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MLB Power Rankings, 4/7: How far have the Red Sox fallen?

04.07.11 at 3:23 am ET
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Here we go with Week 2 of the 2011 WEEI.com Major League Baseball Power Rankings. Every Thursday throughout the season we will be bringing you an updated version of the list, which will be determined by record, ranking within each team’€™s division and which team would have the best chance at winning if participating in a best-of-seven series.

Also this rule: If a team that many felt was a real threat to win 100 games and score 1,000 runs is on pace for zero wins and 518 runs after the first week, they lose the top spot in the rankings.

Feel free to pick apart the admittedly imperfect rankings by emailing kminihane@weei.com or sending a message via Twitter to twitter.com/kirkmin. Have at it.

(Note: Team record and last week’s ranking is in parentheses and all stats are through 4/6.)

1. Rangers (6-0, 6). An absolute beat-down of the Sox and a win over Felix Hernandez means a five-spot jump to the top spot for the AL champs. I guess I’d ask this after watching the three-game massacre over the weekend, though: We knew the lineup was good (though I’m guessing they won’t be hitting 11 HRs a series), we knew the bullpen was good, but is that rotation going to be good enough to get the Rangers to 90+ wins?

2. Phillies (4-1, 2). Was going to put them in the top spot until Cole Hamels tossed a Lackey against the Mets on Tuesday night (2.2 innings, seven hits, six runs). Wilson Valdez had a terrific first week filling in for Chase Utley, hitting .364.

3. Yankees (3-2, 3). Lost in the fast start for Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez is Derek Jeter continues to look lost at the plate (.167/.273/.167). Even his Intangible Rating and Wanting To Win More Than You Percentage is down from 2010.

4. Red Sox (0-5, 1). Pitcher A: 4.69 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, Pitcher B: 4.63 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP.

Pitcher A is John Lackey in his Red Sox career. Pitcher B is A.J. Burnett in his Yankees career. If we all agree that Burnett has been, to date, an absolute disaster of a contract, don’t we have to say the same about Lackey one year and one start into his five-year, $82 million deal?

5. Braves (3-3, 5). I understand the AL/NL difference, and you’d have to factor in age as well, but if the Braves called the Sox tomorrow and offered Derek Lowe straight up for Lackey would you make the deal? I guess probably not, Lowe is going to be 38 in June and is just a year removed from a 4.67 ERA/1.52 WHIP season. He’s off to a strong start in 2011, though, with a 0.77 ERA in his first two starts.

6. Reds (5-0, 10). On the subject of former Idiots (does one ever lose idiot status, I wonder? Watching ESPN the other night, I can tell you Rick Sutcliffe sure hasn’t …), Bronson Arroyo won his first start of the season. Lowe and Arroyo have been gone for a combined 11 seasons and have made at least 30 starts in all of ‘em. Arroyo is 71-60 for the Reds, with a 3.97 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. Wily Mo Pena? According to the club’s webiste, Pena is one of the “exciting newcomers” for Arizona’s Triple-A affiliate in Reno. Pena last played in a big-league game on July 12, 2008.

7. Rockies (3-1, 8). The good: The Rockies won two of their first three to open the season, allowing just seven earned runs in 29.o IP (2.17 ERA). The bad: Five of those runs came off of Ubaldo Jimenez (now on DL with a thumb injury) on Opening Day, a start that looked a lot more like the 2010 second-half Jimenez (4-7, 3.80 ERA) than the first half Cy Young front-runner (15-1, 2.20).

8. Giants (2-4, 4). Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum (combined 13 scoreless innings) were brilliant against the Dodgers, but the Giants are 1-4 thanks to an offense that had a slugging percentage of just .358 in the Dodgers’ series. Through five games, the Giants have just 13 walks against 39 strikeouts.

9. Dodgers (3-3, 12). I pegged Clayton Kershaw as a Cy Young sleeper last week, and he’s looked the part after two starts (2.08 ERA, 17 strikeouts/two walks). And here’s why you can’t look at saves when judging how well a closer is pitching: Jonathan Broxton leads the majors with three saves, but with an ERA of 6.00 (he gave up runs with three and two-run leads in the ninth inning).

10. White Sox (3-2, 11). The bizarro Giants to this point, scoring a ton of runs (only the Yankees and Rangers scored more through Tuesday, and each have played one more game than the White Sox) but with a 6.27 ERA. They aren’t going to score 7.5 runs a game all year, but they offense should be fine. And the pitching won’t be this bad, but when you look at this rotation (Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Edwin Jackson and Mark Buehrle) there isn’t a guy that you know is going to have a big year.

11Angels (3-3, 13). From last week’s Power Rankings: “The Angels could sure use the pre-2009 Scott Kazmir if they want to make a run at the AL West title.” Kazmir’s first start? Five hits, five runs, two walks, two HBP and zero strikeouts in 1.2 innings against a Royals team that I’m pretty sure didn’t have Amos Otis, Hal McRae or George Brett in the lineup.

12. Athletics (1-4, 7). I’m not dropping them five spots because they lost three-of-four to start the season, I’m dropping them because I had them ranked too high a week ago. I got sucked into the hip pick (The desire to seem hip is a dangerous drug. Be careful, it can lead to horrible things, like going to see The Smiths in concert.) Sure, the pitching is swell, but Coco Crisp as your leadoff hitter? Josh Willingham cleanup? Hideki Matsui fifth? I don’t see how they get to the 90-92 wins you are going to need to make the postseason. And this is coming from a guy who listens to Arcade Fire and reads Jonathan Franzen.

13. Twins (2-3, 14). You know it’s too early to put stock in any numbers when Dernard Span has more hits, homers and RBI than Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau combined.

14. Blue Jays (4-1, 19). “Thank God we didn’t get no-hit today.” That was a quote from Span after facing Kyle Drabek last Saturday. Drabek gave up just a hit over seven innings against the Twins, striking out seven against three walks. Drabek — according to Fangraphs — didn’t throw a single cutter in his three 2010 starts, but threw 13 in the win over the Twins.

15. Orioles (4-1, 24). OK, they probably won’t be this high again this season, but the 4-0 start deserves a bump. The offense has done nothing (two HRs in first 138 plate appearances, .268 OBP), but when you have a 1.00 ERA it doesn’t matter. For what it’s worth, the Orioles are 38-24 since Buck Showalter took over last August, the best record in the American League.

16. Rays (0-5, 9). Best player injured? Check. Put a total of three runs on the board in the first three games of the season? Yup. The two big off-season additions to the lineup combine for two hits in 27 at-bats? Done and done. I’m buying the extra 2%, I really am, but this isn’t exactly following the playbook of the 1984 Detroit Tigers.

17. Tigers (2-3, 15). Brad Penny has to be a real concern, right? He was brutal against the Yankees on Saturday (eight runs in 4.1 IP) and now has a career 5.96 ERA in 25 career American League starts (3.99 ERA in 264 National League starts). Coin flip at best that he stays in the rotation until the All-Star break.

18. Marlins (3-2, 17). Hanley Ramirez is a career .308/.391/.507 hitter in April, but only put up a .279/.386/.395 line last April. And he’s off to another slow start, with just three hits in his first 18 at-bats. Something else to keep an eye on with Ramirez — in 2008 he walked 92 times, sixth in the NL. The last two seasons he dropped to 61 and 64 walks, and so far has just a single walk in 19 plate appearances.

19. Cubs (3-3, 20). We all had Starlin Castro in the “First player to get to 10 hits” pool, didn’t we? He hit .300 in 125 games last year — but with a slugging percentage of just .408 — Castro had eight hits in the season opening three-game series vs. the Pirates, including a pair of triples.

20. Cardinals (2-4, 16). Probably a mistake to knock them down four spots, they’ve really done nothing wrong in the first week. I feel like you can rank the Tigers, Marlins, Cubs and Cardinals in any order and you’re just as likely to be right as wrong.

21. Mets (3-2, 21). Chris Young could turn out to be one of the great bargains in 2011. There’s a reason he’s making only $1.1 million this season — he’s made only a total of 33 starts the last three seasons — but this is a guy with a career 3.78 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 7.8 K per nine innings. Sure, he’ll almost certainly wind up on the DL a couple of times, but for short money there is real upside. His first start was a good one, giving up a run with seven strikeouts over 5.1 innings to get the win over the Phillies.

22. Padres (3-2, 22). The Padres won 90 games in the NL West last season with good starting pitching and — except for Adrian Gonzalez — almost zero offense (no regular other than Gonzalez had an OPS over .732). The formula is working again early this season, as the Padres won three of their first four games despite hitting just .215 and slugging .315, thanks to a pitching staff with an ERA of 2.19.

23. Brewers (2-4, 18). Rickie Weeks — who did walk 76 times last season — has yet to draw a free pass in 21 plate appearances. Usually an OBP of .286 (with a 0/7 BB/K rate) equals an unproductive offensive player, but Weeks leads the NL with three HRs and 17 total bases.

24. Royals (4-2, 29). I hate to sound like this kind of guy, but unless you’re at least 35 years old it’s kind of hard to understand that the Royals — not the Yankees or Red Sox — were the dominant AL team from the mid 70′s to mid 1980′s. From 1975-85 they won six division titles, two AL titles and a World Series. Six seasons with at least 90 wins, including 102 in 1977. Since 1985? One 90-win season and zero playoff appearances. They won’t win 90 games this year, but it’s nice to see a 4-2 start. Maybe they’ll stick around for the summer and contend in the AL Central (they haven’t finished second in a non-strike season since 1989).

25. Indians (3-2, 27). I’m setting the over/under on All-Star Games for Carlos Santana at 4.5 and taking the over. He’s Victor Martinez all over again, but with even better plate discipline (39 walks in his first 50 games, career .405 OPB, nearly 40 points higher than Martinez’s career total).

26. Pirates (4-2, 30). If the Pirates finish over .500 it’ll be for the first time since 1992. The ace of that staff was 29-year-old Doug Drabek. His son Kyle, then four years old, is now the 23-year-old ace in waiting for the Blue Jays. Point is it’s been a while since the Pirates picked up win No. 82.

27. Nationals (1-4, 25). I wrote this the day the Sox signed Carl Crawford, but someone still has to explain to me why the Jayson Werth contract was universally crapped on while the Crawford deal was been given a complete tongue bath. What am I missing? Werth career line: .272/.367/.481. Crawford: .296/.337/.444.  I’d take Werth over Crawford if everything was equal, but at $20 million less it’s not even close. So far this year (and yes, I know it’s too early to be serious about this): Werth .333/.412/.533, Crawford .133/.188/.133.

28. Mariners (2-4, 28). Kind of Old Guy Post No. 2: Felix Hernandez — the best (or second-best, Roy Halladay is right there) pitcher in baseball — pitched a complete game on Opening Day. That was the 14th complete game of his career (173 starts). Steve Carlton, who also pitched for lousy teams early in his career, had at least 14 complete games in eight different seasons, including 30 in 1972, when he won 27 games for a Phillies team that finished 59-97 (yup, you read that correctly).

29. Astros (0-5, 23). Talk about a hideous start — the Astros had a team ERA of 7.79 and hit just .215 while being swept by the Phillies. And I know Sox fans aren’t going to believe this, but Brandon Lyon (20.25 ERA, 4.50 WHIP) might not be the answer at closer.

30. Diamondbacks (2-3, 26). Here’s one for you: Kirk Gibson never led the major leagues in a single offensive category during his 17-year career. He was second in triples in 1983 and second in runs in his MVP 1988 season.

Read More: MLB power rankings, power rankings, Rangers, Red Sox
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