THT Dartboard: April 20, 2008by Matthew Carruth
April 20, 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.
#1 Arizona Diamondbacks (Dartboard Factor = 123, 128): A bit of a regression, but they couldn't be expected to keep up their torrid start. Nonetheless, they're still pacing the league by a comfortable margin and now have Randy Johnson back on the mound challenging Clemens for 2nd all time in strikeouts.
#2 Chicago White Sox (Dartboard Factor = 109, 100): Their pitching staff has been astounding outside of Mark Buehrle. Overall, they boast a 128 ERA+ and while their strikeout to walk ratio is worthy, they're not going to be able to hold opposing batters to just a homerun every 25 flyballs.
#3 St Louis Cardinals (Dartboard Factor = 106, 96): They continue to surprise with the early season start, but keep the schedule in mind. So far, the Cardinals have played 12 of their 18 games against Houston, San Francisco and Washington.
#4 Atlanta Braves (Dartboard Factor = 103, 98): Despite dropping three games in a row to start the week, the Braves climb in the Dartboard thanks to backing up those losses (by a combined six runs) with an 8-0 and a 6-1 win helping to improve their run differential. Chipper Jones homered twice more
#5 New York Mets (Dartboard Factor = 97, 82): The Mets run prevention is being greatly assisted by their pitchers racking up the strikeouts, to the tune of 7.7 per game (tied for tops in baseball) and a defense that's turned nearly 3 out of every 4 balls in play into an out. The strikeouts might keep up but the defense isn't likely to remain that far above average all year.
#6 Philadelphia Phillies (Dartboard Factor = 94, 93): Phillie hitters are certainly not averse to the strikeout what with Ryan Howard (26) and Pat Burrell (16) both on pace for 140+ and the entire team on a 1,143 strikeout pace for the season.
#7 Los Angeles Dodgers (Dartboard Factor = 93, 93): Hiroki Kuroda has been a bit overshadowed by Kosuke Fukudome's success in Chicago, but he's had a serviceable first three starts in LA, part of an excellent Dodger rotation whose worst pitcher so far has been Chad Billingsley who has himself struck out 20 batters in just 14.2 innings.
#8 Boston Red Sox (Dartboard Factor = 91, 80): How long can Jacoby Ellsbury keep up the pace on his walks? He has 12 of them in just 58 plate appearances despite little power with which to threaten pitchers.
#9 Chicago Cubs (Dartboard Factor = 90, 86): Alfonso Soriano has been suffering from a really cold start, but he's been picked up by the entire rest of the Cubs lineup which is hammering the ball.
#10 Los Angeles Angels (Dartboard Factor = 85, 80): The Angels pitching staff has been lucky on preventing runs so far this year, which is why they're so far down this list. The offense has been good up and down, but Howie Kendrick finds himself on the shelf again, this time all the way to the D/L.
#11 Oakland Athletics (Dartboard Factor = 85, 91): The bullpen has been tremendous. Everything else, well hasn't. The offense is predictably bad and the starting pitching has been either ineffective (DiNardo, Blanton), lucky (Eveland, Smith) or hurt (Harden).
#12 New York Yankees (Dartboard Factor = 85, 83): Ian Kennedy overrated? How could this be? Him and fellow youngster Phil Hughes have certainly been the opposite of worthy of the attention they received leading up to this season. We may end up seeing Joba Chamberlain in the rotation sooner than anyone in the Yankees wanted though that's no certain salve either.
#13 Kansas City Royals (Dartboard Factor = 85, 81): Good for Alex Gordon who has certainly righted the ship after his rookie year disappointment. Still with mediocre plate discipline but when you hit .333 and slug .545, that will cure many ails.
#14 Tampa Bay Devil Rays (Dartboard Factor = 84, 96): They picked up Dan Johnson off waivers, likely meaning the end of the unsuccessful Nathan Haynes experiment. They also locked up Evan Longoria to a beneficial for both sides nine-year deal a week into his major league career. They've been playing as one of the better teams in the AL East and they don't even have their ace Scott Kazmir in the rotation yet. Forget 2009, could 2008 be the year for Tampa?
#15 Milwaukee Brewers (Dartboard Factor = 81, 86): Ben Sheets is off to a roaring start to his contract year and Yovani Gollardo made a successful return today but they're still waiting on someone to wake up at the plate with Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks all disappointing to date.
#16 Baltimore Orioles (Dartboard Factor = 80, 85): Wins over the Yankees notwithstanding, you're not going to go far with Brian Burres as your best pitcher. Nick Markakis and Luke Scott are off to hot starts though, keeping the otherwise substandard offense afloat.
#17 Cincinnati Reds (Dartboard Factor = 80, 97): Joey Votto and Johnny Cueto have been big successes for the veteran-fetish Dusty Baker and the Reds. How much longer before Jay Bruce and Homer Bailey make their appearance? Josh Fogg shouldn't be long for the rotation.
#18 Texas Rangers (Dartboard Factor = 80, 76): I liked the signing of Jason Jennings this winter, thinking it was a good low-risk, medium-reward move. Well, just because the risk isn't large doesn't mean it's not there and so far it looks like the end of the line for Jennings. His velocity has not recovered and he's not showing any semblance of control. It would appear that he's either still hurt or he's finished.
#19 Toronto Blue Jays (Dartboard Factor = 78, 94): Frank Thomas has been a meaningful part of why the Blue Jays led the league in walks coming into this weekend's action. Naturally, they bench him in favor of the no-better Matt Stairs who doesn't draw walks.
#20 Seattle Mariners (Dartboard Factor = 74, 74): The Mariners are treading water at this point solely thanks to the efforts of Richie Sexson, Adrian Beltre, Raul Ibanez, Felix Hernandez and Carlos Silva. They're going to need other members of the offense to step up and need to get J.J. Putz and Erik Bedard back on the bump if they hope to catch the Angels.
#21 Colorado Rockies (Dartboard Factor = 73, 49): The offense has been sputtering, but the pitching, the relief pitching especially, have kept the Rockies hovering around .500. Jeff Francis has already yielded six homeruns in his first 18+ innings so expect his numbers to return closer to normal.
#22 Florida Marlins (Dartboard Factor = 72, 83): Scott Olsen seems to have gotten over his discipline issues in Florida at least for now and for the time being he and Renyel Pinto are the doing their best to not let the Marlins piss-poor run prevention completely scuttle their season. Truth be told though, it's not much the pitcher's fault as it is the defense which has a DER of just 67%.
#23 Detroit Tigers (Dartboard Factor = 71, 55): The offense has sufficiently recovered from their slow start out of the gate. We figured that was going to happen. But it hasn't improved the defense or the pitching one lick. We also figured that would happen. The Tiger's best pitcher so far has been Aquilino Lopez. After him, well, Nate Robertson has a pretty good K/BB ratio...
#24 San Diego Padres (Dartboard Factor = 68, 81): The team as a whole is batting .238/.299/.323. They've somehow found a way to be more inadequate than the Giants which is incredible. At least they have Jake Peavy sticking around for quite a while and that Randy Wolf acquisition is looking better by the start.
#25 Cleveland Indians (Dartboard Factor = 66, 62): Cliff Lee is off to a hilariously awesome start with just 8 hits allowed in 22 innings and 20 strikeouts to just 2 walks. There are big time concerns with C.C. Sabathia though and the offense has looked rather weak.
#26 Pittsburgh Pirates (Dartboard Factor = 62, 65): Another case of horrible defense making the pitching staff look much worse than it actually is. The Pirates have a team FIP of 4.21, which is below average, but not nearly worthy of the 5.69 runs per game they're allowing.
#27 Minnesota Twins (Dartboard Factor = 62, 79): Still no offense and the staff is struggling without Johan Santana up top. Francisco Liriano still doesn't look right, and he may never and while the Bonser, Baker, Blackburn trio have been solid, they cannot rely on Livan Hernandez to continue to keep up the mirage of being good. The bullpen needs to shape up and fast if they want to have any shot this season.
#28 Houston Astros (Dartboard Factor = 59, 61): More bad defense but the pitching staff is also legitimately awful and the offense aside from the newly two years older Miguel Tejada along with Lance Berkman and J.R. Towles has been unhelpful to overcoming that deficiency.
#29 Washington Nationals (Dartboard Factor = 54, 54): The Nationals buck the trend of cellar dwellers by actually having a solid defense. What they don't have are bats or pitchers. At least Nick Johnson is hitting, though that just makes one wonder what will happen if/when Dmitri Young returns.
#30 San Francisco Giants (Dartboard Factor = 43, 45): They have the second worst offense in baseball and by far the worst defense in baseball. Can they be relegated to Triple-A yet?
The playoff picture takes the above ranking and reforms the teams back into their leagues and divisions. This is in no ways a prediction, this is an assessment of how teams have played so far this season, not how each team is going to play.
Red Sox - 91
Yankees - 85
Devil Rays - 84
Orioles - 80
Blue Jays - 78
White Sox - 109
Royals - 85
Tigers - 71
Indians - 66
Twins - 62
Angels - 85
Athletics - 85
Rangers - 80
Mariners - 74
Braves - 103
Mets - 97
Phillies - 94
Marlins - 72
Nationals - 54
Cardinals - 106
Cubs - 90
Brewers - 81
Reds - 80
Pirates - 62
Astros - 59
Diamondbacks - 123
Dodgers - 93
Rockies - 73
Padres - 68
Giants - 43
Matthew Carruth is an editor for The Hardball Times. He welcomes any and all sorts of communication at his email.