A hearty thank you to Comcast for leaving me without an internet connection at home for the better part of the day. As such, it’s going to be a comment-light Dartboard this week. I am just going to briefly go through a snapshot of the what the next five years might look like for each team. My apologies, please address all complaints to Comcast Digital Services, I’m sure they’ll be happy to schedule a a four-hour block of time in which they may or may not show up and pretend to care.
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 = 99, 99): Juggernaut for now, could see significant dropoff in a few years as Ramirez and Ortiz age and remove the last remnants of the Red Sox offensive core.
#2 Los Angeles Angels (Dartboard Factor = 95, 96): Solid team in the present, but still desperately need offense. Their huge crop of can’t miss prospects have been mostly so-so, a byproduct of their friendly hitting confines in the minors creating more hype than value, but their still set up in a good way to compete for quite awhile.
#3 Cleveland Indians (Dartboard Factor = 94, 93): An interesting mix of players leads one to wonder just what the Indians future might look like. They play in a tough division (everyone in the AL does) and they need to find someone more reliable to close out games, but they’re getting it done and there’s no obvious source of decline.
#4 New York Yankees (Dartboard Factor = 94, 92): They’re starting to mix in youth and that’s a positive step, but one can only wonder if the Yankees early season woes, mostly due to injury, are a sign of things to come over the next year or two until the youngsters are ready to shoulder more of the load.
#5 New York Mets (Dartboard Factor = 92, 91): A young dynamic offensive core surrounds a shaky pitching staff that’s survived based off guile and defense. As long as the bats keep showing up and they bring their gloves with them, the Mets should stay competitive in the not-so-competitive NL.
#6 Arizona Diamondbacks (Dartboard Factor = 89, 89): Loads of young offensive talent, but they, like almost everyone else, needs to get some pitching to pair up with Brandon Webb. Looks to be a solid contender in the future.
#7 Detroit Tigers (Dartboard Factor = 89, 88): Great young starters and a mix of young and old on offense they could use some preemptive patching. Should be a solid team.
#8 San Diego Padres (Dartboard Factor = 88, 89): Great pitching, great defense, odd mix on offense. They’re going to loose some performance from departing players and age, and their farm system isn’t up to par with Arizona, LA or Colorado, but as long as Jake Peavy is healthy, the Padres are going to be in the discussion.
#9 Seattle Mariners (Dartboard Factor = 87, 85): Who’s managing next year? Not just on the field but in the front office. No team might have more riding on those two questions than the Ms. If the same pair that currently man those spots return for 2008, they’re going to hard pressed to do any better. With more innovative thinkers manning those posts, the Mariners have plenty of talent to be a force in the AL.
#10 Los Angeles Dodgers (Dartboard Factor = 86, 86): They just don’t quite have enough this year and that Wilson Betemit trade was horrendously stupid, but the Dodgers are so loaded with talent that they’ll stay afloat in the West over the next few years with ease.
#11 Philadelphia Phillies (Dartboard Factor = 85, 84): The shelf life of Pat Gillick teams has never been that long so we’ll see how it unfolds for Philadelphia over the long haul, but hey, at least they have Cole Hamels right? Now if they would just push those fences back a bit.
#12 Atlanta Braves (Dartboard Factor = 84, 84): Is Mark Teixeira going to stick around? How much longer can John Smoltz keep it up? Those are important questions for the Braves long term viability, but in the short term they should be able to stick at least at the level they are right now.
#13 Colorado Rockies (Dartboard Factor = 84, 84): Young and getting better every year, the Rockies are somewhat like the Devil Rays with an extra year or two of development. Expect to see some fascinating battles between new stars in the NL West over the next 5 years.
#14 Chicago Cubs (Dartboard Factor = 82, 81): Plenty of talent and gobs of payroll for the NL Central should keep the Cubs near the top through the end of this decade, but it’s a question of when, not if, those big contracts start really hurting them.
#15 Toronto Blue Jays (Dartboard Factor = 82, 84): If Halladay and Burnett decide to rejoin the party that is Toronto’s good pitching rotation, they could have something special, assuming that they don’t blow up their defense (tops in the AL). They can be playoff worthy as soon as next season. Especially if Vernon Wells rebounds.
#16 Milwaukee Brewers (Dartboard Factor = 80, 81): A good group of kids and veteran role players have the Brewers in position to hold onto being at or near the top of the NL Central for the next few years.
#17 Oakland Athletics (Dartboard Factor = 80, 79): King Richard the Broken-Harden continued to earn his namesake this season. A lot of Oakland’s future success will ride on how many starts they manage to get out of him. With a mostly depleted farm system, the A’s better hope that they have enough talent now to compete because reinforcements are going to be hard to come by. Right now, I’m not really seeing it.
#18 Minnesota Twins (Dartboard Factor = 79, 79): With Terry Ryan stepping down, might we finally see the Twins deal pitching for hitting? Or stop acquiring washed up black holes of offense to occupy traditional power positions? The Twins need to do something if they intend to keep Santana hanging around the Minneapolis.
#19 Texas Rangers (Dartboard Factor = 77, 78): Equally mediocre at hitting and pitching, the Rangers are locked into some expensive mistakes (Millwood, Young) and GM Jon Daniels seems to alternate making great and quizzical trades. The Rangers have a lot of work ahead of them, but their cause isn’t hopeless in the AL Wesy. A big first step would be finding a way to upgrade that defense.
#20 St Louis Cardinals (Dartboard Factor = 75, 78): A lot depends on Chris Carpenter. The Cardinals need to get actual players in to complement Pujols, we’ll see if Ankiel and Duncan are the start of that process.
#21 San Francisco Giants (Dartboard Factor = 74, 74): They’re already bad and they’re going to lose Bonds at some point. Furthermore, the other NL West teams are all better right now and have great systems. Doomed.
#22 Cincinnati Reds (Dartboard Factor = 74, 73): A lot of decisions are going to be made this offseason and the Reds could throw it to the wind and make a big time push in 2008 or they could focus on 2010 and make great strides towards building to success then. We’ll have to wait and see.
#23 Baltimore Orioles (Dartboard Factor = 72, 72): They play in the AL East and they don’t have anything near the bevy of talent that the Rays do, nor the payroll of the leaders in Boston and New York. They are further handicapped by having a do-nothing owner. I just don’t see anything materializing for the Orioles in the near future.
#24 Pittsburgh Pirates (Dartboard Factor = 71, 69): They have the young pitching, if they can keep it on the field, and some interesting hitters. If this were three weeks ago I would say the Pirates have some individual reasons to watch, but none as a team, but with the firing of Dave Littlefield, there’s a chance the Pirate ship can be prevented from further water damage.
#25 Chicago White Sox (Dartboard Factor = 71, 70): The only two players they have that can hit are old and occupy 1B and DH. They’ve extended Ozzie Guillen through forever and flat out just don’t have the talent to compete right now. They could hang around a playoff race over the next year or two, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them sink below the Royals and occupy last place in the Central for a few years.
#26 Washington Nationals (Dartboard Factor = 70, 71): They’ve already been gutted, now it’s just going to take time to slowly rebuild, which at least they are actually doing. They’re at least 3 years away.
#27 Kansas City Royals (Dartboard Factor = 70, 71): Some positive steps were taken this year and they have some potential on the offensive side the ball, but the pitching looks bereft for the time being and that’s not going to cut it in the AL Central. They’re a few years off.
#28 Florida Marlins (Dartboard Factor = 70, 69): Staggeringly bad defense, no fan support, pitching that’s almost universally injured and with what few established stars they do have getting nearer all the time to being too expensive to keep, the Marlins don’t have much of a future until they get this ballpark/city thing sorted out.
#29 Houston Astros (Dartboard Factor = 68, 69): They need to tear almost the entire team apart and start from scratch. Then again, they reside in the NL Central, so they could make the playoffs next year by getting to 80 wins.
#30 Tampa Bay Devil Rays (Dartboard Factor = 68, 68): The hitting is already there and going to get better. If they figure out how to field the ball and the pitching comes together, the Rays could be very interesting as early as 2008.
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 – 99
Yankees – 94
Blue Jays – 82
Orioles – 72
Devil Rays – 68
Indians – 94
Tigers – 89
Twins – 79
White Sox – 71
Royals – 70
Angels – 95
Mariners – 87
Athletics – 80
Rangers – 77
AL WILD CARD
Yankees – 94
Tigers – 89
Mets – 92
Phillies – 85
Braves – 84
Nationals – 70
Marlins – 70
Cubs – 82
Brewers – 80
Cardinals – 75
Reds – 74
Pirates – 71
Astros – 68
Diamondbacks – 89
Padres – 88
Dodgers – 86
Rockies – 84
Giants – 74
NL WILD CARD
Padres – 88
Dodgers – 86
Phillies – 85
Braves – 84
Rockies – 84