Weekly Hit Ground Ball: End of May MLB Rankings

The St. Louis Cardinals have moved up to the top of my rankings, whilst their nearest NL Central challengers at the end of April have gone in the opposite direction.

1. St. Louis Cardinals (previous rank 5)

The Cardinals had the best record in the Majors during May (20-7). Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller led the starting rotation to a very strong showing over the course of the month, whilst a sluggish offence in April really turned things around in May. Losing pitcher Jaime Garcia for the season due to shoulder surgery is a blow, but the Cards have shown in the past that they can use their organizational depth to absorb injuries.

2. Texas Rangers (3)

The Rangers keep on rolling. Jurickson Profar, considered by many to be the best prospect in baseball, rejoined the team in May when Ian Kinsler was placed on the Disabled List. Just like St. Louis, they have the depth to take injuries on the chin and should get stronger as the season goes on with Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison and Neftali Feliz working their way back from injury.

3. Cincinnati Reds (4)

As expected, the Reds are going to be in a fierce battle with the Cardinals in the NL Central all season long. Cincinnati swept three-game series over the Brewers, Marlins and Mets to help them to the second-best record in May (19-8, one win behind those Cardinals), with an impressive offence led by the outstanding Joey Votto.

4. Atlanta Braves (1)

The Braves put together an eight-game winning streak during May on their way to a 15-13 month. Jason Heyward and Brian McCann both came of the Disabled List to join the offence in May. The bad news came from the bullpen where several faltering performances were coupled with both Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty undergoing Tommy John surgery.

5. New York Yankees (13)

Curtis Granderson’s return from the Disabled List lasted only eight games before a different injury, this time a fractured knuckle, sent him away again. Andy Pettitte also joined the pinstriped throngs on the treatment table, but the month ended positively with both Kevin Youkilis and Mark Teixeira joining the team and it continues to be the case that the longer this banged-up team keeps themselves in contention, the greater the chance that they’ll be a real force as we get to the business end of the season.

6. Tampa Bay Rays (8)

Two separate six-game winning streaks during the month – admittedly one of which included a four-game sweep over the Miami Marlins – powered the Rays to an 18-10 May. The starting rotation suffered the loss of David Price due to a strained left tricep, but the offence more than picked up the slack.

7. Detroit Tigers (7)

Miguel Cabrera was the joint-leader in the Majors with 12 home runs during May as the Tigers’ offence roared despite Austin Jackson landing on the Disabled List and Victor Martinez’s continuing struggles at the plate. Anibal Sanchez, Doug Fister and Max Scherzer were the leading lights in the Majors’ best starting rotation during May.

8. Boston Red Sox (12)

The talent and experience is there to give Boston a chance; however there remain doubts as to whether enough players will hold up over the course of the season. During May, the Red Sox lost closer Joel Hanrahan to Tommy John surgery, Andrew Bailey (now back with the team), Shane Victorino and Will Middlebrooks also went onto the DL whilst Clay Buchholz was held out of a start before being scheduled to take the mound on Sunday night against the Yankees.

9. Baltimore Orioles (9)

The O’s went 15-13 in May despite suffering a six-game losing streak. Chris Davis launched 10 homers in the month, Adam Jones homered in all four-games against the Blue Jays near the end of the month and Manny Machado has started to draw comparisons with Mike Trout and Bryce Harper as one of the very best young players in the Majors.

10. Oakland A’s (14)

The A’s won 12 of their final 14 games in May, including 3 of 4 against the San Francisco Giants, to make for a 16-12 month, after Brett Anderson, Coco Crisp, Chris Young and Josh Reddick headed onto the DL in the first week. No team has been happier than Oakland to see the Houston Astros join the AL West this season: the A’s are 9-0 so far against the Astros.

11. San Francisco Giants (6)

It’s been an interesting season so far for the Giants. They are hanging in there but it has been the offence that has been doing most of the heavy lifting, rather than the pitching staff that has been such a strength in recent years. Their luck was summed up by Ryan Vogelsong. He finally looked like he had found something through five good innings against Washington on 20 May, only to be hit by a pitch and to fracture a finger, putting him out of action for four to six weeks.

12. Arizona Diamondbacks (15)

D-Backs fans might take issue with being behind the Giants in these rankings, seeing as they lead them in the NL West rankings. Patrick Corbin was a perfect 5-0 in five starts during May (1.53 ERA) and Brandon McCarthy was pitching well too before he hit the DL with right shoulder inflammation. Paul Goldschmidt has continued his excellent start to the season and started June off in grand style with a grand slam off the Cubs’ Carlos Marmol on Saturday.

13. Cleveland Indians (21)

The Tribe completed four-game sweeps over both the A’s and the Mariners as they went 18-12 during May to keep the pressure on Detroit in the AL Central. Jason Kipnis led the offence during the month and Justin Masterson continued his good start to the season, going 4-1 from six starts with a 3.02 ERA. The bullpen wasn’t at its best though and Chris Perez poor form culminated in him being sent to the DL.

14. Pittsburgh Pirates (22)

A 19-9 May, capped off by taking three of four against the Detroit Tigers at the end of the month, keeps the optimism high in Pittsburgh that this might finally be the season when the losing-season streak, and hopefully the playoff drought, comes to an end. One thing they do have in their favour is an in-form bullpen, with Jason Grilli and Mark Melancon proving to be an excellent eight and ninth inning partnership.

15. Washington Nationals (2)

May wasn’t a disaster for the Nats (15-13); however the cracks are starting to show in what looked like being an all-around excellent roster. The offence has not fired at all and that will be exacerbated by Bryce Harper’s knee injury that has put him on the disabled list. Add on Stephen Strasburg’s recent lower back pain, likely to see him join Harper on the DL, and confidence levels will have taken a hit from their pre-season standing as favourites for the NL pennant.

16. L.A. Angels of Anaheim (16)

An eight-game winning streak showed that there is still life left in the Angels, although you could argue that the opposition (White Sox, Mariners and Royals) wasn’t exactly the elite of the league. The wins count regardless of the quality of the opposition so the Angels won’t care about that. What they will care about is that they’re still firmly under .500 and they need to string together four good months from now on. Getting Jered Weaver back from injury is a positive sign and Mike Trout was exceptional in May.

17. Philadelphia Phillies (19)

Cliff Lee pitched extremely well for the Phillies during May – 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA in six starts – and Domonic Brown had an impressive month power-wise with 12 homers (his .303 OBP shows he didn’t do much at the plate when he wasn’t leaving the yard). Other than that there wasn’t too much to cheer, particularly with the Youngs – Delmon and Michael – hurting rather than helping the team and Chase Utley landing on the DL.

18. Chicago White Sox (20)

The White Sox have two figures of hope in Chris Sale and Jake Peavy leading the rotation and both Jesse Crain and Dylan Axelrod provided some good work from the bullpen in May. The pitching contributions simply haven’t been enough to overcome a stagnant offence so far. Alex Rios was probably their best hitter in May and his batting line of .280/.325/.486 with four homers is decent without being particularly inspiring. Unless the likes of Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko and Jeff Keppinger can turn their seasons around, it could be a year when good pitching goes to waste.

19. Colorado Rockies (25)

After an eye-catching 16-11 record in the first month, the Rockies went 12-16 in May to drop them back a bit but still leaves them exceeding expectations so far. With Troy Tulowtizki and Carlos Gonzalez leading the way at the plate they’ll have a chance to stay somewhere in the reckoning if they get some luck with injuries. Jhoulys Chacin and Jorge de la Rosa have been positives on the mound and we’ll have to wait and see whether Roy Oswalt – signed by Colorado on a Minor League deal – can work his way back to the Majors.

20. L.A. Dodgers (11)

The big-spending Dodgers went 13-13 in April which seemed a disappointment at the time considering the expectations on the team; however it was relatively successful compared to their 10-17 May, beginning with an eight-game losing streak that had the rumour mill going into overdrive regarding manager Don Mattingly’s future with the club. Matt Kemp hit just one home run whilst struggling to a .291 OBP during May before a groin injury put him on the Disabled List. Brandon League has also had a tough month out of the bullpen.

21. Toronto Blue Jays (10)

The Blue Jays and Dodgers go hand-in-hand; dramatic off-seasons raised expectations that have been nowhere near met due to injuries and poor performances. Jose Bautista started coming to life in May, but the team hasn’t showed many other signs of improvement that would create hope for a turn around.

22. San Diego Padres (28)

The Padres had a decent May with a 15-13 record that has stated to move the team forward. The big problem has been with the pitching staff, where Jason Marquis, Andrew Cashner and Huston Street all struggled through the month, with Street’s May ending with a trip to the DL. Chase Headley has performed well since coming back from injury and both Jedd Gyorko and Everth Cabrera, the latter leading the NL with 19 stolen bases, have made good contributions too.

23. Seattle Mariners (24)

Jesus Montero and Dustin Ackley were seen as two talented young position players that could turn around the M’s faltering offence of recent years. Unfortunately an eight-game losing streak culminated in those two players being demoted to the Minor Leagues as Seattle continues to work out how they can put together a roster that can help Felix Hernandez to the playoffs. Hopefully the M’s Front Office can start to find the answer over the coming months, but it’s extremely unlikely that King Felix’s postseason debut will come in 2013.

24. New York Mets (23)

In a season when expectations are justifiably low, fans have to latch on to seemingly small victories as a source of great comfort to get through the season. Matt Harvey has been a shining light in that respect and a four-game sweep over the New York Yankees, including getting the better of the great Mariano Rivera, certainly counts as something to celebrate in a season when there will plenty more losses than victories.

25. Kansas City Royals (18)

Oh dear. A 14-10 April provided reason for optimism in Kansas City only for a dreadful 8-20 May to put the Royals into a tailspin yet again. Hall of Famer George Brett has accepted the call to take over as the team’s hitting coach, but when you’ve gone this long without winning it’s easy for heads to drop. ‘Here we go again’ is likely to be the overwhelming feeling in KC right now.

26. Minnesota Twins (26)

A ten-game losing streak made for a long May in Minnesota. They did win six of their last eight to end the month on a positive note, but the lack of quality pitching in their starting rotation makes it difficult for the team to find consistency regardless of the ever-impressive efforts of Joe Mauer.

27. Chicago Cubs (27)

The Cubs took three wins against White Sox in the battle of Chicago, but those victories mirrored the reaction of the Mets: good wins to hold on to considering there has not been much else to get excited about. Matt Garza has come off the DL to add another good arm to the rotation, whilst Kyuji Fujikawa went the other way with the relief pitcher being yet another player undergoing Tommy John surgery.

28. Milwaukee Brewers (17)

The Brewers ended April with a 14-10 record and were in second place in the NL Central, just 0.5 games behind the Cardinals. What a difference a month can make. Milwaukee lost nine of their first ten games in May and ended it being swept in a four-game series by the Minnesota Twins, landing them with a terrible 6-22 record for the month.

29. Houston Astros (29)

Two six-game losing streaks during May saw the AL newcomers go 10-18 in the month.

30. Miami Marlins (30)

The rebuilding continues in Miami. May brought a seven-game losing streak and a nine-game losing streak as they matched the Brewers’ MLB worst record of 6-22 during the month.

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