THT Dartboard: September 21, 2008

Divisional Picture

With the season all but wrapped up and for the penultimate edition of the Dartboard for 2008, I thought we’d look back at the rankings from the end of last year to see how teams have risen and fallen over the calendar year.


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, 100): Last year – 67, Ranked 30th. What a turnaround for the Rays going worst to first in just a single year.

#2 Los Angeles Angels (Dartboard Factor = 99, 99): Last year – 95, Ranked 3rd. An impressive season for the Angels after losing John Lackey to parts of the season and Kelvim Escobar for the entire season.

#3 Boston Red Sox (Dartboard Factor = 98, 98): Last year – 97, Ranked 1st. What’s scary is how much salary room the Red Sox have to spend this winter with very few holes to address. It’s hard to see them faltering from the top five for some time to come.

#4 Chicago Cubs (Dartboard Factor = 97, 97): Last year – 84, Ranked 14th. Jim Edmonds, Geovany Soto, Rich Harden. The Cubs haven’t done much wrong in terms of new talent this season, though Kosuke Fukudome‘s disappearance in the second half is troubling.

#5 Chicago White Sox (Dartboard Factor = 92, 91): Last year – 72, Ranked 23rd. A comeback this season for the White Sox hinging heavily on their pitching staff. Javier Vazquez has another criminally underrated season.

#6 New York Yankees (Dartboard Factor = 90, 88): Last year – 94, Ranked 4th. Not much of a decline for the Yankees, but the emergence of the Rays punched their ticket to the links for October.

#7 Philadelphia Phillies (Dartboard Factor = 90, 87): Last year – 88, Ranked 9th. Down years from Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins have hurt the Phillies offense a bit but Ryan Madson, Chad Durbin and the imported Brad Lidge have been a boon to their bullpen.

#8 New York Mets (Dartboard Factor = 89, 90): Last year – 90, Ranked 7th. The resurgence of Carlos Delgado has been a tremendous help for the Mets who have had pitching woes both in the rotation and in the pen outside of the brought in Johan Santana.

#9 Toronto Blue Jays (Dartboard Factor = 89, 90): Last year – 83, Ranked 15th. A season marked by fantastic starting pitching now ends with a whimper as Dustin McGowan and Shaun Marcum are question marks for 2009.

#10 Milwaukee Brewers (Dartboard Factor = 88, 91): Last year – 81, Ranked 16th. Ben Sheets goes down with an injury at the worst possible time. The Brewers really could have used Yovani Gallardo in 2008.

#11 Minnesota Twins (Dartboard Factor = 87, 88): Last year – 79 Ranked 17th. Denard Span has been a welcome surprise for the Twins and Francisco Liriano looks ready to pair with the rest of the Twins young rotation for 2009.

#12 Houston Astros (Dartboard Factor = 86, 88): Last year – 70, Ranked 27th. For most of this season, it looked like the Astros were going to repeat their 2007 rankings, but a late (likely too late) charge in August and September have propelled them into the outside fringe of a possible Wild Card spot. Randy Wolf has turned out to be a good addition and Lance Berkman has a claim to the NL MVP title.

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

#13 St Louis Cardinals (Dartboard Factor = 84, 85): Last year – 74, Ranked 20th. The Cardinals started off strong and most people ignored them as a likely early season fluke, but as the season wore on and Ryan Ludwick kept hitting, the Cardinals made people take notice. Just as they entered serious discussions for the postseason, their reliance on the arms of Joel Pineiro and Ryan Franklin doomed them.

#14 Florida Marlins (Dartboard Factor = 84, 81): Last year – 68, Ranked 29th. Who would have thought that a team that finished 29th last year and dealt away their best hitter would move into the top half of the league? The rotation and defense regressed a bunch, enough to offset the loss of Miguel Cabrera.

#15 Los Angeles Dodgers (Dartboard Factor = 83, 82): Last year – 84, Ranked 13th. Andruw Jones cratered and Juan Pierre was Juan Pierre so the addition of Manny Ramirez, defense and all, was a help to LA at the plate.

#16 Cleveland Indians (Dartboard Factor = 81, 81): Last year – 96, Ranked 2nd. The emergence of Cliff Lee was counter-balanced by the trade of CC Sabathia and the decline of Fausto Carmona. The main culprit has been the disintegrating bullpen.

#17 Texas Rangers (Dartboard Factor = 79, 81): Last year – 75, Ranked 19th. All credit to the offense which took a step beyond their ballpark this year and legitimately became a huge threat to opposing hurlers. What a horrid year for the pitching though.

#18 Oakland Athletics (Dartboard Factor = 78, 76): Last year – 78, Ranked 18th. Congratulations to the Athletics for matching not only the ranking from last year but also the Dartboard factor as well! Their hitting has been as bad as the Rangers has been good.

#19 Arizona Diamondbacks (Dartboard Factor = 78, 77): Last year – 91, Ranked 5th. Owners of the best rotation in baseball and a passable bullpen, the offense just hasn’t done enough to hold them above water. The Adam Dunn trade came too late to help enough and the DBacks plunged down the rankings this year.

#20 Detroit Tigers (Dartboard Factor = 76, 78): Last year – 88, Ranked 10th. The offense eventually came around as advertised (within reason), but the pitching has been beyond bad with one of, if not the, worst bullpens in the majors and a rotation that did them no favors either.

#21 Cincinnati Reds (Dartboard Factor = 75, 72): Last year – 73, Ranked 21st. Francisco Cordero didn’t live up to his salary in year one and the offense and rotation really let the Reds down at key times. Coupled with the surprising Cardinals, the Reds never had much of a chance in the Central this season.

#22 Baltimore Orioles (Dartboard Factor = 74, 75): Last year – 71, Ranked 25th. Where did Aubrey Huff come from this year? For awhile, the Oriole’s surprising offense held them afloat in the East, but their rotation woes eventually got the better of them.

#23 Kansas City Royals (Dartboard Factor = 73, 70): Last year – 71, Ranked 24th. Brian Bannister took a step back this year with home runs and line drives allowed, but overall the Royals’ rotation and bullpen have been decent. It’s the hitters that doomed them.

#24 Colorado Rockies (Dartboard Factor = 72, 71): Last year – 87, Ranked 11th. The first of a whopping four teams in the bottom seven that were in the top 12 last year. Last year’s Rockies were powered by their offense and gloves, but while their bullpen improved this season, the offense really fell off.

#25 Atlanta Braves (Dartboard Factor = 70, 71): Last year – 85, Ranked 12th. Jeff Francouer’s collapse hurt the Braves offense, but it was injury woes to the pitching staff and incredibly bad luck on one run games that cost the Braves what looked to be a good chance at a return to the playoffs this year.

#26 San Francisco Giants (Dartboard Factor = 70, 70): Last year – 72, Ranked 22nd. They lost Barry Bonds, but did manage to improve their hideous offense overall. However, Matt Cain‘s regression coupled with an even worse season from Barry Zito and a faltering bullpen kept the Giants about where most people picked them to finish.

#27 Pittsburgh Pirates (Dartboard Factor = 68, 67): Last year – 68, Ranked 28th. Some improvement for the Pirates! At this rate, they’ll finally crack that .500 mark sometime around 2022. The story for Pittsburgh is obviously the demise of Tom Gorzelanny and Ian Snell‘s results.

#28 Seattle Mariners (Dartboard Factor = 61, 64): Last year – 88, Ranked 8th. Injury, bad luck and general ineffectiveness as a just side effect of truly mind-bogglingly incompetent management and the Mariners paid the bill for the good luck seen in 2007.

#29 Washington Nationals (Dartboard Factor = 60, 61): Last year – 70, Ranked 26th. The rotation got a little bit better than year, which is damning with faint praise. Good offensive seasons for Christian Guzman and Elijah Dukes provides some comfort for National fans who saw their team fail to sign their first round draft pick over monetary concerns.

#30 San Diego Padres (Dartboard Factor = 60, 61): Last year – 90 Ranked 6th. The Padres enjoyed success in 2007 based primarily on the strength of Jake Peavy, Chris Young, Greg Maddux, Heath Bell and Trevor Hoffman. Only Heath Bell has approached his performance level again in 2008.

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 – 90
Blue Jays – 89
Orioles – 74

White Sox – 92
Twins – 87
Indians – 81
Tigers – 76
Royals – 73

Angels – 99
Rangers – 79
Athletics – 78
Mariners – 61

Red Sox – 98
Yankees – 90
Blue Jays – 89
Twins – 87

Phillies – 90
Mets – 89
Marlins – 84
Braves – 70
Nationals – 60

Cubs – 97
Brewers – 88
Astros – 86
Cardinals – 84
Reds – 75
Pirates – 68

Dodgers – 83
Diamondbacks – 78
Rockies – 72
Giants – 70
Padres – 60

Mets – 89
Brewers – 88
Astros – 86
Cardinals – 84
Marlins – 84

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