Track record keeps Cubs steady at top, while Cards, Rangers slip
By Alyson Footer
As the season goes on, we may see fewer dramatic changes in the Power Rankings than we're seeing currently, as there seems to be more shuffling than at a Las Vegas blackjack table.
The Astros went from middle-of-the-pack to nearly the top spot. The D-backs leapt quite a few, too. On the flip side, there were a couple of plummets, as we wonder what's going on with the Rangers and Cardinals, among others.
It's still early, and we're all aware of the proverbial "small sample size." It may be a bit too early to put a lot of stock into what the standings are telling us, but at the same time, teams like the Rockies, Twins and Reds have proven to be, at the very least, interesting.
Biggest jump: The Yankees' eight-game winning streak after starting the season 1-4 boosted their positioning in both the standings and the Power Rankings, where they leapt nine spots, from 16 to seven. Pitching is mostly responsible -- specifically, the bullpen. Adam Warren retired the first 22 batters he faced to start the season, and Aroldis Chapman is throwing his usual gas. Over the closer's first six appearances, he averaged 100 mph with his fastball, the highest in baseball. He's thrown the 10 fastest pitches of the season, according to Statcast™, topping out at 102.1 mph.
Biggest drop: If it's any consolation to Rangers fans, they've had dreadful starts in seasons past that ended pretty well. Even so, there is cause for worry, especially in the bullpen, where the problems are the most glaring. A 5-8 record through Monday dropped the Rangers nine spots, from six to 15.
Power Rankings Top 5:
Though they've had a very pedestrian start to the season, we're not quite ready to knock the Cubs out of the top spot. This ranking is based more on a long-term projection than the here and now, though the grace period will likely end next week if the defending champs don't get back on track. Recently, they were swept by the Pirates and lost on Monday to the Brewers. But the starting staff has been mostly solid throughout, posting a 2.56 ERA over the Cubs' first 12 games. Their offense has sputtered over their last five games, however, scoring only 17 runs with a .238 average.
2. Astros (Last week: 9)
There was a slight overreaction to their sluggish hitting the first week of the season, an issue that went kaput when the Astros scored 34 runs over a recent four-game span. In the middle of it all was Jose Altuve, who seems to have expanded his range since last year. Entering Monday's game, Altuve had recorded 20 batted balls to the opposite field, with 10 going for base hits, according to Statcast™. Those 20 knocks account for 54.1 percent of his contact so far this year, as opposed to 36.4 percent going the opposite way last year.
3. Nationals (5)
This, like the Cubs, is another ranking from a long-term viewpoint. The Nationals have their issues -- namely, in the bullpen -- but their rotation and lineup remain rock solid. It's still early, but the fact that Bryce Harper is just one of at least seven Nats hitters off to fast starts is a good indication Washington could be in for a big year.
4. Orioles (8)
We ranked the Orioles eighth last week, but they deserve a higher standing this time around, considering they've been the most consistent team in their division in the early going. Their offense has been steady -- they're leading the American League with a .452 slugging percentage and are second with 18 homers. The O's team OPS of .754 is the fourth highest in the AL.
5. Red Sox (4)
After a sluggish start, the Red Sox have won five of their past seven games and are seemingly getting past the flu bug that crippled the team in the early-going. Maybe home cooking was all they needed -- they're batting .309 with 43 runs scored at Fenway this season.
The rest of the top 20:
6. Dodgers (3)
7. Yankees (16)
8. Indians (2)
9. Tigers (10)
10. Mets (7)
11. D-backs (18)
12. Marlins (20)
13. Pirates (13)
14. Giants (14)
15. Rangers (6)
16. Rockies (15)
17. Mariners (19)
18. Cardinals (12)
19. Reds (25)
20. Royals (22)
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.