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, and at the beginning of every month, have synthesized that into league-wide power rankings. What follows are my MLB Power Rankings for July 2013. (May and June)
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 what I’ve seen so far.
30. Miami Marlins (June Ranking: 30)
No one in baseball hits worse than the Marlins (71 wRC+) and despite a reasonably good defense (11.3 UZR), the 24th ranked pitching staff (5.1 WAR) isn’t enough to keep them out of the cellar. By WAR, they rank 29th in baseball with 6.5, but they play easier competition than the Astros and are downright embarrassing as an organization.
29. Houston Astros (29)
The Astros aren’t really much better than the Marlins, but they get points for actually trying to produce a good team while the Marlins ownership is just sitting on their yachts collecting revenue sharing dollars. The Astros have the 26th best offense, a very poor defense, and the 29th best pitching staff in baseball. Nothing about them is good, but they remain slightly less terrible in my book because they play tougher competition than the Marlins. Without question, the Marlins and Astros are baseball’s two worst teams.
28. Chicago White Sox (22)
The White Sox actually have a very good pitching staff. They rank 3rd in WAR with 11.6, but the offense is so atrocious that it hasn’t really mattered. The White Sox have baseball’s second worst offense and the worst among those who don’t bat the pitcher 9th. They’ve won just 32 games, fewer than all but the Marlins and Astros, and are showing no real signs of improvement. They’re likely to sell hard at the deadline and have yet to play any of their nearly 20 games against the Tigers. The Sox have a solid staff led by Chris Sale, but when your ace is 0-5 in June despite a dominant month, it probably doesn’t bode well for your chances as a team.
27. Milwaukee Brewers (20)
The Brewers have a middle of the road offense, but a terrible pitching staff (ranked 16th and 28th respectively) and Braun remains on the DL. The Brewers seem like obvious sellers and probably shouldn’t be expected to do much in one of baseball’s toughest divisions. They have a couple elite hitters on their team, but everything else is kind of barren.
26. Minnesota Twins (28)
The Twins have a respectable, mediocre offense (97 wRC+), but have played poor defense and have a decidedly below average pitching staff. They certainly aren’t among the comically bad, but there isn’t much on this team that makes me think they’re anything but a bottom five club.
25. Seattle Mariners (26)
Felix and Iwakuma are worth the price of admission but they’re below average at the plate, on the field, and everywhere else in the pitching department. They’re starting to turn things over to the prospects, but the front office and coaching staff is likely on the way out after the season. But hey, 2 out of 5 days they are very watchable and they feature New English D comeback favorite Jeremy Bonderman. Things could be worse.
24. Chicago Cubs (25)
The Cubs are pretty much performing exactly as expected. They have a below average offense (89 wRC+) and an above average pitching staff (7.1 WAR) to go along with a solid defense. The Cubs are likely better than their record, but they are also likely to sell off their valuable pieces during a rebuilding effort, so that should balance out come later September. The Cubs are the Cubs, but they’re worth paying attention to as the NL Central will likely be decided on their terms.
23. New York Mets (24)
The Mets are pretty much a carbon copy of the Cubs, except they can’t play defense. David Wright is having a strong season and Matt Harvey would be my pick to win the Cy Young at the halfway mark, but other than that there have been few bright spots. They’re two good outfielders short of relevance, but Harvey and Wright are doing a nice job making them watchable for now.
22. San Diego Padres (27)
The Padres are quite difficult to pin down and have bounced around these rankings all season long. The offense and defense have performed quite well despite few household names, but the pitching has been awful and is the worst in the league by WAR (-1.6). They’re an unbalanced team, so it’s unclear which direction they will fall but I can’t see anyway in which they finish the season as an above average team in my book.
21. Kansas City Royals (23)
The Royals have a great defense with a league best 37.8 UZR, but the offense is terrible (88 wRC+) and the pitching staff is just average. The ERA looks good, 3.57, but their FIP is 4.15 which lines up with the idea that the defense is great. The pitching staff isn’t bad, but it’s middle of the pack and defense can’t carry a club very far on it’s own. They prevent runs well, but they cannot score them at all. If only they had a young power hitter like Wil Myers on their roster….
20. Los Angeles Dodgers (19)
Puig and Kershaw are awesome. That’s clear. But everything else about the team is underwhelming and they’ve looked more like a MASH unit than a baseball team. Once again, I’ll remind national writers that money doesn’t make a team good. You have to have good players who aren’t hurt.
19. Colorado Rockies (21)
The Rockies are slow climbers on this list, but they are climbing after I pegged them for the cellar at the open. The offense is solid, but the pitching has been surprisingly good. I still can’t figure that out, but it’s working so far. I’m still skeptical, but they’ve earned some respect and we cannot undo their 41-42 record to date. I see them finishing right below .500 this season.
18. Philadelphia Phillies (18)
The Phils are just slightly below average across the board. They have some good players and some bad ones, and Cliff Lee is always fun to watch. Cole Hamels is pitching better than the numbers indicate and Chase Utley remains one of baseball’s most underrated players, but the Phils should be sellers this month and shouldn’t expect to play much better than this pace the rest of the way.
17. Los Angeles Angels (17)
The Angels have a very good offense, and their defense will likely be better than it has been to date (-15.6 UZR), but their pitching staff is bad and their “best” starters (Weaver and Wilson) are wildly overrated as it is. They should score runs thanks to Trout and co., but they’re going to allow quite a few. With the Rangers and A’s ahead of them out west and no more games against the Tigers (whom they have owned this year), I can’t see a path for the Angels to be much better than average this season.
16. Toronto Blue Jays (16)
Everything I thought would go wrong with the Blue Jays did early in the season, but they’ve started to get healthy and get back on track as we head into July. I still think it’s probably too late for them to recover from the hole they dug, but they should definitely be relevant as the season wears on. The offense has been solid (99 wRC+), but the pitching staff (5.6 WAR) has left a lot to be desired. The question is how much of a correction they can make before the clock runs out.
15. Cleveland Indians (14)
As I’ve been saying for the last two months, the Indians are a good not great team. They can hit (110 wRC+), but their 26th in pitching WAR and there is no reason to think they’ll get much better in that department. I think they can finish above .500 and have a respectable season, but that’s the ceiling in Francona’s first season.
14. San Francisco Giants (11)
The Giants are scuffling and despite the league’s 10th best offense (100 wRC+), they aren’t getting help from their pitching even if the defense (24.1 UZR) is doing excellent work behind them. Their pitching should get better, but so far it hasn’t and I’m not sure how long you wait before you adjust those expectations. I still think the Giants can pull off a division title, but it’s very close and it isn’t going to be easy.
13. Arizona Diamondbacks (12)
The Dbacks are a below average offense (90 wRC+) and a mid level staff (6.7 WAR), but great defense (21.7 UZR) helps push those ranks up a little overall. They’re 42-39 and in position to win the West, but nothing about them makes me think they aren’t vulnerable to assault from the Giants. Whoever manages to avoid the most brawl related suspensions is the team I’ll bank on for the postseason.
12. New York Yankees (8)
The Yankees are finally feeling the correction from the early season scrubs become stars routine and now have the league’s 28th (!) ranked offense. Their pitching remains strong, but with Teix out for the season, Wells back to his old ways, and Jeter and Grandy still on the shelf, it’s hard to think they’re going to be a powerhouse down the stretch.
11. Pittsburgh Pirates (15)
Here come the Pirates, who are all but assured a winning record for the first time in two decades. But they have the 18th best offense and 19th best pitching staff in baseball. The defense has been good enough to help out, but they are playing over their heads. I don’t think they’ll fall back into oblivion, but I don’t think they’ll have the best record in baseball for the entire season. They’re a borderline wild card team for me, but there’s no shame in that.
10. Washington Nationals (7)
I still believe in the Nats despite an 85 wRC+ and -13.3 UZR. The pitching staff has been good with 8.7 WAR (9th in MLB), but I’m banking on the bats to get going. There is too much talent on the roster for them to hit this poorly, especially as Harper returns this week. I had the Nats as the best team in baseball entering the season, so this is actually a serious drop, but I’m not ready to give up yet.
9. Baltimore Orioles (13)
The O’s have a bad pitching staff, but they can smack the ball and play excellent defense (108 wRC+ and 23.4 UZR) so I’m enough of a believer in their staying power. I don’t like their chances in a short playoff series, but for the remainder of the season, Machado, Davis, and co. should be able to slug their way to another very good finish.
8. Oakland Athletics (10)
The A’s have the league’s 8th best offense and 10th best pitching staff to go with a solidly average defense. Nothing about them is impressive, except for the fact that they are this good despite almost no financial resources. Over the full year, no one has been better and they look poised for another exciting September.
7. Cincinnati Reds (5)
Despite the presence of Votto, Choo, Frazier, and Bruce, the Reds aren’t getting as much out of their offense as they should thanks to Dusty Baker insisting on batting his worst hitting 2nd and killing a great deal of rallies. The defense is solid and the bats are close to average overall (95 wRC+), but the deep pitching staff (9.4 WAR) make the Reds one of the better rounded clubs in baseball. They have a race on their hands, but this is a very good team.
6. Tampa Bay Rays (6)
The Rays, yes those Rays, have the league’s 4th best offense (109 wRC+) and the pitching staff is starting to come around (now ranked 15th in MLB) and will get David Price back this week. Overall, they are 6th in MLB in WAR, which is right where they sit on this list. Their division is good, but I’m a believer in their staying power as they chase the O’s and Sox.
5. Atlanta Braves (4)
The Braves can hit (103 wRC+) and are a solid pitching club (8.1 WAR). They strikeout a lot, but they built themselves a nice cushion in April and have been steady ever since. There are flaws in this team when it comes to success in October, but it’s hard to imagine they fall apart before then.
4. Texas Rangers (3)
The Rangers only fell because of a team who came charging up the rankings. The Rangers are actually a touch below average with the bat (95 wRC+), but with solid defense and great pitching (13.9 WAR), they rank 4th in MLB in total WAR and have the record to prove it. The Rangers are a good all-around team despite the pitchers they have sitting on the DL. Despite what everyone said after the offseason, I told you the Rangers would be fine.
3. Boston Red Sox (9)
The Sox can hit (league best 113 wRC+) and have a solid pitching staff (7th best at 9.6 WAR). Together, they rank as the 2nd best team in baseball by WAR and they too have the record to prove it. They have a tough division to win and Buchholz’s injury is a concern, but this is a well built team with good depth and should be a contender until the end, even if they can’t hold on in the East.
2. Detroit Tigers (1)
The Tigers have the leagues second best offense (112 wRC+) and the best pitching staff (16.6 WAR) to given them the best WAR of any team in baseball by more than 3 full wins. Their record is a bit out of sync with those numbers, but that’s due in large part to a poorly run bullpen and an insistence on using Jose Valverde for 20 games in May and June. The Tigers are the best team on paper and haven’t yet had the chance to play the bumbling White Sox.
1. St. Louis Cardinals (2)
The Cards are a great team (108 wRC+, 10.9 pitching WAR) and trail only the Tigers and the Sox in total WAR. They have one of the best records in the league and have the deepest all around team in MLB. They have an excellent farm system to replenish any injuries and have some of the most underrated players in baseball on their roster. For now, the Cardinals are the team to beat.
Sound off on the list in the comments section!