MLB Power Rankings Update: Week 10
Last week, the baseball world took a glimpse into the future with the 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft. It was sunshine, daisies and gold stars for the teams that struggled last year as they looked toward the future.
Bounce back to reality, and the baskets of puppies, unicorns and Twilight boxed sets are pouring themselves over the teams below which are ready to make some magic in the present. You can of course see where each of the teams in the league rank by clicking here, but these are the ones that will most likely smang it in October.
Beneath here, you'll see four different categories for each team. nERD is a numberFire-specific stat that quantifies a team's abilities relative to an average team. A nERD of 1.00 would mean a team would be expected to win by a run over a league-average team. To read more about nERD, you can click here. Playoffs is just the odds that a team makes the playoffs based on some of the complex/dope/creepily awesome algorithms numberFire's peeps pump out. Championship is the same thing except odds that the team wins the World Series. Finally, previous ranking is just the team's ranking in our previous edition of numberFire's Power Rankings two weeks ago. With that all sorted out, let's get it poppin', y'all!
1. Oakland Athletics
nERD: 1.72 | Playoffs: 87.0% | Championship: 16.6% | Previous Ranking: 1
This is our sixth edition of these MLB Power Rankings. The Detroit Tigers led on Opening Day, before any games had been played; the A's have led every week sense.
It's not too hard to understand why the A's are the darlings of the computer's algorithmic eye. They lead the league in runs, walk rate, on-base percentage, weighted runs created plus (a measure of how many runs a team produces above the league average) and ERA. That's a lot of things... and shabby is not one of them.
In addition to having a sickly awesome starting staff, the A's have gotten a teensy bit of help from a little guy named Sean Doolittle. Since May 7th, Doolittle has thrown 12 innings out of the pen. In those 12 innings, he's allowed two hits and only one walk while striking out 21 batters. Are. You. Serious? Of those 11 appearances, Doolittle has faced greater than the minimum number of batters only three times. If you exclude his April 26th outing against Houston where he allowed four runs after recording zero outs, Doolittle has a 1.24 ERA. Even if you include that appearance, his fielding-independent pitching (FIP) is at 1.18. So seductive.
2. Los Angeles Angels
nERD: 0.95 | Playoffs: 66.3% | Championship: 5.9% | Previous Ranking: 2
Josh Hamilton's back. He's beautiful. And he's balling. After coming off of the DL June 3rd, Hamilton started 1-11 with a home run. In the four games since, Hamilton is 8-16 with a pair of doubles and a stolen base. This brings his season slash to .400/.474/.660 with a .485 weighted on-base average (wOBA). If you're looking for a reason to believe in Angels, here you go, my friend.
With Hamilton back, the Angels offense is just straight killing it again. They've won four in a row and five of the last six to draw within 3.5 games of the A's in the West. The problem for the Angels is that the division is strong this year. Three of the top four American League teams in run differential are in the West with the A's first, the Angels third and the Mariners (4.5 games back) fourth. Then when you factor in Houston's resurgence (currently 14th in numberFire's Power Rankings), you get a tall task in front of you.
3. San Francisco Giants
nERD: 0.72 | Playoffs: 87.8% | Championship: 8.4% | Previous Ranking: 5
The Giants have basically just said "peace out" to the entire National League. They hold an 8.5-game lead over the Dodgers in the West and are the only team with a playoff percentage higher than 69 percent. Their 42 wins are the most in the N.L. by four games and in the league by three games. They might be okay this year.
On the offensive side of things, the top of the order is just gross right now (in the best way possible). Angel Pagan has missed the last two games with a shin contusion, but the soon-to-be-33-year-old is having arguably the best season of his career. He's hitting .321/.371/.431 to give him a .354 wOBA, his highest such number since 2009. Follow that up with Hunter Pence and Buster Posey and you're finna break some hearts on the diamond.
On the bump, the two-headed monster of Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson is an interesting combo to say the least. When Hudson made his major-league debut almost exactly 15 years ago (June 8th, 1999), Bumgarner was a wee little pup at the age of nine. Now, the two are both sporting sub-2.70 ERAs and sub-3.00 FIPs with Hudson nearing his 39th birthday and Bumgarner his 25th. It may not be a common duo, but it's a potent one for sure.
4. Washington Nationals
nERD: 0.65 | Playoffs: 36.0% | Championship: 2.8% | Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
If there's a team deserving of more love - both on the team and individual level - it's the Nationals. They're 8-2 over their last 10 games with the two losses coming by a total of three runs. Washington has outscored its opponents 62-18 over that span. They haven't lost a nine-inning game by more than two runs since May 17th. I'm feeling a lot less dumb about picking them to make it to the World Series now.
I realize that it's hard for a guy like Stephen Strasburg to be underrated, but I'd contend that he qualifies for that label right now. Strasburg currently leads the league in strikeouts per nine innings at 11.13 and xFIP (assumes a home-run rate of about 10.0 percent) at 2.41 and is second in FIP at 2.29. Over his last nine stars, Strasburg's ERA is at 1.95. If it weren't for that Felix Hernandez guy, Strasburg would be the best pitcher in baseball right now.
Strasburg isn't the only guy that needs more love, though. Adam LaRoche is putting up some sick numbers despite a stay on the DL with a quad strain. Prior to the injury, LaRoche was hitting .319/.421/.504 with five bombs. He has kept that pace since returning and is currently hitting .306/.417/.513 with a .403 wOBA and eight homers. The 34-year-old has been held hitless only nine times this year in 45 games. Natitude be flowin' out my veins, y'all. This team's on fire right now.
5. Los Angeles Dodgers
nERD: 0.65 | Playoffs: 61.9% | Championship: 6.9% | Previous Ranking: 4
I feel like the Dodgers' ranking here is another illustration of how dominant the Giants have been. They have an 8.5-game lead over the fifth strongest team in the league in terms of nERD. That's not too bad. But this ranking also shows that you can't count the Dodgers out just yet.
For a while, it looked as if the Dodgers may have a major road block in their way to the playoffs: facing left-handed pitching. On the season, the Dodgers are hitting .212/.289/.356 off of southpaws compared to a .269/.338/.429 slash off of righties. Enter the antidote formerly known as Scott Van Slyke.
In 57 plate appearances against left-handers, Van Slyke is clubbing at a .302/.474/.837 clip. Of his 13 hits, six have been home runs and five have been doubles. He has almost as many home runs against lefties as he does hits against righties (7 in 29 at-bats). Dude has gone absolutely nuts. Now the Dodgers just need to clone the living crap out of him so they can stop flopping around against lefties. Expect the Dodgers to be active at the trade market in trying to acquire another bat to go with Van Slyke that can bop lefties, otherwise their run at the Giants could come up short.