PTBPR: MLB Power Rankings – May 2014

Welcome to the second installment of the PTBPR, or the Place to Be Nation’s MLB Power Rankings for the month of May.

Just like last time, we’ll be ranking the six divisions, as well as an individual glimpse at all 30 teams. Criteria for rankings is still based on team OPS, ERA, and DER, as well as winning percentage, winning streaks, and intra-division records.

All statistics and records are thru games played as of May 31, 2014.

Previous ranking in brackets; team records in parentheses.


Division Rankings:

1. A.L. East [4] A big jump for this division, in large part due to the Toronto Blue Jays’ strong month, as well as New York and Baltimore keeping pace at 2.5 and 4.5 games out, respectively. Boston survived a 10-game losing streak and has reeled off seven in a row to stay just six back. Only Tampa at 9.5 is truly in danger of falling out of the race here.

2. N.L. West [3] The San Francisco Giants still lead the way here, with a solid 6.5-game cushion over the L.A. Dodgers, and 7.5 ahead of the Jekyll-and-Hyde Colorado Rockies. San Diego is still on the fringes, but is probably going to be a September spoiler, as will Arizona, which dug itself too big of a hole with a wretched first month.

3. A.L. West [2] Oakland continues to impress with the A.L.’s best record at 34-22. The Angels are within hailing distance at 3.5 back, while injury-plagued Texas and sluggish Seattle are hanging around at six and 6.5 back, respectively. Even Houston (7-3 over its last 10 games) has been showing signs of improvement lately.

4. N.L. East [1] Still a very competitive division, with all five teams within five games of one another. Front-runner Atlanta, at 30-25, just has not been able to pull away from the still-surprising Miami Marlins (28-27) and the Washington Nationals (27-27). If one of those teams catches fire in June, this division could get ugly in a hurry, but so far, it’s been a very tight race.

5. N.L. Central [5] Based on the continued success of Milwaukee (33-23) and St. Louis (30-26), it was tough not to slot this division ahead of the N.L. East, but the subpar seasons from the rest of the division — Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and the Chicago Cubs have posted a combined record of 65-82 record thus far — made the decision easier.

6. A.L. Central [6] Detroit’s still in the driver’s seat, despite an ugly stretch during the middle of the month. With a 31-21 record, the Tigers are still the only team over .500 in the division, with the Chicago White Sox, at 28-29, one game shy of breaking even.

Team Rankings:

1. Oakland A’s [2] (34-22) — Still hitting (3rd in MLB with a .755 team OPS), still pitching (1st with a 2.93 ERA), and still playing amazing defense (tied for 1st with a .722 DER). Third baseman Josh Donaldson is second in the league with 12 game-winning RBIs and could be an MVP candidate come the dog days.

2. San Francisco Giants [6] (36-20) — They have won eight of their last 10 to close out May, still fending off the preseason favorite Dodgers. The Giants have done it by winning at home (19-9), on the road (17-11), against their division rivals (18-13), and in interleague contests (6-0).

3. Toronto Blue Jays [25] (33-24) — The Jays surged 22 spots (!) based on a torrid month of May. They posted a 21-9 record during the season’s second month, thanks to hitting the stuffing out the ball (.277/.344/.831 team slash line in May). Mark Buehrle (9-1, 2.33 ERA) has been nothing short of brilliant. Edwin Encarnacion swatted a Major League-best 16 home runs during the month. Donaldson could be an MVP candidate, but don’t overlook Double-E.

4. Milwaukee Brewers [1] (33-23) — The pitching staff that posted a second-best in baseball 2.90 ERA in the first month has fallen off a bit, as it now sits seventh with a 3.45 mark. The defense is sixth with a .707 DER, while the offense has improved from 17th (.704) to eighth (.724) in OPS. Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy, Ryan Braun, Khris Davis, and Rickie Weeks have all posted individual OPS numbers above .900 over the past 30 days.

5. Detroit Tigers [7] (31-21) — The team weathered a rough patch in the middle of May, with Justin Verlander posting a 5.54 ERA for the month and Max Scherzer at 4.09. Despite that, and a few late-inning dizzy spells by closer Joe Nathan (5.40 ERA, 8 hits, 2 HR in 10 IP), the team is still rocking the third-most wins and second-best winning percentage in the A.L.

6. St. Louis Cardinals [11] (30-26) — The callup of stud prospect Oscar Tavares should be a boost to the second-place Redbirds, who sit 3.5 back of the Brew Crew. The team needs a shot in the arm, as its .691 OPS is 20th in MLB. These guys are winning with pitching (3.34 ERA) and defense (.702 DER).

7. Atlanta Braves [3] (30-25) — The team has yet to hit any sort of offensive stride (.241/.312/.364 during the month of May) and the defense has been so-so, with a .690 DER that ranks 17th in MLB, right between the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins. But the Bravos continue to pitch with a fifth-best in MLB 3.35 ERA.

8. L.A. Dodgers [8] (30-27) — They’ve not caught the Giants yet, going just 15-15 in the past month. Josh Beckett’s no-hitter highlighted what has been a steady last 30 days for the Dodgers’ starting rotation, while the offense has been carried by Yasiel Puig and his .398/.492/.731 performance since May Day.

9. L.A. Angels [15] (30-25) — The offense has been mediocre, with Pujols (.234/.293/.439) struggling to find a groove at the plate while no other power threats have emerged. Aces Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson have combined for a 6-3 May record, but have also put the team in position to win every time out, with a composite 2.45 ERA during the month.

10. New York Yankees [10] (29-25) — A 14-14 month with a solid 3.51 ERA has helped keep the Bronx Bombers in contention, just 3.5 behind Toronto, despite a middling offense (ninth in the league with a .699 OPS) and poor defense (13th with a .670 DER).

11. Miami Marlins [16] (28-27) — Just seven words and a few numbers for this one. *Ahem* Giancarlo Stanton. Holy @#$%. Month of May: .367/.479/.684, 8 HR, 20 RBI, 21 BB, 22 K.

12. Baltimore Orioles [9] (27-27) — One more time: Nelson Cruz in May. Holy @#$%. To wit: .339/.388/.748, 13 HR, 27 RBI.

13. Texas Rangers [5] (28-28) — The injury-wrecked Rangers lost offseason prize Prince Fielder for the season and have seen a good chunk of their starting staff go down with injuries. And the entire team — keep in mind where they play home games — is next-to-last in the A.L. with 35 home runs. Yet this team is still scratching at .500.

14. Boston Red Sox [14] (26-29) — A 10-game losing streak (a.k.a “Our National Nightmare” if you watch ESPN) ended over the holiday weekend and the Sox have reeled off seven in a row as of their win on June 1 over Tampa Bay.

15. Washington Nationals [4] (27-27) — A .500 team that cannot seem to get out of its own way. The pitching has been solid, with a 3.27 ERA in May that was second in the N.L., but offense (.670 OPS) and defense (.673 DER) have been lousy.

16.  Colorado Rockies [13] (28-27)Jorge De La Rosa and Juan Nicasio have been a solid 1-2 punch atop the rotation, but the next lowest starter ERA this month is Jordan Lyles’ 4.45. Ouch. The team continues to rake at Coors Field (.952 OPS) and flounder elsewhere (.687 OPS). The perfect mix for a .500 team and a .500 season. A 2-8 slide, including four straight losses, hasn’t helped (does it ever?!?).

17. Seattle Mariners [19] (27-28) — A very, very good defense (.712 DER in 2014) has helped the pitching staff (3.87 starters’ ERA; 3.05 bullpen) while the offense has been putrid all year (28th in baseball with a .658 OPS). Cano ain’t the answer, folks.

18. New York Mets [12] (26-29) — I feel really quite bad typing this up on the birthday of PTB’s version of HHH, but, sorry, Scott: The Mets are playing to their true talent level right now, which means they’re right where they should be in fourth place. Not a contender. (Don’t fire me. Please.)

19. Cincinnati Reds [20] (25-29) — Getting Jay Bruce and Aroldis Chapman back only to lose Joey Votto was like pulling off two small band-aids just to apply one big one. This team hasn’t had much to crow about outside of ace Johnny Cueto (5-4, 1.68 ERA, 92 K in 91 IP).

20. Chicago White Sox [22] (28-29) — Losing erstwhile A.L. HR and RBI leader Jose Abreu to an ankle injury slowed the ChiSox’ offense (.757 team OPS in April, .673 in May), but the team remains on the edge of contention (1.5 out of a wild-card spot).

21. Houston Astros [29] (24-33) — A 7-3 run over their last 10 games put the Astros, as rookie George Springer has gotten acclimated to The Show and has been Killing It lately: .294/.385/.647 in May with 30 hits — 15 for extra bases, including 10 home runs. I, for one, welcome our new George Springer Overlords!

22. Pittsburgh Pirates [24] (25-30) — They went a respectable 15-14 in May, but the pitching is still scuffling, posting a 4.20 ERA over that same time. A .746 team OPS has helped push this team two spots higher. Andrew McCutchen has been spectacular (.298/.422/.439) but this team still needs more pop.

23. Philadelphia Phillies [21] (24-29) — Mediocre in every way during the past month: 11th in the N.L. with a .684 OPS, ninth with a 3.76 ERA, and 11th with a .685 DER. Another team, like the Mets, that is essentially playing to its talent level right now. Which is, of course, meh.

24. San Diego Padres [23] (26-30) — The blandest, most no-name team in baseball probably. Want to kill an hour-and-a-half? Try and name five current Padres.

25. Kansas City Royals [18] (26-29) — They can’t hit. At all. This is Deadball-Era level offense on display here, people. Everyone seems to complain that it’s 1968 all over again. People want to raise the mound or add teams. No, no, no. Just contract the Royals. Problem solved. Seriously: AL-worst rankings in runs (213). HR (24), RBI (196), slugging percentage (.351), and OPS (.656).

26. Tampa Bay Rays [17] (23-33) — A bad offense (.680 OPS, 13th in AL) has not helped out the struggling pitching staff at all (10th with a 4.18 ERA). They are still playing sharp defense, though, tied for fifth with a .691 DER. All that really means, though, is that when their pitchers are hit, they are hit HARD.

27. Minnesota Twins [26] (25-28) — Three wins over their last ten have this team floundering in the middle of the A.L. Central. April’s flavor of the month, Chris Colabello, hit just .125 with a 24-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio in May before being sent down. At least Phil Hughes (6-1, 3.12 ERA) has been a bright spot for the rotation.

28. Cleveland Indians [27] (26-30) — Still not good at anything. Still Lollygaggers.

29. Arizona Diamondbacks [30] (23-35) — They played much better in May, posted a 14-13 record, but the 9-22 March & April start probably dug them in too deep. Injuries to key players like Mark Trumbo and now A.J. Pollock aren’t helping, either.

30. Chicago Cubs [28] (20-30) — They’ve pitched alright in May (3.51 team ERA), but next-to-nothing on offense during the month (.231/.300/.378) has them at 11-16 for the season’s second month. Here’s hoping a trade of ace starter Jeff Samardzija brings some young talent back to Wrigleyville.