The 2018 Major League Baseball season is finally upon us. A lot has happened in the first two weeks of the season. The rise of Shohei Ohtani, the surprising first place Mets, and so many rainouts. At M-SABR, we wanted to briefly recap the beginning of the season. This is the first edition of our bi-weekly power rankings, which will run for the entire season. This week, 14 voters ranked all 30 teams and summarized how each team started the season and how they look going forward. Teams were then sorted by their mean score. Here are the M-SABR Power Rankings. Team’s record on April 16th and average ranking are in parentheses.
The Red Sox received 10 out of 14 first-place votes. Other teams to be voted #1 were the Angels (3) and Astros (1). The Reds received eight 30th place votes. Other teams to be voted last were the Marlins (4) and Royals (2). The Red Sox had the lowest standard deviation at 0.480, followed by the Athletics at 0.506. The Yankees had the highest standard deviation at 4.573, with voters ranking them as high as 3rd and as low as 19th.
1. Boston Red Sox (13-2) (1.307)
What a time it is to be a Red Sox fan. Just a few short weeks ago, our positive outlook on the 2018 season was overshadowed by uneasiness regarding the Yankees being an early favorite. To the surprise of many, the Bo-Sox have stormed out with a franchise-best opening record of 13-2, including a hard-fought but well-deserved series victory over those same Yankees. This exciting early performance has been characterized by an explosive, cohesive offensive front supported by a pretty solid rotation. Additionally, seeing that the team is able to lean on their bullpen more consistently gives me confidence that the outlook for 2018 may be even better than we thought. Will the Red Sox be coming back down to Earth any time soon? Perhaps, but I’d encourage Boston faithful to enjoy the hot streak while it lasts.
2. Los Angeles Angels (13-3) (2.845)
The entire US has been swept up by Ohtani-mania and one important detail that is easy to forget is just how good the team itself has been. Carried by their two big names (please don’t forget Mike Trout, people) and strong starts from Andrelton Simmons and Justin Upton, the Halos are sitting atop the AL West at 13-3, with a chance to shoot even higher up these Power Rankings if they win the impending 3-game battle for early season AL dominance with Boston.
– Max Smith
3. Houston Astros (10-6) (3.078)
While most of baseball’s so-called ‘super teams’ have struggled in the early going, the Astros have shown no signs of a World Series hangover. Their offense continues to dominate, as seen by their ability to get a hit off of Bartolo Colon, while they boast the second-best ERA in baseball. Jose Altuve has clearly not regressed from last year, posting just a .344 batting average through 16 games, .002 short of his pace from his MVP 2017. On the mound, Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, and Charlie Morton all have sub-1.50 ERAs.
4. New York Mets (12-2) (3.692)
The Mets have been firing on all cylinders early in the season. The bullpen has been the best in the majors and the Mets have gotten solid production from unexpected sources like Brandon Nimmo and Asdrubal Cabrera. Noah Syndergaard is sporting a 13.92 K/9 that is good for third among all starting pitchers, and Jacob deGrom has continued his dominance with a 3.06 ERA that is backed by a 50% ground ball rate. The most frightening part about this team is that it has not even hit its stride yet; Cespedes is still mired in an injury-induced slump, and only two starters have pitched into the seventh inning (Zack Wheeler and Jacob deGrom) due to the cold conditions. The Mets are one of the hottest teams in baseball right now and have a tough test ahead of them this week with a three-game set against the Nats and a four-game set against the Braves.
5. Arizona Diamondbacks (11-4) (5.000)
The D-Backs are off to a scorching pace. Pitching has been the catalyst for this start, with the team ERA at 2.72, the third lowest in baseball. This dominance is not coming from their typical aces either. While Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray have been just decent, Zack Godley and Patrick Corbin have been exceptional. The latter two have combined to go 4-0 in 5 starts, with 41 strikeouts in 32.1 innings. The team has gotten off to this strong start despite its mediocre offensive showing. Paul Goldschmidt sports just a .190 average, but he did hit back-to-back homers in their series against the Giants this past week. Looking ahead, the D-Backs have series against the Giants, Padres, Phillies, and Nationals over the next two weeks.
6. Cleveland Indians (8-6) (8.769)
Despite sporting the worst team batting average in the MLB these first two weeks (0.200), the Tribe has found a way to win over half of their games. A huge part of that comes from their strong starting rotation and bullpen. In 2017, the Indians led the majors in team ERA, and they have followed that up with a team ERA of 3.13 to start 2018 (top 5 in the MLB). Four-fifths of the rotation has an ERA below 3.50, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen have yet to give up a run, and Corey Kluber is off to a solid start in his quest for a 3rd Cy Young.
7. Chicago Cubs (7-7) (9.769)
The Cubs start has been a chilly one, in more ways than one! They have started just 7-7 and their home opener last Monday was postponed due to snow. The bullpen has been exceptional (6th in bullpen ERA at 2.19) but the same cannot be said of the starters, who rank 20th in rotation ERA at 4.45. Yu Darvish, Jon Lester, and Jose Quintana all must improve if the Cubs look to contend for another World Series title. Offensively, the Cubbies rank 9th in runs scored, with team leaders being Kris Bryant (.333 batting average) and Javier Baez (4 HRs and 10 RBIs). Anthony Rizzo was recently reinstated from the disabled list and should catalyze a Cubs offense that has been relatively dormant so far in 2018.
8. New York Yankees (7-7) (9.923)
The Yankees have gotten often to a relatively middling start given the team’s lofty expectations. After acquiring Giancarlo Stanton in the offseason and becoming instant AL East favorites, the offense has not quite caught fire as expected. Didi Gregorius (yes, seriously) leads the team in fWAR, HR, SB, and wRC+ just like everyone expected he would. Giancarlo Stanton is striking out 40% of the time, just like everyone expected he would. Okay, maybe nobody expected those things, but even still, there is no reason to panic for the Yankees right now. The squad currently sits at 3rd in the AL East behind the Red Sox and Blue Jays.
9. Toronto Blue Jays (9-5) (10.077)
The Blue Jays have started the season out hot. Justin Smoak has continued his 2017 form, hitting two home runs and reaching base at a .397 rate in the first two weeks of the season. I’m not sure how well this start will be able to hold up, though. The Jays are a middling team in runs scored and runs allowed. Good news on the horizon, though: Vlad Jr. has a 1.037 OPS in 9 games in AA.
10. Washington Nationals (7-9) (10.154)
The record is not where it needs to be, and the Mets’ hot start is worrisome. Just as hot as the 12-2 Mets, though, are Bryce Harper and Max Scherzer. Leading the league in HR and pitching fWAR respectively entering Monday, the two have not been quite able to offset slow starts from Ryan Zimmerman, Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon and a shaky bullpen. Once Daniel Murphy is back and those other guys start hitting, this team should be back in business.
11. Pittsburgh Pirates (11-4) (10.538)
The Pirates have taken advantage of an easy schedule and started off with a bang. The offense, led by Gregory Polanco and Corey Dickerson, has scored nearly six runs per game while starting pitchers Jameson Taillon and Trevor Williams have pitched like aces. With a relatively easy schedule the rest of the month, the Pirates have a chance to keep up their hot start and remain in first place for a while.
12. Minnesota Twins (7-4) (12.077)
The Twins have had a pretty good go of things in the first few games of the season; taking two out of three games from the defending champion Houston Astros is nothing to scoff at. Led by Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi on the mound, who have ERA+s of 189 and 188 over their first 3 starts, respectively, the Twins pitching staff as a whole has put up very respectable numbers. The team’s ERA of 3.18 is good for 6th best in the majors. And the offense has been spearheaded by a resurgent Joe Mauer. Mauer is tied for 3rd in all of baseball with a wRC+ of 209 and 5th in wOBA with a .476 mark. The rest of the Twins lineup is solid as well, ranking 8th in both OPS and OPS+
13. St. Louis Cardinals (9-7) (13.231)
The Cardinals have had some inconsistencies in the bullpen in the first few weeks, but the addition of Greg Holland and the soon-to-be-active Luke Gregerson should help clean that up. The offense seems to be clicking, led by hot starts from Jose Martinez and Marcell Ozuna.
14. Colorado Rockies (9-8) (13.923)
The Colorado Rockies are a game over .500 and are currently second in the NL West, yet they are struggling…on offense. That’s right: the team has combined for -0.3 WAR on offense thus far, dead last in the majors. The team’s pitching, too, ranks below average, with a 1.1 WAR mark good for 17th in the majors. Early on, the team has been carried by its stars. Charlie Blackmon, Nolan Arenado, and DJ Lemahieu have been as advertised, all posting a .375 on-base percentage or better. Meanwhile, the team’s rotation has pitchers both over-performing and underperforming their peripherals. Ace Jon Gray has posted a dreadful 6.23 ERA, yet his xFIP is a much better 3.10 mark. Meanwhile, Chad Bettis, who has posted an impressive 2.04 ERA, has a much worse 4.95 xFIP. If the Rockies want a triumphant return to Rocktober, the team will need more support from the rest of the roster. Over the next two weeks, the Rockies will travel to Pittsburgh for a three-game set, host the Cubbies and Padres for a homestand, and then travel to Miami to play in front of all two-dozen Marlins fans.
15. Milwaukee Brewers (8-8) (14.308)
The Brewers will be looking forward to getting fan-favorite Christian Yelich back on the field sometime this week; Yelich has spent time on the 10-day DL due to an oblique injury. They will also look to capitalize on an easier part of their schedule. After a 13-game stretch of facing the red-hot Mets and division rival Cubs and Cardinals (going 5-8), they will hope to feast on this next 9-game stretch against the cellar-dwelling Reds, Marlins, and Royals.
16. Philadelphia Phillies (9-5) (15.237)
Though it is still early in the year, many Philly fans are optimistic about the team thus far. That said, the team is riding a 5-game win streak which included sweeping the uninspiring Reds and a two-game sweep against an equally uninspiring Tampa Bay squad. It’s too early for any true thoughts about the team to come out quite yet, however, there are definitely some positives to take from these first two weeks. After last season’s strong performance, many critics thought Rhys Hoskins was going to cool off, but he has done just the opposite, triple-slashing .317/.442/.585 in the early going. Should he keep his production up, the Phillies will have a star for years to come. Furthermore, Aaron Nola has been impressive in all 3 of his outings, boasting a strong 1.96 ERA. All things considered, the Phillies still have to acknowledge that they’re a young team and have inexperience in many positions. The main question moving forward: will the team’s young players can continue to rake or will their inexperience begin to show through?
17. Atlanta Braves (8-6) (15.308)
Atlanta has been very solid so far. True, the Braves are coming off a heartbreaking loss to the Cubs, in which they blew an eight-run lead in the 9th inning. That said, the team is two games over .500 early on and has won three of five series so far this year, losing the fourth and splitting the first two games of the fifth (their game with the Cubs was rained out on Sunday). The team has been carried by its hitting, as its combined 3.9 WAR on offense is second in the majors to only the red-hot Angels. The shining stars of the team thus far have been its star infielders, 21-year-old second baseman Ozzie Albies and 24-year-old shortstop Dansby Swanson, who have combined for 2.7 WAR in 27 total games. Albies has barely walked to this point but has hit for more power than expected, a great sign for the young star. The team’s weakness has been pitching, however, as the team has combined for 1.0 WAR, 19th in the majors. The Braves will enter the next two weeks with a homestand against the red-hot Phillies and Mets before traveling to Cincinnati for four games and then Philadelphia for an astonishing third series against the Phils in a month.
18. Los Angeles Dodgers (5-9) (15.538)
Everyone talks about Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager, but how about Yasmani Grandal? In 43 at-bats, he’s posted a .372/.460/.651 line to go with 3 HRs and 10 RBIs, including a grand slam against the Padres. If he can keep up his hot start, it will be a great boost for the star-studded Dodgers lineup.
19. Seattle Mariners (8-5) (16.308)
After Mike Leake’s ERA (3.50), you’ll have to scroll all the way down to James Paxton’s mark of 5.74 to find the Mariners’ second-best starter. Not that it’s mattered much, though; the Seattle offense has been on fire, with players like Mitch Haniger, Robinson Canó, and Dee Gordon all currently on hot streaks. Put it all together, mix Edwin Diaz’s overpowering relief appearances, and you get a fun club that has to depend on a strong offense and bullpen to bail out a shallow rotation. In other words, the exact opposite of the 2008-2013 Mariners.
20. San Francisco Giants (6-9) (19.615)
With the additions of well-known veterans Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria and the return of a healthy Bumgarner, the Giants are off to a middle of the road start of 6-9. There hasn’t been a player who has been too impressive besides Johnny Cueto, who has an ERA of 0.69 and dazzled in his return from the DL on Tuesday. An interesting thing to follow for this team will be the development of prospect Tyler Beede, who has pitched 7.2 innings with 9 K’s, but he has an abysmal ERA of 8.22.
21. Oakland Athletics (6-10) (21.385)
Sean Manaea and Andrew Triggs have each started three games and have not given up more than two earned runs in any of them, and closer Blake Treinen has not given up an earned run so far this season, but these are the only bright spots on the pitching side. The A’s offense, however, has gotten off to a strong start thanks to up-and-comers Matt Chapman and Matt Olson, and veterans Khris Davis and Jed Lowrie.
22. Baltimore Orioles (5-11) (22.385)
Dylan Bundy is the real deal. He has been fantastic through 4 starts, posting a 1.40 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, and a 10.87 K/9 rate through 25 2/3 innings. If he continues to pitch this well, he will be one of the top contenders for the Cy Young Award at the end of the year.
23. San Diego Padres (7-10) (22.846)
The loss of Wil Myers three games into the season really hurt the Padres’ early-season hopes of starting strong. With that, the Padres have stumbled out of the gate with a 7-10 record. The good news is that Myers is expected to return within the next week and the $144 million signing Eric Hosmer has looked good, at least at the plate, posting a 132 OPS+. Overall, the Padres start could be much worse as they stand third in the division ahead of their in-state rivals, the Dodgers, and the Giants.
24. Texas Rangers (6-11) (23.231)
Unfortunately for the Rangers, the AL West is very good this season. With the Astros looking to defend their title and the Angels looking to the postseason, the Rangers will have a hard time competing. The offense hasn’t been too bad to start off the year, ranking near the middle in most offensive categories. The pitching, however, has been rough. You know it’s bad when 44-year-old Bartolo Colon has been your best starter, and that was true even before his near perfect game. The Rangers need to turn things around before they fall too far behind.
25. Chicago White Sox (4-8) (24.846)
The White Sox have started the season 4-8 with their wins coming over the Royals, Rays and Blue Jays. They most recently were swept by the lowly Tigers. For the sake of White Sox fans everywhere, I hope the team finds its stride and wins a few more games.
26. Tampa Bay Rays (3-12) (26.769)
How about those bullpen days? In addition to adding that fun gimmick to their team, the Rays boast an ineffective at-best offense that averages about 3 runs per game and a bouquet of relievers that haven’t been able to stop the bleeding when they need it. At least Yonny Chirinos looks legit.
27. Detroit Tigers (4-9) (27.154)
It is a sad time to be a Tigers fan. Currently, the Tigers have more postponed games (6) than wins (4). They just got swept in a 4 game series by the Indians and lost their most recent game to the Yankees. It’s already looking like it will be a long season for the Tigers.
28. Kansas City Royals (3-10) (27.769)
Ian Kennedy and Mike Moustakas are off to solid starts this season, with the rest of the roster playing around league average levels. The bullpen has struggled mightily, with Blaine Boyer managing to put up -0.8 bWAR in less than 5 innings pitched. Despite the struggles, this team is only 2.5 games back of the Tigers for 3rd place in the AL Central.
29. Miami Marlins (4-11) (28.692)
Top prospect Lewis Brinson has gotten off to a slow start with an OPS of .337, but Brian Anderson has done the opposite, starting the year off with a .836 OPS through 14 games. Starting pitchers Jose Urena and Caleb Smith have each pitched gems against the Red Sox and Cubs, respectively, but haven’t been great overall to start the season. So far this team has shown what we had all expected at the beginning of the season; this is going to be a long year for Marlins fans.
30. Cincinnati Reds (2-13) (29.231)
This is absolutely miserable. The Reds are last in the NL in both runs scored and runs allowed, the latter by a ridiculous margin. The only player on this team who has consistently been decent is… Homer Bailey? That can’t be right. The Reds have 4 of the 13 worst NL hitters by wRC+. I’ve always been hesitant to board the ‘Fire Price’ train, especially since it’s only April 16th, but it’s clear that something needs to change. This could be John Farrell’s team by the end of the month.
For the sake of transparency, here are each voter’s individual rankings:
Categories: Articles, Power Rankings