Posted: Thu April 11, 2013 2:46PM; Updated: Thu April 11, 2013 3:24PM
Joe Lemire

Justin Upton powers Braves to top spot in rankings

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Justin Upton
With Justin Upton leading the way, the Braves are off to a flying start in the National League East.

Power has defined the first week and a half of the baseball season. Power pitching has led to a record rate of 7.61 strikeouts per team per game that, if sustained, would be the eighth straight year strikeouts have increased.

Power bats are also on the rise, with each team averaging 1.09 home runs per game, which would be the sixth-highest rate in baseball history. Six teams are scoring at least half their runs via homers, something only one team has ever done for an entire season (the 2010 Blue Jays).

It is perhaps fitting, therefore, that the top two teams in the first edition of's 2013 MLB Power Rankings -- Atlanta and Oakland -- either lead or are tied for the league lead in home runs.

And the rankings themselves are more powerful than ever. A new quantitative formula has been devised to rank teams according to season record, recent record (with a small strength of schedule component) and run differential.

NOTES: All stats are updated through Wednesday, April 10. A team's "last week" ranking refers to the offseason rankings.

MLB Power Rankings
1Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 2
This winter manager Fredi Gonzalez proclaimed Justin Upton to be "the guy we were missing for Chipper Jones." And then some. J-Up leads the league in home runs (6), slugging (.971), OPS (1.365), total bases (33) and two-strike hits (eight). Buoyed by his production, Atlanta is tied for the major league lead with a +26 run differential.
2Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 12
In Oakland's recent seven-game winning streak, speedy outfielder Coco Crisp incongruously had nine extra-base hits: five doubles and home runs in four straight games. The plain verb choice of "had" rather than the more colorful "slugged" or "smacked" was deliberate, given this proof that Crisp hasn't exactly turned into a power hitter.
3St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 7
Just as we all expected, the majors' first two shutouts were thrown by Clayton Kershaw and, uh, Jake Westbrook. His blanking of the high-powered Reds offense on Wednesday was his first shutout since 2006 and kept his ERA at 0.00 through 15 2/3 innings this season.
4Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 9
Entering play on Thursday, erstwhile Red Sox Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez ranked first and fifth in the NL in batting with .464 and .393 averages, respectively. (And, oh, what the heck, fellow ex-Boston infielder Nick Punto was hitting .600 with his 3-for-5 start.) Josh Beckett, however, was 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA in two starts.
5Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 17
The Royals' lack of home runs (four, tied for last in the AL) isn't such a problem since, you know, they're in first place -- but also because they have gap power, having hit a league-leading 22 doubles that included a streak of seven straight games with at least two. Incidentally, Kansas City pitchers have allowed the fewest doubles in the AL (seven).
6Washington Nationals
Last Week: 1
All the offensive attention has been focused on the outfielders who are either new (Denard Span), fully healthy (Jayson Werth) or poised to breakout (Bryce Harper), but it's time the catchers got their due. Wilson Ramos is batting .462 with two homers and a 1.486 OPS and Kurt Suzuki is 3-for-10 with all three of his hits going for extra bases; together, their offensive production leads all major league catching tandems.
7Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 18
So far the biggest change with Boston hasn't been any of its voluminous new acquisitions, but the reinventions of starters Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, who are a combined 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA in 26 innings, leading the way for the Red Sox rotation to rank first in the AL with a 2.38 ERA.
8Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 19
Not long ago, the Diamondbacks' outfield was overflowing. Even after trading away Justin Upton and Chris Young, there seemed to be little room at the inn, but injuries to rookie Adam Eaton and free agent signee Cody Ross have opened the door for Gerardo Parra (tied for second in the NL with seven extra-base hits), A.J. Pollock (a two-homer game on Wednesday) and Alfredo Marte (who batted fifth in Monday's starting lineup).
9Texas Rangers
Last Week: 10
The collective pitching of Yu Darvish (1.98 ERA and one out from a perfect game), Alexi Ogando (0.77 ERA) and Derek Holland (2.40 ERA) through two starts apiece would be the sole talk of the Rangers' first week if not for the resurgence of nearly-retired DH Lance Berkman, who went 12-for-25 (.480) with seven walks (.594 OBP).
10San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 3
Last season ended with Giants closer Sergio Romo striking out the side to beat the Tigers in the World Series, and he hasn't looked back. So far Romo has been nearly perfect, saving the first five Giants wins while striking out eight and allowing just one hit and no walks in five innings.
11Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 4
While it is true that Alex Rodriguez is earning more in salary than the entire Astros team, perhaps we should pay attention to another similarly lopsided comparison: Joey Votto has drawn almost as many walks (12) in 44 plate appearances as the White Sox (13) have in 285 PAs. Through nine games, Votto has a .500 OBP.
12New York Mets
Last Week: 27
As anticipated, the Mets' new catcher has been an offensive force. Less expected is which catcher is making the impact. While the highly touted prospect, Travis d'Arnaud, remains in the minors, veteran backstop John Buck has hit five home runs this season, already tying New York's total output from its catcher in all of 2012.
13New York Yankees
Last Week: 13
Much was made this spring about the Yankees missing nine of their top 10 home run hitters from last year, because of injuries or departures from the team. But, despite being without 79 percent of its power total from a year ago, New York is second in the AL in home runs with 15.
14Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 8
Torii Hunter's AL-leading six multi-hit games propelled him to 2,000 career hits on Tuesday, but the power for him and his outfield cohorts has been loacking. The Tigers are the only big league club whose outfielders have yet to slug a home run. More pressing: Detroit's bullpen ranks last in the majors with a 6.66 ERA.
15Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 26
Of the Rockies' four principal injury returnees, they're hitting .500. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki has hit three homers and has a 1.136 OPS and starter Jhoulys Chacin has a 1.35 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in his two starts, but his rotation mates Juan Nicasio (4.91 ERA and seven walks in 11 innings) and Jorge de la Rosa (6.10 ERA in two starts) haven't fared as well.
16Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 16
As of this writing, Philadelphia ranks third-to-last in the majors with a 6.24 starters' ERA. It is, granted, a tiny nine-game sample, but there's nothing tiny about the ERAs of Roy Halladay (14.73) and Cole Hamels (10.97), not to mention the club's $72.5 million rotation expenditure. (Cliff Lee, however, has been dominant in his two starts with a 1.08 ERA.)
17Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 21
The white-knuckle White Sox have yet to play a game that didn't end with either a save or a walkoff, strongly testing a bullpen that, so far, has largely been up to the challenge: Chicago's 1.80 reliever ERA is the best in the AL.
18Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 14
No teammates have had a better start to the season than Adam Jones (.471 average, 11 runs) and Chris Davis (.393 average, 5 HRs, 18 RBIs), but the same can't be said about a rotation that is tied for 25th in the majors with a 5.44 ERA. That -- and an 0-3 record in one-run games -- has held the club back so far.
19Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 28
For all the talk of fewer baseballs being put in play in today's game, so far the Twins pitching staff seems intent on reversing that: its 4.91 K/9 is the lowest in the majors and, if it holds up, would be the lowest rate for any team in a decade. Minnesota is allowing 0.47 home runs per nine innings, the lowest in the AL, and its 2.69 BB/9 rate is the fourth-lowest in the AL.
20Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 6
It's practically a case of all or nothing for the Rays pitching staff. Tampa Bay has only won four games and pitched a team shutout in three of them, matching the Dodgers for most shutouts in the first nine games since 2007. Rays lefthander Matt Moore has started two of the three shutouts, blanking the Indians for six innings last week and the Rangers for 5 1/3 on Wednesday.
21Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 5
A desire to upgrade the rotation was the driving force behind Toronto's blockbuster offseason, but the early returns are not good. R.A. Dickey is 0-2 with a 8.44 ERA, and Mark Buehrle has a 10.24 ERA. As a whole, the rotation has a 1.74 WHIP, the worst in the majors.
22Houston Astros
Last Week: 30
The Astros' 16-run outburst to beat the Mariners Tuesday obscures a lot of bleak early season numbers, such as their early six-game losing streak, their prior total of only 14 runs in their first seven games and their previously big league-worst -22 run differential. Also, Houston is on a world-record pace for strikeouts. Its hitters have whiffed 101 times -- a 11.22 per-game average that's well ahead of the 9.44 K/game rate of the 2010 Diamondbacks.
23Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 23
Opening Day starter Justin Masterson is 2-0 with 0.69 ERA and a 9.0 K/9; the rest of the Indians rotation, however, is 0-5 with a 8.66 ERA and a 5.3 K/9 thanks, in large part, to Ubaldo Jimenez and Carlos Carrasco, who have combined for a 9.64 ERA in their three starts.
24Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 20
Pittsburgh didn't score more than three runs in any of its first six games, the worst such start to the year of any team in five years. Through eight games and 275 at bats this season, the Pirates had a .153 team batting average, a .448 OPS and 13 extra-base hits, all ranking last in the majors.
25Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 25
In developments that surprise no one, shortstop Starlin Castro has yet to draw a walk in his first eight games, Carlos Marmol has already lost his closer's job and Alfonso Soriano has yet to homer in eight games, after not homering in 20 games last April.
26Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 24
The Mariners have scored the fewest runs in the AL each of the last four seasons, which seemed sure to change at least with the inclusion of the Astros in the league, but now also because Seattle has a strong offense. Led by offseason acquisitions Michael Morse (six homers, 1.037 OPS) and Kendrys Morales (.313 average, .905 OPS), the M's have scored 42 runs, good for sixth place.
27Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 11
Josh Hamilton started the year 1-for-20. Jered Weaver is on the disabled list for a month. Neither Hamilton nor Mike Trout has homered yet. But, hey, at least they're leading the league in sacrifice flies.
28San Diego Padres
Last Week: 15
How bleak has the Padres' offense been without Chase Headley? They scored just six total runs while getting swept in three games at Coors Field, never plating more than three in any one game, which is rare -- it had been nearly two years since a club failed to score at least four runs in any contest of a three-game series in Colorado. The culprit then was, yep, the Padres, from June 13-15, 2011, though they did win a game that time.
29Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 22
John Axford has the unfortunate distinction of being the only pitcher in baseball so far this year to allow a run in four appearances, swiftly leading to his demotion from the closer gig in favor of Jim Henderson. According to, Axford's average fastball velocity has dropped more than 2.5 mph since last year, from 96.91 to 94.35 mph.
30Miami Marlins
Last Week: 29
That the Marlins' offense is depleted is little surprise, but the struggles of Giancarlo Stanton are. The power-hitting rightfielder has yet to hit a home run in 30 at bats and is batting just .167 overall. As a team, Miami has scored a major-league low 16 runs in nine games.
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