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Overrated? Yankees' surge leads them to top spot for first time

An SI poll of 185 current major leaguers released this week indicated that the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, Joba Chamberlain and Derek Jeter were the most overrated players in the majors. That news that didn't sit too kindly in New York City, where it was plastered on the front page of Wednesday's New York Daily News, which therein questioned whether the Yankee Stadium Bleacher Creatures needed to add a chant of "O-ver-rated."

Recently, however, it's been hard not to overrate what the Yankees have done on the field, which is why they have vaulted to No. 1 in the Power Rankings for the first time this season after winning four straight entering Thursday and 11 of their last 15.

New York will put that ranking to the test this weekend by facing the Angels in Anaheim before hosting two of the AL's best in the Red Sox and Indians. No matter where they play, expect the Yankees to keep slugging. New York averages almost as many longballs at their homer haven by the Harlem River (1.6 per game) as it does away from Yankee Stadium (1.5 per game).

What's more, the Yankees' overall total of 83 homers is 18 more than the next-closest team and have accounted for 140 of New York's 283 runs (49.5 percent). Curtis Granderson has hit 17 home runs and Mark Teixeira has 16, and their two-man total of 33 is as many as the Padres have and more than the A's and Mariners. That doesn't include Robinson Cano's 11 or the nine each from Russell Martin and A-Rod.

NOTE: All stats are updated through Wednesday, June 1.

MLB Power Rankings
1New York Yankees
Last Week: 6
Boy, does Yankees GM Brian Cashman look smart these days. He publicly objected to the club's offseason signing of reliever Rafael Soriano -- who is badly overpaid, on the DL and the reason New York doesn't have a first-round draft pick in Monday's draft -- and now his bargain-basement signings of starters Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia look genius. Only three teams have as many as three starters (with at least 40 innings) who have an ERA+ of at least 120, meaning that the pitchers' ERAs are 25 percent better than the league average pitcher when adjusted for ballparks and league scoring rates. Those three teams? The Phillies, the Rangers and, yes, the Yankees with CC Sabathia, Colon and Garcia.
 
2Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 1
There is, of course, no purposeful jinx to SI's magazine covers or my writing, but the damage left in the wake of the latter is increasingly significant. The 2010 Padres' season sank with a 10-game losing streak that began on the day they rose to No. 1 in the Power Rankings for the first time. The Royals lost 19-1 on the day my story about the promotion of Eric Hosmer ran -- the third straight loss of what has been a 4-13 stretch -- and then the Indians lost five of six after my visit to Cleveland to write a pair of stories last week, further reinforcing the occasional appearance of the #blamelemire hashtag on Twitter.
 
3St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 2
The cicadas return every 13 years, leap years every four years and good seasons from Kyle Lohse every three. The Cardinals' righthander is working on his fourth season with an ERA below 4.50 and each has occurred every three years: 2002, '05, '08 and now '11, which is the most impressive of all: He's 7-2 with a 2.13 ERA and NL-leading 0.92 WHIP with a career low walk rate (1.7 per nine innings) and a hit rate of 6.6 per nine innings. He's never previously allowed fewer than 9.0 hits per nine in his career.
 
4Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 4
Here's a tangible stat to show how historically great this year's Phillies pitching staff is: Their strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.10 would rank second alltime since the World Series era began in 1903. Philadelphia leads the NL with the most strikeouts (455) and fewest walks (147) and could become only the fourth team with a K/BB ratio of 3.0 or better, joining the 2006 Twins (3.27), 2002 Diamondbacks (3.10) and 1966 Dodgers (3.04).
 
5Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 13
Until Sunday, the Diamondbacks hadn't held sole possession of first place in the NL West since Sept. 5, 2008, spanning almost two and a half seasons. That year they were in first for 160 days but ultimately faded in the final three weeks and missed the playoffs altogether. But in the past three weeks of this season Arizona has won 16 of 19 against the Dodgers, Padres, Braves, Twins, Rockies, Astros and Marlins. While winning five of six against the Braves and Marlins is impressive, the Padres, Twins and Astros have been three of baseball's worst teams so far this year, and the Rockies faded badly in May.
 
6Florida Marlins
Last Week: 3
There are 32 relief pitchers who saved a total of at least 25 games over the last two seasons. Of that number Marlins closer Leo Nuñez ranked 27th in save percentage at 78.9 (56 of 71). Of the five whose conversion rate was worse, only the Indians' Chris Perez is an active closer in 2011. All this is to say the Nuñez's streak of 18 consecutive saves before he blew one on May 25 was particularly unexpected. Then again, several saves were precarious. He does have a 3.00 ERA, which is good by the standards of most pitchers but less so for a closer.
 
7Texas Rangers
Last Week: 12
Mike Napoli is in some rarefied company when it comes to power from the catcher position. As noted in this Baseball-Reference.com blog post, Napoli's two-home run game Monday pushed him within 0.01 percent of Mike Piazza for the best rate of homering among players with at least 100 career home runs and who are primarily catchers. Napoli, however, suffers from being a poor defensive catcher and a .225 hitter this year, but his OBP is .365 and with starting first baseman Mitch Moreland suffering a .196/.302/.217 split with zero homers in 53 plate appearances against lefthanded pitchers, perhaps the righty Napoli should move into a fulltime platoon with Moreland.
 
8Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 7
Tuesday night's game was how the Brewers planned Opening Day. They were once again facing the Reds at Cincinnati's Great American Ballpark, but this time ace Zack Greinke was pitching and rightfielder Corey Hart was in the lineup after they each missed the opener with injuries. Hart hit a three-run homer and Greinke got the win after allowing two runs in six innings, helping to make amends after suffering an early-season sweep in the season's first week. Since those first three games, Milwaukee is 30-23 and Cincinnati is 26-28.
 
9Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 8
When the first NL All-Star voting update was released on Monday, the Giants' Buster Posey paced the pack at catcher, leading the Braves' Brian McCann by more than 150,000 votes even though he was lost for the season to an ankle injury -- though, admittedly, most of the voting occurred before the injury -- and, more importantly, trailed in nearly every meaningful offensive category. At the time of the release, McCann, a five-time All-Star and reigning MVP in the game, led NL catchers in average (.304), slugging (.464), home runs (six), RBIs (29), doubles (11), walks (19) and hits (55), trailing Posey only by two runs (17 to 15), two steals (three to one) and two points in OBP (.368 to .366).
 
10San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 11
Maybe playing a whole career with an iconic franchise is overrated. While seemingly everyone has an opinion on the struggles of aging Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, the Giants' Miguel Tejada is doing far worse while receiving far less scrutiny (outside San Francisco, at least). Tejada, the 2002 AL MVP and a six-time All-Star, has a batting line of .210/.233/.272 with just one home run. His OPS+ -- an adjusted OPS for league average and ballparks -- is 40, the fourth worst among qualifiers for the batting title since 1950.
 
11Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 5
In 40 games from April 16 to the first half of Sunday's doubleheader on May 29, the Red Sox went from eight games under .500 (2-10) to eight games over .500 (30-22) but like a pendulum are starting to swing back. They've now lost four straight, including a three-game sweep at home to the White Sox. Chicago scored 24 runs in three games off fill-in starters Alfredo Aceves and Tim Wakefield but also off staff ace Jon Lester, who finished May with a deceiving 4-1 record, as he had a 5.50 ERA and 1.61 WHIP in the month.
 
12Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 9
Once again rightfielder Jay Bruce is on a scorching hot streak, batting above .400 over a fortnight for the third time in his career. As a rookie in 2008, he began his career batting .400 with three home runs in his first 14 games. In 2010 he batted .438 over the course of 14 games with nine home runs mostly in late August. And now beginning May 15 of this season Bruce has gone 29-for-72 (.403) with nine home runs and 25 RBIs to vault into the NL season leads in both of those categories with 17 and 46, respectively.
 
13Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 14
For two years in a row Ryan Raburn had played exactly 113 games while hitting at least 15 home runs and batting at least .280. In 2011 he finally won a regular starting job in leftfield out of spring training but has struggled all year. In fact, he is the only AL players whose strikeout-to-walk ratio is greater than 7.0, as he has whiffed 57 times and walked only eight. (Three NL players also have that unfortunate ratio.) But Raburn is not alone: AL leftfielders collectively have an OPS+ of 83, the worst mark in more than 40 years.
 
14Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 10
Power-hitting third basemen do not make for prototypical leadoff hitters, but manager Joe Maddon placed Evan Longoria atop the batting order for games on Saturday, Sunday and Monday to help him snap out of a 4-for-34 slump, in which his average plummeted to .209. In those three games Longoria went 5-for-11 with a home run. When returned to the No. 4 spot in the order on Tuesday, he went 2-for-3 with a walk and a two-run, game-winning home run.
 
15Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 15
Slumping Chone Figgins was demoted in the lineup from second to eighth on Monday and then was given a few days off. Manager Eric Wedge said that "it's the best thing to do for him right now and it's the best thing to do for our team right now." It also would have been the best thing to do a month ago. Figgins, who is hitless in his last 22 at bats and is hitting .190 with a .232 OBP, has been a free-agent disaster. This is his second year of a four-year, $36-million deal. Last season he went 6-for-15 in the last four games of May to boost his average up to .211 by the start of June, but this year he had no such luck.
 
16Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 19
Edwin Encarnacion finally hit his first home run of the season on Sunday -- in his 141st at bat, just one year after hitting 21 homers -- and it's probably too little, too late. In addition to the lack of power, the corner infielder also has a .284 OBP and likely stands to lose the most at bats with the imminent call-up of top infield prospect Brett Lawrie, which is speculated to come as early as this weekend as long as his wrist is okay after getting plunked by a pitch Tuesday night. Lawrie, acquired from the Brewers for starting pitcher Shaun Marcum, is a former first-round pick batting .354 with 15 home runs in 52 games at Triple-A.
 
17Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 17
Since Sergio Santos ascended to the role of closer on April 25, the White Sox bullpen has shown improvement in late innings. It had saved only one of seven opportunities before that date but has converted 12 of 14 since then, including nine from Santos. But the 'pen remains combustible: In 11 games from May 20 through May 31 it allowed multiple runs in more than half of them (six). It has allowed two or more runs in 19 games this season and its 4.33 ERA ranks 24th in baseball.
 
18Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 16
Injuries slowed the start of Scott Downs' season -- the lefty signed to a three-year free-agent contract made just two appearances before April 29 -- but he was better than advertised in his first 17 innings of work. Before taking the loss on Wednesday on Billy Butler's replay-reversed home run, Downs had allowed just one earned run for a 0.55 ERA. Only two of 10 inherited runners have scored against him; he's notched seven holds in 10 appearances; and of the 13 hits opponents have managed, Butler's was the first to go for extra bases.
 
19Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 24
At the major-league level the Pirates have had another decent week, trudging along at two games under .500 this season, but for now the focus shifts to a Pirate who likely won't put on a major league uniform until 2013 at the earliest. Pittsburgh has the No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft on Monday. The likely candidates for that pick include UCLA righthanded pitcher Gerrit Cole, Virginia lefthanded pitcher Danny Hultzen and Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon. Pitching is always in demand, and should Rendon be selected, incumbent third baseman Pedro Alvarez, who has a big bat but is no defensive whiz, could shift across the diamond and play first base, where Pittsburgh lacks a major prospect.
 
20Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 22
The A's have an outstanding bullpen and have received nearly the majors' worst production from their second basemen -- .548 OPS, one home run -- so trading lefty reliever David Purcey to the Tigers for infielder Scott Sizemore, who batted .315 in 170 career games at Triple-A, made a lot of sense. Also, Purcey was likely the odd man out of the Oakland 'pen upon the activation of Andrew Bailey from the DL. Because Purcey is out of options, the A's would have had to place him on waivers, meaning he could have been lost to Detroit (or someone else) for free.
 
21Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 18
Young lefthander Brian Matusz was terrific in his major league return from a DL stint for a strained intercostal muscle. He allowed one run on four hits and no walks in 5 2/3 innings at Seattle. Along with Jeremy Guthrie, rookie Zach Britton and other young starters Chris Tillman and Jake Arrieta, Matusz joins a mostly raw rotation with high upside. Before he displaced Brad Bergesen from the staff -- and before Bergesen and Tillman were sent to Triple-A -- the Orioles had used only five starting pitchers in their first 53 games, one of only two teams not to expand beyond their Opening Day rotation, along with Matusz's opponent, the Mariners.
 
22Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 26
Do you think this might have been the one check the players hoped would bounce? According to reports, embattled Dodgers owner Frank McCourt did make his end-of-the-month payroll requirements for May. June, however, when $6 million in deferred compensation to Manny Ramirez is due, will be trickier. Had McCourt defaulted, Major League Baseball presumably would have stepped in to cover compensation -- and take full control of the team -- meaning the players could have moved past this nightmare era in Dodgers history. But it's not all bad, as L.A. has won consecutive series against the Marlins and Rockies.
 
23Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 20
The Rockies were 17-8 in April and within a half-game of baseball's best record that month. In May, however, they were a half-game worse than everyone else, going just 8-20. Of particular concern was their record in one-run games: 1-10. Colorado's bullpen ERA, which had been 2.64 in April, was 4.79 in May with six blown saves. And in one particularly awful game for the black and purple on Monday, the Rockies had 18 baserunners on 14 hits and four walks but scored just one run on a solo homer, as they hit into three double plays, had one runner thrown out on the basepaths and left the other 13 on base.
 
24Washington Nationals
Last Week: 23
Since cresting at .500 on May 11, Washington is 6-13. Big free-agent signing Jayson Werth said the Nationals' problems are "obvious" but wouldn't elaborate. They scored 17 runs in a win on May 20 . . . and then scored only 17 runs in the next five games combined, losing each. In the first NL All-Star voting update not one of its team players made either the top five at catcher or an infield position or made top 15 in the outfield. And what should have been a bright spot -- the promotion of Cuban pitcher Yunesky Maya back to the majors -- went downhill as he got knocked out after allowing four runs in 4 2/3 innings.
 
25New York Mets
Last Week: 21
Whether it's discussion of the forthcoming $200 million minority investment in the team from hedge fund manager David Einhorn or idle speculation about trading franchise cornerstones Jose Reyes and David Wright or the chagrin of Ike Davis suffering a setback in rehab, all of the talk about the Mets has been off the field -- as well it probably should be. Reyes is playing like a superstar, but his teammates have all either cooled off (or, like Davis, fallen to an injury). The Mets have lost eight of their last 11 games.
 
26San Diego Padres
Last Week: 29
In the 10th inning Monday night rookie Kyle Phillips smacked his first career home run, a pinch-hit homer to give the Padres 3-2 win. It was too late to spare starter Aaron Harang his fourth straight no-decision but, thanks to Phillips, Harang still netted a nice new Cadillac. That's because Phillips, a San Diego native, has worked at a Cadillac dealership in Mission Valley, Calif., for the past six offseasons and sold Harang a car, according to this mlb.com story. It's unclear whether there was a teammate discount.
 
27Houston Astros
Last Week: 28
The Astros are the latest team to debut their pitching phenom, as 20-year-old Jordan Lyles took the hill on Tuesday and dazzled the Cubs' lineup, allowing just one earned run on five hits in seven innings while striking out four and walking none. Lyles, a 6'4" righthander ranked the game's No. 42 prospect by Baseball America before the season, was so efficient that he didn't need more than 15 pitches in any inning. His major league stay may only be two starts -- depending on when Wandy Rodriguez returns from the DL -- but he's already shown he deserves a longer audition.
 
28Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 27
Maybe only one player can appreciate Aaron Crow's unorthodox journey to the big leagues: J.D. Drew. Both were top-10 overall draft picks who didn't sign, played independent ball for a year, re-entered the draft and were selected only a few spots later, began their minor league careers in Double-A and later found big-league success after a position change. Drew was primarily a centerfielder in college and in his first two major league seasons before settling in right; Crow was a starter in college and the minors but has excelled as a reliever, posting a 1.33 ERA in 27 innings and inheriting the closer job because of Joakim Soria's struggles.
 
29Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 25
Last season Carlos Marmol averaged 16 strikeouts per nine innings, and opposing hitters missed the ball on 40.3 percent of their swings, putting only 9.4 percent of pitches in play. In a word, Marmol was filthy. In 2011 Marmol had been very good (11.8 K/9), though not quite as dominant, until Tuesday night. Marmol, who entered a save opportunity against the Astros having allowed three earned runs in 23 innings, gave up six runs in 1/3 of an inning. His ERA came within 0.04 points of tripling, as it jumped from 1.17 to 3.47. He hadn't allowed more than four earned runs in an outing since 2006.
 
30Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 30
Injuries and slumps have decimated Minnesota's offense. There are 11 Twins with at least 75 plate appearances. One is hitting above .300. Only four even have an OBP of .300 or higher. Only two are slugging at least .400. No one has more than five home runs. Having scored 187 runs in 53 games (3.5 per game), Minnesota is on pace for only 572 runs this season. Since 1996 only five teams have failed to score 600 runs. Only the '03 Dodgers managed a winning record of 85-77; the other four ('02 Tigers, '03 Tigers, '10 Mariners and '10 Pirates) averaged just 55.5 wins.
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