#1 Atlanta Sprawl, AL South (14-6; Run dif: +87)The Sprawl exploded out of the gate, winning their first seven games in convincing fashion… Atlanta leads the league in runs, walks, stolen bases and OPS, while boasting the 2nd best team ERA at 3.22… A couple of ninth inning meltdowns from a talented bullpen has the club shuffling the cards in their closer-by-committee approach… In his first 20 games, DH/1B Jerry Daly has posted an obnoxious .412/.488/.853 line with 37 Rbis… The club recently acquired SS Harry Olerud from Oklahoma with the intention of rectifying some ill-advised early-season defensive positioning…. SP Louis Mahler went 4-0 with a 1.69 to win the first Pitcher of the Week award.
#2 Las Vegas Flying Elvises, NL West (14-6; Run dif: +27)The Elvises have mashed their way to the best record in the NL, with ROY favorite Tony Cruz (.324/.437/.662) and slugger Efrain Koskie (.319/.405/.797 with 27 Rbis; riding a 10-game hitting streak) rallying the club… The team boasts a balanced attack, ranking 10th in runs scored and 7th in ERA… The club has gotten stellar starting pitching performances from the top 4 starters and closer Herbert Sherman (6 for 6 in save opps, with a .57 whip and 1.29 ERA). The rest of the bullpen has struggled at times… CF Bill Towers is collecting triples and HBP at a breakneck pace.
#3 Portland Brewtopians, AL West (12-8; Run dif: +34)At first glance, teams may write off Portland’s league-leading 2.94 ERA to playing in cavernous PGE Park, but amazingly, the Brewtopians’ road ERA (2.40) is superior to their home ERA (3.23)… 9 of the 10 Brew pitchers to toss an inning this season have ERAs under 4, while bullpen trio Frank Lim (8 saves), JJ Mason and Gregg Truman all sport whips of .90 or better… The offense has yet to click, falling the middle of the pack in most categories. ROY favorite Kyle Stynes has done his part (.293/.330/.732 with 9 homers and 28 rbis), and Kent Titan and C Harry Cabeza have held their own, but the rest of the lineup provides little support: four starters carry OPS’ under .600.
#4 Cleveland Rockstars, AL East (13-7; Run dif: +27)Cleveland’s prodigious offense leads the league in home runs and slugging percentage. Lonny Vallarta has been everything the club hoped he would be when they acquired him from Atlanta, smacking AL pitching around to the tune of .294/.55/.794… Hersh “The Hitman” Hartman is not one to be outdone, though: .337/.367/.706 and 22 Rbis… One statistic of note: Cleveland’s team ERA is a respectable 4.29, good for 12th in the league, but their Whip is an atrocious 1.54, tied for second worst in Moneyball, and suggests that the club may have caught a few breaks up until this point.
#5 Houston Yeehaw Fantasticos, NL South (13-7; Run dif: +19)Houston features a prolific offensive attack, ranking in the top 5 of most offensive categories, buttressed by a middling pitching staff that has blown it’s share of leads early this season… It hasn’t been pretty at times, but expensive FA acquisition Bubbles McCallum is 4 for 4 in save opportunities… 34 year old Charles Chang has enjoyed some sup[rising success early on, sporting a 1.82 ERA, while going 2-0 in 4 starts and even saving a game… Offensive Player of the Week Heinie Ross hit .397/.516/.712 over the first 20 games of the season, while partner in crime (and off-season acquisition) Javy Palmeiro is holding his own with an impressive .347/.424/.520 line…. The club has to be pleased with the 9 home runs and 28 Rbis they’ve gotten out of lunchpail 1B Carl Thomas.
#6 Washington D.C. Whistling Badgers, NL East (12-8; Run dif: +24)The Badgers have been carried this far by dominant performances by starters Pedro Zapata, Anthony Byrne and Santiago Navarro, as well as an 8-for-8 performance from closer Mark Palmer, but the rest of the staff – particularly the bullpen – has struggled mightily… 1B Heathcliff Cameron and LF Fernando Blanco have carried the offense this far, but off-season acquisition Cliff Bonilla (.236/.329/.444) has yet to pay dividends.
#7 Oklahoma City Orchestra, NL South (10-10; Run dif: +25)Oklahoma brings a top-tier offense to the plate, batting .296 as a team and scoring the third most runs through the first 20 games of the year, but the pitching has struggled: the four-man rotation has three ERAs over 5… The bullpen, however, has been spectacular: Closer Barry Yeager has yet to surrender a run, and the club boasts four other setup men with Whips under 1.00… Leadoff man Cooper Alexander has managed 30 hits in 20 games, but only one extra base hit… Barry Jacobsen is playing way beyond his ability, raking a .348/.411/.864 line in the early going…. The .350/.441/.563 line that Nigel Nakajima is posting? That might continue.
#8 Minnesota Screaming Beavers, AL North (10-10; Run dif: +20)The Beavers have been doing it with pitching, flaunting a 3.38 team ERA… The strength of the club thus far has been the bullpen, though the starting combo of Gabe Douglas and Julian Hancock have been better than their 1 combined win might suggest… Closer Matty Gregg got shelled earlier and often, and the shutdown duties have been dispersed with more promising results… FA signing Bo Forrest has been spectacular (.432/.511/.753), while trade acquisition Patsy Wynn (.284/.304/.511) has provided a little pop to a subpar offense.
#9 Chicago Capone Bootleggers, NL North (12-8; Run dif: +7)The Bootleggers have been doing it with smoke and mirrors thus far, posting a 12-8 record despite a +7 run differential and few individual standouts… Davey Schultz has batted a sneaky .353 out of the 8 hole while 1B Larry Turner (23 rbis) has held down the middle of the lineup… Staff ace Danny Borland has been leaned on heavily in the early going, posting an impressive 2.25 ERA in 35 innings.
#10 Detroit Steelheads, NL North (11-9; Run dif: +15)A handful of bullpen implosions (1 for 5 in save opportunities thus far) have sullied the perfect game that began the Steelheads’ season, but their league-leading 1.18 whip and solid run differential suggest they will be a force in the NL as the season progresses… It’s not surprising that Detroit has given Matty Norton and Benito Granados such long leashes on the mound, the bullpen arms have made every game an adventure thus far… Norton is 1-3 despite a 2.91 ERA and 1.01 whip… Trade acquisition Ozzie Takada has been everything the club hoped for, smacking a .370/.474/.531 line with 11 steals thus far… CF George Ward has been a disappointment in the early going, and the Steelheads have rotated a number of players in and out of the lineup to find a mix that can best support their pitching.