Well, after the first week of the season, the Orioles, Royals, White Sox, Marlins, and Cardinals either are in first place or hold a share of first place in their respective divisions, but that isn't even the biggest story of the season so far. It's the lowly Detroit Tigers, the only team without a win in baseball.
Since 1903, only 2 teams have made the playoffs after starting 0-5, and none of them went onto the World Series. The Detroit Tigers will look to change that history, but they're not off to a good start.
Their high powered offense is near the bottom of the league in average, slugging, total bases, runs batted in, and runs. Their pitching is near the bottom in ERA, and has allowed the 5th most walks, and only one starter has gone beyond 6 innings, giving their bullpen a lot of work. The offense has looked overly aggressive at the plate, trying to hard and not getting results, while the pitching has looked lost. Their early season woes could be just that, or the Tigers could have been grossly overrated as a team.
As the weather heats up, so will the bats though, as Curtis Granderson will be joining the lineup again soon, and the likes of Magglio Ordonez, Gary Sheffield, and Miguel Cabrera (who will be 25 in a short while...25....he's only 25!!!) will not be held down for long, but the pitching will remain a constant concern until proven elsewise. Justin Verlander will turn it around, but Kenny Rogers is another year older, Nate Robertson has proven ineffective, Dontrelle Willis has been figured out and can't hit the broadside of a barn, and Jeremy Bonderman is a half a season pitcher. Can this rotation and bullpen really keep the Tigers competitive in the AL Central? If they pitch like they have been right now, they'll be fighting for last place, but I don't expect that, but their value has dropped significantly. The Indians are once again the clear-cut favorites to take the Central after week 1, despite a 3-3 record. Why? Well, just read on.
1. Boston Red Sox-Previous Rank 1: I will get a lot of heat for keeping them here, but considering the circumstances, 3-4 isn't bad at all. They got swept by Toronto, but the Blue Jays have always played them strong, and they are just now getting their ace pitcher back. With the travel from Japan to Oakland to Toronto, a nice homestand should be all the Red Sox need to get their season going. Remember, they opened the season at .500 last year after playing the Royals and Rangers, getting their bling on Tuesday will raise their spirits.
2. Toronto Blue Jays-Previous Rank 11: Yes, I have the Blue Jays ranked 2nd because they look that good right now. Roy Halladay, A.J. Burnett, Shaun Marcum, and Dustin McGowan are the best front 4 in baseball. Yea, I said it, they're the best front 4 in baseball. The offense is good, the starting pitching is great, and B.J. Ryan is coming back soon and feels good. AL East, look out, the Blue Jays are for real.
3. Cleveland Indians-Previous Rank 5: Fausto Carmona still looks good, and C.C. looks to be taking a step back?! No, that's not going to happen. It will be tough to replicate either pitchers fantastic 2007s, but they are arguably the best front 1-2 in baseball, and definitely in the AL Central. It's not a matter of if C.C. will turn it around and be the ace he is, it's when. This team is still a top of the line threat all-around, and managing to be 3-3 without Victor Martinez is good enough for now.
4. New York Yankees-Previous Rank 4: Yes, they are 3-3, but they now have an unhittable combination in the 8th and 9th innings. Pettite and Mussina are both another year older, but Wang and Hughes can be solid, and if Kennedy can be decent, they'll have a good rotation. They now feel safe if they have a 1 run lead after the 7th, and with their power offense (Hideki Matsui batting 8th at one point, that's dangerous) they will still win a ton of games.
5. New York Mets-Previous Rank 3: Yes, the Braves beat the Mets in 2 games, but the Mets still got a great outing from Johan Santana without his best stuff. The pitching has looked pretty good minus a few owies here and there, and yes, Pedro is gone, but they didn't have him for most of last season either. Reyes, Castillo, and Wright are yet to break out, so, like the Yankees, give this team a bit more time to really break out.
6. Los Angeles Angels-Previous Rank 6: This team is holding up fairly well without Kelvim Escobar and John Lackey, and they should be with Jered Weaver, Jon Garland, Joe Saunders, and Ervin Santana. And of course, the 7-8-9 inning pitchers will dominate ballgames like always. The plethora of outfielders is a nice commodity, allowing the Angels some room for a deal if they need help somewhere. With the Mariners not looking as good as projected, they may run away with this division.
7. Atlanta Braves-Previous Rank 14: Yes, they are now a top 10 team and a legitimate threat in the National League. They lost Mike Hampton (and the baseball world took a collective gasp of shock), but Jair Jurrjins can step into his role fairly well. The middle relief is going to get tested a lot with older pitchers not going deep into games, but with the offense starting off well, especially Mark Texiera against his slow-start reputation, this will be a tough team to beat.
8. Los Angeles Dodgers-Previous Rank 8: Andruw Jones is showing that he may infact be on the career decline despite being young, although he has been in the league for what seems like forever. The pitching though has been strong, and we haven't seen Chad Billingsley start a game yet. Pitching is a strength for the big 3 in the NL West (Padres and Diamondbacks the other 2), and I think among those teams, the Dodgers have the best offense and bullpen, and are still my favorites to win that division.
9. Philadephia Phillies-Previous Rank 7: There is no pitching on this team past Cole Hamels. Brett Myers is still struggling as a starter, picking up where he started last year. Tom Gordon has proved he's not reliable in the bullpen, and Lidge is coming back, but how effective can he be? The offense is starting to come around, so they will still win their fair share of games, but they need the pitching to be effective, and not just Adam Eaton against the Mets effective...consistency, and right now, they don't have it.
10. Arizona Diamondbacks-Previous Rank 10: Brandon Webb looks as dominant as ever, and has anyone mentioned that Chris Young has 1/6th of his last year's walk totals already. Patience is a virtue with this young club, and with young players like Young, Justin Upton, and Stephen Drew that can just flat out play, they're going to be tough to beat. Brandon Lyon has a really short leash though, and we could see Tony Pena closing out games soon. If they can sure up closer, they'll put a lot more pressure on the NL as the defending West champs.
11. Cincinnati Reds-Previous Rank 18: Yes, I am jumping on the Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez train. The "Dominican Diaper Dandy" looks amazing, baffling hitters and controlling the game. And, despite a hiccup or two, the Reds bullpen may hold onto those games this year! Aaron Harang, Cueto, and Volquez make up a great front 3 (Bronson Arroyo, you've been bumped down), and along with a strong offense around Bradon Phillips, Adam Dunn, and Ken Griffey Jr., the Reds are ready to turn on the heat and make a run at a central crown.
12. San Diego Padres-Previous Rank 13: Anyone ever hear of this Jake Peavy guy? Apparantly he's pretty good, you should watch him sometime. If you don't know who Jake Peavy is, get out from under your rock, because he's the best pitcher in baseball right now. Despite the Padres offensive woes, he is giving this team the Sandy Koufax feel of the Dodgers batters, making them think "alright, all we need is one run today". The team looks tough right now, although Trevor Time might not be as intimidating as in recent years.
13. Chicago Cubs-Previous Rank 12: I'm keeping the Cubs around here because Derrek Lee is swinging a hot stick and Alfonso Soriano is yet to start hitting. Kosuke Fukudome is a new Chicago favorite, and has anyone realized Kerry Wood has 3 saves? They're the defending central champs, but they'll have a tough time with the other 3 teams that will contest them in 2007.
14. Milwaukee Brewers-Previous Rank 15: Ryan Braun turns on the power after a slow first few games, but if he's not hitting homers, he's stealing bases. Is it too early to give up on Eric Gagne? Well, don't ask any Red Sox fan, but we'll see where he is in another month. Ben Sheets is motivated by a big contract year to stay healthy, and the Brewers will be getting Yovanni Gallardo back fairly soon. Good news Brewers fans, this team is tough.
15. Detroit Tigers-Previous Rank 2: This is a steep drop, but they're 0-6. Justin Verlander, the staff ace, has struggled, and we don't need to talk about any pitcher beyond him. Worst of all, the offense hasn't produced yet. The least of their worries will be scoring runs, but I think we're really realizing how much of a concern their pitching could be. Dontrelle Willis hasn't shown any signs of a turn around, and if he, Rogers, Bonderman, and Robertson don't do something for this team, they'll be in trouble.
16. Seattle Mariners-Previous Rank 9: The addition of Bedard is great, but everything else is older; the offense, the bullpen, the rest of the starting rotation. They lost J.J. Putz for a bit, and after Felix Hernandez, the pitching isn't anything to write home about. Ichiro isn't hitting yet, Sexson is off to another slow start, as is Johjima, but at least Beltre, Betancourt, and Ibanez look good so far. This team might not live up to the hype if they don't start hitting again, especially Richie Sexson, who can't afford another season flirting with the Interstate.
17. St. Louis Cardinals-Previous Rank 21: Here's an underrated team. No one expected them to open the season 5-1. The starting pitching has been great, but can it last? If I recall correctly, Kip Wells and Braden Looper looked half decent at the start of 2007, so I'm not jumping on any Cardinals bandwagon yet, but if they can hold on until their other pitchers get healthy (Clement, Piniero, Mulder, Carpenter), they may be a tough team down the stretch.
18. Chicago White Sox-Previous Rank 19: If Jermaine Dye can have a rebound year, this team might actually stand a shot at lingering around in a race for a little bit. The starting pitching still needs to be strong, but John Danks has looked pretty good in his sole start. The addition of Swisher and Cabrera add to an already powerful lineup, so this team will score runs and hit homers, but they need to get back to near the pitching of 2005 if they have any hopes of winning a race.
19. Minnesota Twins-Previous Rank 16: They've looked good and I drop them, sounds odd, but nobody expects Livan Hernandez to continue, right? Caros Gomez is a pleasant surprise (remember him, Mets fans?), and he can easily steal 50+ bases if he keeps getting on base. I like the way the offense looks, and Joe Nathan is still getting save opportunities. But the starting pitching will be the teams downfall, but they could be worse.
20. Tampa Bay Rays-Previous Rank 20: Matt Garza struggled against the Orioles, so he isn't ready to be fully trusted yet as a starter, but Scott Kazmir is coming back and James Shields is still a great pitcher. The offense looks good already, solid mix of speed, power, and youth, and remember, Evan Longoria is waiting for his callup in just a few weeks. Anyone read the Sports Illustrated article on him? He seems like the 2nd coming of Jesus, or at least a Led Zeppelin reunion tour.
21. Colorado Rockies-Previous Rank 17: I got heat for putting them at 17th, but I stand by it and will stand by this. The offense is great, but can they be consistent home and away? The pitching is suspect, can they get consistency from their young starters? Their back-end bullpen should be good, but Fuentes showed how quickly things can turn last year, can Corpas sustain that role? Right now, they have 2 hitters over .300 (Garrett Atkins and Todd Helton), and one starting pitcher with an ERA under 5 (Franklin Morales). Their Cinderella year is starting to look like it was just that, a Cinderella year, and the NL, especially the West, has improved too much around them for them to keep up.
22. Oakland Athletics-Previous Rank 22: Rich Harden is looking great to start the season, if he can stay healthy it really sures up the rotation, especially considering how good Dana Eveland looked. The lineup is showing good patience in the youth so far, but Travis Buck starting off 0-21 has to worry some people. They may turn a few hears, and with Seattle's early struggles, they might just be competing for 2nd place.
23. Texas Rangers-Previous Rank 23: We all know the offense will score runs, but when Vicente Padilla, Kevin Millwood, and Kason Gabbard start off by pitching well, you have to think things in Texas may be on the right track. They will not compete for a division title or a playoff spot, but 2nd place is possible in that division, especially if the pitching stays strong.
24. Kansas City Royals-Previous Rank 25: After a dominant sweep of the Tigers, the Royals are doing it with pitching and hitting. Everyone has undervalued Gil Meche, Brian Bannister, Zack Grienke, and the offensive star that Alex Gordon is turning into, but in the end, they are still the Royals, however, they move up a bit in my rankings.
24. Houston Astros-Previous Rank 24: Only Carlos Lee is hitting for an average right now, and while on paper the team hasn't done that bad stat-wise, they're only 2-5 to open the year, one of those wins coming off a terrible outing from Trevor Hoffman. They'll be fighting for a cellar spot in the NL Central, and despite the offense being improved and strong, they just don't have the starting pitching to compete behind Roy Oswalt. And to those that will argue that the pitching has started the year strong, Wandy Rodriguez? Shawn Chacon? Brandon Backe? They won't get it done.
26. Washington Nationals-Previous Rank 27: Their pitching has had a nice start to the year, but who really expects it to continue like that? Chad Cordero is down for a bit, and Jon Rauch has to step into the closers role. Their bullpen is their potential strength along with the potential of their offense, but they'll be getting plenty of calls from GMs interested in Rauch and Cordero, and though it would hurt them in the short run, there will be some offers they can't ignore.
27. Pittsburgh Pirates-Previous Rank 26: Ian Snell had a great outing, but a lot of those great outings that young Pirates starters have are going to go to waste with the rest of the team. Jason Bay is picking up where he left off 2007, struggling, but Xavier Nady is slugging with the best of them. Answer me this Pirates fans, despite defense, why doesn't Ryan Doumit have a starting spot yet?
28. Baltimore Orioles-Previous Rank 28: George Sherill, AL All-Star closer? Probably not, but he has looked good and so has the Orioles offense as of late. Don't expect them to lose 100 like people assume, the offense will keep them in games (unless another player is traded), but the starting rotation is still not enough to keep them competitive.
29. Florida Marlins-Previous Rank 30: They're tied for first place, why are they ranked 29th! Because no starter is yet to post an ERA under 9. The staff ERA is over 6, and is dead last in the MLB. Hanley Ramirez is hot to start the year, but he's just about the only bright spot on this team. Expect a hook in the mouth of the Florida Marlins soon, as the Mets and Phillies start reeling them in and passing them in the East.
30. San Francisco Giants-Previous Rank 29: They're dead last in slugging, and are the only team slugging under .300. I'll say that again, as a team, they're slugging under .300. Come on, hand me a bat and I can slug at least .250! Kidding, Giants fans, but the offense is bad, really bad. Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum are still 2 of the most exciting young pitchers to watch, and Mets fans, you should be thanking the high heavens you didn't sign Barry Zito!