FanGraphs Power Rankings: August 23–September 6

The Wild Card races in both leagues continue to be the source of all the drama down the stretch. There are a handful of teams vying for those last few playoff spots and the competition should go come to the wire. And as we witnessed last weekend, the Giants and Dodgers battling over the top of the NL West should provide a ton of excitement, too.

A quick refresher: my approach takes the three most important components of a team — their offense (wRC+), and their starting rotation and bullpen (50%/50% FIP- and RA9-) — and combines them to create an overall team quality metric. I add in a factor for “luck” — adjusting based on a team’s expected win-loss record — to produce a power ranking.

(All stats through 9/5)

Tier 1 – The Best
Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- Team Quality Playoff Odds Δ
Giants 87-50 2 104 86 88 169 ↘ 100.0% 0
Dodgers 86-51 -7 106 78 90 177 ↘ 100.0% 0
Rays 86-51 -1 107 98 83 165 ↗ 100.0% 0

Entering their final head-to-head matchup of the season, the Dodgers and Giants were tied atop the NL West standings and had played to an extraordinary balance in their previous 16 games: they had each won eight games and scored exactly 68 runs against each other. A dramatic 11-inning Giants win on Friday night was a fantastic start to this battle of titans. Alas, the remaining two games in the series were far less climactic, with each team winning a game comfortably. That final series win gives San Francisco home field advantage in case of a potential tiebreaker to decide the NL West at the end of the season.

With the Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays scrambling over each other for the two AL Wild Card spots, the Rays have built a comfortable lead over their division rivals. On August 6, they had just lost a series to the Mariners and had a narrow one-game lead over Boston. They’ve gone 22-7 over the past month and they’re now 7.5 games up in the division. They rattled off a nine-game win streak to end August and just won a wild 10-inning game against the Red Sox on Labor Day. Wander Franco’s on-base streak has reached 36 games and he’s building a strong case for winning AL Rookie of the Year even though he only debuted in late June.

Tier 2 – On the Cusp of Greatness
Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- Team Quality Playoff Odds Δ
White Sox 79-58 -4 109 85 95 165 ↘ 100.0% 0
Astros 79-57 -7 116 88 104 149 ↗ 98.5% 0
Yankees 78-58 4 101 87 87 159 ↘ 82.4% 0
Brewers 84-54 1 94 77 97 131 ↘ 100.0% 0
Red Sox 79-60 3 106 97 94 147 ⏹ 80.0% 0

With Yasmani Grandal back from the injured list, this is probably the healthiest the White Sox lineup has been all season. With such a big lead in their division, they have the opportunity to ensure they reach the playoffs totally healthy. But while all their star position players are back from the IL, their starting rotation is facing a bit of trouble. Carlos Rodón’s fastball velocity sat comfortably above 96 mph for most of the summer but it dipped below 94 mph in his last start; the team has already announced that he’ll skip his next turn in the rotation. And with a couple of minor injuries sidelining both Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn as well, it really seems like the White Sox just can’t catch a break on the pitcher health front.

If only the Astros could play every game in Houston against the Mariners. After a 11-2 drubbing on Monday afternoon, they’ve scored 41 runs against Seattle in their past four matchups played in Minute Maid Park. It’s not as if the Mariners can’t play well against the Astros either — they held them scoreless in back-to-back games just a week ago. What’s even more bizarre is that if you ignore those 41 runs scored at home against the Mariners, the Astros have scored just 3.7 runs per game since the beginning of August. Those offensive woes have held them back from really running away from the AL West.

After their 13-game win streak, it looked like the Yankees might challenge the Rays for the AL East division lead. Instead they’ve won just two of their last eight games since that streak was broken and lost consecutive series to the Angels and Orioles. Instead of challenging for the division, they’re sitting just a half game ahead of the Red Sox in the Wild Card race with the Blue Jays, Mariners, and A’s all breathing down their necks. Meanwhile, the Red Sox has their own issues to overcome. They currently have 10 players on the COVID IL and suffered through that ugly loss to the Rays on Monday afternoon where they coughed up a 7-1 lead.

Looking to the NL, there’s an argument to be made that the Brewers belong in the top tier with the Giants and Dodgers. They have the best starting rotation in baseball and have built a commanding 11 game lead in the NL Central. Last week, they won three of four on the road against the Giants, proving they can match up well against the best teams in their league. Like the White Sox, they should be focused on being as healthy as possible come October. Willy Adames just hit the IL with a strained quad and their pitching staff is nearing the supposedly concrete innings limits they committed to prior to the season.

Tier 3 – The Melee
Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- Team Quality Playoff Odds Δ
Blue Jays 73-62 -8 111 91 100 146 ↗ 25.5% 3
Athletics 74-63 -1 103 92 100 133 ↘ 7.9% -1
Padres 73-64 -4 99 100 87 127 ↗ 42.0% -1
Braves 72-64 -6 99 96 95 122 ↗ 69.8% -1
Reds 73-65 0 102 94 114 99 ⏹ 38.2% 0

After their commanding 8-0 win over the Yankees on Monday afternoon, the Blue Jays leapfrogged the A’s and moved into a tie with the Mariners in the AL Wild Card standings, just three games behind the Red Sox. They’ve now won five straight and play three more games in New York this week. They’re tied with the White Sox for the third-best run differential in the American League thanks to one of the best offenses in the majors. Robbie Ray continues to make a strong case for winning the AL Cy Young award; he’s posted double digit strikeout totals in four straight starts and hasn’t allowed more than two runs in a single game since July 21.

The A’s are in the middle of a crushing tailspin. On August 12, they had just defeated Cleveland 17-0 to complete a three game sweep and had moved to just 1.5 games behind the Astros in the AL West. They haven’t won a series since and have gone 7-15 in that time. They were just swept in Toronto over the weekend and begin a series against the White Sox today. The final 13 games of their season are against the Mariners and Astros, so they will have opportunities to get back into the race against some direct rivals.

After moving ahead of the Padres for the second Wild Card spot two weeks ago, the Reds have let that playoff spot slip from their grasp. They’ve lost four consecutive series, going 4-8 over that span. Luckily, the Padres have gone 5-6 over that same stretch so Cincinnati’s slide hasn’t cost them that many games in the standings. They also have nine games remaining against the Pirates, which should help them pad their win total. Still, they need to take care of business against everyone else and they just haven’t been able to do that recently.

The Braves weathered a particularly difficult stretch of their schedule with series against the Yankees, Giants, Dodgers, and Rockies in Colorado, going 4-8 against those four teams. Their lead in the NL East has dwindled to just 1.5 games, though the struggles of the Reds and Padres gives the Braves another path to the playoffs through the Wild Card if they happen to cough up the division lead. Their revamped outfield trio of Jorge Soler, Adam Duvall, and Eddie Rosario — each acquired at the trade deadline — have each seen improved results since coming over to Atlanta.

Tier 4 – Hanging by a Thread
Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- Team Quality Playoff Odds Δ
Mets 69-68 2 96 96 97 119 ↗ 7.1% -1
Phillies 70-66 4 95 97 106 93 ↗ 38.9% 1
Mariners 75-62 12 92 109 91 81 ↘ 5.8% -1
Cardinals 69-66 3 94 105 99 84 ↗ 4.0% 0

The Mariners’ roller coaster of a season just continues. After getting crushed in Houston two weeks ago, they swept Oakland in two games, lost a four-game series to the Royals, shutout the Astros twice at home, swept the Diamondbacks over the weekend and then got crushed in Houston again on Monday night. With the Yankees, Red Sox, and A’s each in various states of collapse, Seattle still has a shot at sneaking into the playoffs, but a lot of things have to go right for them.

Both the Phillies and Mets cobbled together long win streaks last week, each winning six in a row. Those victories, combined with the struggles of the Braves, Reds, and Padres, have helped both teams stick around in the division and the Wild Card race. Bryce Harper is doing everything he possibly can to pull the Phillies into the playoffs; over the past two weeks, he’s collected 19 hits, 11 of which have gone for extra-bases.

The Mets offense has finally come alive after languishing for most of the season. With Jacob deGrom looking more and more like he’s going to be sidelined for the rest of 2021, New York will need some of their other stars to carry the load. Pete Alonso is doing his part: he’s hit .353/.393/.588 over the last two weeks and has posted a 151 wRC+ since the All-Star break.

Tier 5 – Spoiler Alert
Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- Team Quality Playoff Odds Δ
Cleveland 68-66 1 93 105 91 96 ↗ 0.0% 1
Angels 68-69 6 98 105 104 85 ↗ 0.0% 0
Marlins 57-80 -7 87 105 92 89 ⏹ 0.0% 0
Rockies 63-74 -1 81 95 102 64 ↘ 0.0% 1
Tigers 65-73 2 93 103 107 62 ↘ 0.0% -1
Royals 61-75 3 87 107 100 64 ↗ 0.0% 2

Despite suffering through another disappointing season, the Angels could have a significant effect on the AL playoff races. Twenty-one of their remaining 24 games are against playoff contenders, with seven games against the Astros, six against the Mariners, and three against the A’s and White Sox. Mike Trout still doesn’t have a firm timeline to get back on the field but Shohei Ohtani is primed to solidify his MVP candidacy with a strong finish against top competition. This tough schedule also gives Los Angeles an opportunity to really evaluate their top two outfield prospects. Both Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh have struggled to acclimate to the majors so far, but each has shown some spurts of promise lately.

The Royals have continued to be a tough opponent to beat in spite of their record. In the past month, they’ve won series against the Astros, White Sox, and Mariners. Salvador Perez nearly single handedly beat Seattle in three straight games a week ago, homering in four consecutive games. They’re also getting a good look at their rotation of the future, with Daniel Lynch, Brady Singer, and Carlos Hernández each pitching extremely well right now. Unfortunately, their schedule doesn’t have many more opportunities to play spoiler in it. They have a six-game homestand against the A’s and Mariners beginning on September 14 and that’s the extent of their remaining matchups against contending teams.

Tier 6 – Hope Deferred
Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- Team Quality Playoff Odds Δ
Twins 59-77 2 101 116 109 62 ↘ 0.0% -1
Cubs 63-75 4 92 124 104 33 ↘ 0.0% 2
Nationals 56-80 -4 100 112 112 60 ⏹ 0.0% -2
Rangers 48-88 -3 84 116 103 42 ↘ 0.0% -1
Pirates 48-89 3 81 125 105 26 ↘ 0.0% 0
Orioles 43-92 -2 94 127 114 36 ⏹ 0.0% 0
Diamondbacks 45-93 -5 86 118 123 15 ⏹ 0.0% 0

The team with the longest current win streak in the majors isn’t a playoff team or a team on the fringe of the races. It’s the Chicago Cubs, who have reeled off seven wins in a row. Of course, four of those wins came against the Pirates so it wasn’t like they were taking down the best teams in the league. They are getting some promising performances from unlikely places, though. Frank Schwindel has been the hottest hitter in baseball over the last two weeks, slashing .392/.426/.784 with six home runs. Ian Happ has broken out of his season-long slump and has collected 17 hits over that same stretch, including five home runs. Neither player is likely to be part of the next competitive window for the Cubs, but they’re making baseball fun again for the Wrigley faithful after a season of disappointment.


Overall Power Rankings
Rank Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- Team Quality Playoff Odds Δ
1 Giants 87-50 2 104 86 88 169 100.0% 0
2 Dodgers 86-51 -7 106 78 90 177 100.0% 0
3 Rays 86-51 -1 107 98 83 165 100.0% 0
4 White Sox 79-58 -4 109 85 95 165 100.0% 0
5 Astros 79-57 -7 116 88 104 149 98.5% 0
6 Yankees 78-58 4 101 87 87 159 82.4% 0
7 Brewers 84-54 1 94 77 97 131 100.0% 0
8 Red Sox 79-60 3 106 97 94 147 80.0% 0
9 Blue Jays 73-62 -8 111 91 100 146 25.5% 3
10 Athletics 74-63 -1 103 92 100 133 7.9% -1
11 Padres 73-64 -4 99 100 87 127 42.0% -1
12 Braves 72-64 -6 99 96 95 122 69.8% -1
13 Reds 73-65 0 102 94 114 99 38.2% 0
14 Cleveland 68-66 1 93 105 91 96 0.0% 1
15 Mets 69-68 2 96 96 97 119 7.1% -1
16 Phillies 70-66 4 95 97 106 93 38.9% 1
17 Mariners 75-62 12 92 109 91 81 5.8% -1
18 Cardinals 69-66 3 94 105 99 84 4.0% 0
19 Angels 68-69 6 98 105 104 85 0.0% 0
20 Marlins 57-80 -7 87 105 92 89 0.0% 0
21 Rockies 63-74 -1 81 95 102 64 0.0% 1
22 Tigers 65-73 2 93 103 107 62 0.0% -1
23 Royals 61-75 3 87 107 100 64 0.0% 2
24 Twins 59-77 2 101 116 109 62 0.0% -1
25 Cubs 63-75 4 92 124 104 33 0.0% 2
26 Nationals 56-80 -4 100 112 112 60 0.0% -2
27 Rangers 48-88 -3 84 116 103 42 0.0% -1
28 Pirates 48-89 3 81 125 105 26 0.0% 0
29 Orioles 43-92 -2 94 127 114 36 0.0% 0
30 Diamondbacks 45-93 -5 86 118 123 15 0.0% 0





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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villapalomares
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Member
villapalomares

The domino effect of losing Jonathan Loaisiga in the bullpen will likely have a huge impact on the Yankees chances. In addition, they have no off day until Sep 23. I won’t be surprised if they lose out on a WC slot.

steveo
Member
steveo

Meh. They’re still 3.5 games up on the second wildcard with ~25 games to go. So if they went 13-12, they’d need the Blue Jays to go 17-10 just to tie. The Mariners would have to go 16-9. Also the Red Sox are two games behind the Yankees in the loss column.

Sure, it’s possible. But I’d bet that the Yankees don’t do that. It’s a down period for them right now, for sure, but one reliever isn’t going to make *that* much of a difference, even one as good as Loasiga. They might fall out of the top WC spot, but for them to fall out of both spots would take a serious collapse.

Left of Centerfield
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Left of Centerfield

I generally agree though they still have a 3 game road series against the Red Sox and 3 home and away games against the Blue Jays. A lot will depend on how those games go.

steveo
Member
steveo

As long as they don’t go 1-5 in those 6 games, they’ll come out OK. They need to go at least 2-4 in those 6 games. 3-3 would be fine too. Would be cool if Aaron Boone managed with some urgency. He sat Luke Voit for Brett Gardner against Ryu yesterday. And brought in Andrew Heaney against 5 straight righties while saving Chad Green for when the game was out of hand.

Left of Centerfield
Member
Left of Centerfield

Going 2-4 would reduce the lead to 1.5 games. Not that hard to make up that distance over 19/20 games. Particularly when the Blue Jays also have 13 games left against the O’s and the Twins.