Rays start at the top of the heap (cont.)

Saturday April 11th, 2009
MLB Power Rankings
21 Cleveland Indians
Last Week: --
Cliff Lee, 12.60 ERA.
Lee got hit hard in his Opening Day outing against the Rangers, literally and figuratively. He took a hard, one-hop line drive off his pitching arm from Hank Blalock in the second inning and proceeded to give up four runs immediately thereafter, on his way to seven runs allowed for the game. He got hit even harder from the media for some quotes he made after the game, when he said of a two-run single past first baseman Victor Martinez, "If Vic lays out and is able to catch that ball, those two runs don't score." Lee later said he wasn't trying to knock Martinez, telling MLB.com, "It's not, he should make that play. I was saying, 'If they hit it two feet to the right he makes that play.'"
22 Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: --
Joey Votto: .538 average.
Votto has a friendly rivalry with teammate Jay Bruce with the two often competing against each other all game in a constant back-and-forth of can you top this? So far, Votto is the winning, hands down. He's among the NL leaders in virtually every category (including tied for first with two home runs), while Bruce has struggled to a .167 start.
23 Kansas City Royals
Last Week: --
Billy Butler: .000/.000/.000.
The Royals took two of three in Chicago, and if not for Kyle Farnsworth giving up a massive home run to Jim Thome, they might well be undefeated right now. The series wasn't exactly exciting with the two teams combining for 11 runs in three games. The Royals biggest offenders have been Butler and first baseman Mike Jacobs, who are a combined 0-for-18. Their struggles were highlighted on Thursday, when Jacobs was benched but brought off the bench to pinch-hit for Butler, who at that point was 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Naturally, Jacobs himself struck out.
24 San Francisco Giants
Last Week: --
Aaron Rowand: .545/.583./1.091.
Further proof that spring training statistics mean absolutely nothing: When the Giants broke camp in Arizona, Rowand was batting .190. One week into this season, he's batting .545. His strong start could be due to the rigorous workout routine that he goes through each offseason with friend and Cubs outfielder Reed Johnson out in Las Vegas. Until this offseason, Rays pitcher James Shields, Rowand's cousin, used to join them in those workouts. Rowand certainly had a better start than his cuz: Shields took the Rays only loss after getting roughed up by the Red Sox.
25 Houston Astros
Last Week: --
Brian Moehler: 37.80 ERA.
Moehler has the highest ERA in baseball after surrendering eight hits and seven runs in just 1.2 innings before being yanked on Wednesday, leaving him with what would easily be the highest single season ERA of all time. The current record holder is Matt Skrmetta, who posted an 11.66 ERA in his only major league season (2000). That isn't Skrmetta's only record: he pitched for 24 professional teams, including in Japan, and while attempting an ill-fated comeback in 2008 he told Florida Today "Just give me a uniform. I don't care where it's at." Nobody did.
26 Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: --
Nate McLouth: .071 average.
Last year, McLouth's hot start was arguably the high point of the Pirates season. He batted .441 in the first seven games, including five multi-hit games. This year, he has just one hit. Help for the Pirates struggling offense may be arriving sooner than expected. Pedro Alvarez, the No. 2 pick in last year's draft, made his professional debut on Thursday and went 3-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs.
27 San Diego Padres
Last Week: --
Chase Headley: .125 average.
Headley is only the most egregious offender on a team full of them: The Padres are batting .181, worst in the league, and have hit just one home run. Headley, considered the organization's top prospect by many, has struck out in seven of his 16 at-bats.
28 Detroit Tigers
Last Week: --
Miguel Cabrera: .615 batting average.
Cabrera and the Tigers got off to a wretched start last season, losing their first six games, during which Cabrera batted .100 with one home run. The Tigers are struggling again, but it's not Cabrera's fault. Late in spring training, manager Jim Leyland told the Detroit News, "To me, he's perfect." He nearly has been, going 8-for-13 at the plate and adding three walks for a .688 on-base percentage.
29 Seattle Mariners
Last Week: --
Kenji Johjima: -51 OPS+.
Johjima has just one hit in 11 at-bats, leaving him with a negative OPS+ (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, adjusted for the park and league). It's actually not the worst on the team, though. Utilityman Mike Sweeney is 0-for-8 and has a -100 OPS+. Mike Cameron leads the majors with a 390 OPS+, which is 200 points higher than last year's major league leader, Albert Pujols.
30 Washington Nationals
Last Week: --
Adam Dunn: .300 average.
Dunn has never come within 30 points of a .300 average for a season in his eight-year career, so this is surely not going to last. But when you're the only winless team in your league and you've already been outscored 26-13 and are three games out of first place, let's just focus on the positives, shall we?
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