THT Dartboard: April 27, 2008

Divisional Picture


Welcome to The Hardball Times Dartboard, our weekly attempt to rank all the teams in baseball. The Dartboard Factor is how many wins a team would be expected to have at the end of the season if it played a neutral schedule. Next to that, you’ll find the Dartboard Factor from the previous week. An explanation of our method can be found here.

#1 Arizona Diamondbacks (Dartboard Factor = 113, 123): Well you didn’t expect them to stay at a 123-win pace did you? Nevertheless, the DBacks are doing it all, hitting with authority, striking batters out, limiting homeruns and catching the ball. They are clearly the class of MLB.

#2 Chicago Cubs (Dartboard Factor = 103, 90): The Cubs are scoring over six runs a game, 2nd in the NL (behind those DBacks), but ahead of 3rd place by well over a run per game. That’s a recipe for a lot of wins, especially when you can throw out an average pitching staff aided by a good defense.

#3 Chicago White Sox (Dartboard Factor = 100, 109): Might be starting to see the regression that we expect to see given the juxtaposition of the preseason projections and the early season success of the Sox. They’ll go as far as their starting pitching can hold up.

#4 Oakland Athletics (Dartboard Factor = 98, 85): So much for that rebuilding year eh? I wouldn’t count on this one lasting at all. They added Frank Thomas, but this is still a remarkably punchless lineup.

#5 Atlanta Braves (Dartboard Factor = 98, 103): A 121 OPS+ with a 112 ERA+ explains why they are so high up the list here compared to their actual .500 record. Are we sure John Smoltz ages?

#6 St Louis Cardinals (Dartboard Factor = 94, 106): Do you think that Joel Pineiro contract was a mistake? Everyone outside St. Louis did at the time, I hope St. Louis realizes it by now.

#7 Tampa Bay Devil Rays (Dartboard Factor = 93, 84): So a week in, the Evan Longoria contract already looks like a steal as he’s acting like the best hitter on a talented lineup. This team is for real folks. Hurry back Kazmir.

#8 Philadelphia Phillies (Dartboard Factor = 91, 94): We know they’ll be able to hit, especially in that bandbox in Philadelphia, the question is going to be about their starting pitching outside of phenom Cole Hamels. Brad Lidge is experiencing a nice renaissance.

#9 Boston Red Sox (Dartboard Factor = 91, 91): Their pitching is walking too many batters and so far has been their weakness in 2008 when it was their biggest strength in 2007. Expect them to improve, but even with David Ortiz‘s sure improvement in the future, the offense is more likely to take a step back overall than to get better.

#10 New York Yankees (Dartboard Factor = 88, 85): They look average at hitting, pitching and defense which isn’t going to be a recipe for success in the east with Boston and Tampa. They’re going to need more contribution from their younger players than they’ve received so far, notably Robinson Cano and Phil Hughes.

#11 Baltimore Orioles (Dartboard Factor = 87, 80): If only they could play the Mariners all season long (6-1 against them so far), they might have a chance, but since they cannot, it’s unlikely they’ll sustain this level of performance though their defense may prop up their pitching enough to make them look like a decent team.

#12 Florida Marlins (Dartboard Factor = 85, 72): Now there’s a team we didn’t expect to be leading the NL East at this juncture. Hanley Ramirez can flat out rake, but they cannot pitch or field and that’s going to catch up with them eventually.

#13 Cleveland Indians (Dartboard Factor = 83, 66): C.C. Sabathia looks back to normal, providing yet another example of why you shouldn’t judge things too harshly based on 20 innings or 60 at bats.

Retroactive Review: Ace
Looking back at some of Justin Verlander's most interesting moments.

#14 Los Angeles Angels (Dartboard Factor = 83, 85): They’ve been mighty lucky on the run prevention side so far this year which is why they are so far down the list here. The AL West still looks completely jumbled but perhaps John Lackey‘s return could sort it out.

#15 Cincinnati Reds (Dartboard Factor = 82, 80): They’ve been playing like in a holding pattern so far, average on all fronts. We know their prospects can play, and the ones they’ve chosen to use, Joey Votto chief among them, are showing that. Edwin Encarnacion is also producing like many thought he could, much to the chagrin of Jeff Brantley.

#16 Milwaukee Brewers (Dartboard Factor = 82, 81): Yovani Gallardo and Ben Sheets have combined for 42 innings pitched and just 4 runs allowed on 24 hits, 9 walks and 33 strikeouts.

#17 Colorado Rockies (Dartboard Factor = 82, 73): They have black holes on offense at 2B and SS so far and among their rotation, only Aaron Cook is holding an ERA better than league average even though Colorado’s defense is above average.

#18 New York Mets (Dartboard Factor = 81, 97): The Mets ran into a buzzsaw dropping five of six during the week and it’s their pitching that’s been weak this year so far with a 4.41 FIP.

#19 Detroit Tigers (Dartboard Factor = 79, 71): Boy can they mash, pacing the AL at 5.12 runs per game. Boy can they not pitch with the 3rd worst pitching FIP in the AL and they’ve almost walked as many as they’ve struck out.

#20 Los Angeles Dodgers (Dartboard Factor = 78, 93): Juan Pierre is bad. Juan Pierre does not deserve to play. Stop playing Juan Pierre. Other than that, the offense looks average overall, but their pitching was always going to be their strength, as it has so far.

#21 Seattle Mariners (Dartboard Factor = 74, 74): They get Erik Bedard back and he looked fine. Meanwhile, Felix Hernandez is going about establishing himself atop not only all young pitchers, but amongst all pitchers in baseball.

#22 Toronto Blue Jays (Dartboard Factor = 71, 78): A.J. Burnett is not off to a great start to being financially prudent to opt out of his contract at the end of the season. The Jays need to get and keep Rolen in the lineup at 3B to improve their defense and get Marco Scutaro‘s bat away from the starting lineup.

#23 Houston Astros (Dartboard Factor = 70, 59): They’ve managed to score an average number of runs despite a .265 BABIP to the league’s average of .291. When that corrects itself, the Astros could end up with some assets on offense, but they’re going to need much better pitching, namely out of Roy Oswalt, to make any noise.

#24 San Francisco Giants (Dartboard Factor = 65, 43): Lincecum, Cain and Sanchez. It’s a great trio and it’s also the only reason to watch the Giants unless you are like me and enjoy watching Barry Zito implode.

#25 Minnesota Twins (Dartboard Factor = 65, 62): Is Francisco Liriano ever going to fully recover? It might be doubtful at this point. The Twins might be best off giving Liriano another year to try and get healthy because it’s not like they’re going anywhere this season while they score under four runs a game.

#26 Kansas City Royals (Dartboard Factor = 63, 85): Would you believe that the Royals have the AL’s third best pitching staff? FIP says it’s true, with a 3.76 FIP the Royals are behind only the White Sox and A’s. So why are they so far down here? That’s what happens when you score 3.33 runs per game.

#27 San Diego Padres (Dartboard Factor = 62, 68): Padre hitters have posed a .218/.295/.298 line in games played at home. That’s as a team. That’s roughly a lineup full of pinch hitters. Yowch.

#28 Texas Rangers (Dartboard Factor = 62, 80): Pirates-lite (see below), allowing over 33% of balls in play to drop in for hits. It’s no wonder they have a team ERA+ in the 70s. Of course, the 5.14 team FIP doesn’t help at all.

#29 Washington Nationals (Dartboard Factor = 55, 54): The pitchers aren’t great, but they’re not the main problem here. It’s the position players who are slacking at both of their jobs; at the plate (3.72 runs/game) and in the field (.677 DER).

#30 Pittsburgh Pirates (Dartboard Factor = 52, 62): The Pirates seemingly imported Tampa’s defense from last season, booting it around at a league worst pace (by far). They did finally cut ties with Matt Morris. They have a long long ways to go, but at least they no longer have to suffer nightmares about Dave Littlefield.

Divisional Picture

The playoff picture takes the above ranking and reforms the teams back into their leagues and divisions including the wild card. This is in no ways a prediction, this is an assessment of how teams have played so far this season, not how each team is going to play.

Devil Rays – 93
Red Sox – 91
Yankees – 88
Orioles – 87
Blue Jays – 71

White Sox – 100
Indians – 83
Tigers – 79
Twins – 65
Royals – 63

Athletics – 98
Angels – 83
Mariners – 74
Rangers – 62

Braves – 98
Phillies – 91
Marlins – 85
Mets – 81
Nationals – 55

Cubs – 103
Cardinals – 94
Reds – 82
Brewers – 82
Astros – 70
Pirates – 52

Diamondbacks – 113
Rockies – 82
Dodgers – 78
Giants – 65
Padres – 62

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