Kansas City is the new No. 1 team in Power Rankings, red-hot Cleveland is climbing, and the Yankees have fallen into a massive slump.
The best team in the major leagues is the top team in Power Rankings. With an MLB-best .651 winning percentage and a healthy lead in the American League Central, the Royals are No. 1, displacing the Dodgers thanks to five of this week's six first-place votes. The Cardinals are right behind Kansas City in second, with Los Angeles falling to third. The red-hot Nationals check in at No. 4, with the Astros rounding out the top five. (NOTE: All stats are through Sunday, May 24.)
They're No. 1: Royals
It was a light week for Kansas City, but the Royals made the most of it, winning four of their five games and taking series from the Reds and Cardinals. Kansas City recorded two shutouts and gave up just nine runs in 45 innings—six of those coming in Sunday's loss to St. Louis. The Royals now rank second in MLB with 3.4 runs allowed per game and third in ERA at 3.22. Kansas City's bullpen has been brilliant—Royals relievers have a collective ERA of 1.68, far and away the lowest in the game—which has made up for some shakiness in the rotation. Yordano Ventura, in particular, has had an up-and-down year: In his two starts last week, he blanked Cincinnati over seven innings, then gave up four runs in seven frames to St. Louis. Kansas City will need to get some help for Chris Young (0.78 ERA in 34 2/3 innings) and Edinson Volquez (2.77 in 55 1/3), the team's only starters with an ERA below Ventura's 4.64. The Royals need him to pitch up to his ability if they are to make it back to the postseason.
Cellar Dweller: Brewers
The good news for the Brewers: They no longer have the worst winning percentage in baseball. That dubious honor belongs to the Athletics, who are 16–30 (.348), just a smidge worse than Milwaukee at 16–29 (.356). The bad news: The Brewers still aren't very good. Despite taking two of three from Detroit last week, the Brew Crew remains last in the National League and last in the Power Rankings, merely treading water after a disastrous April (5–17) left them too far out to be any real threat this season. At this point, all Milwaukee can hope for is for its potential trade chips to keep or improve their value. One player who needs to do a better job of that is Adam Lind. The burly first baseman roared out of the gates with a .333/.398/.577 line in April, but has since slumped to a .714 OPS in May. The hits aren't falling for Lind, whose batting average on balls in play is a mere .238 this month, but if he can turn his luck around, he should bring a good haul back to the Brewers before the trade deadline.
Biggest Riser: Indians
Cleveland finally woke up. Since a walk-off loss to the White Sox last Monday dropped the Indians to a season-worst nine games under .500, they have ripped off six straight wins, including a three-game sweep of the Reds, to get back into contention in the AL and rise a whopping nine places in our rankings. And just as Cleveland has come back to life, so has Corey Kluber. The defending AL Cy Young winner is in the midst of an absurd run: In his last three starts, Kluber has thrown 25 innings, struck out 37 and allowed just two runs and one walk. His 83 strikeouts lead the majors, and his 10.7 whiffs per nine and 2.20 FIP are tops in the AL. With more performances like that, the Indians should keep climbing our rankings.
Biggest Faller: Yankees
On May 7, the Yankees were 21–12 and four games up in the AL East, boasting a healthy offense, a shut-down bullpen and a rotation that was performing better than expected. Since then, however, New York has lost 10 of 11, including a six-game losing streak that featured an embarrassing weekend sweep at the hands of the Rangers. Yankees pitching was battered for 30 runs over the three-game set, and the team is now giving up an unsightly 4.48 runs per game. That's dropped the Bombers from No. 7 to No. 15 in this week's rankings, as well as out of first place in the division.
Nothing's gone right for the Yankees in that 11-game span. New York is hitting just .218 as a team, averaging only 3.1 runs per game and slugging .329. On the mound, Yankees pitchers have a 6.34 ERA, the second worst in baseball during that time.