Indians take over top spot as surprise teams climb rankings

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As the calendar turns to May, it's time to start wondering which surprise starters might fade and who could be for real. The Indians, widely expected to finish fourth or fifth in the American League Central, have baseball's best record. The Royals and Pirates -- who haven't finished above .500 since 2003 and 1992, respectively -- either have or are within striking distance of winning records. And the Marlins, who were pegged for about a .500 season, have the National League's second-best mark, trailing only their NL East rival Phillies.

Those four teams all currently rank in the top half of's MLB Power Rankings, with the Indians rising to No. 1, the Marlins remaining at No. 3, the Royals scooting up to No. 13 and the Pirates -- yep, the Pittsburgh Pirates -- soaring up to No. 14 after winning consecutive series against the team that was baseball's best (Rockies) and the club that remains the worst (Padres).

So what does the start of May mean? Of the six teams who were in the lead of their division at the end of play on May 1 in 2010, only two, the Rays and Twins, finished the year on top of their division. The other four -- A's, Mets, Cardinals and Padres -- all faded out of the playoff picture entirely, although three of the four merely to second place. (The Mets finished fourth.)

In 2009 two of the six teams leading their divisions on May 1 went on to win their division that year as well. In 2008 four of the six won their divisions. In 2007 it was three of six, and in 2006 only one of the six division leaders held on at the end of the season.

It's an admittedly inexact science, but if the last five years are any guide, somewhere between one and four teams of the May 1 division leaders -- this year, that list includes the Yankees, Indians, Rangers, Phillies, Cardinals and Rockies -- will hold at the end of the year. In other words, it's still too early to tell.

NOTE: All stats are updated through Wednesday, May 5.

MLB Power Rankings