Power Poll: Cardinals rise to the top

A glance at the standings last week showed that 28 teams had records no worse than three games under .500. That’s a lot of teams playing decent baseball. That’s good for parity, but not so good for power pollsters who have to, for example, decide where to rank five 11-14 teams.

Pulling names out of a hat would be too easy. Instead, we studied the trends, analyzed the numbers, consulted with our editor and then … flipped a coin. Just kidding about the coin, of course. Onto the poll.

How good is Adam Wainwright and the rest of the Cardinals' rotation? We may find out this week.
How good is Adam Wainwright and the rest of the Cardinals’ rotation? We may find out this week.

1. Cardinals (5). These next four days will give us a much better idea of just how good is the Cardinals’ rotation, which leads the majors with a 2.55 ERA. The Cardinals face the mighty Phillies in Philly.

2. Rays (1). Losing two of four at home to the Royals was enough to drop them from the top spot. But they’ll be back if they perform on their nine-game journey to the West Coast like they did on their first trip of the season (9-1).

3. Padres (4). We don’t believe they’re this good, either. But after a 5-2 week that included three shutouts of the Brewers, they deserve to be here.

4. Yankees (3). Four regulars — A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, Nick Johnson and Curtis Granderson — have combined for just nine homers yet the Bombers still are 16-8. That is a deep lineup, one that will be without Granderson for at least 15 days (strained groin).

5. Twins (2). This is a deep organization: Joe Mauer is out with a bruised left heel and his replacement, top prospect Wilson Ramos, becomes the first Twin since Kirby Puckett to have a four-hit debut.

6. Giants (8). Who says these guys can’t hit? The Giants scored at least five runs in five of six games last week, enough to give them series wins over the Phillies and Rockies. Yet they still only rank 12th in runs in the NL.

7. Phillies (6). Brad Lidge served a homer to the first batter he faced after coming off the DL, which happened to be the same day his fill-in, Ryan Madson, went on the DL for kicking a chair and breaking a toe. No wonder there is concern about their bullpen.

Johnny Damon has performed for the Tigers.
Johnny Damon has performed for the Tigers.

8. Tigers (11). They knew what they were doing this off-season: Johnny Damon and Austin Jackson both are top five in runs and top 10 in OBP in the AL.

9. Rangers (24). Yes, moving up 15 spots is a big jump but the Rangers did win five of seven, including their first sweep at Safeco Field. Whatever Colby Lewis learned in Japan, it’s working. He’s 3-0 with a 2.76 ERA.

10. Rockies (9). Jim Tracy’s pre-game "talk" on Sunday and a strong start by rookie Jhoulys Chacin (one hit in seven innings) has the Rockies primed for better play. They’ll need it this week with series at San Diego and L.A.

11. Mets (11). That winning streak was nice but it sure ended with a thud. They were outscored 21-5 in dropping two at Philly.

12. Marlins (13). Jorge Cantu is much like his team: Largely unnoticed but pretty darn good. He has a hit in 23 of 24 games and leads the NL with 25 RBIs.

13. Nationals (12). Ho-hum. Another .500 week for last year’s doormats. And Stephen Strasburg is getting closer. Predicted debut: June 4, home, vs. Reds.

14. Cubs (18). They better win now. They’re in a three-series stretch against the NL’s worst-pitching clubs. They won three against the Diamondbacks (5.90 ERA), with Pirates (6.79) and Reds (5.46) next.

15. Angels (15). Mickey Hatcher on struggling youngster Brandon Wood: "I think his computer is overloading." The poll gets that same feeling when trying to figure out the Angels.

16. Red Sox (20). We’re focusing on J.D. Drew’s three-game hitting streak with three homers and Josh Beckett’s bounce-back start, not being swept at Baltimore.

17. Dodgers (16). Winning three of four at home against the Pirates doesn’t make up for being swept at New York.

Veron Wells has been great, but he can't do it alone for the Blue Jays.
Veron Wells has been great, but he can’t do it alone for the Blue Jays.

18. Blue Jays (14). Vernon Wells and Alex Gonzalez both rank among early-season surprises with eight homers each. But they need help.

19. A’s (7). Bet they’re glad to return home. Last week’s trip to the East did little for their place in the poll as they dropped five of six. It did even less for the team ERA, which shot to 4.04 from 2.93.

20. Braves (23). They’ll be even better when Bobby Cox moves Jason Heyward up another spot or two in the order.

21. Reds (28). They reeled off a five-game winning streak following Dusty Baker’s closed-door tirade. Asked if it made a difference, Dusty replied, "You can’t take credit for that. That’s a delicate thing. They could fall further in the depths." Translation: Those three games against the Astros were nice.

22. Mariners (17). Their recipe for pitching and defense would have a better chance if they could get just a little offense. Their designated hitters have yet to homer, no small reason why the team has been out-homered, 20-9.

23. Diamondbacks (25). They scored at least five runs in six of seven games last week. Too bad their pitching gave up double figures in four games.

24. Brewers (22). You know things aren’t going their way when they lose two at home to the Pirates and are shut out in three of four games at San Diego.

25. Royals (27). We’re not sure whether to be more impressed by Zack Greinke’s pitching (he didn’t allow a run in 14 innings last week) or his grace when defending his teammates (after not getting a win in either start). Doesn’t it bother you? "Not because it’s me personally," he said. "I feel like we’re playing better than every team we’ve played so far. We hit better and pitch better but we’ll have one bad inning or one situation where we will ruin a good opportunity. We’re playing good but not getting the job done and it’s cost us."

26. White Sox (19). Juan Pierre ranks seventh in runs and eighth in OBP on his own team. No wonder Ozzie Guillen dropped him out of the leadoff spot.

27. Orioles (30). Maybe they’ve hit bottom. After starting 2-14, they’re gone 5-4 in a 12-game stretch against the Red Sox and Yankees, with three at New York starting today.

28. Indians (26). They remain on pace to finish with more wins than the Cavs (67-61), that is, as long as only the Cavs’ regular season is included.

29. Pirates (29). They’ve already tried eight different starters, and only two of them have an ERA under 6.00.

30. Astros (21). The ever-streaky Astros’ six-game skid has them back at the bottom.

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

Sponsored link: Cardinals tickets available

A glance at the standings last week showed that 28 teams had records no worse than three games under .500. That’s a lot of teams playing decent baseball. That’s good for parity, but not so good for power pollsters who have to, for example, decide where to rank five 11-14 teams.

Pulling names out of a hat would be too easy. Instead, we studied the trends, analyzed the numbers, consulted with our editor and then … flipped a coin. Just kidding about the coin, of course. Onto the poll.

How good is Adam Wainwright and the rest of the Cardinals' rotation? We may find out this week.
How good is Adam Wainwright and the rest of the Cardinals’ rotation? We may find out this week.

1. Cardinals (5). These next four days will give us a much better idea of just how good is the Cardinals’ rotation, which leads the majors with a 2.55 ERA. The Cardinals face the mighty Phillies in Philly.

2. Rays (1). Losing two of four at home to the Royals was enough to drop them from the top spot. But they’ll be back if they perform on their nine-game journey to the West Coast like they did on their first trip of the season (9-1).

3. Padres (4). We don’t believe they’re this good, either. But after a 5-2 week that included three shutouts of the Brewers, they deserve to be here.

4. Yankees (3). Four regulars — A-Rod, Mark Teixeira, Nick Johnson and Curtis Granderson — have combined for just nine homers yet the Bombers still are 16-8. That is a deep lineup, one that will be without Granderson for at least 15 days (strained groin).

5. Twins (2). This is a deep organization: Joe Mauer is out with a bruised left heel and his replacement, top prospect Wilson Ramos, becomes the first Twin since Kirby Puckett to have a four-hit debut.

6. Giants (8). Who says these guys can’t hit? The Giants scored at least five runs in five of six games last week, enough to give them series wins over the Phillies and Rockies. Yet they still only rank 12th in runs in the NL.

7. Phillies (6). Brad Lidge served a homer to the first batter he faced after coming off the DL, which happened to be the same day his fill-in, Ryan Madson, went on the DL for kicking a chair and breaking a toe. No wonder there is concern about their bullpen.

Johnny Damon has performed for the Tigers.
Johnny Damon has performed for the Tigers.

8. Tigers (11). They knew what they were doing this off-season: Johnny Damon and Austin Jackson both are top five in runs and top 10 in OBP in the AL.

9. Rangers (24). Yes, moving up 15 spots is a big jump but the Rangers did win five of seven, including their first sweep at Safeco Field. Whatever Colby Lewis learned in Japan, it’s working. He’s 3-0 with a 2.76 ERA.

10. Rockies (9). Jim Tracy’s pre-game "talk" on Sunday and a strong start by rookie Jhoulys Chacin (one hit in seven innings) has the Rockies primed for better play. They’ll need it this week with series at San Diego and L.A.

11. Mets (11). That winning streak was nice but it sure ended with a thud. They were outscored 21-5 in dropping two at Philly.

12. Marlins (13). Jorge Cantu is much like his team: Largely unnoticed but pretty darn good. He has a hit in 23 of 24 games and leads the NL with 25 RBIs.

13. Nationals (12). Ho-hum. Another .500 week for last year’s doormats. And Stephen Strasburg is getting closer. Predicted debut: June 4, home, vs. Reds.

14. Cubs (18). They better win now. They’re in a three-series stretch against the NL’s worst-pitching clubs. They won three against the Diamondbacks (5.90 ERA), with Pirates (6.79) and Reds (5.46) next.

15. Angels (15). Mickey Hatcher on struggling youngster Brandon Wood: "I think his computer is overloading." The poll gets that same feeling when trying to figure out the Angels.

16. Red Sox (20). We’re focusing on J.D. Drew’s three-game hitting streak with three homers and Josh Beckett’s bounce-back start, not being swept at Baltimore.

17. Dodgers (16). Winning three of four at home against the Pirates doesn’t make up for being swept at New York.

Veron Wells has been great, but he can't do it alone for the Blue Jays.
Veron Wells has been great, but he can’t do it alone for the Blue Jays.

18. Blue Jays (14). Vernon Wells and Alex Gonzalez both rank among early-season surprises with eight homers each. But they need help.

19. A’s (7). Bet they’re glad to return home. Last week’s trip to the East did little for their place in the poll as they dropped five of six. It did even less for the team ERA, which shot to 4.04 from 2.93.

20. Braves (23). They’ll be even better when Bobby Cox moves Jason Heyward up another spot or two in the order.

21. Reds (28). They reeled off a five-game winning streak following Dusty Baker’s closed-door tirade. Asked if it made a difference, Dusty replied, "You can’t take credit for that. That’s a delicate thing. They could fall further in the depths." Translation: Those three games against the Astros were nice.

22. Mariners (17). Their recipe for pitching and defense would have a better chance if they could get just a little offense. Their designated hitters have yet to homer, no small reason why the team has been out-homered, 20-9.

23. Diamondbacks (25). They scored at least five runs in six of seven games last week. Too bad their pitching gave up double figures in four games.

24. Brewers (22). You know things aren’t going their way when they lose two at home to the Pirates and are shut out in three of four games at San Diego.

25. Royals (27). We’re not sure whether to be more impressed by Zack Greinke’s pitching (he didn’t allow a run in 14 innings last week) or his grace when defending his teammates (after not getting a win in either start). Doesn’t it bother you? "Not because it’s me personally," he said. "I feel like we’re playing better than every team we’ve played so far. We hit better and pitch better but we’ll have one bad inning or one situation where we will ruin a good opportunity. We’re playing good but not getting the job done and it’s cost us."

26. White Sox (19). Juan Pierre ranks seventh in runs and eighth in OBP on his own team. No wonder Ozzie Guillen dropped him out of the leadoff spot.

27. Orioles (30). Maybe they’ve hit bottom. After starting 2-14, they’re gone 5-4 in a 12-game stretch against the Red Sox and Yankees, with three at New York starting today.

28. Indians (26). They remain on pace to finish with more wins than the Cavs (67-61), that is, as long as only the Cavs’ regular season is included.

29. Pirates (29). They’ve already tried eight different starters, and only two of them have an ERA under 6.00.

30. Astros (21). The ever-streaky Astros’ six-game skid has them back at the bottom.

Stan McNeal is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at smcneal@sportingnews.com.

Sponsored link: Cardinals tickets available

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