Saturday, May 18, 2024

MLB Power Rankings: Braves hold on to No. 1 spot as Twins surge, but are Astros digging too deep a hole?

MLB Power Rankings: Braves hold on to No. 1 spot as Twins surge, but are Astros digging too deep a hole?

Plus, whether the Guardians are setting themselves up for success and how embarrassing the Rays sweep was

Kim O’Reilly, CBS Sports

Can a team dig too deep a hole to recover these days? 

I’m sure it’s possible. I mean, the White Sox aren’t making the playoffs or anything, nor are the Marlins. But with 12 playoff teams now instead of four or even eight, any team would have to work awfully hard in futility to dig a hole that was past the point of no return. 

To illustrate, let’s look at the Astros and Twins

After being swept in Wrigley this past week, the Astros were an abysmal 7-19. They’ve won two straight since and sit 9-19. That’s still terrible. They are better than this, too, I’m sure of it. A few decades ago, what was left in front of them might’ve been too steep a hill to climb. In the three wild-card era, though, getting into the playoffs remains pretty workable. Let’s say the Astros are a true talent 95-win team. If they play like it the rest of the way, they’d end up 88-74. That’s likely a playoff team these days. 

The Twins started this season 7-13. There’s no reason to sugarcoat it. They were awful. But! They’ve now won seven straight and are actually above .500. It’s funny how quickly things can turn, huh? It’s still so early in the season that a huge winning streak can cure all ills. They are only 1 1/2 games out of playoff position, just like that. Teams have gotten off to worse starts for longer periods of time in recent years and overcome it. 

Remember, the 2018 Dodgers started 16-26 and won the pennant. The next season, the 19-31 Nationals became the World Series champions. 

Of course, there’s a flip side to this. Now with the cushion of three wild-card spots in each league, any team banking a large number of wins in the early going is really setting themselves up for a playoff run. Take the Guardians: They are 19-9, already 10 games over .500 before we’ve even gotten to May. Just for the sake of argument (and easy math), let’s say they are an 81-win true talent team. If they play .500 ball the rest of the way, the Guardians would finish 86-76. Last season, there were two playoff teams with fewer than 86 wins and one of them ended up winning a pennant. Those were on the NL side, sure, but it gives us a good idea of just how well the Guardians have set themselves up this season in such a short period of time. It would actually be pretty surprising at this point if they aren’t playing in October. Sure enough, SportsLine has them with a 79.9% chance to make the playoffs right now. 

Biggest Movers







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You know what’s scary? They’re doing this with Ronald Acuña Jr. hitting for no power while Austin Riley and Matt Olson have been pretty lackluster as well. 19-7

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There’s absolutely no shame in losing two of three to the Braves in Atlanta, especially with one of the losses coming in extra innings. They stood toe-to-toe with the titans all weekend, which means they get promoted here to the No. 2 spot despite a series loss. 3 19-9

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Cy Suárez? Ranger is 5-0 with a 1.32 ERA, 0.63 WHIP and 40 strikeouts in 41 innings so far. He even has a complete game (it was a shutout, too). 1 19-10

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Remember when Aaron Judge had seemingly forgotten how to hit? In his last six games, he’s 8 for 23 with a double and three homers. 1 19-10

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The series loss at home to the A’s is bad, yes, but it isn’t nearly as bad as it would’ve been last year. Remember, Baltimore’s rotation has been short-handed all year and Kyle Bradish returns this week. 3 17-10

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They lost enough in the previous few weeks to cause concern among a few misguided souls. Then they ripped off six straight wins. 2 18-12

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Pete Crow-Armstrong was 0 for 14 with seven strikeouts in his cup of coffee last season. In five games so far this year? 5 for 13 with a double and home run. If he could actually stick, it would be a silver lining on the Cody Bellinger injury. 17-11

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It was a humbling weekend for the Brewers, I’m sure, but they are still in great shape. Who had them leading the NL Central as we approached May? Speaking of which, this coming weekend in Wrigley will be a fun series. 2 17-10

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The ageless Salvador Perez is currently slashing .340/.398/.592. 3 17-12

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Logan Gilbert has been outstanding this season for the — wait for it — first-place Mariners. 6 15-13

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The Rangers haven’t been below .500 all season, but they’ve been exactly .500 six times! It didn’t even happen until 8-8, but then they’ve been 9-9, 11-11, 12-12, 13-13 and 14-14. 2 15-14

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Red Sox

Tyler O’Neill has nine homers in 70 at-bats. The Red Sox have only had one 40-homer season since 2006 (J.D. Martinez hit 43 in 2018). 2 16-13

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It’s possible Elly De La Cruz is the most exciting player in baseball. He has 18 steals and no one else has more than 13. He also has five doubles, a triple and seven homers. And yet, the stat line just doesn’t do him justice. You have to watch him to appreciate him. 4 15-13

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Heading into the season, I pegged Spencer Torkelson as a possible 40-homer guy. He still has zero. Going back to last season, that’s 28 homerless games. He actually went 35 games without a home run in 2022. Maybe they’ll start coming in bunches but it’s getting a little worrisome. 4 16-12

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As bad as things got while the Guardians were riding high, the Twins are only 4 1/2 games out right now. What an incredibly quick turn. 8 14-13

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The Mets started 0-5, then won 12 of 15 and have now lost five of seven. It’s a roller coaster! 5 14-13

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Blue Jays

This past week, the Blue Jays had a stretch where they trailed for 37 consecutive innings, the longest such streak in club history. 7 14-15

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Solid week for the Giants and they have been playing good baseball for a few weeks. This coming trip to Boston and Philadelphia will test them. 7 14-15

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They’ve lost eight of their last 11 and two of those wins came against the Rockies. Just a terrible stretch of baseball for the Padres. 4 14-17

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Others in the rotation certainly have their problems, but Sonny Gray … good grief. He’s just getting better and better as he sits in his mid-30s. How about 32 strikeouts against four walks in 23 1/3 innings? Wow. 2 13-15

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Hopefully the Zac Gallen hamstring injury turns out to be minor, because this rotation can’t afford to lose another arm. 2 13-16

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The last-place Rays have lost six of their last seven games and three of those came to a team that was 3-22. Yikes. 9 13-16

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That 9-2 start feels like ages ago. 3 14-15

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The serviceable Nats have won 11 of their last 19. 13-14

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The A’s started this season 1-7 and it looked like carry over from last season. Since then, however, they’ve gone 11-10. Not too shabby at all. 2 12-17

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Ronel Blanco is one of the best stories in the majors this season. He’s 30 years old and headed into the season with a career 4.78 ERA in 58 1/3 innings. Right now, he’d be an All-Star. 5 9-19

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On Wednesday, April 17, the Angels held off the Rays to win and even their record at 9-9. They’ve lost nine of 10 since. 1 10-18

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The Rockies have made dubious history. They are the first team since the 1910 St. Louis Browns to have trailed in each of their first 28 games of the season. 1 7-21

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White Sox

The 2022 Reds started the season 3-22, much like these White Sox. Those Reds actually played at a sub-par-but-not-humiliating 70-win pace the rest of the way. Even with the sweep of the Rays over the weekend, I’m not seeing quite as good a path forward for this dreadful ballclub. 1 6-22

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After they started to look slightly less pathetic, the Marlins just posted an 0-6 week. I’ll take Skip Schumaker in the “first manager fired” pool. 2 6-23

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