April 26, 2000
The Daily Prospectus
Periodically, I'll be taking a look at the 30 teams as a whole and ranking them based on where they stand at that moment in time. These rankings will be based primarily on the the team's truest indicator of actual ability--runs scored and allowed--but will also take into account other factors.
Take these rankings with a grain of salt, and remember to take a deep breath and stretch your legs before firing off nasty e-mails.
For this first run-through, we'll look only at the top and bottom teams. There's a great teeming mass of teams in the middle of the pack that haven't distinguished themselves yet, and attempting to sort through them at this point is futile.
DP's Top Five:
1. Atlanta Braves
Lurking: Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox, New York Mets
The Braves are still sorting through their offensive options, messing around with Andruw Jones in the two hole and parceling out playing time to Rafael Furcal in bits and pieces. So their #13 rank in the league in runs scored should rise. Their pitching has been outstanding, led by the revitalized Tom Glavine and a typically underrated bullpen.... The Cardinals' offense has gotten most of the attention, but since a nasty road trip to Houston and Colorado, their pitching has been excellent, allowing just over three runs a game.... While the Indians have scuffled relative to their lofty standards offensively, their pitching has been fairly good. Considering that the peripherals of Charles Nagy and Dave Burba are much better than their ERAs, it's likely that the Indians will get better at keeping runs off the board. (Note, however, that Jaret Wright is in the opposite situation.)
One big surprise has been the Mariners offense. With Jay Buhner reasonably healthy and Alex Rodriguez mixing in some better patience, the team has parlayed a good OBP core into one of the top offenses in the league. They'll be tested with the losses of Jamie Moyer and Freddy Garcia.... The Red Sox are putting the lie to my claims that they're a three-man team. The core of Pedro Martinez, Nomar Garciaparra and Carl Everett are playing well, but so are Brian Daubach, Trot Nixon and Derek Lowe. The test will be how quickly Dan Duquette gets Pete Schourek (13 K / 9 BB) and Jeff Fassero (7 K / 10 BB) out of there when the bubbles burst.
The Diamondbacks are an ordinary team when anyone but Randy Johnson pitches, but so what? Getting Matt Williams back is going to help them defensively, possibly as much as it will offensively, because his replacements are simply brutal with the glove.... I'm holding back on the White Sox until I see their roster settle down and whether the young rotation improves.... The Mets are 6-1 in one-run games, so I remain skeptical.
Dirty little secret? The 12-7, first-place Yankees have been outscored, 99 to 95.
DP's Bottom Five:
26. Milwaukee Brewers
Hovering: Kansas City Royals
I attended the Tigers game Tuesday night, and was astounded by how bad this team is offensively. The team approach at the plate appears to be based on the perpetual getaway day, as hitters hack and flail in an attempt to make a 4:00 p.m. flight. No one seems to have any plan other than, "If it's a baseball, swing." If either Juan gets hurt, this team won't score 600 runs.... The Cubs are respectable challengers to the Tiger throne, held back only by their expected influx of pitching talent. They should be commended for the Shane Andrews pickup, but unless he picks up a slider and can work the seventh and eighth, the Cubs are in for a brutal summer. Except at the gate, of course.
The Devil Rays are right about where anyone not employed by the team expected them to be. The implosion that led to the firing of pitching coach Rick Williams was unexpected, but given the defense this team is running out there, maybe it should have been. Home runs are fun, though.... The Phillies have had their midsummer swoon early, scoring just 63 runs in 19 games. Only Bob Abreu and Scott Rolen have OPSs of 700 or better. They're better than this when Curt Schilling returns, but not enough to make a dent in any race this year.... The Brewers are here by default, as there's a fairly large gap between the Phillies and the next worst team. They do have perhaps the worst regular in baseball in third baseman Jose Hernandez (.182/.250/.227), and easily the worst starting pitcher in Jaime Navarro (11.57 ERA, 4 IP/start, 15 BB, 6 K in 16 1/3 IP).
By the way, there's just one remotely "small market" team on that list.
Joe Sheehan can be reached at email@example.com.