Early in the season, a team's schedule can have an outsized impact on our perception of how good it is. Teams with easy schedules have an opportunity to get out of the gate fast and wow observers, while teams with more difficult schedules might look like lemons in the early going. We have two such teams this week in the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers, respectively.
The Dodgers, who ranked 19th in the ESPN.com Power Rankings before the season started, have been on a meteoric rise. They shot up to 11th place last week, and have climbed all the way to fifth this week. Their 14-place jump in the rankings is the second highest jump thus far (the Mets, who have jumped 17 spots, have made the biggest jump since the first rankings).
And there is, without question, reason for optimism at Chavez Ravine. In Matt Kemp and Clayton Kershaw, they have two of the 10-15 best players in the game, and a healthy Andre Ethier can be a terrific Robin to Kemp's Batman. Adding Mark Ellis should help turn what was an average defense into an elite one, and if Dee Gordon matures, the team will have a dynamic force at the top of the lineup. Gordon electrified the ballpark with his walk-off single on Sunday, the team's second such win in three days, and Aaron Harang added his own flair for the dramatic by tying a Dodgers record with nine straight strikeouts on Friday.
But the Dodgers aren't this good. A large part of their MLB-best 9-1 start to the season has been aided by their opponents. Thus far, the Dodgers have played only the San Diego Padres -- against whom they are 6-1 -- and the Pirates, whom they swept three games to none. If you'll notice, those two clubs rank 30th and 28th respectively in this week's rankings, and neither squad has been higher than 23rd. And with good reason -- the Padres don't have a single elite hitter on their roster, and outside of Andrew McCutchen, neither do the Pirates.