Throughout the season I’m separately assessing the fortunes of teams in the NL and AL, and ranking them accordingly. Standings aren’t dependent on record alone and factor in such elements as injuries, strength of competition, and acquisitions, amongst other things. First up, it’s the NL. It’s The Senior Class – Week 3! (All records correct as of Saturday morning).
- Atlanta Braves (5-1 last week, 11-5 overall) ↑ Without Brandon Beachy, Kris Medlen, or Mike Minor, the Braves are somehow rolling on the strength of their starting pitching; led by Ervin Santana (1 ER and a 17/2 K/BB rate in his first 14 innings with the team), and Julio Teheran (9 shutout innings of 3-hit ball in Wednesday’s 1-0 win over Philadelphia), the rotation has also gotten valuable contributions from Alex Wood, David Hale, and perhaps most surprisingly, Aaron Harang (who has now taken no-hitters late into games twice, and has a 0.70 ERA through 25.2 innings pitched), and currently owns a ridiculous 1.47 cumulative ERA, garnering a quality start in 13 of Atlanta’s first 16 games. Even with their scuffling offense*, such tremendous pitching has the Braves atop the NL in run differential (+22), and after securing an early sweep against NL East rivals Washington, heading my rankings.
- St. Louis Cardinals (5-2, 10-7) ↑
- Los Angeles Dodgers (3-3, 10-7) ↓ X-rays came back negative after Hanley Ramirez was hit on the back of his hand by a 90mph Ryan Vogelsong fastball, but the scare brought back ugly reminders of the Dodger’s fate without Han-Ram in the 2013 NLCS. For all their money, L.A. haven’t since acquired much of an insurance policy should injury once again strike their star shortstop, meaning every Hanley wince should be a significant cause for Dodger fan’s concern.
- Milwaukee Brewers (4-3, 12-5) →
- San Francisco Giants (3-3, 10-7) →
- Washington Nationals (3-4, 10-7) ↓ When you are so comprehensively swept by your division rivals, you drop. Throw in Ryan Zimmerman’s broken thumb, Wilson Ramos‘s fractured hamate, and Stephen Strasburg‘s and Bryce Harper‘s continued struggles, and that drop becomes a lot more precipitous all of a sudden.
- Cincinnati Reds (4-2, 7-9) ↑ After a murderer’s row of an opening schedule in which they faced St. Louis twice and Tampa Bay, the Reds finally got on track this week against the Pirates. Joey Votto‘s move up the lineup has so far paid off nicely, and the return of Devin Mesoraco has certainly helped things too, but it has mainly been the Reds’ pitching which has served to propel them up the rankings; Alfredo Simon and Johnny Cueto have been dominant in the early going, covering up well for the loss of Mat Latos (out a while longer with a forearm strain), and the April struggles of Homer Bailey. With a slew of upcoming games against Pittsburgh and the Cubs, as well as my inherent bias, there’s a good chance for Cincinnati to have further climbed the rankings this time next week.
- Colorado Rockies (4-3, 9-9) → They might be at .500, but the Rockies have so far played one of the easiest schedules in the league (@ MIA, vs ARI, vs CHS, @SF, @SD, vs PHI). The slate will get a lot tougher this week though, with a tough home series against San Francisco and a trip to Chavez Ravine to face the Dodgers on the docket. Poor Brett Anderson meanwhile, lasted only 3 games in a Colorado uniform before getting injured.
- Pittsburgh Pirates (2-5, 8-9) ↓ The Pirates yesterday attempted to fill the black hole they previously had manning first base by trading for Ike Davis. Now if only they had a stud prospect to come up and plug the void in right field to further aid their woeful offense… They do you say?! Neal Huntington – call up Gregory Polanco already!
- San Diego Padres (4-3, 8-9) ↓
- New York Mets (4-2, 8-8) ↑ If you’re after a deep fantasy sleeper, what with the aforementioned trade of Davis, 1B Lucas Duda might be worth a look.
- Miami Marlins (2-4, 7-10) ↓ A healthy Giancarlo Stanton is a sight to behold. Over the past seven days, the 24-year-old has hit .417 and slugged four home runs, including a walk-off grand slam last night against the Mariners – a shot which more than atoned for his costly error earlier in the game. The fish may only have 2 wins in their last 10 games, but thanks to Stanton, they remain eminently watchable.
- Philadelphia Phillies (3-3, 7-9) ↑
- Arizona Diamondbacks (1-5, 5-14) ↓ Normally this picture is exclusively reserved to sum up seasons involving the Cleveland Browns. After the week Arizona has had however, it should probably now be a shared resource.
- Chicago Cubs (0-5, 4-11) →
Check back tomorrow for my AL rankings – The Designated 15: Week 3!