FanGraphs Power Rankings: April 8–14

What’s gotten into the Central divisions? Often an afterthought behind the big market clubs on either coast, it’s the Central teams in both leagues that are providing the most surprising starts, and most entertaining baseball, so far this season.

This season, we’ve revamped our power rankings. The old model wasn’t very reactive to the ups and downs of any given team’s performance throughout the season, and by September, it was giving far too much weight to a team’s full body of work without taking into account how the club had changed, improved, or declined since March. That’s why we’ve decided to build our power rankings model using a modified Elo rating system. If you’re familiar with chess rankings or FiveThirtyEight’s defunct sports section, you’ll know that Elo is an elegant solution that measures teams’ relative strength and is very reactive to recent performance.

To avoid overweighting recent results during the season, we weigh each team’s raw Elo rank using our coin flip playoff odds (specifically, we regress the playoff odds by 50% and weigh those against the raw Elo ranking, increasing in weight as the season progresses to a maximum of 25%). As the best and worst teams sort themselves out throughout the season, they’ll filter to the top and bottom of the rankings, while the exercise will remain reactive to hot streaks or cold snaps.

First up are the full rankings, presented in a sortable table. Below that, I’ve grouped the teams into tiers with comments on a handful of clubs. You’ll notice that the official ordinal rankings don’t always match the tiers — I’ve taken some editorial liberties when grouping teams together — but generally, the ordering is consistent. One thing to note: The playoff odds listed in the tables below are our standard Depth Charts odds, not the coin flip odds that are used in the ranking formula.

Complete Power Rankings
Rank Team Record Elo Opponent Elo Playoff Odds Power Score Δ
1 Braves 9-5 1599 1476 97.4% 1597 0
2 Yankees 12-4 1578 1509 89.2% 1578 1
3 Dodgers 11-7 1579 1511 94.4% 1577 -1
4 Brewers 10-4 1538 1509 45.8% 1538 3
5 Orioles 9-6 1531 1498 65.6% 1530 6
6 Rays 9-7 1528 1479 64.5% 1527 6
7 Cubs 9-6 1526 1498 45.7% 1525 -3
8 Guardians 10-5 1519 1482 32.4% 1519 0
9 Phillies 8-8 1520 1506 52.0% 1518 5
10 Padres 9-9 1520 1533 42.2% 1518 11
11 Pirates 11-5 1517 1488 34.4% 1518 -1
12 Astros 6-11 1518 1521 69.7% 1514 -7
13 Blue Jays 8-8 1512 1502 43.9% 1510 4
14 Twins 6-8 1509 1517 52.0% 1507 1
15 Diamondbacks 8-8 1508 1482 54.2% 1506 4
16 Red Sox 9-7 1504 1493 27.0% 1503 -7
17 Reds 9-6 1502 1458 31.3% 1502 5
18 Royals 10-6 1501 1488 31.9% 1501 6
19 Mets 7-8 1503 1527 29.6% 1501 6
20 Tigers 9-6 1499 1463 30.7% 1499 0
21 Cardinals 7-9 1501 1513 36.3% 1498 -8
22 Rangers 8-8 1498 1500 37.5% 1497 -16
23 Mariners 6-10 1494 1507 38.0% 1492 -7
24 Giants 6-10 1486 1508 33.1% 1484 -6
25 Angels 7-8 1476 1501 16.0% 1475 -2
26 Athletics 7-9 1446 1488 1.7% 1445 1
27 Marlins 3-13 1447 1532 3.5% 1444 -1
28 Nationals 6-9 1405 1491 0.1% 1405 0
29 Rockies 4-12 1370 1509 0.0% 1370 1
30 White Sox 2-13 1365 1509 0.0% 1364 -1

Tier 1 – The Best of the Best
Team Record Elo Opponent Elo Playoff Odds Power Score
Braves 9-5 1599 1476 97.4% 1597
Yankees 12-4 1578 1509 89.2% 1578
Dodgers 11-7 1579 1511 94.4% 1577

A dramatic ninth-inning comeback victory on Sunday salvaged a pretty poor week for the Braves. They lost their series to the Mets earlier in the week and were a strike away from losing their weekend series to the Marlins before Marcell Ozuna blasted the go-ahead home run. But the losses on the field pale in comparison to the loss of Spencer Strider, who underwent an internal brace procedure on his injured elbow that will sideline him for the entire season.

It’s a good thing Mookie Betts is playing like an early MVP frontrunner, because the Dodgers’ already thin starting rotation has been hit with yet another injury. This time it’s Bobby Miller, who was placed on the IL with a shoulder injury, though it doesn’t sound too severe. Fortunately for the Dodgers, reinforcements are on the horizon, as they should be getting Walker Buehler back from his rehab assignment within a week or two.

Tier 2 – On the Cusp of Greatness
Team Record Elo Opponent Elo Playoff Odds Power Score
Brewers 10-4 1538 1509 45.8% 1538
Orioles 9-6 1531 1498 65.6% 1530
Rays 9-7 1528 1479 64.5% 1527
Cubs 9-6 1526 1498 45.7% 1525

After a few weeks of additional minor league seasoning, the Orioles called up Jackson Holliday, the game’s top prospect, last Wednesday. His debut this season was inevitable, and it’s good that Baltimore recognized that their offense needed a boost sooner rather than later. It took him a while, but Holliday’s first big league hit sparked a rally that turned the tide in Sunday’s victory.

It’s still very early, but the most hotly contested division in baseball is the National League Central. The preseason projections didn’t have the Centrals’ five teams separated by all that much, and their respective ceilings weren’t thought to be all that high either. Well, after a few weeks of play, the Brewers hold the best record in the NL, the Pirates are hot on their heels, and the Cubs and Reds have looked solid as well. All four have won at least 60% of their games and boast a positive run differential — the NL Central is the only division with four teams that can claim both of those marks. Surprisingly, the Brewers are winning not by preventing runs, as has been their modus operandi in the recent past, but by leading the league in runs scored per game.

Tier 3 – Solid Contenders
Team Record Elo Opponent Elo Playoff Odds Power Score
Guardians 10-5 1519 1482 32.4% 1519
Phillies 8-8 1520 1506 52.0% 1518
Padres 9-9 1520 1533 42.2% 1518
Pirates 11-5 1517 1488 34.4% 1518
Astros 6-11 1518 1521 69.7% 1514
Blue Jays 8-8 1512 1502 43.9% 1510

The Padres climbed back to .500 this week by winning their series against the Cubs and Dodgers. Because they’ve faced Los Angeles twice already this season, their “strength of schedule” — based on their average opponent Elo rank — is among the highest in baseball.

This past weekend’s series against the Rangers looks like it could be the early turning point for the Astros. They lost a slugfest on Friday, but scored seven runs in the seventh inning on Saturday to secure the win, and then blew out Texas on Sunday behind a pair of home runs from Jose Altuve. Justin Verlander is on the mend and could make his season debut this week, and it sounds like the Stros avoided the worst-case scenario with Framber Valdez’s elbow injury.

Tier 4 – The Melee
Team Record Elo Opponent Elo Playoff Odds Power Score
Twins 6-8 1509 1517 52.0% 1507
Diamondbacks 8-8 1508 1482 54.2% 1506
Red Sox 9-7 1504 1493 27.0% 1503
Reds 9-6 1502 1458 31.3% 1502
Royals 10-6 1501 1488 31.9% 1501
Mets 7-8 1503 1527 29.6% 1501
Tigers 9-6 1499 1463 30.7% 1499
Cardinals 7-9 1501 1513 36.3% 1498
Rangers 8-8 1498 1500 37.5% 1497
Mariners 6-10 1494 1507 38.0% 1492

The Red Sox have cooled off after their excellent 7-3 west coast road trip to start the season. They were swept by the Orioles in their first home series early last week, though they managed a series win against the Angels over the weekend. A season-ending shoulder injury to Trevor Story and an elbow injury to Nick Pivetta have put a damper on Tyler O’Neill’s hot start and the better-than-expected starting rotation.

The Reds managed to keep pace in the NL Central with a sweep of the White Sox over the weekend, highlighted by a fantastic start from Nick Lodolo in his first appearance off the IL. Elly De La Cruz looks as electric as ever and Spencer Steer is proving that it doesn’t matter where he plays defense as long as he’s mashing.

The Royals cooled off a bit against the Mets over the weekend, but that came after they swept the Astros in three games at home earlier in the week. In that series, they outscored Houston by 20 runs. Of course, they followed up that offensive outburst by scoring just a single run in two of their games in New York, and Salvador Perez was forced to leave Sunday’s game with an injury, dousing their weekend with even more bad vibes.

Tier 5 – No Man’s Land
Team Record Elo Opponent Elo Playoff Odds Power Score
Giants 6-10 1486 1508 33.1% 1484
Angels 7-8 1476 1501 16.0% 1475

The Jordan Hicks experiment seems to be working out so far. That’s good news for the Giants because Blake Snell has really struggled in his first two starts of the season. For those worrying about the reigning NL Cy Young winner, remember that he didn’t really pitch like an award-winner until mid-May last year. Jung Hoo Lee has been a little slow to acclimate to big league pitching, too. It all adds up to a team that just doesn’t seem like it’s firing on all cylinders yet.

Tier 6 – Hope Deferred
Team Record Elo Opponent Elo Playoff Odds Power Score
Athletics 7-9 1446 1488 1.7% 1445
Marlins 3-13 1447 1532 3.5% 1444
Nationals 6-9 1405 1491 0.1% 1405
Rockies 4-12 1370 1509 0.0% 1370
White Sox 2-13 1365 1509 0.0% 1364

With Dylan Cease traded away, and Luis Robert Jr., Eloy Jiménez, and Yoán Moncada all injured, there are astonishingly few compelling reasons to watch the White Sox. I doubt there are many people excited by the idea of Gavin Sheets, cleanup hitter (no matter how good he has looked to start the season). At least Garrett Crochet’s transition to the starting rotation has been successful so far — he’s looked pretty electric in his four starts, with nearly eight strikeouts for every walk he’s allowed.





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.

18 Comments
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SteveMcAnderson
1 month ago

Really appreciate the switch to ELO. I think it will work out well in the long run. I am curious how the opponent ELO ranking works. The Guardians have the 3rd highest opponent ELO having faced the A’s, White Sox and Mariners. A weighted average of their opponents listed ELO returns 1465. The 1588 reported is higher than even the Yankees, the best opponent the Guardians have faced.

EonADS
1 month ago

Pretty sure there’s an error there (it might be a repeat of the Padres’ identical score), but the Mariners were expected to be better than they have, and the Twins also (the Guardians won both of those series). The Mariners were ranked 6th on opening day with an expected record of 86-76. The Twins were 7th. So it’s not as egregious as it looks when you only look at the As and White Sox (plus the Mariners sucking in actual fact).

The Guardians were also rated 23rd and have wildly overperformed expectations, and Elo will change greatly if you defeat a stronger opponent or lose to a weaker one.

Gentle reminder that Elo is not an acronym, it’s the name of its creator, so only the first letter is capitalized.

Last edited 1 month ago by EonADS
Jason Bmember
1 month ago

Agree. The A’s opponents’ ELO shows 1412 – they haven’t exactly played a murderer’s row – CLE, BOS, DET, TEX, WAS – but the only teams at or below a 1412 ELO are the Nats, Rockies, and White Sox.

Blue Jays’ opponents’ ELO also shows 1375 (!) and they opened with TB, HOU, NYY, and SEA (all teams contending or expecting to contend) before finally getting a little breather with COL over the weekend.

Maybe the opponents’ ELO is vastly overweighting their most recent opponent?

filter2member
1 month ago
Reply to  Jason B

I think that there just has to be something wrong with the opponent Elo numbers. The Orioles have an opponent Elo of 1546 and they haven’t played a team that had an Elo that high in any of the rankings that have run this season.

Jimmember
1 month ago

Yes, I’m not understanding this.

Jason Bmember
1 month ago
Reply to  Jake Mailhot

Thanks for the fix!

Maybe the opponents’ ELO is vastly overweighting their most recent opponent?

Giving myself partial credit for uncovering the issue 😀 gives myself a Barry Horowitz-style pat on the back