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Posted: Thursday April 16, 2009 3:39PM; Updated: Tuesday April 21, 2009 9:32AM
Ted Keith Ted Keith >
MLB POWER RANKINGS

Polar Opposites

Four best, worst teams hail from NL this week

It's still very early, but 10 games in, the rankings have begun to better reflect what we've seen on the field as opposed to what we expected to see. Therefore, there's been some significant reshuffling this week, starting with a new team at the top.

MLB Power Rankings
1Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 2
It didn't take long for the preseason NL favorite Cubs to move to the top of the rankings, but it also didn't take long for folks to start rumbling about the closers' role. Many expected Carlos Marmol to win the job this spring, but Kevin Gregg swiped it by not allowing a run during Cactus League play. Each has made five appearances in 2009, and it may already be time for a change. Gregg has given up four runs, six hits and five walks in just five innings pitched and has blown a save, while Marmol has allowed just two hits and no runs in 4.2 innings pitched and is one-for-one in save opportunities. Cubs manager Lou Piniella says he's sticking with Gregg -- for now.
 
2Florida Marlins
Last Week: 16
The Marlins and Braves are both top five teams this week, but the fans must not have noticed. Only 16,293 showed up to watch the Marlins and Braves battle for first place in the series opener at Turner Field on Tuesday. The Fish won 5-1 behind Chris Volstad, who's now 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA. Those numbers only make him the second-best starter in the Marlins' increasingly impressive rotation, however, as Josh Johnson also boasts a 2-0 record, but an even more sparkling 0.57 ERA. Some small solace: If the game had taken place in Miami, the crowd would have been even smaller.
 
3St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 12
When is a trip to the 15-day disabled list not a 15-day disabled list? When even your manager says you're going to be out four weeks minimum, and maybe eight weeks and maybe (gulp) longer. How long ace Chris Carpenter, the player in question, misses could determine whether the Cardinals can make a serious run at the Cubs. "It's one of those tricky deals where you want to pay respects to what he means to us, which is a lot, but if you keep talking about it, pretty soon the players think, 'Well, we can't win without him,'" Cardinals manager Tony La Russa told the AP. "You've got to find a way to keep competing."
 
4Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 8
Only one thing has tempered the Braves' unexpectedly hot start: the news that Tom Glavine's Hall of Fame career may be over. After visiting with Dr. James Andrews, Glavine began resting his ailing left shoulder for two weeks. If it doesn't improve, Glavine may be resting it for a lot longer than that. "I'm willing to put in a little more time but I'm not willing to put in another six weeks or eight weeks because by then, you know what, I'm going to have to start all over again and I'm not interested in doing that," he said. This might serve as some incentive: Glavine reportedly earns $1 million just for being added to the active roster.
 
5Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 15
Toronto's starting pitching was hurting for reliable arms before Jesse Litsch headed to the DL with an arm injury this week. The offense has more than compensated, though, leading the majors in runs and hits even before pounding the Twins for 12 runs and 16 hits on Monday night to move back into first place in the East. Rookie Travis Snider -- or "Lunch Box" as he's apparently known among teammates, has feasted on opposing pitching so far, racking up three home runs and a .895 slugging percentage.
 
6Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 1
How's this for making fans feel like part of the team? The Rays received their AL champion rings on Tuesday night, and then gave out replicas to fans attending that night's game against the Yankees. According to the Tampa Tribune, some fans didn't think too highly of the replicas because they've already posted them on ebay and craigslist. The Rays probably won't do the same with their real rings, but they are ready to let their magical '08 season slip into the past. "[2008] was great, but we need to get on to '09" said reliever J.P. Howell.
 
7Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 9
Clearly, Orlando Hudson needs to get used to his new surroundings in Los Angeles. Hudson hit for the cycle earlier this week, but he had no idea he had done so. "I was like, 'Congratulations for what?' I had no idea what was going on. And then I realized it was the cycle. I was wondering why they were cheering for me like that," Hudson told MLB.com, adding, "Dodgers fans can't expect this every day." They won't. All they ever expect are blue skies, Dodger Dogs and Vin Scully. Good baseball is just a bonus.
 
8Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 29
The Mariners make a huge jump in the rankings this week, but in Seattle that news, and even the team's first-place standing in the AL West by 2.5 games (the biggest lead in baseball), has taken a back seat to Ken Griffey Jr.'s return. The Kid isn't a kid anymore and he barely resembles the all-everything centerfielder who left Seattle in 1999 as the best player in baseball, but he did single in his first at-bat and homer in his second game, his 400th dinger with the Mariners. As nice a story as that is, Seattle will experience a more impactful return this week when Ichiro, who was cleared to play after suffering from a bleeding ulcer, hits the field. Ichiro's about to make his own history, too, as he's just three hits away from passing Isao Harimoto for the most by any Japanese player in history.
 
9New York Yankees
Last Week: 6
Nick Swisher's been almost incalculably valuable to the Yankees. His boisterous personality has helped loosen up a frequently stuffy clubhouse, and his potent bat (.458, four home runs) is stirring memories of his 36-homer 2007 campaign. The Yankees knew when they traded for him that they were getting a versatile player, but it's doubtful they were expecting him to be this versatile. Swisher made his first-ever pitching appearance on Monday night, tossing a scoreless inning against the Rays in a blowout loss. Swisher will likely stick to the outfield the rest of the way, though, especially now that the Yanks have lost Xavier Nady for the season to an elbow injury.
 
10Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 5
After losing on Opening Day, the defending champs won four of five thanks largely to Chase Utley. After undergoing hip surgery in the offseason, it was doubtful whether Utley would be ready to start the season on time. But he was, and he's quickly returned to his All-Star form. He notched at least two hits in five straight games, prompting manager Charlie Manuel to tell the Philadelphia Inqurier:s "Utley's Utley. Utley's good."
 
11New York Mets
Last Week: 3
With his next home run, Gary Sheffield will become the 25th member of the 500-home run club, and the most well-traveled at that. The Mets are Sheffield's eighth team; no other 500-HR man has played for more than five teams, and no one has hit his 500th with the Mets, either.
 
12Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 7
The Angels' offense has been slow to get going, ranking next-to-last in the AL in runs scored entering Wednesday night's game with the Mariners. Four players in the regular starting lineup have driven in just a single run, which places an extra burden on Torii Hunter, Vlad Guerrero and Bobby Abreu to deliver. As if this team needed extra burdens right now.
 
13Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 17
The Orioles have won three straight series, two at home against the Yankees and Rays and one on the road against the Rangers, to grab a surprising lead in the AL East. They'll get their first real road test of the year when they head to Boston to face the Red Sox for four games this weekend, and then we'll find out if their success has been a mirage. Entering Wednesday night's game with the Rangers, the Orioles had scored 50 runs, but they'd also given up 50, and that was before they got blasted 19-6 for their third loss this season by eight or more runs.
 
14Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 4
Their winningest pitcher from a year ago is on the disabled list, their ace has been suspended for six games, their offense is hibernating and they've spent more days in last place this season than in their previous seven years combined. Yet it's still way too early for Red Sox fans to panic. If this season turns around -- and chances are, it will, and soon -- then credit Tim Wakefield's near no-hitter as the game that did it. Wakefield fluttered his way to a complete game after carrying a no-no into the eighth inning, snapping a three-game losing streak and sending the Red Sox back to Boston on a winning note.
 
15San Diego Padres
Last Week: 27
Padres manager Bud Black credits timely hitting for his team's hot start, but timely talking may be to thanks for at least one win. David Eckstein, the scourge of stat heads everywhere, found a new way to help his team win while simultaneously annoying people on Monday night when he drew a balk against the Mets' Pedro Feliciano to force in the winning run. The gritty, gutty Eckstein may have been a little sneaky too, as the Mets felt he may have baited the ump into making the call by yelling for a balk.
 
16Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 28
Justin Verlander got shelled on Opening Day, giving up eight earned runs to the Blue Jays, but in his second start, he allowed just one earned run in a win over the Rangers. Tigers manager Jim Leyland called his ace's stuff "electric," and it will need to be far more often this year now that Leyland is counting on Verlander lasting seven innings per outing. Considering he only put together 11 starts that long a year ago, that might be asking a bit much.
 
17Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 14
Dewayne Wise's shoulder injury provides Brian Anderson yet another chance to solidify a starting role in centerfield, but if he falters, the White Sox will turn to Scott Podsednik. Yes, the same Podsednik who hit a memorable walk-off home run in the 2005 World Series but was unsigned entering this season after spending a largely anonymous 2008 season with the Rockiess.
 
18Texas Rangers
Last Week: 10
With all due respect to Dustin Pedroia and Chase Utley, is there a better second baseman in baseball than Ian Kinsler? He was batting .319 last season before a back injury sidelined him. He has yet to play more than 130 games in a season, which has no doubt contributed to his lack of notoriety, but nights like Wednesday's will make it almost impossible for Kinsler to fly under the radar for long. He jacked his average up 98 points by going six-for-six and hitting for the cycle in a 19-6 win over the Orioles.
 
19Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 23
Zack Greinke has now pitched 25 consecutive scoreless innings, eight shy of Kevin Appier's club record. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he's the first pitcher in club history to throw at least five scoreless innings in four straight starts, but he's not the only Royals pitcher excelling thus far, with Kyle Davies sporting a 2.13 ERA. Royals fans shouldn't get too excited by their team's 5-4 start, however. The Royals opened last year 6-2 and were in first place as late as April 14. Ten days later they were under .500 and in last place.
 
20Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 19
If Nomar Garciaparra lands on the disabled list, which is a distinct possibility given his tight calves (and which, frankly, always is when we're talking about Nomar), the A's would only have one player on their team who has hit a home run this year: Jack Cust, who has hit two. The offense's shortcomings were highlighted when Tim Wakefield nearly no-hit the A's on Wednesday.
 
21Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 11
Joe Mauer is still a few weeks away from returning from the disabled list, but the Twins can't get their All-Star catcher back soon enough. Mike Redmond and Jose Morales have combined to hit just .218 and have thrown out only one of 10 base-stealers.
 
22Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 20
Chris Iannetta has been ticketed for stardom for some time, but his impressive World Baseball Classic performance (.462/.588/.769) may have created unreal expectations. He's batting just .059 (1-for-17) on the season, but he's far from the only Rockie struggling to hit. Todd Helton, Garrett Atkins and Seth Smith all check in at or below .200.
 
23Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 22
Edinson Volquez doesn't appear on Tom Verducci's always fascinating Year-After Effect watch list because, even though he is 25 and his major league innings total jumped by 162 in 2008, he actually increased his overall innings by only 17.1 from the year before. But sometimes the number of innings a young pitcher throws isn't as important as the number of pitches. Volquez, for instance, has thrown only 9.1 innings this year but 206 pitches, 22.1 per inning. Last year, he averaged 17.3 per inning. Hitters are being more patient with him and its paying off, as they're hitting .317 off Volquez this year compared to .232 last year.
 
24Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 26
Amid all the sadness baseball has endured thus far from the deaths of Nick Adenhart, Harry Kalas and Mark Fidrych, the Pirates' tribute to the three Pittsburgh police officers who were killed in the line of duty on April 4 was overlooked. The Bucs wore PBP hats, then gave the city reason to cheer, with Zach Duke shutting out the Reds 7-0.
 
25Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 18
Jeff Suppan is making over $12 million this season and next, but that may not be enough to buy him more time in Milwuakee's rotation to work out his struggles. Suppan is 0-2 with a 12.91 ERA and his next start is being pushed back to Sunday. Another bad outing there could knock him from the rotation altogether. After losing CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets, the last thing the Brewers needed was more question marks in their starting rotation, but that's exactly what they've got.
 
26Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 21
After the Indians opened the season with losses in seven of their first eight games, manager Eric Wedge held a meeting with his team to get them to "have as much confidence in themselves as I have in them." It's getting hard for anyone to have much confidence in the Indians right now, particularly in their starting pitching, which doesn't feature a single member with an ERA below 8.00.
 
27Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 13
Justin Upton's slow start at the plate (he's batting .105) is not helping the family name. His brother, Rays outfielder B.J., recently returned from the disabled list and is batting .182, leaving the Upton brothers at .133 combined. But B.J. has been better in the field, and has the early lead for play of the year after his Mays-like catch on Monday night (go to the one minute mark).
 
28San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 24
Where have you gone, Barry Bonds? Entering Wednesday night's game, the Giants have hit just three home runs and drawn 15 walks, the fewest in the NL in both categories. Earlier in the week they went three consecutive games without drawing a single walk, the first time they'd done that in over 30 years. Meanwhile, baseball's career leader in both categories has plenty of time on his hands these days, unless you consider waiting for a federal trial to determine if you'll serve jail time a good way to keep busy.
 
29Houston Astros
Last Week: 25
Carlos Lee and Lance Berkman are batting .180 combined with two home runs and three RBIs. The Astros have won two games. That is not a coincidence.
 
30Washington Nationals
Last Week: 30
I hear the cherry blossoms are beautiful in D.C. this time of year. The baseball? Not so much. The Nats are the majors' only winless team and the biggest culprit has been their starting pitching, which has posted an NL-worst 9.29 ERA. "We're going to figure it out," said Adam Dunn. "I don't know if it's going to be [now] or June. I promise: We're going to figure it out." Don't make promises you can't keep, Adam.
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