MLB Power Rankings Update: Week 4
As we prepare to turn the calendar from April to May, we enter the part of the baseball season where teams begin their regression to their true talent level. As the good teams rise and the Astro-y teams start doing more Astro-y things, our idea of how this year will shape up becomes more clear.
That, though, means the teams that can stay at the top may actually deserve to be there. Yeah, I'm looking at you, Milwaukee. The Brew Crew are only 25 games into the season, and they already have 19 wins. Last year, they didn't reach that total until May 24th, their 46th game of the season. Yummy.
But the Brewers aren't the only team making waves this year. Let's check out the numberFire Power Rankings to see who else is blastin' some Andre 3000 and telling Ms. Jackson that they're for real. If you want to see the full power rankings, you can click here. As a reminder, I'll list each team's nERD, odds of making the playoffs, odds of winning the whole kit and kaboodle, and the team's ranking two weeks ago in our previous edition of the the Power Rankings update (which you can peruse right here). If you need a refresher on what nERD is, you can find that by clicking here.
1. Oakland Athletics
nERD: 2.03 | Playoffs: 72.6% | Champions: 12.6% | Last Ranking: 1st
Sonny. Freaking. Gray. Mamma done had to take off her shoes cuz Sonny got her all hot and bothered. Through six starts, Gray has a 1.76 ERA with a 2.69 FIP and a 8.12 K/9. In his complete game shutout against the Rangers Monday, Gray only faced three batters above the minimum, as he and the A's offense dismissed Yu Darvish in grand fashion.
Of course, Gray is due for a bit of a regression. Who wouldn't be with a 1.76 ERA? His 81.6 left-on-base percentage and 3.7 home run on flyball percentage are both better than the league average, and should normalize over his next few starts. But Gray's a legit beast with a 2.53 career ERA over his first 17 appearances and 15 starts.
If I could crush on Gray all day, I would, but he's not the only reason the A's top this list. Josh Donaldson has gone full ign'ant again, hitting .322 with 9 doubles, 7 home runs and 22 RBI's over his last 21 games. Jed Lowrie is fifth in the league in walks (20) and has almost twice as many walks as strikeouts (12). With those two cranking like they are, the A's aren't going anywhere lower on this list any time soon.
2. Atlanta Braves
nERD: 1.54 | Playoffs: 69.8% | Champions: 7.4% | Last Ranking: 5th
Seriously, this should not be possible. The Braves single-handedly funded Dr. James Andrews' next yacht before the season (complete with do-it-yourself Tommy John kit!). Now, they're 17-7 with a 3.5 game lead over the Mets (yeah, the Mets!) in the N.L. East. Wut.
Two guys helping to keep the Braves on their unexpected pace right now are Aaron Harang and Alex Wood. numberFire's Nick Friar dished on how ill Harang has been in last week's edition of Burning Questions, and our Nick Slegel gave y'all the low-down on Wood as one of his fantasy waiver wire pick-ups for the week. The abridged version of both of those articles: these dudes are bubblicious right now. Can you imagine how good the rotation would be without the injuries?
Offensively, both Justin Upton and Freddie Freeman have a silly .444 wOBA. More importantly, though: B.J. Upton is above the Mendoza Line! It's a truly inspirational story of perseverance and absurdly low expectations that are difficult not to exceed.
3. Milwaukee Brewers
nERD: 1.17 | Playoffs: 60.4% | Champions: 4.0% | Last Ranking: 2nd
If you weren't convinced that the Brewers were for real, maybe Monday's game could help sway you in the other direction. They fell down early 3-0 to every Brewers' fans second favorite team, St. Louis. Milwaukee then clawed its way back into a tie game before eventually taking it in extras. It was not a game they would have won last year.
In that game, the bullpen went six innings and allowed just four hits while striking out nine. That lowered the relievers' ERA to 2.36, the fourth lowest total in the majors. The team was fifth in bullpen ERA last year, but it didn't matter because they hardly ever had leads to protect. Now, these dudes are coming in during pressure situations and locking that coffin down. They've earned their ranking on this list.
4. Los Angeles Angels
nERD: 1.11 | Playoffs: 30.1% | Champions: 4.0% | Last Ranking: Unranked
Do you think Albert Pujols's re-incarnation has anything to do with this ranking? Pujols certainly isn't back to being "The Machine," but his rebound is one of the more surprising things to happen so far this year. He already has nine home runs, which is just eight less than he had all of last year. He has also improved his strikeout rate and now ranks eighth in the league in the category at a measly 7.9 percent.
That's not to say we should forget about that Mike Trout guy. If Trout were to record as many plate appearances as he did last year (719), he'd be on pace for 37 home runs. His wOBA is up to .432, which would also be the highest of his young career. He has been doing this while sporting a huge spike in his strikeout rate (up to 27.8 percent from 19.0 last year) that will probably deflate as the season progresses. As if Trout's #WANT-o-meter weren't high enough, he's already got a 2.4 WAR, the highest in the majors, because of his stallion-esque defensive play. I'm drooling. Everywhere. If Pujols can maintain his production and Trout keeps being Mike Trout, then the re-addition of Josh Hamilton in about a month is going to make the Angels order one of the best in the sport.
5. Los Angeles Dodgers
nERD: 0.91 | Playoffs: 63.8% | Champions: 9.7% | Last Ranking: 4th
This is without Clayton Kershaw. Remember him? He's pretty good at baseball, and he'll be back soon. He's making one more rehab start at Double-A Chattanooga, and then he'll be back to dominating hitters and crushing dreams.
When you have 35-year-old Juan Uribe and soon-to-be-32-year-old Adrian Gonzalez both above a WAR of 1.0 in just over 100 plate appearances, things are going right for you. If Dee Gordon can maintain his early-season pace, the Dodgers could have six players with a wOBA of .350 or higher. Swoon. This team is just getting started. Don't discount them just because of a 14-12 record to start the season.
There are our rankings for the top teams so far this year. But who ya got on your list that's not here? The Tigers? The Twins (lolz)? Let us know! Just send a tweet to @numberFire and get the discussion rolling. Just please don't yell at us for having a West Coast bias. I will legitimately start weeping. Thank you.