FanGraphs Power Rankings: 2022 Playoffs Edition

The expanded postseason field made for a distinct lack of drama as the regular season wound down. Most of the field was set by mid-September, with just a few races lasting into the final weeks of the season. But the board has been reset in the postseason. With the new Wild Card round set to begin today, here’s a look at the 12 teams in the playoffs and how they stack up against each other.

A reminder for how these rankings are calculated: first, we take the three most important components of a team — their offense (wRC+), and their starting rotation and bullpen (a 50/50 blend of FIP- and RA9-, weighted by IP share) — and combine them to create an overall team quality metric. New for this year, I’ve opted to include defense as a component, though it’s weighted less heavily than offense and pitching. Some element of team defense is captured by RA9-, but now that FanGraphs has Statcast’s OAA/RAA available on our leaderboards, I’ve chosen to include that as the defensive component for each team. Since regular season records don’t matter in the playoffs, I’ve removed the factors for win percentage and expected win percentage from the calculations.

Tier 1 – The Favorites
Team Record wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality World Series Odds
Dodgers 111-51 119 82 77 8 188 14.9%
Astros 106-56 112 82 78 23 184 18.0%

Despite winning 111 games during the regular season, the Dodgers’ World Series odds sit below the Astros — and the Braves too! On paper, they have a juggernaut of a team, but their deep roster is more suited to the grueling pace of a long regular season. During a short series, that depth is wasted to a certain extent. The other reason why the projection systems are discounting their chances is some uncertainty in their pitching staff. Los Angeles won’t have Walker Buehler this postseason, and Dustin May could miss the Division Series. That means leaning on Tyler Anderson and Tony Gonsolin to make critical starts. Both had phenomenal regular-season numbers, but the projections don’t fully trust them as top-tier starters, and Gonsolin only just returned after a month-long absence due to a forearm issue. There’s also some uncertainty in the bullpen, as Craig Kimbrel lost his ninth-inning role during the final month of the season. It’s never a good sign when a team enters the postseason with high-leverage roles in flux.

The Astros have fewer questions to work through. They ran away with the best record in the American League en route to their sixth consecutive playoff appearance, and the only player they’ll be missing from their roster is Michael Brantley, who injured his shoulder in June and will be sidelined until next year. To replace him, Houston acquired Trey Mancini from the Orioles at the trade deadline, though he hasn’t been able to replicate his previous success in his new digs, with a mere 77 wRC+ as an Astro. The pitching staff is once again led by Justin Verlander, who missed the team’s last two October trips. Lance McCullers Jr. will likely play a significant role as well. He injured his forearm during the 2021 postseason and was sidelined for the majority of the regular season but made eight solid starts down the stretch.

Tier 2 – The Challengers
Team Record wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality World Series Odds
Braves 101-61 111 88 81 5 160 16.4%
Mets 101-61 116 90 92 8 170 11.3%
Yankees 99-63 115 89 83 15 176 10.0%

There’s a strong argument to be made for including the Braves in the tier above, but they have plenty of concerns as they enter the postseason. Ozzie Albies is out until next year thanks to a fractured finger suffered just a few days after he returned from a foot injury that kept him off the field for three months. Ronald Acuña Jr. has also struggled as he continues to suffer ill effects from last year’s knee surgery.

Luckily, Atlanta had some rookies lift the team through its stretch run. Michael Harris II took the starting center fielder gig and ran with it, possibly earning NL Rookie of the Year award honors along the way. Vaughn Grissom started off his major league career with a bang as Albies’ replacement at the keystone, though he cooled off significantly in September, collecting just eight hits across his final 15 games. Then there’s the Braves’ other rookie phenom, Spencer Strider. Securing a first-round bye should allow him to complete his rehab from an oblique strain he suffered in mid-September.

The Mets’ pitching staff is finally fully healthy, and a rotation anchored by Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer has as good a chance to win a short series as any other team in baseball. Their biggest issue is on offense; their 116 wRC+ was the third-best mark in the majors, but their .153 ISO was middle of the pack at 16th. Mets hitters have often struggled to come up with big extra-base knocks, instead settling for stringing together singles. That’s what sunk them during their decisive three-game sweep at the hands of Atlanta in the final week of the regular season, and it could be a significant issue in October.

The Yankees’ midsummer swoon is a distant memory after they went 20–11 to close out the year. They’re also past the media hysteria of Aaron Judge’s historic home run chase. After he carried the team through August, a number of the Bombers’ other bats woke up in September, highlighted by the emergence of rookies Oswaldo Cabrera and Oswald Peraza. On the pitching side of the roster, things are less clear. Luis Severino returned from a strained lat and threw three strong starts to close the regular season, highlighted by seven no-hit innings against the Rangers on Monday.

That’s all for the good news, though. Gerrit Cole was uncharacteristically shaky down the stretch, posting a 4.50 ERA in his final six starts. The bullpen is a mess, too. After losing Chad Green and Michael King earlier in the season, Clay Holmes, Zack Britton, and Ron Marinaccio all suffered injuries during the final week of the season; Britton is done for the year, and Marinaccio is out for the Division Series. With Aroldis Chapman a shell of his former self, there’s a critical lack of high-leverage options for Aaron Boone to turn to in October.

Tier 3 – The Melee
Team Record wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality World Series Odds
Blue Jays 92-70 118 94 98 5 155 5.4%
Cardinals 93-69 114 100 95 18 151 2.7%
Padres 89-73 102 96 96 25 138 5.2%
Mariners 90-72 107 101 93 4 126 4.4%

The Blue Jays possess one of the most potent lineups in the postseason field, finishing the season with a 118 wRC+, tops in the American League. Led by Bo Bichette’s extremely hot bat — he slashed .405/.433/.664 in September — they’re bound to score plenty of runs in October. That said, their lineup skews heavily right-handed, so a strong right-handed pitching staff (like the one the Mariners possess in their Wild Card matchup) could keep them quiet. And beyond their top two rotation options, Alek Manoah and Kevin Gausman, their rotation looks thin, especially considering José Berríosseason-long struggles.

With odds of just 2.7% to win the World Series, the Cardinals are a significant underdog in our projection systems. They’ve got a great offense led by Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado, and I’m sure the projections simply aren’t accounting for the miraculous rejuvenation of Albert Pujols. But there are some significant questions on the pitching staff, with five viable starters fighting for a chance to make an impact this October. That kind of depth is useful in the regular season, but St. Louis lacks the kind of peak performers that can carry a team through a short series in the postseason.

The Padres were the most active team at the trade deadline, beefing up their roster with big trades for Juan Soto, Josh Bell, Josh Hader, and Brandon Drury. Those acquisitions didn’t exactly set San Diego on fire, though, which sort of slipped into the postseason while dealing with the fallout from Fernando Tatis Jr.’s PED suspension. Thankfully, Soto has looked a lot more dangerous at the plate recently after a summer slump, and Hader allowed just two runs in 11 September appearances after looking broken in August.

After two decades of futility, the Mariners are back in the playoffs, with a second consecutive 90-win season this time resulting in a postseason berth. Young superstar Julio Rodríguez returned from a late-season back injury during the final week and is poised to lead the club through October. And with the midseason acquisition of Luis Castillo, Seattle boasts a fantastic starting rotation four deep with a mix of veterans and young arms in Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert, and George Kirby. Even if Seattle stalls out in the first or second round this year, the massive extensions handed out to Rodríguez and Castillo indicate the intention to be perennial contenders for the foreseeable future.

Tier 4 – The Underdogs
Team Record wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality World Series Odds
Guardians 92-70 99 98 86 15 121 1.7%
Phillies 87-75 106 89 98 -32 119 6.0%
Rays 86-76 101 92 101 5 116 4.1%

Boasting the youngest roster in the majors, the Guardians are here thanks to a number of breakouts across their roster, overcoming some low preseason projections. Our World Series odds are almost certainly still discounting those players who outperformed their projections during the regular season: Andrés Giménez, Steven Kwan, Oscar Gonzalez, and Josh Naylor beat their combined projected WAR total by more than six wins. A deep bullpen and two strong starters atop the rotation give Cleveland a decent shot at beating the Rays, but the team could run into problems in the longer series of the later rounds.

The Mariners weren’t the only team to snap a protracted postseason drought this year; for the first time in a decade, the Phillies earned a playoff berth (thanks in part to the expanded field this year). With Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola leading the pitching staff and a powerful lineup filled with sluggers, this team is built to win in October. But Philadelphia’s atrocious defense and a bullpen that was a bit shaky down the stretch could be the elements that hold it back from making a deep run.

The Rays’ roster is missing a number of important contributors due to injury; Brandon Lowe, Kevin Kiermaier, Mike Zunino, Shane Baz, J.P. Feyereisen, and Andrew Kittredge are all out for the year. A deep roster allowed Tampa Bay to weather the loss of that much talent during the regular season, but the effects of a lower ceiling in the compressed play of the postseason will be felt. The Rays did get Tyler Glasnow back ahead of schedule, though, and he should be able to provide high quality innings as either a starter or a reliever.

Playoff Power Rankings
Rank Team Record wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality World Series Odds
1 Dodgers 111-51 119 82 77 8 188 14.9%
2 Astros 106-56 112 82 78 23 184 18.0%
3 Braves 101-61 111 88 81 5 160 16.4%
4 Mets 101-61 116 90 92 8 170 11.3%
5 Yankees 99-63 115 89 83 15 176 10.0%
6 Blue Jays 92-70 118 94 98 5 155 5.4%
7 Cardinals 93-69 114 100 95 18 151 2.7%
8 Padres 89-73 102 96 96 25 138 5.2%
9 Mariners 90-72 107 101 93 4 126 4.4%
10 Guardians 92-70 99 98 86 15 121 1.7%
11 Phillies 87-75 106 89 98 -32 119 6.0%
12 Rays 86-76 101 92 101 5 116 4.1%

Jake Mailhot is a contributor to FanGraphs. A long-suffering Mariners fan, he also writes about them for Lookout Landing. Follow him on Twitter @jakemailhot.

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3 months ago

If power rankings are basically determined by the sign and magnitude of the second derivative of performance in, say, the last ten games the Mets look really cooked.

Blastings! Thrilledgemember
3 months ago
Reply to  dukewinslow

They swept the Nationals in the last series of the season with a run differential of +17.

3 months ago

I want the Mets to do well, but beating the Nats as they are now proves literally nothing.

3 months ago

That’s the reason I said a second derivative of a rolling average. Doesn’t overfit on performance against bad teams, isn’t purely about relative rate of performance against those teams versus other teams. It’s an average acceleration over an optimal span (no I didn’t do Ichikawa or Hatemi or whatever to find the span)