How they rank: May 19


Last rankings in parentheses; stats through Thursday’s game:

  • 1. Houston (3): The balls and players may not be as juiced as they once were, but Mike Fiers’ pitches are. Fiers leads MLB with 16 home runs allowed in 36 innings. Mike Freeman, Abraham Almonte and Delino DeShields all have one homer, thanks to Fiers, whose season-high is 26 last year. The good news, such as it is, is 13 have been solos.
  • 2. Washington (2): Nationals lead MLB in runs scored (237) and OPS (.834). Wonder what those numbers would be if the Nats could hit against their bullpen, which ranks last in the NL and 29th in MLB with a 5.32 ERA.
  • 3. N.Y. Yankees (1): Yankees president Randy Levine criticized Dellin Betances’ $5 million arbitration request in February, saying  “he doesn’t have the statistics in the ninth inning or the saves. He just doesn’t have it.” Levine said Betances claiming he was worthy of that kind of money was like Levine claiming, “I’m not the president of the Yankees, I’m an astronaut.” Now that $17 million a year closer Aroldis Chapman is out for a month, what size space suit do you take, sir?
  • 4. Baltimore (4): Brooks Robinson, who played his last game as an Oriole 40 years ago this August, turned 80 this week, and the current Orioles celebrated with best wishes. (Link here.) “How old do I feel?” Brooks said to the Baltimore Sun. “I feel like I’m 80. I can’t throw a baseball from here to the front door, which is fairly close.” I doubt Lee May, Tony Perez or Johnny Bench, the Big Red Machine sluggers Robinson robbed of hits with a variety of great plays in the 1970 World Series, believe him.
  • 5. L.A. Dodgers (5): Kenley Jansen strikes out three Marlins (Ichiro, J.T. Riddle and Derek Dietrich) on nine pitches, the 79th “immaculate inning” in MLB history, according to MLB.com, and fourth this year (Boston’s Craig Kimbrel, Nats’ Max Scherzer and Reds’ Drew Storen). The Pirates’ Juan Nicasio was the only pitcher to throw one last year. Given the rise of strikeouts, there’s going to be plenty more.
  • 6. Colorado (7): Rockies’ pitching staff ranks 16th in MLB in ERA (4.19), which doesn’t sound like much, but it jumps to first when Rockies get away from Coors Field. Rockies are No. 1 on the road with a 3.05 ERA, 0.27 better than second-place Milwaukee.
  • 7. Chicago Cubs (8): Jake Arrieta loses to Cards, 5-0, and manager Joe Maddon says, ““I thought he had his best stuff all year.” Maybe he did. Given Arrieta’s record — 5.44 ERA, .839 OPS against, 52 hits and eight home runs in 44.2 innings — that’s not saying much.
  • 8. Milwaukee (15): Eric Sogard homers to give Brewers the lead in the 10th inning at San Diego, which wins the game on a Hunter Renfroe homer in the bottom half and makes an Internet sensation of young daughter Saydee, whose mom videos her crying after loss. Padres send over cupcakes the next night, and Saydee is mollified. The first of two four-hit games by dad didn’t hurt.
  • 9. Arizona (11): Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo says third baseman Jake Lamb is “making progress” vs. left-handed pitching. Last year Lamb had a .625 OPS vs. lefties, this year .557. That’s like saying the stock market is making progress when it drops 300 points.
  • 10. St. Louis (9): Cardinals celebrated 50th anniversary of their 1967 World Series champions, whose ace, Bob Gibson, won three games against the Red Sox that October. Said Gibson this week: “I always told (manager) Red (Schoendienst), ‘When you think about taking me out, look down in the bullpen and tell me what you see.’ I wasn’t going to come out.” Gibson won seven straight games over three World Series (1964, 67-68), all complete games. Wonder how his attitude would play in today’s game of 5.2 inning starters.
  • 11. Cleveland (6): Indians paid $60 million for Edwin Encarnacion, who’s hitting .203 with a .691 OPS. Even worse, he’s batting .108 — 4-for-37 — with runners in scoring position, which helps explain the defending AL champion’s 20-19 start.
  • 12. Boston (10): With Steven Wright out for season, Red Sox farm Kyle Kendrick (career 4.68 ERA) after two bad starts and recall Hector Velazquez, who turns a 2-0 first-inning lead into a 6-3 deficit and 8-3 loss. “We’ve got some flexibility in the rotation,” manager John Farrell said, and he’s right. The Red Sox have all kinds of bad pitchers they can turn to.
  • 13. Texas (23): Former President George W. Bush sneaks up behind Rangers TV broadcaster Emily Jones and shouts “Hey,” into the camera. Link here. Former presidents are like backup quarterbacks — people like them best when they’re not doing the job. ESPN acknowledged Bush’s photobomb in a tweet, but spelled his name Busch. If spelling counts, it sounds as if the current president is in charge of ESPN’s social media.
  • 14. Minnesota (14): Jose Berrios, who had an 8.02 ERA and allowed 12 home runs in 58.1 innings last year, has allowed four hits in 15.1 innings in two starts this year. Commuting between AAA and the majors may have helped him; when will it work on Byron Buxton, still hitting but .178.
  • 15. Detroit (16): J.D. Martinez hits five home runs in his first 16 at-bats after returning from injury. After playing a week, he’s third on the team in home runs, ahead of Miguel Cabrera (4) and Victor Martinez (3).
  • 16. Tampa Bay (18): Doesnt make sense Dept.: Rays are ninth in runs scored, fourth in ERA, eighth in run differential (+17), yet are below .500 and fourth in the AL East. 
  • 17. L.A. Angels (20): Albert Pujols is having his worst major-league season (247/293/370), but he’s at 596 career home runs, ninth all-time, and 2,865 hits, 46th all-time and just one behind Harold Baines. Pujols’ contract still has four years and $114 million to run after this season; think Ryan Howard.
  • 18. Seattle (19): In first 42 games, Mariners have used 10 starters thanks to DL stints for Felix Hernandez, James Paxton and Hisashi Iwakuma. Fill-ins have included Christian Bergman (career 5.44 ERA), Sam Gaviglio (26-year-old rookie with a 4.01 minor-league ERA), Ryan Weber (career 5.00 ERA) and Chase De Jong (23-year-old rookie who’s fanned 11 in 24.1 innings). Add that to a bullpen which is last in MLB.
  • 19. Cincinnati (13): Reds have lost six straight and when asked what will reverse their course, manager Bryan Price says, “I think it’s pitching, starting pitching.” Since Reds starters rank last in MLB with a 5.57 ERA, it may take a while.
  • 20. Pittsburgh (25): Josh Bell didn’t homer until his 42nd at-bat of 2017, and has hit nine in his last 81 at-bats. Bell’s career-high in the minors was 14; at this pace he’ll top that before midseason.
  • 21. Chicago White Sox (17): Latroy Hawkins, broadcasting a Twins game this week, calls White Sox reliever Tommy Kahnle, “one of the worst teammates I’ve ever had in my life.” Considering Hawkins played 21 seasons for 11 teams, that’s saying something. Hawkins: “I’ve had a lot of teammates.” “Surprising to me,” said White Sox manager Rick Renteria, in defense of Kahnle, whose stats (1.69 ERA, 29 strikeouts in 16.1 innings) make him a pretty good teammate.
  • 22. N.Y. Mets (12): Terry Collins, who will match Davey Johnson as the team’s longest-tenured manager this weekend, says,  “I’m very, very lucky to still be here.” Given the Mets’ 16-23 record and eight-and-a-half game deficit in the NL East, he’s probably never been more right.
  • 23. Toronto (26): Credit to the Blue Jays for their handling of the Kevin Pillar anti-gay slur. Blue Jays GM Ross Atkins flew to Atlanta to apologize and deliver suspension to Pillar, who acknowledged and apologized himself. Pillar’s salary for the two days will be donated to “organizations supporting the LGBTQ community,” according to MLB.com, as it should.
  • 24. Oakland (22): Ryon Healy home run in Seattle lands on fan’s lap and smashes his cell phone. A’s buy a replacement phone for the fan. No word on policy if any errant Healy throws do the same: he’s made five errors in 18 games in the field.
  • 25. Philadelphia (24): Ex-Phillie Cole Hamels said he’s not opposed to returning when asked by Philly media on the team’s trip to Texas this week. “I never leave the door closed,” Hamels said. Perhaps not. But with Phillies 14-24, why open it?
  • 26. Atlanta (27): Reliever Eric O’Flaherty throws a home run to Jose Bautista and then takes issue with Bautista’s bat flip. Said O’Flaherty: “I didn’t see it at the time, but I saw the video – he looked at me, tried to make eye contact. It’s just tired. We’ve seen it from him, though. … I’m surprised he’s ready to fight again after last year,” referencing Rougned Odor’s TKO. O’Flaherty might not want to sting too much with his wit. Odor’s punch has more power than O’Flaherty’s 90 mph fastball.
  • 27. San Francisco (30): Giants’ Johnny Cueto and Dodgers’ Yasmani Grandal  empty benches when Cueto accuses Dodgers of stealing signs. Cueto: “He said, ‘Sorry for the misunderstanding. Let’s just move on.’ I’m not going to use that as an excuse, but they were relaying signs.” Maybe they were. There’s an easy way for Cueto to prevent it: keep opponents off second base, which might be easier if Cueto’s OPS wasn’t .720, 43 points higher than his career .677.
  • 28. Kansas City (29): Royals GM Dayton Moore criticized tanking in a local radio interview, saying, “If tanking is a part of your mentality, you shouldn’t be in professional sports. In fact, you shouldn’t be in sports.” That may not reassure fans to know management is trying its darndest to win and is 17-23.
  • 29. Miami (21): Marlins lose 18 of 22, and Giancarlo Stanton, who’s in his eighth season with the franchise and yet to play for a winning team, says his “frustration level,” according to the Miami Herald, is “probably the highest ever.” Stanton has a 13-year, $325 million contract, but he can opt out after 2020, and it probably can’t get here soon enough.
  • 30. San Diego (28): Jarred Cosart takes the place of injured starter Trevor Cahill with the encouragement of his manager Andy Green. “It’s time for him to rise up and claim something that you really want as a Major Leaguer. You don’t get endless supply of opportunities.” Maybe not. But then how to explain Jered Weaver?
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