Justin Bjorseth, 23 Sports Reporter
With the season now two weeks in, there still isn’t much certainty about anything we have seen happen in baseball this season. Are last year’s ALCS representatives really capable of finishing in last place, along with the team who had the best record in the league? Can Detroit sustain their success with their suspect bullpen? Has Avisail Garcia really become the player he was once expected to be? All of these questions will make for a very interesting summer.
Last week’s top-ranked team in my power rankings, the Baltimore Orioles, compiled another nice week. On top of being the last team to beat the red-hot Yankees, Baltimore was able to split a quick two-game series at Fenway and then move north of the border to steal three out of four from the reeling Blue Jays. The pitching has been middle of the road and the offense has not fully come into bloom yet, but this team is getting it done. They remain on top of the power rankings this week, but I will be interested to see what they can do without Zach Britton, who will be out for at least 10 days.
On the opposite end of the spectrum lies the Toronto Blue Jays. Last week I said they were in panic mode, and things have only gotten worse. They’re 2-10 on the season, and even managed to lose twice to the Milwaukee Brewers over the week. Aaron Sanchez, a 20-game winner a season ago, has now been placed on the disabled list. Once the most feared offense in baseball, the Blue Jays rank LAST in baseball in every major offensive category, including their dismal .200 team batting average. With the oldest average roster age in the majors, the Blue Jays also have a mediocre farm system. It may be time to trade the likes of Josh Donaldson and others and begin a rebuild. This will be the last week I write about the Blue Jays if this play persists. They’re no longer the team that’s played in two straight ALCS’, they’re the American League bottom feeder. It’s time for Toronto fans to shift their focus to the Maple Leafs.
The American League Central has been the most competitive division in baseball so far. No, that does not mean best. But the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox each took series from the preseason favorite Cleveland Indians this past week. The Sox and Twins have each won a road series against the other, and the Royals ended the week on a four-game winning streak.
The Indians may be in last place, but they are still 5-7, certainly much better than Toronto. Cleveland’s pitching has been off to a slow start this season, which is perhaps the most shocking storyline in the American League. Only one starter for the Tribe has an ERA below 4.70 so far. Ace Corey Kluber has a 6.38 ERA and Josh Tomlin has an alarming ERA of 18.47. I don’t expect these problems to stick around through the whole season, but I don’t think anyone, including myself, realized that Andrew Miller can’t throw every inning of the season. This team is still the favorite, in my eyes, to win the American League. But for now, there is a lot of work to do.
The division-leading Tigers won each of their series this week, but shouldn’t get too far ahead of themselves yet. Justin Verlander gave up a career-high nine runs against the Indians on Saturday, and their bullpen has not been anything to brag about, although perhaps not as bad as I thought it would be in the preseason. Despite having eight quality starts from their pitching staff, the team ERA ranks among the worst in the league. They will need to look for more consistency out of their pitching staff. As of now, though, I think they stand a real chance to compete in the Central.
Out in the West, the Astros are making a living off beating up divisional opponents, something that is crucial for any team looking to compete for a playoff spot. Granted, the A’s great money ball strategy has left them with a roster that includes three recognizable names and a farm system that ranks in the lower third of the MLB, but Houston knows the 18 games with Oakland could make or break a playoff birth. They came from behind to top Oakland on the road Saturday, which is another definite sign of a team that is no longer waiting for their time. George Springer has six long balls, and Jose Altuve is up to his old antics with a batting average that likely won’t fall below .300 all season. The pitching staff has not been the fatal flaw we thought it might be, and Dallas Keuchel may even be back in Cy Young form. This is a team that, a few years ago, Sports Illustrated picked to beat the Cubs in the 2017 World Series. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that, but anything can happen once they reach October.
There are some definite series to keep your eyes on this week. For starters, two of the hottest teams in the AL meet in the Bronx on Monday to start a three game set. The White Sox, who took series from two division opponents on the road this past week, visit the Yankees, who are winners of seven in a row. Both of these teams are a few years away, but it can certainly be a good test of where they both are.
Another series during the week that I have circled is the Texas Rangers visiting the Oakland Athletics. Texas is in a slump to start the year, and much like the Astros, they will have to beat up on the A’s to stay in contention.
Next weekend, the most intriguing series is Boston at Baltimore. The two teams split a two-game series at Fenway last week. This will be a good way to start finding out where Baltimore really is as a club and if Boston can flex their muscle as heavy preseason favorites.
As it stands now, here are my power rankings, with the parentheses indicating last week’s rank:
- Baltimore Orioles (1)
- Detroit Tigers (8)
- Boston Red Sox (2)
- Houston Astros (3)
- New York Yankees (13)
- Minnesota Twins (5)
- Chicago White Sox (9)
- Cleveland Indians (4)
- Seattle Mariners (10)
- Kansas City Royals (14)
- Tampa Bay Rays (6)
- Los Angeles Angels (7)
- Texas Rangers (11)
- Oakland Athletics (15)
- Toronto Blue Jays (12)