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Power Rankings: Hot starts shake things up

@alysonfooter
August 3, 2020

The Rockies are in first place. The Tigers are playing .500 ball. The Orioles just swept the Rays. Are we having fun yet? There are plenty of teams that were expected to be good that are indeed playing well -- the Astros and A’s are tied for the lead in

The Rockies are in first place. The Tigers are playing .500 ball. The Orioles just swept the Rays.

Are we having fun yet?

There are plenty of teams that were expected to be good that are indeed playing well -- the Astros and A’s are tied for the lead in the American League West; the Yankees, Twins and Braves lead their respective divisions; the Dodgers, though not in first place, look dominant.

But a short 60-game season not only creates a sense of urgency on an everyday basis, it also makes hot starts by teams expected not to contend look a lot more intriguing. It’s all setting up to be a fun two months, even if it might create chaos for the voting body at Power Rankings Central.

Again, are we having fun yet? (Short answer: yes.)

Biggest jump: Well, hello there, Padres! If you haven’t paid a lot of attention to this team, which jumped from No. 16 to No. 8, now is probably a good time to start. It’s not a perfect, nor a finished product, following a rebuild that went on for years. But the Padres put together a rotation that is off to a hot start, led by youngsters Chris Paddack and Dinelson Lamet at the top, and they added some interesting pieces in the offseason -- most notably, Tommy Pham. Keep an eye on this group.

(Honorable mention to the Rockies, who jumped seven spots, and the Orioles, who are climbing, slowly, up four spots from last week. We see you.)

Biggest drop: The Mets dropped seven spots, from No. 13 to No. 20. There’s plenty of season left, and the Mets have the talent to contend. But 3-7 is not what they had in mind when this truncated season got underway. It hasn’t helped that six games have been against the Braves, a favorite to win the division.

Power Rankings Top 5:

1) Yankees (2 last week)
Aaron Judge homered in the second inning of the Yankees’ game against the Red Sox on Sunday, and again in the eighth, bringing his season total to six. That made him the first Yankee to homer in five straight contests since Alex Rodriguez in September 2007. The second long ball -- a tiebreaker that ultimately lifted the Yankees to a 9-7 win -- traveled 468 feet. Since '17, Judge has 13 homers measuring at least 450 feet. That’s as many as the Rangers’ Joey Gallo over the same time frame, and two behind Giancarlo Stanton, the leader in tape-measure homers.

2) Dodgers (1)
Clayton Kershaw had a strong debut on Sunday vs. the D-backs: 5 2/3 scoreless innings, no walks and six strikeouts. Expectations should now be sky high for the Dodgers, who didn’t miss a step in Kershaw’s absence. Entering Sunday’s game, the pitching staff had compiled a cumulative 2.04 ERA. The Dodgers slugged 11 home runs in their four-game set with the D-backs, including one on Sunday by Cody Bellinger, who ended his streak of 36 homerless at-bats to start the season.

3) Twins (3)
Here’s a fun stat: The Twins are outscoring opponents by a 26-to-5 margin in the first two innings of their games this season. Through Saturday, they were batting .333 in the first two frames, and .197 the rest of the game. Perhaps they knew this going into their finale with the Indians on Sunday. They scored one run in each of the first three innings, accounting for all of their scoring.

4) Braves (5)
The Braves aren’t perfect -- they have some holes in the rotation after Mike Soroka and Max Fried, who have combined for a 1.95 ERA two times through the rotation. As they look for answers for their starting pitching, they’ve been getting a huge assist from the bullpen, which has a 3.07 ERA, despite having to cover at least 4 2/3 innings in seven of the Braves’ first 10 games of the season. Another area that has been humming is the offense. Atlanta’s hitters have scored 31 runs during their five-game winning streak, for an average of 6.2 runs per game.

5) Cubs (10)
The Cubs, fresh off a sweep of the Pirates at Wrigley Field. are off to a strong start. They’ve lost only twice, and while their 2 1/2-game lead in the National League Central may seem modest, it’s the largest gap of all six divisional races. The one questionable area is the bullpen, which had an MLB-worst 9.75 ERA heading into Sunday’s game. However there’s hope -- four relievers combined for five scoreless frames in the finale with the Pirates.

The rest of the field of 30:
6) Rays (4 last week)
7) A’s (6)
8) Padres (16)
9) Astros (7)
10) Indians (11)
11) Nationals (8)
12) Cardinals (9)
13) Reds (12)
14) White Sox (19)
15) Brewers (14)
16) Rockies (23)
17) Phillies (15)
18) Angels (17)
19) Blue Jays (20)
20) Mets (13)
21) D-backs (18)
22) Red Sox (21)
23) Rangers (22)
24) Giants (26)
25) Royals (25)
26) Orioles (30)
27) Marlins (24)
28) Mariners (28)
29) Pirates (27)
30) Tigers (29)

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.