Thursday, May 19, 2005

Baseball’s Best Team

Last month we went to the MLB stats and records to find the worst team in baseball. Today let’s look for the best team. To qualify for as a candidate the team currently has to be in first place. That immediately eliminates teams like the Yankees and the Diamondbacks who are on a good streak but still not in first place. The current division leaders in the American League are; East - Baltimore Orioles, Central – Chicago White Sox, West – Los Angeles Angels. In the National League your division leaders are; East – Atlanta Braves, Central – St. Louis Cardinals, West – San Diego Padres.

Looking at the American League, the White Sox have the second biggest division lead of any team in baseball, 5.5 games on the Twins, and they sport MLB’s best record at 29-12. Just behind them are the Baltimore Orioles who are 3.5 games up on the Red Sox and have the second best record in MLB at 26-13. Finally the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have a 2.5 game lead on the Texas Rangers and a record of 23-17.

Obviously, the Angels have not experienced the dominance that the White Sox and Orioles have, but I think that they play in the second toughest division in the A.L. They are good enough to win the West but not good enough to be considered as the best team in baseball.

Moving back to the Central, the White Sox may have the best record in baseball but I think they play in the worst division in all of baseball. The Twins are the only other team playing above .500 and the rest of the division is only 47-70. The AL Central might as well be an AAA league. When you have a talented team like the White Sox with solid pitching it’s easy to put up a good record. The White Sox split with Baltimore last week but before that they lost two of three to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. By their record alone the White Sox get a pass into the finals for MLB’s best team.

The Baltimore Orioles are the surprise team this season. They are 13 games above .500 and play in the toughest division in baseball. Four out of five teams in the AL East have winning records. The only other division that can say that would be the NL East. The problem is that the Red Sox are breathing down their necks and the Yankees are on fire. There is a very realistic possibility that the O’s won’t even make the play-offs. Everyone knows that if you can’t make the play-offs then you can’t be the best team in baseball.

AL candidate – Chicago White Sox.

In the National League the Braves are 23-17 and own a half a game lead on the Florida Marlins in the NL East. They are in the second toughest division in baseball and much like the Orioles; the Braves have a strong chance of not winning their division. The Marlins have better pitching and should take over the first place spot.

The Padres just won three in a row over the Braves and also swept the Marlins before that. They have won 8 out of their last 10 games to get to a 25-16 record and a 1 game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks. When you look at division records the Padres have struggled with a 10-11 record. The Diamondbacks have dominated NL West with an 18-8 record and should continue to do so. They will overtake the Padres for first in the NL West. This eliminates San Diego from competition.

The St. Louis Cardinals have the best record in the NL at 25 – 24. Their division opponents are not as strong as those in the East, but there are six teams in the Central and the Cardinals have dominated the division. They have also faired pretty well against the competition from the NL East. The Cards have the biggest lead in the NL and will enter the play-offs with the best record of the NL teams.

NL Candidate – St. Louis Cardinals

If you compare the White Sox and the Cardinals’ season you will see that they are in similar situations. Both teams sport the best record in their respective divisions and both play in the weakest divisions in their conference. I think this is what allowed the Red Sox to sweep the Cards in the World Series. Once they got past the Yankees the World Series was a breeze. The White Sox have relied on pitching and the Cardinals on hitting.

I will take the Cards hitting over the White Sox pitching because both are doing it in weak divisions. Hitting will carry over to stronger competition better than pitching will. If these teams play each other in a best of seven series the Cards would win 4-2. That makes the St. Louis Cardinals the best team in baseball to this point.