponent and venue) and, especially as we get deeper into the season, the opinions of people I trust (players, executives, scouts, coaches and other writers), etc.

In other words, this is likely the only week that fans of the Orioles, Royals and Pirates won't have to scroll far to find their favorite club while a Red Sox fan will be wearing out his or her mouse in search of the Olde Towne Team.

NOTE: All stats are through Wednesday, April 6.

MLB Power Rankings
1Texas Rangers
Last Week:
The defending American League pennant winners sent a quick message to the much-ballyhooed 2011 Red Sox by sweeping three games from their heavily-hyped counterparts, led by the home run brigade of Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli. In the first series those three combined for eight home runs, and Cruz even tied a major league record when the Rangers played the Mariners on Monday, as he homered in the first four games of the season. So contagious was the power outburst that even shortstop Elvis Andrus snapped a streak of 705 at bats without a homer when he parked one Monday.
 
2Cincinnati Reds
Last Week:
The Reds' play in the season's first week has only validated their projected standing as the class of the NL Central and, possibly, of the league as a whole. Cincinnati is scoring 8.6 runs per game, allowing 3.4 runs and sporting a +26 run differential, which is the best in baseball. The offensive onslaught has been most impressive -- especially with the first three games coming against the Brewers, the Reds' projected top division rivals. Cincinnati leads the majors in runs, batting average (.339) and on-base percentage (.404) and the NL in HRs (eight) and slugging (.531).
3Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week:
It took five turns around Earth's axis for The Greatest Rotation Ever Assembled to complete one turn through its four principals -- sorry, Joe Blanton -- and, I'm sorry to report, their collective brilliance did not change world history in any meaningful way. In fact only three of the four (gasp) even logged a quality start (shame on you, Cole Hamels). Melodrama aside, Phillies fans should be thrilled that their offense is averaging 6.4 runs per game without injured Chase Utley and lost free agent Jayson Werth and that usual slow starter Ryan Howard is mashing the ball, going 11-for-21 with three doubles and two homers.
 
4Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week:
In honor of their absent teammates -- rightfielder Jose Bautista left the club to be present for the birth of his daughter, and starter Brandon Morrow is on a rehab assignment -- the Blue Jays created popsicle-stick puppets of Bautista and Morrow and attached them to the dugout on Tuesday night in a game they won on a Yunel Escobar walkoff home run. Before leaving, Bautista jumped out to a fast start, hitting two homers in his first three games, quickly quieting talk that last year's 54-homer barrage was a total fluke. The 4-1 start against playoff contenders Minnesota and Oakland, however, probably is one.
 
5Baltimore Orioles
Last Week:
While the Red Sox -- the Orioles' more celebrated division rivals to the Northeast -- failed to get a quality start in any of their first four games, the O's started a perfect 4-for-4 thanks to Jeremy Guthrie (age 32), Chris Tillman (22), Zach Britton (23) and Jake Arrieta (25), who are the inverse of Three Men and a Baby. Baltimore's quartet allowed just two earned runs in 26 innings (a 0.69 ERA for those scoring at home), and Tillman didn't allow a hit in his six innings of work, leaving only because of a high pitch count.
 
6Colorado Rockies
Last Week:
If there's a rotation that needs a manicure, it's the Rockies'. The club's top two starters, Ubaldo Jimenez and Jorge de la Rosa, both suffered from finger ailments in their opening series outings -- a cut on the cuticle of his thumb for Jimenez (for which he was placed on the DL) and a blood blister for de la Rosa. Colorado's thin, dry air isn't a likely culprit in this case, as the club trained in similar conditions in Arizona. But they're not alone in the digit distress department among members of the Rockies rotation: Aaron Cook is on the DL after breaking a finger when a door slammed on his hand.
 
7New York Yankees
Last Week:
The Yankees' corner-infield stars are off to scorching hot starts -- Mark Teixeira has four home runs, and Alex Rodriguez is 6-for-18 with four extra-base hits -- but it's otherwise been a strange week in Yankeeland: a coaching assistant photographed (by Keith Olbermann, no less) giving hand signals from the stands; starter Phil Hughes' velocity is down from last year; GM Brian Cashman said the Mets "abused" reliever Pedro Feliciano; they blew a late lead to the Twins; and this picture surfaced to go along with A-Rod's baked kale recipe.
 
8Chicago White Sox
Last Week:
Adam Dunn homered in his White Sox debut and Carlos Quentin may have received the first AL Player of the Week honor (and is batting .500 through five games), but Chicago's most notable offensive performer of the early going was Gordon Beckham. The third-year second baseman struggled mightily last season -- batting .199 as late as June 8 en route to .252 for the year ? but he has pounded the ball the early this year, starting 8-for-22 with three walks (a .462 OBP) and tying for the team-high with six runs. As the No. 2 hitter ahead of Paul Konerko, Dunn and Quentin, he'll keep tallying runs for as long as he reaches base.
 
9Kansas City Royals
Last Week:
The Royals did not have a single winning streak of at least four games in all of 2010. After losing their opener last Thursday, however, the Royals not only won four straight but claimed each in their final at bat thanks to game-winning RBI singles from Chris Getz and Melky Cabrera and walkoff home runs by Kila Ka'aihue and Matt Treanor. More important in the long run for Kansas City is that those wins were made possible by stellar pitching from their bullpen. All eight are under the age of 30 and six are 25 or younger, and so far they've allowed only four runs in 23 innings.
 
10Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week:
One day in spring training Neil Walker walked past the Pirates' beat writers and good-naturedly joked, "Hey, did you guys know I'm from Pittsburgh?" Yes, a lot of attention has been made to the homegrown former first-round pick who made his major league debut with the Bucs last year. Heck, he even lived at his parents' house. But few hitters got off to such a scorching start as Walker. The second baseman had nine hits, two homers and eight RBIs in the Pirates' first six games, during which time the club went 4-2.
 
11New York Mets
Last Week:
The Mets can't even trust their own TV network anymore. An SNY employee went live -- apparently on accident -- during the opening night broadcast with a line from a Family Guy episode that mocks the team. The announcer in the cartoon says in reference to the Mets, "It's Opening Day, and here's the first pitch . . . and the season's over!" SNY caught the error and cut the sound before "the season's over" was uttered, but fans of the show knew what was next. And then on Tuesday, SNY was unable to display the count or radar gun readings from the Mets' game in Philadelphia because a needed piece of equipment didn't make the trip.
 
12San Diego Padres
Last Week:
Padres owner Jeff Moorad is this week's Good Samaritan after reportedly helped a stranger jumpstart his car, according to TMZ. Moorad was apparently watching baseball on his phone -- thank you, MLB.com's At Bat app -- while on a fishing trip when he was approached for assistance. Moorad was reprising a role played by many sports figures in the past couple of years, including Yankees manager Joe Girardi, soccer star David Beckham, Washington Capitals center Brooks Laich and Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
 
13Atlanta Braves
Last Week:
The Braves' pitching staff is deep -- one scout said, "One through twelve, Atlanta has the best pitching in the National League" -- but it lacks a middle-class, as far as age is concerned. Of the dozen arms currently on the roster, only one was born between 1978 and 1985, and that's Cristhian Martinez, who is last on the depth chart. Otherwise, it's a mix of young and old, with two starters 35-and-up (Derek Lowe and Tim Hudson) alongside three comparative babies (Tommy Hanson, Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor). In the bullpen it's the veterans (Peter Moylan, Scott Linebrink and George Sherrill) setting up the kids (Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters).
 
14Cleveland Indians
Last Week:
There have been four triple plays in Progressive Field history, and the one the Indians turned on Sunday was undoubtedly the slowest. First baseman Carlos Santana, normally a catcher, dove to catch a bunt, but the two White Sox runners had already advanced to second and third. He seemed confused about where to throw the ball next but eventually threw to first, and then the ball was relayed to Asdrubal Cabrera covering second base for the final out. Cabrera has now been involved in the Tribe's last three triple plays, even turning an unassisted triple in 2008.
 
15Los Angeles Angels
Last Week:
Early in spring training, manager Mike Scioscia told the Angels beat writers that Fernando Rodney's leash as closer wasn't going to be very short. "It's certainly not one blown save," he said. Then the regular season began, Rodney blew one save and he was done. (Admittedly he was shaky in each of his first two appearances, walking four and allowing two hits in 1 1/3 innings.) For now the closer title is handed to rookie Jordan Walden, 23, who saved Tuesday's Angels win and has 30 strikeouts in 19 2/3 career big-league innings -- aided by appearances in five of the Angels' first six games.
 
16Florida Marlins
Last Week:
The best feel-good story from baseball's opening week belonged to Logan Morrison of the Marlins, who homered in his first game of the season, which was also the first regular-season game since his father passed away from cancer. His mother and a dozen family members were all at Sun-Life Stadium to watch, and Morrison pointed toward them as he crossed home plate. Read more in Jon Heyman's thoughtful story.
 
17San Francisco Giants
Last Week:
It was a great gag: After Aubrey Huff's early struggles diving around rightfield on Saturday, his teammates created a chalk outline of Huff in Dodger Stadium's rightfield. On Sunday, however, the analogy rang a little too close to home when Huff's miscues in right were a key reason for the Giants' loss. Huff only moved to the outfield during the final week of spring training after Cody Ross injured his calf and rookie phenom Brandon Belt took over at first base. Also not as funny in San Francisco: the story of Belt crying when he learned he made the team, and Huff quipping, "Why you crying? I'm the one who's gotta play right field every day." So too are Giants fans.
 
18Detroit Tigers
Last Week:
Fourth outfielder Brennan Boesch crushed the ball in the first half of last year, with a .342/.397/.593 line including 12 homers in 65 games. After the All-Star break, however, he fell to .163/.222/.237 with two homers in 68 games. Put a different way: his first-half OPS+ was 167, meaning he was one and two-thirds as productive as the average AL hitter; in the second half his OPS+ was 29, meaning he was barely better than a quarter as productive as the average AL bat. Well, Boesch must love springtime because he's off to a great start: he's 6-for-15 with a double and homer in his first four games. That production already has Tigers beat writer Steve Kornacki speculating a> about how Boesch fits into manager Jim Leyland's plans.
 
19Minnesota Twins
Last Week:
First baseman Justin Morneau, who missed the second half of the 2010 season after suffering a concussion, could become a pioneer in player safety. This year he's wearing a sturdier helmet -- safe for speeds up to 100 mph rather than the standard helmet, which protects only to 70 -- and even wearing it in batting practice. (In tribute three of his teammates also donned helmets in BP for Morneau's first game back on Friday.) MLB's new rule allowing for a seven-day DL for concussions is a smart way for teams to err on the side of caution rather than rush players back, and maybe Morneau can lead the way with the bigger helmets, telling the St. Paul Pioneer Press in spring training, "I think they should just change it so everybody can wear it. No. 1, it wouldn't look out of place, and No. 2, everyone would be safer."
 
20Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week:
Overshadowing Clayton Kershaw's brilliant Opening Day start was the regrettable postgame tragedy in the parking lot, when a pair of Dodgers fans reportedly attacked Giants fan Bryan Stow in the parking lot. Stow had a severe skull fracture, suffered brain damage and remains in a coma. Yet the fact that Dodgers owner Frank McCourt was slow to respond and seemed satisfied with security was "incredibly stupid," according to Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times. A full week after the incident, the Dodgers finally took action, hiring a former police chief to organize a new security strategy.
 
21Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week:
NL Central bullpens were victimized early and often in the season's first week. In fact, seven of the NL's 10 blown saves emanated from this division, with the Brewers hurt the worst. On Opening Day closer John Axford blew a three-run lead, allowing the Reds to score four and win in walkoff fashion. On Monday, in Milwaukee's home opener, set-up man Takashi Saito allowed two solo homers in the eighth inning to squander a 1-0 lead.
 
22Chicago Cubs
Last Week:
In his first start of the season Randy Wells gave up one run over six innings and earned a win over the Diamondbacks. His rotation-mate Andrew Cashner yielded one run on just two hits and a walk in the 5 1/3 innings of his first big-league start. So what will the two do for encores? Share a ride to the disabled list. Wells has a strained forearm; Cashner has what's being called a very mild strain of his rotator cuff. A 3-3 start when you open at home against the Pirates and Diamondbacks isn't stellar to begin with, but losing 40 percent of your rotation is brutal.
 
23St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week:
If it weren't for Jaime Garcia shaking off his spring struggles and throwing the season's first complete-game shutout, the Cardinals would have won "worst start to a season" running away. They've already lost co-ace Adam Wainwright for the year to an elbow injury; they failed to extend the contract of Albert Pujols, who then went 0-for-5 and grounded into three double plays on Opening Day; Matt Holliday had to undergo an appendectomy and missed several games; and after a sixth game of scoring three or fewer runs, manager Tony La Russa abruptly ended his televised news conference after growing frustrated with repeated queries about his team's slumping offense.
 
24Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week:
Hiring a scout rarely makes big headlines, but that's what happened when the Diamondbacks brought Jerry Krause on board as a special assistant charged with helping scouting and player development. He has worked as a baseball scout for 21 years and has been employed by the A's, Indians, Mariners, Mets, Yankees and, most recently, by the White Sox as their director of international scouting. So why was this personnel move more than just fodder for the transaction column of agate pages in sports sections across the country? Because Krause used to dabble in basketball -- he was GM of the Chicago Bulls from 1985 to 2003, during which time they won six NBA titles.
 
25Oakland Athletics
Last Week:
The beginning of the season is prone to all sorts of statistical oddities, such as Josh Willingham's batting line of .263/.250/.632 -- yep, his on-base percentage is actually lower than his batting average. How is that even possible? Though a sacrifice fly doesn't count as an official at bat (and thus doesn't affect average), it does count as a plate appearance, which is the baseline used for computing OBP. Through five games Willingham has zero walks and one sac fly, and because three of his five hits have been for extra bases (including two home runs), his slugging percentage is two and a half times his average.
 
26Seattle Mariners
Last Week:
Saturday was a rough night to be Edgar Martinez. He's been out of baseball since 2004 but in a span of an hour or two he lost two of his most cherished records. First, Boston's David Ortiz passed Martinez for most career RBIs by a designated hitter. Later, Ichiro Suzuki passed him for the Mariners' career hits record. When The Seattle Times reached Martinez for comment, the longtime great was gracious with compliments of Ortiz and Ichiro and self-deprecatingly conceded, "My records were not that difficult to break."
 
27Washington Nationals
Last Week:
The Nationals are baseball's king of spelling mistakes. Two years ago Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman -- then the club's best players -- sported jerseys that said "Natinals" on the front. They misspelled President Roosevelt's name as "Rossevelt" on his bobblehead. Last week the stadium scoreboard misspelled the name of pitcher John Lannan as "Lannon" (the pitcher himself retweeted a story about it). The Washington DC Sports Hall of Fame plaque at Nationals Park wrote the word "honoriing". Worst of all? D.C. is annually the host of the Scripps National Spelling Bee, meaning there are scores of middle-school visitors who wouldn't make the same mistakes.
 
28Boston Red Sox
Last Week:
Since I know most readers skip my intro text and jump right to the list, I'll repeat here that these rankings are not based on potential or projections but on results -- which for the Sox has been mighty ugly. Entering play on Thursday, Boston had lost its first five games and its starting pitchers had an 8.53 ERA (worst in the AL) while six of its nine everyday players were batting .222 or below. It's obviously a small sample size but one wonders if breaking in a new pitching coach (Curt Young) and a new catcher (Jarrod Saltalamacchia) at the same time will take some adjustment for the rotation. This franchise certainly knows unprecedented comebacks, but it's worth mentioning that no team ever reached the World Series after starting 0-5.
 
29Houston Astros
Last Week:
Admittedly, the Astros have had a tough schedule, beginning on the road against the NL's two best teams (Phillies and Reds) while predictably falling to 0-5, but they don't have the look of a team that'd be faring much better against other opponents. Their run differential (-24) is baseball's worst, as four of their starting pitchers sport ERAs in double digits after the first cycle of the rotation, with opponents hitting .339 off the staff. Even after jumping out to a four-run lead off Reds starter Edinson Volquez in the top of the first inning Wednesday, Houston still managed to lose 12-4.
 
30Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week:
The offseason buzz on the Rays perhaps overcorrected from "they're going to be terrible because they lost everyone" to "they're going to sneak up on teams in the AL East." But the first week was about as bad as it could get for the Rays: they went 0-5; they scored one run while being swept at home by the Orioles; their own fans booed Manny Ramirez; third baseman Evan Longoria was placed on the disabled list with an oblique injury; and they didn't lead in a single game. They'll probably end up a few wins north of a .500 record, but they'll need to score more runs -- they had just seven through five games while every other major league team had at least twice that number.
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