August 05, 2012

Power Rankings

Many media outlets come out with weekly Power Rankings.  Generally I do not find them all that useful or interesting.  They are usually sort of based on overall record, sort of based on teams’ talent levels, sort of based on teams’ performances over the past week and….who knows what, really.  The determination for this team being ranked ahead of another is so vague and arbitrary that power rankings are usually lame and meaningless. does power ranking based on team Wins Above Replacement.  This is pretty interesting.  It is basically ranking teams on underlying performance instead of going on record, eyeballing rosters or recent performance.  At least there is a definitive criteria for ranking teams and it’s useful in terms of determining which teams are most talented and which teams may be over-performing or under-performing.

Another interesting way to do power rankings would be to rank the teams according to what they would do if, starting today, they played a 162-game schedule and everyone played the same schedule.  I’m not concerned with one team playing in a stronger or a weaker division and therefore playing a weaker schedule than another.  I’m not just looking at underlying performance or record up to this point of the season.  Now is as good a time as any to do this kind of power ranking because the trade deadline has past and the make-up of teams going into the stretch run and the playoffs are more or less set.

Basically I’m looking at every team’s roster today, pretending every team is in the same division and playing the same schedule, and predicting what the standings would look like at the end of a 162-game season that started immediately.   I’m assuming reasonable health and luck for every team, assuming luck evens out (which admittedly never happens throughout a real baseball season).  I am paying attention to current injuries teams are dealing with but I’m assuming players with minor injuries come back to normal health fairly soon in our imaginary season.  If teams are dealing with major injuries, I will take that in to account, especially if players are likely to miss a good chunk of the next six months, if the season started today.  Also, I’m basically assuming no trades.  A team is playing with their current roster and organizational depth for the next 162 games.

To some this up in one sentence: Who has the best roster right now?  Here are my rankings, broken down in to tiers, with comments on each tier:

Top Tier

1. New York Yankees

2. Texas Rangers

3. Los Angeles Angels

The Yankees clearly look like the best team in baseball.  They have baseball’s best record right now in a very strong division.  With their payroll and front office, it’s hard for any team to match their roster depth.  The Rangers are a close second.  The only thing that keeps them from the top spot is the age of some of their top players, particularly Josh Hamilton.  The Angels have superior starting pitching depth to any team in the game, with the addition of Zack Greinke.  But there are weak spots on the left side of their infield, their bullpen and who knows if Torii Hunter is really as good as he’s been so far in 2012, at this stage of his career.

4. Boston Red Sox

5. Cincinnati Reds

6. St. Louis Cardinals

7. Atlanta Braves
8. Tampa Bay Rays
9. Chicago White Sox
10. Washington Nationals
11. Oakland Athletics
12. Detroit Tigers
13. Philadelphia Phillies

This is a big group of teams that I think are legitimate division title contenders if the season started today.  They don’t quite have the numerous stud players of the top tier but they are all solid.  You probably notice the last-place Phillies in this tier.  I do think the Phillies’ talent is a lot better than its 2012 record, mostly because of their pitching staff.  They’ve gotten essentially nothing from Howard and Utley this season.  While I don’t think they are near the players they once were, I do think they can still contribute.  Halladay is a similar story.  I put the Braves 7th, the third-best team in the National League.  I do think the Braves have a better roster than the Nationals, though the Nationals lead the NL East.  I believe the Nationals are getting flukey offensive and back-end-of-the-rotation performances.  Everything that could go right for them has.  But I think the Braves are fundamentally the better team, especially with the added depth of Maholm and Reed Johnson.  Frank Wren is a master of not wasting roster spots.  Though the Braves lack stud talent in its prime (mostly because of Liberty Media and a suppressed payroll), they have few glaring weak spots.

Third Tier
14. Toronto Blue Jays
15. Arizona Diamondbacks
16. San Francisco Giants
17. Los Angeles Dodgers
18. Pittsburgh Pirates
19. Miami Marlins
20. New York Mets

The teams that could grab a wild card spot, if everything breaks right for them, makeup this group.  They have definite noticeable weak spots but they are also strong enough to finish above .500.  These teams need some luck and some over-their-heads performances (or they simply need to play in a weak NL West) in order to take control of a playoff spot.

Fourth Tier
21. Seattle Mariners
22. Baltimore Orioles
23. San Diego Padres
24. Milwaukee Brewers
25. Cleveland Indians

These are the teams that could finish .500, if lots of things go their way but are more likely to fall short.  However, they have the talent to avoid the cellar in a typical division.  It would take extreme flukes for these teams to jump into contention but they aren’t the absolute worst teams in the game.

Last Tier
26. Kansas City Royals
27. Minnesota Twins
28. Colorado Rockies
29. Chicago Cubs
30. Houston Astros

These are the teams that don’t really have much hope for .500 without something extreme happening.  These are teams in the rebuilding stages or should be.  The Royals and Twins and possibly the Rockies stand out as teams that could jump in to the fourth tier but aren’t quite there.  The Royals just haven’t developed the pitching to make the jump.  The Twins are trying to win without high-strikeout pitchers, which is tough at the major league level.  The Rockies’ pitching staff is full of guys who are either very young or not very good.  If pressed, we could separate the Cubs and Astros from the rest of baseball.  They are definitely in the rebuilding stages, a process that accelerated at the trade deadline.  However fans of those franchises have hope.  Smart front offices are running those teams and they’ve loaded up on prospect depth.



8 Responses to “Power Rankings”

  1. 1
    Walker Says:

    Great article.

  2. 2
    Shaun Says:

    Thanks, Walker.

  3. 3
    Bubdylan Says:

    I don’t know enough about non-NL-East teams to agree or disagree, but I enjoyed the read a lot. I agree, too, that this is an interesting and valid way to approach power rankings. Nice work, Shaun.

  4. 4
    Mike Says:

    When I see power rankings, I usually think “list of favorite teams.” But this looks like a pretty objective way of going about it. And I agree with most of your picks, although I think the Dodgers and the Pirates are too low on the list.

  5. 5
    Shaun Says:

    I think most people do power rankings based on which teams are perceived as hot and which teams have hype. I’m not sure there is much in the way of an attempt to be objective about ranking teams. Not that that’s always a bad thing. There is room for subjectivity and I’m not pretending my rankings are completely objective.

    But I tried to have some firm standards that would help me to be as objective as possible. I understand things are different if some publication asks you to do power rankings every week. It would be hard to do that and make the list different each week.

    Mike @4, I just think the Pirates and Dodgers have played a bit over their heads. In my opinion, they don’t have the rosters of well above average teams.

    I think playing in weak divisions has helped those teams out quite a bit, as far as overall record.

  6. 6
    nunya Says:

    As an objective Nationals Fan, I think your rankings are highly homerish…I can live with us being #10 on your list, as our offense lacks a real killer like yours does and we haven’t been very healthy, but you can’t seriously consider your roster 3 slots better at #7….You are #9 at best, and probably right behind us at #11…Boston being #4 was right – in 2010….They are now long in the tooth. Everyone else I can live with ahead of the Nats.

    The Nats top-to-bottom rotation is vastly superior to that of the Braves and you know it. Bullpen I’ll say is even as your 8-9 guys are nastier, our overall depth is superior however. Kimbrell and Venters are straight up disgusting, but Clippard and Burnett have been lights out and our 43 save closer from ’11 Storen just came back with his 97 mph heat too two weeks ago. Our back of the rotation is better than your front end of the rotation – so I have no clue what you’re talking about them being flukey…Look at Jackson and Detweillers 2011 and compare them to 2012 – no fluke there…Even I have to agree bat for bat, The Braves are vastly superior at this point. But Pitching wins championships (ask the 2010 Giants) and NOBODY in baseball has a better 6 man Rotation – our winningest pitcher from last season who boasted a 3.84 ERA in John Lannan and pitches for AAA Syracuse right now is better than your 4 & 5 starters and would Take Randal Delgados and Jurgens Spot in your staffs rotation with the quickness and you know it. Hell with have Chen Ming Wang as a middle reliever – he’s better than your #5 guy. Finally let’s look at us vs y’all the last three years (we already know who’s better in 2012). I’ll take better pitching over hitting anyday. As a Braves fan you more than anybody should know better.

  7. 7
    nunya Says:

    Otherwise – I like the list a lot…I know we are 1 year ahead of schedule for what it’s worth – so I can live with #10. But tell me how you all are better than the Sox or the Devil Rays- who played most of the year without their best hitter (watch them make a run for it in the wild card race) I was just hoping we would compete for the 2nd wildcard…It’ll be fun to watch! Please show me a better rotation though (other than the Angels) – they’ve carried a team that has seen each of their top 5 hitters from last year spend signifigant time on the DL. Your castoff Laroche is a Fluke, not the pitching.

  8. 8
    Lee Schroeder Says:

    I am orig. from ATL and been a Braves fan my whole life and still root for them while living in DC, but I root for the NATS when not playing ATL. I went to the game last Tuesday and saw the Monday game on tv. I heard that Michael Bourne will be seeking a $80 – $100 MILL contract over the winter. My response is — he better start to step up in crucial games and show he is worthy of a big contract. Superstars don’t go on vacation in crucial games. He led off 3 different innings on Tuesday and what did he do — strike out, pop up, and ground out. The only time he got on base was when Brian McCann was on in front of him.

    Is next year going to be a make or break year for Brian McCann? He has been a great player but the past 2 yrs he’s been in a slump, most of the time.

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