Top 10 Major League Baseball Teams
1. San Francisco Giants. The top spot belongs to the champs and theirs to lose in 2013. Nobody gave them a chance in 2010 and 2012 but as World Series champions in 2 out of the past 3 years, they deserved to occupy the number 1. They just swept a team with a triple crown winner and the best pitcher in MLB in the Fall Classics. The Giants still have the same pitching staff, MVP Buster Posey and the rest of the crew who are ready to face the best that the league has to offer. Team ERA of 3.68 is 7th in the Majors. Three starters has ERA of 3.37 and under but most importantly the bullpen, specifically the relievers with at least 30 innings pitched, has below 2.84 ERA with closer Sergio Romo leading the pack with 1.79. This made the difference in the World Series, Detroit Tigers’ best 3 starters have almost identical ERA with SF’s best 3 but the ‘pen of the Tigers has 3.57 ERA or higher to the Giants’ 2.84 and lower. SF Giants title is no fluke. Excellent pitching can neutralize an explosive offense.
2. Washington Nationals. Yes. Those guys wearing a Walgreens’ cap are ranked really high after their impressive season which experts think was derailed only by the limited pitching count of their ace Stephen Strasburg. In fact they are ranked number 1 by top sports networks but show me a trophy and you’ll be the number 1 in my list. The team is looking like they could break the century mark in wins this year if they remain healthy. The Nats’ bullpen is about as good as the SF Giants, but their starting rotation is the best in the league with ERA of 3.28. Gio Gonzales 21-8 win-loss, ERA 2.89, J. Zimmerman 12-8, 2.94, Stephen Strasburg 15-6, 3.16.
3. Detroit Tigers. Don’t drop them too low in the rankings now just because they were beaten, let me rephrase that, they were swept, smothered, embarrassed by the WS champion SF Giants. They are still the best in the AL with that line up. The Tigers can still beat a team with their batting or pitching, either way they are still dangerous. They have 4 hitters averaging .300 or more . Justin Verlander is as healthy as an ox. His team best 17-6 and ERA 2.64 anchors the 3.45 of Doug Fister and the 3.74 of Max Scherzer. Their pitching and batting should bring them back into contention.
4. Cincinnati Reds. The 2 LA teams are ranked higher than the Reds because now they looked better on ‘papers’ with their offseason acquisition of big names. The Dodgers and Reds have an identical ERA 3.34 in 2012. They even have almost identical team batting average, LA .252 and Cincinnati .251. LA’s best hitter Matt Kemp was injured and was out for 51 games, Reds best offensive weapon Joey Votto also out for 50 games to have an arthroscopic knee surgery. Their pitchers performed as expected but the Reds’ bats went red hot when Votto was gone in the midseason. The rest of the crew stepped up and won 34 games without their superstar. The pitching will still carry the team this season with the addition of closer Aroldis Chapman into the starting rotation. Jonathan Broxton who pitched for 22.1 innings and with ERA of 2.82 since acquired by the Reds in midseason will assume the closer role.
5. LA Dodgers. There was nothing wrong with the Dodgers’ pitching last season. In fact they’re tied with the Reds for 3rd best overall ERA in the league at 3.34. I’m a little puzzled when they went after pitching in the offseason when they could’ve used that on a slugger who can stay healthy for 8 months. The Dodgers’ best hitter Kemp, .303, was out at least 50 games due to hamstring injury. Now his Spring Training appearance is limited by shoulder injury. If he can stay healthy, he will complement Adrian Gonzalez‘ .300 hitting and this combination usually brings more run than teams who does not have at least two .300 hitters. If their intention is to have the best rotation and bullpen in the league, they may already have it at least on ‘papers’. The Dodgers midseason trade in 2012 made them the instant favorite to win at least the NL West division but that impression stayed on paper.
6. LA Angels. The LA bandwagon didn’t forget the halos’ big name acquisition. Mike Trout .326, 30 HR 83 RBI; Albert Pujols .285, 30 HR 105 RBI, and the newest big man in town, Josh Hamilton FA from Texas Rangers with .285 43 HR 128 RBI. They can borrow a bunch of cartoon characters from Disney and they’ll win the WS right? Not so fast! The other .300 hitter, Tori Hunter was released in favor of Hamilton who has history of frequent injury, just last year he injured his humerus in Spring Training and didn’t come back to the lineup till May 2012. Will it be enough to cover up for the pitching woes?The top 2 starting rotation of the Angels is actually not that bad, Jered Weaver 2.81, CJ Wilson 3.83. But the rest have ERA of 4.33 or worst, not to mention their bullpen who are close to 4.00 average. The Angels should have spent that $125M on a couple of ace pitchers. On the contrary, the 2 LA teams have different looks to offer, LA with bats and LA with arms. Pick your team Los Angelenos.
7. Atlanta Braves. The Braves had a good season on Chipper Jones‘ final year as an MLB player. They had the chance to win the 1 game NL Wild Card playoff when they were leading the St Louis Cardinals 2-0 with their best pitcher on the mound, Kris Medlen, best ERA for a starter in the majors at 1.57, 10 wins 1 loss. And they have the best closer in the league C Kimbrel with 1.01 ERA. What else can the Braves ask for in a knockout game, right? How about an umpire who can call an infield fly rule right. Let’s not go back to Turner field again, you might get hit with a beer can or popcorn. Let’s just examine how the Braves replaced Chipper Jones, another baseball’s living legend. Oh I forgot, he can’t be replaced so to compensate for the big loss, the Braves signed not one but 2 Uptons, BJ and Justin. Now they have not one, not two but three 5-tool players in the outfield! (Jayson Heyward is the other OF). Combine that with good pitching and you might as well take your chance on an infield fly ball! Team ERA of 3.42 is better than the Giants, they just need to improve on their batting average to compete in the playoffs. They just let go of their only .300 hitter, Martin Prado (.301) and neither of the Uptons has that number. Looks like the Uptons have a lot more grounds to cover.
8. St Louis Cardinals. The Cards were written off the playoff when they let go of Albert Pujols despite being the defending 2011 World champs. They almost made it 2 consecutive years. No thanks to the come back artists and eventual World champs Giants. The loss of Pujols didn’t affect the MLB formula of ERA around 3 and 3 hitters around .300. Okay I made that up. But examine it closely, it is a fact. Their starting rotation’s ERA of 3.69 are better than the Giants 3.77. They have three players hitting at .300, Yadier Molina .315; Allen Craig .307; Jon Jay .305 and Holliday‘s .295, 27 HR, 102 RBI, Carlos Beltran .269, 32 HR, 97 are not in the equation yet. That’s pitching and hitting power combination. I still have the Cardinals over the Blue Jays.
9. Toronto Blue Jays. Everyone’s on Blue Jays bandwagon, at least up north of the border after offseason mega trades and acquisitions. They do look good on papers but let me start with the ERA once again. Blue Jays’ ERA last season was near the bottom of the majors, 26th to be specific at 4.64. But with the addition of RA Dickey ERA 2.73, Mark Buehrle 3.74 and Josh Johnson 3.81 instantly converts a starting rotation with 4.46 ERA to 3.80. Now that’s close to the World Champion Giants starting rotation ERA of 3.77. The Jays’ bullpen needs significant upgrade too because they are mostly in the 4s and 5s. The Blue Jays don’t have the necessary .300 hitter that I keep mentioning about. Melky Cabrera‘s .346 BA has asterisk on it and in MLB that doesn’t count. Their HR hitters can’t compensate for the bullpen in the competitive playoffs, sure they will make it in postseason but unless they improve on their ‘pen pitching they are gone in 1st or 2nd round.
10. Texas Rangers. The Rangers’ loss of Josh Hamilton is a big hit on their majors best 808 runs in 2012 but if they can only find someone who can produce at least 28 of those, they will still be positive in run differential. Their team ERA of 3.99 will significantly improve due to the departure of Scott Feldman, Roy Oswalt and Ryan Dempster who have 5.09, 5.80 and 5.09 respectively. Even without Hamilton’s bat, the Rangers are in good shape with Adrian Beltre .321, Craig Gentry .304 and David Murphy .304, my favorite threes besides the ERAs.
What do you think?