2011 MLB Power Rankings: April

Like last season, I will be doing Power Rankings for the 30 teams in Major League Baseball, once every month. This year begins with its usual assortment of surprises (namely: Cleveland) and disappointments (namely: Minnesota), but its only one out of six months. Nothing has been decided yet.

Records are as of the games played on April 30th.

1) Philadelphia Phillies (18-8)
The Phantastic Four (sad thing is, I’m probably not the only one whose thought of that name) had lived up to that billing, leading the majors in WHIP and being near the top in most other pitching categories.

2) Cleveland Indians (18-8)
THE surprise of April, the Indians have found early success through strong pitching, good (and healthy) bats, and a little dash of playing in the worst division in baseball.

3) Colorado Rockies (17-8)
Troy Tulowitzki continues bashing the ball away with Colorado’s bullpen is getting the job done thanks in part to Huston Street and his 10 saves.

4) Florida Marlins (16-9)
Josh Johnson continues to be one of the best pitchers in baseball, having not missed a step following a season-ending injury late last season.

5) New York Yankees (15-9)
The problems with the Yankees probably aren’t much different than the problems past Yankee teams have had after bad Aprils. You don’t hear much about them this year because this Yankee team is slugging and winning.

6) Texas Rangers (16-11)
Speaking of slugging, case #1: Texas. The pitching might’ve taken a hit with the loss of Cliff Lee (albeit not as much of a hit as some pessimists thought), but the offense is still in full swing despite having lost Josh Hamilton to injury thanks to the early season success of Adrian Beltre.

7) St. Louis Cardinals (16-11)
Speaking of slugging, case #2: St. Louis. The Cardinals, behind the white-hot bat of Lance Berkman of all people, lead the league in runs, batting average and on base percentage. All that without Albert Pujols at 100%, mind you!

8) Los Angeles Angels (15-12)
Dan Haren was acquired for this year, and though he has pitched well, Jered Weaver has been pitching out of his mind, having already won six starts.

9) Tampa Bay Rays (15-12)
The Rays started 0-6. Then, Manny Ramirez retired to avoid a steroid-related suspension. Then, the Rays went 15-6. Johnny Damon, Ben Zobrist, and Sam Fuld have been catalysts for an offense that is starting to heat up.

10) Cincinnati Reds (14-13)
The offense is still there, but the pitching has not, though this isn’t a surprise to very many people. Jonny Gomes has been Cincy’s biggest source of production thus far, though Joey Votto continues to hit well.

11) Kansas City Royals (14-13)
Kansas City was doing alright to start the year until they hit the buzzsaw that was Cleveland. Jeff Francoeur and Alex Gordon have helped revived Kansas City’s offense, though their pitching is still not that great.

12) Milwaukee Brewers (13-13)
Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder are one of the best 1-2 hitting combos in baseball. The Brewers just signed Braun to a lengthy extension. Can they do the same with Prince?

13) Los Angeles Dodgers (14-14)
Even if the franchise itself is going through major changes, the team itself is at least hanging in there. Andre Ethier has a 26-game hitting streak, a record for hitting streaks in April. Does that mean he could extend it next season now that April is over?

14) San Francisco Giants (13-13)
So, the Giants have some problems on offense. They had those problems last year too. The important thing is that their starting pitching is still among the best in the league and that Brian Wilson’s early season struggles are far behind him.

15) Toronto Blue Jays (13-14)
It seems Jose Bautista is either very aware of his doubters or completely unaware of them at all, as he has already hit nine home runs after just a month’s worth of games.

16) Baltimore Orioles (12-13)
Although Baltimore’s 6-1 start was quickly fizzled with an 8-game losing streak, there’s still some promise with this team, especially in its starting rotation. Keep an eye out for Zac Britton, though you don’t need me to tell you that.

17) Oakland Athletics (13-14)
Oakland is yet another one of that “hit poorly but pitch well” teams that could make a run for the division if everything falls in place just right. Trevor Cahill has started the season particularly well.

18) Atlanta Braves (13-15)
Right now, Atlanta also falls into the same category as Oakland, except they actually have a lineup that should be good on paper. The Braves are among the worst in the league in batting average and on-base percentage.

19) Seattle Mariners (13-15)
To think that Felix Hernandez could be outpitched on his own team is preposterous. Yet, rookie Michael Pineda is doing just that, leading the team in wins and ERA.

20) Chicago Cubs (12-14)
The Cubs are among the best in the league in batting average, but in the bottom 10 in runs scored, which implies a lack of clutch hitting. Their pitching has also been very atrocious. For them to have 12 wins despite that is a wonder in itself.

21) Washington Nationals (12-14)
This may mostly be a filler season before things truly get real in 2012, but Jason Marquis has been a pleasant surprise for the Nationals.

22) Pittsburgh Pirates (12-15)
The Pirates may still have its share of problems, especially on offense, but they do have one strength: their closer Joel Hanrahan has eight saves and has done well getting them. Please, Pittsburgh, don’t trade him away too.

23) Boston Red Sox (11-15)
Adrian Gonzalez has yet to hit for power (at least his average is still good), Carl Crawford has yet to hit… at all (at least… it’s only May), and ESPN’s darling Red Sox are only 11-15 to start their massively hyped campaign.

24) Arizona Diamondbacks (11-15)
Between Stephen Drew, Chris Young and Justin Upton the Diamondbacks have some offensive talent. Pitching… no. Not at all.

25) New York Mets (11-16)
The team leader in wins? With 2 each, neither Chris Capuano nor Dillon Gee are full time starters on the team. On the bright side, Ike Davis has started the season very strong.

26) Detroit Tigers (12-15)
Consider this, well, rather harsh, but the Tigers are awful. Their hitting very rarely shows up, and when it finally does it explodes for one game before disappearing again. Getting swept at home by Seattle is unacceptable for any team that isn’t worthless garbage. For the Tigers, such a sweep was acceptable. I only rank them this high because they haven’t played – and get swept by – the Twins yet.

27) Houston Astros (10-17)
Brandon Lyon, the team’s closer, has four saves. He also has three wins, which leads the team. Another reliever is 2nd on the team with two wins. A lot of things can be implied from this, none of it good.

28) San Diego Padres (10-17)
Well, San Diego’s offense was bad BEFORE they lost Adrian Gonzalez and even Miguel Tejada. Ryan Ludwick leads the team in its production categories (RBIs, Runs), despite hitting below .200! It’s a shame too because of how strong their pitching staff can be, but nobody on that team can get any run support.

29) Chicago White Sox (10-18)
Chicago’s troubles can be pointed at one thing. Well, two if you count the inconsistent offense, but their biggest struggles come from their bullpen, which has blown 66% of the team’s possible saves, the worst percentage in the league.

30) Minnesota Twins (9-17)
Minnesota has been terrible on all accounts to start the season. Now, they have been banged up. Mauer is out. Delmon Young is out. Justin Morneau hasn’t been right since returning from a concussion. Joe Nathan has been ineffective since returning from injury, so much so he isn’t even the closer anymore. Even so, a Gardenhire-managed team should definitely be playing better than this regardless.