Every week, the PL team publishes an update to our power rankings, reviewing the biggest risers and fallers of the past seven days. As always, the full rankings can be found at the bottom of this article…but where’s the fun in that.
The first full month of the MLB season is behind us and many of the small-sample-size anomalies in players’ performances are fading. Most of the teams we expected to be in the top of 10 at the beginning of the season are settling into their rightful positions, but there are some notable exceptions.
After a rocky opening to 2021, the White Sox are off to another brutal start in 2022. Atlanta has climbed back to .500 after an abysmal April, but still has a long way to go before they live up to their promise. The Astros are rattling off wins but still working their way back from a slump. All these teams will likely work back into contention as the season matures, but they’ve had a first month to forget.
On the flip side, several teams with unproven promise have stepped to the forefront, which brings us to the first new top-ranked team of 2022!
New Number One
The New York Mets
Rank change: +1 (two to one)
Opponents since last rankings: Phillies (two games), Atlanta (four games)
After holding the number one spot in the first four weeks of the season, the Los Angeles Dodgers are supplanted by the New York Mets in week five. If you haven’t been paying close attention to the Mets so far in 2022, you may only know that they get hit by a ton of pitches. They’re also a very good team, and they’re winning in fun ways.
They sit in the middle of the pack for home runs and slugging, but still lead the league in runs scored to date. They’ve accomplished that feat by leading the way in hits and OBP. They grind through at bats and fight their way to wins.
The Mets’ pitching is also excellent. Despite Jacob deGrom’s continuing struggles with injury, the Mets lead the league in strikeouts and sport the second-best WHIP and eighth best ERA. However, what sets the Mets apart from the number two Dodgers and number three Yankees is their strength of schedule.
The Mets have battled their way to one of the best records in baseball while facing a tougher slate of opponents than either of the other contenders for the top spot, per ESPN’s Relative Power Index. They sport an impressive 9-4 record against teams that are above .500, compared to 4-3 for the Yankees and 8-5 for the Dodgers. This team is for real, and they’ll be at or near the top of our rankings for the foreseeable future.
On the Rise
The Minnesota Twins
Rank change: +4 (15 to 11)
Opponents since last ranking: Rays (one game), Orioles (four games)
The White Sox were the hands-down preseason favorites to win the AL Central, but once they stumbled out of the gate the Twins stepped in to lead the division in the early going. While the Twins’ team stats look underwhelming at a glance, a closer look at the past two weeks tells how they got there.
Minnesota began the season 4-0 with wins against Atlanta, Tampa Bay, Baltimore, and Boston, but stumbled in their next several series against Seattle, the Dodgers, Boston, and Kansas City. They dipped to 7-9 with a 0-2 loss against the Royals on April 20, but have cruised to an 11-3 record since then. In that stretch, they’re top five in the league in runs scored, batting average, and team ERA.
Byron Buxton continues to prove he is worth every cent of the extension he signed in the offseason, hitting .290/.343/.710 with seven home runs already in the year. Max Kepler seems to be recovered from his 2021 struggles and is swinging the bat to the tune of a .240/.360/.480 line and five home runs. Joe Ryan looks like a true ace with a 32.4 CSW% on the year so far, and Dylan Bundy, Bailey Ober, Chris Paddack, and Chris Archer have turned in strong starts that help offset a few clunkers.
However, this positive news is dampened by the fact that Minnesota’s surge is attributable partly to a set of weak opponents (the upswing included a four-game set against the Orioles and three games against the Tigers). They also still aren’t getting the production they’d like out of Carlos Correa or Jorge Polanco, and they recently lost veteran Miguel Sano to a torn meniscus.
Still, Minnesota is a team to watch and may break into the top ten if they continue their current trend.
In a Slide
The Seattle Mariners
Rank change: -5 (8 to 13)
Opponents since last rankings: Marlins (one game), Astros (three games), Rays (one game)
The Mariners climbed their way to the top of the AL West for a brief moment in mid-April, then turned around and lost consecutive series to the Rays, Marlins, and Astros. Over the course of those three series, the Mariners had one of the worst team batting averages and scored the fifth-fewest runs.
This slump is partly explained by the absence of Mitch Haniger, who was placed on the IL with an ankle injury on April 30. However, his contributions were already limited to 35 at bats due to a bout with COVID-19 earlier in the season. More concerning for Seattle fans is the lack of production from their newcomers. Here are the slash lines of big-name additions to the lineup in 2022:
There’s a ton of potential in that group, and the Mariners will need them to live up to it if they hope to compete with Houston and Los Angeles for the AL West crown.
Another early-season disappointment for Seattle is the descent of Matt Brash. The 24-year-old managed three strong starts before getting knocked around for 10 runs in five total innings over his last two. It was announced Thursday that he is being sent to the minors with an eye toward integrating him into the bullpen for the rest of the 2022 season. It’s still unclear how the team will fill his spot in the rotation.
This may simply be a rocky patch for the M’s, and we may see a very different team by the latter half of May. The Brash demotion was one of a flurry of roster moves intended to shake things up and get the team back on track. JP Crawford, Ty France, and Logan Gilbert are all performing at elite levels. We’ll need to keep an eye on whether anyone else can step up to put the Mariners back in charge in the AL West.
Featured image by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)