THT Dartboard: Week Twoby Matthew Carruth
April 21, 2009
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 normally find the Dartboard Factor from the previous week, but since this is the first of the new season, it is absent. An explanation of our method can be found here.
#1 Los Angeles Dodgers (Dartboard Factor = 126): Jonathan Broxton is having a superb start to the season along with nearly the entire Dodger rotation and several key members of the offense; namely Manny Ramirez, Orlando Hudson and Matt Kemp
#2 Toronto Blue Jays (Dartboard Factor = 111): What aren't the Blue Jays doing right so far this season? Concerns over the depth in the rotation have been met so far, Scott Downs has been lights out in the pen and the lineup is pounding the ball.
#3 Florida Marlins (Dartboard Factor = 110): Prior to the start of the season, there were several pundits calling the Marins as having possibly the rest rotation in baseball. While that's a bit of an overstatement, they're certainly a quality unit. If Jeremy Hermida can get back to where he was in 2007, the offense and rotation could be good enough to surprise more than a few people.
#4 St Louis Cardinals (Dartboard Factor = 106): Chris Duncan, Ryan Ludwick and Albert Pujols. That's a formidable trio at the plate. The rotation had been contributing as well, but with Chris Carpenter out (again) for an extended period of time, the Central looks more and more like a decided race.
#5 New York Mets (Dartboard Factor = 104): The Mets went all out to revamp their bullpen over the winter and so far it has paid off handsomely. However, they might have wanted to spend a little more attention on the guys before the bullpen as the starters as a group leave a lot to be desired.
#6 Pittsburgh Pirates (Dartboard Factor = 101): Surprisingly good defense and average pretty much everything else has the Pirates hanging around in the NL Central. If the LaRoche siblings get going, they could beat that .500 mark yet.
#7 Detroit Tigers (Dartboard Factor = 99): Welcome to the big leagues Rick Porcello. Justin Verlander's velocity is back, Armando Galarraga is off to a hot start and if does unfathomably turn out to be the year that Edwin Jackson does figure it all out, keep an eye on the Tigers. They have the bats to hang with anyone.
#8 Kansas City Royals (Dartboard Factor = 99): How about these surprising Royals? Taking advantage of some great outings by their rotation, including dark horse Cy Young candidate Zack Greinke. However, we have our doubts that a team featuring both Sidney Ponson and Horacio Ramirez in the back end of its rotation will maintain this sort of pace unless they start mashing the ball.
#9 San Diego Padres (Dartboard Factor = 94): There hasn't even been much of a breakout star to point to so far in San Diego, just a team that is collectively producing over its head on the field. It's tough to see this lasting especially with Brian Giles' performance to date.
#10 Chicago Cubs (Dartboard Factor = 90): The rotation has been solid but so far nobody has taken on a mantle of ace either. Kosuke Fukudome is off to another hot start, will he be able to sustain longer than a month or two this time around?
#11 Tampa Bay Rays (Dartboard Factor = 89): The fielding remains top notch, but the rotation has been awful and the bullpen suffering a hangover from last year. Good news that Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria are already smashing the ball though. The pitchers should come around.
#12 Seattle Mariners (Dartboard Factor = 87): The defense has been among the league's best and so has the pitching, creating a nice combination of run prevention that has the Ms on pace to surrender fewer than 600 runs on the season. Of course they are also on pace to score fewer than 700, so while they currently head the gimpy AL West, they would certainly like the bats to start stepping up a bit.
#13 Chicago White Sox (Dartboard Factor = 83): Bartolo Colon, yes, Bartolo Colon, has been the ace of the staff to date. That's how early this season still is. Carlos Quentin is picking up right where he left off last season.
#14 Boston Red Sox (Dartboard Factor = 82): Kevin Youkilis is flat out ripping the ball and Jason Bay is chipping in as well, but outside those two, the offense is scuffling. The bullpen has been great, but they have also needed to be great as the rotation has been unreliable and Daisuke Matsuzaka hits the DL.
#15 Cleveland Indians (Dartboard Factor = 80): Holy offense! Everyone is hitting on the Indians so far. Is Travis Hafner back? Time will tell. Of course, the reason they're only middle of the pack is because the pitching has been so awful, dead last in FIP.
#16 Texas Rangers (Dartboard Factor = 77): Yeah, they can still hit. They can even field a bit, though Michael Young still looks bad, even at the less demanding third base positon. But boy can they not pitch. Kevin Millwood looks renewed and Frank Francisco is fine, but the rest of the staff is a mess.
#17 Oakland Athletics (Dartboard Factor = 76): So far, no good on the new and improved offense as the As have the lowest slugging percentage in the league at .308, with the Angels second worst by a canyon-wide gulf at .360. Michael Wuertz and Andrew Bailey are keeping the As alive in the pen while the offense tries to get going.
#18 New York Yankees (Dartboard Factor = 73): The offense is hitting, perhaps aided by the new Yankee Stadium which is playing more like old Coors than the slightly pitcher-friendly old confines were. Nick Swisher has quickly endeared himself to the Bronx faithful with his offensive explosion and nifty inning of relief pitching.
#19 Los Angeles Angels (Dartboard Factor = 71): The Angels have lost five starting pitchers to injury or worse already this young season. Throw in a potentially two month long DL stint for Vladimir Guerrero and the Angels' prospects this season are a lot murkier than a lot of people are realizing. They might be the third best team in the West.
#20 Atlanta Braves (Dartboard Factor = 70): Brian McCann's eye injury is scary for the Braves, who are likely going to need McCann's offense going forward. So far the rotation and bullpen have been solid, but the defense atrocious, costing the Braves dearly.
#21 Colorado Rockies (Dartboard Factor = 70): The Rockies are missing Jeff Francis in that rotation. The bullpen has been atrocious and the offense below average. It's not a great recipe for success.
#22 Arizona Diamondbacks (Dartboard Factor = 64): The pitching has been serviceable and you have to imagine that Brandon Webb is going to get it going soon. The hitting though; so far it has managed to even out-meek the Giants.
#23 Milwaukee Brewers (Dartboard Factor = 62): Always a good bet to regress with the loss of Sheets and Sabathia, it has so far been the offense that's regressed the most, though the rotation looks predictably toothless as well.
#24 Houston Astros (Dartboard Factor = 62): 22.1 inning scoreless streak aside, the Houston rotation looks shaky at the back. Roy Oswalt should end up fine but really, Russ Ortiz and Mike Hampton? Mike Hampton might be useful if he can stay healthy, which, yeah...
#25 Washington Nationals (Dartboard Factor = 61): Locking up Ryan Zimmerman to a nice team friendly contract is the highlight of the season so far for the Nationals. Outside of June 9, I suspect that come October, that might still be the highlight of the season.
#26 Philadelphia Phillies (Dartboard Factor = 60): Story of the year so far? A disastrous rotation. The offense is there and the bullpen is about where people figured, though Brad Lidge will come around. But the rotation needs Cole Hamels to step up in a big way and after all the innings he had to throw in 2008, there's legitimate concern over whether he will be able to or not.
#27 Minnesota Twins (Dartboard Factor = 60): The Twins are badly missing Joe Mauer to offer their line up any type of consistent threat in the middle. Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel are nice hitters, but there's too much Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez right now for them to sustain much offensive attack.
#28 Cincinnati Reds (Dartboard Factor = 57): Edinson Volquez's terrible start to the year is the only bad news coming out of the rotation, but who is going to provide the offense on this team? Micah Owings can only do so much.
#29 Baltimore Orioles (Dartboard Factor = 53): Adam Jones is coming on strong for Baltimore as the fruits from the Erik Bedard trade continue to shine. But outside of him plus the reliable performances from Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts, there hasn't been much performance to herald for the Orioles.
#30 San Francisco Giants (Dartboard Factor = 46): Expected to a gigantic strength coming into the year, the rotation has so far disappointed, pitching at a level that is only slightly above average. Killing them though is the offense, always expected to be a weakness. Outside of Aaron Rowand and Fred Lewis, it's been a minefield of disaster.
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.
Blue Jays - 111
Rays - 89
Red Sox - 82
Yankees - 73
Orioles - 53
Tigers - 99
Royals - 99
White Sox - 83
Indians - 80
Twins - 60
Mariners - 87
Rangers - 77
Athletics - 76
Angels - 71
Marlins - 110
Mets - 104
Braves - 70
Nationals - 61
Phillies - 60
Cardinals - 106
Pirates - 101
Cubs - 90
Brewers - 62
Astros - 62
Reds - 57
Dodgers - 126
Padres - 94
Rockies - 70
Diamondbacks - 64
Giants - 46
Matthew Carruth is an editor for The Hardball Times. He welcomes any and all sorts of communication at his email.