Posted: Fri May 3, 2013 11:00AM; Updated: Fri May 3, 2013 11:00AM
Joe Lemire

Red Sox surge into top spot while Tigers, Yankees make big jumps

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David Ortiz
David Ortiz has looked as good as ever in helping the Red Sox to the majors' best record.
Mary Schwalm/AP

The Boston Red Sox are the best team in baseball right now, and it's not even close. Just as we all saw coming, right?

Thanks to a resurgent rotation and a dynamic offense, the Red Sox are the first team to 20 wins (no one else has more than 17); they have the best run differential (+49, 20 runs better than the field); and they are the hottest team (8-2 in their last 10, also the best in the game).

The real key to their success this season is, as Joe Sheehan wrote, the pitching staff led by Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester. While Lester has been very good, Buchholz has been the game's best pitcher so far this year at 6-0 with a 1.01 ERA and a career-high strikeout rate of 9.5 per nine innings, a 51 percent improvement on his 6.3 mark from the past four seasons. As a pitching staff, the Red Sox have a 9.90 K/9, second only to the Tigers' 9.93; both are more than 1.2 higher than any full-season K/9 rate in the modern era.

As a reminder, this year's Power Rankings are now ordered based on a quantitative formula that considers season record, last-10 record (with a small strength of schedule component) and season run differential. That explains why there's more week-to-week movement than in year's past, as the rankings more accurately rate the teams that are playing the best right now.

NOTE: All stats are updated through Thursday, May 2.

MLB Power Rankings
1Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 3
David Ortiz is putting up Little League numbers since his season debut. He has hits in all 10 games he played and has gone 19-for-39 overall, a cool .487 average with three homers and 15 RBIs. He's already tied for second in RBIs among DHs, despite having played less than half as many games as the other leaders.
2St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 6
The Cardinals' starting rotation has an ERA nearly a full run better than any other team in baseball. Its staff has a 2.09 mark; the Red Sox rank second with a 3.05 ERA. St. Louis has shutout opponents five times and is the only team with two individual shutouts -- one each by Adam Wainwright and Jake Westbrook.
3Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 17
Justin Verlander has a statistical clone in Anibal Sanchez. Verlander is 3-2 with a 1.83 ERA, nine runs allowed (eight earned) and 11 walks issued in 39 1/3 innings. Sanchez is 3-2 with a 1.82 ERA, nine runs allowed (eight earned) and 11 walks issued in 39 2/3 innings. Sanchez leads in strikeouts, 50 to 41.
4New York Yankees
Last Week: 12
Consider the Yankees' ideal lineup -- with injured stars Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, et al. -- and compare it to their batting order on Wednesday and only two players are in both, Robinson Cano and Ichiro Suzuki. (Well, maybe three with Travis Hafner at DH.) Still, in that game and so many other this year, New York won.
5Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 10
Once again, the Royals have more of a gap-power lineup. Ten of their players have between three and six doubles, but Kansas City is the only AL team that doesn't have any player with at least four home runs.
6Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 2
Good for the Rockies to be aggressive in promoting third base prospect Nolan Arenado in an effort to capitalize on a fast start. Arenado was on a hot streak -- he had a 1.059 OPS in 18 games at Triple A -- and had three hits, including a homer, in his second big league game.
7Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 11
Orioles fans are probably sick of hearing about their statistical oddities, but here's another: Only once this year has a Baltimore starting pitcher completed seven innings -- Wei-Yin Chen did so in a victory at Oakland last Friday.
8Texas Rangers
Last Week: 4
Yu Darvish didn't allow a home run until his 39th inning of work; his 13.5 K/9 leads the majors; and opponents are missing on 40.7 percent of all swings against him. If sustained, that last number would be 4.9 percent better than Pedro Martinez in 1999, the current leader among starting pitchers since STATS LLC started keeping track in 1988.
9Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 1
The occasion of a milestone is a good time to reflect on a player's career, and Tim Hudson, who won his 200th game (and hit a home run) on Tuesday, has been underappreciated during his 15 seasons. He's had an ERA over 4.00 only twice -- and one of them was the Steroid Era peak of 2000 when his adjusted ERA was still above league average as he won 20 games and was the AL Cy Young runner-up.
10Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 8
The streaking Pirates were finally slowed at hands of the Brewers, and it was predictable: since 2007 Pittsburgh is 8-46 when playing in Milwaukee's Miller Park. That's a .148 winning percentage.
11San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 14
Through 28 games, the Giants are homering at exactly the same rate -- 0.75 per game -- at home and on the road. That's a much better split than in the 2012 season when they hit 31 homers at AT&T Park (0.38 per game) and 72 homers elsewhere (0.89).
12Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 9
Arizona's relievers have blown 10 saves this year, three more than any other major league team, but the D-backs have rallied to still win six of those games. Some hurt more than others: they've had save opportunities in five of six games against the division rival Giants but lost the lead and eventually the game three times.
13Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 20
If Chuck Norris played baseball, it'd look a lot like what Ryan Raburn did this week. He had back-to-back multi-homer games and went 11-for-13 over three consecutive games for a cool .846 average and 1.846 OPS. He joins Milwaukee's Carlos Gomez as the only players this year to have three straight games with three or more hits.
14Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 13
Oakland's infield -- with Brandon Moss, Eric Sogard, Jed Lowrie and Josh Donaldson as the around-the-horn starters -- is making a combined $5 million in salary this year. It is also leading all AL infields in offensive production with a .799 OPS, which ranks second in the majors to Colorado's.
15Washington Nationals
Last Week: 21
Washington narrowly escaped disaster in Atlanta: on Monday manager Davey Johnson said Stephen Strasburg had forearm tightness; Bryce Harper left Wednesday's game early with an injury; and the Braves, a key division rival, won the series' first two games. But Strasburg will make his next start; Harper played the entirety of Thursday's game; and the Nationals rallied to win the next two.
16Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 5
Among qualified hitters in the NL, Reds shortstop Zack Cozart has the third-worst OBP at .225, yet manager Dusty Baker keeps writing his name in the 2-hole of his lineup card. For what it's worth, Cozart has been better batting second (.278 OBP in 81 PAs) than batting seventh (.094 OBP in 33 PAs), though it's a low bar to clear.
17Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 7
The Brewers have enjoyed some of the game's best offensive production from the left side of the infield, even though third baseman Aramis Ramirez is injured and shortstop Jean Segura is 23 and entered the year with just 151 big league at bats. But Segura leads big league shortstops with a .351 average and is third in OPS at .938; more surprisingly, third base fill-in Yuniesky Betancourt has seven home runs and an .853 OPS.
18Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 23
The two lowest scoring teams in the NL are the poorest (Marlins, $36.3 million, 81 runs) and the richest (Dodgers, $217 million, 91 runs). L.A.'s difficulty scoring runs is curious for more than just its payroll, as it ranks second in the league with a .327 team OBP, but it ranks 13th in the NL in homers (20) and 14th in average with runners in scoring position (.211).
19Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 18
Only two starters this season have made at least five starts and thrown at least seven innings in all of them: Boston's Clay Buchholz and Minnesota's Kevin Correia. Most amazing is that Correia only had three starts of that length in 28 starts for the Pirates last season.
20Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 16
The Rays are known for finding hidden value -- an Extra 2%, some might say -- and their success with reclamation projects (Fernando Rodney, et al.) is well known, with first baseman James Loney the latest addition to the list. His .375 average and .430 OBP both lead the Rays, while his .528 slugging is second only to Evan Longoria.
21Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 22
The White Sox are flirting with a historically low team on-base percentage. Their .284 mark is not only the worst in the majors this season but, if sustained, would also be the lowest by any team since the 1972 Padres had a .283 OBP.
22Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 25
When playing the Mets or Marlins, the Phillies are 8-2; when playing anybody else, they are 5-14. Philadelphia is also just 5-13 in games started by its three co-aces of Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay.
23Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 26
After an atrocious start (5-for-34), Kyle Seager's bat has come to life. He then went on a 16-game hitting streak, and in his last 20 games he's batting .351 with 11 extra-base hits, tied for fifth most in the majors since April 11.
24San Diego Padres
Last Week: 28
Left-on-left is traditionally the most favorable pitching matchup, but the Padres have even struggled in that area. Opponents' lefthanded batters have a .900 OPS (in an admittedly small 84-plate appearance sample) when facing San Diego southpaws, by far the highest the game.
25Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 29
When the Cubs lost 13-7 to the Padres on Tuesday, it was the first time this season that Chicago played a game that was decided by more than four runs. Even though the Cubs' record isn't very good, they're playing competitive ballgames almost every night.
26New York Mets
Last Week: 15
The average player with 93 plate appearances bats with 55 runners on base and has nine RBIs; John Buck, meanwhile, has batted with 66 runners on base but has an NL-leading 27 RBIs. Though RBIs are an imperfect stat, the fact that Buck has tripled the average means this is more than pure luck.
27Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 19
In the fifth inning on Thursday night -- Joe Blanton's 31st inning of the season, in his sixth start -- he had his first (!) 1-2-3 inning of the season. In related news, Blanton (0-5, 5.97 ERA) leads the majors in hits allowed with 55. While troubling, that also implies that he's merely been bad and not horrible, thus allowing him to stay in games long enough for opponents to get that many hits.
28Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 24
I'm just spitballing here, but the Blue Jays need to something to shakeup their fortunes. They're 10 1/2 games out of first place -- the biggest deficit of any big league team -- and their -44 run differential is third-worst, ahead of only Houston and Miami.
29Miami Marlins
Last Week: 30
The Marlins finally won a series this week (their first in nine tries), taking two of three from the Mets and needing unusual circumstances to win their second game. Miami didn't advance a runner to second base until the ninth inning and then overcame a 1-0 deficit to score two runs thanks to an inning with single, a passed ball, a fielder's choice, an intentional walk and a wild pitch. Obviously.
30Houston Astros
Last Week: 27
A lot can change over the final five months of the season, of course, but right now Chris Carter has six home runs and 49 strikeouts through 29 team games. He is on pace to hit 34 homers and strike out 274 times. The latter would be a record -- by 51.
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