FanGraphs Power Rankings: August 28–September 3

We’ve finally made it to the last month of the regular season, and there are still a handful of exciting, drama-filled postseason races to hold our attention until the playoffs begin in earnest.

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. I also add in a factor for “luck,” adjusting a team’s win percentage based on expected win-loss record. The result is a power ranking, which is then presented in tiers below.

Note: All stats are through Sunday’s games.

Tier 1 – The Best of the Best
Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality Playoff Odds
Braves 90-46 0 125 91 83 -4 170 100.0%

In a potential NLCS preview, the Braves and the Dodgers played four drama-filled games last weekend, with Atlanta prevailing in three of them. That series win all but guarantees the Braves will head into the postseason with the top seed in the National League and likely the best record in baseball should they advance all the way to the World Series. That might be putting the cart before the horse, but that’s the trajectory they’ve been on all season long, and anything less would likely be seen as a disappointment.

Tier 2 – On the Cusp of Greatness
Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality Playoff Odds
Rays 83-54 -4 118 87 97 10 164 99.7%
Mariners 77-59 -2 109 91 88 10 165 80.0%
Dodgers 84-52 1 117 101 90 4 152 100.0%
Rangers 76-60 -7 115 89 105 13 162 61.1%

Instead of withering under the considerable amount of attrition they’ve suffered this year, the Rays have continued to put pressure on the Orioles in the race for the AL East crown. They’ve gone 17–9 since losing Shane McClanahan to Tommy John surgery in early August and 12–6 since Wander Franco was placed on administrative leave. They did suffer a bit of a stumble against the Guardians last weekend, though, losing their first series since August 8–10, then came up short against the Red Sox on Labor Day.

The Rangers began a huge series against the Astros on Monday with an ugly 13–6 loss. They did pick up a series win against the Mets early last week but just barely avoided a sweep at the hands of the Twins on Sunday with a walk-off win. Their only saving grace during this poor stretch of play has been the concurrent struggles of the Mariners and Astros. Seattle lost its series against the Mets last weekend, which was barely better than the sweep Houston suffered against the Yankees. These three teams are still separated by a single game atop the AL West.

Tier 3 – Solid Contenders
Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality Playoff Odds
Orioles 85-51 7 105 98 83 -8 117 100.0%
Blue Jays 75-62 -1 109 92 85 0 155 58.6%
Phillies 75-61 0 106 91 90 -4 136 97.5%
Astros 77-61 -1 108 101 95 3 128 92.1%

The Phillies have solidified their place at the top of the NL Wild Card race with an excellent August where they went 17–10. The driver of the train? Bryce Harper, who has finally regained his power stroke after offseason elbow surgery and blasted eight home runs in a two-week span to close out last month. Not to be outdone, Trea Turner is in the midst of a 15-game hit streak, compiling 24 hits and 10 home runs during his torrid stretch. Since receiving a standing ovation on August 4, he has hit .364/.398/.764 (206 wRC+).

Tier 4 – The Melee
Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality Playoff Odds
Cubs 73-64 -4 104 98 90 10 127 83.3%
Brewers 76-60 6 89 96 91 24 108 97.7%
Twins 71-66 -3 104 88 98 -6 116 96.9%
Giants 70-67 2 93 99 92 10 104 36.5%
Diamondbacks 70-67 4 101 103 105 22 102 36.8%

The Cubs had a big week with back-to-back series against the Brewers and Reds, the two teams directly ahead of and behind them in the NL Central standings. They wound up going 4–3 with a series win against Milwaukee and a series split against Cincinnati that included two heartbreaking walk-off losses. Justin Steele continues to bolster his stealthy Cy Young candidacy, and Kyle Hendricks has regained his pre-pandemic funk, while Cody Bellinger continues to power the offense.

Entering Monday, the Diamondbacks, Reds, Marlins, and Giants were all tied for the final position in the NL Wild Card race. Miami was idle, and Arizona and Cincinnati won their games yesterday. Unfortunately, San Francisco dropped its fourth straight to fall behind the pace by a game. The Giants are still reeling from all the injuries that have tested their depth, though they did activate Mitch Haniger, Mike Yastrzemski, and Brandon Crawford off the IL. Even with all those reinforcements, their offense is ice cold; they’ve scored just four total runs during this losing streak and have been shut out in back-to-back games.

Tier 5 – Long Shots
Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality Playoff Odds
Yankees 68-69 0 95 107 85 5 104 0.4%
Red Sox 71-66 0 104 105 98 -40 75 8.1%
Padres 65-73 -11 106 90 99 21 152 0.8%
Guardians 66-71 -1 91 96 91 9 103 2.8%
Marlins 70-67 6 94 97 98 -11 79 25.9%
Reds 71-68 5 94 108 95 -19 54 21.2%

With the AL East well out of reach and the Wild Card a distant pipe dream, the Yankees called up a couple of their prospects last weekend to get them some valuable experience in the big leagues this month. Jasson Domínguez, their top ranked prospect, homered in his first major league at-bat against Justin Verlander and added a second dinger on Sunday as the Yankees swept the Astros. The wins are too little, too late, but the standout performances from the youngsters give New York a ray of hope during a lost season.

The Reds and Guardians were the big winners in the wacky waiver wire sweepstakes last week. It was a little surprising to see the Guardians claim three pitchers; they’re so far behind the Twins in the AL Central that their playoff odds are in the single digits. To their credit, they made the claims after winning a three-game set against Minnesota, then went out and won their weekend series against the Rays for good measure. Of course, in Lucas Giolito’s debut with Cleveland on Monday, he allowed nine runs — to the Twins no less! — in an ugly 20–6 defeat to start another critical series against the division leader.

Tier 6 – Spoiler Alert
Team Record wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality Playoff Odds
Angels 64-73 1 104 106 113 -7 68 0.0%
Cardinals 59-78 -2 107 108 104 -5 102 0.0%
Mets 63-74 -2 102 105 110 -8 67 0.3%
Pirates 63-74 3 89 105 98 3 67 0.0%
Tigers 63-74 6 87 102 101 0 64 0.2%
Nationals 62-76 4 94 112 116 3 57 0.0%

Just a month after trading for a handful of guys in the hopes that they could salvage another disappointing season and make the postseason with both Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout on their roster, the Angels wound up waiving five of those six trade deadline acquisitions in an attempt to get under the luxury tax threshold to improve their draft position when Ohtani inevitably leaves in free agency this offseason. It was a bizarre move with a cynical end goal, made all the more hilarious because apparently they wound up just a hair over the threshold anyway. At least Nolan Schanuel looks pretty interesting, as far as a first base prospect can be.

If you’re looking for a team to channel its inner Wario and create the most chaos for teams in the playoff hunt, look no further than the Mets. Twenty-three of their remaining 25 games are against teams looking to secure a playoff spot, with their two-game series against the Nationals this week the only exception. They played their role as spoiler well last weekend, winning two of three against the Mariners.

On the flip side, the Tigers have just nine games with playoff implications remaining on their schedule, and three of those are against the Guardians during the last week of the season. Detroit’s youngsters will still get valuable development time as they play out the string, but most of the team’s games will matter more for draft position than the playoff aspirations of their opponents.

Tier 7 – Hope Deferred
Team Record wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality Playoff Odds
Royals 42-96 -9 84 114 115 20 44 0.0%
Rockies 50-86 0 77 119 106 -7 23 0.0%
White Sox 53-84 -1 85 111 109 -11 23 0.0%
Athletics 42-95 1 89 133 123 -13 14 0.0%

The Rockies also have a chance to play spoiler down the stretch, with 22 of their remaining 25 games against teams with playoff hopes. They lost series to the Braves and Blue Jays last week and started a series with the Diamondbacks with another loss on Monday. Where the Mets actually have the talent to actually play spoiler, the Rockies seem to be a minor nuisance for those playoff-bound teams.

Complete Power Rankings
Rank Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality Playoff Odds Δ
1 Braves 90-46 0 125 91 83 -4 170 100.0% 0
2 Rays 83-54 -4 118 87 97 10 164 99.7% 1
3 Mariners 77-59 -2 109 91 88 10 165 80.0% -1
4 Dodgers 84-52 1 117 101 90 4 152 100.0% 0
5 Rangers 76-60 -7 115 89 105 13 162 61.1% 0
6 Orioles 85-51 7 105 98 83 -8 117 100.0% 0
7 Blue Jays 75-62 -1 109 92 85 0 155 58.6% 0
8 Phillies 75-61 0 106 91 90 -4 136 97.5% 0
9 Astros 77-61 -1 108 101 95 3 128 92.1% 0
10 Cubs 73-64 -4 104 98 90 10 127 83.3% 1
11 Brewers 76-60 6 89 96 91 24 108 97.7% -1
12 Twins 71-66 -3 104 88 98 -6 116 96.9% 0
13 Giants 70-67 2 93 99 92 10 104 36.5% 0
14 Diamondbacks 70-67 4 101 103 105 22 102 36.8% 0
15 Yankees 68-69 0 95 107 85 5 104 0.4% 3
16 Red Sox 71-66 0 104 105 98 -40 75 8.1% -1
17 Padres 65-73 -11 106 90 99 21 152 0.8% -1
18 Guardians 66-71 -1 91 96 91 9 103 2.8% -1
19 Marlins 70-67 6 94 97 98 -11 79 25.9% 0
20 Reds 71-68 5 94 108 95 -19 54 21.2% 1
21 Angels 64-73 1 104 106 113 -7 68 0.0% -1
22 Cardinals 59-78 -2 107 108 104 -5 102 0.0% 0
23 Mets 63-74 -2 102 105 110 -8 67 0.3% 2
24 Pirates 63-74 3 89 105 98 3 67 0.0% 2
25 Tigers 63-74 6 87 102 101 0 64 0.2% -1
26 Nationals 62-76 4 94 112 116 3 57 0.0% -3
27 Royals 42-96 -9 84 114 115 20 44 0.0% 1
28 Rockies 50-86 0 77 119 106 -7 23 0.0% 1
29 White Sox 53-84 -1 85 111 109 -11 23 0.0% -2
30 Athletics 42-95 1 89 133 123 -13 14 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.

18 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
baltfan
8 months ago

Orioles have the best road record in baseball. They haven’t been swept in a single series all year. They have the second best record against teams above .500. They haven’t lost their 3 of their 4 best starters or their best player like the Rays, but you still have them ranked behind the Rays despite the strength of schedule being superior to the Rays. Whose starting pitchers would you rather have, the Orioles or the Rays? Who has the better position players now? How many games do the Orioles have to take from the Rays when they were at full strength before you conclude they are the superior team? Why do you buy into the small sample size of a weakened Rays team but don’t buy the much larger sample size of a full season of the Orioles?

cowdisciplemember
8 months ago
Reply to  baltfan

I think it’s important to note that

1) these rankings don’t make any mathematical sense and Fangraphs has never explained the methodology (the intro paragraph is not actually an explanation of anything) so it’s really best to just ignore them.

2) the reason people like the Orioles less than their record is that they’re outperforming their BaseRuns record by 11 games. BaseRuns has them at 75-62, which is obviously good but not as good. They’ve scored 45 more runs than you’d expect based on their offensive outcomes. Whether you call that clutch or luck or something else, it isn’t predictive.

Philmember
8 months ago
Reply to  cowdisciple

I get liking the Orioles less because they’ve overperformed their Pythag and Baseruns.

But their Pythag is better than the Padres – and their Baseruns is half a game below. And yet the Padres have a team quality 35 points better than the Orioles.

cowdisciplemember
8 months ago
Reply to  Phil

I can’t defend the “team quality” number because I can’t make heads or tails of how it’s calculated.

cowdisciplemember
8 months ago
Reply to  cowdisciple

If anyone can show how to take the putative inputs and arrive at the given “team quality” number, they will win the prestigious “Fangraphs comment of the day” award.

tdmocmember
8 months ago
Reply to  cowdisciple

Imo these aren’t power rankings in the traditional sense – it’s not a combination of L10 record + strength of schedule/margin of victory + vibes.

It’s more an ordered list of underlying metrics to assess what the power of the team “should” be, plus manual adjustments for outliers (Orioles, Padres, Brewers, etc.).

Which is fine because all power rankings are kind of dumb and there’s no rule that says you can’t use sequencing-agnostic numbers to draw conclusions. It’s just that it feels weird to see the Rangers ranked so high in a weekly column when recently they seem constitutionally incapable of holding a lead.

cowdisciplemember
8 months ago
Reply to  tdmoc

I agree that’s what it seems like it should be, but I still can’t reperform a calculation to get to team quality, the list isn’t ordered by team quality, and if there are manual adjustments based on how the author feels those should be called out.

Rallyk
8 months ago
Reply to  cowdisciple

Aye, but I think they like the orioles less because they offend the forecasters. In a season where the preseason forecasted standings look like a cake on “Nailed It!”, the O’s stand out. Three would be division leaders are last (I’m counting the Padres), and the O’s were picked for last.

baltfan
8 months ago
Reply to  cowdisciple

Would be a better argument if the Rays team in front of them was the same one that had compiled those stats. Instead it is a shell of that team but it doesn’t seem to have resulted in much of an adjustment.

markakis21member
8 months ago
Reply to  baltfan

That’s because they don’t adjust. Supposedly that’s where “team quality” should come into play but doesn’t.

baltfan
8 months ago
Reply to  markakis21

Except that they do mention record of the Rays after the losses of McClanahan and Franco.