Ducks on the Pod Contendership Tiers: April

Power rankings are played out.  MLB.com does them.  ESPN has its own.  CBS Sports is in on it.  You can throw Yahoo, Sports Illustrated, and Bleacher Report in there too.  My thinking is it doesn’t really matter who the “best” team is during the regular season.  What we should be focusing on is which teams look like they have a legitimate chance to win it all.

It’s pretty simple this early in the season, isn’t it?  I mean, you either look like you’ve got a shot or you don’t.  As the old adage goes, “You can’t win a pennant in April, but you can lose one.”  While that’s not foolproof logic, it’s good enough for me and for this exercise.  Here we go:

Disclaimers:

  • These tiers are a totally fluid situation.  They can and will change as the season evolves.
  • Don’t put much thought into the order within the tiers.  Splitting hairs is not the goal here.
  • Records accurate as of Thursday morning, April 19.

Serious Contenders

Red Sox (15-2) – A disastrous 8th inning on Opening Day and a hectic night against the rival Yankees are the only things separating the Sox from an undefeated record.  We’re three weeks into the season now.  Think about that.

Astros (12-7) – Their seven losses have come by a combined 15 runs.  Six of the seven were by three runs or fewer.  I’m not worried.  I don’t think they are either.

Mets (13-4) – As long as they’re healthy, this team will have a decent shot at making some noise in a division without much strength besides the Nationals.

Diamondbacks (12-5) – 24 of their first 36 games are against NL West opponents.  Six of the remaining 12 are against the Nationals and Astros.  Calling the first month and a half “crucial” would be an understatement.  It’s been a very encouraging start.

 

Fringe Contenders

Angels (13-5) – The question all summer is going to be how this group of individuals comes together as a team.  So far, so good.  Getting spanked by the BoSox this week bumped them out the Serious Contenders.

Nationals (9-10) – Still the class of the NL East.  It would take a series of unforeseen events to change that.  The Mets’ start was the first in that series.  Still, no need to panic, despite that being the default mode of D.C. sports fans.

Pirates (12-6) – Props to you if you predicted this.  I sure didn’t.  I’m not expecting them to keep it up, but it obviously wouldn’t be the first time I was wrong.

Blue Jays (12-5) – Much like the Pirates, they’re off to a hot start, capitalizing on some lackluster opposition.  The Jays are 2-2 against the Yankees, and they’re in the Bronx this weekend.  Stand by.

Rockies (11-9) – Taking three of four in Washington is commendable.  Dropping four of five to Atlanta and San Diego to open your home schedule is not.  The early returns on the Rockies are inconclusive.

Brewers (10-9) – Simply put, they need to beat the Cardinals more than the Cardinals beat them.  They’ll be battling for second place in the NL Central and, more importantly, a wild card spot.  So far, 3-3.

Cardinals (10-7) – Again, this is the matchup I’ll be paying attention to more than any other head-to-head.  The Cards took two in Milwaukee but then dropped a pair when the Brewers visited a week later.  Keep an eye out when these two get together.

Cubs (7-8) – The Cubs’ toughest opponent has been the weather.  I think it’s smart to hold judgement until they’ve been able to play on a more consistent basis.

Indians (9-7) – Six of their nine wins have come against Royals and Tigers.  We’ll get a better idea what this team is once they start playing some stiffer competition.

Twins (8-5) – The Twins have also had a lot of trouble playing their games as scheduled.  In the past two weeks, they’ve had to push four games to a later date.  That congestion could prove costly.

Yankees (8-8) – It’s still early but, this team has not performed as expected.  They’ve already split with the Jays, dropped three of four at home to the Orioles, and lost a series in Boston.  They’ve got to get back on track before the Sox run away and hide.

 

Maybe Contenders

Dodgers (8-9) – Kenley Jansen has blown two of his four save opportunities and his ERA is north of 8.00.  A lot of things have not gone well, but Jansen is at the top of the list.  If he can’t get it figured out, the Dodgers are in real trouble.

Giants (7-10) – They may have a bit of a new roster, but the issues from last year have managed to spill over into this season.  They’re simply not scoring enough runs.  Considering the cold bats, they’ve done well to be hanging in there.

Mariners (9-7) – The M’s haven’t lost a series yet (pending Thursday’s result).  They’re about to embark on a rare three-city road trip that could swing the momentum of their season one way or the other.

Braves (10-7) – They took two in Washington, but then gave them right back the next week when they hosted the Nationals.  There are still a lot of questions to be answered in Atlanta.

Phillies (10-7) – Manager Gabe Kapler rebounded nicely after a nightmare start to his managerial career.  Eight of the 10 wins, though, were at the expense of the Marlins, Reds, and Rays.

 

Non-Contenders

Athletics (9-10) – I am adamant in my assertion that the A’s will not finish in last place in the AL West this go-round.  Unfortunately for them, that’s about all they’ll be playing for.

Tigers (6-9) – Half of their wins were taken from a trip to Chicago, the South Side.  Let’s not get too confident.  When things get real next month, I don’t think they’ll be hanging around.

Rangers (7-13) – I don’t see much to get excited about if you’re a fan of this team.  For one reason or another, they just cannot get their act together and play as well as you’d think by looking at their roster.

Padres (7-13) – Things have gone pretty much as expected for a young, talented, albeit overmatched, Padres club.  Three wins out of seven against the Rockies, a win over the Astros, and three of four from the Giants are proof of the upside.  Being swept by the Brewers and Dodgers proves there’s still much work to be done before we can promote them.

Orioles (5-13) – The only series the O’s have won came when they stole three from the Bronx.  While that’s encouraging, everything else has not been.  18 of their next 24 are in Baltimore.  Hopefully, for their sake, they’ll benefit from some home cooking.

Rays (5-13) – It was going to be an uphill battle for this team to get anywhere this summer.  Following such a slow start, they’re simply too far behind the 8-ball to have any real hopes of competing for a playoff spot.

White Sox (4-11) – Three of their four wins were by a margin of only one run.  While they do play in the tightest division in baseball, as it stands now, they’ve shown nothing that would suggest they can take advantage of that.

Royals (3-13) – Two of the three wins were 1-0 games played away from home.  Those kinds of wins are normally an indication of a good team.  In the Royals case, they’re nothing but misleading.

Marlins (5-12) – Everything’s going according to plan in Miami.  They’re trying to win, so long as it doesn’t hurt their chances of landing a spot near the top of the draft board.  They’re also looking for some encouraging signs from some guys already on the roster.  They can check both boxes, to this point.

Reds (3-15) – I haven’t looked this up, but I’d imagine there haven’t been more than a handful of managers in the history of the game who were let go before flipping the calendar to May.  Calling this a rough start would be a real understatement.