THT Dartboard: July 15, 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 = 100, 101): Their staff is the best in the league ranked by FIP and their offense is the most patient in the AL. Meanwhile, Manny Ramirez (.856 OPS) is starting to creep back up towards his normal production levels.

#2 Detroit Tigers (Dartboard Factor = 97, 97): The team is hitting .290 as a whole, but a whopping .326 with runners in scoring position. That is unlikely to hold up and the Tiger’s run scoring abilities should decrease accordingly. Also, Magglio Ordonez has a BABIP far outstripping what you expect given his line drive rate. It’s a good offense, but I would not be surprised to see their run-scoring fall off by a half-run a game over the next month or so.

#3 Los Angeles Angels (Dartboard Factor = 94, 93): The hit the fewest percentage of line drives of any team in the league, but they couple that with an above average groundball rate which helps buoy their team BABIP above .300. It probably still is a touch higher than you would expect and their ERA is also better than you would expect given their FIP and averageness of the defense. They face a demanding stretch beginning at the end of July that should help up get a better read on just how good the team really is.

#4 Cleveland Indians (Dartboard Factor = 94, 94): They are powered by the AL’s best strikeout-to-walk ratio on the pitching side (barely ahead of division counterpart Minnesota), the staff is only around league average in terms of runs allowed owing some lackluster defense and more homeruns allowed than expected.

#5 Los Angeles Dodgers (Dartboard Factor = 92, 90): Yeah, James Loney (1.046 OPS) is better than Nomar Garciaparra (.652), good move there. Not that they do not have better options at 3B than Nomar as well in Wilson Betemit (.846) and even Andy LaRoche (.700).

#6 Seattle Mariners (Dartboard Factor = 90, 89): Little talked about has been Kenji Johjima‘s defensive improvements. The Mariners have allowed the second fewest stolen bases in the AL and have thrown out an above average 31% of would be assailants. Meanwhile, their defensive rating as a whole, which was down around 30 plays below average about a month ago, is regressing towards the rest of the league, up to 23 plays below average now. If they can find a way to fit Adam Jones into the outfield, it should accelerate its’ pace upwards.

#7 New York Mets (Dartboard Factor = 90, 89): Rickey Henderson hilarity aside, the Mets could use a healthy Pedro Martinez back as so far what looks like good pitching is almost completely the credit of the Mets defense, which is incredible all over the field. They could also use Carlos Beltran back his 2006 levels to avoid the Braves and Phillies.

#8 San Diego Padres (Dartboard Factor = 90, 91): The pitching hits a rough spot and the team ERA jumps over 3 all the way up to 3.16. With the departure of Ichiro Suzuki and Vernon Wells from the offseason centerfield free agent market, I wonder what kind of deal Mike Cameron is going to command.

#9 Milwaukee Brewers (Dartboard Factor = 89, 89): Ryan Braun (1.085 OPS, 13 HRs) is officially a monster. The kind of upgrade the Brewers made at 3B from Tony Graffanino and Craig Counsell to Braun is like replacing your slap hitting SS with Albert Pujols. Just the kind of move that should shore up the Brewers position atop the NL Central for the remainder of the season.

#10 New York Yankees (Dartboard Factor = 89, 89): Alex Rodriguez opting out of his contract would save the Rangers $30 million. Note to other writers: A-Rod’s original contract was not a mistake. It is often that you will see the biggest star, or highest paid player draw the lion’s share of the blame when the team doesn’t perform. It’s flat out lazy and in this case flat out wrong. Alex Rodriguez played up to his contract in Texas. It was the huge amounts of money paid out on the like of Chan Ho Park that torpedoed the Rangers.

#11 Atlanta Braves (Dartboard Factor = 88, 86): I guess it is safe to say at this point that Kelly Johnson (.854 OPS) was the right move over Marcus Giles (.649 OPS). They continue to hang around the playoff hunt and 2006 not withstanding, it is a team that I would be worried about, especially if they can figure out a consistent starter behind Tim Hudson and John Smoltz.

#12 Chicago Cubs (Dartboard Factor = 85, 84): Behold Carlos Marmol with a 0.92 ERA and an absurd 13.7 strikeouts per 9 innings. However, he’s stranding 94.2% of baserunners and that’s just not likely to continue at such a high rate. And with just 24.7% of at bats resulting in a groundball, you could see that ERA rise in a hurry when some of those many flyballs land over the wall instead of in an outfielder’s glove with runners on base.

#13 Minnesota Twins (Dartboard Factor = 85, 83): With a three game sweep of the Athletics the Twins begin to move into wildcard consideration at the same time that they eliminate Oakland from the same race. A lot depends on how the starters behind Johan Santana perform. The Twins are a far better bet to repeat their second half surge than Oakland is.

#14 Oakland Athletics (Dartboard Factor = 83, 86): Swept by the Twins and likely right out of the playoff race it is time to consider themselves officially sellers now. Problem is, besides the obvious Mike Piazza, who can the Athletics sell off? Dan Johnson maybe in order to open up a spot for Daric Barton, but that is not a move that I would make.

#15 Toronto Blue Jays (Dartboard Factor = 82, 83): Disappointing seasons from Vernon Wells and Roy Halladay have the Blue Jays in their customary third place. As the Yankees get healthier, I would not be surprised to find third place permanent for the Jays the rest of the way. I would start praying for a healthy return next year of B.J. Ryan and Vernon Wells to recover the 50 points of batting average he’s lost since last year.

#16 Philadelphia Phillies (Dartboard Factor = 81, 79): Greg Dobbs deserves some love for posting a .866 OPS over 187 at bats at third base, helping dull the pain of Wes Helms (.692) and Abraham Nunez (.652). The offense is legit (thanks Citizens Bank!), but the pitching needs a do-over.

#17 Colorado Rockies (Dartboard Factor = 80, 80): Todd Helton (.912) gets his OPS over .900. The slugging seems permanently gone from its heyday, but the average and on base skills are as sharp as ever. The unexpected success of Ryan Spilborghs (.935 OPS) hopefully means much less Willy Taveras in the future.

#18 Arizona Diamondbacks (Dartboard Factor = 78, 77): Eric Byrnes‘ awesomeness aside, the snakes would really like Chris Young (.694 OPS) and Stephen Drew (.662 OPS) get going moreso than they have so far this season.

#19 Baltimore Orioles (Dartboard Factor = 78, 78): Currently stuck in limbo, the Orioles need to face reality and take some bold action to remake the team. Unfortunately, those are two things that will never happen under Peter Angelos. There are some young stars on the team that they can build around, but they need to abandon any idea of competing this year or (likely) the next and focus a little further down the line.

#20 Florida Marlins (Dartboard Factor = 77, 76): Dontrelle Willis trade rumors are flying all over the place as David Samson’s comments about Ichiro’s 5 year, $90 million extension spells doom to any of the (meager) Marlins fans who harbored any type of irrational hope that they would hold onto Miguel Cabrera into free agency.

#21 San Francisco Giants (Dartboard Factor = 73, 75): Brian Sabean gets a two-year extension as GM. Fantastic news for the rest of the NL West. After the Barry Zito contract, why would you not want that guy continuing to run the team? And it’s Ichiro’s extension that will ruin baseball?

#22 Texas Rangers (Dartboard Factor = 72, 73): Can we call a victor in the John DanksBrandon McCarthy trade yet? Perhaps Jon Daniels should refrain from entering the trade market again any time soon. And given the success (note: sarcasm) of Kevin Millwood and Vicente Padilla maybe he should stay away from big-name free agents as well and just stick with signings like Sammy Sosa and Eric Gagne.

#23 Kansas City Royals (Dartboard Factor = 71, 71): Please play John Buck (.884 OPS) more often. Along with Billy Butler, Mark Teahan, Alex Gordon and David DeJesus, there is some foundation in the lineup, but they still need pitching. Gil Meche might be a pleasant surprise so far, but no matter how much you pay him, he cannot occupy more than one rotation slot.

#24 Chicago White Sox (Dartboard Factor = 71, 72): Javier Vazquez has quietly finally put up ERA numbers to match his good FIP numbers from the past few seasons. They finally have a lineup that reflects Ozzie Guillen‘s public statements about ozzieball. Now if they can just get rid of Jim Thome (.984 OPS) and Paul Konerko (.880 OPS) for guys who are better at laying down bunts and hustling, they will really be set.

#25 St Louis Cardinals (Dartboard Factor = 70, 72): Chris Carpenter is on his way back. Color me unenthused. It is not that I don’t think Carpenter represents an improvement. It’s just that with an offense that consists solely of Chris Duncan and Albert Pujols, I don’t see it making much of a difference except to worsen the Cardinals draft position next season.

#26 Cincinnati Reds (Dartboard Factor = 69, 70): So Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn might be on the move away from Cincinnati? I am not seeing where the offense is going to come from afterwards. Homer Bailey (6.99 ERA) has received something of a less than favorable landing in the bigs.

#27 Pittsburgh Pirates (Dartboard Factor = 68, 69): Is Zach Duke finished? His hit rate has skyrocketed and the strikeouts have completely vanished. This isn’t Oliver Perez who just completely lost command, this is regression towards performance that would not fly in AA ball much less the NL.

#28 Houston Astros (Dartboard Factor = 67, 68): Roy Oswalt comes out and says he’s willing to waive his no-trade clause if it would benefit the team. Given that he is signed through 2011 (2012 if traded), methinks this is more of a recognition on his part that the Astros are not going anywhere than a generous gesture. Not that the Astros will take him on it anyways, he’s signed to too good of a contract for the team.

#29 Washington Nationals (Dartboard Factor = 65, 65): Alfonso Soriano part two, sort of. Approaching the trade deadline and with a little tradeable commodities, GM Jim Bowden seems to be asking the moon for the few trading chits he does have. It makes some sense though as letting Soriano walk to the Cubs netted the Nationals Joshua Smoker and Jordan Zimmermann in draft compensation.

#30 Tampa Bay Devil Rays (Dartboard Factor = 64, 64): There’s bad at defense and then there are the Devil Rays. The Mariners possess the second-worst defense efficiency ratio (percentage of balls in play that the defense turns into outs) at 68%. League average is 69.3% and most teams are at that figure plus-or-minus 1%. The Devil Rays are at 65.5%. On average, the Devil Rays defense yields an extra hit per game.


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 – 100
Yankees – 89
Blue Jays – 82
Orioles – 78
Devil Rays – 64

AL CENTRAL
Tigers – 97
Indians – 94
Twins – 85
Royals – 71
White Sox – 71

AL WEST
Angels – 94
Mariners – 90
Athletics – 83
Rangers – 72

AL WILD CARD
Indians – 94
Mariners – 90
Yankees – 89
Twins – 85

NL EAST
Mets – 90
Braves – 88
Phillies – 81
Marlins – 77
Nationals – 65

NL CENTRAL
Brewers – 89
Cubs – 85
Cardinals – 70
Reds – 69
Pirates – 68
Astros – 67

NL WEST
Dodgers – 92
Padres – 90
Rockies – 80
Diamondbacks – 78
Giants – 73

NL WILD CARD
Padres – 90
Braves – 88
Cubs – 85
Phillies – 81
Rockies – 80

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