MLB - 3 Up 3 Down (05/05/14)

By John Ewing
Three Up, Three Down - a look at the notable and disappointing teams from the month of April.

A sports rating system analyzes the results of sports competitions to provide objective ratings for each team. Rankings are then derived by sorting the team's rating and assigning an ordinal rank. A lazy analyst will add the word Power to the beginning of their ranking for added significance. An even lazier analyst will skip the whole ranking ordeal and cherry pick a few teams to talk about - which leads us to April's Three Up, Three Down column.

Three Up

Milwaukee Brewers
April: 19 Wins, 8 Losses, .704 Win Percentage
Season: 21 wins – 11 losses, Leading NL Central by 5 games

The Brewers, a team we picked to finish fourth in the NL Central, has the best record in baseball. Milwaukee was the first team to 20 wins this season, an impressive feat for a club that finished 74-88 last season. The Brew Crew has built the largest division lead with the resurgence of Ryan Braun (.318 avg, 6 HRs and 18 RBIs), a stellar road record (12-5) and great pitching – they lead the league in quality starters (25) and are fifth in ERA (3.03).

We projected Milwaukee to finish 78-84 before the season began; the Brewers are now projected to win the NL Central with a 90-72 record.

Atlanta Braves
April: 17 Wins, 8 Losses, .680 Win Percentage
Season: 17 wins – 13 losses, Leading NL East by 0.5 a game

Atlanta's rotation was a question mark coming into the season with the losses of Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm in free agency. Then Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy were lost for the season after needing Tommy John surgery. Despite the departures and injuries, the new rotation including Ervin Santana and Aaron Harang, combined to lead the majors in ERA (2.60) in the month of April. The pitching staff allowed just 70 walks in 228.2 innings pitched.

The Braves are currently leading the NL East but we project the Nationals to win the division. The Braves will be in the mix for the Wild Card.

Oakland Athletics
April: 18 Wins, 9 Losses, .667 Win Percentage
Season: 19 wins – 12 losses, Leading AL West by 2 games

The Athletics enjoy the best run differential in the league (+51), twenty runs above the second-highest team (Colorado). Oakland's offense is second in hitting efficiency in our most recent Power Rankings, up from 16th in our preseason rankings. The A's are also getting a surprising contribution from Jesse Chavez, who has posted a 1.89 ERA and leads the team in strikeouts (41).

Oakland is leading the AL West but the Athletics will battle the Rangers and Angels all season for the division crown.

Three Down

Arizona Diamondbacks
April: 9 Wins, 19 Losses, .321 Win Percentage
Season: 11 wins – 23 losses, 10.5 games out of first in NL West

The Diamondbacks are battling the Astros for the worst record in the league. The truly embarrassing part, Houston is not trying to win. Arizona most certainly is with a franchise record $112,688,666 payroll entering the season. The Diamondbacks six highest paid hitters (Prado, Hill, Montero, Ross, Parra and Trumbo) have combined to hit .245 with 15 HRs and 124 strikeouts.

We didn't expect Arizona to compete for the division but the Diamondbacks were not supposed to finish dead last either. Arizona is fifth in pitching efficiency; with a little luck hitting, the Diamondbacks could post a respectable win/loss record.

Pittsburgh Pirates
April: 9 Wins, 16 Losses, .360 Win Percentage
Season: 12 wins – 19 losses, 8.5 games out of first in NL Central

The Pirates won 94 games last season, it was the clubs first winning season in 21 years. Pittsburgh entered the season with playoff aspirations but are playing more like the teams from the previous decades than the one we saw win the Wild Card in 2013. According to ESPN Stats and Info, there were 24 teams before last season that saw their record improve by 15 or more wins, like the Pirates did last year. Of those 24 teams, 19 clubs regressed by an average of 6.6 wins the next season.

We are projecting the Pirates to win 74 games this season. Pittsburgh's streak of winning seasons might end at one.

Tampa Bay Rays
April: 10 Wins, 16 Losses, .385 Win Percentage
Season: 15 wins – 17 losses, 2 games out of first in AL East

The Rays starting rotation has been wrecked by injuries. Matt Moore, Alex Cobb and Jeremy Hellickson have been sidelined with injuries. Notwithstanding the pitching woes, the Rays are just two games out of the AL East and are expecting Hellickson and Cobb to return in the next four to six weeks. Tampa Bay is the third most efficient hitting team in the league, with a healthy rotation the Rays could find themselves contending down the stretch.