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!
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 June 2013. (You can find May’s here.)
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.
30. Miami Marlins (May Ranking: 30)
The Marlins are on pace for fewer wins than the 2003 Tigers and currently have the league’s worst offensive by wRC+ and WAR and the 6th worst pitching staff by WAR. As a team they are hitting .221/.281/.316. That line isn’t really isn’t good enough to stay in the major leagues as a bench player unless you’re a great defender. The Marlins are terrible and not in a hopeful way like the Astros.
29. Houston Astros (29)
The Astros have the 9th worst offense in the league and 2nd worst pitching staff, but they do have an air of decency surrounding them. They have something to prove, while the Marlins have nothing for which to live. Neither team is any good, but the Astros are better in my book.
28. Minnesota Twins (27)
The Twins have a bad offense, a bad defense, and mediocre pitching that is performing above and beyond what it is probably capable of for an entire season. The sum total of their position players (2.3 WAR) has been dragged above zero entirely by their best player, Joe Mauer (2.3 WAR). The Twins aren’t the abject failures that the Marlins are, and they have some major league level talent, but they’re nowhere near good.
27. San Diego Padres (26)
I was mildly bullish on the Padres entering the season, figuring they could hit well enough to hang around .500 with some solid pitching. Well, the offense has actually done the job (97 wRC+), but the pitching has been the worst in baseball (-2.7 WAR) with a really terrible FIP (4.56) despite playing half their games in Petco Park.
26. Seattle Mariners (24)
The Mariners’ ranks (18th best offense, 13th best pitching) probably deserve a higher spot on this list, but I can’t do it. Kyle Seager is a solid player and Kendrys Morales is having a nice bounce back year, but when those two guys are your offensive studs, it’s probably going to be a long season.
25. Chicago Cubs (28)
The Cubs move up on the list because their offense has proven itself to be close to average while their pitching is showing itself to be decidedly above average. They’re 19th in offense (94 wRC+), but they are the 11th best staff (5.5 WAR) and have just recently gotten Matt Garza back. They’re likely to trade off their valuable pieces, so I can’t seem them finishing very high in the standings, but they are good enough to challenge the Brewers for 4th place in the Central.
24. New York Mets (20)
The Mets have the 5th worst offense in the game (88 wRC+) and 5th worst defense (-13.1 UZR) in baseball. Their pitching, which I loved entering the season hasn’t done enough (3.7 WAR) to keep me interested in their chances. With Santana hurt and Niese and Gee performing below expectations, Matt Harvey, as great as he is, cannot save them. They’ll get help from Wheeler this summer, but this isn’t a team destined for great things.
23. Kansas City Royals (21)
The Royals improved their pitching staff during the offseason by trading their best position player prospect and it has resulted in the 14th best pitching staff in the league (4.5 WAR) and the 27th best offense (84 wRC+). I was very critical at the time and won’t rehash it for you except to say that even at their best, the Royals are a .500 team. Anyone who expected more was fooling themselves and misunderstanding the quality of their players or what contributes to success in MLB.
22. Chicago White Sox (22)
I admittedly overshot my Sox prediction this year out of fear that they would overperform again. Looks like my caution was unwarranted as the only team producing less on offense is the Marlins (75 wRC+). They get credit for good pitching (8.1 WAR, 4th in MLB), but I’m not convinced that their staff can stay healthy while also getting some recovery from the lineup.
21. Colorado Rockies (25)
I thought the Rockies would be awful, and it looks like they’re just going to be meh. They’ve jumped up the list in both installations, but they were 12-16 in May and look more like that type of team than the one that had the best record in baseball for some of April. Their offense has fallen back to 16th in the league, even if the pitching is still inexplicably hanging in the top 10. Their early season wins will keep them out of the cellar, but they aren’t a great team.
20. Milwaukee Brewers (19)
The Brewers have a solid offense (98 wRC+) that is carried by three standouts, Gomez, Segura, and Braun, but their pitching staff has been really terrible (0.6 WAR). You aren’t winning anything with that kind of pitching, even if you can score a good amount of runs.
19. Los Angeles Dodgers (14)
When I expressed doubts about the Dodgers this preseason, I was doubting their ability to be great in the way that many national writes thought they would be. The $216 million payroll made lots of people think Yankees, but the Dodgers roster was built with players past their prime. So I said they’d be in the Wild Card conversation, not anywhere near the best team in the league. I got half of that right – they aren’t anywhere close to the best team – but I also missed on the Wild Card part so far. I don’t think they’re this bad, but I don’t think they’re good. The offense ranks 17th and the pitching ranks 21st in baseball, and that is with the great Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers just aren’t very good.
18. Philadelphia Phillies (18)
The Phillies have the 25th ranked offense and 26th ranked pitching so far, which isn’t great at all. However, I think this is their floor and they are still 26-29. They’ll get more from Hamels and Halladay should pitch at the end of the season and Utley will eventually be back. I don’t think they’re good, but they’re doing okay, and I’m not sure they can get worse.
17. Los Angeles Angels (13)
I had the same questions about the Angels that I did about the Dodgers, sort of, entering the year. They have a good offense, but they spent their money on an expensive and bad Josh Hamilton instead of improving their bad pitching staff. It’s cost them. They have the league’s 7th best offense, but 17th best pitching staff and they are already 9.5 games behind the Rangers with another team in between. They’ll play better the rest of the way, but the hole is already too deep.
16. Toronto Blue Jays (12)
Their 99 wRC+ is 13th best in baseball, but their staff ranks 24th with just 2.8 WAR. Partly, this is injuries and partly this is poor performance. Reyes and Johnson will come back. Dickey should get better than this. In general, everything I said could go wrong with Toronto is going wrong at it’s reflected in their 23-32 record. Like the Phillies, there is nowhere to go but up, but that doesn’t mean they’ll get there. Right now, Baseball Prospectus has the Jays playoff odds at less than 2%. I have to agree.
15. Pittsburgh Pirates (17)
The Bucs are going to finally finish over .500. I think. Their offense (93 wRC+) isn’t much to look at, and their pitching (4.2 WAR) is just about average, but they get credit for turning that into a 34-21 record so far. I don’t think they’ll play near this pace the rest of the way, but they only need to play at a 72 win pace the rest of the way to get to 82 wins. It’s going to happen. Probably. Maybe. Man…I don’t know.
14. Cleveland Indians (23)
The Indians are the big movers on the list for a couple reasons. First, they were ranked lower than they should have been in the preseason because the rankings came out just before they got Michael Borun and because I was very cautious above big moves in May because April is often deceiving. But after two months of play, I’m ready to concede the Indians are a good team. They aren’t a playoff team in my book, but they are certainly the second best team in the Central. Right now, they lead the league with a 111 wRC+ and their pitching (3.4 WAR, 22nd in MLB) hasn’t been bad enough to slow them down. Masterson is back to being a good MLB starter and the offense is absolutely for real. They’re a 80-85 win team, but that’s way better than I had them at the start. My bad guys, my bad.
13. Baltimore Orioles (16)
The O’s can hit (111 wRC+), but they aren’t great on the hill (3.3 WAR, 23rd in MLB). They’re certainly a contender, but there are three teams in the AL East I like better this season, but they’re slowly climbing the list as a reward for good performance.
12. Arizona Diamondbacks (15)
I missed a little on the Diamondbacks this preseason because I got distracted by trades I considered to be bad long term moves. But in the short run, they weren’t so bad and the Dbacks do have a very nice team. The offense is 20th in baseball, but the staff is deep (8th in MLB). I love their defense and their young talent and they can absolutely beat the Giants in the West.
11. San Francisco Giants (7)
Speaking of the champs, it’s bizzaro world out at AT&T. They have the 8th best offense in baseball (104 wRC+) and the 27th ranked pitching staff (2.5 WAR). They’re 29-25 despite that and I expect the staff will regress back to the mean, meaning they’ll pitch more like themselves in the second half. That said, I’m not sure I can reasonably consider them a top ten team until I actually see the results.
10. Oakland Athletics (9)
The A’s are right where they belong (11th ranked offense, 10th ranked pitching) and the 32-24 record reflects that. This is a good team built with less than recognizable faces and it’s managed very well. I’m not sure if I’d bet on them to make the playoffs, but they will absolutely be relevant in September.
9. Boston Red Sox (11)
I liked what Boston did this offseason, but I didn’t expect their leading men, Lester, and Buchholz, to also restore themselves in the way that they did. It’s clear at this point that the Sox are legitimate contenders and should be in this until the end.
8. New York Yankees (10)
The Yankees are 31-23 without a single game from Tex, A-Rod, Jeter, or basically Granderson. When the reinforcements come, it should help sustain the performance. I had them down for 86 wins and I think that’s just a little light at the moment considering they’re baseball’s 3rd best staff (8.3 WAR) and are expecting their sluggers back in the next few weeks.
7. Washington Nationals (3)
The Nationals are slowly falling for me. I had them as the best team entering the season and I still believe in their talent, but I do have to adjust my expectations realistically. Gio stumbled a bit and Strasburg has an injury to deal with while Harper has been great, but looks to be hurt as well. They’re just not hitting at all (82 wRC+). I still like them for the playoffs, but they’ve missed 1/3 of the season that they could have been using to set the pace and now getting back on track is the goal rather than setting their October rotation.
6. Tampa Bay Rays (5)
I stuck with the Rays last month after early season stumbles and that looks to have been a sage choice. They are 30-24 are going 18-10 in May and have baseball’s 2nd best offense at the moment (111 wRC+). The pitching is somewhat lower than expected, but David Price wasn’t himself and was hurt, but should be back for the second half. I’m buying the Rays.
5. Cincinnati Reds (6)
The Reds are third in baseball by wins and losses and 11th on offense (102 wRC+) and 9th on the mound (6.0 WAR), which generally makes for a good club. They have Votto and Choo who are raking and a host of other very good complimentary pieces. If only Dusty Baker could figure out that hitting your worst hitter 2nd because he can “handle the bat and bunt” is a terrible thing, they might just run away and hide.
4. Atlanta Braves (1)
The Braves gave themselves a nice April cushion but 15-13 in May is worth pumping the brakes slightly. They can hit (105 wRC+) and haven’t even gotten anything from BJ Upton or Heyward, but the staff is 16th best in baseball and bullpen injuries could pull them back to the pack a bit. They look like a playoff team, but I don’t think they’re the best team.
3. Texas Rangers (4)
You’re sick of hearing it if you’re a regular at the site, but I TOLD YOU THE RANGERS WOULD BE FINE. And they are. The 9th best offense (104 wRC+) and 2nd best staff (10.1 WAR) will do that for you. They don’t miss Hamilton or Napoli a lick and look poised to strut their way to October.
2. St. Louis Cardinals (8)
35-18 is hard to ignore. So is the 5th best staff in the game (7.9 WAR) who has a league best 3.09 team ERA. They’re also reasonable good at the dish (103 wRC+). There isn’t anything not to like, except perhaps the bullpen, and the best record after two months has to count for something.
1. Detroit Tigers (2)
I promise you this isn’t a biased pick. I actually do think the Tigers are the best team and I think this entry will stand up to scrutiny. They’re the fourth best offense in the league (108 wRC+) and far and away the best staff (13.4 WAR). Their starting rotation, as I’ve shown in many posts on this site, is incredible. They have 4 of the best 10 pitchers in the league by WAR this year (and two of the guys above them are a start ahead) and their team FIP and xFIP are both more than a quarter run better than 2nd place. The Tigers can pitch like crazy, but are also a top 5 offense. You know on this site I draw heavily from advanced metrics and if you ranked the teams by position player and pitcher WAR the Tigers are in 1st and it’s not close. The Tigers are 4.3 WAR ahead of 2nd place. They’re something like 5% better than second place by WAR and are only a couple wins off the best record in the AL.
Thoughts on the list? Post a comment.