THT Dartboard: June 29, 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 Boston Red Sox (Dartboard Factor = 103, 101): Remarkable balance up and down the lineup and pitching staff has Boston set up perfectly to absorb the daily grind of the regular season and a playoff spot is all but assured them at this point so it’s safe to look toward October? Is this a team built to compete well there?

#2 Tampa Bay Rays (Dartboard Factor = 103, 99): They look close in the standings for now but there’s a huge gap between the Rays and the Yankees in how they’ve played. The Rays rotation has now settled down and they’ve got Carlos Pena back from the DL.

#3 Chicago Cubs (Dartboard Factor = 97, 98): Kerry Wood is probably never going to start again, but at least he’s found a role that it seems he can stay healthy in and provide the Cubs with good performance at the end of games rather than the beginning.

#4 Chicago White Sox (Dartboard Factor = 96, 95): The north side/south side rivalry gets a lot more interesting when both teams are in serious playoff contention. Once again, the White Sox are succeeding by hitting home runs (first in the league) and not with small ball (second to last in stolen bases).

#5 Oakland Athletics (Dartboard Factor = 94, 92): The Athletics are the first team on this list to have a winning road record. One more interesting quirk in this season of unexpectedness.

#6 New York Yankees (Dartboard Factor = 90, 89): Moving Joba Chamberlain to the rotation was a gamble that New York had to make given the state of their rotation and after a rocky beginning, it has paid off.

#7 Los Angeles Angels (Dartboard Factor = 89, 87): Is losing a combined no-hitter tossed by your pitching staff a sign that the Angels good fortune so far in 2008 is regressing back? Time will tell for the team with baseball’s best road record.

#8 Philadelphia Phillies (Dartboard Factor = 86, 90): A 2-8 stretch has pulled that division back together. Why do the Phillies continue to give regular playing time to Carlos Ruiz when Chris Coste is mashing at the plate and Ruiz is doing the opposite?

#9 Toronto Blue Jays (Dartboard Factor = 85, 83): They stand at the bottom of the AL East, but given that all five teams in that division reside inside the top 12 teams in the Dartboard, it’s less of a dishonor than all other cellar-dwellers.

#10 Milwaukee Brewers (Dartboard Factor = 85, 85): After winning eight of nine, the Brewers run head long into the Minnesota buzz saw and drop their first series since they played, who else, the Twins four series ago.

#11 St Louis Cardinals (Dartboard Factor = 85, 86): Suddenly now in a battle with division-mate Milwaukee over the wildcard mantle. There’s an interesting debate to be had over who has won the Glaus-Rolen swap so far with Rolen providing better offense and defense, but in less playing time while Glaus has been no slouch himself.

#12 Baltimore Orioles (Dartboard Factor = 85, 85): The Orioles pitchers have generated a baseball leading 37 more fieldable balls than any other staff helping to give them a .285 BABIP, also best in baseball.

#13 Atlanta Braves (Dartboard Factor = 85, 84): The Braves are still having a hard time climbing out of their bad luck hole now with Chipper Jones spending the week on the bench. He may end up needing a disabled list stint to get his leg healthy enough.

Mental Health and the CBA
A particular bit of language in the latest CBA could have negative consequences for some players.

#14 Detroit Tigers (Dartboard Factor = 84, 80): Since demoting Dontrelle Willis the Tigers are 13-3. Maybe his terrible pitching was infecting the clubhouse.

#15 Minnesota Twins (Dartboard Factor = 83, 76): Streaking with ten consecutive wins, the Twins have climbed to within a half game of the division leader Chicago.

#16 Texas Rangers (Dartboard Factor = 83, 80): Not only are the Texas Rangers good at staying near .500 overall, their splits are also remarkably even within a few games of dead even home, road and one-run records.

#17 Arizona Diamondbacks (Dartboard Factor = 80, 84): Still in a tailspin, they’ve now dropped to just .500, though since they play in what has been baseball’s worst division, that’s still good enough to keep a lead. Furthermore, they still score more runs than average, have a great pitching staff and a competent defense. How are they losing?

#18 Florida Marlins (Dartboard Factor = 79, 82): Kevin Gregg provides the latest example that closers grow on trees while the entire Florida rotation shows that starting pitchers do not.

#19 Cleveland Indians (Dartboard Factor = 77, 75): Fausto Carmona hasn’t recorded a strikeout looking yet all season and overall has just 23 against 38 walks. Yet his groundball percentage if approaching 70% and he’s yielded but a single homerun leading to the most bizarre 3.10 ERA I’ve ever seen.

#20 Kansas City Royals (Dartboard Factor = 76, 70): Winners of 11 of their past 12, the Royals are keeping pace with the incredible Twins and Tigers, giving the AL Central a trio of helium teams.

#21 New York Mets (Dartboard Factor = 76, 80): Credited as one of baseball’s most disappointing teams this year, they’re actually just a few games out of first place, though they should rightfully be plenty more. They probably were overrated coming into the season given their pitching.

#22 Los Angeles Dodgers (Dartboard Factor = 75, 76): Thanks to Arizona’s June collapse, the Dodgers have managed to shave their deficit in the division down to just a few games despite being under .500 and not playing particularly well. Meanwhile, Scott Proctor hits the disabled list which is as not surprising as Chan Ho Park‘s 2.52 ERA is.

#23 Houston Astros (Dartboard Factor = 72, 72): The Astros are an old team and they’re bad. That’s a poor recipe for experiencing success in the near future. It would behoove them to try and move players like 34-year-old Tim Byrdak, of the 17-11 walk to strikeout ratio, if they can fool some GM into biting on the 1.96 ERA. Unfortunately, the GM most likely to do that is Ed Wade.

#24 Pittsburgh Pirates (Dartboard Factor = 70, 72): Unlike the Astros, the Pirates do have something to strive for despite being similarly talented and that’s reaching .500, a feat they haven’t done since Grover Cleveland was in office. With more games to play against the Stros and Reds, they have a chance if their pitching can sort itself out.

#25 Cincinnati Reds (Dartboard Factor = 69, 73): They’re last in a division that contains both the Pirates and the Astros and if that weren’t bad enough, they’ve posted a 13-7 record in one-run games, hinting that they probably should be a few games worse than they are.

#26 San Francisco Giants (Dartboard Factor = 69, 71): In a league that’s seen a two-point increase in home winning percentage in 2008, the Giants are bucking the trend by managing a nearly .500 road record while being dismal at home.

#27 Colorado Rockies (Dartboard Factor = 67, 70): Running with the Padres toward the NL West cellar, the Rockies have been one of a handful of teams gunning for the most disappointing award. Has it seemed like this season has gone much differently than expected to anyone else?

#28 San Diego Padres (Dartboard Factor = 65, 70): Losers of 10 out of their past 11 after winning eight of the previous ten, the Padres need to decide if they have a chance (almost surely none now) in the weakened NL West rather soon since they have some talented trade chits.

#29 Seattle Mariners (Dartboard Factor = 64, 63): Felix Hernandez runs off another, albeit injury (not arm) shortened, start adding a grand slam off Johan Santana to boot. He sits 4th in the league in ERA, 8th in FIP and 6th in xFIP. If he were on the team that the 2008 Mariners were supposed to be, he’d be amongst the Cy Young discussions.

#30 Washington Nationals (Dartboard Factor = 60, 61): Odalis Perez is running quite an impressively deceptive ERA given his below average strikeout, walk and homerun rates. A rare trifecta among pitchers with an ERA+ of 110.

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.

Red Sox – 103
Rays – 103
Yankees – 90
Blue Jays – 85
Orioles – 85

White Sox – 96
Tigers – 84
Twins – 83
Indians – 77
Royals – 76

Athletics – 94
Angels – 89
Rangers – 83
Mariners – 64

Rays – 103
Yankees – 90
Angels – 89
Blue Jays – 85
Orioles – 85

Phillies – 86
Braves – 85
Marlins – 79
Mets – 76
Nationals – 60

Cubs – 97
Brewers – 85
Cardinals – 85
Astros – 72
Pirates – 70
Reds – 69

Diamondbacks – 80
Dodgers – 75
Giants – 69
Rockies – 67
Padres – 65

Brewers – 85
Cardinals – 85
Braves – 85
Marlins – 79
Mets – 76

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