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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

MLB Power Rankings: Who’s the best team in baseball right now? It’s not an easy answer

What matters more this time of the year for a contender — stacking up wins or beating good teams?

The way Major League Baseball is right now, when you see two titans collide — like we did with the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers over the weekend — it feels more special. It feels almost October-like. Especially when a third of the league isn’t even trying to win this year.

Stacking wins is great if you’re in a postseason chase. Win every game you can. But what about for our weekly MLB Power Rankings? That was the crux of the debate as I pondered this week’s rankings. Should a team like the Astros, who are riding another winning streak, get more credit for beating some not-so-great teams while the Yankees and Dodgers duke it out?

And should a team like the Oakland A’s, who made a statement against the Yankees this week, get more credit for beating a good team than losing to a not-so-great one after that?

Title’s a bit misleading- the teams at the top and bottom are more or less exactly who you thought they were.

 

QLE Posted: August 27, 2019 at 06:04 AM | 41 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: power rankings

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   1. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 27, 2019 at 10:37 AM (#5874721)
Yankees, Dodgers, and Astros (his top-3), are too close to call. For WS odds, that favors the Dodgers, since there's no scenario where they have to beat more than one of the other two.
   2. Blastin Posted: August 27, 2019 at 10:52 AM (#5874730)
Astros/Yankees/Dodgers

(big gap)

Twins/A's/Indians/Braves/Rays

(small gap)

Cards/Cubs

(small gap)

Mets/Brewers

That's it. That's the whole list. No one else matters.
   3. TomH Posted: August 27, 2019 at 10:56 AM (#5874733)
Actually, the top TWO are too close to call.

Astros:, team OPS 837 / OPS allowed 689 /team errors 61
Dodgers: team OPS 814 / OPS allowed 666 /team errors 91
Yankees: team OPS 833 / OPS allowed 764 /team errors 86
speed: SB/CS numbers not very different

The Yankes have greatly benefited from excellent timing. Most agree this is not very predictive. Their pitching/defense is soo much worse than the other two; OPS is higher than the Marlins staff (ERA 4.72)!

Other factors: (1) The Yankees have had a ton of injuries. BUT, their backups have played so well, I'm not sure this makes them much better when everyone gets back (unless Severino shows up and throws well). (2) The Astros significantly upgraded at the trade deadline (3) Agree with snapper that the Dodgers have an easier WS path. The next best teams are mostly AL teams.
   4. Blastin Posted: August 27, 2019 at 11:02 AM (#5874735)
Their pitching/defense is soo much worse than the other two; OPS is higher than the Marlins staff (ERA 4.72)!


Ah, yes, the "yankees are just so lucky" argument.




   5. Blastin Posted: August 27, 2019 at 11:06 AM (#5874736)
(unless Severino shows up and throws well)



There's another pitcher, too.

   6. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 27, 2019 at 11:09 AM (#5874737)
The Yankes have greatly benefited from excellent timing. Most agree this is not very predictive.

By this point in the season, actual record is more predictive than pythag or 3rd order record.
   7. Blastin Posted: August 27, 2019 at 11:10 AM (#5874738)
By this point in the season, actual record is more predictive than pythag or 3rd order record.


But BASERUNS SAYS THE RAYS ARE BETTER. BASERUNS!!!!! BASERUNS!!!!!
   8. Blastin Posted: August 27, 2019 at 11:29 AM (#5874746)
Look, it's not randomness. It's the 4 guys at the back of the bullpen.

They out perform pythag because they keep games close enough to come back, and they hold on better than random luck would suggest. They are built this way.

They are lucky with RISP, but it's mostly the bullpen. And home runs - hitting home runs is a useful skill, and they have 20 HR from every spot in the lineup.

   9. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: August 27, 2019 at 11:38 AM (#5874750)
Mets/Brewers

That's it. That's the whole list. No one else matters.
The Red Sox aren't going to the postseason, but they're as good as these two. (TFA agrees.)

It's surprising to see the Tigers and Orioles converging. They're only separated by one game in the loss column. They're still on different paces (112 and 109 losses, respectively), but the Tigers no longer look like they're on a higher plane of suck than the O's.

The Royals are now on a 105 loss pace, Miami 103, Toronto 97. What's the record for 100-loss teams in a season? We have an outside shot at 5 in 2019, 4 of them in the AL. (The remaining schedule might make this impossible, I have no idea.)
   10. Blastin Posted: August 27, 2019 at 11:42 AM (#5874751)
The Red Sox aren't going to the postseason, but they're as good as these two. (TFA agrees.)


Oh I agree, but I enjoy their relative irrelevance for just the one year. :)

   11. Padraic Posted: August 27, 2019 at 12:10 PM (#5874763)
No one else matters.


Nats have to be apart of this, no? And while the Phillies seem like a terrible team by both the eye test and Pythag, they are up a few games each on the Mets and Brew Crew, and just 1 back of the WC.
   12. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 27, 2019 at 12:11 PM (#5874764)
They are lucky with RISP, but it's mostly the bullpen. And home runs - hitting home runs is a useful skill, and they have 20 HR from every spot in the lineup.


HRs are especially important vs. elite SP. That's basically the way they give up all their runs. There was an article on this after the Yankees beat Ryu and Kershaw. I think Verlander has given up 70% of his runs on HR, Kershaw was 60%.

Edit: Here's the link. It's the Athletic and paywalled.

a-clayton-kershaw-performance-sums-up-baseball-in-2019
   13. Swoboda is freedom Posted: August 27, 2019 at 12:15 PM (#5874767)
The Red Sox aren't going to the postseason, but they're as good as these two. (TFA agrees.)


Oh I agree, but I enjoy their relative irrelevance for just the one year. :)


When is the chicken and beer game?
   14. Blastin Posted: August 27, 2019 at 12:17 PM (#5874770)
Nats have to be apart of this, no? And while the Phillies seem like a terrible team by both the eye test and Pythag, they are up a few games each on the Mets and Brew Crew, and just 1 back of the WC.


I utterly forgot about the Nats and Phillies. I place them alongside their brethren in the 2WC race for sure.

HRs are especially important vs. elite SP. That's basically the way they give up all their runs. There was an article on this after the Yankees beat Ryu and Kershaw. I think Verlander has given up 70% of his runs on HR, Kershaw was 60%.


And more runs are scored on HR as a percentage in the playoffs than during the season. Making an elite SP work because he can't relax 1-9 is a solid response to the presence of a top SP.

   15. bfan Posted: August 27, 2019 at 12:22 PM (#5874771)
No one else matters.


wouldn't this quote be Exhibit "A" in the argument that teams looking at less than 81 wins should be trading current wins for future wins so they might someday matter? Are the Padres thrilled with Hosmer and Machado, and the many millions ($54,000,000.00 between the 2 of them, but Machado goes up by another $20 million next year) they have spent on the 2 of them? It works out okay to have them if that great young SD core gets to MLB next year, when Hosmer is 30 and Machado is 28, but any time after that and those 2 are in the decline of their careers at that point.
   16. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 27, 2019 at 12:25 PM (#5874776)

wouldn't this quote be Exhibit "A" in the argument that teams looking at less than 81 wins should be trading current wins for future wins so they might someday matter? Are the Padres thrilled with Hosmer and Machado, and the many millions ($54,000,000.00 between the 2 of them, but Machado goes up by another $20 million next year) they have spent on the 2 of them? It works out okay to have them if that great young SD core gets to MLB next year, when Hosmer is 30 and Machado is 28, but any time after that and those 2 are in the decline of their careers at that point.


No, because it's almost Labor Day. By this point in the season, a lot of teams are always eliminated. That doesn't mean they shouldn't have been trying earlier.
   17. Blastin Posted: August 27, 2019 at 12:26 PM (#5874778)
Well, my pithy quote is about who matters for the best teams in 2019, not who matters in the most interesting or exciting or projected growth categories. The Padres are very exciting, just not very good yet. Blue Jays too.
   18. Blastin Posted: August 27, 2019 at 12:27 PM (#5874779)
By this point in the season, a lot of teams are always eliminated.


Also this. Having half (if you add Nats and Phillies to my list, and lol Red Sox, it's 15) the teams in contention in late August isn't bad. It's actually better than I expected when the year started.
   19. Bote Man sez Deivi is MoY Posted: August 27, 2019 at 01:25 PM (#5874793)
Setting my goalposts at the end of May when the Nationals turned around their horrid start, since then they've had the best record in baseball. It has mostly been by smoke and mirrors as their manager still has not learned all the lessons of bullpen management (which is why they will wash out quickly in the post-season). Just imagine how many wins a properly run team would've racked up in that time??
   20. jmurph Posted: August 27, 2019 at 01:30 PM (#5874798)
Nats have to be apart of this, no?

Yeah they are very good right now. 41-19 over their last 60, if I eyeballed that right (absolutely selectively endpointed to the start of their hot streak, just to be clear).

EDIT: Coke, more or less, to Bote Man.
   21. Blastin Posted: August 27, 2019 at 01:34 PM (#5874803)
I really did forget the Nationals by mistake. They are absolutely there in the mix.
   22. Nasty Nate Posted: August 27, 2019 at 01:49 PM (#5874805)
For WS odds, that favors the Dodgers, since there's no scenario where they have to beat more than one of the other two (Yankees and Astros).
True, but if there's some red-hot NL Central team (or 2 ... or even Washington) once October comes around, they would be a scary playoff opponent.
   23. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 27, 2019 at 01:57 PM (#5874808)
True, but if there's some red-hot NL Central team (or 2 ... or even Washington) once October comes around, they would be a scary playoff opponent.

Sure, the NL field is still a big favorite over the Dodgers for the NL Pennant. It's just that the Dodgers likely have the best odds of any single team.
   24. TomH Posted: August 27, 2019 at 03:09 PM (#5874832)
Blastin, are you saying the Yankees have NOT been lucky? That is a pretty tough argument to sustain.

Yes, the bullpen helps. But bunching runs (and *not* bunching their runs allowed!) is not predictive. And snapper, yes, actual W-L record may be as predictive as raw stats, but raw stats still have some predictive power; it ain't like you should ignore it.

Lastly, to say home runs are the key and the Yankees hit home runs, well, strikeouts are important too. And walks are important because they put people on base. The Yankees strike out more than the Twins or Astros. They walk less often than the Astros. Their pitchers walk more batters than the Twins or Astros. Their pitchers strike out fewer than the Astros. This does not magically all go away when you buy a few more innings from your pen, cause the Astros pen is also very good.
   25. Blastin Posted: August 27, 2019 at 03:17 PM (#5874834)
Blastin, are you saying the Yankees have NOT been lucky? That is a pretty tough argument to sustain.


I'm saying the implication is that they're just going to, at some point, suddenly become much worse.



This does not magically all go away when you buy a few more innings from your pen, cause the Astros pen is also very good.


It's not as good at the best of the Yankees' pen (and indeed includes a very low floor that will be removed), and Pressly is out for six weeks.

Ultimately I find that the FG assessment of quality can only go so far.

By BaseRuns, they're worse than the Rays. They are far ahead of the Rays because they have consistently beaten the Rays, directly, head-to-head, all year (The Rays would like to catch them but they just lost two to the Orioles). I suppose you could say it's just luck, but they don't play the games in BaseRunsland.


I believe deeply in analytic power, but we have to go past pure three-true-outcome analysis. We may yet not be able to quantify everything perfectly, so perhaps they've beaten the Rays based on something we don't yet have an accurate measurement for.
   26. TomH Posted: August 27, 2019 at 04:09 PM (#5874851)
Fair enuf.

I was reacting against previous arguments I've heard, to which I thought some were making here; (a) xx team has a great great pen (b) xx team is overperforming Pythag, (c) therefore it's not luck, it's all skill!

To which I would reply (a) the math says no, and (b) in this team's particular recent history, the 2017 Yankees and 2018 Yankees had great pens, and they cumulatively UNDERperformed Pythag by about 8 games. So... yes, there is some skill, and there is some (probably more than 50%) luck.

I would agree with an assessment that the Yankees pen makes them somewhat better playoff-suited than other than they would be otherwise. If their skill+good fortune leads them to AL best record and a date withe WC winner, my guess at their true WS odds would jump from 9-1 to 6-1 or so. It is not a small thing iin the AL this year to get best record!!
   27. Jose is an Absurd Time Cube Posted: August 27, 2019 at 04:27 PM (#5874862)
The best thing for the Yankees is to play the Twins in the LDS. Given the Twins track record against New York the Yankees would probably sweep them in 2.
   28. Nasty Nate Posted: August 27, 2019 at 04:28 PM (#5874864)
The best thing for the Yankees is to play the Twins in the LDS. Given the Twins track record against New York the Yankees would probably sweep them in 2.
innings
   29. gef, talking mongoose & vexatious litigant Posted: August 27, 2019 at 05:23 PM (#5874876)
The Royals are now on a 105 loss pace, Miami 103, Toronto 97. What's the record for 100-loss teams in a season? We have an outside shot at 5 in 2019, 4 of them in the AL. (The remaining schedule might make this impossible, I have no idea.)


Apologies if I'm overlooking a previous answer to this ...

Assuming I'm reading my scribbled notes correctly, the 2002 season shows four 100-loss teams -- 106 each by Tampa Bay, Detroit & Milwaukee, 100 by KC; the Padres had 96 and the Cubs and Orioles 95 each. 1985 had three (as did 1961, 1964 and 1965) plus the 99-loss Rangers.



   30. The Yankee Clapper Posted: August 27, 2019 at 05:26 PM (#5874878)
The Yankees just took 2 of 3 at the Dodgers, but how representative are such results when the players were dressed as Milk Men & Morticians? The Yankees are also 3-4 against the Astros, but that included 3 early-season losses at Houston when the Yankees were hindered by having most of their roster healthy.

The consensus seems to be that the Yankees, Astros & Dodgers are the best of the likely playoff teams, but since this is baseball, one probably gets upset in the Division Series. Or not.
   31. Tom Nawrocki Posted: August 27, 2019 at 05:39 PM (#5874881)
It's kind of unfortunate that people look to a team underperforming or overperforming its Pythagorean record to see how lucky it's been. The obvious answer, to me, as to whether the Yankees have been lucky is:

Luke Voit, 135 OPS+
DJ Lemahieu, 139 OPS+
Gio Urshela, 143 OPS+
Mike Tauchman, 136 OPS+
Cameron Maybin, 131 OPS+
   32. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 27, 2019 at 06:51 PM (#5874894)
It's kind of unfortunate that people look to a team underperforming or overperforming its Pythagorean record to see how lucky it's been. The obvious answer, to me, as to whether the Yankees have been lucky is:

Luke Voit, 135 OPS+
DJ Lemahieu, 139 OPS+
Gio Urshela, 143 OPS+
Mike Tauchman, 136 OPS+
Cameron Maybin, 131 OPS+


At some point if you get lucky on every guy, you must be doing something right.

You could also counter that they've been hideously unlucky in SP. Everyone except German has been hurt, or under performed, or both.

If I told you in February that Severino, Tanaka, Paxton, Happ, and Sabathia were going to give them <600 IP and a 90 ERA+, you'd say that was pretty close to a worst case scenario.
   33. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: August 27, 2019 at 08:52 PM (#5874919)
Yeah, the Yankees getting big performances out of so many marginal guys is pretty astounding. Their hitting coach deserves a raise. Or maybe the park factors are way off this year and don't reflect reality for whatever reason.
   34. cardsfanboy Posted: August 27, 2019 at 09:19 PM (#5874927)
At some point if you get lucky on every guy, you must be doing something right.


It's something Cardinal fans have agreed with for a decade or so.... (obviously not every guy, but a high percentage of above expectation performances)
   35. APNY Posted: August 27, 2019 at 09:24 PM (#5874928)

At some point if you get lucky on every guy, you must be doing something right.


Subtract 20 points of OPS+...hell 30 from all 5 of those guys and you could have the same argument. None of those guys are close to that good, and I'd guess you agree they won't be next year. That's mostly luck (and the goofy 90 park factor).
   36. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 27, 2019 at 09:53 PM (#5874946)
None of those guys are close to that good, and I'd guess you agree they won't be next year. That's mostly luck (and the goofy 90 park factor).

I'd say yeah, most of them will regress heavily. But, one or two might be a real breakout.
   37. rconn23 Posted: August 28, 2019 at 12:15 PM (#5875049)
Luke Voit is a really good, patient hitter. There's 133 games over two seasons to tell me so. He can't play first base all that well, but not many people can right now. LeMahieu won a batting title and is a .302 hitter, but is definitely having a career year. Urshela and Tauchman came out of nowhere.

The "lucky" Yankees have had the most injuries in baseball and yet still have the second best record in baseball and the best record against winning teams. They could conceivably get Encarnacion, Hicks and likely Stanton back.
   38. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: August 28, 2019 at 01:12 PM (#5875062)
Nats have to be apart of this, no? And while the Phillies seem like a terrible team by both the eye test and Pythag, they are up a few games each on the Mets and Brew Crew, and just 1 back of the WC.

It seems like the Phillies have been exactly 5 games over .500 since April, and all of the players they built the team around have been disappointing, but they keep getting contributions from people like Jay Bruce and Corey Dickerson and Sean Rodriguez and Brad Miller and Logan Morrison, so they're still hanging around. The bullpen has been pretty good recently, now that all the high-priced veteran relievers are conclusively injured forever.

They're like a half-assed, uninspiring version of the Yankees.
   39. drdr Posted: August 28, 2019 at 04:26 PM (#5875142)
According to baseball reference, Yankees underperformed Pythag by 9 games in 2017, 1 game below in 2015, 4 in 2011, 2 in 2010, 3 in 2007, 4 in 1997. They outperformed every other year since 1994, including +17 in positive years since 2010 (+1 cumulative) and +27 in positive years since 2007 ( +8 cumulative). So, -9 in 2017 looks like the aberration here. Best guess should be for Yankees to outperform Pythag by 2-4 wins.

Voit (and Ford) looks like 1b who isn't fast or good fielder, has some power and patience, doesn't hit for high average and hasn't had eye-popping minor league numbers. Such a player can easily have several mid-to-highly productive seasons (think Vogelbach this year, or Davis in his best seasons). The trick is to get their productive seasons without Davis' 2009 - 2011 seasons and to drop them before they became current Davis. I would say Voit is good enough to be above-average 1b starter (so, around 3 WAR in full season), but I don't expect him to last long. I also expect Bird to have 1-2 130+ OPS+ seasons if he is healthy down the line, he is the same broad profile.
Maybin has shown in 4000+ PA that he is below average hitter. I would be surprised if he is above 105 OPS+ next year.
DJ is having a career year, but he has shown that he can hit for average, and with this ball everyone is HR hitter. He can easily be 4-5 WAR player for a couple more seasons if the ball doesn't change.
Gio and Tauchman are interesting. Both are in prime and had no ML success previously. Rumor was that Yankees followed both believing they had untapped potential (specially for Tauchman). Tauchman was good in MiL (although 900+ OPS in PLC is good, not special), but never had a chance in Colorado. Gio got his chance as 23 y.o. and it went downhill since. Both have profited from the new ball, I believe and hope that Tauchman can be above-average player, but Gio is likely to return to sub-100 OPS+. Although, if his hitting instructors in Cleveland were the same who told Ramirez that he would be more productive by hitting singles the other way to beat the shift instead of pulling homers over the shift, everything is possible.

The new ball is probably wrecking havoc with park factors. If I remember correctly, Yankee Stadium 3 was hitters park because although it suppressed doubles and triples, warning track shots went over the fence, and HR factor was high enough to push scoring factor way over 100 (unlike the YS2, which had the same profile, but with lower HR factor, so was slightly pitcher friendly). This year warning track shots are HRs in every park, so it is quite possible that YS3 advantage for HRs is now low enough that park factor is below 100.
   40. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 28, 2019 at 09:11 PM (#5875193)
The Yankees may have the deepest position player roster in the history of baseball,** but if their starters don't bring their A games into October it ain't gonna do them a whole lot of good. Houston is scary good for 18 half innings, whereas the Yankees are only scary good for 13 out of 18.

That said, if the Yankees can squeeze out HFA it may be another story. Even without Severino, their starters aren't all that bad at the Stadium. And they're 8-2 against the Astros in their last 10 games there.

Yankees' likely postseason rotation's home ERA

Germán 2.24
Tanaka 3.26
Sabathia 3.19
Paxton 4.02

And if Betances returns and Green doesn't lose his command, then with the HFA they've got a shot against any team, even Houston.

** With the exception of Gardner, I can't think of a single position player on their roster (or on the IL) who's been more than a yo-yo fill-in infielder who doesn't have 400 ft. home run power. It's not just the big names. It's every outfielder, infielder, DH and catcher.
   41. TVerik - Dr. Velocity Posted: August 28, 2019 at 09:55 PM (#5875207)
Things have been good for me personally this year, so far:

The Yankees have been good and easy to root for.
The Red Sox are terrible.
The other AL power is the Twins.

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