THT Dartboard: August 17, 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 Tampa Bay Rays (Dartboard Factor = 100, 99): Winners of six over their last seven, the Rays are not yet showing any signs that they’ll slow down enough with Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford out to let Boston back in the race for the AL East crown. Cool Standings now posts Tampa’s odds of winning the division at 57.5% and at 92.5% for making the postseason.

#2 Boston Red Sox (Dartboard Factor = 98, 97): It seems doubtful that Paul Byrd is going to be a good enough solution for the Red Sox rotation to allow them to make up enough ground on Tampa, but he may represent enough stability to allow them to hold their lead over the AL Central runner-up for the Wild Card.

#3 Chicago Cubs (Dartboard Factor = 98, 97): The Cubs just keep on winning, this time with three runs in the 9th off a Daryle Ward home run. With a 7.5 game cushion on a playoff spot, the Cubs can coast to a playoff berth barring a Mets-level collapse.

#4 Los Angeles Angels (Dartboard Factor = 97, 97): The Angles continue their winning ways above their expected levels at a 44-18 mark in close games, a remarkably unsustainable rate. Mark Teixeira is making a big impression on the Angels on his quest to earn a nine-figure deal this winter.

#5 Chicago White Sox (Dartboard Factor = 93, 92): Ken Griffey Jr. is finding the American League a bit tougher the second time around and has just 32 at bats since being traded 15 days ago.

#6 Milwaukee Brewers (Dartboard Factor = 91, 90): Eight straight wins only netted the Brewers 1.5 games made up on the Cubs but has helped them to build a decent three game lead in the Wild Card. The Brewers are certainly taking to CC Sabathia who after his first NL start has rattled off four complete games in seven tries with just eight walks against 55 strike outs.

#7 Minnesota Twins (Dartboard Factor = 89, 88): Fighting for a playoff spot on two fronts the Twins remain in step with the White Sox above them in the NL Central and are also hanging around with Boston for the Wild Card and might just be able to ride their superior rotational depth into October.

#8 New York Yankees (Dartboard Factor = 88, 90): Not a good week for the Yanks as they are swept out of Anaheim and drop a series to the Twins further burying their hopes for a playoff berth this year.

#9 St Louis Cardinals (Dartboard Factor = 87, 85): Three out of four from Florida and a win to start the weekend series against Cincinnati had the Cards sitting just two back of Milwaukee now that the Brewer’s winning streak has ended.

#10 Toronto Blue Jays (Dartboard Factor = 85, 85): An uncharacteristic 10 walks in just five starts since the All-Star Break and no complete games for Roy Halladay since notching seven in his first 19 starts of the year.

#11 Philadelphia Phillies (Dartboard Factor = 85, 86): Victim to a four game sweep by a total of just six runs in Los Angeles, the Phillies get a bit of a break heading down south to San Diego.

#12 New York Mets (Dartboard Factor = 85, 85): While the Phillies were running into the Dodger buzz saw, the Mets got to beat up on the hapless Nationals to the tune of a three game sweep and three straight games made up on the Phillies, leaving them back atop the NL East.

#13 Arizona Diamondbacks (Dartboard Factor = 82, 81): In the opinion of this author, the Adam Dunn trade was one of mutual benefit to both teams. For Arizona, they needed to make an addition with the Dodgers nabbing Manny Ramirez and themselves losing Orlando Hudson and they’ll likely nab Type A compensation for Adam Dunn this winter. Add those two picks to the six they’re already projected to get and Arizona better start stashing some money away for next June.

The Incompleat Starting Pitcher
The end of the nine-inning start and how we got here.

#14 Los Angeles Dodgers (Dartboard Factor = 82, 80): Brad Penny heads back to the injury list and the Dodgers’ momentum after acquiring Manny Ramirez was dulled a bit with Arizona’s acquisition of Adam Dunn, but a four game sweep of Philadelphia keeps the pressure on Arizona.

#15 Detroit Tigers (Dartboard Factor = 81, 81): Miguel Cabrera went from being walked intentionally 27 and 23 times the past year to just four times so far in 2008, a big part of why his OBP has dropped over 40 points. The Tigers better be hoping this is an aberration rather than an indicator of what his line will look like in the AL going forward.

#16 Baltimore Orioles (Dartboard Factor = 81, 81): The Orioles got their draft pick, 4th overall selection Brian Matusz, signed very near the deadline to a reasonable bonus of only $3.2 million, but that came at the cost of a major league contract. Still, Matusz, being an advanced collegiate starter, could help the Orioles quite soon at the big league level.

#17 Texas Rangers (Dartboard Factor = 80, 83): The Rangers peaked after 114 games at 60-54 and five games out of the Wild Card race with a legitimate shot at making October a New York and Boston-free affair, but since then have dropped seven out of eight and fallen back to .500 where they’ve been all season long.

#18 Houston Astros (Dartboard Factor = 80, 77): Since the calendar turned to August the Astros have stormed forward with wins in 12 of their 14 games so far. The problem is that when August started they were 13.5 games back and after going 12-2 they have made up all of 1.5 games in the division and are still have five teams ahead of them in the Wild Card. Unless they rattle off another 12 of 14, this push is for naught.

#19 Florida Marlins (Dartboard Factor = 80, 81): The Marlins still cling to some slimming playoff hopes but with 575 runs scored and 600 runs allowed, history often does look kindly upon teams that cannot outscore their opponents over the course of the season.

#20 Oakland Athletics (Dartboard Factor = 78, 80): Trading Joe Blanton and Rich Harden did not cause the Oakland collapse. They were always likely to do that having played above their heads for the first half of the season. Sean Gallagher has had an interesting first six starts in Oakland. He’s suffering from a rapidly inflating walk rate and a tremendous drop in groundballs, but so far has been able to avoid much homerun damage.

#21 Cleveland Indians (Dartboard Factor = 77, 75): Cliff Lee is showing no signs of regressing to his past performances. His results so far in 2008 are truly out of line with his past. He’s made a dramatic increase in the number of groundballs he gets and how often he throws a strike and has suffered none of the usual strikeout loss that typically corresponds such a change.

#22 Atlanta Braves (Dartboard Factor = 74, 77): Behold the mystery of Jorge Campillo. Always deserving of a shot because his numbers suggested he might be able to make some serviceable starts for little cost in the big leagues, Campillo got his shot in Atlanta this year and suddenly is missing a big number of bats and posting a strikeout to walk ratio around four. He was completely freely available to anyone and the Braves ended up with solid middle of the rotation starting pitcher for nothing.

#23 Kansas City Royals (Dartboard Factor = 74, 75): Facing a difficult stretch of schedule wherein they played Chicago, Minnesota and Boston for 12 games, the Royals managed to win a mere four of those contests and get no rest, heading to the Bronx for a weekend series against the Yankees.

#24 Colorado Rockies (Dartboard Factor = 72, 73): It’s cute that at nearly ten games out of the division, and so far out of the Wild Card they cannot see it even from a mile up, the Rockies still thought it worthy enough to claim Livan Hernandez off waivers. Well, except for Rockie fans. They probably don’t use the word “cute”.

#25 Pittsburgh Pirates (Dartboard Factor = 71, 72): Poor Ian Snell. He’s having hard enough time with his drop in control and the fewer bats that he’s missing, he doesn’t need the added harm from an astounding .365 BABIP.

#26 Cincinnati Reds (Dartboard Factor = 69, 70): In the opinion of this author, the Adam Dunn trade was one of mutual benefit to both teams. For Cincinnati, it was a choice between keeping Adam Dunn and hoping he declines arbitration in the winter and lends them two draft picks or trading him. While the other two people named so far in the trade are underwhelming, the real prize for Cincinnati is Micah Owings who represents a cost-controlled relatively league average starter for the next four years. That alone is better than two compensatory draft picks.

#27 San Francisco Giants (Dartboard Factor = 66, 66): The Giants were lucky that a bone bruise was all Tim Lincecum suffered after taking a combacker off his leg. The potential NL Cy Young contender has been a big part of why the Giants pitching staff paces the NL in strikeouts.

#28 Seattle Mariners (Dartboard Factor = 64, 65): They had a chance to make a real run at Washington for the first overall pick when both Raul Ibanez and Jarrod Washburn were claimed on waivers this week. While retaining Raul Ibanez makes sense for their future because of his Type A compensation, intentionally passing on the opportunity to both shed Washburn’s salary for 2009 and make themselves worse in 2008 for a better draft pick would be baffling it were any other front office.

#29 San Diego Padres (Dartboard Factor = 63, 62): A terrific Ben Sheets vs Jake Peavy match up goes the Padres way on Thursday in a season with few high points except maybe the finding of a new seemingly randomly generated good relief pitcher in Mike Adams who pitched for four teams last year.

#30 Washington Nationals (Dartboard Factor = 57, 61): The Nationals have the first overall pick all but sewn up at this point. They faced a possible run from the Mariners and the Padres, but both of them faded in early August winning too many games to keep up with the Nationals torrid losing pace. The question that now looms, prematurely, will it be Steven Strasburg, who looked terrific in Beijing this week? Perhaps not as with the failure to sign Aaron Crow, the Nationals now have two top-10 picks in the 2009 draft and could be facing over $10 million in bonuses.

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.

Rays – 100
Red Sox – 98
Yankees – 88
Blue Jays – 85
Orioles – 81

White Sox – 93
Twins – 89
Tigers – 81
Indians – 77
Royals – 74

Angels – 97
Rangers – 80
Athletics – 78
Mariners – 64

Red Sox – 98
Twins – 89
Yankees – 88
Blue Jays – 85

Phillies – 85
Mets – 85
Marlins – 80
Braves – 74
Nationals – 57

Cubs – 98
Brewers – 91
Cardinals – 87
Astros – 80
Pirates – 71
Reds – 69

Diamondbacks – 82
Dodgers – 82
Rockies – 72
Giants – 66
Padres – 63

Brewers – 91
Cardinals – 87
Mets – 85
Dodgers – 82

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