The 2021 baseball season continues to be extremely volatile, with several teams going up and down like a yo-yo. Can’t really predict when a more normal feeling will come back into this. This much parity is unprecedented.
Before presenting this week’s power rankings, I thought I would look at one of the most volatile teams in the game — the Minnesota Twins.
In the first three weeks of my power rankings, the Twins were No. 5, No. 3 and then No. 4. In Week 4, the Twins slipped to No. 8. By Week 5, they had dropped to No. 18. In Week 6, the Twins had dropped to No. 23. Minnesota went 2-4 this past week, which included splitting a series 1-1 with the lowly Detroit Tigers before a May 9 postponement. The Twins have slipped about as low as they can go — No. 26.
During the Earl Weaver years in Baltimore, anyone within shouting distance of Earl heard him wax philosophical about what defined a “start” to a season. Earl simply would never give in and admit that his team was either in the midst of a poor start or had even had a bad start. The start, as defined by Weaver, was an accordion-like length of time until his teams started to play better.
At 12-20, I think it’s fair to say that the Twins have had a poor start to the season. The reasons are actually pretty obvious. They were decimated by the COVID-19 bug that hit several members of the team and ultimately led to three consecutive postponements. This came after the team elected to cancel a game after a police-related shooting in the Minneapolis area.
While the Twins’ COVID issues are nowhere as deep as the Cardinals’ issues were last year, it should be remembered that the Cardinals got off to a very slow start in 2020 and were able to come on during the last 20 days of the season to make the playoffs. (They lost to the Padres in the best-of-three first round.)
One thing that would certainly start to help them shed some water in the standings is if right-hander Kenta Maeda could begin to look like the Maeda of 2020 and the Maeda we saw in Fort Myers, Fla., during spring training earlier this year. In 18.1 spring innings, he struck out 22 and walked just one. He posted a 0.49 ERA and 0.49 WHIP and opponents batted just .123.
So far that pitcher had not appeared yet through his first six regular-season starts. The good news is his last start was his first ace-like look (5.1 innings, no runs and eight strikeouts against the Rangers May 3).
It won’t be easy, but don’t sleep on the Twins just yet. But one thing they need to do is put some distance on this poor start.
Here are this week’s power rankings. The team’s preseason over-under wins total, courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill, is listed after the team’s record and last week’s ranking.
1. Boston Red Sox (22-13, No. 5 last week, 77): Maybe it’s just that I have seen them play the Orioles nine times, but one can’t come away without being impressed by the makeover Alex Cora has performed on the psyche of this team. Ownership won’t deny Chaim Bloom the dollars to help out the roster in the second half of the season.
2. Oakland Athletics (21-15, No. 2, 88.5): It was purely a coincidence that I named Boston No. 1 and Oakland No. 2 the week that the A’s go to Fenway. This could be an ALCS preview.
3. St. Louis Cardinals (21-14, No. 7, 88): Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado are starting to click and the rotation is ready to get Miles Mikolas back. The Cardinals could be ready to step on the gas.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers (18-17, No. 1, 104.5): A 13-2 start had us dreaming of the 1984 Tigers’ 35-5 start, but the reality is the Dodgers have gone just gone 5-15 since then. While we try to figure out why, they’ll probably get back on the horse and get back to business. The late innings are still fraught with peril when trying to hold leads.
5. Chicago White Sox (19-13, No. 10, 90.5): While the losses of outfielders Eloy Jimenez (at least five months) and Luis Robert (probably two months) are serious, so is a rotation that includes Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, Dylan Cease, Dallas Keuchel and the guy with the no-hitter, Carlos Rodon.
6. San Diego Padres (19-16, No. 3, 92): Of all their star players, only Yu Darvish has truly given the club a return on its investment thus far. Fernando Tatis Jr. has an excuse, but Manny Machado and Blake Snell are major culprits.
7. Milwaukee Brewers (19-16, No. 4, 84.5): Their first week after bolting into the top 10 started miserably when the Brew Crew was swept by the Phillies in a four-game series. But after losing the first game in Miami (and fifth straight overall), the Brewers won the series by virtue of a 2-1, 10-inning squeaker on the way home. It doesn’t figure to get any easier now with the Cardinals and Braves coming into Miller Park.
8. New York Yankees (18-16, No. 9, 97): A 13-6 stretch seems to have put the bad, troubling times in the rearview mirror, but they never felt they’d be looking up at a Red Sox club taking the division by storm. Giancarlo Stanton has gone from cold to red hot.
9. San Francisco Giants (20-14, No. 12, 73): Of the 34 games played to date, the Giants have had 22 of them started by Kevin Gausman, Alex Wood, Johnny Cueto and Anthony DeSclafani. While they don’t get the press of the Dodgers or Giants they are quite an impressive quartet.
10. Tampa Bay Rays (19-17, No. 14, 88.5): The Rays, Astros, Mets or Indians could have rounded out the top 10. The Rays’ 5-2 West Coast trip made the difference for now. Reliever Peter Fairbanks is back just as fellow reliever Diego Castillo goes on the injured list.
11. Houston Astros (18-16, No. 13, 88)
12. New York Mets (16-13, No. 16, 89)
13. Cleveland Indians (18-14, No. 15, 81)
14. Philadelphia Phillies (18-17, No. 19, 81.5)
15. Toronto Blue Jays (17-16, No. 8, 86)
16. Atlanta Braves (17-17, No. 22, 92)
17. Seattle Mariners (18-17, No. 11, 71)
18. Kansas City Royals (16-17, No. 6, 71)
19. Texas Rangers (18-18, No. 26, 69.5)
20. Chicago Cubs (17-17, No. 25, 79.5)
21. Washington Nationals (13-17, No. 17, 84.5)
22. Cincinnati Reds (15-16, No. 20, 81.5)
23. Miami Marlins (15-18, No. 27, 73.5)
24. Los Angeles Angels (15-18, No. 18, 83)
25. Baltimore Orioles (15-19, No. 24, 64)
26. Minnesota Twins (12-20, No. 23, 89.5)
27. Pittsburgh Pirates (14-19, No. 28, 58)
28. Arizona Diamondbacks (15-19, No. 21, 75.5)
29. Colorado Rockies (12-22, No. 30, 62.5)
30. Detroit Tigers (10-24, No. 29, 66)