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By Eric Mack

Senior Fantasy Writer

Updated April 12

 

The Yankees are in last place, the Blue Jays share the best record in baseball and the Brewers are one of the hottest teams around. Yeah, all very good reasons you should not read anything into Week 1 of baseball's six-month roller coaster.

 

The entire AL is wallowing around the .500 mark after the season's first week; the East division turned on its head as the world champion Red Sox join the Yankees in looking up at the Blue Jays.

 

That certainly won't last, but would anyone be surprised if the Braves don't go wire-to-wire again?

 

After all, they have won their division the past hundred years. OK, we kid, because they did lose last century -- some 13-plus seasons ago. Heck, it took a work stoppage for them to not win a division. Sorry, Expos -- err, Nats.

 

The Braves, White Sox and Blue Jays are leading baseball right now, but only the Braves figure to stay atop the charts. Atlanta will do its annual piecemeal work -- this time in the outfield -- well enough to lead what should be a very competitive NL East top to almost bottom (sorry again, Nats fans).

 

GM John Schuerholz called his rebuilt rotation the Braves' best yet. How quickly the best GM in baseball has forgotten the days of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Steve Avery.

 

But it certainly is the deepest yet. John Smoltz threw smoke past the Mets for 15 strikeouts Sunday after his awful debut on opening day. Newcomer Tim Hudson looks dynamite, too, in the uniform, and Mike Hampton looks more like his pre-Coors Field self.

 

Hampton went 12-2 in his final 16 starts a year ago and has allowed only two runs in 14 innings this season. He might have finally regained his high-end status after his Coors Field hangover, further making pitching coach Leo Mazzone look like a rocking-chair genius. (Man, rocking has to drive Bobby Cox nuts.)

 

The Braves, of course, have to compete with the Marlins' monster staff, led by Week 1 Power Player Josh Beckett, who didn't allow a run and struck out 17 in his first two starts. In their three victories, the Marlins have outscored opponents 26-0. The rest of the NL totaled three shutouts and the AL also had three the first week.

 

What makes the Braves such a nice pick, though, is they dominate their division. They went 51-25 vs. the NL East last season, the best mark in baseball. The Nats franchise was their No. 1 victim. The Braves beat Montreal 15 of 19 times and have won 10 of the past 11 series between the teams, splitting the other.

 

"They have our number right now," Washington's Jose Vidro said. "For some reason their pitching seems to shut us down. I don't know if experience has a lot to do with it. I'm pretty sure they have a very good scouting report on us."

 

You're not as alone in that department as you will be in the NL East cellar. The Nats-picking will end here now.

 

Here are the Power Rankings through games of April 11:

 

 

 

POWER RANKINGS

 

 

Current

 

 

Team

 

 

Previous

 

 

1

 

 

Atlanta Braves

 

 

7

 

 

Pitching and defense always help in beating the teams you should beat.

 

 

2

 

 

Chicago White Sox

 

 

17

 

 

Impressive start vs. top division foes. Following Braves' pitching-and-defense lead.

 

 

3

 

 

Boston Red Sox

 

 

2

 

 

Curt Schilling is coming back Wednesday, so defending champs don't deserve to drop far.

 

 

4

 

 

New York Yankees

 

 

1

 

 

Jaret Wright looked very unworthy of that much money, but he should rebound.

 

 

5

 

 

Florida Marlins

 

 

6

 

 

The starters' ERA rose to 1.59 after Monday night's loss to the Phillies.

 

 

6

 

 

Anaheim Angels

 

 

4

 

 

Losing two of three at home to Kansas City is an embarrassment.

 

 

7

 

 

Houston Astros

 

 

12

 

 

Andy Pettitte looks like he can give the team a very strong trio at the head of the rotation.

 

 

8

 

 

Chicago Cubs

 

 

8

 

 

Mark Prior and Kerry Wood look like they're healthy right now. They could really rise.

 

 

9

 

 

Minnesota Twins

 

 

5

 

 

Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer have to be healthy for this team to stay atop the Central.

 

 

10

 

 

St. Louis Cardinals

 

 

3

 

 

Mark Mulder's first start should prove to be an aberration.

 

 

11

 

 

San Diego Padres

 

 

13

 

 

If Adam Eaton can throw like that this season, this is your NL West favorite.

 

 

12

 

 

Los Angeles Dodgers

 

 

19

 

 

Jeff Kent is showing he is still baseball's best run-producing second baseman.

 

 

13

 

 

Philadelphia Phillies

 

 

15

 

 

Began the week with a majors-leading 43 runs, the most they have scored in the first six games since '76.

 

 

14

 

 

San Francisco Giants

 

 

14

 

 

They certainly don't need Bonds when Jason Schmidt is on the hill.

 

 

15

 

 

Cleveland Indians

 

 

9

 

 

Indians are batting .216 as a team and have scored 27 runs in seven games.

 

 

16

 

 

Texas Rangers

 

 

10

 

 

A lot of high-scoring one-run games. A lot will fall on the bullpen all season.

 

 

17

 

 

Cincinnati Reds

 

 

16

 

 

If they can continue to pitch, this team will prove dangerous in the NL.

 

 

18

 

 

Detroit Tigers

 

 

18

 

 

Magglio Ordonez might not reach those incentive clauses.

 

 

19

 

 

Arizona Diamondbacks

 

 

20

 

 

Easily the most improved team in baseball. Troy Glaus can be scary productive.

 

 

20

 

 

Milwaukee Brewers

 

 

25

 

 

A nice start, but that is the Pirates they're beating on right now.

 

 

21

 

 

Baltimore Orioles

 

 

21

 

 

Rodrigo Lopez's shaky spring was quickly atoned for in Week 1.

 

 

22

 

 

Toronto Blue Jays

 

 

27

 

 

Beat on Rays and Red Sox, who looked back and ahead at the Yankees.

 

 

23

 

 

Oakland Athletics

 

 

23

 

 

If Barry Zito struggles this season, forget about it. Looks like a rebuilding year.

 

 

24

 

 

Seattle Mariners

 

 

22

 

 

Lineup is improved, but the rotation appears to be taking steps backward.

 

 

25

 

 

New York Mets

 

 

11

 

 

If not for 10 eighth-inning runs, the Mets would be baseball's only winless team.

 

 

26

 

 

Tampa Bay Devil Rays

 

 

26

 

 

A bad team didn't need any steroid black eyes from a punchless waiver pickup.

 

 

27

 

 

Pittsburgh Pirates

 

 

24

 

 

When Tike Redman has your only homer in seven games, you know you're in trouble.

 

 

28

 

 

Washington Nationals

 

 

28

 

 

They still don't look like they will score any runs this season.

 

 

29

 

 

Kansas City Royals

 

 

30

 

 

Jose Lima is the worst "ace" starter in the majors. Zack Greinke needs to take the reins.

 

 

30

 

 

Colorado Rockies

 

 

29

 

 

A 1-5 start is their worst ever: a 9.86 ERA, worst in the majors, eight rookies on its active roster and two on the DL. Ouch.

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