THT Dartboard: May 18, 2008by Matthew Carruth
May 18, 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, 101): They're scoring 5.85 runs per game (118 OPS+), have an above average pitching staff (101 FIP+) and one of the best defenses in the majors (.717 DER) leading to a 118 ERA+. That is domination.
#2 Arizona Diamondbacks (Dartboard Factor = 101, 103): Are the Upton brothers going to end up as the best brother combination in baseball history? What's gone on with Eric Byrnes steal totals? He stole 75 bases against just 10 failures the last two seasons with Arizona but is only 4-for-6 so far in 2008.
#3 Atlanta Braves (Dartboard Factor = 96, 100): I beat the Chipper Jones is underrated drum a lot, but did you know he's hitting .410 so far this year? The Braves have the National League's best team ERA and RA and they're scoring nearly five runs a game. How in the world are they only .500? A 2-12 record in one-run games.
#4 Boston Red Sox (Dartboard Factor = 96, 100): When did Kevin Youkilis decide to start slugging nearly .600? It's a rather odd development for a man never credited with having much in the way of power. Meanwhile the Red Sox have given eight at bats to Joe Thurston (-67 OPS+) and three at bats to Jonathan Van Every (82 OPS+) and a starting job to Julio Lugo (88 OPS+). Aside from those three, every hitter that's come to the plate for the Sox this season has an OPS+ of 100 or higher.
#5 Tampa Bay Devil Rays (Dartboard Factor = 93, 88): Matt Garza has walked 16 and stuck out just 15 in 37 innings. That's incredible. As shown yesterday, that's not a strategy that's going sustain itself well. Lucky for Tampa, they're still getting solid performances from Shields, Kazmir, Sonnanstine and Jackson and they have an inordinate amount of pitchers they can try out in the rotation if Garza continues to struggle.
#6 Oakland Athletics (Dartboard Factor = 91, 95): Pitching and defense have been the key with every regular pitcher aside from Huston Street having an above average ERA. That alone would be enough of a surprise for an Oakland team most expected to flounder in the AL, but they've also partnered that with an unexpectedly sound offensive line.
#7 Florida Marlins (Dartboard Factor = 91, 93): Of all the teams to expect to be leading the NL East, the Marlins? One wonders where they'd be with Miguel Cabrera still in the fold given that Andrew Miller hasn't done anything good for them yet.
#8 St Louis Cardinals (Dartboard Factor = 90, 94): Behold the awesome start of Ryan Ludwick and his .336/.406/.724 line. He's a big reason why the Cardinals continue to defy all expectations for the 2008 season.
#9 Chicago White Sox (Dartboard Factor = 88, 90): The American League's best pitching staff by FIP, a big part of that being due to allowing just 0.6 homeruns per game, lowest in the league. Given their ballpark I would not be counting on that particular trend to continue. Carlos Quentin is showing no signs of slowing down with an OPS around .950 over the past 14 games.
#10 Los Angeles Dodgers (Dartboard Factor = 87, 86): Interesting usage of Hong-Chih Kuo so far this year as Joe Torre has used him as a relief starter three times this year, keeping him to three or four innings since they don't want to rely on Esteban Loaiza as a true fifth starter.
#11 Philadelphia Phillies (Dartboard Factor = 85, 84): Ryan Howard is on pace for 232 strikeouts this season. That's mighty impressive. Not as impressive as the bullpen trio of Brad Lidge, J.C. Romero and Chad Durbin with their 60.1 innings pitched, 45 hits and just two homeruns. Then again, those three are also sporting a less impressive 48-31 strikeout to walk ratio, not quite fitting their combined 1.19 ERA.
#12 New York Mets (Dartboard Factor = 85, 81): Aside from a high number of homeruns, Johan Santana has been as advertised for New York, but they've given too many innings to pumpkins in the bullpen in the forms of Heilman, Sosa and Sanchez.
#13 Texas Rangers (Dartboard Factor = 83, 78): Josh Hamilton is certainly the best position player in the AL West and deserves to be in the discussion for AL MVP combining superb offense with solid centerfield defense.
#14 Cleveland Indians (Dartboard Factor = 82, 79): Cliff Lee continues to roll over the American League and although he's demonstrably cut down on his walks, his strikeout rate seems impossibly high given that he's not generating many missed bats above average and his batted ball profile isn't remarkable either. That .230 BABIP isn't going to stay that low and it's a fair bet that the strikeouts will come back down to earth over time.
#15 Toronto Blue Jays (Dartboard Factor = 82, 82): Owners of the best strikeout to walk ratio among American League pitching staffs and the third best defense efficiency ratio in the AL, but yet another year of a mediocre offense have the Blue Jays where they seem to reside every year, hanging around .500 and in third place in the East.
#16 Baltimore Orioles (Dartboard Factor = 81, 80): The Orioles' pitching staff has compiled the league's worst FIP yet they have been above average in terms of runs allowed. Reason number 47,326,993 why defense matters. Jim Johnson, for example, has come out of nowhere to allow just 3 runs in almost 24 innings on the strength of just 11 hits allowed. He's only struck out 12 hitters while walking seven.
#17 New York Yankees (Dartboard Factor = 81, 87): The Yankees are sitting in last place and are going to have a hard time scrabbling together even four capable starting pitchers, much less a full five. Wang and Pettitte are fine, but how long can Mussina keep his no-stuff, no-walk shtick going and it's pretty clear that Kennedy isn't ready.
#18 Los Angeles Angels (Dartboard Factor = 80, 81): The record might not reflect it, but the Angels have missed John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar something terrible. It's rather amazing that Jon Garland's ERA is only as bad as it is given his 20 walks against just 13 strikeouts in 58.1 innings. The defense also hasn't lived up to its reputation with just a .692 DER.
#19 Houston Astros (Dartboard Factor = 77, 77): Has anyone noticed that Lance Berkman, with some more hits today, is now hitting over .400? And that he's still only second in the league? The Astros certainly could use some starting pitching. Is Roger Clemens going to find a job?
#20 Cincinnati Reds (Dartboard Factor = 76, 74): New arrivals Edinson Volquez, Francisco Cordero and Jeremy Affeldt are doing their best to keep the Reds staff afloat, but when you have Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. patrolling your outfield it wouldn't matter if you had Tris Speaker in center, that's going to be a bad defensive unit.
#21 Kansas City Royals (Dartboard Factor = 73, 67): The Royals pitchers aged 27 and under, notably Bannister, Greinke, Hochevar, Soria, Ramirez, Nunez and Gobble have all been extremely solid for the team, which bodes well for their future. The same trend is somewhat true with the hitters since their best hitter is Alex Gordon (24) and Billy Butler (22) and Mark Teahen (26) are no slouches.
#22 Detroit Tigers (Dartboard Factor = 72, 75): In 106 combined innings, Jeremy Bonderman and Justin Verlander have allowed 15 homeruns, walked 57 and struck out 63. With Andrew Miller is now plying his trade in Florida, the questions about Detroit's rotations of the future (not to mention the present) are more pertinent than ever.
#23 Minnesota Twins (Dartboard Factor = 71, 69): It's not often you see a position split like Craig Monroe's. He's actually provided a solid bat for the Twins in the designated hitter role, something they've lacked over the past few years, but yet he's also started five games in centerfield when Carlos Gomez has been unavailable or resting. You'd think that if the Twins though Craig Monroe was capable of handling centerfield, they would at least start him regularly somewhere in the field to perhaps give Delmon Young a little more time in the minors?
#24 Milwaukee Brewers (Dartboard Factor = 71, 69): Congrats on a fantastic deal by Doug Melvin in locking up Ryan Braun. Now if he try drawing a walk now and then. Then again, that's not going to help Milwaukee's league worst pitching FIP.
#25 Pittsburgh Pirates (Dartboard Factor = 70, 71): The Pirates still hold one of the best offensive outfields in the league with Nady, McLouth and Bay all holding OBPs over .380 and all slugging over .480, but the hoped for young hurlers haven't been up to the task much this year and they're getting no help from the defense.
#26 Colorado Rockies (Dartboard Factor = 68, 73): When you main middle infielders put up a combined OPS+ of approximately 0, you have some pretty big problems. The Rockies have scored the fourth fewest runs per game while playing in Coors Field. That's another big sign that your offense is doing much right. Of course, the pitching (4.41 FIP to league average 4.23) and below average DER aren't helping either.
#27 San Diego Padres (Dartboard Factor = 65, 64): The Padres are scoring 3.41 runs per game compared to the league's average of 4.63. Even with the adjustment for their home park, the Padres' offense is posting a superb 83 OPS+. How good would Adrian Gonzalez's offense look if he were still in Texas instead of San Diego?
#28 San Francisco Giants (Dartboard Factor = 65, 65): The third member of the NL West down near the bottom of the rankings. So much for what was looking to be a highly competitive division, though nobody expected the Giants to be part of the discussion so at least this one is no surprise. Zito drops to 0-8 after another poor outing allowing 14 baserunners, six via walk, in just five innings.
#29 Seattle Mariners (Dartboard Factor = 64, 62): Still blessed with a healthy dose of bad luck, but it's not keeping this team from contending only from hanging closer to .500 and with Jeff Clement and Wladimir Balentien up and playing more everyday, there's not much more they can do except sit still and hope that they're returned in kind with good luck for their bad luck or further gut their farm system for more ill-conceived short-term gains.
#30 Washington Nationals (Dartboard Factor = 60, 59): Naturally Nick Johnson heads back to the shelf. Leaving Aaron Boone as the first baseman and de facto best hitter on the Nationals. Wait, Aaron Boone is still playing?
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 - 96
Devil Rays - 93
Blue Jays - 82
Orioles - 81
Yankees - 81
White Sox - 88
Indians - 82
Royals - 73
Tigers - 72
Twins - 71
Athletics - 91
Rangers - 83
Angels - 80
Mariners - 64
Braves - 96
Marlins - 91
Phillies - 85
Mets - 85
Nationals - 60
Cubs - 104
Cardinals - 90
Astros - 77
Reds - 76
Brewers - 71
Pirates - 70
Diamondbacks - 101
Dodgers - 87
Rockies - 68
Padres - 65
Giants - 65
Matthew Carruth is an editor for The Hardball Times. He welcomes any and all sorts of communication at his email.
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