FanGraphs Power Rankings: 2023 Playoffs Edition

The race to the playoffs provided plenty of drama over the past month. The battle for a Wild Card spot ended up coming down to the wire in both leagues, and the AL West wasn’t completely wrapped up until the final day of the season. But we’ve finally made it to the main event, where anything can happen and underdogs can topple giants. 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+), their pitching (a 50/50 blend of FIP- and RA9-, weighted by starter and reliever IP share), and their defense (RAA) — and combine them to create an overall team quality metric. 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 “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality World Series Odds
Rays 99-63 -1 118 90 96 2 155 6.0%
Braves 104-58 3 125 95 91 -10 148 20.2%

Not many other teams in the league could weather the loss of three frontline starting pitchers, a franchise shortstop, and numerous other role players, but thanks to their incredible organizational depth, excellent leverage of the strengths on their roster, and one shrewd move at the trade deadline, the Rays are headed to their fifth straight postseason. They accumulated at least 17 wins in every month during the season save for a rough July that saw them win just eight games. Now they’re looking for 13 more wins to capture that elusive World Series championship.

Of course, all those injuries have serious implications for how well the Rays will be able to keep up with some of the other juggernauts in October, but they barely skipped a beat during the regular season after losing those players. Junior Caminero, their current starting shortstop, is an ascendant 20-year-old prospect who only made his major league debut a week and a half ago — he has the opportunity to make a huge impact this postseason, much like Shane McClanahan did a few years ago. More importantly, their bullpen is significantly improved after a rough start to the season — they enter the playoffs as one of the strongest relief units in baseball.

In the National League, no team could come close to toppling the Braves. They ended the season with the best record in baseball and are the odds on favorite to represent the Senior Circuit in the World Series this year. Their lineup has simply crushed the ball all season long — they’re the first major league team to ever slug over .500 in a single season — and that should carry them deep into October. There are a few more question marks on their pitching staff. Spencer Strider and Max Fried are a formidable one-two punch atop their rotation, but Charlie Morton’s injury and Kyle Wright’s late-season ineffectiveness has the rest of their playoff rotation up in the air. Their bullpen has faltered a bit in September as well, posting the fifth-worst adjusted FIP in baseball over the final month of the regular season. Those are challenges they’ll have to overcome to secure their second championship in the last three years.

Tier 2 – The Challengers
Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality World Series Odds
Dodgers 100-62 0 116 102 86 0 145 17.2%
Rangers 90-72 -6 114 93 105 14 155 4.6%
Blue Jays 89-73 0 107 91 87 12 159 7.1%

Like the Rays, the Dodgers are one of those rare teams that can handle the loss of three frontline starting pitchers. Thanks to the phenomenal debut of Bobby Miller, the continued brilliance of Clayton Kershaw, and a deep bullpen, their pitching staff looks good enough for postseason play. They’ve also got two MVP candidates atop their lineup in Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman, who they’ll be relying on to carry the load this October. But this isn’t the juggernaut Dodgers we’ve seen steamroll through the playoffs over the past few seasons. That didn’t prevent them from winning 100 games for the third consecutive season and the fifth time in the last six full seasons, but there are question marks the deeper you go on their roster.

The Rangers also head into the postseason with significant injuries to their pitching staff. The loss of Jacob deGrom early this season and Max Scherzer more recently has pushed Jordan Montgomery and Nathan Eovaldi to the front of their rotation, with the starters behind them a bit of a question mark as well. Their bullpen has also been a mess, with the fourth-worst adjusted ERA in baseball over the final month of the season. This team will almost certainly be carried by their lineup, which is finally healthy after a few injury scares over the past few months. They’re surely beating themselves up about missing out on the second seed in the American League and the first round bye that comes with it, but their turnaround from 100 losses just two years ago has been remarkable.

After a pair of quick playoff exits over the last three years sandwiched between an agonizing 91-win season in which they barely missed out on the postseason, the Blue Jays are still looking for that big breakthrough with the current core of youngsters they’ve assembled. Their lineup is a little more balanced this year, they play excellent defense across the field, and their pitching staff is led by a dark horse AL Cy Young candidate in Kevin Gausman. But despite posting a very good 107 wRC+ as a team, their power output has lagged behind a bit; they posted a collective .160 ISO, good for 18th in the majors. That lack of pop from their big bats — namely Vladimir Guerrero Jr. — could spell trouble in the condensed play in October.

Tier 3 – The Melee
Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality World Series Odds
Orioles 101-61 7 105 96 85 -10 126 6.9%
Twins 87-75 -6 109 87 95 -10 140 1.7%
Phillies 90-72 1 105 92 89 -4 134 6.5%
Astros 90-72 -3 112 102 94 8 132 20.3%
Brewers 92-70 2 92 92 86 34 122 3.7%

Say what you want about the Orioles’ regular season record (and their position in these power rankings all season long), but the postseason is a completely different endeavor, one where the flaws on a roster are only exacerbated. Baltimore’s lineup can really hit, even if they don’t have the big time power that usually portends October success, and their bullpen has carried the team at times, even without All-Star closer Félix Bautista. The O’s biggest weakness is in their rotation, where they don’t have a top shelf ace to carry them through the postseason. Still, they’ve finally broken out of their long rebuilding cycle and look like a team that will be in the mix for a World Series for the foreseeable future.

This could finally be the year the Twins put their postseason woes behind them; they haven’t won a postseason game since 2004 — a losing streak of 18 games — and haven’t won a postseason series since 2002. They assembled the best starting rotation in baseball this year and are surely hoping those starters will be able to carry them deep into October. Their lineup isn’t in very good shape right now, however. Carlos Correa, Royce Lewis, and Joey Gallo are all nursing lower body injuries, though they all seem to be on track to be activated off the IL for the playoffs. The status of Byron Buxton is much more up in the air — it would be a surprise to see him make a significant contribution in the playoffs.

The Phillies spent much of the first half of the season floundering as Bryce Harper and Trea Turner scuffled, but they finally got things going once those two started to perform up to their usual high standards. The Phils are running back the same blueprint that drove their success last October in the hope that it’ll work again this year, only this time with the addition of Turner. Their big weakness last year — their bullpen — was addressed via big offseason acquisitions, veteran breakouts, and a young potential phenom. They’ve got as good a shot as anyone at toppling the Braves this October.

Thanks to a late surge up the standings during the final week of the season, the Astros managed to eke out their sixth AL West division title in the last seven years. They’ll enter the postseason as the second seed in the AL, giving them a significant advantage in their quest to reach their seventh consecutive ALCS and become the first team to win back-to-back World Series titles since the 2000 Yankees. Even with Justin Verlander back in the fold after a midseason trade, Houston’s pitching staff simply isn’t as strong as it was last year. Our projection systems don’t see it that way, though, giving the Stros the best odds of lifting the Commissioner’s Trophy at the end of the season among the AL contenders.

After missing out on the postseason last year, breaking a four-year streak, the Brewers are back in the playoffs, relying on the same brand of baseball that has brought them so much regular season success over the last half decade but that has resulted in limited postseason success. They really hit their stride over the last two months of the season, producing a 35-20 record in August and September. That surge was powered by a lineup that was suddenly scoring plenty of runs to support Milwaukee’s outstanding pitching staff. They’ll have to hope that newfound offensive prowess carries over into the postseason because their pitching-heavy model hasn’t worked in October yet.

Tier 4 – The Underdogs
Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality World Series Odds
Diamondbacks 84-78 4 97 101 100 26 106 3.5%
Marlins 84-77 9 94 95 102 -22 78 2.3%

The Diamondbacks made the postseason for the first time since 2017 thanks to Corbin Carroll’s phenomenal rookie campaign and the excellent pitching of Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly. While they have an interesting mix of youth and veteran contributors on their roster, there are also plenty of holes behind their top contributors. Still, even if they don’t have a deep run in them this October, this season should be seen as a success because they’ve broken out of their rebuilding phase ahead of schedule.

The Marlins made the postseason for just the fourth time in franchise history, and remember, two of those previous appearances ended with the Commissioner’s Trophy being held high. This team might not be good enough to keep that trend alive, but the Marlins are young and hungry. Unfortunately, they’re dealing with some injury issues that could seriously hamper them in the early rounds. Luis Arraez has been nursing an ankle sprain for the past week and has been limited to only pinch hitting duties. They’re also missing Sandy Alcantara and Eury Pérez in their starting rotation, though the latter could be back for the NLDS if they advance out of the first round.

Playoff Power Rankings
Rank Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality World Series Odds
1 Rays 99-63 -1 118 90 96 2 155 6.0%
2 Braves 104-58 3 125 95 91 -10 148 20.2%
3 Dodgers 100-62 0 116 102 86 0 145 17.2%
4 Rangers 90-72 -6 114 93 105 14 155 4.6%
5 Blue Jays 89-73 0 107 91 87 12 159 7.1%
6 Orioles 101-61 7 105 96 85 -10 126 6.9%
7 Twins 87-75 -6 109 87 95 -10 140 1.7%
8 Phillies 90-72 1 105 92 89 -4 134 6.5%
9 Astros 90-72 -3 112 102 94 8 132 20.3%
10 Brewers 92-70 2 92 92 86 34 122 3.7%
11 Diamondbacks 84-78 4 97 101 100 26 106 3.5%
12 Marlins 84-77 9 94 95 102 -22 78 2.3%

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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4 months ago

Trust me, these rankings were trolling well enough without bumping the Braves out of first place.

4 months ago
Reply to  TKDC

Injuries don’t matter, remember!

Old Washington Senators Fanmember
4 months ago
Reply to  TKDC

However, the rankings do peg the Braves with a nearly 3.5 times better chance than Tampa Bay to reach the Fall Classic.

Rankings or not, the postseason is subject to a huge level of variation. While some teams appear stronger than others on paper and on regular season performance, that matters little to nothing.

All predictions now are a finger in the wind with one based on analytics no more likely to be correct than a dog, horse or monkey choosing names out of a hat.

So, with that caveat, I see the Orioles winning the AL and Dodgers the NL, with the Series being 1966 2.0 as the pundits pooh-pooh the Orioles starting staff only to have them dominate in route to a 5-game near-sweep.