By Evan Roberts
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You know it’s April baseball when….some of these teams are ranked!
1. Texas Rangers (1) 8-2: Well it’s the Rangers being the Rangers. Josh Hamilton and Ian Kinsler are both mashing the ball, and despite a soft schedule to start the year, the Rangers are making us believe they may even be better than last year. The biggest question continues to be Joe Nathan, who has the job of replacing Neftali Feliz as closer. He hasn’t been great and needs to prove he can pitch on back to back days. The good news for Ron Washington is that Alexi Ogando and Mike Adams may be the best 7th, 8th inning combo in baseball. They just need to nail down the 9th.
2. Detroit Tigers (5) 7-3: Now that we have seen Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera back to back in the lineup it is starting to sink in how incredible that 1-2 punch is. Justin Verlander was given chances to finish the job in back to back starts. He couldn’t do it against Tampa, but on Monday in Kansas City, Jimmy Leyland showed his faith in Justin (and his lack there of in Valverde) by letting Verlander throw 131 pitches and get a looking strikeout on Alex Gordon with the bases loaded, 2 out and clinging to a 3-2 lead.
3. St. Louis Cardinals (NR) 7-3: I clearly disrespected the World Champions by not even giving them a top 10 ranking coming into the season. BUT in my defense, who can blame me? No Albert Pujols, No Tony LaRussa, and while I still expect a step back in the standings, they are off to a great start. They spoiled the Marlins first game at their new stadium, and then won 2 of 3 in an NLCS rematch in Milwaukee. David Freese is acting like it’s still the playoffs as he has continued his tear. BUT, if St. Louis wants to surprise they are going to need an improved Adam Wainwright who has struggled in his recovery from surgery.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers (NR) 9-1: Since they were buried in the NL West, we forget that the Dodgers played very good baseball the final part of 2011. Not sure there is a connection but LA is off to flying start in 2012. Granted it’s been against San Diego 7 times and Pittsburgh 3 times, but they have won the games they are supposed to behind the insanely hot bat of Matt Kemp who is out to win a Triple crown. They have won some insane games, including a walk off win with 4 straight walks when there were 2 outs, and turning a crazy triple player in a tie game in the 9th inning.
5. Tampa Bay Rays (6) 5-5: Here is why I’m actually putting the .500 Rays above other teams that had great starts. Simple…their schedule! They have opened the season against the Yankees, Rangers and Red Sox…5-5 ain’t too shabby.
6. Washington Nationals (NR) 8-2: This is a team that I picked as one of the 2 Wild Cards in the NL, and so far they are living up to the expectations. Stephen Strasburg looks like how everyone dreamed he would look, now a year after surgery. Jayson Werth is hitting and the Lidge/Henry Rodriguez combo is doing a decent job of replacing closer Drew Storen who is out until at least the summer.
7. New York Mets (NR) 7-3: The unanimous choice by pundits to finish in last place, is off to a surprisingly good start. The starting pitching has been very solid, the pen has been better than expected and David Wright doesn’t make outs. They still have a very small margin for error and can’t afford major injures, but so far they have responded well against three division opponents.
8. New York Yankees (2) 5-5: The Yankee starting pitching is not off to a good start which has put Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia on the hot seat as Andy Pettitte looms. Mark Teixeira is off to another slow start, and they haven’t gotten a lot of run production from the heart of the order. With that said, Derek Jeter has found the fountain of youth as he is tearing the cover off the ball.
9. Arizona Diamondbacks (NR) 7-3: The D-Backs are another team, like the Cardinals that I have disrespected. Chris Young is on fire and Ian Kennedy has picked up right where he left of last year. I’m still skeptical if they can duplicate last year’s great success, but they are off to a strong start in keeping pace with LA in the NL West.
10. Baltimore Orioles (NR) 6-5: This won’t last long, but the Orioles are in first place in the AL East, which deserves a top 10 ranking! Their win Monday night in Chicago had to give even the most pessimistic Oriole fan a little excitement. Down 2 in the 9th inning they got a lead off home run from Nolan Reimold and then with 2 outs tied it up as Adam Jones went yard. They ended up winning the game in the 10th inning.
Who you got? Leave a comment below.