The hottest team in baseball will continue to be the Cubs until they run into an extended losing skid (unlikely), relinquish the lead in the National League Central (highly unlikely) or come down to Earth just enough to be on pace for only, say, 100 wins instead of threatening to
The hottest team in baseball will continue to be the Cubs until they run into an extended losing skid (unlikely), relinquish the lead in the National League Central (highly unlikely) or come down to Earth just enough to be on pace for only, say, 100 wins instead of threatening to set an all-time record (maybe?).
But if not for the Cubs, the Rangers would be stealing the headlines. They are on an unprecedented tear, off to the best start in franchise history and have a record that is almost as sterling as Chicago's.
Several teams -- Cubs and Rangers included -- are inching toward officially running away with the division, although yes, we realize it's entirely too early to start talking about that. Still, only a couple of divisions have seen the lead change hands more than once over the last week or so. With that in mind, keep an eye on the American League East -- Orioles? Red Sox? Blue Jays? -- and the AL Central, where Cleveland and Kansas City are slowly pulling away from the pack.
Biggest jump: Royals. Here is why you can never count out the World Champions: despite injuries and extended struggles that they haven't been accustomed to dealing with in the last couple of years, this team knows how to dominate at home. Their road record has them 10 games below .500, but it is counterbalanced by a 25-8 mark at home (thanks in part to a just-completed 6-1 homestand against division foes Cleveland and Detroit). That puts them seven games over .500 and firmly in second place in the AL Central.
(Special shoutout to the Rockies, who are, so far, more competitive than any of us prognosticated before the season started. They're making their 2016 MLB Power Rankings debut appearance, coming in at 19).
Biggest drop: Mets. What more is there to say than ... ouch, Mets. After starting the week winning two of three over the Pirates, they were swept by … the Braves? A combination of sloppy defense, subpar baserunning and an offensive disappearing act on Sunday made for a very bad weekend in Queens.
Our Top 5:
1. Cubs: A team that entered their game Sunday night with the best run differential (166), the lowest rotation ERA (2.32) and the lowest WHIP (0.99) in baseball also happens to be on pace for 113 wins. No big surprise there. Chicago is blessed with consistency and continuity, having used the same five starters all year, three of whom rank in the top four in the Majors in WHIP -- John Lackey, (second -- 0.93), Jon Lester (third -- 0.95) and Jake Arrieta (fourth -- 0.95). The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw leads the world in this category at 0.66.
2. Rangers: The AL West isn't yet a one-team race, but Texas is setting itself up nicely for the second half, having created the second-largest lead in any division race with an 8 1/2 game advantage over the second-place Mariners. The Rangers have torn through June so far with a 14-4 mark. They're off to their best 70-game start in franchise history and have also set a club record with nine consecutive series wins. And they've done most of this without the services of Yu Darvish.
3. Nationals: The Nats spent the last week playing the haves (Cubs) and the have-nots (Padres) and performed adequately, which is all they really needed to do to maintain what has become a very healthy lead in the division. They took two of three over the Cubs and split with the Padres, improving to 11-6 in June. They've won nine of their past 13 contests and went from no lead in the NL East to a 5 1/2-game advantage. While they are more of a middle-of-the-pack team in terms of offense, collectively, their pitching has been superb. A 3.33 team ERA is the third-lowest in the Majors.
4. Giants: An eight-game winning streak has helped to extend the Giants' lead in the NL West to 6 1/2 games, and that gap could significantly widen between now and the All-Star break. In that time, San Francisco will play 20 games, with exactly zero coming against a team with a winning record. That doesn't mean this will be a cakewalk -- they have four games this week at Pittsburgh, and although the Pirates are struggling, it's probably premature to write them off. But the Giants also play the Phillies, Athletics, Rockies and D-backs before the break.
5. Orioles: The O's maintained their top-five status with a strong week against two tough division opponents, first winning a road series over the Red Sox before returning home to take two of three against the Blue Jays. Among the biggest contributors: Chris Tillman, who is 9-0 with a 2.78 ERA over his past 11 starts; Adam Jones, who has hit safely in seven of past eight games and is batting .314 with five extra-base hits and nine RBIs over that span; and Jonathan Schoop, slashing .318/.361/.591 since the start of June. And when Schoop homers, the Orioles usually win: their record is 33-7 with that pairing.
The rest (last week):
- Red Sox (6)
- Blue Jays (10)
- Indians (7)
- Cardinals (11)
- Royals (15)
- Mariners (8)
- Dodgers (13)
- Mets (9)
- Marlins (16)
- Pirates (12)
- Tigers (14)
- Astros (20)
- Yankees (18)
- Rockies (NR)
- Rays (19)
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.