Two months into the season, I can no longer use the excuse that it's early to hide some bad predictions. When the 30th ranked Indians were off to a good start, I still thought they'd cool off by Memorial Day. Well, that has come and gone and they still have the largest lead of any division leader, so maybe they're for real. I still don't think they are a playoff team, but I'd like to take back my January comment when I said about the Pirates "Fans will probably be happy that I didn’t put them in their perennial #30 spot. And there’s a very good reason for that. It’s called the Cleveland Indians!" Pittsburgh is not at the bottom of my rankings, but it's not because Cleveland is any lower. On the other end of the spectrum, my initial ranking of the Twins at #5 doesn't look too brilliant either.
Not all my predictions were quite as bad. I had Boston and Philly 1-2 and in spite of the Red Sox' slow start, these are still the 2 top teams. I was one of the few who believed Tampa would still contend this year, and they have. I had the Brewers ranked #7 in January, and that's where they're back to. Predicting Adrian Gonzalez to win the MVP doesn't look like such a bad guess either. And when I had Jon Lester winning the Cy Young, I actually meant Josh Beckett ;)
Anyhow, here are the rankings at the beginning of June. Note that numbers in brackets are movement from last month, and their high/low rank for the season. Look at previous rankings (Jan, February, March, Opening Day and May) for explanations of how the teams got to where they are.
#1 - Philadelphia (--,1/2) We all know how good their pitching is, but it might be historically good. K:BB ratio is 3.1. For reference the 1966 Dodgers (you know, the ones with Rookie Don Sutton being the #4 starter with a sub 3 ERA, as well as Don Drysdale and some Koufax guy in the rotation) had a 3.0 ratio.
#2 - Boston (+6,1/8) Their slow start has been well chronicled and I told Red Sox Nation not to worry. Since then they have been 28-15, a pace which would get them to an even 100 wins despite the 2-10 start. Crawford is starting to look like he might end up earning every single $ he's getting paid.
#3 - Texas (--,3/10) Survived the loss of Hamilton and Cruz. Now they're back, and the Rangers can put some ground between themselves and the pretenders in that division.
#4 - St. Louis (+2,4/15) Kyle Lohse is continuing to perform his best Bob Gibson imitation, Pujols is getting untracked, and whoever said Lance Berkman was done (as I sheepishly put my hand up) has been proven grossly incorrect.
#5 - Tampa Bay (+2,5/8) Survived Longoria's absence, Price, Shields and Hellickson are pitching superbly and they are determined to make it a 3 way race in the East despite all the off-season departures.
#6 - Yankees (-2,4/10) Their starting pitching has surprisingly held up, with Colon and Garcia being unexpected contributors. But sooner or later the bell is going to strike midnight, and they'll be relying on Ivan Nova to be their #3 starter.
#7 - Milwaukee (+11,7/18) Didn't start off as badly as the Red Sox, but did lose their first 4, making me rethink my original high ranking. But have been 30-21 since, which puts them on a pace to end with 93 wins. Until the Cardinals starting streaking, I thought 88 would have been enough to win this division.
#8 - San Francisco (+4,3/12) Losing Buster Posey will hurt, but fans always overestimate the impact of a single player on a team. Last year he had a WAR of about 3 - which is pretty good, but it means that replacing him with a replacement level catcher, would mean the Giants would at most win 3 less games. I think they can replace him with an above replacement level player, and he doesn't catch 162 games, so in reality the difference will be smaller. I love this post on the situation. To sum it up - stop whining, start winning again.
#9 - Florida (-4,5/19) Wasn't expecting the Marlins to be much more than .500 team this year, but they're playing at a 95 win pace right now. Don't think they'll keep this up, but they may be in the wildcard race longer than envisioned.
#10 - Atlanta (+6,10/16) Surprised by their pitching. Everyone knew they had Lowe and Hudson, and were excited about the young Tommy Hanson, but who would have thought Jair Jurrjens would be a leading candidate for the Cy Young right now?
#11 - Colorado (-9,2/11) Slumping right now, but
#12 - Cleveland (+2,12/30) I STILL don't think this team is very good, but at some point a win-loss record starts to mean something. 2 months into the season I think we've passed that point. I don't think they are a last place team any longer.
#13 - Oakland (-3,4/13) I really thought their pitching would carry them more than it has. It's been every bit as good as advertised, possibly best in the AL, but not enough to carry their anemic offense.
#14 - Detroit (-5,9/14) If I had to bet money on who would win a division, this would be where all my chips would go. Many teams are better, but I think the Tigers are more of a sure bet to win due to a lack of competition. Cleveland will be lucky to play. 500 the rest of the way, which will give them at most 87 wins. Tigers should be able to reach that.
#15 - Toronto (-2,13/20) They alternate between looking great and awful. I've split the difference and ranked them right in the middle.
#16 - Arizona (+11,16/27) D'backs doing their best Cleveland Indian impersonation, and are leading their division. It won't last, but they could end up a solid 3rd place.
#17 - Angels (-6,11/22) Still contending, but their starting pitching has started to come back down to earth. And Vernon Wells is hitting below the Mendoza line. Who saw that coming? Aside from every single baseball analyst and semi-knowledgeable fan, that is.
#18 - Cincinnati (-3,14/18) I root for any team that has a Canadian as its superstar. And Votto has done all he can to carry the team, but unfortunately when your top 4 starting pitchers have ERAs above 5 the offense can only help so much.
#19 - White Sox (+4,15/23) Quentin is ripping the cover off the ball, and Paul Konerko is hitting like Paul Konerko. But Alex Rios and Adam Dunn are hitting sub .200 and their pitching is at best mediocre.
#20 - Baltimore (-3,17/23) In a different division, with a couple of moves they might be contenders.
#21 - Cubs (-2,12/21) Lineup looks decent, but their top 3 of Zambrano/Dempster/Garza are probably on the wrong side of mediocre and the rest of their arms are definitely on the wrong side. A bit more pitching and I still think they could contend in this division.
#22 - Seattle (+3,22/27) How can a team 1/2 game out of 1st place be ranked so low? Their offense is still the worst in the majors. King Felix is pitching great and still is only about a .500 pitcher.
#23 - Dodgers (-2,20/23) And I thought Fred Wilpon had financial troubles.
#24 - Minnesota (-4,3/24) Mauer is out, unlike the Canadian in Cincinnati, Morneau is not carrying this offense, and Carl Pavano and his 5.21 ERA are the ace of this staff. 'nuff said.
#25 - Mets (+3,22/28) This team does not have an ace or even a #2 starter on the team. Tough to win when everyday it's either a #3 or #5 pitcher on the hill.
#26 - Pittsburgh (--,26/29) Pitching is looking very good. If they keep it up they have a chance to win over 75 games for the first time in over a decade.
#27 - Washington (-3,24/27)
#28 - Kansas City (-6,22/28)
#29 - San Diego (--,17/29) Maybe the Anthony Rizzo era will start soon.
#30 - Houston (--,28/30)