Posted: Thu May 16, 2013 3:18PM; Updated: Thu May 16, 2013 3:18PM
Joe Lemire

Never-ending supply of quality arms carries Cardinals to No. 1

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Shelby Miller
Shelby Miller, 22, has established himself as one of the game's best young pitchers.
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Jake Westbrook has been outstanding this year, with a 1.62 ERA in 39 innings, so replacing him while he's on the disabled list with elbow inflammation would seem difficult -- for any team except the Cardinals.

St. Louis promoted lefthander John Gast for his big league debut on Tuesday, and he started with five scoreless innings against the Mets, though he did allow four runs in the sixth. After Gast, the Cardinals trotted out three righthander relievers in sinkerballer Seth Maness and power pitchers Carlos Martinez, whose fastball touched 100, and Joe Kelly, who hit 98 on the radar gun. Each of the three pitched a scoreless inning.

And while Kelly, 24, is in his second year, the other three are rookies; Gast and Maness are only 24 while Martinez, a top prospect, is only 21. There's also 22-year-old Shelby Miller, who came within a single of a perfect game on Friday, as well as hard-throwing Trevor Rosenthal, 22, not to mention starters Lance Lynn and Jaime Garcia, who are both only 26.

They combine to form a spectacular early-to-mid-20s brigade of pitching riches for St. Louis, which oh-by-the-way also has Adam Wainwright and some good veteran relievers. As a whole, the Cardinals have allowed a major league-low 131 runs, led by a 2.33 rotation ERA that is nearly a run better than Washington's second-place 3.21. Throw in an offense that ranks third in the National League in runs, and the Redbirds are the new No. 1 in this week's MLB Power Rankings.

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. This is done to remove subjectivity and to more accurately rate the teams that are playing the best right now.

NOTE: All stats are updated through Wednesday, May 15.

MLB Power Rankings
1St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 2
Even with the game's top offensive prospect, Oscar Taveras, biding his time in Triple A, the Cardinals have baseball's third-most productive outfield as measured by OPS (.823). Carlos Beltran has not only slugged 10 home runs but he also has the highest home run rate of his career, with them coming on 7.0 percent of all plate appearances. They've come at the expense of other extra-base hits -- three doubles, no triples and 27 singles -- and a strikeout rate (16.8 percent) that's his second-highest since 1999.
2Texas Rangers
Last Week: 5
Two Rangers relievers have emerged to solidify the bullpen. Lefthander Robbie Ross prevented his first 15 inherited runners from scoring and only one runner he's allowed on base has scored in 16 23/ innings of work for a 0.54 ERA. Also, righthander Tanner Scheppers has a 0.44 ERA (1 ER in 20 2/3 innings) while getting grounders for double plays in four of nine chances, a 44 percent rate that leads the majors.
3Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 9
With rookie Tony Cingrani hardly missing a beat in place of injured ace Johnny Cueto -- Cingrani has a 2.89 ERA in five starts, Cueto a 2.60 ERA in three starts -- the Reds again have a well-rounded rotation with no weak link. Their starters rank fourth in the majors in both 3.38 ERA and innings per start (6.2).
4New York Yankees
Last Week: 8
The first of the injured cavalry returned this week, with Curtis Granderson making his season debut. Thanks to Robinson Cano (as expected), as well as Travis Hafner and Lyle Overbay (not expected), the Yankees didn't lack for lefthanded power in Granderson's absence -- they lead the majors with 29 homers from lefties.
5Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 3
The sustainability of this early season success will be determined by the rotation, as the offense keeps firing on all cylinders -- third in the AL in runs per game and first in slugging -- and what's been heretofore underrated is the defense, which ranks atop the league for overall team defense, according to Baseball Prospectus' park-adjusted defensive efficiency.
6Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 1
In the last fortnight the Tigers went 6-1 against the Astros but 1-5 against strong competition in the Nationals and the division rival Indians. Those recent losses are the only real fault one can find with a team that leads the majors in runs (206) and ranks third in runs allowed (146) for a baseball-best +60 run differential.
7Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 11
The Diamondbacks have two elite pitching prospects, Tyler Skaggs and Archie Bradley, even after trading Trevor Bauer this winter, but it's a different young pitcher, 23-year-old Patrick Corbin, who's stealing the show so far this year. He has a quality start in all eight outings, going 6-0 with a 1.52 ERA.
8Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 4
Manny Machado impressed in his second-half promotion last year with some timely power and first-rate defense, though the 20-year-old lacked a consistent approach at the plate (.294 OBP). No more. He leads the majors with 59 hits and has batted .417 over his last 22 games.
9Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 17
Overall, the Pirates are a middle-of-the-pack offensive team -- except in the eighth inning, when they collectively transform into a lineup of All-Stars. Pittsburgh leads all major league teams in eighth-inning runs (31), average (.308) and OBP (.376), which is why they've already won four games when trailing after seven innings.
10Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 20
The Rays apparently believe in the thrill of the chase. In a recent six-game winning streak, they rallied from behind in all six -- in two games the comeback margin was as much as three runs and in another game they rallied from two separate deficits. On the year, Tampa Bay has a winning record (6-5) when trailing after the first inning.
11Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 7
The return of Brian McCann (3 HRs, 1.005 OPS in eight games) couldn't offset a poor road trip that culminated with losses in five of their last six, to the Giants and Diamondbacks. The Braves have had a lopsided schedule, with 26 road games and only 14 at home, and they have held serve away form Turner Field at .500 while going 9-5 (.643) in their 14 homes games. They now play in Atlanta for 14 of the next 19.
12San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 6
Every year the Giants have a different starting pitcher to worry about: first, Barry Zito, then Tim Lincecum and now Ryan Vogelson, who has an 8.06 ERA in eight starts that have lasted only 41 1/3 innings. His batting average on balls in play (.372) and home run-per-flyball rate (14.5 percent) suggest some bad luck is a factor, and it's encouraging that his strikeout rate (8.3 per nine innings) remains high.
13Washington Nationals
Last Week: 13
While Stephen Strasburg has still never thrown a major league pitch in the eighth inning in his career, his rotation-mate, Jordan Zimmermann, has two complete games this season and has pitched into the eighth inning four times. He's averaging 7 1/3 innings per start, and Washington is 7-1 in his outings.
14Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 10
The Red Sox' only two wins in their last eight games have been Jon Lester's starts, which is not a coincidence, given his season (6-0, 2.72 ERA) and recent (2-0, 2 ER in 16 IP) stats and the 7.7 runs of support the lineup has given him every nine innings of work (third in majors). The rest of the rotation received just 3.8 runs in their six recent losses.
15Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 14
In the Royals' 31st game, Eric Hosmer finally homered. He is still only 23, but his regression the past two seasons after a stellar rookie campaign remains puzzling. He has just two extra-base hits in May, and his isolated power -- defined as slugging minus batting average -- is .073, which ranks 21st of 23 qualified first basemen.
16Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 19
Your AL leader in WHIP, by a healthy margin, is Hisashi Iwakuma, whose 0.78 precedes Yu Darvish, teammate Felix Hernandez and Chris Sale. Iwakuma also ranks second in K/BB at 6.9 and is 5-1 with a 1.84 ERA, giving Seattle the majors' most productive 1-2 punch.
17Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 16
No trend is ever truly global and the league-wide increase in strikeouts has missed a team. The Twins' rotation is striking out just 4.30 batters per nine innings, which is 23 percent less than any other big league club. If Minnesota's pace keeps up, it'd be the second-lowest rate by any rotation since 1992, save for the 119-loss 2003 Tigers' 4.29.
18Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 12
The Rockies are 17-1 when scoring five or more runs and 12-2 when Carlos Gonzalez as a multi-hit game, so it's little surprise they won Tuesday night when CarGo went 5-for-5 with two home runs, the best offensive performance of the season.
19Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 25
Cubs lefthander Travis Wood is one of only two pitchers in baseball to begin the season with eight straight quality starts, each of which easily cleared the six-inning, three-earned run threshold. He has a 2.02 ERA in 53 1/3 innings, though it's unlikely he'll maintain such a low number given that opponents have just a.189 BABIP against him, which is almost certainly going to go up.
20San Diego Padres
Last Week: 18
Few teams are so all-or-nothing as the Padres, who have been swept four times (twice by the Rockies, once each by the Giants and Rays) and who also have won four series sweeps (Dodgers, Giants, Marlins and, most recently, the Orioles). Thus they've been involved in eight sweeps, while splitting only five series.
21Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 22
The Phillies' bullpen is the NL's worst at stranding runners. Of the 48 runners on base when its relievers enter the game, 22 of them scored, a 45.8 percent scoring rate. The biggest culprit has been Chad Durbin, who has allowed nine of 15 inherited runners to score.
22Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 26
One pleasant surprise this season has been the play of Adam Lind who, after three straight down years, has his OPS back over .800. He's playing almost exclusively against righthanders but productive platoon players can fill an important role. Lind also smacked the game-winning, ninth-inning home run over the Red Sox last Saturday.
23Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 23
Chris Sale, who came within one Mike Trout single of a no-hitter on Sunday, is getting better and more efficient. Though his strikeout rate has declined in each of his past three seasons, so too has his walk rate, down to 1.9 per nine innings, helping him to a 0.94 WHIP (fourth in AL) and helping be more efficient: he averages 14.6 pitches per inning (sixth in AL) and more than seven innings per start.
24Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 15
When Bartolo Colon walked Lance Berkman on Tuesday night, he doubled his season walk total. Yep, Colon has walked only two batters in 47 1/3 innings which, if sustained, would be a modern-era record of 0.38 BB/9, eclipsing the Twins' Carlos Silva's 0.43 in 2005. The A's, however, have lost all three of Colon's starts in May after winning all five of them in April.
25Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 27
Getting on base hasn't been the problem, as the Dodgers are second in the NL with a .333 OBP, but they rank only 14th in runs with 134. It seems hard to sustain such a poor rate of driving home baserunners until one considers that L.A. ranks 29th in the majors with a .661 OPS with men on.
26Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 21
The same Brewers who won nine straight earlier this season have now lost 11 of 13 since May 1. As soon as the calendar page flipped, the pitching staff's walk rate jumped from a majors-best 2.3 per nine innings to 3.8, which ranks 26th, and with it went the ERA, which rose from 4.16 to 5.17.
27Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 28
Another problem for the Angels' growing list of them: They rank last in the AL in stolen-base percentage, as they've been successful on 57.7 percent of their 26 tries. They've also made 16 other outs on the bases and have plated just 27 percent of all baserunners, which is third-worst in the league.
28New York Mets
Last Week: 24
In their first 37 games, the Mets used 31 different lineups of position players with no batting order used more than once; include the variations with pitchers, and manager Terry Collins used 37 lineups in 37 games. More permutations will continue to be forthcoming after they signed outfielder Rick Ankiel.
29Miami Marlins
Last Week: 29
The Marlins' offense is poor across the board. In ranking production by position (using OPS), Miami ranks in the bottom third of the majors at seven of the eight positions, only rising above at second base where it ranks 19th of 30. The Marlins are averaging 2.75 runs per game, a pace for 446 runs in 162 games. Every major league team scored at least 466 runs in the strike-shortened 1994 season despite some clubs losing 50 games off their schedule.
30Houston Astros
Last Week: 30
Philip Humber's stay in Houston was, well, imperfect. The righthander, who threw a perfect game for the White Sox last year was 0-8 with a 9.59 ERA and a 2.02 WHIP with the Astros, who designated him for assignment this week.
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