numberFire MLB Power Rankings: Opening Day
It's here. After dealing with everything from city-crippling ice storms to temperatures colder than Mars, we've made it America. Opening Day is here. If you didn't bump into the office today flaunting your dankest dance moves, then you aren't doing it right.
With the new season comes a new set of nERD Power Rankings. Every other week, we'll have a break down of these rankings right here on numberFire. What's nERD, you ask? Outside of the illest name for a stat ever, it's essentially a measure of a projected run differential for a team in any given game. So, a team with a nERD of 0.59 is 0.59 runs per game better than a league-average team on any given day. You can find a more in-depth explanation of it here.
Without further ado, let's get down with the rankings. Because I don't want to go through the sadness of listing my Minnesota Twins at 29th, I won't go through the entire list. You can find that by clicking here. It shows every team's nERD, percent chance of making the playoffs and percent chance of winning the whole gosh durn thing. In case you were curious, the Twins have a 0.2 percent shot at the playoffs. So you're tellin' me there's a chance.
1. Detroit Tigers
nERD: 1.04 | Playoffs: 92.7% | Champs: 20.8%
The Tigers don't just look good entering the season. They look stoopid good. Yes, the Jose Iglesias injury hurts. Yes, the offense may see a slight dip with Prince Fielder holding court in Arlington. But this team is stacked with sick pitching, and that makes all the nERDs in the club get tipsy.
Max Scherzer is the reigning Cy Young Award winner after posting a 2.90 ERA, 10.08 K/9 and 2.35 BB/9 last year on his way to a 21-win season. Justin Verlander is still Justin Verlander despite an "off year" last year in which his WAR dipped to 5.2. Then you add in Anibal Sanchez who had a better ERA, FIP and xFIP than Scherzer while tossing out a comparable K/9 and BB/9, and you have three legit Cy Young contenders on the same staff. That's why I, just last week, picked the Tigers to win it all. As long as they keep the Guitar Hero out of the clubhouse, it's sunshine and daisies in the Motor City.
2. Boston Red Sox
nERD: 0.64 | Playoffs: 65.3% | Champs: 8.0%
As you can see, the nERD drop-off from No. 1 to No. 2 is pretty steep. The gap between the Tigers and the Red Sox is the same as the gap from the Red Sox back to tenth place. Nobody circles the bases like Miguel Cabrera.
The defending World Series champs aren't too shabby themselves, though. In the literal sense, yes, because those beards were ragged last year. But even with losing Jacoby Ellsbury, Stephen Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia, the Red Sox are still near the top of the nERD rankings. That's impressive.
The team's starting rotation should be a strength, especially if Jake Peavy can maintain or improve upon last year's performance. In ten starts after being traded to the Sox, Peavy finished with a 3.79 FIP. His ERA wasn't great at 4.17, but a lot of that was due to a horrific left-on-base percentage at 69.5 percent. Assuming that normalizes, Peavy (and the Red Sox in general) should be poised for an impressive 2014.
3. St. Louis Cardinals
nERD: 0.63 | Playoffs: 77.1% | Champs: 10.8 %
At 10.8 percent, the Cardinals trail only the Tigers in chances at winning the World Series. And, why wouldn't they? The bird gang has taken the N.L. pennant four times in the last ten years, and their young pitching staff makes this look like a run that is sustainable far beyond 2014.
The 2013 Cardinals pitching staff was the youngest they have had since 1979. That year, Keith Hernandez led the team in WAR. It's been a while since their pitching has been this young, but youth does not translate to struggles in this case.
Michael Wacha Flacha Flame-thrower (that may be a stretch considering his average fastball velocity was 93.5 mph, but dude goes hard in the paint) was the star of the playoffs. He'll play a huge role alongside Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller as they try to stay at the top of the Central.
4. New York Yankees
nERD: 0.55 | Playoffs: 55.8% | Champs: 5.5%
Computers don't have East-Coast bias, so don't come crying to me! I didn't have the Yankees in the playoffs in my prediction, but the pinstripes are nERDing out heading into the season.
Based on their off-season signings, you'd think the Yankees were in prime position to snag the 2010 World Series. But you can't accuse them for settling. There are so many spots where the team (on paper) appears improved this year that it's hard to see them finishing with 85 wins again. They'll be tested early as they start the 2014 campaign against the Houston Astros (30th in the numberFire Power Rankings), Blue Jays (18th) and Orioles (15th).
5. Tampa Bay Rays
nERD: 0.55 | Playoffs: 58.2% | Champs: 6.4%
My love for Joe Maddon knows no bounds. I don't know if it's the thick-rimmed glasses, the consistent success on a small budget, or his his love of cockatoos, but the man has got it going on.
The Rays have won 90 games five of the last six years and made the playoffs four years in that span. The question for the Rays if they can make it past the Divisional Series, which they haven't done since their World Series appearance in 2008.
The deep starting rotation should help the Rays in that area. David Price (assuming he isn't jettisoned elsewhere), Matt Moore and Alex Cobb aren't going to blow you away with gas, but they should each have an ERA below 3.50. They sit No. 5 in our numberFire Power Rankings, but No. 1 in my heart.
Once again, if you want to see the rest of the rankings, you can click here. Vegas has the Dodgers as the favorite to win it all, but they aren't in our top five. Check out where they are, what the odds are that the Nationals make it to the playoffs after a disappointing 2013, and where America's darlings, the Pittsburgh Pirates, rank heading into the season.
In two weeks, we'll revisit these rankings to see who's been moving up, who's been moving down, and who makes me want to punch a koala. Waddup, PETA. Enjoy Opening Day, everybody.