Three things are certain in life: death, taxes and all teams having at least one loss through the first weekend of the season.
Parity has already positioned itself firmly into the 2020 MLB campaign as the Detroit Tigers, Baltimore Orioles, Miami Marlins and Colorado Rockies all have winning records. If you predicted that, go to a casino or local gas station right now and pick up the dice or a lottery ticket.
In all seriousness, it is early. Even though all teams are only through a handful of games, storylines are already starting to develop. With the sport heading into its first full week of the shortened season, here is the second installment of the Rich 10 MLB Power Rankings.
10. Cleveland Indians (2-1)
Previous ranking: N/A
Cleveland’s starting pitching has been effective as advertised. The trio of Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco combined to pitch 19 innings over the three-game series against the Kansas City Royals. The nastiness, however, did not come in their durability, but their pitching repertoire, as all three combined to strike out 30 batters. On the offensive side of the ball, Jose Ramirez already has two home runs on the season. If he can regain his 2017 MVP-caliber form, the offense will be much more formidable.
9. Chicago Cubs (2-1)
Previous ranking: N/A
Yes, the offense scored nine runs in their win Sunday against the Milwaukee Brewers. Yes, their bullpen (a weakness in 2019) did not give up a run in three innings Sunday. Yes, Tyler Chatwood started a game and pitched six innings for the first time since April 21, 2019. Sunday’s convincing victory, however, was not as impressive as their Opening Day win, as Kyle Hendricks pitched a complete-game shutout to cap off a convincing 3-0 victory. The impressive part? He did not give up a walk and did not clock 90-plus mph on any pitches. “The Professor” is the closest the game has to a modern-day Greg Maddux. If you get a chance, watch him. You will not be disappointed.
8. Oakland Athletics (2-1)
Previous ranking: 9
The Athletics were able to win their first series of the year against a division rival in the Los Angeles Angels. In typical Oakland fashion, different players shined in different games. During their season-opening game Friday, Matt Olson delivered in grand fashion, as the left-handed slugger cleared the bases with an extra-inning grand slam to net Oakland the win. On the pitching side, high-octane prospect Jesus Luzardo pitched three scoreless innings and collected two strikeouts. While Oakland lost the game Luzardo pitched in, the 22-year-old showed a glimpse of what he can provide Oakland, whether in a relief or starting role.
7. St. Louis Cardinals (2-1)
Previous ranking: 5
St. Louis took care of business over the weekend by winning two out of three games against a rebuilding team in the Pittsburgh Pirates. St. Louis showed their utmost potential Saturday, as gritty pitching and excellent hitting propelled the club to a 9-1 victory. 38-year-old Adam Wainwright pitched a tenacious six innings and struck out five Pirates, while the offense combined for 10 hits. Three of their first four batters in the lineup reached base at least twice (Kolten Wong, Paul Goldschmidt and Paul DeJong). When your starting pitching is efficient and the top of the lineup produces like it should, you will have a very productive team.
6. Tampa Bay Rays (2-1)
Previous ranking: 3
After losing 4-6 on Opening Day, Tampa Bay was able to battle back and beat the youthful offense of the Toronto Blue Jays to take the series. Although Toronto out-hit the Rays 30-18 during the series, the latter was able to utilize its deep pitching depth to keep the former from fully breaking through. Ryan Yarbrough, who pitched to a 4.13 ERA last season in 28 games (14 games started), was the epitome of Tampa Bay’s Mariana Trench-savvy depth, as the 28-year-old pitched 5.1 innings of shutout baseball in Saturday’s matchup. When paired with timely hitting from the lineup and bench, the team from the Sunshine State is only getting warmed up.
5. Houston Astros (2-1)
Previous ranking: 4
The offense began its enduring and strenuous road toward proving its legitimacy after the sign-stealing scandal. It started off the trek by averaging seven runs a game in its three-game series against the Seattle Mariners.
With Justin Verlander sidelined with a forearm strain for at least the next two weeks (per Astros manager Dusty Baker), however, the starting pitching must now lean on Lance McCullers Jr. (who pitched six solid innings with six strikeouts Saturday) and Zack Greinke (who gave up three earned runs in 3.1 innings of work Sunday). With Houston already attempting to replace Gerrit Cole’s innings workload, the additional replacement of Verlander will be a significant obstacle that could sink Houston’s World Series hopes.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers (2-2)
Previous ranking: 2
After taking the first two in a four-game series against the San Francisco Giants, the Dodgers would drop the next two games after going 2-14 with runners in scoring position. Although Mookie Betts and Cody Bellinger have not started out their season in an explosive manner, it is still extremely early. Los Angeles may have dropped in the rankings here, but they should be able to bounce back quite nicely given their depth. Patience, young padawan.
3. Atlanta Braves (2-1)
Previous ranking: 7
After getting blanked on Opening Day by Jacob deGrom, the Braves’ offense stormed back to score four runs combined in the ninth and 10th inning to win Saturday’s bout. However, that comeback would be nothing compared to the utter shellacking they inflicted on New York’s pitching Sunday, as the offense scored 14 runs on 17 hits and five walks in a 14-1 rout. It is early, but when Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman are all hitting right at or below the Mendoza Line, you will probably be in good shape moving forward. Just a thought.
2. Minnesota Twins (2-1)
Previous ranking: 6
If you thought Atlanta’s offense was explosive over the weekend, meet the supernova-inducing lumber Minnesota has waltzed onto the field with. In two of their three games against the Chicago White Sox, the Twins scored double-digit runs (10 on Friday and 14 on Sunday). During Sunday’s matchup, 40-year-old Nelson Cruz collected four hits (including two home runs) and drove in seven runs. Once Josh Donaldson gets going (he is currently batting .100 through 14 PA’s), this offense will transcend to an entirely new level.
1. New York Yankees (2-1)
Previous ranking: 1
New York maintains the pole position after taking two out of three games against the reigning World Series champions (Washington Nationals) over the weekend. With New York down 2-0 with eight outs to work with in Sunday’s matchup, a Gleyber Torres home run and sharp line drive would combine to drive in two of New York’s eventual three runs to take the win. The win emphasized that even when the bats of Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton go quiet (the duo combined to go 0-7 with three strikeouts Sunday), the offense can still find a way. It is that deep.