Ranking the Offenses in the 2016 MLB Playoffs
They say pitching in baseball wins championships. But a relentless offense that washes over opposing pitchers like the sea during a storm is pretty important, too.
After all, in order to win at this here baseball game, you have to score more runs than the other guy. And while scoring runs in the playoffs is usually a tougher task, given that playoff teams usually boast better pitching staffs, offensive production in the postseason can sometimes make the difference between going home early and hosting a parade.
In baseball this season, offense was back. There were 5,610 home runs hit this season, the second-most dingers all-time. Only the 2000 season featured more long balls (5,692), and that was at the height of the steroid era. This year's league average slash line was .255/.322/.417 with a .318 wOBA, a 94 wRC+, and an OPS of .739. Last year, it was .254/.317/.405 with an OPS of .721, a wRC+ of 96, and a .313 wOBA.
So while much of the attention going into the postseason will be focused on the starting rotations of the 10 playoff teams and their bullpens, the professional run producers also deserve their day in the sun.
How do they stack up?
10. New York Mets
The New York Mets and Washington Nationals were tied for the lowest wRC+ among the 10 playoff teams this season, and New York's run total was the lowest among all postseason squads. They also posted the lowest batting average and lowest on-base percentage and tied for the second-lowest wOBA.
A big part of the Mets' problem is their inability to do anything on the bases. Their 51 stolen bases as a team were second-worst in all of baseball, making them a station-to-station team for the most part. That generally means in order to score, the Mets usually need one extra hit per rally, unless they're hitting a bunch of bombs, something New York wasn't totally bad at. Their 177 homers were tied for eighth in MLB.
New York was led once again by their slugger Yoenis Cespedes (.280/.354/.530, 31 home runs, wRC+ 134), second baseman Neil Walker (.282/.347/.476, team-high 3.8 fWAR), shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (.280/.336/.474, 23 home runs), and ageless outfielder Curtis Grandson (30 homers, 11.7% walk rate).
9. Washington Nationals
The Nationals' offensive numbers would have been far more impressive had last year's MVP Bryce Harper had the season everyone expected he'd have. Instead, injuries hampered his production (.243/.373/.441, 24 homers, wRC+ of 112) in a big way. His health and production will be a major factor in the postseason.
The Nats will also miss the production of catcher Wilson Ramos (.304/.354/.496, 22 home runs, wRC+ of 124), who tore his ACL once again, knocking out for the entire postseason. Counting Ramos and Harper, the Nationals had six players go over 20 homers this season, one of them Anthony Rendon, who is a Comeback Player of the Year candidate.
And of course, there is Daniel Murphy, last year's playoff hero, who continued to mash in the regular season this year, finishing with the second-best batting average in the National League (.347), with 25 home runs and a wRC+ of 156.
8. San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco Giants finished with the fewest homers of any of the 10 playoff teams by far, just 130 on the season. The next closest was the Cleveland Indians with 185. And yet, their 98 wRC+ was tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Texas Rangers.
Brandon Belt led the team with a wRC+ of 138 and led the team in home runs. Here's the problem. Belt had 17 dingers. That ain't much. After hitting 11 home runs in the first half, Buster Posey managed just 3 in the second half. The Giants will be looking for more postseason heroics from their leader, Hunter Pence, who played well (wRC+ of 121) when he wasn't injured.
The Giants are a bunch of rock-throwers in a league full of bazookas right now. Let's see if they can pull a David.
7. Los Angeles Dodgers
The Dodgers had a starting rotation that was led by the ridiculous Clayton Kershaw for a good long while there, but then Kershaw, and virtually every other pitcher whose uniform said "Dodgers" on it, got hurt. That's when the offense stepped in and carried the day.
It's been a while since we've seen a rookie as good as Corey Seager (.308/.365/.512, 26 homers, 105 runs, 7.5 fWAR), and he could certainly take home the NL MVP trophy as well as the Rookie of the Year award. Less heralded but almost as effective was Justin Turner (.275/.339/.493, 27 home runs, 90 RBI), who was second on the Dodgers with 5.6 fWAR this season.
The Dodgers' big problem is that they are vulnerable to left-handed pitching. That's thanks to the many outstanding left-handers in that lineup, including Seager, Joc Pederson, Chase Utley, Yasmani Grandal, and Josh Reddick, who wail on right-handers but have their issues with the southpaws.
6. Texas Rangers
So Adrian Beltre just keeps on doing it. The future Hall of Famer led the Rangers in fWAR (6.2) and batted .300/.358/.521 with 32 home runs and 104 RBI this year, showing no signs of slowing down as he ages. Free agent center fielder Ian Desmond proved to be a brilliant late-spring signing (.285/.335/.446, 22 home runs, 21 stolen bases), and catcher Jonathan Lucroy (.276/.345/.539, 11 home runs in 47 games) was a terrific addition at the trade deadline this year.
Rougned Odor hit a team-best 33 bombs but posted an OBP under .300, and after a fast start, rookie Nomar Mazara posted a below average wRC+ (94). One pleasant development was Elvis Andrus (.302/.362/.439, wRC+ of 112), who bounced back from a few seasons of disappointment and produced nicely at the plate.
5. Baltimore Orioles
Perhaps the most surprising team in this field is the Baltimore Orioles, who got virtually no starting pitching this season. Instead, they just bashed their way to a wild card spot. As a team they slugged 253 taters, by far the most in baseball. The next closest team, the St. Louis Cardinals, had 225.
Mark Trumbo turned in the most surprising season of any player in baseball this year, leading the Majors with 47 homers while batting .256/.316/.533 for a wRC+ of 123. Two other players easily cleared the 35-home run mark: Chris Davis (38) and Manny Machado (37). And three other players all had more than 20 bombs: Adam Jones (29), Jonathan Schoop (25), and Pedro Alvarez (22).
Of course, if the O's advance past the wild card game, they'll see much tougher pitching on a nightly basis, and many of those home runs they were so reliant on could dry up in a hurry.
4. Toronto Blue Jays
The Toronto Blue Jays were tied with the Indians with a wRC+ of 102, but Toronto scored 759 runs this year while Cleveland scored 777. However, the Jays out-bashed the Indians 221-185, thanks to a lineup of sluggers that rivals that of their wild card foe, the Orioles.
Free agent-to-be Edwin Encarnacion was the team leader in home runs (42) while last year's MVP Josh Donaldson put together another MVP-like performance (.284/.404/.549, 37 home runs, 122 runs, wRC+ of 155, fWAR of 7.6). Four other players all went over 20 home runs: Troy Tulowitzki (24), Michael Saunders (24), the injury-plagued Jose Bautista (22), and Russell Martin (20).
3. Cleveland Indians
Kind of surprising to see the Indians this high, right? Well, the numbers don't lie.
The Indians scored more runs than all but two other playoff teams, a surprising realization because most of the attention has been on a rotation that enters the postseason hobbled. And while the Indians didn't hit a ton of homers, what they did do was use their speed to earn some extra runs.
Only the Milwaukee Brewers had more stolen bases as a team than the Indians (134), led by Rajai Davis' 43, Jose Ramirez' 22, Francisco Lindor's 19, and Jason Kipnis' 15. However, the Indians weren't without some power sources. Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana shared the team lead with 34 homers, and Kipnis added another 23.
All in all, it's a pretty solid offense that could surprise some people in October.
2. Chicago Cubs
The Chicago Cubs' team 106 wRC+ was second-best among the 10 postseason offenses, and their 808 runs scored were third-most in baseball.
The Cubs were led by MVP favorite Kris Bryant, who led all National League players with an fWAR of 8.4. He hit a team-high 39 homers, 102 RBI, 121 runs, and a wRC+ of 149. Yowza. In all, nine Cubs hit double figures in dingers, with Anthony Rizzo (32) and Addison Russell (21) the only other players with more than 20 bombs.
It is an incredibly balanced and consistent lineup without a single easy out anywhere to be found.
1. Boston Red Sox
The team with the best offense in baseball is undoubtedly the Boston Red Sox, who blew the rest of baseball away with a team wRC+ of 113. They scored a league-best 878 runs and hit a ridiculous .282/.348/.461 as a team.
Mookie Betts emerged as a true superstar this year, with many picking him (mistakenly) over Mike Trout for AL MVP this season. Nevertheless, Mookie's numbers (.318/.363/.534, 31 home runs, 113 RBI, 122 runs scored, 26 stolen bases, 7.7 fWAR) are definitely MVP-caliber. But he wasn't the only big-time player.
David Ortiz just wrapped up the best final season in MLB history, with an MLB-best OPS of 1.021. He led the team with 38 bombs and knocked in 127 with a wRC+ of 163. It's crazy this is his final season with numbers like that. Dustin Pedroia quietly had a terrific season, and Hanley Ramirez bounced back in a big way, hitting 30 home runs and notching a wRC+ of 127.
And let's not forget shortstop Xander Bogaerts, who scored 115 runs and finished fourth on the team in fWAR.
Boston's lineup is completely unstoppable and could make them the favorites to win the AL pennant and yet another World Series.
Below is a full table of the 10 MLB playoff teams and how they compared offensively this season by various measures.