MLB Power Rankings Update: Week 12
While watching the World Cup the last 12 days, I've been trying to find parallels between soccer and baseball. Not a lot was poppin' in that category.
The world of soccer has the very pretty, well-manicured Cristiano Ronaldo; baseball has the less pretty, less manicured Derek Norris. Soccer can end in a draw; baseball players draw in the dirt. Not a lot of opportunities for comparison.
One thing the World Cup and baseball do have in common is the Group of Death. The grouping of teams so difficult to get out of that every team within it shakes in their skivvies when they think about the task in front of them. In the case of baseball, I'd argue that there are actually three such divisions this season.
Check out numberFire's full Power Rankings. You'll notice that there are two A.L. West teams at the top and three in the top 11. There are two N.L. West teams in the top five. There are three N.L. Central teams in the top 10. When only five teams make it into the post-season in each league, being stuck in one of these divisions instead of N.L. East or A.L. Central can essentially condemn any playoff odds the team may have had otherwise.
The standings below illustrate how hard it is to get into the post-season even if you have one of the best teams in the league. For each team, you'll see their nERD. This is a numberFire-specific stat that measures a team's strength in terms of an expected run differential at a neutral-site field (with zero being an average team). You can read more on nERD by clicking here. "Playoffs" is the odds that a given team makes the post-season, and "Championship" is the odds they win the World Series. "Previous Ranking" is where that team was in our most recent edition of the power rankings. Without further ado, let us take a stroll with the best the MLB has to offer and see why they're giving their division rivals fits.
1. Oakland Athletics
nERD: 1.57 | Playoffs: 98.2% | Championship: 23.4% | Previous Ranking: 1
In case y'all hadn't heard, the Oakland A's are pretty gosh durn unbelievable this season. Only one other team (the Giants) has playoffs odds above 80.0 percent right now. No other team has double-digit World Series odds. This is a dominant group that just can't be contained.
A five-game lead is pretty solid for any team. But when that team has a rotation as disgusting as the A's? That's just straight cash, homie. Usually when looking at a team's ERA, I'll look at their rank within their respective league. No need for the A's. Their starting staff has the second lowest ERA of all 30 teams at 3.10, trailing only the Cardinals at 3.03. Overall, they are also second at 3.02 behind the Nationals at 3.00. They are all sorts of filthy.
Beyond having nERD for just teams, we can use it for individuals, too. For pitchers, their nERD is the number of runs they allow beneath what an average pitcher would if they were to pitch an entire game. Below is a chart of each of the A's starters.
How gross is it that their number five starter, who is coming off of an abnormally bad start, allows more than one run less per game than an average starter? Their five-game lead may as well be 15 because this team is in cruise control right now.
2. Los Angeles Angels
nERD: 0.93 | Playoffs: 57.8% | Championship: 5.2% | Previous Ranking: 2
If it weren't for the A's doing stanky-good things, the Angels would be smelling a whole lot prettier right now. But, with their division being so good and the Orioles on a three-game win streak, they don't even have any room to breathe in the Wild Card race.
In the month of May, Trout finished with a .263/.356/.495 slash with 3 doubles, 2 triples, 5 homers, and 29 strikeouts to 16 walks. June has been just a wee bit different. In 16 games, Trout has a .344/.442/.734 slash with eight doubles, one triple, five homers, and 11 strikeouts to 12 walks. He has a hit in 25 of the last 27 games with multiple hits in 10 of those. I shall name my first child Michael Nelson Trout D'Brickashaw Sannes in honor of thee.
3. St. Louis Cardinals
nERD: 0.76 | Playoffs: 65.4% | Championship: 8.0% | Previous Ranking: Not Ranked
The Cardinals aren't the type of team that will figuratively blow you away with their offensive statistics. They take the more literal route and do it with their pitching staff.As a team, St. Louis is third in the league in ERA and second in fielding-independent pitching (FIP). Like I mentioned earlier, their 3.03 ERA from their starters is the best in the league. That is actually on the decline, as well, with their staff postting a 2.59 ERA in June, aided by five team shutouts.
The guy that's killing the vibe of the rest of the N.L. Central is Adam Wainwright. His 2.32 nERD is the 11th-highest among pitchers, his 2.08 ERA is second, and his 2.40 FIP is second as well. If you pretend his May 30th outing against the Giants never happened (he allowed seven runs in 4.1 innings), Wainwright's ERA drops to a scintillating 1.56. The Cardinals are going to need him and the rest of the staff to keep up their dominance because the Pirates are coming fast and they still need to make up 4.5 games to the Brewers.
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
nERD: 0.72 | Playoffs: 73.2% | Championship: 8.5% | Previous Ranking: 5
Unlike the aforementioned Mr. Trout, Yasiel Puig is slumping like a drunk poodle in the month of June. Puig went all ign'nt on the world in May, hitting .398/.492/.731 with eight jacks and 10 doubles. Now, he's still waiting for his first home run in the month of June while hitting .230/.318/.284. Maybe he read our article on regression based on expected BABIP and realized his witch-craft at the dish could only last so long.
Outside of Puig, though, things are going pretty all right for the Dodgers. Clayton Kershaw just threw one of the best games ever pitched, the pitching staff has the third-lowest ERA in the N.L., and Dee Gordon is up to 39 freaking stolen bases. They're going to be just dandy even if Puig stays mired in his current slump. Their biggest obstacle may be the team right behind them in the power rankings.
5. San Francisco Giants
nERD: 0.65 | Playoffs: 87.8% | Championship: 9.0% | Previous Ranking: 3
Over his last six starts, Madison Bumgarner has been off the hizzy. He hasn't thrown fewer than seven innings over that frame, compiling an ERA of 1.64 over that time. In his 44 innings, Bumgarner has 46 strikeouts to 8 walks. MadBum be tossin' hitters to the curb with no regard for human life.
Unfortunately for the Giants, the rest of Bumgarner's mates on the pitching staff haven't exactly followed suit. In the month of June, the Giants have the second worst ERA in the N.L. at 4.40, beating out only the Rockies. After going 14-3 from May 21st to June 8th, they've lost 10 of their last 13. They still hold a four-game lead over the Dodgers and have a positive-43 run differential, but there should be at the very least a bit of concern in the bay despite a ranking of fifth here.
If you have your own thoughts on who should be ranked where, you can tweet them to @numberFire or leave them in the comments section below. You can also help me solved some inner-turmoil by answering the question I asked on numberFire's question forum about which is the best team in the N.L..
Baseball may not have a well-groomed pretty boy like Ronaldo. It may not give you an opportunity to kiss your sister. But even with all of that, I'll take these groups of death and these tight divisional races any day.