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 = 102, 104): The Cardinals continue to put up a nominal threat for now, but based on talent they’re likely not going to hang around with the Cubs all season. Coupled with Gallardo’s injury and the Cubs should be able to coast to October with ease.
#2 Tampa Bay Devil Rays (Dartboard Factor = 98, 94): They’re not going away folks. The young bats and arms may slump now and then, but they say that defense never slumps and Tampa holds one of the best in the AL which is going to continue to keep their pitching staffs in games and give chances for the bats to come through as they have this weekend against Chicago.
#3 Boston Red Sox (Dartboard Factor = 96, 100): Boston slips below Tampa in both the real standings and the dartboard this week. Will it keep up? Injuries to Daisuke Matsuzaka and David Ortiz are not going to help Boston and Daisuke’s injury especially is worrisome as any issue with the rotator cuff has the potential to magnify into something major.
#4 Atlanta Braves (Dartboard Factor = 92, 95): Two more one run losses away from home make it four out of the last five on this road trip and a remarkable 20 consecutive losses in one run road games. The Braves are also the only team in the senior circuit currently allowing fewer than four runs per game.
#5 Arizona Diamondbacks (Dartboard Factor = 91, 98): The Diamondbacks are suffering from both a recent bout of bad play but also get knocked in the dartboard due to their patsy schedule as their fellow division mates have decided to put up zero competition. We might as well pencil Arizona and Chicago into the playoffs already.
#6 Chicago White Sox (Dartboard Factor = 91, 92): With a an OPS over .900 for the week, Orlando Cabrera has started the trek back to respectability while Alexei Ramirez has usurped some 2B duties from Juan Uribe.
#7 Oakland Athletics (Dartboard Factor = 90, 92): Four straight starts for Rich Harden? It seems like a luxury at this point. And while Frank Thomas is sitting on the DL, I think we can put to rest any thoughts on him being finished for at least a while with his .319/.417/.516 line in Oakland.
#8 Toronto Blue Jays (Dartboard Factor = 90, 86): Witness what happens when you pair the best defense in baseball with one of the best pitching staffs to boot; a baseball leading 3.55 runs allowed per game. Remarkably, there are four AL teams allowing under four runs a game while Atlanta, as mentioned above, is the lone NL club to achieve that feat.
#9 Philadelphia Phillies (Dartboard Factor = 90, 86): A noteworthy healthy staff having used just the original five starters for the first two months and only seven pitchers have appeared in the bullpen. And of those seven relievers, the worst ERA+ among the group belongs to Clay Condrey at 96.
#10 St Louis Cardinals (Dartboard Factor = 89, 90): It’s a good thing the Cardinals play solid defense because the only position players who are excelling with the bat are Albert Pujols, Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick.
#11 Florida Marlins (Dartboard Factor = 87, 89): The infield is mashing and the outfield is playing enough defense to cover for the butchers up the middle in Hanley and Uggla. Keep an eye on that rotation though as they boast one of baseball’s worst strikeout ratios. Scott Olsen in particular is not likely to maintain an ERA below 4 while walking as many as he’s striking out.
#12 New York Mets (Dartboard Factor = 83, 78): Suffice to say that Billy Wagner still has it going strong. 23 innings, 28 strikeouts coupled with just 14 hits, four walks and one homerun help lead to a 0.39 ERA and a ridiculous 1036 ERA+.
#13 Texas Rangers (Dartboard Factor = 83, 83): The bats are blowing everyone else in the American League out of the water but the pitching staff owns the AL’s worst strikeout rate and the second highest walk rate. And to top it off, they hold the AL’s third worst defense.
#14 New York Yankees (Dartboard Factor = 83, 82): Maybe it’s a New York thing, but Mariano Rivera is showing no sign of quit either. 25 innings, 24 strikeouts to just 11 hits, two walks and zero homeruns have him at a 0.36 ERA and an even better 1118 ERA+. They sure need someone or three to step up in the rotation though.
#15 Los Angeles Angels (Dartboard Factor = 82, 81): The pitching staff has regressed pretty heavily this season. Even those with supposed success like K-Rod has a strikeout to walk ratio of just 21 to 16. Jered Weaver has a solid ratio and Ervin Santana has been phenomenal but everyone else in the rotation has been mediocre or worse.
#16 Los Angeles Dodgers (Dartboard Factor = 81, 84): A big time power outage going on in Los Angeles as the Dodgers are dead last in the National League in both doubles and homeruns. Luckily the pitching staff is equally proficient at limiting the homeruns, tops in the NL with just 39 allowed.
#17 Milwaukee Brewers (Dartboard Factor = 81, 76): It’s looking more and more likely that the Brewers are just not going to be there come the stretch drive in August and September. They were struck too big a blow by the slow start and the injury to Gallardo so the question becomes what they do regarding Ben Sheets, free agent to be. He could be a huge addition to a playoff contending team.
#18 Houston Astros (Dartboard Factor = 77, 79): The Astros are second to last in drawing walks and their pitchers are dead last in allowing homeruns, a whopping 81 to contrast with the Dodgers above.
#19 Baltimore Orioles (Dartboard Factor = 77, 79): Along with the Rays and Royals, Oriole pitchers are among the best in the American League in limiting tough batted balls so far in 2008. A very low 16% line drive rate allowed compared to the league average of 18% helps explain the difference between a team FIP of 4.67 and a team ERA of 4.09.
#20 Cincinnati Reds (Dartboard Factor = 77, 74): Ken Griffey Jr. is now on the verge of 600. He’s had a fantastic career and who knows what could have been if he had been able to stay healthy in his early 30s but unless he’s putting up a 110 OPS+ or so his defense is so detrimental to make him a replacement level, or worse, player.
#21 Pittsburgh Pirates (Dartboard Factor = 76, 69): The Pirates do one thing well and that’s outfield offense. Other than that, it’s a remarkable show of mediocrity with little offense, bad pitching and horrendous defense. Pittsburgh is on the right track with some good young talent and finally a competent front office, but it’s going to take a few years to overcome the decade plus of damage done by the old regimes.
#22 Cleveland Indians (Dartboard Factor = 76, 75): Beside Grady Sizemore, the only Indian regular with an OPS+ north of 100 is Jhonny Peralta at 103 and he has an on base percentage of just .294. The Indians as whole are hitting .234 with just a .315 OBP and .371 slugging percentage.
#23 Detroit Tigers (Dartboard Factor = 75, 75): Take everything about the Indians and reverse it. Now you have the Tigers. The problem isn’t with the bats it’s with the horrible pitching. At least they’ve taken good steps to correct their defensive issues. The shifting of Miguel Cabrera was a start and giving playing time to Matthew Joyce was a solid second step.
#24 Minnesota Twins (Dartboard Factor = 72, 72): Francisco Liriano has made seven Triple-A starts now. In 41 innings down there he has just 26 strikeouts against 17 walks. Last time around in Triple-A back in 2005, Liriano struck out 33% of every batter faced. So far this year he’s down to 15%. Either he’s not healthy or he’s not coming back.
#25 San Francisco Giants (Dartboard Factor = 68, 67): Dead last in the American League in drawing walks. It’s too bad they couldn’t add any hitters that are remarkably good at drawing walks. And maybe hitting homeruns which could help out their second-worst team homerun total.
#26 San Diego Padres (Dartboard Factor = 67, 65): Good wishes to Chris Young in a full recovery from his scary skull fracture. Meanwhile, is Kevin Towers going to be spinning off Greg Maddux and Randy Wolf? The Padres are obviously not contending this year with that offense and both pitchers are productive and on one-year deals.
#27 Washington Nationals (Dartboard Factor = 64, 64): The Nationals didn’t just turn a February minor league contract invitee into an Opening Day start in Odalis Perez; he’s turned into a reasonably solid starter. More proof that adequate pitching talent is all around you if you know what to look for.
#28 Colorado Rockies (Dartboard Factor = 64, 70): This is what happens when you drop seven straight, the Rockies third streak of at least five losses in 2008. Todd Helton continues to toil away drawing his walks and hitting near .300.
#29 Kansas City Royals (Dartboard Factor = 64, 70): Of course five straight losses has nothing on the Royals and their 12 straight losses until finally beating C.C. Sabathia and the Indians 4-2 yesterday and added a 6-1 win today to get two-thirds of the way toward a winning streak.
#30 Seattle Mariners (Dartboard Factor = 60, 58): The worst defensive team in the majors and manager John McLaren continues to use Raul Ibanez in leftfield and start Miguel Cairo at first and Jose Vidro at DH while Jeremy Reed and his solid glove sits on the bench and watches. The Mariners deserve this ranking.
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.
Devil Rays – 98
Red Sox – 96
Blue Jays – 90
Yankees – 83
Orioles – 77
White Sox – 91
Indians – 76
Tigers – 75
Twins – 72
Royals – 64
Athletics – 90
Rangers – 83
Angels – 82
Mariners – 60
Braves – 92
Phillies – 90
Marlins – 87
Mets – 83
Nationals – 64
Cubs – 102
Cardinals – 89
Brewers – 81
Astros – 77
Reds – 77
Pirates – 76
Diamondbacks – 91
Dodgers – 81
Giants – 68
Padres – 67
Rockies – 64