How they rank: May 20


A reader emailed to comment on a certain snarkiness he noticed in the rankings. Guilty as charged. Our philosophy is: If you have nothing nice to say, sit next to me. But for this week, a (mostly) snark-free zone. For one week. Previous ranking in parentheses, stats through Thursday’s games:

1. Philadelphia (1): Don’t fret Phillies fans — Chase Utley (injury rehab), Domonic Brown (AAA) and Shane Victorino (DL) will be in the lineup soon, and Wilson Valdez and some combination of John Mayberry, Raul Ibanez and Ben Francisco won’t be.

2. St. Louis (3): Best offense in baseball for the season’s first six weeks — first in average, first in runs scored, first in on-base percentage. And all that with Albert Pujols hitting just .264 and slugging but .408.

3. Boston (11): John Lackey isn’t pitching well, but it might be because of the bad elbow that put him on the disabled list. Or it might be because of the breast cancer his wife is fighting, which Lackey acknowledges by wearing a pink ribbon. Here’s wishing a complete recovery to both.

4. N.Y. Yankees (2): Is there a more unlikely early-season success story than Bartolo Colon, who didn’t pitch an inning in 2010, hasn’t been significant since 2005, is about as big as an offensive lineman, and who went to spring training on a minor league contract?

5. Cincinnati (6): Homer Bailey, career ERA of 4.90, is off to best-ever start, even if injury delayed: 3-0 with 1.89 ERA after three starts.

6. Tampa Bay (5): Rays stashed Matt Joyce in AAA for the first season and a half after trading Edwin Jackson to get him; now he’s hitting .354 and slugging .600, and even hit his first career homer off a lefty.

7. Atlanta (9): Nothing wrong with Jair Jurjens’ arm. Back from DL, Dutch Antilles’ contribution to MLB is 5-1 with 1.80 ERA.

8. Cleveland (12): Forget the 26-15 Indians’ two-game losing streak. Remember that last year, the Indians didn’t win No. 26 until more than a month after this year’s May 17  — it took till June 18 and an interleague series with the Pirates, by which time the Tribe had lost 40.

9. Florida (4): Forget all the those Phillies’ aces. NL’s best pitcher in the early going has been Josh Johnson, who leads league with .509 OPS against and has allowed but 39 hits in 60.1 innings.

10. Colorado (7): Houston Street only saved 20 in injury-marred 2010; he’s almost there with 14 already in 2011.

11. San Francisco (8): Ryan Vogelsong was 10-22 for Giants and Pirates in first go-round in majors from 2000-2006 before going to Japan; he’s 3-0 with 2.36 ERA in place of injured Barry Zito.

12. Texas (10): It’s hard to see converted outfielder Alexi Ogando going back to the bullpen now. Having thrown 153.1 career innings since 2006, he’s thrown 50.2 better ones — 4-0, 2.13 ERA — since moving in to Rangers’ rotation.

13. Detroit (14): Victor Martinez can DH, because Alex Avila, 24, can catch and hit. After a .228 2010, Avila is at .283 and one home run short of last year’s seven.

14. Toronto (17): We could have predicted there’s no way Jose Bautista hits 54 home runs again — with 16 already, he’ll probably hit more.

15. Oakland (16): Andrew Bailey might be hurt, but three A’s righty relievers — Grant Balfour, Brad Ziegler and Michael Wuertz — have combined to allow just five runs and 29 hits in 44 innings for a 1.01 ERA. Add three wins, two saves and 12 holds.

16. L.A. Angels (13): Dan Haren leads MLB in OPS against at .504, by a single point over Boston’s Josh Beckett.

17. Kansas City (15): Rookie Eric Hosmer is the Royals’ — at least for the next six years. He’s hitting .298 and slugging .596 in first 47 big-league at-bats.

18. Milwaukee (18): Forget Ryan Braun’s hitting (.305 with 12 home runs). How about his baserunning? He’s 10-for-10 stealing bases.

19. Pittsburgh (20): Daniel McCutchen may not be striking batters out — just 6 in 17.1 innings — but he’s getting them out. He has an 0.52 ERA and just 12 hits allowed.

20. Chicago Cubs (21): Speculation that the Cubs may have preceded the Black Sox and thrown the 1918 World Series. The Cubs might have just cut 10 years from their drought.

21. Chicago White Sox (24): We’ll know in four months what it means, but if Sox turn season around, they’ll point to Wednesday and the reminder oft-injured Jake Peavy dropped on why he was worth four players. In his second start of the season, he shut out division-leading Cleveland 1-0 on three hits. Now if he can only stay healthy.

22. N.Y. Mets (23): Jason Isringhausen, who pitched just eight innings in last two seasons and had 5.70 ERA for Cards in 2008, has 10 holds and a 1.93 ERA in 14 innings in comeback season at age 38.

23. Arizona (25): Forget even Bartolo Colon. Was there a more unlikely name to appear in a 2011 boxscore than Sean Burroughs, who made his first big-league appearance Thursday since 2006? Burroughs hadn’t played pro baseball since 2007, but was hitting .386 in AAA. And he’s still only 30.

24. Baltimore (26): One of the youngest Orioles’ pitchers, rookie Zach Britton, has been their best — 5-2 with a 2.14 ERA in nine starts.

25. L.A. Dodgers (19): Andre Ethier’s 30-game hitting streak ranks No. 1 for 2011, which is what he was telling a photographer with his gestures on Monday.

26. Washington (22): Nats might be last in MLB in average, but that won’t last: last year’s No. 1 pick Bryce Harper is hitting .358 and slugging .642 in Class A. It won’t be long.

27. San Diego (27): Padres may not have many leads, but when they do in the late innings, they’re  secure: set-up man Mike Adams has major-league low (minimum 20 innings) .337 OPS against; closer Heath Bell is at .447.

28. Seattle (28): Michael Pineda is as good as he looks — 5-2 with a 2.45 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 51.1 innings.

29. Minnesota (29): Justin Morneau hasn’t been very good overall (.245, .367 slugging), but his last 10 days have been — .370 average, four extra-base hits in 27 at-bats. Morneau hitting like Morneau is the first step for the Twins to come back.

30. Houston (30): Astros reported sale price: someone thinks they’re worth $680 million.

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