MLB Power Rankings Update: Week 8
As you look up and down numberFire's Power Rankings, something may stick out to you: there is a ridiculous amount of parity across the league this year. We're already past Memorial Day, and 16 of the 30 teams have at least a 30 percent chance of making the playoffs. Even the Astros are still at 0.6 percent! You go, Glen Coco!
Another illustration of this is the divisional races. Only the Detroit Tigers and San Francisco Giants currently hold a divisional lead of more than three games. That's a whole lotta awesome, mis amigos.
This parity has made our power rankings about as fluid as possible. Our No. 2 and No.3 teams from two weeks ago (Detroit and Colorado) aren't even in the top five any more. Enter a couple of new contenders, including the team with the best record in the league. It gets my jiblets all excited.
Below, you'll see four categories for each team: their nERD, playoffs, championship, and previous ranking. nERD is a numberFire-specific statistic that essentially shows how many runs above or below average a team is. When comparing two teams, this can function as an expected run differential. For more on nERD, click here. Playoffs represents the percentage chance that a team makes it to the post-season with championship representing the odds they win the whole thing. Previous ranking simply shows where each specific team ranked in our most recent edition of numberFire's Power Rankings two weeks ago. Let's get it poppin', y'all.
1. Oakland Athletics
nERD: 1.79 | Playoffs: 68.0% | Championship: 9.8% | Previous Ranking: 1
There's only one team that has a positive run differential of at least 100 runs this year. In fact, there's only one team that has a run differential of at least 45 this year. That team is, of course, the fightin' Billy Beane's.
If you had to guess (and no cheating, gosh darn it), who would you say is the catcher with the highest weighted on-base average (wOBA) among those with at least 130 plate appearances? I suppose that since you're reading about the Oakland A's, you were able to guess that I'm talking about the bearded-, tatted-, haloed-wonder Derek Norris. Lame. Either way, dude has become much more than just a platooned backstop this year, as numberFire's Chris Kay pointed out last week. Norris is hitting .290/.405/.435 in 74 plate appearances against righties this year. Let brudduh eat!
In addition to having the best facial hair in the league, the A's also have the AL's best pitching staff by a stupid amount. The A's right now have a staff ERA of 2.90. The second best mark in the league is Seattle at 3.58. This dominance is from both aspects of the game with the starters posting a 2.89 ERA and the relievers at 2.92. You don't get more balanced than that, home slice, and that's why the A's continue to top this list.
2. Los Angeles Angels
nERD: 1.29 | Playoffs: 35.0% | Championship: 2.1% | Previous Ranking: 4
I asked the question last night in numberFire's question section of what was the third best team in the AL this year. I was assuming there would be a consensus that Oakland and Detroit were the top two, but, instead, the Angels find themselves as the second best team in the majors in our power rankings.
Of their 28 wins this season, the Angels have trailed in 15 of them. This is a tough offense to hold down for a full nine innings. According to FanGraphs' baserunning stat, the Angels are 7.4 runs above average on the basepaths. The Yankees are second on that list at 4.6 with the Braves in third at 2.5. It's a track team in baseball uniforms.
Oh, and remember that Mike Trout guy that totally sucks and needs to be traded immediately? Yeah, he's not doing that anymore. He has a hit in each of his last seven games and 12 of his last 14. Over his last seven, he's hitting .370 with a couple bombs, six RBI's, five runs scored and five strikeouts. His strikeout percentage for the season is still pretty high at 26.0 percent, but it's coming down, and his .391 wOBA is on the rise. It's pretty great when a guy with his stats is "slumping."
3. St. Louis Cardinals
nERD: 0.70 | Playoffs: 57.8% | Championship: 9.2% | Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
The Cardinals winning 9 of their last 12 games has made the computers all clingy. We promise that this love is totally normal. Hopefully you're cool with that and it doesn't make you "go all Michael Ginsburg" on our behinds. (Note: don't click that link if you don't want a teency spoiler from episode five of this season's Mad Men. No plot is ruined, but it's the greatest moment in the history of television. It's an instant day-improver. Carry on.)
The main reason the Cardinals find themselves so high on this list is that their starting staff is the bee's knees right now. Of their top four starters, not a single one has an ERA north of 3.60. Adam Wainwright would be one of the most-talked-about arms in the NL right now if it weren't for Johnny Cueto. Michael Wacha actually has a higher strikeouts per nine inning (9.09) than he had in his disgusting rookie campaign last year (9.05). And Shelby Miller is going to regress like crazy if his 5.22 fielding-independent pitching (FIP) is any indication, but that doesn't fit my narrative right now, so let's ignore it. That's how this "analysis" thing works, right?
Even if Miller does feel the painful twang of regression, the rejuvenated Pat Neshek will be there to pick him up out of the pen. Right now, Neshek has a 0.79 ERA and a 2.03 FIP with 9.53 strikeouts per nine innings and 1.19 walks per nine. This is a guy that hasn't posted a positive WAR since he tore his UCL in 2008 with the Twins. He's a huge baseball memorabilia collector and a legitimately awesome human being, so I'll be rooting for him like crazy this year. If that's not enough for you, he's following Norris's ways and growing some luscious face lettuce. Soak it in, homies.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
nERD: 0.66 | Playoffs: 58.2% | Championship: 8.1% | Previous Ranking: 5
Despite my greatest efforts, I am falling in love with Yasiel Puig. I mentioned a few weeks ago that his career batting average on groundballs (.349, which is a full 100 points higher than the league average) was completely unsustainable, and he was going to come crashing back to Earth eventually. Yeah, that hasn't happened. I don't understand it, but right now, I'm totally cool with that.
Puig has now ended 212 career at-bats with groundballs; 74 of those have resulted in hits. That's actually kind of a significant sample size. I don't know how he's doing this, but the man is incredible. I've even stopped caring about his bat flips whenever he hits a ball that leaves the infield grass - the man is an incredible baseball player. His .349/.438/.623 slash, .456 wOBA and 199 weighted runs created (where 100 is average, adjusted for both a player's league and park) are all unfreakingbelievable. He has made me a believer.
The scary part about the Dodgers is that their starting staff is only getting better. Josh Beckett tossed a no-no, and then Hyun-jin Ryu very nearly followed suit right after that. That's not to mention Clayton Kershaw is back to dealing straight cheese again after his six-inning, two-hit, nine-strikeout performance last week. There's so much to like about this team right now.
5. San Francisco Giants
nERD: 0.59 | Playoffs: 66.2% | Championship: 5.2% | Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
This is actually the first time the Giants have appeared on this list despite holding the best record in the entire league. I'm sure their three-game series with the Twins, in which they outscored Minnesota 16-4 had nothing to do with their entrance into numberFire's top five.
One of the most incredible things I have seen this year is that Madison Bumgarner has a higher wOBA (.312) than Derek Jeter (.306). Heck, it's even higher than Brandon Hicks (.311) and Pablo Sandoval (.295). Can they just plop this dude on the left side of the infield? Small samples sizes be darned! Get this man a stick! Of course, his 3.15 ERA and 10.28 strikeouts-per-nine both help a little, but Bumgarner is a monster.
You might be a bit concerned about Buster Posey due to his 28-point decrease in wOBA (to .329 from .357), but fear not. His 24.6 line-drive percentage should translate to a batting average on balls in play (BABIP) much higher than his current .265. Last year, with a 19.9 line-drive percentage, Posey had a .312 BABIP. He has never had a BABIP lower than .312 in his entire career, so he should be due for some positive regression in the very near future.
That's our list, but what's yours? Send us a tweet to @numberFire to let us know what you think. The cool part is that you can't really be wrong because of how close the teams have been clumped this year. Unless you put the Cubs on top. That's a clown move, bro.