Before the season began, I provided you with how I thought the season would play out in standings form and in power rankings form (30-21, 20-11, 10-1). Each week, I’ve updated the standings projection based on the games from the previous week, but I have yet to address how that changes the way I see the teams within leaguewide rankings. Today, and at the beginning of every month, that’s what you’ll get. What follows are my MLB Power Rankings for May 2013.
The idea is simple. I ranked the teams at the beginning of the season based on how well I thought they would perform over the entire season. I am doing the same thing here, but I just have new information to include based on a months worth of games and injuries. You’ll notice a couple teams have big jumps, but most are very close to where they started because I don’t believe in dramatically altering my opinions one sixth of the way through the season.
30. Miami Marlins (Preseason Rank: 29)
The Marlins are really terrible and will now miss at least a couple weeks of Stanton, and possibly more. It’s a toss up to decide which of the bottom two teams is the worst, but the Marlins are a bad team going in the wrong direction and the Astros are a bad team going in the right direction.
29. Houston Astros (30)
Would you believe the Astros are slightly above average offensively so far? It’s true, they have a wRC+ of 102, which can hardly make up for their 5.33 ERA, 5.17 FIP, and 29th best -0.7 pitchers’ WAR. This isn’t a good team, but they have had their moments and, I’m starting to think, won’t totally embarrass themselves this year. Don’t get me wrong, they’re going to lose a lot, but I think they’ll be good enough at the plate to avoid 110 losses.
28. Chicago Cubs (25)
The Cubs are an average pitching staff (3.82 FIP) with a terrible offense (85 wRC+), which is pretty much exactly what I expected from them this season. They have fallen on this list only because the teams I had behind them have slighlty exceeded my expectations.
27. Minnesota Twins (27)
The Twins are a respectable 11-11, but they have 5th worst offense (89 wRC+) and worst defense (-16.0 UZR) in the league. Their pitching has carried this far with a 3.41 FIP and 3.3 WAR, but that doesn’t seem sustainable to me over the long run. Their pitching is probably a touch better than I expected, but it isn’t good enough to overcome the offensive deficiencies.
26. San Diego Padres (22)
I was a bit bullish on the Padres going into the season, but their below average offense and league worst -1.4 pitchers’ WAR doesn’t have me feeling great about that pick. They missed Headley for a couple weeks, but there just isn’t enough on this roster to keep them from sliding 4 spots.
25. Colorado Rockies (28)
A three spot bump for the Rockies might not seem like enough to you given their 16-10 record and first place standing in the NL West, but just couldn’t bring myself to think they’re any better than this. The offense has been a league best so far (116 wRC+) which isn’t a giant shock, but I’m not buying the 7th place pitchers’ WAR (3.3). The staff will regress and the offense won’t lead the league for the whole season. It’s important to note that they have played a total of 3 games against teams above #14 on the present list and went 1-2 in those games. The Rockies have 16 wins, but most are against average or below average clubs. They aren’t as bad as I thought they’d be, but they aren’t good.
24. Seattle Mariners (24)
The Mariners just plain below average. The offense (94 wRC+) and pitching (4.10 FIP) aren’t awful, but they aren’t good at anything. Felix Hernandez is a great pitcher, but there isn’t much else on this team that screams more than 78 wins.
23. Cleveland Indians (26)
My original rankings had the Indians 26th, but they came out prior to the Bourn signing, so they realistically should have gotten a bump already. As expected, the offense has been the bright spot (113 wRC+), but the pitching is not so good (4.48 FIP, 0.8 WAR). This is pretty much exactly what we expected from the Tribe.
22. Chicago White Sox (16)
No team fell more in the rankings than the White Sox, but that shouldn’t surprise me. They’re a fickle team to predict. I didn’t want to underestimate them after they overperformed last season, but it doesn’t look like they’re due to match that performance. Only the Marlins have been worse at the plate (76 wRC+) and the pitching (3.81 FIP, 3.5 WAR) can’t really do much more to help. They’re 10-14, which is by no means a deep grave, but if they don’t start hitting, it’s not going to get easier.
21. Kansas City Royals (23)
The Royals are a respectable 13-10 on the young season, which is enough to bump them up two slots in the rankings. I was outspoken this offseason about my lack of enthusiasm for their rotation overall, not because it didn’t help, but because it didn’t help as much as people thought it would help. Their offense, which could have used some attention, is 22nd in the league with 92 wRC+ and the pitching is only 11th best with 2.9 WAR and a 3.65 FIP. The bullpen is great and the rotation is fine, but they need more offense if they’re going to actually contend.
20. New York Mets (18)
The Mets have a perfectly average 100 wRC+ and a perfectly dreadful 0.7 pitchers’ WAR. They have the incredible Matt Harvey, but the rest of the rotation has been very bad. I think that will even out, but I’m not nearly as sure as I was when the season started.
19. Milwaukee Brewers (19)
The Crew are 13th in wRC+ and 24th in pitcher WAR, which lands them somewhere in between at 19th on the list. They’ve been a streaky 13-11 so far and have what I think is an average type team. They could really use one more mid-level bat and one really good arm.
18. Philadelphia Phillies (13)
I’m not worried about Halladay, who looks like he’s getting back on track, but Hamels hasn’t been that good either. They rely on the big three arms and they haven’t gotten enough from them to offset the 25th best offense in the game (90 wRC+). They’ll be a decent team, but their talent falls off a lot after their top few players.
17. Pittsburgh Pirates (21)
The Pirates are doing it again. Good first half, collapse in August. Well I’m not sure about the last part yet. But they’re 20th in wRC+ (93) and 27th in pitchers’ WAR (0.6). They deserve some credit for their 15-11 record, but I just can’t see them keeping it up if they don’t play better.
16. Baltimore Orioles (17)
The O’s are on a mission to show us last year wasn’t a fluke, and they’re doing a decent job at it with a 15-11 record. Their 102 wRC+ is 8th best in baseball but the staff is 20th at 1.7 WAR (4.49 FIP). I’m certainly comfortable with them as a relevant team for most of the season, but it’s hard for me to buy into them as a really good team.
15. Arizona Diamondbacks (15)
Arizona made weird choices this offseason, but I won’t rehash them. They have the 23rd best offense in the league (91 wRC+), but the staff is 5th best with a 3.4 pitchers’ WAR. 15-11 so far this year is good, but they need to hit more if they’re going to move up the list. Don’t worry though, a couple teams ahead of them are falling fast.
14. Los Angeles Dodgers (11)
So losing Greinke for two months was a freak thing, but losing like every other pitcher didn’t make it any easier. They’re 19th best in wRC+ (94) for all their spending and they’re 16th in pitchers’ WAR with 2.1. They’re playing like a very average team despite high expectations. I was skeptical, and so far that looks right.
13. Los Angels Angels (9)
I gave it to the Angels this offseason for spending money on Hamilton when they needed pitching in bad way and that looks like a smart call. Hamilton has been terrible and the pitching staff is 28th in baseball with a -0.3 WAR and 4.64 FIP. They have some good bats, but they got worse this offseason and it could get worse before it gets better.
12. Toronto Blue Jays (8)
I doubted the Blue Jays as division favorites and they’ve struggled early. Their 88 wRC+ is 27th best in the league and the staff is only ranked 17th in pitchers’ WAR. The Reyes injury hurts, but they need more from the star pitchers if they’re going to contend. They’re 9.5 games back on April 30th, so this too could get worse before it gets better.
11. Boston Red Sox (20)
The Sox have made a meteoric rise on the charts thanks to great pitching from their top two. I was worried about Lester and Buchholz’s ability to return to form, but they have done so in a big way. The Sox are 4th in wRC+ and 3rd in pitchers’ WAR and have jumped out to a 18-7 record. I don’t think they’re quite as good as their record shows, but they are better than I thought going into the season. If they look like this for another month, they’ll crack the top ten no problem.
10. New York Yankees (12)
I ranked the Yanks 12th before all the injuries, but somehow, they’re still doing it. They have the 7th best offense and 10th best pitching despite running out a lineup that doesn’t look anything like a Yankee lineup should. Heck, they’ve made it this far without their stars and those guys will slowly come back throughout the year. I just can’t justify keeping them out of the top ten for now.
9. Oakland Athletics (14)
Oakland hits. A 113 wRC+ makes them 2nd in the game and their staff has done good work at 2.6 WAR which is 12th in the league. They’re well managed and they play to their strengths, but the record also reflects the underlying numbers as they are 15-12 through 27 games.
8. St. Louis Cardinals (10)
I was really surprised to see the Cards only have a 90 wRC+, but Wainwright is carrying the staff to 9th in the league at 3.2 WAR. I like the offense to regress upward and the staff is for real in my book. They’re only a half game back of first and Dave Cameron at Fangraphs recently wrote a piece regarding their well-timed hits that produce more wins than the underlying numbers might suspect. I’m not sure if it’s predictive, but I think this is going to be a good offense.
7. San Francisco Giants (7)
14th in offense and 21st in pitching. That doesn’t scream 7th best team, but they’ve been consistently good for years and guys like Cain are underperforming, so I’m just going to stay the course with this one until I see some more data. The Giants are the Giants.
6. Cincinnati Reds (6)
They have the 16th best offense and 8th best staff, but I love their depth in the rotation and some of their offensive players are elite guys. Choo has been great and Votto is the best in the game. If Zack Cozart wasn’t hitting second, they might even score more often! The Reds are a very complete team.
5. Tampa Bay Rays (3)
They’re an average offense (100 wRC+), but the defense (10.6 UZR) has been great as usual. The staff has been surprisingly middling at 1.9 WAR and 3.89 FIP, but they have a good staff and I’m sticking with them. I’m not keeping them in the top 3, but this is one of the best teams in the league.
4. Texas Rangers (5)
Average offense so far, 2nd best staff. I told you so. The Rangers did not get worse this offseason. They are good.
3. Washington Nationals (1)
The Nats were my pick at the beginning of the season, but they haven’t quite looked as good as I thought. I still have them third, but the 93 wRC+ is a little worrisome and the pitching is 15th in WAR so far. They’re underperforming, so question, but 30 games of not meeting expectations is enough for me to drop them two spots.
2. Detroit Tigers (2)
The Tigers are 14-10 so far, which isn’t eye poppingly good, but they’ve lost a couple extra inning games too, so it looks a little off. They’re 6th in baseball with a 106 wRC+ and are far and above the best pitching staff with a 2.66 FIP and 6.3 WAR. Tigers fans will probably even tell you they’re underperforming too, so this could get even better.
1. Atlanta Braves (4)
Honestly, I don’t think the Braves are the best team. 5th best offense and 13th best pitching. But it’s working and it’s working without Jayson Heyward. It’s working with a lot of guys not playing up to career norms. They’re 16-9 and just got swept by the Tigers, but for now they get the top spot because of what they can be if they play up to their potential after they have already jumped out to a great start.
What do you think? How would your list look different?