Over the past two weeks, baseball fans have really pricked their ears up, as Wild Card battles that were seemingly in the bag suddenly became heated battles. As we enter the season’s final three days, both Wild Card leaders maintain slim one-game leads. What’s most interesting from a Power Rankings perspective is that if the Rankings hold as they are today, and the Red Sox and Cardinals come away with the two playoff berths, the eight teams in the playoffs will be the teams that rank one through eight in the Rankings. It’s not completely out of the question. While the Orioles have played hard down the stretch, they are still the Orioles, and anyone would rather play them than half of the Yankees’ lineup. In the National League, the Cards get to play the Astros, who suffered one of the worst defeats in their team’s history yesterday, while the Braves have to deal with the Phillies. The Phillies will throw a bullpen game on Wednesday, but before that, Atlanta has to deal with Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt. That would be a tough test at any time, but could be especially so at the moment, as Atlanta’s .296 wOBA ranks 26th in the game this month.
(As always click here to check out the methodology behind the Power Rankings.)
1. New York Yankees: Last week – 1, WAR% – .666 (1), FAN% – .580 (2), TOTAL% – .665
Congrats to The Captain, Derek Jeter, who tallied a .667 BABIP last week to become the BABIP’er of the Week.
2. Boston: Last week – 2, WAR% – .657 (2), FAN% – .605 (1), TOTAL% – .656
Daniel Bard is a good reliever, and some day he may be a great one, but he has had his struggles in pressure situations this season — his Clutch score of -1.17 is 13th worst among qualified relievers, and his four September meltdowns are tied for second in the Majors (only Antonio Bastardo has more).
3. Texas: Last week – 3, WAR% – .651 (3), FAN% – .525 (7), TOTAL% – .648
The magic of counting stats, lesson #576 — it seems that Michael Young, on the strength of a 200-hit campaign, is being talked up for MVP. Young has been no better than the fifth-best player on his own team, and you could knock down him further than that, depending on how you feel about the contributions of Josh Hamilton, Elvis Andrus and Matt Harrison, all of whom are within 0.5 WAR of Young.
4. Philadelphia: Last week – 4, WAR% – .603 (4), FAN% – .556 (3), TOTAL% – .603
Now that John Mayberry has cut down on his strikeouts and turned into a useful player, Charlie Manuel is now sitting three more capable outfielders — Mayberry, Domonic Brown and Ben Francisco — so that he can keep the corpse formerly known as Raul Ibanez in his lineup.
5. Milwaukee: Last week – 5, WAR% – .595 (5), FAN% – .519 (9), TOTAL% – .593
Tonight’s matchup of Charlie Morton versus Shaun Marcum has the lowest Pitcher NERD total, and is tied for the lowest Game NERD total. And that’s just fine with Brewers fans, who need an uneventful next three days so they can focus on trying to come up with a nickname for their fighting 2011 Brewers that is as cool as Harvey’s Wallbangers.
6. Arizona: Last week – 6, WAR% – .581 (6), FAN% – .463 (25), TOTAL% – .579
Chris Young is certainly playing better than he did in his initial 20-20 season, but his 2.6 batting runs is the lowest among the 13 players to put up 20-20 seasons this year.
7. St. Louis: Last week – 8, WAR% – .573 (7), FAN% – .512 (12), TOTAL% – .572
In extending Lance Berkman, the Cardinals have again taken a step to show Albert Pujols that they will be aggressive in trying to keep a good team around him. The timing of the deals for both Chris Carpenter and Berkman tell me that the Cards are going to try to do everything in their power to lock up Pujols while they still have exclusive negotiating rights with him.
9. Tampa Bay: Last week – 10, WAR% – .559 (9), FAN% – .537 (5), TOTAL% – .558
I have mentioned Detroit as a good destination for Jose Reyes, and I still think that is a good fit, but might the Rays be a stealth candidate for his services? The only team to receive a lower wOBA from its shortstops than Tampa this year has been the Giants, and the Rays could add Reyes and still probably stay under their all-time high in payroll. Yeah, it probably won’t happen, but such a move would make the Rays awfully tough to beat.
10. Los Angeles of Anaheim: Last week – 9, WAR% – .558 (10), FAN% – .488 (19), TOTAL% – .557
There have been many good comeback stories this year, but Jerome Williams may have them all beat. Before this season, he hadn’t pitched professionally since 2009, and hadn’t pitched in the Majors since 2007, and has come back to put up a respectable 3.82 FIP this month for the Angels.
11. Chicago White Sox: Last week – 12, WAR% – .536 (11), FAN% – .488 (19), TOTAL% – .535
Juan Pierre has shown this year that he no longer deserves an everyday role, but he still has a number of situational factors working in his favor that could make him valuable off the bench. He is still near impossible to strike out, he still hits lefties pretty well, and he still has speed, though he doesn’t always apply it an efficient manner.
12. Los Angeles Dodgers: Last week – 14, WAR% – .535 (12), FAN% – .488 (19), TOTAL% – .533
Even though RBI have near-zero meaning, it would be cool to see Matt Kemp win the Triple Crown. Having said that, is there some sort of sabremetric triple crown that we can create (or has been created) so that we can stop following RBI altogether?
13. Cincinnati: Last week – 15, WAR% – .532 (13), FAN% – .494 (17), TOTAL% – .532
Drew Stubbs became the first Reds’ player to swipe 40 bags in a season since Deion Sanders in 1997. I don’t have anything terribly interesting to say about Stubbs (ok fine, he is one of only two qualified position players with a K% greater than 30% this year) I just wanted to note that I miss Neon Deion. If you grew up in the ‘90’s, and didn’t cock your hand to your head as you high-stepped past the parked cars or orange cones that served as your playground goal line…well, I can’t finish that sentence, because you did. You know you did. Don’t lie to me! Ok, right, back to baseball.
14. San Francisco: Last week – 13, WAR% – .529 (t-14), FAN% – .519 (9), TOTAL% – .5290
The Giants are the only team in baseball this season to not have any qualified position players (among players who played with one team for the entire season) with a positive WAR, as the only such qualified position player on the Giants is Aubrey Huff and his -0.8 WAR.
15. Atlanta: Last week – 11, WAR% – .529 (t-14), FAN% – .506 (14), TOTAL% – .5288
Everyone who thought that Alex Gonzalez would be carrying the Braves’ offense in September, raise their hand!
16. Kansas City: Last week – 18, WAR% – .521 (16), FAN% – .420 (29), TOTAL% – .519
If Luis Mendoza is good — and despite back-to-back starts with WPA’s of .228 and .463 I’m nowhere near prepared to say that he is — two members of the 2012 Royals rotation (the other being Felipe Paulino) could have been acquired in trade for just cash. Remember that when some team pays Joel Pineiro six million a year in free agency.
17. Colorado: Last week – 16, WAR% – .515 (17), FAN% – .556 (3), TOTAL% – .516
Eric Young Jr. has had a lofty BABIP this month, but as a slap hitter that will happen sometimes. What bears watching is his BB%, because while it has improved slightly this season, his swing percentages remain virtually the same, which makes me wary about any real improvement. Either way, it’s something to build on for next year, which is more than he could say last year at this time.
18. Florida: Last week – 17, WAR% – .512 (18), FAN% – .525 (7), TOTAL% – .512
In Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco and Chris Volstad, the Marlins are one of two teams to have three qualified starters in the top 35 in xFIP. The other is the Phillies.
19. Toronto: Last week – 19, WAR% – .492 (19), FAN% – .488 (19), TOTAL% – .492
With all of the positive moves the Blue Jays have made to shape their roster throughout 2011, it somehow doesn’t seem fair that they will win less games than they did last year.
20. New York Mets: Last week – 20, WAR% – .489 (21), FAN% – .519 (9), TOTAL% – .490
If there’s one person that Jose Reyes should be taking advice from as he enters free agency, it’s Daryl Strawberry — he has all the answers.
21. Washington: Last week – 22, WAR% – .490 (20), FAN% – .457 (26), TOTAL% – .489
Ross Detwiler has set himself up as an intriguing candidate for the Nationals rotation next season, as he has allowed three earned runs or less in eight of nine starts to close out the season, and you could do a lot worse from your fifth starter than the 106 xFIP- that Detwiler has compiled this year.
22. Cleveland: Last week – 23, WAR% – .485 (23), FAN% – .451 (27), TOTAL% – .485
23. Chicago Cubs: Last week – 21, WAR% – .480 (23), FAN% – .506 (14), TOTAL% – .481
Alfonso Soriano feels slighted by having to hit seventh, and he has a case, sort of. The average 7th-hole hitter is hitting .248/.310/.386 this season, while Soriano is hitting .244/.288/.466 overall, and .258/.294/.498 in 221 plate appearances in the 7-hole. So congrats to him, for finding the one way in which his season could be cast in a favorable light.
24. San Diego: Last week – 24, WAR% – .473 (24), FAN% – .494 (17), TOTAL% – .474
Even if it is just small sample sized ridiculousness, how delicious is it that Kyle Blanks is the Padres’ third-best fielder by UZR (and fourth-best by DRS)?
25. Oakland: Last week – 25, WAR% – .464 (25), FAN% – .481 (23), TOTAL% – .464
The danger of giving out contract extensions to interim managers without interviewing potential alternatives is that you may be overrating the effects of a small sample, which can lead to suboptimal decisions (see: Tracy, Jim). And there isn’t even a ton of evidence that Bob Melvin has done all that spectacularly — the A’s were outscored by 0.24 runs per game under Bob Geren this year, and have been outscored by 0.27 runs per game under Melvin. Melvin simply had the good fortune to not be at the helm during a nine-game losing streak.
26. Seattle: Last week – 26, WAR% – .436 (26), FAN% – .469 (24), TOTAL% – .436
Justin Smoak had at least 60 plate appearances in five different months this season. He had a wRC+ of better than 100 in four of them, and he may have been injured during the fifth.
27. Baltimore: Last week – 27, WAR% – .426 (28), FAN% – .500 (16), TOTAL% – .4275
If the Rays or Angels come back to overtake the Red Sox for the AL Wild Card, one of the men they’ll want to send a thank you note to is Robert Andino, whose bases-clearing double off of Jonathan Papelbon on Tuesday led the O’s past the Sox. For the game, Andino had a WPA of .517, which is his career-high for a single game.
28. Pittsburgh: Last week – 28, WAR% – .427 (27), FAN% – .438 (28), TOTAL% – .4269
With the Pirates slide, people stopped paying attention to Andrew McCutchen, but he has posted above-average wRC+ marks in July, August and September, and is poised to become the first Pirates player in the top 20 in position-player WAR since Jason Bay in 2006.
29. Houston: Last week – 29, WAR% – .420 (29), FAN% – .370 (30), TOTAL% – .419
Yes, there is little real significance to Major League Baseball’s 200,000th game, which was played in Houston on Saturday. But it is cool to go back and look at the games played over the years. Back in 1876, only 260 games were played. 1,500 games a season didn’t occur until the Astros and Mets joined the National League in 1962. The advent of the Mariners and Blue Jays pushed MLB past the 2,000 games per season plateau, and these days we’re pushing past 2,400 games a season. That’s a lot of baseball. Can we has more?
30. Minnesota: Last week – 30, WAR% – .414 (30), FAN% – .537 (5), TOTAL% – .416
The Twins are the only team in baseball without at least one three-win player this season.