For the first time during the 2021 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers are not atop our MLB Power Rankings.
The defending world champions fell from No. 1 after a prolonged slump in which L.A. has gone just 7-15 and dropped five consecutive series since starting the season with an MLB-best 13-2 mark.
Now the big question is which team took advantage of the opportunity to lead our Week 6 rankings? With the St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants, Chicago White Sox, Boston Red Sox and Cleveland Indians all sitting within one game of MLB’s best record in the standings, there are plenty of teams worthy of top billing — but only one can be No. 1.
Here is what our eight-voter expert panel decided based on what we’ve seen in the first month-plus of the season. We also asked ESPN MLB experts David Schoenfield, Bradford Doolittle, Joon Lee, Jesse Rogers and Alden Gonzalez to weigh in with one Week 6 observation for all 30 teams.
1. Chicago White Sox
Previous ranking: 7
It does not feel like the White Sox have reached their full stride, yet they are starting to climb to the top of quite a few rankings lists, both of the subjective and objective variety. And why not? The ChiSox lead the majors in runs per game and rank second in runs allowed per game. The lofty offensive ranking is eye-catching since a team we figured would hit lots of long balls thus far ranks just 25th in isolated power. Yes, Chicago still has to navigate the long-term absences of Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez. Nevertheless, there is plenty of reason to believe it’s only going to get better from here. — Doolittle
2. Boston Red Sox
Previous ranking: 3
A month and a half into the season, Boston not only looks like a contender in the American League East, but also like one of the best teams in baseball. While the team started off the season 0-3 against the Orioles, they’ve not had a losing streak of more than two games until this week. Righty Nick Pivetta has been the best starter so far, with a 1.0 WAR while posting a 3.19 ERA, 1.25 WHIP in 36.2 innings pitched. — Lee
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
Previous ranking: 1
The Dodgers had dropped five consecutive series and lost 15 of 20 games heading into the week, a bewildering circumstance not just because of their overall talent but because they haven’t necessarily been playing as bad as that recent stretch would suggest. But a positive development came on Tuesday, when Gavin Lux belted the game-winning home run in the eighth inning against the Mariners. Lux, whom the Dodgers consider a potential star, began the week batting only .209/.247/.267 with 24 strikeouts and five walks. Maybe he’ll finally get going. — Gonzalez
4. St. Louis Cardinals
Previous ranking: 6
The Cardinals have gone on a run to create some separation at the top of the National League Central; however, a home sweep of the Rockies isn’t necessarily a season-defining series win. St. Louis’ run differential is far and away the best in the division, and the pitching staff has been among the best in the game over the past week. — Rogers
Previous ranking: 8
The Yankees find themselves in second place after a sluggish start to the season riding the molten-hot bat of Giancarlo Stanton and improved performance from the entire rotation. Since the calendar turned into May, New York finds itself with a 8-2 record, while Gerrit Cole continues to be one of the best pitchers in baseball. — Lee
Previous ranking: 2
The Padres have been stopped in their tracks. In one day, they lost five key contributors to their offense with Fernando Tatis Jr., Wil Myers, Eric Hosmer, Jurickson Profar and Jorge Mateo being placed on the injured list for COVID-19-related reasons. Tatis and Myers, in particular, tested positive. Luckily for them, it came amidst a nine-game stretch in which they’ll play the lowly Rockies six times. — Gonzalez
7. San Francisco Giants
Previous ranking: 5
Alex Wood could barely find a role on last year’s World Series-winning Dodgers. This year, he boasts a 1.80 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP through his first 30 innings. Opponents are slugging just .192 off his slider, which has produced a whiff rate of 45.1%. And Wood is just one of a handful of remarkable stories on that pitching staff. — Gonzalez
Previous ranking: 4
Oakland is in the midst of its toughest test of the season, a three-game battle with the Red Sox at Fenway. The Athletics continue to ride strong starting pitching to start the season, with Chris Bassitt (3.54 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 1.3 WAR), Sean Manaea (3.07 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 1.3 WAR) and Cole Irvin (3.29 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 1.0 WAR) leading the way and Yusmeiro Petit anchoring the bullpen. — Lee
Previous ranking: 12
Tyler Glasnow continues to establish himself as a bona fide ace, but Tampa Bay hasn’t gotten much else out of its starting rotation so far this season, with Michael Wacha, Rich Hill and Ryan Yarbrough all below replacement level in the early part of the season. — Lee
Previous ranking: 9
Despite a depth of live, young arms, Houston has not been able to carve out a consistent pecking order in the bullpen. Houston ranks 27th in reliever win probability added and is below replacement in relief bWAR. Ryne Stanek and Ryan Pressly have been fine. After that, it’s been a crapshoot and that’s a problem for a club with a solid rotation that nevertheless is short on workhorse-type starters. Getting Blake Taylor, Pedro Baez and Enoli Paredes back from the injured list would certainly help. And, given some recent rumblings, perhaps later in the season, could they be joined by Justin Verlander? — Doolittle
Previous ranking: 15
Despite the infiltration of rats and raccoons into Citi Field, the Mets went 5-0 on a homestand against Arizona and Baltimore to run their winning streak to seven. Obviously, Jacob deGrom‘s injury bears watching, but the good news is Taijuan Walker continues to pitch well and is now 3-1 with a 2.20 ERA, allowing just one home run in 41 innings. — Schoenfield
Previous ranking: 14
Jose Ramirez is setting himself up for yet another run at AL MVP with a season that is gradually building momentum, largely on the strength of a number of clutch home runs. Six of his 10 homers have come with Cleveland either tied or trailing by one or two runs in the sixth inning or later. Ramirez ranks second in the AL among hitters in win probability added. You still sometimes hear Ramirez referred to as underrated, but he has finished in the top three of MVP balloting in three of the past four years. It could happen again this season. — Doolittle
Previous ranking: 11
George Springer entered the season as the big-ticket free agent whom Toronto acquired this offseason, but he has played only four games. Marcus Semien has been the biggest addition, and he appears to be bouncing back after a rough 2020 season in Oakland. He is second on the team in WAR behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and is hitting .267/.333/.474 with eight homers. — Lee
Previous ranking: 10
How long can the Brewers survive without Christian Yelich? The offense ranked 29th in all of baseball in OPS over the past week, so it is going to fall on the pitching staff to keep Milwaukee afloat. The return of Corbin Burnes will help matters. — Rogers
Previous ranking: 16
The Braves won five of six against the Nationals and Phillies to claw back to .500 at the start of the week, even winning their first extra-inning game after starting the season 0-4 in the ghost runner contests. With Travis d’Arnaud on the 60-day IL after surgery on his thumb and Alex Jackson also injured, the Braves have been forced to go with rookie William Contreras as their starting catcher, with longtime vet Jeff Mathis signed as his backup. It’s not like the trade market would have any obvious improvements, either. — Schoenfield
Previous ranking: 17
Rhys Hoskins is off to a … strange start. In 2019, he led the NL with 116 walks, producing a 16.5% walk rate that led to a fine .364 OBP despite a .224 average. This year, his walk rate is all the way down 6.8% and his OBP is under .300. He’s producing some power numbers but making a lot of outs. His overall swing rate and K rate are both up, so this feels like an effort to be more aggressive. — Schoenfield
Previous ranking: 23
Injuries have both hurt the Cubs and opened up some playing time for others. Infielder Matt Duffy has been a find, playing solid defense and getting on base at nearly a 40% clip. Joc Pederson has finally gotten hot for his new team, hitting .471 over the past week. Chicago needs their production, as Javier Baez has missed a couple of games with a back issue and Kris Bryant missed another with bad allergies. — Rogers
Previous ranking: 22
Cincinnati has produced moments that point toward a contender in the division but has hovered around the .500 mark thus far. For example, Jesse Winker led all NL players in OPS over the past week, while the pitching staff threw two shutouts. However, in two other games, that same staff gave up a total of 16 runs to hitting-deficient Cleveland and Pittsburgh. — Rogers
Previous ranking: 25
As Jesus Aguilar continues to rake, he’s going to make an attractive trade piece if the Marlins aren’t in the playoff race in July. Among the playoff contenders struggling with production at first base: Brewers (.650 OPS), Rays (.618), Red Sox (.587) and Indians (.485). Aguilar debuted with Cleveland in 2014 and was an All-Star with the Brewers in 2018. — Schoenfield
Previous ranking: 21
Yusei Kikuchi fanned a career-high 11 against the Dodgers on Tuesday and left with a 4-1 lead in the seventh inning, but the bullpen allowed both inherited runners to score and then Rafael Montero coughed up a three-run homer in the eighth. Manager Scott Servais tried to milk a few extra outs from Kikuchi, but he looks like a classic “watch out the third time through the order” guy, as his OPS allowed goes from .543 to .671 to .774 so far in 2021. — Schoenfield
Previous ranking: 19
Minnesota has been baseball’s most disappointing team during the first few weeks of the season. The Twins began a stretch playing the first-place White Sox six times in nine games with a lackluster 9-3 loss at Chicago on Tuesday. That dropped the Twins eight games out of first place and pushed them to nine games under .500. There is no one aspect that explains everything, but the Twins’ bullpen has been especially loathsome. Minnesota’s run differential this season during the first six innings of games is plus-18, which is tied for eighth in baseball. After that, they are minus-26, easily the worst mark in MLB. — Doolittle
Previous ranking: 18
Max Scherzer had a dominant effort against the Yankees with two hits and 14 strikeouts over 7⅓ innings, his most K’s since fanning 15 against the Reds on June 2, 2019. That followed a complete-game win over the Marlins. After allowing four home runs on Opening Day, Scherzer has a 1.79 ERA and .173 batting average allowed. Mike Rizzo is going to be getting some phone calls. — Schoenfield
Previous ranking: 24
Madison Bumgarner has done a complete 180, suddenly reemerging among the game’s most productive starting pitchers. Nick Ahmed, struggling mightily to begin this season, finally hit his first home run recently. Luke Weaver is coming off a solid outing. The likes of Carson Kelly, Asdrubal Cabrera and Josh Rojas are providing unexpected contributions. And Ketel Marte is on his way back. The D-backs recently suffered a six-game losing streak, but things are seemingly looking up in again the dessert. — Gonzalez
Previous ranking: 20
The Angels released Albert Pujols largely because they wanted to put the bats of Jared Walsh and Shohei Ohtani in the lineup on an everyday basis, but also because Walsh playing first base — and somebody else, at this point Taylor Ward, playing right field — would greatly help a defense that ranks among the worst in the sport so far. The Angels’ top-end talent can rival any team’s, but pitching and defense has been a problem. And they can’t reach the postseason if that continues to be an issue. — Gonzalez
Previous ranking: 27
The Rangers are turning into a surprising storyline, as they won three consecutive series before dropping two games in a row to the Giants earlier this week. They’ve dominated left-handed pitching, sporting a 12-5 record when a southpaw starts against them. — Rogers
Previous ranking: 13
Even as the Royals sprinted out to the best record in baseball, analytical killjoys were pointing out that a few underlying fundamentals didn’t exactly support the sustainability of that status. Given a long enough timeline, regression to the mean will exact its toll. But someone should have told the Royals that it doesn’t have to happen all at once. Kansas City’s skid reached nine games with a demoralizing loss at Detroit on Tuesday, a game in which they erased a 7-0 deficit. At that point, K.C. had been outscored during the skid 66-28. — Doolittle
Previous ranking: 26
Sure, the Orioles look up at every team in the AL East standings, but we can still appreciate the special season John Means is having so far, with a league-leading 2.7 WAR and an American League-leading 1.21 ERA and 0.71 WHIP. During a season in which 100 mph fastballs seem to be a dime a dozen, Means creates success by working off of his elite changeup — which possesses a .106 batting average against and a 40.9% whiff percentage — and a fastball that averages around 93 mph. — Lee
Previous ranking: 28
Things might be finally catching up with the Pirates, as evidenced by four consecutive series losses. Colin Moran‘s groin strain is a big loss, as Pittsburgh is still waiting on the return of rookie Ke’Bryan Hayes, who won’t come back until at least June after being moved to the 60-day injured list this week. — Rogers
Previous ranking: 29
The Rockies had nearly twice as many losses as they had wins going into Wednesday’s doubleheader against the Padres, were 2-14 on the road and had won only seven of their 17 games against a National League West that has otherwise been spectacular. If you’re searching for a positive, here’s one: Kyle Freeland, who suffered a shoulder strain late in spring training, is approaching a rehab assignment and should join the rotation soon. — Gonzalez
Previous ranking: 30
Nothing much has changed for the Tigers over the past week, except that division mates Minnesota and Kansas City have been playing almost as bad, so perhaps that draws some attention away from Detroit. The recent release of Angels legend Albert Pujols did cast some unwanted light on Miguel Cabrera, with some wondering if a similar fate lies somewhere in his future. Cabrera’s 2021 season to date isn’t exactly fending off such analysis: He has been stuck hitting under .150 since late April and remains stuck on two homers for the season — and 489 for his career. — Doolittle
Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani lands exclusive memorabilia deal with Fanatics
Global merchandise and memorabilia brand Fanatics announced on Tuesday a multiyear partnership as the exclusive distributor of Ohtani autographs, collectables and memorabilia. Ohtani will sign bats, jerseys, photos and select game-used items in both English and Japanese. The partnership does not affect sports cards.
“This is something we’ve been working towards for a while,” Fanatics executive vice president Victor Shaffer said. “[This] will be the first time fans are going to be offered a full array of [Ohtani’s] memorabilia products. The strength of his celebrity and his collectability extends well beyond the United States.”
Ohtani accounted for 28 percent of all 2021 All-Star Game merchandise sales. Fanatics started selling Ohtani memorabilia last week; not only did the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year quickly become baseball’s No. 1 athlete on the site, but his sales outrank the No. 2 MLB player 10 times over.
Since July 1, in memorabilia and merchandise, Ohtani is the top-selling athlete on Fanatics across all sports, which includes hundreds of professional and collegiate teams.
Ohtani called it “an honor to join Fanatics as their latest exclusive athlete,” an addition to a roster that includes Aaron Judge, Pete Alonso, Tom Brady, Trevor Lawrence, Sabrina Ionescu, Joe Burrow and Zion Williamson.
Texas Rangers shut out for third-straight game as losing skid continues
The last major league team to allow that many runs while being shut out in three straight games was the 1906 Brooklyn Superbas, who were outscored 31-0 between July 6-9.
“If anyone on this team isn’t embarrassed right now, they shouldn’t be on the field and they shouldn’t be part of our organization right now,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “These guys all want to play in the major leagues, but you have to earn that.”
The Rangers have now been outscored 51-7 in their last six games, the worst run differential (-44) in any six-game span in franchise history and the worst by any team this season. They’re one shutout shy of tying the longest streak by any team since 1900.
The Associated Press and ESPN’s Stats and Information contributed to this report.
San Francisco Giants All-Star shortstop Brandon Crawford heads to injured list with oblique strain
LOS ANGELES — San Francisco’s injury woes have now hit arguably its best player during the first half of the season.
The Giants placed All-Star shortstop Brandon Crawford on the 10-day injured list Monday due to an oblique strain. The move came as they opened a pivotal four-game series against the rival Los Angeles Dodgers.
Manager Gabe Kapler said Crawford’s MRI revealed a mild strain, and he was hopeful it would be a short stint on the IL.
“We understand we have a big challenge ahead of us. Just knowing he is not going to be available is tough for him,” Kapler said. “If there is a silver lining, it does give him a break and allows us to build him up to full strength.”
Crawford is ninth in the NL in batting average (.286) and RBIs (58). He was also on a tear with five games of three hits or more in his last 10, along with going 20 for 39 over the last 11 games.
Crawford — who had started 73 of the Giants’ first 91 games at shortstop — said he noticed something wrong after his final swing during Sunday’s game at St. Louis. It is only the second time in 11 seasons he has gone on the IL, with the previous time coming in 2017 due to a groin strain.
“It’s frustrating from a lot of perspectives,” Crawford said before Monday’s game. “I felt so good, especially recently. There are also so many games against the Dodgers the next couple weeks that I won’t be a part of. The amount of guys on the IL right now also makes all of those things pretty frustrating.”
With Crawford’s injury, second baseman Donovan Solano is the only Giants regular infielder who is not on the IL. First baseman Brandon Belt has been out since June 24 due to right knee inflammation, and is likely to be sidelined for the next two weeks. Third baseman Evan Longoria is on the 60-day injured list and isn’t eligible to come off until Aug. 5.
The Giants went into Monday’s game with the best record in the majors at 58-34 but have a precarious one-game lead over the defending World Series champion Dodgers in the NL West. Seven of the Giants’ next 10 games are against Los Angeles.
“It’s important to acknowledge it is a blow when you are going to miss our best bat all year long, but also focus on the opportunity Estrada gets so that we can evaluate him,” Kapler said.
San Francisco did get some good news on the injury front, though. Star catcher Buster Posey was activated after missing nine games due to a bruised left thumb, and pitcher Kevin Gausman was reinstated from the Family Medical Emergency List in time to start Monday.
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