FanGraphs Power Rankings: September 5–11

Jake Mailhot


Jake Mailhot
blogs.fangraphs.com

With the new playoff format, the best teams in baseball are coasting into October, hoping to get healthy and stay sharp as the regular season winds down. For the teams whose postseason hopes are slim but still alive, it’s getting close to crunch time, as big division matchups dominate the rest of the schedule.

A reminder for how these rankings are calculated: first, we take the three most important components of a team — their offense (wRC+), and their starting rotation and bullpen (a 50/50 blend of FIP- and RA9-, weighted by IP share) — and combine them to create an overall team quality metric. New for this year, I’ve opted to include defense as a component, though it’s weighted less heavily than offense and pitching. Some element of team defense is captured by RA9-, but now that FanGraphs has Statcast’s OAA/RAA available on our leaderboards, I’ve chosen to include that as the defensive component for each team. 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, September 11.

Tier 1 – The Best of the Best

Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality Playoff Odds
Dodgers 96-43 -5 122 81 79 6 182 100.0%
Astros 90-50 0 112 85 78 20 182 100.0%

The Dodgers and Astros continue to glide toward the playoffs; both teams won four of their six games last week. The Dodgers clinched and then didn’t clinch their 10th straight postseason berth over the weekend, and should clinch the National League West division title sometime this week. The Astros could feasibly follow with a division-clinching of their own next week, as their magic number is down to 12. At this point, both teams should be focused on getting and keeping their rosters healthy and reaching the playoffs with everyone firing on all cylinders. For Houston, that means getting Justin Verlander back from his calf injury and up to a full workload. It would also be great if Jeremy Peña rediscovered the form that helped him jump out to an early American League Rookie of the Year lead before wilting this summer. With Dustin May back from his Tommy John surgery, the Dodgers don’t have as great a need in their rotation as Houston does, but getting Tony Gonsolin back in some capacity would certainly help their pitching depth.

Tier 2 – On the Cusp of Greatness

Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality Playoff Odds
Mets 89-52 4 113 87 95 8 166 100.0%
Yankees 85-56 -7 114 88 81 12 177 100.0%

The Mets briefly lost their hold on the NL East last week before regaining a 1.5-game lead over the weekend. They took the cautious route with Max Scherzer’s oblique injury, a move that could pay dividends come October. Obviously, clinching a first-round bye with a division title would allow their injured co-ace to heal up before being called on to carry a heavy load in the playoffs. With a lighter schedule than the Braves from here on out, New York is certainly the favorite to earn the second seed in the NL, though the three-game series in Atlanta during the final week of the season continues to loom exceedingly large.

The Yankees offense finally awoke from its summer slumber over the weekend, and with impeccable timing, too. With their division lead dwindling to just 3.5 games after their loss to the Rays on Friday, they scored 10 runs in back-to-back games to earn the series win against their closest division rival. That gives them a little more wiggle room as the season winds down, though they’ll need to continue to find new ways to score runs with a host of key offensive contributors still sidelined with minor injuries. Amazingly enough, Aaron Judge didn’t hit a home run over the weekend after launching one in four straight games to start last week; that seriously affects his chances of making home run history this season.

Tier 3 – Solid Contenders

Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality Playoff Odds
Braves 87-53 1 110 88 84 7 162 100.0%
Cardinals 83-58 -1 116 98 98 16 157 99.7%
Mariners 79-61 1 107 98 93 7 133 99.8%
Blue Jays 78-61 2 116 95 97 2 145 98.6%
Rays 78-60 2 104 91 100 4 127 98.0%

The Braves had an eight-game win streak snapped on Saturday and wound up dropping their weekend series against the Mariners after a wild walk-off loss on Sunday. Those two teams combined for 17 home runs in their three-game set, with two apiece in the ninth inning deciding the final game in the series. For their part, the Mariners looked up to the challenge presented by the defending champions, which has been one of the best teams in the NL this year. With a soft remaining schedule, this series against Atlanta was one of their last bellwethers to demonstrate they can compete with the best baseball has to offer. They showed exactly why they’ll be a force to be reckoned with come October.

Despite losing their weekend series in New York, the Rays have made an impressive run up the standings despite playing through a dizzying number of injuries. Wander Franco, Brandon Lowe, and Yonny Chirinos were all activated off the IL last week, and there’s a chance Nick Anderson and possibly even Tyler Glasnow could find their way back to the majors at some point during the season’s final weeks. Getting healthy now is critical because Tampa Bay and Toronto began a huge five-game series yesterday, and the Rays have six games against the Astros and four more against the Blue Jays still on the docket.

Tier 4 – The Melee

Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality Playoff Odds
Phillies 78-62 1 107 88 95 -28 121 91.2%
Padres 77-64 4 100 99 96 15 117 83.3%
Guardians 73-65 1 97 100 88 17 117 67.6%
Brewers 75-66 2 102 97 98 3 115 25.8%

The Phillies bounced back from a rough West Coast road trip to win five of six games last week. They’ve continued to hold their ground in the NL Wild Card race, and it’s looking increasingly likely they’ll join the Mariners in snapping an extended postseason drought this year. Somewhat quietly, Aaron Nola has led all pitchers with 4.6 WAR since mid-May. Philadelphia is still waiting to learn the status of Zack Wheeler, but it’s encouraging to know their playoff rotation will be anchored by Nola with some options behind him.

The Padres couldn’t handle the Dodgers over the weekend, losing two of three. They’re still two games up on the Brewers and remain within striking distance of the Phillies for the second Wild Card spot. Josh Hader’s struggles have received most of the headlines, but Juan Soto (119 wRC+ in San Diego), Josh Bell (88 wRC+), and Brandon Drury (88 wRC+) haven’t exactly excelled since being dealt at the trade deadline. Soto will be around longer than just this year, but Bell and Drury are rentals and just aren’t producing at their normal levels (and the latter is on the IL with a concussion). That’s a big problem for a team hoping to avoid another crash-and-burn ending to its season.

The Guardians made a big statement over the weekend, sweeping the Twins to push their lead in the AL Central to three games. After letting the Twins and White Sox get alarmingly close to taking the division lead, the Guardians finally put a little distance between themselves and their division rivals. Their schedule this week is pretty wild: They’ll play the Angels three times, the White Sox once in a rescheduled rainout game, and then the Twins five times in four days from Friday to Monday. That’s a pretty brutal docket and the AL Central standings could look completely different at the end of it.

Tier 5 – The Long Shots

Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality Playoff Odds
White Sox 72-69 3 102 99 101 -16 90 27.0%
Twins 69-70 -2 109 104 102 -5 103 7.4%
Orioles 73-67 3 97 107 91 0 84 1.6%

The White Sox aren’t going to go down without a fight. They won two of three in Seattle early last week and then won three of four in Oakland over the weekend. They’re still within striking distance of the Guardians in the AL Central and a long shot in the Wild Card race. The man leading the charge? Elvis Andrus! Since joining Chicago after getting dumped by the A’s in mid-August, he has posted a .293/.337/.511 slash line (141 wRC+) in 22 games and has buoyed the team in their most desperate hour.

The Orioles’ long-shot hopes took a beating last week. They lost three of four to the Blue Jays and then two of three to the Red Sox, and are now 5.5 games back in the Wild Card race. It’s looking more and more like they’ll have to settle for playing spoiler as this season winds down, though that should still provide some excitement and hope for their fans as they look to build on their late-season success next year.

Tier 6 – Spoiler Alert

Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality Playoff Odds
Diamondbacks 66-73 -2 95 101 109 26 92 0.0%
Red Sox 69-72 2 103 103 108 -4 92 0.1%
Giants 67-73 -4 100 91 107 -25 84 0.0%
Angels 61-79 -3 91 92 108 9 89 0.0%
Rangers 60-79 -8 100 111 100 -6 75 0.0%

Mike Trout hit a home run in his seventh consecutive game last night, perhaps giving fans in Los Angeles a glimpse at what could have been if he hadn’t slumped midseason or gotten injured for a month. Trout’s success is a small consolation for the Angels, who have been out of the playoff picture since their epic losing streak in May and June. And befitting Tungsten Arm O’Doyle, they’ve gone 3-4 during Trout’s homer streak.

Tier 7 – Hope Deferred

Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality Playoff Odds
Rockies 61-80 3 88 111 100 4 56 0.0%
Marlins 57-82 0 87 100 103 0 57 0.0%
Cubs 58-82 -1 97 108 109 -19 47 0.0%
Tigers 54-86 2 80 118 93 6 54 0.0%
Royals 57-84 2 93 117 117 7 49 0.0%
Reds 56-82 -3 88 112 106 -16 31 0.0%
Athletics 51-90 0 94 119 112 -2 38 0.0%
Nationals 49-92 -1 95 134 104 -37 33 0.0%
Pirates 51-88 4 81 112 111 -15 26 0.0%

There hasn’t been much movement in the race to the bottom. The same three teams hold the last three spots in the standings — and therefore the highest odds of receiving the first pick in the first MLB Draft lottery. The Tigers seem to be the only other team that could slip into one of those bottom three spots; they’re just 1.5 games ahead of the Pirates, and the Reds and Royals seem a little too far out at 4.5 games ahead.

Complete Power Rankings

Rank Team Record “Luck” wRC+ SP- RP- RAA Team Quality Playoff Odds Δ
1 Dodgers 96-43 -5 122 81 79 6 182 100.0% 0
2 Astros 90-50 0 112 85 78 20 182 100.0% 0
3 Mets 89-52 4 113 87 95 8 166 100.0% 0
4 Yankees 85-56 -7 114 88 81 12 177 100.0% 2
5 Braves 87-53 1 110 88 84 7 162 100.0% -1
6 Cardinals 83-58 -1 116 98 98 16 157 99.7% -1
7 Mariners 79-61 1 107 98 93 7 133 99.8% 0
8 Blue Jays 78-61 2 116 95 97 2 145 98.6% 0
9 Rays 78-60 2 104 91 100 4 127 98.0% 0
10 Phillies 78-62 1 107 88 95 -28 121 91.2% 1
11 Padres 77-64 4 100 99 96 15 117 83.3% -1
12 Guardians 73-65 1 97 100 88 17 117 67.6% 1
13 Brewers 75-66 2 102 97 98 3 115 25.8% -1
14 White Sox 72-69 3 102 99 101 -16 90 27.0% 3
15 Twins 69-70 -2 109 104 102 -5 103 7.4% -1
16 Diamondbacks 66-73 -2 95 101 109 26 92 0.0% 0
17 Red Sox 69-72 2 103 103 108 -4 92 0.1% 1
18 Orioles 73-67 3 97 107 91 0 84 1.6% -3
19 Giants 67-73 -4 100 91 107 -25 84 0.0% 0
20 Angels 61-79 -3 91 92 108 9 89 0.0% 0
21 Rangers 60-79 -8 100 111 100 -6 75 0.0% 0
22 Rockies 61-80 3 88 111 100 4 56 0.0% 1
23 Marlins 57-82 0 87 100 103 0 57 0.0% -1
24 Cubs 58-82 -1 97 108 109 -19 47 0.0% 0
25 Tigers 54-86 2 80 118 93 6 54 0.0% 0
26 Royals 57-84 2 93 117 117 7 49 0.0% 0
27 Reds 56-82 -3 88 112 106 -16 31 0.0% 0
28 Athletics 51-90 0 94 119 112 -2 38 0.0% 0
29 Nationals 49-92 -1 95 134 104 -37 33 0.0% 0
30 Pirates 51-88 4 81 112 111 -15 26 0.0% 0


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