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 August 2013. (May, June, and July)
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 year. I am doing the same thing here, but I just have new information to include based on what I’ve seen so far. Note that when discussing offensive rankings I will be using wRC+ (what’s wRC+?) and when discussing pitching rankings I will use wins above replacement (what’s WAR?).
30. Houston Astros (July Rank: 29)
I’ve reserved this spot for the Marlins for the last two months, but I have to make a change in August because no other club besides the Astros is so bad offensively, defensively, and on the mound. The Astros are building correctly for the future and are a well-run organization, but there is no worse MLB product on the field right now. They are 27th in hitting, 29th in defense, and 30th in pitching. Right now, their entire roster has been worth less than 1 win above replacement. For some context, Andy Dirks has been worth 1.1 WAR by himself in 2013.
29. Miami Marlins (30)
The Marlins are terrible. They have the league’s worst offense by a massive margin and only have an average pitching staff led by exciting young arms like Jose Fernandez, Jacob Turner, and Nathan Eovaldi. The Marlins are joke of an organization, but there are some reasons to watch.
28. Chicago White Sox (28)
The White Sox are almost as bad offensively as the Marlins and as a result they are wasting the league’s 3rd best pitching staff. Normally, I’d give more weight to the pitching staff in these rankings, but the offensive is so terrible that good pitching doesn’t even help. The Sox are 40-65 and rank 23rd in MLB in WAR. This is a bad team and they just lost Jake Peavy and Jesse Crain. It’s gonna get UG-LY (read that last sentence in a Hawk Harrelson voice).
27. Milwaukee Brewers (27)
The Brewers offense ranks only slightly below average thanks to great production from guys like Carlos Gomez and Jean Segura, but with the loss of Ryan Braun and the black holes at so many spots, it isn’t enough to carry baseball’s 24th best pitching staff. There is very little hope in Milwaukee this year.
26. Minnesota Twins (26)
The Twins rank 21st in hitting and pitching, but are pulled down to 28th overall in WAR thanks to a very poor defense. This is a bad club with a better future. They have a very nice farm system and should be relevant again before the decade is out, but there isn’t much left to do in 2013 other than play spoiler.
25. Chicago Cubs (24)
The Cubs are a team with some good players, but overall hasn’t played very well. They’re 24th at the plate and 19th on the mound, but have also traded some pieces leading up to the deadline. They’re building it right, but the drought will extend at least another season.
24. New York Mets (23)
The Mets are the 20th best offense and 20th best staff in baseball and fall to 24th on this list because there just isn’t a lot of hope they’ll play any better. Matt Harvey is right in the middle of the Cy Young conversation but they’re going to back off his innings as the season wears on. There are many glimmers of hope for the Mets, but they aren’t one of the best of 2013.
23. Seattle Mariners (25)
The Mariners actually have baseball’s 16th best offense and 13th best pitching staff, but also have baseball’s worst defense that has cost them about 5 wins in the standings all on its own. The Mariners aren’t a hapless bad team, but they are firmly outside of the contending realm as well.
22. San Diego Padres (22)
The Padres can hit a little bit and are an average defensive club, but their pitching is just terrible. I don’t have a lot else to say on the matter.
21. San Francisco Giants (14)
Talk about a free-fall. The Giants were in the top ten just two months ago but now they’re barely ahead of the Mets. The offense and defense are respectable, but the pitching continues to be poor and has yet to bounce back to the levels we expect. The clock is running out on the Giants season. I’m not sure how low they’ll finish this year, but for now it doesn’t look pretty for the champs.
20. Los Angeles Angels (17)
It still boggles the mind that the Angels didn’t spend their Hamilton money on pitching. They have baseball’s 5th best offense and 26th worst pitching staff. They completely misjudged their team and it will cost them a trip to the playoffs. They might even finish behind the Mariners despite Mike Trout being Mike Trout.
19. Colorado Rockies (19)
The Rockies offense is below average, but somehow their pitching continues to perform well. I don’t really understand it, but they haven’t played well overall since their hot start. They’re better than I thought at the start of the season, but they aren’t a good team.
18. Toronto Blue Jays (16)
The Blue Jays got bit by the injury bug, but their offense has played well coming in at 10th in MLB. The pitching, even when healthy, just hasn’t been very good. The Jays are likely disappointed, but even if they had played better, it still wouldn’t have been enough to be sure about a playoff spot.
17. Kansas City Royals (21)
The Royals are an average pitching staff with an excellent defense behind them. If only they weren’t terrible hitters. The Royals are baseball’s 5th worst offense, but for some reason, still thought it was a good idea to trade Wil Myers for James Shields last winter. The Royals are playing well enough to finish around .500, but this isn’t much more than an average club.
16. Philadelphia Phillies (18)
The Phils are probably a little worse than this empirically, but they seem very steady to me. They’re 26th in MLB in WAR, but they’re also 50-57 while playing their worst baseball of the season. They seem like a team that will finish just below .500 and still have some very good arms and interesting bats.
15. New York Yankees (12)
The Yankees are the White Sox with a good defense and just enough more on offense to let the pitching staff do the work. They are 19th in WAR as a club, but it’s all coming from the pitching staff. The key for the Yankees is that they got a lot of over-performing value up front and should be getting some good production from the injured stars down the stretch. They have Jeter back and Granderson very close which should help keep them from falling apart. This isn’t a playoff team in my mind, but they are good enough to be around the middle.
14. Washington Nationals (10)
I still believe in the Nats, but the clock has pretty much run out. After opening the season in the top spot they have slid in each ranking. They are baseball’s 25th best offense and the pitching, while sold, is not enough to carry them. Unless the offense starts to click soon, the Nationals will greatly disappoint. The talent is there, but they have not executed in 2013.
13. Arizona Diamondbacks (13)
The Dbacks are only the 22nd best offense in the game and 16th best staff, but they have an excellent defense which makes everything better. They currently rank 15th in total WAR and look to be right around the middle of the league as this thing winds down.
12. Cleveland Indians (15)
The Indians have a very good offense (3rd) to no one’s surprise. The pitching is 24th best in baseball, which likely isn’t enough to get them to October, but this will certainly be one of the best teams to miss the postseason. They’re record is better than their talent, but they don’t have enough pixie dust to turn themselves into a legitimate title contender.
11. Los Angeles Dodgers (20)
Finally the Dodgers started playing well. Their offense is now a top 10 one and the pitching staff isn’t great, but it has Clayton Kershaw. Overall they are 12th in WAR and are playing better as of late while the rest of the NL West is spiraling. With Hanley Ramirez back in All-Star form, they are finally clicking on all cylinders. I don’t think they’re equipped for a deep October run, but they’re no longer the mess they were a month ago.
10. Baltimore Orioles (9)
The Orioles made some moves this month to shore up the 25th best staff in baseball, but their strength remains their offense. The Orioles are probably going to go to the mat for the last wild card, but at the very least, so one considers them a fluke anymore. This is a good offense and good defense led by a smart manager. They don’t have the arms to be a force, but they are a very solid team.
9. Texas Rangers (4)
The Rangers are slumping hard right now which pushed them back a few spots. The bats are still 12th in baseball and the pitching staff remains #2. This is a good team going through a bad stretch. They’ll bounce back, but for now they’re out of the top five.
8. Cincinnati Reds (7)
The Reds are a very good team run by a very bad manager. They’re 7th in WAR and have the 8th best record in baseball, but they are losing games they shouldn’t lose because of Dusty Baker’s decision making. He’s recently moved Cozart out of the 2 hole, but he often replaces him with another poor hitter. He can’t manage a bullpen, either. The Reds are good, but if they miss the postseason by a game or two, you will know why.
7. Atlanta Braves (5)
The Braves just ran away and hid early. They are a top 10 offense and pitching staff and haven’t really done much of note since their hot start. They have talent that is playing up to par, but they look to be the safest division leader in the sport right now.
6. Pittsburgh Pirates (11)
The Pirates are still playing over their heads for my money (15th best offense, 17th best staff) but they are 11th in WAR and you can’t erase the lucky wins they’ve already accumulated. They’re a lock to finish above .500 and are a pretty good bet to at least earn a trip to the play-in game. I think they’ll slow down going forward, but they’ve done the work for 107 games and even if they play closer to my expectations the rest of the way, they are still a top 10 team overall.
5. Oakland Athletics (8)
The A’s are kind of the same as the Pirates. They aren’t as good as their record shows, but they are a top 11 and 10 offense and pitching staff who has already earned their extra wins. The A’s are in good position to make the playoffs and should slow down a bit down the stretch, even if they don’t give anything away.
4. Boston Red Sox (3)
The Sox are 4th in offense and 4th on the mound and only rank 2nd in WAR because the Cardinals rate so poorly on defense. The Sox are a good team who added Jake Peavy for the stretch run. I don’t think they win the division, but this is a very good team.
3. St. Louis Cardinals (1)
The Cardinals are so well rounded that despite the present slump, it’s hard to see anything that can actually deflate their season. Except for losing Yadier Molina. Uh oh. The Cards are 6th at the plate and 7th on the mound, but they performed very well in high leverage spots to push their record above their performance overall. I don’t think that’s a predictive skill, but much like the Pirates and the A’s they have already won those games. If Yadi is out for a while, the Cardinals could be in trouble, but they’ll sit at 3rd for now until we know more.
2. Tampa Bay Rays (6)
I didn’t bail on the Rays when they started slow and I feel really good about that now. They have the league’s 2nd best offense, 3rd best staff, and one of the top defenses in the game. This is a well rounded team that always plays above their skill level thanks to excellent management from Joe Maddon. The Rays are on fire now, but look build to stay warm the whole way.
1. Detroit Tigers (2)
I don’t mean this to be a homer pick, but there isn’t really a case I can make against the Tigers based on how I do these rankings. They have the best offense in baseball. They have the best pitching staff in baseball. They lead all of MLB in WAR. They are only 3.5 games back of the best record overall. And it seems like they can play better than they did in the first half. So long as Cabrera doesn’t need a long DL trip and Iglesias can play good enough defense to fill in for Peralta’s bat, this is baseball’s best team.
Thoughts on the list? Let us know in the comments section.