THT Dartboard: May 25, 2008by Matthew Carruth
May 25, 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 Chicago Cubs (Dartboard Factor = 104, 104): Don't be fooled by Rich Hill's ERA at the moment, he's issued 18 walks to just 15 strikeouts. The Cubs are being bailed out on the mound so far by Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster's missing allowed hits on balls in play.
#2 Boston Red Sox (Dartboard Factor = 100, 96): The offense is still clicking away with an amazing amount of consistency across all players. Being tops in runs, hits, on base and slugging percentage is a good way to bash your way to 100 wins.
#3 Arizona Diamondbacks (Dartboard Factor = 98, 101): 53 strikeouts and just 10 walks, that Dan Haren trade has looked great for Arizona so far, a big part of a staff sporting a 127 ERA+. A welcome hello to Doug Davis back from his cancer surgery and back on the bump.
#4 Atlanta Braves (Dartboard Factor = 95, 96): The average National League staff generates a groundball on 44% of their balls in play. The Braves are getting an incredible 50% groundball ratio and even couple that with good strikeout and walk rates.
#5 Tampa Bay Devil Rays (Dartboard Factor = 94, 93): From the American League's worst defense in 2007 to among the top five defenses in the AL this season. It's a giant swing and it's a big reason for the Rays holding in second place in the East.
#6 Oakland Athletics (Dartboard Factor = 92, 91): Rich Harden is back and better than ever at missing bats. Unfortunately, his groundballs have all but disappeared and his walks are up along with the strikeouts. Oh, and there's the whole ticking bomb issue of his arm. Seeing what Billy Beane does with Harden as the trade deadline nears if Oakland stays in the hunt for the division will be interesting.
#7 Chicago White Sox (Dartboard Factor = 92, 88): The starting five in the rotation have combined to make all but one start so far this year and have allowed an amazingly low combined total of 20 home runs.
#8 St Louis Cardinals (Dartboard Factor = 90, 90): Any minute now Ryan Ludwick is going to remember that he's not this good. Yep. Any second now. He what? Another homerun? Seriously? Well, the Cardinals have benefited from the league's easiest schedule to date.
#9 Florida Marlins (Dartboard Factor = 89, 91): Part of the Marlins success in run prevention lies in their league high percentage of flyballs induced. Given that the stadium they play in is rather death on potential homeruns, this has helped keep down their runs allowed.
#10 Toronto Blue Jays (Dartboard Factor = 86, 82): Toronto's league best defense only helps emphasize an already solid pitching staff, but scoring under four runs a game isn't a recipe for success. Lucky for them, or not, it's not all an indication of a poor lineup. Our old friend batting average with runners in scoring position is a big culprit here; Toronto owns the league's worst mark at just .229.
#11 Philadelphia Phillies (Dartboard Factor = 86, 85): The Phillies are sporting one of the NL's better team ERAs but it's by and large a byproduct of a higher than expected percentage of stranded runners.
#12 Los Angeles Dodgers (Dartboard Factor = 84, 87): Memorandum to Joe Torre: On behalf of those fans who enjoy seeing younger prospects and players play we appreciate your use of Matt Kemp in the outfield. However, please refrain in the future from using him in centerfield unless you are shooting for a new form of entertainment.
#13 Texas Rangers (Dartboard Factor = 83, 83): Small Sample Size Theater presents Sidney Ponson. 39.2 innings pitched, 10 walks, just 19 strikeouts and only one homerun allowed. All amounting to a 2.95 ERA. Lucky for the Rangers, they are scoring runs at a higher clip in the AL than any other team and even adjusted for the friendliness of Arlington's park.
#14 New York Yankees (Dartboard Factor = 82, 81): The Yankees are finally starting the transition of Joba Chamberlain into the rotation by stretching him out in planned longer relief roles. The Yankees badly need it to work out as they are strapped for talent in the rotation.
#15 Los Angeles Angels (Dartboard Factor = 81, 80): Gary Matthews Jr: .212/.309/.341 for a nifty OPS+ of 79 in year two of five of Matthews contract. The idea that GM Reagins is just going to be able to trade Sarge Jr. away after this year is ignoring the severe anchor that his contract coupled to that level of performance represents.
#16 Houston Astros (Dartboard Factor = 79, 77): Only in year two of Carlos Lee's six-year deal and he's already down to league average production thus far in 2008. It might just be a slow start, but this is going to be an ugly last three years, give or take one, of a contract.
#17 Baltimore Orioles (Dartboard Factor = 79, 81): Steve Trachsel gets bombed again, this time by the Rays. If Adam Loewen can regain some of his part form he could take over Trachsel's spot in the rotation and combined with Guthrie, Cabrera, Burres and Olson would form a decent corps.
#18 New York Mets (Dartboard Factor = 78, 85): For the four-year commitment given to Pedro Martinez post 2004 the Mets have receieved one great year, one average year and that's about it. It wasn't among the wisest of investments at the time for many reasons, Pedro's durability chief among them.
#19 Milwaukee Brewers (Dartboard Factor = 76, 71): The Brewers are only 12th in the National League in drawing walks but make up for part of that deficiency by leading the league in getting on base via plunks with 25 as a team, 17 of those coming from Jason Kendall, Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks alone.
#20 Detroit Tigers (Dartboard Factor = 75, 72): Another massive offensive outburst from the Tigers' hitters. Is Matthew Joyce going to be the real thing? His minor league trackrecord is adequate, but too short-lived to be able to draw a good conclusion.
#21 Cleveland Indians (Dartboard Factor = 75, 82): Just in case somebody out there hasn't noticed it yet, the Andy Marte potential watch is officially suspended. Now in his age 24 season, Marte is posting a -18 OPS+ and has a career mark of 53 and has seen gradually decreasing OPSs in Triple-A the last three years as well.
#22 Cincinnati Reds (Dartboard Factor = 74, 76): Mitchell Lichtmann makes a very convincing argument that while he continues to hit as poorly as he has so far this season and is slotted regularly in the outfield that Ken Griffey Jr is the worst regular in Major League Baseball.
#23 Minnesota Twins (Dartboard Factor = 72, 71): The primary killer of the Twins pitching have been the homeruns allowed. The strikeout and walk rates are satisfactory but they've yielding homeruns at a higher rate than anyone else in the league. This is especially hitting the rotation with a combined 1.15 homeruns allowed per nine innings.
#24 Kansas City Royals (Dartboard Factor = 70, 73): The Royals seem content to continue giving a starting job to Tony Pena and his .165/.188/.211 batting line and if that weren't bad enough they've willfully added Horacio Ramirez as a potential option down the line.
#25 Colorado Rockies (Dartboard Factor = 70, 68): Jeff Francis' terrible start to the year is mostly related to a worse walk and homerun rate. Given very little change in his overall batted ball profile and only a slight uptick in the percentage of non-strikes thrown, it appears that Francis' overall talent has not changed.
#26 Pittsburgh Pirates (Dartboard Factor = 69, 70): .665 DER. If you had a lineup full of Bonds you could overcome that. The Pirates are shy about seven such hitters to pull that off. Defense matters and it's making your pitchers look bad.
#27 San Francisco Giants (Dartboard Factor = 67, 65): Fred Lewis, Aaron Rowand and Randy Winn combine to form an above average outfield offensively and a solid group with the glove as well which is helpful to the Giants trio of young starters.
#28 San Diego Padres (Dartboard Factor = 65, 65): Regulars with above average OPS or ERA: Adrian Gonzalez, Brian Giles, Jake Peavy (hurt) and Heath Bell. That's pretty much it. It's going to be a battle of Sans to see who can do worse.
#29 Washington Nationals (Dartboard Factor = 64, 60): What's going on with Ryan Zimmermann? He's either treading water or slowly sinking on most key offensive categories despite this now being his third year in the majors. Did he enter the bigs already at his peak at age 21?
#30 Seattle Mariners (Dartboard Factor = 58, 64): Pretty much everything that could have gone wrong for the Mariners has to date, and at this point, with their season already over, they're better off continuing down this path and trying to win the Steven Strasburg sweepstakes for 2009.
The playoff picture takes the above ranking and reforms the teams back into their leagues and divisions including the wild card. 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 - 100
Devil Rays - 94
Blue Jays - 86
Yankees - 82
Orioles - 79
White Sox - 92
Tigers - 75
Indians - 75
Twins - 72
Royals - 70
Athletics - 92
Rangers - 83
Angels - 81
Mariners - 58
Braves - 95
Marlins - 89
Phillies - 86
Mets - 78
Nationals - 64
Cubs - 104
Cardinals - 90
Astros - 79
Brewers - 76
Reds - 74
Pirates - 69
Diamondbacks - 98
Dodgers - 84
Rockies - 70
Giants - 67
Padres - 65
Matthew Carruth is an editor for The Hardball Times. He welcomes any and all sorts of communication at his email.