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ESPN released their weekly MLB Power rankings today and there were several changes in the top 10 this week, most notably the Yankees losing their grip on the number one spot.  After a week which saw the Tampa Bay Rays go 5-2 and improve their record to an MLB-best 14-5 compared to the Yankees 3-3 record during the week.

Tampa Bay is looking stronger as this short season progresses with a ridiculous, I repeat, ridiculous run differential of +50.  All this without major starting pitching and without a dominating closer.

The Yankees have struggled to hold leads over the last week and suffered a bad outing from struggling starting pitcher Javy Vasquez.  Nonetheless, they are still winners of 7 of their last 10 and face the 3-16 Baltimore Orioles and 8-11 Chicago White Sox in their next 9 games.

Finishing off the top ten are Minnesota and Philadelphia at 3 and 4 after swapping spots last week, St Louis at 5, Oakland moved up to 6 from the 9 spot, San Diego jumped from 21 to 7, San Francisco, Florida and Los Angeles Angels round off the top ten.

You can check it out at ESPN by clicking here.

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I was surfing the web this afternoon (do people even say that still?) and I came across a great article about how the Yankees payroll relates to their overall revenues.  For the umpteenth year, the Yankees lead the majors in payroll but they are actually average in one category: the percentage of revenues spent on payroll.

For 2010, the Yankees are slotted to payout only 46.8% of their gross revenue in payroll, while the league average is 46.4%.  In fact, out of the 8 major league teams with the highest payrolls, the Yankees spend the least amount of their revenues in payroll.

Check out the all-encompassing story from Larry @ Its All About the Money, Stupid.

Just about three weeks into the season, baseball is led by two teams in virtually every category.  Both have won more than two-thirds of their games and took several in pretty dominating fashion.  One will most likely win the AL East this season, while the other will settle for the wild card.  These two teams will most likely face each other in the ALCS this season, too.

After wins again on Saturday, the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays are dominating.  At 12-5 and 13-5, respectively, they boast the two best records in baseball this season.  With Philadelphia, they are the only teams to have scored more than 90 runs in the majors and along with Minnesota, the only teams to allow less than 63 runs in the American League.

Since losing two of three from the Yankees earlier in April, the Rays are and impressive 10-2, sweeping Baltimore and Boston – not to mention in Baltimore and Boston – along the way.  The Yankees have been almost as impressive, going 9-3 in that span, sweeping Texas and taking three of five from the LA Angels.

When you seem them on the field, the two teams seem to be in a whole other league.  Both are dominant offensively and defensively.  Both boast speedy outfields with defense-minded infielders who happen to hit very well.

Of the nine players on the Yankees with 50 or more at-bats, 5 are hitting over .300 and seven of the nine boast on-base percentages of .350 or greater.  Robinson Cano has earned the fifth spot in the order after getting off to a great start.  He’s hitting .369 with 13 RBI and 4 homers – all team highs.

The Yankee rotation has four pitchers with very good outings this season, including two almost no-hitters from CC Sabathia and Phil Hughes.  Andy Pettitte leads the team and is tied for the league-lead in wins, with 3, and leads the league with a 1.29 ERA.  Mariano Rivera leads the league in saves, with 6.

The Tampa Bay offense is far less impressive from a numbers standpoint, but somehow they manage to get on base and score runs.  They only have one hitter with 50 AB hitting over .300 – Carl Crawford – but the Rays seem to make it happen when it counts.  Seven guys have 8 or more RBI this season, putting each on pace for 100+ this season.  Carlos Pena, at a staggering 17 RBI, is on pace for 229.  And he’s hitting only .233.

On the mound, the Rays are a little more impressive with Matt Garza sitting at 3-1 with a 2.17 ERA and 25 strikeouts.  David Price and James Shields each have 2 wins apiece.  Rafael Soriano has been a half-way decent closer, with 4 saves on the season, but he’s no Rivera.

I have a feeling these teams will battle strong throughout the season.  Boston has begun the season 7-10 and can’t figure out how to hit or pitch consistently.  I think they won’t finish under .500 this season, but I don’t think they’ll challenge either of these teams for a playoff spot this season.  Baltimore and Toronto are not strong either.

The road to the World Series will most likely travel through the Bronx or St Pete in October.  The two teams next face off on May 19 in the Bronx with the Yankees in the midst of a tough 7-game homestand.

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Phil Hughes pitches to the Athletics in a dominant start on Wednesday night. (AP photo by Ben Margot)

Phil Hughes took an impressive no-hit try into the eighth inning last night, losing it when Eric Chavez bounced a hard comebacker off the pitcher’s forearm and chest in the New York Yankees’ 3-1 win over the Oakland Athletics.

Hughes (2-0) struck out a career-high 10 in the Yankees’ sixth straight win, with his parents in the stands to see it after driving up from Orange County for his outing. Hughes was in complete control until Chavez opened the eighth with that one-hopper back to the mound.

This was the second near-miss for the 23-year old future star. Hughes had a no-hitter through 6.1 innings in 2007 against Texas.

Hughes gave up only one hit in 7.1 innings and walked two.

Two batters after Chavez got aboard, Hughes walked Gabe Gross and was done. He was charged with Oakland’s lone run in the standout 101-pitch performance after pinch-hitter Jake Fox had an RBI single off Joba Chamberlain.

Mariano Rivera finished the three-hitter for his sixth save in as many chances.

Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano hit back-to-back triples to start the fourth off A’s starter Ben Sheets. Posada followed Cano’s hit with an RBI groundout. Brett Gardner’s RBI single with two outs in the ninth provided an insurance run.

With the win last night, the Yankees matched the 1926 franchise record by winning its first five series of the season.

One very interesting tidbit that reflects the Yankees’ pitching dominance and defensive approach in each game is that they have held opponents to three or fewer runs in each game during their winning streak. With the exception of Javy Vazquez, the other four starters are a combined 8-0.

CC Sabathia takes the mound this afternoon going for the sweep of the A’s in front of the hometown crowd where he grew up. First pitch is for 3:35 p.m.

So much for all the claims made last season that Yankee Stadium was a “home run haven.”

ESPN New York reported Saturday that through the first five games this season, home runs have dropped dramatically in Yankee Stadium – from 21 a year ago, to 11 this season.  In fact, there have already been more games without homers this season (2) than last season (1).

ESPN New York quoted Andy Pettitte as saying: “Depending on where the wind’s blowing, you can’t hit it out of here sometimes. And obviously I think you’ve seen that already a couple times this home-stand, when that wind is blowing in, that flag is blowing in from left, that ball just really, really gets held up.”

In Sunday’s game, the normally powerful hitting Texas Rangers were held homerless for the second time in the three game series in the Bronx.  The Yankees had home runs by Mark Teixeira and Jorge Posada.

Of course, the season is still young and, who knows, maybe the winds will change and we’ll see an increase in homers.  After all, big home run hitters Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira only have one homer each.  But this could be proof that maybe last season was just a fluke, big year for homers.

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