Power Poll: Rays proving 2008 was no fluke

Outside of Tampa Bay, it might have seemed like the Rays’ march to the 2008 World Series was a bit of a fluke, considering they finished 19 games behind the Yankees in 2009.

But inside the clubhouse at Tropicana Field, 2009 is most definitely seen as the fluke season. This is the year the Rays are set on proving that. They’ve outscored their opponents by 80 runs, and they entered the week with the best record in the majors, thanks largely to the deepest rotation in baseball. All five starters have an ERA under 3.20, and new closer Rafael Soriano is a perfect 8-for-8 in save opportunities so far this season.

They might not stay No. 1 in the power poll all year, but they won’t be far from it. For this week’s edition, we’re looking at a surprising/impressive number through the first five weeks of the season.

Matt Garza has been outstanding for the Rays.
Matt Garza has been outstanding for the Rays.

1. Rays (2). Matt Garza has been outstanding; he’s sporting a 2.09 ERA, a 1.070 WHIP and is averaging 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings. And he doesn’t lead his own team in any of those categories. (Side note: if you want to ask Garza a question, shoot me an e-mail and your question could get answered in an upcoming issue of Sporting News magazine)

2. Yankees (4). The Yankees led the majors with a team .362 on-base percentage last season, and they’re atop the list again this year, at .370. That’s not surprising. What’s surprising is who is leading the Yankees—Brett Gardner and his .425 OBP.

3. Twins (5). After three forgettable seasons because of injuries and inconsistency, Francisco Liriano reeled off a 23-inning scoreless streak to close out April. He has yet to allow a home run this season through 42 innings.

4. Phillies (7). Jose Contreras has been a stopper in the Phillies’ bullpen. Through 10 2/3 innings, the 38-year-old righthander has struck out 15 and allowed just five hits; his ERA is 0.84 and his WHIP is a tidy 0.563

5. Cardinals (1). Rookie Jamie Garcia is leading the rotation with his 1.18 ERA through six starts. Veterans Brad Penny (1.99 ERA), Adam Wainwright (2.08) and Chris Carpenter (2.80) haven’t disappointed, either.

6. Padres (3). Really hard to single out anyone on a pitching staff that’s produced a nifty 2.73 ERA entering the week—that’s second in the majors—so here’s a quick glance at the best ERAs on the staff: Jon Garland (1.71 in six starts), Wade LeBlanc (1.16 in four starts), Heath Bell (1.29 in 14 games), Tim Stauffer (0.39 in 10 games) and Luke Gregerson (1.53 in 15 games).

7. Giants (6). Opponents have managed just a .460 OPS against lefty Barry Zito, the best mark in the National League (Phil Hughes leads the AL with a .440 mark). Teammate Tim Lincecum isn’t far behind, at .504.

8. Blue Jays (18). Toronto is 10-4 against the AL Central, 9-10 against everyone else.

9. Rangers (9). Texas is 10-4 against the AL Central, 8-10 against everyone else.

10. A’s (19). Dallas Braden threw 109 pitches in his perfect game on Sunday. He’s topped that number only once previously in his career, with 111 pitches in five shutout innings on April 30 last year.

11. Nationals (13). Josh Willingham is bucking his career trend with 22 walks and 20 strikeouts so far this year. Going back chronologically from 2009: 61 walks and 104 strikeouts, 48 and 82, 66 and 122, 54 and 109.

12. Tigers (8). Dontrelle Willis has the best ERA of any of the Tigers starters, at 3.99. Justin Verlander is at 4.50, and Jeremy Bonderman, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello are all at 5.74 or above.

Rod Barajas leads the Mets with nine home runs.
Rod Barajas leads the Mets with nine home runs.

13. Mets (11). Dan Murphy led the Mets last season with 12 home runs. Catcher Rod Barajas already has nine this year. And, enigmatic lefty Oliver Perez has a better ERA than ace lefty Johan Santana so far (4.50 to 4.54). Crazy.

14. Reds (21). The youngest member of the pitching staff and the oldest member of the pitching staff are leading the Reds so far. Rookie Mike Leake, who skipped the minors entirely, has a 3.10 ERA in six starts (Johnny Cueto is second on the staff at 5.18), and 40-year-old Arthur Rhodes has a 0.75 ERA and 0.667 WHIP in 13 appearances.

15. Red Sox (16). Opponents are 33-for-40 on stolen base attempts against Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez.

16. Rockies (10). Middle infielders Troy Tulowitzki and Clint Barmes combined for 55 homers last season; they have a total of two so far this year.

17. Brewers (24). The Brewers have scored 11 or more runs on six occasions this season; they’ve also scored 1 or 0 on seven occasions.

18. Dodgers (17). Andre Ethier enters the week leading the NL in batting average (.383) and RBIs (32) and he’s tied for the lead with 10 homers.

19. Marlins (12). Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez have identical 4.08 ERAs despite a huge difference in WHIP—Nolasco is at 1.135 and Sanchez is at 1.528.

20. Pirates (29). The Pirates enter the week 6-0 against the Reds and Cubs, 8-17 against everyone else.

21. Cubs (14). The Cubs enter the week 5-1 against the Brewers, 9-17 against everyone else.

22. Angels (15). After a hot start to the season, Hideki Matsui is batting .128 with three RBIs in his past 13 games.

23. Braves (20). Rookie Jason Heyward has eight home runs so far this season; Troy Glaus is the only other Brave with more than nine RBIs.

24. Diamondbacks (23). Six players enter this week with double-digit home runs. The D-backs have two of them, Kelly Johnson and Mark Reynolds.

25. White Sox (26). Paul Konerko has 27 RBIs and 27 hits entering the week. Carlos Quentin has 20 RBIs and 20 hits. Konerko is batting .273; Quentin is at .194.

26. Mariners (22). The Mariners have fewer home runs as a team (12) than Konerko (13) so far this season.

Adam Jones has been an out-making machine for the Orioles.
Adam Jones has been an out-making machine for the Orioles.

27. Orioles (27). Adam Jones, an All-Star last year, has a .254 on-base percentage and leads the AL with 110 outs made in his 31 games, an average of 3.55 outs made per contest.

28. Indians (28). Through 29 games, the Indians have a total of four RBIs and five extra-base hits (all doubles) from their first basemen (primarily Matt LaPorta and Russell Branyan).

29. Royals (25). Kansas City is 3-1 in extra-inning games, 8-20 in regulation.

30. Astros (30). Bright spot: Roy Oswalt is pitching like an ace again. He’s sporting a 2.63 ERA and a 1.104 WHIP and has 45 strikeouts in 48 innings.

Ryan Fagan is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at rfagan@sportingnews.com, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ryan_fagan.

Sponsored link: Rays tickets available

Outside of Tampa Bay, it might have seemed like the Rays’ march to the 2008 World Series was a bit of a fluke, considering they finished 19 games behind the Yankees in 2009.

But inside the clubhouse at Tropicana Field, 2009 is most definitely seen as the fluke season. This is the year the Rays are set on proving that. They’ve outscored their opponents by 80 runs, and they entered the week with the best record in the majors, thanks largely to the deepest rotation in baseball. All five starters have an ERA under 3.20, and new closer Rafael Soriano is a perfect 8-for-8 in save opportunities so far this season.

They might not stay No. 1 in the power poll all year, but they won’t be far from it. For this week’s edition, we’re looking at a surprising/impressive number through the first five weeks of the season.

Matt Garza has been outstanding for the Rays.
Matt Garza has been outstanding for the Rays.

1. Rays (2). Matt Garza has been outstanding; he’s sporting a 2.09 ERA, a 1.070 WHIP and is averaging 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings. And he doesn’t lead his own team in any of those categories. (Side note: if you want to ask Garza a question, shoot me an e-mail and your question could get answered in an upcoming issue of Sporting News magazine)

2. Yankees (4). The Yankees led the majors with a team .362 on-base percentage last season, and they’re atop the list again this year, at .370. That’s not surprising. What’s surprising is who is leading the Yankees—Brett Gardner and his .425 OBP.

3. Twins (5). After three forgettable seasons because of injuries and inconsistency, Francisco Liriano reeled off a 23-inning scoreless streak to close out April. He has yet to allow a home run this season through 42 innings.

4. Phillies (7). Jose Contreras has been a stopper in the Phillies’ bullpen. Through 10 2/3 innings, the 38-year-old righthander has struck out 15 and allowed just five hits; his ERA is 0.84 and his WHIP is a tidy 0.563

5. Cardinals (1). Rookie Jamie Garcia is leading the rotation with his 1.18 ERA through six starts. Veterans Brad Penny (1.99 ERA), Adam Wainwright (2.08) and Chris Carpenter (2.80) haven’t disappointed, either.

6. Padres (3). Really hard to single out anyone on a pitching staff that’s produced a nifty 2.73 ERA entering the week—that’s second in the majors—so here’s a quick glance at the best ERAs on the staff: Jon Garland (1.71 in six starts), Wade LeBlanc (1.16 in four starts), Heath Bell (1.29 in 14 games), Tim Stauffer (0.39 in 10 games) and Luke Gregerson (1.53 in 15 games).

7. Giants (6). Opponents have managed just a .460 OPS against lefty Barry Zito, the best mark in the National League (Phil Hughes leads the AL with a .440 mark). Teammate Tim Lincecum isn’t far behind, at .504.

8. Blue Jays (18). Toronto is 10-4 against the AL Central, 9-10 against everyone else.

9. Rangers (9). Texas is 10-4 against the AL Central, 8-10 against everyone else.

10. A’s (19). Dallas Braden threw 109 pitches in his perfect game on Sunday. He’s topped that number only once previously in his career, with 111 pitches in five shutout innings on April 30 last year.

11. Nationals (13). Josh Willingham is bucking his career trend with 22 walks and 20 strikeouts so far this year. Going back chronologically from 2009: 61 walks and 104 strikeouts, 48 and 82, 66 and 122, 54 and 109.

12. Tigers (8). Dontrelle Willis has the best ERA of any of the Tigers starters, at 3.99. Justin Verlander is at 4.50, and Jeremy Bonderman, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello are all at 5.74 or above.

Rod Barajas leads the Mets with nine home runs.
Rod Barajas leads the Mets with nine home runs.

13. Mets (11). Dan Murphy led the Mets last season with 12 home runs. Catcher Rod Barajas already has nine this year. And, enigmatic lefty Oliver Perez has a better ERA than ace lefty Johan Santana so far (4.50 to 4.54). Crazy.

14. Reds (21). The youngest member of the pitching staff and the oldest member of the pitching staff are leading the Reds so far. Rookie Mike Leake, who skipped the minors entirely, has a 3.10 ERA in six starts (Johnny Cueto is second on the staff at 5.18), and 40-year-old Arthur Rhodes has a 0.75 ERA and 0.667 WHIP in 13 appearances.

15. Red Sox (16). Opponents are 33-for-40 on stolen base attempts against Red Sox catcher Victor Martinez.

16. Rockies (10). Middle infielders Troy Tulowitzki and Clint Barmes combined for 55 homers last season; they have a total of two so far this year.

17. Brewers (24). The Brewers have scored 11 or more runs on six occasions this season; they’ve also scored 1 or 0 on seven occasions.

18. Dodgers (17). Andre Ethier enters the week leading the NL in batting average (.383) and RBIs (32) and he’s tied for the lead with 10 homers.

19. Marlins (12). Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez have identical 4.08 ERAs despite a huge difference in WHIP—Nolasco is at 1.135 and Sanchez is at 1.528.

20. Pirates (29). The Pirates enter the week 6-0 against the Reds and Cubs, 8-17 against everyone else.

21. Cubs (14). The Cubs enter the week 5-1 against the Brewers, 9-17 against everyone else.

22. Angels (15). After a hot start to the season, Hideki Matsui is batting .128 with three RBIs in his past 13 games.

23. Braves (20). Rookie Jason Heyward has eight home runs so far this season; Troy Glaus is the only other Brave with more than nine RBIs.

24. Diamondbacks (23). Six players enter this week with double-digit home runs. The D-backs have two of them, Kelly Johnson and Mark Reynolds.

25. White Sox (26). Paul Konerko has 27 RBIs and 27 hits entering the week. Carlos Quentin has 20 RBIs and 20 hits. Konerko is batting .273; Quentin is at .194.

26. Mariners (22). The Mariners have fewer home runs as a team (12) than Konerko (13) so far this season.

Adam Jones has been an out-making machine for the Orioles.
Adam Jones has been an out-making machine for the Orioles.

27. Orioles (27). Adam Jones, an All-Star last year, has a .254 on-base percentage and leads the AL with 110 outs made in his 31 games, an average of 3.55 outs made per contest.

28. Indians (28). Through 29 games, the Indians have a total of four RBIs and five extra-base hits (all doubles) from their first basemen (primarily Matt LaPorta and Russell Branyan).

29. Royals (25). Kansas City is 3-1 in extra-inning games, 8-20 in regulation.

30. Astros (30). Bright spot: Roy Oswalt is pitching like an ace again. He’s sporting a 2.63 ERA and a 1.104 WHIP and has 45 strikeouts in 48 innings.

Ryan Fagan is a writer for Sporting News. E-mail him at rfagan@sportingnews.com, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ryan_fagan.

Sponsored link: Rays tickets available

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