Throughout the season, we've been taking a look at the best teams in baseball in our weekly numberFire Power Rankings updates. Basically, it has been my weekly excuse to slobber over the Oakland A's and ignore the treachery that occurs at the bottom of the standings.
That ends today. For this edition of the rankings, we'll be checking out the teams that have had trouble even pretending to be competent. These are the teams that the Mets can turn to and say, "At least we're not them."
What's the point of looking at these teams now on July 22nd? Well, there's this thing called the trade deadline that just-so-happens to be right around the corner. When 4:00 p.m. Eastern time rolls up next Thursday, these are the teams that know definitively they won't be making a playoff push in 2014.
With the expansion of the playoffs last year came an expanded number of teams in contention on July 31st. This means fewer teams would be willing to throw in the towel and change the landscape of the races over the final few months. The following five teams don't have that blessed burden. Each one has playoff odds at less than 1.0 percent according to numberFire's algorithms.
Now, if you want to check out the top of the charts, you can (as always) see that here (and check out my Rays in eighth place!). The rankings are pretty much a mirror image of what they were two weeks ago, so we'll revisit the top after the deadline.
As I'm going through each team, I'll be talking about their respective nERD's. That's a numberFire-specific stat that measures a team's worth in comparison to a league-average team. A positive nERD means the team is that many runs per game better than an average team. A negative nERD is the opposite. For a more in-depth explanation, you can click here.
Now, with that nERD disclaimer, I must warn you to brace yourself. These aren't the pretty 1.14 nERD's of the Los Angeles Angels; these are the worst in the league. If you're mentally prepared, let's have at it.
30. Texas Rangers
nERD: -1.64 | Games out of Division: 21.5 | Games out of Wildcard: 13
"Anything that can go wrong will go horribly wrong and pin you about a bazillion games out of first because injuries are just mean, mkay?" This is Murphy's law (Donnie Murphy, that is) of the 2014 Texas Rangers season. If it's a ligament that's capable of being torn, someone on the Rangers has probably heard it snap at some point this year.
That puts the Rangers in a bit of a pickle. Although they're awful and have no shot of contending this year, they still think they can do so next year. So, what to do, what to do about that trade deadline thinger.
The worst part about the Rangers ineptitudes is that it's overshadowing what might be Adrian Beltre's best season in a decade. His 2.60 nERD is the fifth highest of his career, and his .391 weighted on-base averaged (wOBA) is tied for the second highest. If he were to be made available, he'd pull in quite a haul despite being 35 years old, but CBS's Jon Heyman reported yesterday that ain't happening. They'd better hope they're right about contending next year, or this could look like a questionable choice.
29. Arizona Diamondbacks
nERD: -0.82 | Games out of Division: 11.5 | Games out of Wildcard: 12.5
If the Rangers have struggled because of injuries, the D'Backs have struggled because they are generally bad at baseball. And this isn't going to be a one-year slump, either.
In December, I wrote about how the D'Backs were depleting their farm system in pursuit of a team that could win now. That included trading a pair of top prospects for Mark Trumbo, who has battled injuries on his way to just seven home runs, a negative nERD (-0.11) and a negative WAR (-0.2).
The other key add, Addison Reed, got off to a nightmarish start, but he has a 3.15 ERA since mid-May. Even with the resurgence, a closer's pretty superfluous when you don't have a lot of leads to hold. He'll have value down the line, but this year has been a wash.
Normally, this is where you'd want the team to call up some younger guys and let them get some experience. The only problem with that is all of those prospects are now gone. It's a lost season for the D'Backs, and now they have nothing with which to reload. Grand.
28. Colorado Rockies
nERD: -0.82 | Games out of Division: 15 | Games out of Wildcard: 14
Ah, how I long for the good vibes of early May when the Rockies were good. On May 7th, the Rockies were tied with the Giants for the lead in the N.L. West with a record of 22-14. Since then, Colorado has won a total of 18 games while losing 45. That winning percentage (.286) is only a paltry 54 percentage points lower than Troy Tulowitzki's batting average. No big deal, bro.
Outside of the putrid pitching, the perplexing season of Carlos Gonzalez helps explain why the team finds itself on this list. I don't know if Car-Go was feeling the affects of his finger injury before he went on the disabled list in June, but dude has not been himself this year. The drop-off from 2013-2014 in each of the triple-slash categories is .053/.069/.148 with a .086 fall in his wOBA. With play like this, it shouldn't be a huge surprise their owner would lash out at fans. You would, too, if you had to watch this team every day.
27. Philadelphia Phillies
nERD: -0.69 | Games out of Division: 12 | Games out of Wildcard: 11
We're not in 2009 anymore, Toto. These ain't your slightly-younger-selves' Phillies.
Right now, the Phillies offense has the second worst wOBA in all of baseball in front of only the Padres. If you're mentioned in an offensive category with the Padres, you probably have some very serious issues. But it's not all bad for the Phillies.
The Phillies are probably the team that's willing to sell with the most fire-power. Even after his rough start last night, Cliff Lee should be able to net something decent in return. There are two reasons why: 1) There aren't a lot of pitchers on the open market, which drives Lee's price through the roof, and 2) He should get another start before the deadline. Assuming he shows he is still at least some version of Cliff Lee, teams will bite, and they should.
It also seems a bit strange to live in a world where Marlon Byrd, who will turn 37 in August, is a hot commodity. But if you need a bat that can bash lefties (aka the Dodgers, although I can't find anything linking the two), Byrd is your guy. In 90 plate appearances against south-paws this year, Byrd is hitting .306/.344/.588 with a .395 wOBA. Once again, the limited options make Byrd look like Kate Upton here, but he might still be worth something if you have the need.
26. Minnesota Twins
nERD: -0.61 | Games out of Division: 11 | Games out of Wildcard: 7.5
The fact that a team with a fight song as awesome as this one would be this low on the list makes me sad. But, alas, here we are with my beloved Twins.
The most interesting guy on their roster right now has to be Kurt Suzuki. The guy has taken foul balls off his twig-and-berries, made an All-Star team, and rebounded from a pretty lackluster performance last year. His healthy .311/.368/.398 slash should be enough to entice teams starved for catching help like the Cards and the Orioles. But, his contract expires at the end of the year, and he'll be 31 at the end of the year, so that may cap what the Twins can get in return. Still, he's an interesting little trade chip that could have an affect down the stretch.
Although he hasn't had as good of a year as Suzuki, Josh Willingham is another dude that should be on the move. Willingham has entered the Matt Stairs zone of "professional hitter," but that's more a reflection of his defense than an endorsement of his stick skills. In the month of July, Willingham is hitting .146/.288/.292 with two home runs. He has also dealt with a slew of injuries over the last two seasons. But, at the end of the day, he's a right-handed bat that can get on base and still has some pop, so he will have a market when next Thursday rolls around.