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Posted: Monday April 16, 2012 1:21PM ; Updated: Monday April 16, 2012 2:23PM

Rematch? New rankings debut with Cardinals, Rangers on top

Story Highlights

St. Louis beat Texas in seven games in the World Series last October

The rankings are based on each team's Wins Above Replacement projections

The Nationals, Tigers and Dodgers round out the top five this week

Welcome to the SI.com Power Rankings, powered by FanGraphs. You will probably notice that these Power Rankings don't look like most other Power Rankings you'll see around the web, as our system is based not on the current standings or a gut feeling about team quality, but on how well they've performed at the underlying traits that predict future performance better than wins and losses.

Those traits -- getting on base, hitting for power, running the bases effectively, getting strikeouts while avoiding walks and home runs from their pitchers, turning hits into outs on defense -- are summed up in our Wins Above Replacement metric, and then we've translated each team's total WAR into an expected winning percentage based on the number of games they've played this season. By utilizing WAR, we can better identify which teams are actually playing well and will likely sustain their success going forward.

NOTE: This week's rankings written by Bradley Woodrum and David Cameron. All stats through Sunday, April 15.

MLB Power Rankings
1St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .847; Current Winning Percentage: .700; WAR Wins: 8 Current Wins: 5

The Cardinals' starting rotation may look less desirable in the absence of Chris Carpenter, but who can notice when their bats are hot enough to cook an egg? The team leads the major leagues in weighted on base average as well as batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. If they can get a full season from David Freese (who has not had over 500 plate appearances in a season since 2008, when he was in Triple A) and if Yadier Molina can prove last year's good offensive season was no fluke -- and if Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran can stay even the slightest bit healthy -- then this team will not miss Albert Pujols for a moment.
 
2Texas Rangers
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .757; Current Winning Percentage: .800; WAR Wins: 8; Current Wins: 8

The Texas Rangers have become almost a perfect synonym for "offense" over the last few years, but so far in 2012, that has not been the case. The Rangers' park-adjusted numbers are only six percent above average -? compared to the Cardinals 42 percent above average offense. Despite Texas' AL-best 15 home runs, the team sports only an unimpressive .309 on-base percentage. But the Rangers also have one of the best starting rotations in the league, even with Yu Darvish (4.76 ERA, 3.97 FIP) underperforming so far. The offense will get better -- and so should Darvish -- but until then, they are still one of the best teams out there.
 
3Washington Nationals
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .647; Current Winning Percentage: .700; WAR Wins: 6; Current Wins: 7

Everyone expected the Nationals to be good in 2012, but probably not No.-3-in-the-Power-Rankings-good. Washington leads the majors with a team ERA of 1.99 and a FIP of 2.29, but it is hard to imagine this impressive display lasting much longer. Even when the rotation begins performing at their true talent levels, though, a starting group featuring Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, Gio Gonzalez and Edwin Jackson is no pushover, and the NL East will have to take notice.
 
4Detroit Tigers
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .636; Current Winning Percentage: .667; WAR Wins: 6; Current Wins: 6

The Tigers lost two of three to the White Sox, but Detroit still has a dominant offense (.337 wOBA, good for 13% above league average so far) and a dominant pitching staff (3.11 team FIP, despite Max Scherzer's ugly 10.38 ERA). So far, the Miguel Cabrera experiment has not resulted in any more stitches, but according to Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR), we can safely anticipate Cabrera's defense will cost the Tigers upwards of half a win this year. Still, if his bat can bring in over 5.0 WAR, who's going to care?
 
5Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .627; Current Winning Percentage: .900; WAR Wins: 6; Current Wins: 9

The WAR Power Rankings system is not fooled by the Dodgers' hot start. Well, at least not entirely. Their offense, defense and pitching have been solid and their base-running above average -- what's not to like, right? Well, Matt Kemp is very good, but he's not 210 percent above league average -- which is about where his .615 wOBA is right now. And eventually Clayton Kershaw and Ted Lilly will allow a home run, or maybe two. Altogether, this might be a better team than many of us anticipated, but they still might not be the best in the NL West.
 
6Boston Red Sox
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage .625; Current Winning Percentage: .444; WAR Wins: 6; Current Wins: 4

What's in a 1-5 start anyway? The Red Sox may have looked road kill-esque against the Tigers and Blue Jays during the opening week, but after trouncing a once-hot Tampa Bay Rays team (outscoring them 31-11), the Red Sox are looking like the Red Sox again. David Ortiz is simply sizzling, Felix Doubront is looking surprisingly strong (2.81 FIP through two starts), and the outfield is playing respectable baseball even in the absence of Jacoby Ellsbury. Eventually, Josh Beckett will return to form, Kelly Shoppach (.467 wOBA) and several others will cool down, and Carl Crawford will come back. The net result should still be a strong team and a legitimate contender.
 
7Cleveland Indians
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .610; Current Winning Percentage: .500; WAR Wins: 5; Current Wins: 4

I imagine the first person to hear a report about the Cuyahoga River burning laughed. I imagine I will get a chuckle too as I report that the Indians currently lead the majors in home runs with 15. The Indians' .338 wOBA is good for third-best in the AL and their pitching has been, well, good enough (370 FIP). Is this the year Shelley Duncan finally hits 40 home runs? Um, probably not. But Shin-Soo Choo is looking healthy, Asdrubal Cabrera is already on his way for another 20+ homers year, and their starting rotation has the potential to do well enough to make them worth keeping an eye on for most of the season.
 
8Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .569; Current Winning Percentage: .667; WAR Wins: 5; Current Wins: 6

The Arizona Diamondbacks may reside in the home of Valley Fever but they don't really need to be afraid of much, especially when Ian Kennedy is baffling batters and Chris Young is popping dingers and taking his walks. The Dodgers may have started the season strong, but the Diamondbacks have enough talent to win the NL West comfortably -- if everyone can stay healthy. Arizona is 6-3 even though Daniel Hudson and Josh Collmenter have FIPs and ERAs north of 8.00. When those get back to normal, teams will worry about more than illness when they travel to Arizona.
 
9New York Yankees
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .558; Current Winning Percentage: .556; WAR Wins:5; Current Wins: 5

So far, the Yankees have just been a bit above average in pitching and hitting. Teams that are above average in enough areas, are generally excellent overall, but the Yankees are still waiting for their offense to really start crushing and for pitchers Freddy Garcia (5.79 ERA, 6.98 FIP) and Phil Hughes (9.00 ERA, 6.53 FIP) to find their rhythms. And what's wrong with Mariano River? Just kidding. Nothing's wrong with Rivera other than the fact the people still question him after all these years. Don't do that.
 
10New York Mets
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .547; Current Winning Percentage: .667; WAR Wins: 5; Current Wins; 6

The Mets finished last season with a 77-85 record. Now their starting shortstop is 22-year-old Ruben Tejada and their centerfielder is the unpronounceable 24-year-old Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Gone are Jose Reyes, Angel Pagan and Chris Capuano. But despite their relative youth, the Mets are a top 10 team in the WAR Power Rankings system -- and why not? Johan Santana, Jonathon Niese, Mike Pelfrey and R.A. Dickey are pitching well, and David Wright, Josh Thole and Daniel Murphy, the pride of Jacksonville University, are all hitting well. They may not be near the top for long this season, but with Lucas Duda and Ike Davis and number of other young impressive players, they should be back soon.
 
11Kansas City Royals
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .536; Current Winning Percentage: .333; WAR Wins: 5; Current Wins: 3

Last year's arrivals -- Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer and Danny Duffy -- headlined the first wave of Kansas City's long-abundant minor league crop and are leading what could very well be a renascence of Royals baseball. The team's 3-6 start -- coupled with their thrashing at the hands of the Cleveland Indians this last weekend -- has dampened the early season excitement, but the Royals are still good. They might not be good enough to overcome the Tigers for the AL Central crown, but they still have enough raw talent to make decent play for the second Wild Card slot.
 
12Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .536; Current Winning Percentage: .444; WAR Wins: 5; Current Wins: 4

How can the NL's perennial World Series contender rank so low? Here's the recipe: Start with a bowl of good pitching (2.55 ERA, 3.53 FIP), replace an injured Ryan Howard with two cups of Ty Wiggington and a spritzing of cold Jim Thome, and then combine for a decent pitching staff and an underwhelming offense. The Phillies still have one of the most terrifying rotations in the league, but with Howard injured and his backups not impressing, the duty of offensive production falls disproportionately on the shoulders of Shane Victorino, Hunter Pence and Carlos Ruiz.
 
13Houston Astros
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .525; Current Winning Percentage: .444; WAR Wins: 5; Current Wins: 4

Lots of teams finish the season with a malpractice-bad .346 winning percentage and come back the next year to return to playoff contention, right? Well, not usually, but that's what the Astros are trying to do. The savvy new front office has assembled a roster of nearly almost unknown players and managed to make them into an almost winning team. They have gone from allowing about 4.9 runs per game in 2011 to only 4.1 this year. Will it hold? Eh, maybe not.
 
14Baltimore Orioles
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .525; Current Winning Percentage: .556; WAR Wins: 5; Current Wins: 5

The Orioles have quietly assembled an intriguing starting rotation, featuring Wei-Yin Chen, Jason Hammel and Jake Arrieta, and their lineup has benefitted from a hot Adam Jones and Matt Wieters. The team will be challenged to survive the AL East's marathon of doom, but the early signs are positive at least.
 
15San Francisco Giants
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .503; Current Winning Percentage: .444; WAR Wins: 5; Current Wins: 4

Buster Posey is healthy and looking like the league's best hitting catcher again, but that does not make the rest of the offense anything more than average. Early pitching struggles from Tim Lincecum have Giants fans extra worried about their ace, but assuming his lost velocity does not somehow ruin his career or his ability to keep balls in the ballpark, his rate of 2.3 HR/9 IP should come down.
 
16Colorado Rockies
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .503; Current Winning Percentage: .444; WAR Wins: 5; Current Wins: 4

The Rockies' lineup features some impressive bats -- Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, the ageless Todd Helton -- but the rotation continues to be a mess. They have one of the league's worst ERAs (4.67) and FIPs (4.57) despite having one of the better offenses. The Jamie Moyer experiment has not gone well so far, but somehow he has outperformed Jhoulys Chacin, Drew Pomeranz and Jeremy Guthrie through his first two starts.
 
17Chicago Cubs
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .477; Current Winning Percentage: .300; WAR Wins: 5; Current Wins: 3

The Cubs happily consider themselves a work in progress. They have assembled a rotation that has really only two top-tier pitchers in Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster, but has low-risk, medium-reward pitchers in Chris Volstad and Paul Maholm. Jeff Samardzija also appears to have finally turned a corner with his control, having walked only one batter in his first 13 2/3 IP. The lineup may not produce many big hits, but the Cubs have been aggressive on the base paths and hope to catch a little luck this season.
 
18Los Angeles Angels
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .458; Current Winning Percentage: .333; WAR Wins: 4; Current Wins: 3

Don't expect the Angels to stay ranked this low, but they are still looking for back-to-back wins while Dan Haren deals with some home run problems (likely due to bad luck) and Albert Pujols looks for his inner Albert Pujols. After killing almost every spring training pitch in sight, Pujols has been cold through his first 40 PAs as an Angel. He started cold in 2011 also, but few people remember that after he helped lead the Cardinals to a World Series championship.
 
19Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .425; Current Winning Percentage: .444; WAR Wins: 4; Current Wins: 4

Like the Angels, the Rays probably will not stay too long in the lower half of the WAR Power Rankings. They started the season hot with a three-game sweep over the New York Yankees, but despite benefitting from a Justin Verlander meltdown in Detroit, Tampa Bay has not been able to find a winning rhythm. The bullpen has looked like a mess, the starting rotation can hardly finish five innings and the defense has not been nearly as effective through the first week and a half of the season. Fans of safe bets can wager the Rays will NOT finish with the league's worst ERA (currently 6.75) and FIP (5.07).
 
20Atlanta Braves
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .425; Current Winning Percentage: .556; WAR Wins: 4; Current Wins: 5

The Braves are known as a pitching-and-defense organization, but the gloves haven't been up to par so far. Opponents are 12 for 13 in stolen base attempts, and 34.6 percent of all the balls in play against them have fallen in for hits, the worst mark in the league. The pitching staff has been better than their runs allowed total would suggest, but they'll need better support from their teammates if the Braves are going to make a run at the National League East title.
 
21Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .425; Current Winning Percentage: .556; WAR Wins: 4; Current Wins: 5

On one hand, the Blue Jays have to be thrilled that they've won five of their first nine games while only getting two combined home runs from Jose Bautista and Brett Lawrie. On the other hand, those early struggles and the lack of production the team has gotten from other core pieces like Yunel Escobar and Colby Rasmus show that this team is vulnerable to quality pitching and may struggle to score enough runs to stay in contention all year.
 
22Chicago White Sox
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .422; Current Winning Percentage: .625; WAR Wins: 3; Current Wins: 5

With three large long term contracts being given out to first baseman over the winter, there has been a lot of talk about how guys like Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder and Joey Votto might perform in their mid-to-late-30s. Well, if they are anything like Paul Konerko, they'll be just fine. The ageless Konerko continues to mash, even at 36 years old, and continues to defy the conventional career arcs. If he's showing any signs of slowing down, they aren't evident so far this season.
 
23Minnesota Twins
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .392; Current Winning Percentage: .222; WAR Wins: 4; Current Wins: 2

We come to one of the examples of where WAR differs from the actual standings. While the Twins' 2-7 record puts them at the bottom of the American League, their underlying performance suggests that they haven't been quite that bad. Most encouragingly, their much-maligned offense has been slightly above average once you adjust for their home park. If they can get their starting pitching straightened out, 2012 may not be the disaster that 2011 turned out to be.
 
24Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .377; Current Winning Percentage: .400; WAR Wins: 4; Current Wins: 4

One of the underrated keys to the Brewers success in 2011 was a surprisingly good defense, as they managed to convert a lot of balls into outs that other teams weren't able to get to. However, new third baseman Aramis Ramirez is a defensive downgrade, and Mat Gamel isn't much of a glove man over at first, so the infield defense remains a problem. While the Brewers' pitching is strong on paper, their National League-worst 5.65 ERA shows that the defensive support might not be in place to help the pitchers live up to expectations. If the Brewers are going to hang around in a tight NL Central race all year, they're going to have to address those defensive issues at some point.
 
25Oakland Athletics
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .377; Current Winning Percentage: .400; WAR Wins: 4; Current Wins: 4

Evaluating the A's and Mariners this early is tougher than it is for most teams since they've played each other so frequently to begin the year. For instance, the A's pitching staff has the lowest strikeout rate of any team in the majors, but that may just be due to playing seven games against a team that uses a speed-and-contact guy like Ichiro Suzuki as their No. 3 hitter. We'll know more about the A's once they start playing a more diverse field of opponents.
 
26Miami Marlins
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .347; Current Winning Percentage: .400; WAR Wins: 3; Current Wins: 4

The Marlins' new stadium looks like it is going to play very pitcher friendly, as Hanley Ramirez had to hit a ball as hard as he possibly could to get one out to centerfield and show that it was possible to go deep in that park. However, the Marlins' offensive issues can't all be blamed on their environment, as they're posting a .274 on base percentage on the road as well. With Ramirez and Giancarlo Stanton struggling early, it's no surprise Miami is having trouble scoring runs, as this team is heavily reliant on those two. They'll need them both to produce, and soon.
 
27Cincinnati Reds
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .347; Current Winning Percentage: .400; WAR Wins: 3; Current Wins: 4

The league's strategy against the Reds seems to be clear: Walk Joey Votto and make the guys behind him beat you. Votto has drawn 10 walks (three of them intentional) in 10 games, but Scott Rolen is hitting just .121 with only two extra base hits on the year, so those walks aren't resulting in any runs. Until Rolen or Jay Bruce start making opposing pitchers pay for putting Votto on base, they'll continue to keep issuing free passes. Votto can't drive himself in every time up, so he's going to need some help from his teammates.
 
28Seattle Mariners
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .338; Current Winning Percentage: .545; WAR Wins: 4; Current Wins: 6

Because of the two-game series in Japan to start the season, and then the layoff before starting back in the U.S., the Mariners have been able to have Felix Hernandez start three of their first 11 games, which is part of the reason why the team is 6-5. Unfortunately for Seattle, King Felix will only be able to start every fifth game going forward, so it will need production from the rest of the roster in order to keep winning games. Based on the likelihood that the Mariners' familiar offensive struggles continue in 2012, that may present a problem for the rest of the season.
 
29Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .336; Current Winning Percentage: .333; WAR Wins: 3; Current Wins: 3

The Pirates' problem is not difficult to diagnose ? they haven't hit. At all. They rank last in the majors in batting average, on base percentage and slugging percentage, and no one's even close to challenging them for those positions. Besides Andrew McCutchen, no one is producing at the plate, and it's hard to win games when you're not scoring runs. The Pirates will have to get guys like Neil Walker on track sooner than later, or this could be a long summer in Pittsburgh.
 
30San Diego Padres
Last Week:
WAR Winning Percentage: .327; Current Winning Percentage: .200; WAR Wins: 3; Current Wins: 2

If you're wondering how the Dodgers are 9-1, you can chalk that up to seven games against San Diego so far. The Padres have the best farm system in the game, but most of that talent hasn't poured over to the major league level yet, and with several injuries hitting the starting rotation, the team simply isn't capable of putting up a real fight against good teams at the moment. The future in San Diego is very bright, but the present could be awfully tough to watch in 2012.

 
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