Stats & Info: Power Poll
Getty Images/Sarah GlennGiancarlo Stanton and the Marlins are helping the NL East rise.
For a brief recap of how we rank the divisions, click here.
It should be no surprise that the AL East and NL East are atop ESPN Stats & Info’s MLB Divisional Rankings through May 31st.
Both divisions have been nearly flawless through the first two months of baseball as every team in both divisions ended May over .500.
Nine of the top 15 teams in the most recent ESPN.com Power Rankings reside in the Eastern divisions.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this was the first time that the entire AL East and NL East have been above .500 at the same time. Further, since Major League Baseball went to a six-division format in 1994, there have never been any two divisions with every team above .500 through the end of May.
The last time that every team in just one division had a winning record though this date was 2006 when all five teams in the NL West were above .500
But which of the two divisions is stronger from top to bottom?
An MLB First
According the ESPN Stats & Info’s MLB Divisional Rankings, the AL East and NL East are basically equal. The AL East currently holds a 0.4 point lead over the NL East as a result of its superior record outside of the division and victories over tougher opponents, but this lead could disappear quickly.
Entering the month, every team in the AL East was at least three games over .500 in games outside of its division, leading to a .577 non-divisional win percentage.
The NL East has also excelled outside of the division, going 55-36 (.604 win pct) in games outside of its division in the month of May.
Overall, both divisions have won close to 58 percent of its non-divisional games. No other division is above .500 in these games.
The AL East’s non-divisional win percentage is even more impressive considering who the teams have played. The four toughest schedules in Major League Baseball through May 31st belong to teams in the AL East.
As a result, every team in the AL East has an RPI in the top 12 (RPI is 25 % team winning percentage, 50 % opponents’ winning percentage and 25 % opponents’ opponents’ winning percentage)
The teams in the AL East may have played tougher schedules, but the individual players in the NL East have outperformed the players in the AL East thus far.
Three of the top five pitchers, according to ESPN’s Player Ratings, reside in the NL East. Brandon Beachy, Gio Gonzalez, Cole Hamels, Anibal Sanchez and Stephen Strasburg all have better ERAs than the top starting pitcher in the AL East, David Price.
Players in the NL East have also had more success at the plate. The NL East has two more players in the top 30 of ESPN’s Batter Player Ratings than the AL East.
The player that made the biggest jump in the month of May was Miami’s Giancarlo Stanton who held a share of the lead in home runs (12) and extra base hits (22) for the month.
Looking to June
June is filled with plenty of matchups between the top two divisions.
Beginning on June 8th, every team in the AL East plays at least four series against an NL East opponent before July 1.
Look for an interesting weekend on June 22nd as the Atlanta Braves head to Boston, the Tampa Bay Rays travels to Philadelphia, the Toronto Blue Jays go south to Miami, the Washington Nationals take on Baltimore and the New York Yankees head to Citi Field for the second Subway series of the month against the New York Mets.
Perhaps we’ll have a better answer on which division is strongest after those matchups are done.
The Padres were the runaway winner, according to our panel, garnering all 10 first-place votes. Their bullpen is a big reason why they have been a surprise so far this season, tied with the Braves for the National League's best record. According to Buster Olney, the thing that sets San Diego's pen apart is that it has multiple weapons, different looks, and an excellent closer (Heath Bell). Here's a look at the rest of the top 10:
That got us thinking here at TMI to take a look at the top ten pitches in the game in this week's TMI Power Poll. Although Stephen Strasburg's fastball received votes, it didn't get enough to crack the top ten (if we run this topic again in a couple months that might be a different story). Here's a look at who did make the list.
Evan Longoria, the face of a young Rays team that has the best record in baseball, took the top spot. He has developed into a complete player. According to Baseball Tonight Researcher Mark Simon, Longoria is 3rd in the MLB with .738 offensive winning percentage. On the defensive side, Longoria's 17.0 UZR tied for the lead among all 3B over last two seasons (with Ryan Zimmerman).
Others receiving votes: Brandon Inge, Chipper Jones, Jose Bautista, Placido Polanco, Chase Headley, Jorge Cantu, Casey Blake, Alberto Callaspo, Nick Punto
Only two pitchers received first-place votes...Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum...The two right-handers finished tied atop our rankings. Here's a look at the rest of the top ten:
Others receiving votes:
David Price, Justin Verlander, Dan Haren, Jon Lester, Roy Oswalt, Tim Hudson, Jake Peavy, Tommy Hanson, Josh Johnson, Yovani Gallardo, Matt Garza, Phil Hughes, Josh Beckett.
Other notable courtesy of Baseball Tonight researcher Mark Simon:
Todd Coffey - Nobody in MLB sprints from bullpen faster
Also receiving votes: Neftali Feliz, Dan Wheeler, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, Manny Corpas, Pedro Feliciano, Brad Ziegler, Darren Oliver, Mike Wuertz, Carlos Villanueva, Hisanori Takahashi, Kevin Jepsen, Peter Moylan, Grant Balfour, J.P. Howell, Hideki Okajima, Hong-Chih Kuo, Shawn Camp, Nick Masset, Kris Medlan, Rafael Betancourt, Darren O'Day, Alfredo Aceves, Tim Byrdak, Todd Coffey, Sergio Santos, Takashi Saito, Ramon Troncoso
Dodgers GM Ned Colletti publicly criticized Matt Kemp last week, suggesting that the centerfielder's new contract has him too comfortable and that his baserunning and defense were "below average." There might be something to that as Kemp was caught stealing Sunday for the sixth time this season, which leads the majors.
Those early season baserunning blunders weren't enough to sway our voters from ranking Kemp the game's best centerfielder as the Dodger picked up 7 of 9 first-place votes. Here's the rest of the top 10:
Others receiving votes: Vernon Wells, Michael Bourn, Marlon Byrd, Nyjer Morgan, Adam Jones, Mike Cameron, Chris Young, Carlos Beltran, Nate McLouth, Alex Rios
Despite his slow start to 2010, we have Mark Teixeira firmly in the top spot thanks to his track record. Teixeira received 8 of 9 first-place votes. Here's a look at the rest of the list:
Others receiving votes: Chone Figgins, Brian Roberts, Nick Swisher, Rafael Furcal, Carlos Guillen, Shane Victorino, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jorge Posada, Erick Aybar.
Catcher is the most demanding position in baseball. Taking hits from balls, bats, players - these human backstops have to also manage the game, keep their pitcher sane and at the same time be competent with a bat in their hands.
Who does it best? If you’ve watched any baseball the last few years you know it’s not really close. Joe Mauer hit .365 last season and through Sunday was hitting .381 this season. Oh, and he’s the 2-time reigning AL Gold Glover. He received all 8 first-place votes from our panel.
Here’s the rest of our top 10:
Others receiving votes: Miguel Olivo, Gerald Laird, Miguel Montero, Mike Napoli, Ryan Hanigan, Chris Iannetta, Ivan Rodriguez
Since it is Opening Day (for most teams anyway), we lead off with the top 10 leadoff hitters. Corny? Absolutely, but it is an interesting topic for sure.
What makes a good leadoff hitter? It used to be that most would say a nice batting average and a lot of stolen bases would do the trick. Those numbers are definitely still relevant, but there are so many ways to look at things nowadays. Runs created, pitches seen, extra bases taken… Imagine the possibilities.
The majority of our panel was aboard the Ichiro bandwagon. Not much to dislike when it comes to the Mariners leadoff hitter – Ichiro has been a model of consistency. In each of his nine MLB seasons, he has at least 200 hits, 25 steals, a .300 BA and a .350 OBP. Last season Ichiro slugged a career high .465 and grounded into just 1 double play.
All that and much more were considered… You know our number one, so here's the rest of our best leadoff hitters (first-place votes in parentheses): Others receiving votes: Julio Borbon, Juan Pierre, Grady Sizemore, Alfonso Soriano, Ian Kinsler, Skip Schumaker, Stephen Drew, Kosuke Fukudome, David DeJesus, Marco Scutaro, Andrew McCutchen and Dexter Fowler.