THT Dartboard: July 1, 2007

Dartboard
Divisional Picture


Dartboard

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 Boston Red Sox (Dartboard Factor = 102, 105): Daisuke Matsuzaka (whose ERA is back under 4) and Hideki Okajima are 1-2 on the Red Sox in Pitching Runs Created (PRC). On the other side, Julio Lugo is losing at bats to Alex Cora. Rejoice Red Sox Nation, only another 3.5 years of Lugo to endure! Also Doug Mirabelli is keeping Lugo company in the horrible zone, likely to the delight of Padre fans.

#2 Los Angeles Angels (Dartboard Factor = 97, 98): Brandon Wood is petering out a bit in AAA, his OPS now residing just north of .800 while calling a hitter’s park home. Coupled with his troublesome strikeout rate, there’s reason for patience at anointing him the next great thing on the left side of the infield. Meanwhile, how do Angel fans feel about year one of Gary Matthews Jr.?

#3 Detroit Tigers (Dartboard Factor = 95, 95): Kenny Rogers returns to work with a bang while Andrew Miller, he of impossibly high groundball rates in the minor leagues, finds himself with mediocre rates in the bigs and low strikeout rates to boot. Any Detroit prospects have an idea what’s going on there?

#4 New York Mets (Dartboard Factor = 93, 91): Carlos Beltran is brekaing out of his slump, which is key because the Mets are sorely lacking a load carrying bat right now. That is, unless they’re perfectly confident in Orlando Hernandez, John Maine and Oliver Perez continuing to throw out ERAs at 3.00.

#5 San Diego Padres (Dartboard Factor = 93, 93): Every team in the majors sans the Padres has allowed over 300 runs so far. The Padres are at 266. I know I mention it every week, but it’s just flat out amazing and it’s not getting enough press play. David Wells is the only pitcher with significant innings pitched with an ERA over 4. Sick. Plus Mike Cameron has come back around, lending some needed offense.

#6 Cleveland Indians (Dartboard Factor = 93, 93): Joe Borowski isn’t as bad as he’s been made to look as his defense and luck are not doing him any favors while he’s allowed just eight walks and three homeruns in 30 innings. Behind the plate, Kelly Shoppach and Victor Martinez are the best catching duo in the bigs and it’s not really close.

#7 Los Angeles Dodgers (Dartboard Factor = 92, 91): Nomar Garciaparra has seemed to take the move to 3B with a rejuvenated offense, granted small sample sizes, but getting James Loney into the lineup is long overdue. The Dodgers are going to need a longterm answer at 3B though. Alex Rodriguez anyone? Too bad Colletti blew all that money on Juan Pierre. Good thing you ran DePodesta out of office Plaschke.

#8 Milwaukee Brewers (Dartboard Factor = 91, 89): Ben Sheets is rolling, David Bush is coming around and the offense continues to power the Brew Crew forward. Ryan Braun might just shut me up about his strikeout rate if he keeps this up week-to-week. If they can get Rickie Weeks going, you can put a nail in that coffin of the NL Central.

#9 Oakland Athletics (Dartboard Factor = 88, 92): Jack Cust burst onto the scene, smacked a ton of homeruns, the pitchers adjusted and now it appears that Cust is adjusting back. Dan Haren continues to roll over the American League and make the Mark Mulder trade look as bad for the Cardinals as the Tim Hudson trade looks for the As. Rich Harden returns to duty in the pen and promptly gets hurt again, but has since taken the hill again out of relief.

#10 New York Yankees (Dartboard Factor = 88, 92): Wow have they been bad in close games. 7-23 by our metrics. They have a +60 run differential, and it is legit, but just no ability to close out games with just 10 saves in 22 opportunities. The staff’s dead last in MLB strikeout rate might be the culprit.

#11 Atlanta Braves (Dartboard Factor = 86, 83): Tim Hudson has slashed his walk rate, upped his groundball rate over 60% and has allowed a mere 4 home runs all season, running an impossibly low 5.5 HR/FB rate. It will regress, but overall, it’s an across the board improvement for the 31-year old. If Huddy manages another eight years like his first eight, are we looking at a hall of famer? He will have some impressive stats, both rate and cumulative, around 250 wins and with some continued luck, nary a losing record on his ledger. All things that will probably still be over-valued 15 years down the line by the voting committee.

#12 Seattle Mariners (Dartboard Factor = 86, 82): J.J. Putz is the best closer in baseball and George Sherrill might be the best left-handed RP in baseball. Just a deadly deadly combo at the end of games. Oh and they have 5 other relievers with ERAs at 4.00 or below. At the plate, Richie Sexson is beginning his annual summer turnaround and Ichiro Suzuki continues his monster season. He’s the MVP of the league if the season ended right now. The Ms also have three hitters with OPSs over .900 in AAA.

#13 Chicago Cubs (Dartboard Factor = 85, 81): I cannot figure out Jason Marquis. His walk rate is up for the fourth consecutive year, but this time paired with a reversal of his declining strikeout rate and a return to his normal groundball rates. His ERA is going to rise though as he is not going to maintain a .244 BABIP all year. Likewise for Rich Hill and his .242.

#14 Minnesota Twins (Dartboard Factor = 84, 80): Fourth in a row on this list of teams using well-timed winning streaks to climb into the playoff picture. The Twins has four legitimate hitters in Torii Hunter, Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer and Michael Cuddyer. After that, they have hogwash, but when you have Johan Santana and Pat Neshek (and Joe Nathan doing his Joe Nathan thing), then I guess you can compete while having a black hole at 5 lineup spots.

#15 Toronto Blue Jays (Dartboard Factor = 83, 83): Roy Halladay played right into the Mariners offense’s hands by throwing them strikes and as a result the Blue Jays are coming close to surrendering second place in the east to the Yankees. Is that or Vernon Wells near .700 OPS more depressing to Blue Jay fans?

#16 Arizona Diamondbacks (Dartboard Factor = 82, 83): Their run differential is mediocre, but they lack some runs scored due to poor performance with runners in scoring position that is out of alignment with their overall skill level. Meanwhile, Brandon Webb‘s lauded groundball rate has slipped about five percent from his established level. It’s not affecting the rest of his peripherals yet, so we’ll see how this plays out.

#17 Baltimore Orioles (Dartboard Factor = 80, 81): I will always have a soft spot for Brian Roberts, who I drafted in nearly every fantasy league in 2005 for his underratedness and his stolen bases. His 2005 season almost single-handedly propelled me to 5 wins in 8 leagues. It’s nice to see him doing well after a slump in 2006. Meanwhile, Erik Bedard has not only seemed to figure out how to stay healthy, but is striking out the world right now.

#18 Philadelphia Phillies (Dartboard Factor = 80, 81): The sweet comforts of home. The Phillies look all set to once again finish third in the NL East, above .500, but a solid couple of games out of both the divisional and wild card races. Playing in the bandbox that they do, they really need to get a more groundball oriented pitching staff. They are yielding home runs at a rate 30% higher than league average and it’s the only thing holding Cole Hamels back from domination.

#19 Colorado Rockies (Dartboard Factor = 76, 82): If they had a centerfielder up to par with their cornermen, the Rockies would have a claim on the Reds as the best offensive outfield in the bigs, but they don’t so they don’t. Jason Hirsh is finding out what life at Coors (even humidified Coors) is like for a guy with a groundball rate below 30%.

#20 Florida Marlins (Dartboard Factor = 74, 78): Match the Marlins infield up with the Reds outfield and you’d have a historically great offense and a historically bad defense. Mike Jacobs/Aaron Boone, Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera all hold .800-plus OPSs, but with a revised zone rating of just .722 (worst in the bigs, and it’s hard to edge out their Florida-mates in Tampa) to a league average of .781 they are butchering grounders on a laughable scale.

#21 San Francisco Giants (Dartboard Factor = 74, 75): Matt Morris on the trading block? I don’t know what I would do in Brian Sabean’s place. On one hand, the team desperately needs a face lift. On the other, the only man they have on offense (and what a man) is not long for the team.

#22 Texas Rangers (Dartboard Factor = 70, 69): How is Brandon McCarthy, he of the 32.9% groundball rate, allowing less than one homerun per game in TBiA? Keep an eye on this as the summer goes on and Texas heats up (the state, not the team, they’re going nowhere). McCarthy’s low homerun rate is the only thing keeping him alive right now as he’s walking almost five a game. By the way, if Alex Rodriguez opts out of his contract after this season, how much money does Texas end up saving?

#23 Kansas City Royals (Dartboard Factor = 70, 66): Hey hey Royals! Look at where you are now. Nipping on the White Sox heels for fourth in the AL Central and nearing the middle third of our rankings. Gil Meche is surprising everyone in the world sans Dayton Moore and Alex Gordon is heating up again.

#24 St Louis Cardinals (Dartboard Factor = 69, 67): Mike Maroth debuts reasonably well and Troy Percival returns to action and notches a win his first inning out. The problem is that they’re still just Albert Pujols on offense. They have quite a bit to build around, so they should be able to bounce back to contention quickly with some good foresight.

#25 Chicago White Sox (Dartboard Factor = 69, 68): So first Mark Buehrle wants to sign with St. Louis after this year and now he wants to remain a White Sock? Color me confused. Anyways, around 10 GMs other than Kenny Williams wait with bated breath to see how this all pans out. Matt Thornton is back to being awful again. Order has been restored in the universe.

#26 Tampa Bay Devil Rays (Dartboard Factor = 68, 70): The Elijah Dukes saga peters out without much resolution; no trade as expected, so for now we’ll wait. Besides Okajima, Akinori Iwamura is clearly the crop of the many Japanese imports this season when you factor in performance to salary. Also Raul Casanova finds himself back with a major league job. Why?

#27 Cincinnati Reds (Dartboard Factor = 66, 69): Despite the range of a beached whale, the outfield trio of Ken Griffey Jr., Adam Dunn and Josh Hamilton might be the most productive offensively in the majors with all three posting OPSs above .900. But whew, boy, that defense. Since they’re not getting anything out of them offensively anyways, the Reds would be best off going for four glove men on the infield and seeing what they can do.

#28 Houston Astros (Dartboard Factor = 65, 66): Chris Sampson has pitched nearly 100 innings while striking out less than four batters a game. That only works if your Chien-Ming Wang and Sampson is no groundballer. It’s time to admit the Jason Jennings trade was a bust and blow this team up and build around Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee.

#29 Pittsburgh Pirates (Dartboard Factor = 64, 62): Well, so much for the fan protest walk-out as the Pirates manage to show up for a change and the planned walk-out fizzled. What does a fan walk-out actually accomplish anyways? You still bought your ticket. Organizing a protest outside the stadium seems more effective since it would not be profiting the people that you are protesting in the first place. On the field, what’s up with Jason Bay? Nothing seems to have dramatically changed in his peripherals, but his triple slash stats (.266/.342/.452) are well below average for him.

#30 Washington Nationals (Dartboard Factor = 63, 65): Who’s going to be the Nationals token all-star? Will it be Dmitri Young or Christian Guzman? Both are having legitimately good seasons on offense. Or maybe one of the many relievers that are performing well. If this team had about 3 more good starting pitchers and 5 more decent hitters, they could be right up there in the AL East.


Divisional Picture

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.

AL EAST
Red Sox – 102
Yankees – 88
Blue Jays – 83
Orioles – 80
Devil Rays – 68

AL CENTRAL
Tigers – 95
Indians – 93
Twins – 84
Royals – 70
White Sox – 69

AL WEST
Angels – 97
Athletics – 88
Mariners – 86
Rangers – 70

AL WILD CARD
Indians – 93
Athletics – 88
Yankees – 88
Mariners – 86
Twins – 84
Blue Jays – 83

NL EAST
Mets – 93
Braves – 86
Phillies – 80
Marlins – 74
Nationals – 63

NL CENTRAL
Brewers – 91
Cubs – 85
Cardinals – 69
Reds – 66
Astros – 65
Pirates – 64

NL WEST
Padres – 93
Dodgers – 92
Diamondbacks – 82
Rockies – 76
Giants – 74

NL WILD CARD
Dodgers – 92
Braves – 86
Cubs – 85
Diamondbacks – 82

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