MLB Power Poll: The way it is now -- early surprises shape the rankings
Ryan ***an
Apr. 12, 2010

Ralph Kiner was on the phone a few weeks ago, telling stories about his contract negotiations with then-Pirates general manager Branch Rickey. The Hall of Fame outfielder pointed out that he was forced to take a pay cut because his team had finished in last place in 1952 despite the fact that he led the National Leagues with 37 home runs.

Unthinkable now, right? "That's the way it was in those days," Kiner said.

These days as in, the first week of the season some pretty unthinkable things have transpired, too. The Blue Jays and A's are first-place teams. Alex Gonzalez entered the week tied for the major league lead in home runs. Martin Prado and Edgar Renteria entered the week ranked 1-2 in the majors with .542 and .524 batting averages, respectively.

That's the way it is these days.

Which is why this first power poll of the season won't resemble the one we see when September rolls around. This poll is mostly concerned with a team's production so far this year, with preseason expectations used to split hairs.

1. Phillies. Two starts, two wins, two walks, 16 innings, 17 strikeouts. So much for the thought that there might be an adjustment period as Roy Halladay joins the National League. The 0.56 ERA and 0.938 WHIP are shiny, too.

2. Giants. In the least shocking start to the season, back-to-back Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum is 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA in his first two games. In a more surprising development, the revamped San Francisco offense averaged 5.2 runs in the first six games. The Giants averaged 4.1 runs all of last year.

3. Blue Jays. There were so many bright spots in the opening week Gonzalez and his homers, Vernon Wells and his homers, Shaun Marcum's return to the rotation, the outstanding starts by Dana Eveland and Ricky Romero. Hard to choose just one.

4. Twins. Apparently the Twins can turn any reliever into a rock-solid closer. When Joe Nathan, who held various roles with the Giants but flourished when he arrived in Minnesota, went down this spring, the Twins gave the job to Jon Rauch, who had held various roles with his three previous teams. Rauch is 4-for-4 in save opportunities this year.

5. Yankees. Some teams started with easy schedules we'll get to the Tigers in a minute but not the Yankees. They opened with three games in Boston and three games at Tampa Bay, which makes their 4-2 record pretty impressive.

6. Athletics. Speaking of rough openings, the A's hosted the Mariners the "it" team of the offseason for four games, then played three road games against the Angels. Tough slate for a team predicted by most to finish last in the AL West, which makes their 5-2 start pretty impressive.

7. Cardinals. When Matt Holliday signed a long-term deal this offseason, Cardinals fans had visions of the damage the 3-4 combo of Holliday and Albert Pujols could do against the NL. So far, those visions have come true Holliday entered the week hitting .423 with three homers; Pujols was at .375 with four homers.

8. Marlins. The Marlins finished the opening week with a 4-2 record despite two very mediocre starts from ace Josh Johnson. The 10 RBIs from Jorge Cantu and 3 1/3 scoreless innings from new closer Leo Nunez have been huge.

9. Tigers. The scheduling folks did their best to give the Tigers a gentle nudge into the season, scheduling Detroit's first seven games against the Indians and Royals, the two teams expected to battle for last place in the AL Central.

10. Red Sox. Entering the week, leadoff man Jacoby Ellsbury had yet to draw a walk; his average of 3.40 pitches per at-bat was 183rd in the majors. Last year, he saw 3.77 pitches per at-bat.

11. Rays. New closer Rafael Soriano has a win and a save in his first two appearances, but he also has allowed five baserunners in those two innings.

12. Diamondbacks. After their forgettable 70-win campaign in 2009, the D-backs will gladly take their 4-2 start to the season, even if it came against the Padres and Pirates. The much-maligned Chris Young is hitting .292 with three homers and 11 RBIs.

13. Braves. Derek Lowe is 2-0 this season despite allowing 10 walks and nine hits in 12 innings covering two starts. (Don't worry; there will be plenty of time to talk about Jason Heyward ...)

14. Rockies. Catchers Miguel Olivo and Chris Iannetta split the first six games. Olivo hit .455 with a 1.500 OPS; Iannetta hit .083 with a .583 OPS.

15. Rangers. Nelson Cruz is angling for a return trip to the home run derby. Cruz, who was the derby runner-up last year, hit four homers in the opening week to go with nine RBIs and a .450 batting average.

16. Brewers. The 42-year-old closer (Trevor Hoffman) has given up three homers and six runs in four appearances. The catcher (Gregg Zaun), who turns 39 on Wednesday, has started the season 0-for-14. The 40-year-old outfielder (Jim Edmonds) has a measly .610 OPS through his first five games. Aside from that, the Brewers are doing just fine.

17. Reds. Cincinnati starting pitchers are a combined 4-for-8 at the plate this season. On a completely unrelated note, don't be surprised if this team finishes second in the NL Central this season.

18. Dodgers. Catcher Russell Martin and second baseman Blake DeWitt have combined to walk 11 times this season and strike out only twice. Martin's on-base percentage is a Bonds-esque .611 so far. Matt Kemp, on the other hand, has walked once and struck out nine times.

[HIGH-LIGHT]19. Pirates. Starting pitchers Zach Duke (3.00 ERA) and Ross Ohlendorf (3.60) have been good; starters Paul Maholm (6.00), Daniel McCutchen (24.30) and Charlie Morton (21.60) haven't.[/HIGH-LIGHT]

20. Nationals. The Nationals won their first road series of the season, taking two of three from the Mets. Last season, the Nationals only won two road series before the All-Star break.

21. Cubs. Coming off poor seasons, Geovany Soto (1-for-11) and Alfonso Soriano (3-for-21) struggled again in 2010's opening week.

22. Mariners. Speaking of players who struggled for the Cubs in 2009, Milton Bradley was just 1-for-21 in his first six games with the Mariners.

23. Angels. Brandon Wood, who has an opportunity to secure the third base job with Chone Figgins now in Seattle, was 1-for-19 in the season's opening week.

24. Orioles. That 1-5 record in the first week wasn't indicative of the way the Orioles played in the first week. Three of those losses were by one run, and in the fifth loss, they had a lead with two outs in the eighth. They expected better than an 18.00 ERA from Mike Gonzalez when they signed the lefty to close games.

25. Mets. What's more surprising, that Jeff Francoeur hit .476 in the opening week, or that he drew four walks in six games? Considering he walked just 23 times in 157 games last season, we'll go with the latter.

26. White Sox. As most predicted, the White Sox have been strong in the pitching categories they had a staff ERA of 2.95 the opening week and the offense has struggled. Carlos Quentin and Paul Konerko are the only two regulars hitting above .227.

27. Royals. Through the first week, the three veteran hitters the Royals signed this offseason have the three highest batting averages: Rick Ankiel was at .391, Scott Podsednik was at .364 and Jason Kendall was at .316.

28. Indians. It's not hard to see the walk-off wild pitch Chris Perez allowed against the Tigers as a harbinger of things to come in Cleveland.

29. Padres. After his stellar debut to 2010, it had to be frustrating for the Padres to place Chris Young on the disabled list with tightness in his throwing shoulder. The Padres hope he only misses a couple weeks.

30. Astros. It's going to be a long season for the Astros.

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