By Joe Lemire
April 15, 2010
MLB Power Rankings
11 Oakland Athletics
Last Week: N/A
Forget the veteran righties of the staff, Ben Sheets and Justin Duchscherer, it's been Oakland's three lefty starters -- Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden and Gio Gonzalez -- that have carried the club to its 6-4 start. The trio has a 2.02 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 35 2 /3 innings. Braden had a career-high 10 K's in his first start, telling reporters afterwards, "Mark that down because it's not going to happen again." Sure enough, he struck out only two batters in his next outing.
12 Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: N/A
Despite their 6-3 start, the Blue Jays won't contend for the playoffs -- they led the AL East by 3.5 games on May 18 last year, only to hit the meat of their divisional schedule and finish the year 28 games out of first -- but the season could still be a success with the continued development of its rotation. On that count they've already had three early success stories: Shaun Marcum has been great in his first two starts since having Tommy John surgery in Sept. 2008; Dana Eveland threw 7 1/3 innings of shutout ball; and Ricky Romero, the forgotten man of the 2005 draft picked No. 6 between Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki, took a no-hitter into the eighth on Tuesday night, and won with a 12-strikeout masterpiece.
13 Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: N/A
On this April 15 it's worth pausing to note the certainties in life: death, taxes, Mark Reynolds striking out (10 through his first eight games) and Kelly Johnson hitting home runs in April. In his career Johnson, the newly-acquired, light-hitting second baseman, has more homers in the season's first month (15) than his next most prolific month (10 in July) and has three so far in 2010. That matches Reynolds and Chris Young for the most on the team of the Diamondbacks, who lead the NL with 15.
14 Boston Red Sox
Last Week: N/A
Recently, former Red Sox starter turned baseball analyst Curt Schilling wrote that "to Proctor" a reliever was to pitch him nearly every day, the way Joe Torre seemed to do with former Yankees pitcher Scott Proctor. This season Sox manager Terry Francona is Proctoring 24-year-old setup man Daniel Bard, who has pitched in six of Boston's eight games, each time the outing has qualified as "late and close" (meaning it's the seventh inning or later with the game tied, the batting team leading by one or having the tying run on deck). Francona clearly has faith in Bard, Hideki Okajima and closer Jonathan Papelbon -- and no one else in his bullpen -- as those three have accounted for 15 of the team's 19 "late and close" relief appearances. That, more than any of David Ortiz's struggles, should be a source of worry for Boston.
15 Florida Marlins
Last Week: N/A
The season is young, but Jorge Cantu already has a major-league record. He has at least one hit and one RBI in each of the season's first nine games, which, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, broke the previous record of eight, set by Hall of Famer George "High Pockets" Kelly of the New York Giants in 1921. It's unclear, however, whether Cantu's pockets are considered high or low enough to be deserving of a nickname.
16 Atlanta Braves
Last Week: N/A
The solution to the Braves' dearth of power might be to clone Jason Heyward. The precocious rookie has three home runs, which is the same number the rest of the team has. His fellow starting outfielders, Melky Cabrera and Nate McLouth, are batting a combined .100 (5-for-50) with no homers and no RBIs -- not a promising start to the year for the club with an NL-low 72 home runs from its outfield the past two seasons.
17 Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: N/A
One L.A. radio host speculated that manager Joe Torre started Vicente Padilla on Opening Day as a way of calling attention to how the front office did nothing to replace the departed Randy Wolf, who signed with the Brewers as a free agent, at the top of the rotation. It's unlikely that was Torre's true intention, but Padilla has looked nothing like an ace, allowing 11 earned runs in 8 2/3 innings in his first two starts.
18 Chicago Cubs
Last Week: N/A
It was a middling first week on the field -- 4-4 record; Derrek Lee starting hot than sitting because of thumb inflammation; Alfonso Soriano struggling; a few good starts from the back of the rotation -- but the news was the Ricketts family finally being able to assume public ownership of the team. At the home opener, the four Ricketts siblings greeted thousands of fans and even shared the goodwill by selecting a separate family at random to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
19 Chicago White Sox
Last Week: N/A
When the lefties, Mark Buehrle and John Danks, haven't been on the mound, it hasn't been pretty. (Of course, it's often very pretty when Buehrle is out there.) While the ace is 2-0 and Danks is 1-0 (a collective 1.93 ERA in 28 innings), the White Sox have only one win when neither starts. Until Wednesday night's breakout slugfest (an 11-1 mashing of Toronto), the offense had been unable to string together hits in a sustained attack. None of the club's first 12 home runs came with more than one runner on base, until Carlos Quentin's fifth-inning grand slam on Wednesday night.
20 Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: N/A
Paul Maholm has gotten the same pitching results as Buehrle -- the Pirates' lefty is 0-1, with 5.73 ERA in two starts -- but he spun a a web gem that was the near equal of Buehrle's, diving for a ball, then spinning on his side and flipping it to first for an out. Perhaps he'd fit in with the Pirates' baserunners, who lead the NL with 10 stolen bases and have yet to be caught.
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