The Sports Guru’s 2012 First Quarter MLB Season Power Rankings – (35 games)
The first quarter of the 2012 Major League Baseball season has seen its far share of break-out and disappointing teams, as well as home run records being set in Texas. From Albert Pujols only having one home run 35 games into the season, to the Washington Nationals highly touted rookie Bryce Harper being called up early in the wake of the overpaid and now injured (broken wrist) Jason Werth. Not to mention the Nationals are first place in the NL East. Lastly, the surprise team in the AL East, the Orioles who are in first place in the hardest division in baseball.
My rankings are based primarily on the current state of the team and its roster, the overall record of the team (of course), teams history, and my overall opinion of each team. Feel free to agree or critique and leave a comment, your feed back is always appreciated.
1) TEXAS RANGERS (23-13) – With superstar Josh Hamilton hitting a record setting 18 home runs in his first 35 games, and key players like Nelson Cruz, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and Adrian Beltre all staying healthy (so far), the Rangers offense is almost unstoppable. Not to mention overseas pitcher Yu Darvish has been dominate since the start of the season, going 5-1 and 51 Ks in only 44 innings. The only thing stopping Texas from reaching the World Series for the third consecutive year will be injuries.
2) LOS ANGELES DODGERS (24-11) – The loss of superstar outfielder Matt Kemp is a serious issue for a LA team that has had one of the best starts in franchise history. Coming off a 5-1 week, the Dodgers have put some distance between them and the division rival Giants (17-17). CY winner Clayton Kershaw is off to another great season going 3-1 with 2.22 ERA. The Dodgers have the pitching with Lilly and Billingsley to stay atop the NL West, but if Kemp is out for a extended amount of time, I don’t know if the Dodgers have the offense to sustain this run.
3) ATALANTA BRAVES (22-14) – Yet again the Braves continue to be at the top of the NL East year after year. Now leading the NL in runs scored, Atlanta has become the beast in the East once again. Future hall-of-fame 3B Chipper Jones having a great final season, and guys like Dan Uggla and Freddie Freeman are off to hot starts. With the promising youngest Jayson Hayward still trying to find his groove, Atlanta looks only to get stronger as the season progresses. The pitching staff lead by Brandon Beachy (4 W 1.22 ERA) and Tommy Hansen (4 W 3.43 ERA) is a huge factor in the teams early success. Having the best closer in the game in Craig Kimbrel (11-12 in saves) doesn’t hurt either.
4) WASHINGTON NATIONALS (22-14) – The surprise team of the National League this year has been hit with run of injuries that could hurt their chances of staying atop the NL East with the Braves. Seeing key players like OF Jayson Werth (wrist), OF/1B Michael Morse (lat strain), C Wilson Ramos (ACL), and Closer Drew Storen (bone chip) all hit the DL early in the season, its impressive that the Nationals have played as well as they have. Their have been plenty of bright spots this year as well. Rookie sensation Bryce Harper has made a immediate impact since being called up 2 weeks ago, and pitching star Stephen Strasberg (3-0 with a 1.61 ERA) have carried this team into becoming one of the most promising teams in baseball. The Nationals and Braves will be duking it out all year for that coveted home field advantage, expect both to be in the post-seasaon this year.
5) NEW YORK YANKESS (20-15) – I know I’m going to get a lot of heat about putting a team that is 3rd in their division higher than the current 1st place team, but come on people the Orioles, really?! The Bronx Bombers are one of the hottest team in baseball, with a pithing staff that has posted a league best ERA 1.99 in the last week. Robinson Cano is also hitting .500 in that span. Even with the loss of the their long-time reliever Mariano River, the Yankees continue to win. Soriano should be able to handle the closer roll just fine. They are 7-3 in their last 10 and look to take over first place in the AL East by the end of the month.
6) ST. LIOUS CARDINALS (21-15) – With the resurgence of outfielder Carlos Beltran, who leads the NL with 13 home runs, the Cardinals have been able to stay atop a division in which most thought would be a down year after winning the World Series, and loosing long-time coach Tony LaRussa and Superstar Albert Pujols. St. Louis has answered the critics and more. Matt Holiday seems to have found his swing again, and World Series hero David Freese is continuing his hot hitting from the post season. However, the pitching and bullpen should be of some concern moving forward in the season. Missing Ace Chris Carpenter hasn’t caught up to them yet, but could become a issue later in the season. Lance Lynn has been filling the role nicely though, posting a 6-1 record and a 1.81 ERA to start the season.
7)TAMPA BAY RAYS (22-14) – The Rays started the season on fire, but injuries have seem to catch up to them. Star 3B Evan Longoria (4 HR 19 RBIs) is our 6-8 weeks with a hamstring injury, and youngster OF Desmond Jennings (20 R 8 SB) is on the 15-day DL with a knee sprain. Loosing your leadoff and cleanup hitter can be the death of a team, but with a coach like Joe Madden don’t count the Rays out. Carlos Pena (5 HR 18 RBIs) is hitting again and Ben Zobrist (6 HRs 16 RBIs) will have to carry the teams offense until their stars return. David Price (5 W 2.98 ERA) is having another fantastic season, and James Shields leads the team with 6 wins. Loosing 5th starter Jeff Nieman (broken foot) shouldn’t effect the teams pitching staff. Look of the Rays to be in the AL East race once again.
8) TORONTO BLUE JAYS (19-16) – This is another young and athletic team that could surprise a lot of people this season. Edwin Encarnacion (11 HRs 29 RBIs) and Jose Bautista (8 HRs 18 RBIs) in the middle of the order, the Jays have become one of those offense that a pitcher hates to face. 2B Kelley Johnson has had a resurgence since coming over last season, hitting 7 HRs and 19 RBIs so far this year. Brandon Morrow is having a career best start going 4-0 with a 2.22 ERA, leading the Toronto pitching staff. Rickey Romero (4 W 3.88 ERA) continues to impress, and rookie Henderson Alvarez (3 W 2.61 ERA) is off to a fast start. With the Boston Redsox in shambles, and the injury ridden Tampa Bay Rays struggling to stay healthy, the Blue Jays could surprise some people and snag a post season bid. Remember there is one extra playoff team added this year.
9) BALTIMORE ORIOLES (22-14) – Definitely the surprise team in the American League, leading the AL East by 2 games. Adam Jones (10 HR .295 AVG) continues to grow into a very good player, and looks to be force in the line-up. Catcher Matt Wieters (8 HR 20 RBIs) has become one of the best catchers in baseball, and has taken control of the pitching staff. Wei-Yin Chen ( 3 W 2.43 ERA) and Jason Hammel (4 W 2.68 ERA) have lead the teams pitching accounting for a third of the teams win total. I know what your thinking, who is this Jason Hammels? Is he related to Cole? And is Wei-Yin Chen related to Bruce? Well both would be false, what they are is two good young pitchers having a great start to the beginning of the season – thats all. I will give credit where credit is do, the have had a great start, but don’t look for it to continue. Look for the both the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Rays to pass the O’s by the All-Star break. By the way their next 6 games are against the Yankees and Nationals
10) DETROIT TIGERS (18-18) – I put the Tigers at number 10 over the Indians for the same reason that the Rays, Blue Jays, and Yankees are above the Orioles – its the Indians! Detroit has had a little bit of a rough start of the season but have been playing great baseball of late and i see it continuing. Miguel Cabrera (8 HRs 31 RBIs) continues to be the force in the lineup, with newly acquired Prince Fielder ( 5 HRs 18 RBI’s) is starting to feel comfortable in D-town. Austin Jackson (5 HR .323 AVG) is playing like the lead-off man everyone expected him to be, helping make this one of the best lineups in baseball. Justin Verlander (4 W .247 ERA) continues to be the Ace of the team, but what is hurting Tigers this season is the rest of the pitching staff. Rick Porcello despite 3 wins has a 5.18 ERA, and Max Scherzer (2 W 6.26 ERA) continue to disappoint the Detroit front office. With closer Jose Valverde having health issues, the Tigers pitching will be the achilles heal of the team all year.