THT Dartboard: April 13, 2008by Matthew Carruth
April 13, 2008
Welcome to The Hardball Times Dartboard, our weekly attempt to rank all the teams in baseball. The Dartboard Factor is how many wins a team would be expected to have at the end of the season if it played a neutral schedule. Next to that, you'll find the Dartboard Factor from the previous week. An explanation of our method can be found here.
This early on in the year, the sample sizes are too small for the actual dartboard factor to mean much of anything so for now, we're just going to give the team's ordinal rank. Again for emphasis, these rankings merely reflect how the teams have played to date and how they would finish were they to continue playing at that level throughout the whole year.
#1 Arizona Diamondbacks : Mark Reynolds is off to a fast start and Justin Upton is a certifiable man-beast. Expect to see the Diamondbacks in the top five of these rankings most of the year.
#2 Chicago White Sox : Gavin Floyd nearly tossed a no-hitter yesterday against the Tigers in between terrible control. Don't expect his 2.03 ERA to last while he strikes out as many as he walks.
#3 Atlanta Braves : Tim Hudson has minimized the walks and induced groundballs at his usual crazy pace while the ageless John Smoltz has had a fabulous first 11 innings.
#4 Cincinnati Reds : A great defensive (huh?) performance by the team is the driving force behind the team ERA hovering around 3 despite allowing more homeruns per game than any other National League staff.
#5 Tampa Bay Devil Rays : I'm on the Tampa bandwagon and have been for a few years now and I do think they're going to surprise quite a few people unaware of just how much good young talent they have assembled. However, I think 2009 is their year to rise to the top of the AL East (yes, the very top) and 2008 is more likely to be spent around the .500 mark.
#6 St Louis Cardinals : Do not expect to see the Cardinals near the top of these rankings much longer. They've been playing legitimately well so far this year, but the talent just doesn't add up.
#7 Toronto Blue Jays : Is David Eckstein worth playing over John McDonald given their similar offensive production thus far and the giant difference in glove quality in favor of McDonald? At least Vernon Wells is back producing after the sluggish 2007.
#8 Philadelphia Phillies : Cole Hamels' strikeout rate is down so far at the start, but he's masking that with an artificially low homerun per flyball rate so far. He's going to need to start missing more bats because the homeruns are going to come, especially in that ballpark. Pat Burrell is making a solid case for Phillie fans to stop booing and embrace his awesome three true talent skills.
#9 Los Angeles Dodgers : The Dodgers are drawing an impressive number of walks early in the year and seeing over four pitches per plate appearance; tops in the National League. Rafael Furcal and Andre Ethier are catalysts in that regard, seeing 4.5 and 4.4 pitches respectively.
#10 Oakland Athletics : Pacing the AL West at the outset, Oakland has already had to put Rich Harden on the disabled list and they've been scoring many more runs than their offensive numbers would predict so its hard to see them keeping it up.
#11 Chicago Cubs : Reed Johnson has so far been a solid addition to the Cubs and Kosuke Fukudome continues to express a lot of patience at the plate for the Cubbies. Carlos Zambrano has been hot through his first three starts as well with over a strikeout per inning and just two walks.
#12 Milwaukee Brewers : Contract year for Ben Sheets and he's pitching like it so far with 20 strikeouts to just four walks. If he manages to string together 30 starts you know some team is going to take a big gamble on him next winter.
#13 Baltimore Orioles : George Sherrill is tied atop the majors with five saves and has yet to allow a hit in his 4.7 innings. Meanwhile, Nick Markakis is picking up where he left off in 2007 rapidly emerging as a legitimate star.
#14 Florida Marlins : We're still waiting for Andrew Miller's groundball rate that he is well known for to show up. In the meantime, he's striking out his fare share though it comes bundled with too many walks. Though Hanley Ramirez is a disaster in the field, his bat is going to play anywhere.
#15 New York Yankees : The outfield defense has been outstanding so far, helping the Yankee hurlers look better while their offense has proven amazingly anemic so far.
#16 New York Mets : Lastings who? Angel Pagan is making the Mets fan forget about that piss-poor trade and once Johan Santana gets the homeruns under control, likely more due to luck than anything, he'll set about dominating the senior circuit like most predicted.
#17 San Diego Padres : Defense and pitching. It's been the San Diego recipe for a few years now and 2008 is no different so far with the Padres pacing the National League in defense and the staff sporting a nifty 4.01 FIP. The offense, as usual, needs some help.
#18 Kansas City Royals : Hearthrob of baseball stat geeks everywhere, Brian Bannister continues to dazzle alongside Zack Greinke. If Gil Meche can start reproducing 2007, the Royals will have a soild top three in their rotation to go along with some solid hitters.
#19 Boston Red Sox : While Daisuke Matsuzaka is busy striking out the world, the boston hopefuls are going to hoping that he's able to keep it up for the entire season this time around. Also Boston whipping boy J.D. Drew is keeping the Boston offense alive while David Ortiz flounders.
#20 Los Angeles Angels : Beset by injuries, the Angels' pitching staff currently ranks among the league's worst at striking hitters out. On the other side of the diamond, their offense has seen the fewest number of pitches per plate appearance in the American League. If the Angels aren't able to climb out of the cellar in those two categories, it could be a long summer in LA.
#21 Minnesota Twins : Francisco Liriano makes his return and looks noticeably worse from his 2006 form. Given his mechanics, it's unlikely that Liriano is ever going to be able to throw that 2006-era slider consistently without hurting himself.
#22 Texas Rangers : A tale of two fields as the Texas outfield including Josh Hamilton and David Murphy has been fantastic at generating outs while the Texas infield, including notable booters Ian Kinsler and Michael Young have been more porous than Swiss cheese.
#23 Seattle Mariners : Struggling with their own injuries including another start scratced for Erik Bedard with the same hip problem, the Mariners desperately need both J.J. Putz and Erik Bedard healthy and pitching if they're going to have any shot long term.
#24 Pittsburgh Pirates : Hot start outfield of the year in 2008 with Jason Bay, Nate McLouth and Xavier Nady. If only they weren't horrid in the field, the Pirates defense wouldn't be strangling their pitchers to the tune of 1.7 runs per game more allowed than the staff's FIP suggests.
#25 Cleveland Indians : Fausto Carmona has walked 17 and struck out just 8 through his first 16.7 innings. A groundball rate over 70% will help out somewhat, but he's going to have to improve.
#26 Houston Astros : Lance Berkman and Miguel Tejada are off to solid starts but the pitching is not. Roy Oswalt in particular is getting hammered by the long ball.
#27 Detroit Tigers : People who thought the Tigers were going to cruise to the division crown make up the same subset of people who undervalue pitching and defense
#28 Washington Nationals : A storyboard start to the season has crashed and burned in a most magnificent way which is what tends to happen when you don't hit or pitch well.
#29 Colorado Rockies : It's early, but Todd Helton has seven extra base hits already. He's about all that offense has going for it so far in 2008 scoring an unexpectedly low three runs a game.
#30 San Francisco Giants : They have no offense, their defense is among the worst in the big leagues already and Barry Zito might go down as one of the worst free agent contracts of all time. Well, they have Cain and Lincecum at least.
Matthew Carruth is an editor for The Hardball Times. He welcomes any and all sorts of communication at his email.