NL Power Rankings

Just to get myself thinking about the way the National League race is shaping up, I thought I’d try to rank every NL team one month into the season.

Where we started

Looking back at my hastily-prepared predictions, I thought the Braves were the best NL team at the beginning of the season, but my confidence was somewhat tempered.  Every team seemed to have weaknesses, but a very strong lineup and deep (if not outstanding) starting pitching put the Braves over the top, or so I thought.  I said they would be the league’s only 90-win team, with the Mets, D-Backs, and Rockies just a game behind them.

In the East, I had the Braves beating out the Mets and Phillies by a nose, and the Marlins and Nationals farther behind them.  In the Central, I gave the Cubs and Brewers the edge, but I only separated the top and bottom teams by 11 games.  Out West, I had the D-Backs winning a one-game playoff against the Rockies to win that division over the Padres and Dodgers (both still over .500), and everyone else way ahead of the league’s cellar dwellers, the Giants.

What has changed

NL West: Everyone got hot out in Arizona before the summer even started, and the D-Backs are pacing the league as the only 20-win team (20-8).  Their bats are on fire, and all of their young ones have been outstanding.  Max Scherzer appears primed to become the league’s best fifth starter for them after blowing up AAA for a few weeks in April.  The teams I initially thought would be their next best contenders are struggling, so that’s even better news: the Padres can’t hit at all right now, and the Rockies are back toward the bottom of the league in pitching.  The Dodgers have been somewhat inconsistent, but they’re looking like a solid club, while the Giants, despite not looking very good at all offensively, have pitched well enough to be in third place for the time being.

NL Central: I’m not totally sure what to make of the Cardinals in the Central, since my brain tells me that their strong pitching won’t hold up.  I don’t think Chris Carpenter should be rushed back, and I’m not convinced Mulder or Clement will be effective when they return.  The Cubs look like a better team, although I was lower on them at the start of the season than either of the other predicted division winners.  I think the Brewers’ lineup will eventually be more effective, and they have the depth to stay with the Cubs, more so than the Cardinals.

NL East: The Braves can’t buy a close win, and they’re looking up at three teams right now with the Nationals closing on them.  I doubt the anti-clutch hitting trend will continue over the course of the season, but I’m concerned about the health of the pitching staff too.  No one has really been great in the East, though.  The Mets are kind of a mystery, and they have their own health concerns.  The Phillies have less pitching than the Braves and Mets, although they might have one of the league’s best lineups.  The Marlins’ pitching will keep them from hanging around, and the Nationals are somewhat below average on all fronts.

The Rankings

  1. Arizona (20-8, 19 Pythagorean wins)
  2. Chicago (17-10, 18 PW)
  3. Los Angeles (14-13, 17)
  4. Atlanta (12-15, 16)
  5. New York (14-12, 13)
  6. Philadelphia (15-13, 15)
  7. Milwaukee (15-12, 13)
  8. St. Louis (18-11, 18)
  9. Colorado (11-17, 11)
  10. San Diego (11-17, 10)
  11. Houston (13-16, 14)
  12. Cincinnati (12-17, 13)
  13. Florida (15-12, 12)
  14. Washington (11-17, 11)
  15. Pittsburgh (11-16, 11)
  16. San Francisco (13-16, 10)
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