The 2018 Major League Baseball season is well underway. A lot has happened in the first month of the season. Sean Manaea has thrown a no-hitter, Didi Gregorius is the best hitter in baseball, and the Astros still look really good. At M-SABR, we wanted to briefly recap the week in baseball. This is the second edition of our bi-weekly power rankings, which will run for the entire season. This week, 12 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 30th and average ranking are in parentheses.
The Astros received 7 out of 12 first-place votes. Other teams to be voted #1 were the Red Sox (3) and D-Backs (2). The Reds received ten 30th place votes. The only other team to receive last place votes was the Royals (2). The Reds had the lowest standard deviation at 0.302. The Brewers had the highest standard deviation at 3.347, followed by the Giants at 3.205.
1. Houston Astros (19-10), (1.727)
The Astros are looking just as terrifying as they did last year when they captured first World Series in franchise history. The pitching staff, led by Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander, and Charlie Morton (all of whom have ERAs under 2.00), has compiled the most fWAR in baseball and also leads the bigs in ERA, FIP, xFIP, and strikeouts. The bats have not been too shabby either. Jose Altuve is hitting over .350 and Carlos Correa is triple-slashing .320/.387/.520 with four homers. The Astros are 9-3 over their past 12 games and will take on the Yankees (four times), DBacks (three times), Athletics (three times), and Rangers (three times) over the next two weeks.
2. Boston Red Sox (20-7), (2.364)
As evidenced in our rankings this week, the Sox have fallen from grace, but not too far. The bats have cooled down, some untimely injuries have removed key players from the field, and a few too many players have been left stranded on the bases in must-score situations. The bad news is that the injuries have shelved perhaps the three hottest players in the lineup, but the good news is that the injuries should not have a lasting impact. Xander Bogaerts, who suffered a back strain while making an aggressive diving play his second game back from the disabled list, has not been included in the injury report, so we should be expecting him back soon. Mookie Betts, who has been one of the best hitters in baseball to date, has been listed as day-to-day, which is not the end of the world. Brock Holt, whose absence is particularly unfortunate, was placed on the 10-day DL on April 27 and will look to return sometime in May. The other good news is that the lineup is deep enough to compensate for these key absences. One bright spot of the recent slump has been pitching; the starting rotation has remained consistent and the bullpen has been reliable. Looking forward, the next two series should help rebuild offensive confidence before heading to the Bronx for three games against a much hotter Yankees. The bottom line? The Sox still have the best record in baseball, and this small blip in performance is no cause for concern.
3. Arizona Diamondbacks (19-8), (2.545)
After the first month of the season, which team has the best record in the NL? It’s not the Dodgers, Cubs or Nationals as most would have thought before the season started. It’s the Arizona Diamondbacks! After beating the Nationals in extra innings on Saturday, the Snakes clinched their 9th straight series win to open up the season, the first time that has been done since the 1907 Chicago Cubs! While the offense has just been decent, pitching has led the way in the desert. Patrick Corbin has been lights out in the rotation, and the D-Backs sport the lowest bullpen ERA in baseball at 1.61.
4. New York Yankees (18-9), (3.545)
Boy, is that a jump. The Yankees checked in at 8 in our last edition of the MSABR power rankings and now sit comfortably in the top five. What changed? The bats finally decided to come alive. Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Didi Gregorius, and Miguel Andujar all rank in the top 35 of all MLB players in wRC+ over the past two weeks, with Didi and Andujar coming in at #2 and #3 overall, respectively. Stanton still has yet to completely turn it around but if the others around him continue to hit as they have, he will not need to be 60+ HR Stanton for this team to take the AL East crown. Top prospect Gleyber Torres was also called up last week and has been solid since debuting: .296/.321/.371 with 2 XBH in 28 PA. The team is currently riding a 9-game winning streak against the Blue Jays, Twins, and Angels and faces a very tough test over the next two weeks in the Astros (4), Indians (3), Red Sox (3), and A’s (3).
T-5. Chicago Cubs (15-10), (6.000)
The season has not gotten off to a fantastic start for the Cubbies, yet they still find themselves right near the top of the NL Central after April. As of Sunday, they have won three straight against the Brewers and have seen a much-improved starting rotation this last time through. Of all the starters in the most recent turn through the rotation, only Jon Lester gave up more than one run, and his line was not even bad: three runs on four hits. Offensively, Javy Baez leads the way with seven home runs and 26 RBI (2nd in MLB), not to mention an always-flashy glove. Things are looking up for this team and it should be a very exciting month of May.
T-5. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (16-12), (6.000)
As Shohei Ohtani has come back down to earth and dealt with injury, Mike Trout has raked his way to the MLB home run lead with ten bombs, and the Angels have continued their hot start. The Astros have done enough to reclaim their status as clear AL West favorites, but the Halos remain in prime Wild Card position. This team should continue to be one of the most fun stories in the big leagues, and Andrelton Simmons’ evolution adds yet another fun wrinkle to it. The value he brings with his glove was never in question, but his improved hitting to the tune of a 140 wRC+ and a 7.6 K% (second among all qualified hitters), has vaulted Simmons ahead of all shortstops not named Didi Gregorious or Manny Machado on the fWAR leaderboard.
7. New York Mets (17-9), (6.364)
The Mets, after getting off to a hot start, have cooled off substantially. Since starting 11-1, the team has gone just 5-8 and has lost both its first and second string catchers. The starting rotation, outside of Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, has been bad. Matt Harvey has been demoted to the bullpen and is not happy about it. And despite all this, the team is still somehow winning games. 5-8 is obviously not a good mark in the last 13 games, but the team went 3-3 this past week (lost a series against the Cards and won against the Friars) and is trending in the right direction. This is going to be a streaky team due to the nature of its roster and currently the Mets are experiencing one of their lows. Even still, they lead the NL East by 1.5 games over the Braves and Phillies. They get Atlanta, Colorado, Cincy, and Philly over the next two weeks.
8. Cleveland Indians (14-12), (9.000)
The Indians currently possess a three-game lead over the rest of the AL Central. They are pitching well (3.53 team ERA) and the bats are starting to heat up (team batting average up 23 points from two weeks ago). Most notably, in the past 15-game stretch, Jose Ramirez has slashed .360/.407/.680 with four home runs and four doubles and Yonder Alonso has shown his power with six long balls. Unfortunately, Andrew Miller suffered a hamstring injury last week and landed on the 10-day DL, but it doesn’t appear to be too serious as he’s still been able to play catch.
9. St. Louis Cardinals (15-12), (10.091)
After getting swept by the Pirates this weekend, it is clear that the Cardinals need to solidify bullpen roles in order to find more consistency. Despite the rough weekend, however, the Cardinals still have a +25 run differential, good for fourth best in the National League. St. Louis is still looking for Matt Carpenter to get going and Tommy Pham leads the NL in average thus far.
10. Atlanta Braves (16-11), (11.000)
When I wrote my 2018 M-SABR Preview of the Braves, I expected a lot of strong signs from this team. I took Ozzie Albies in my dynasty draft afterward and told friends to watch out for Mike Foltynewicz, Freddie Freeman, and the young core going into this year. That said, I picked them to finish in the 70-75 win range and thought they were one year away. I was wrong. The Braves have arrived and they are about to rule the NL East for years to come. Albies has 22 XBH this month, one shy of the all-time record, while Ronald Acuna has debuted and flashed his superstar potential. Freeman has also been his usual superstar self. Folty is anchoring the rotation despite struggles by Julio Teheran, and the team is narrowly behind the Mets in the East. It’s Braves time, baby.
11. Pittsburgh Pirates (17-11), (12.455)
The Pirates had a rough time two weeks ago, losing six of seven to the Rockies and Phillies, as well as the first game of a doubleheader against the Tigers. However, since then, they have won five straight. Jameson Taillon and Gregory Polanco have struggled, but Trevor Williams and Corey Dickerson have kept the Pirates in contention. The Pirates had an easy schedule in April and it doesn’t get too much harder in May. This could give them a chance to break away from the rest of the division and continue their reign over the NL Central.
12. Philadelphia Phillies (16-11), (13.091)
If you thought the Phillies were going to struggle out of the gate like most fans, you’d be mistaken. The Phillies are benefitting from Arrieta being rejuvenated into his Cy Young-like form, with a 3-0 record and a 1.82 ERA. On top of this, the young talent in the batting order is on fire. Odubel Herrera and Rhys Hoskins are batting over .330 and have over 15 RBIs apiece. In fact, Hoskins is getting on base in nearly half of his ABs. Yes, you read that correctly. Through 96 plate appearances, Hoskins sports an on-base percentage of .468. With Hoskins in midseason form and other youngsters hitting well, there is a lot to be excited about for Phillies fans.
While the month of April has treated the Phillies well, there are still some question marks that loom over the organization. First and foremost: will Rhys Hoskins be able to maintain anywhere near the form he is playing at? Obviously, maintaining his on-base percentage and average are extremely unlikely. The question is how much the this will affect the team in the long-run. Fans of the Phillies will also begin to wonder if Carlos Santana will begin to rebound considering he has started out the year with a dreadful .160 batting average. If he picks up his form and the other members of the club keep up their production, the Phillies may be in for a surprisingly strong year.
13. Los Angeles Dodgers (12-15), (13.364)
Is it time to start worrying about this Dodgers team? Kenley Jansen’s ERA has jumped from 1.32 in 2017 to 5.59 in 2018. Yasiel Puig was batting below the Mendoza Line before landing on the DL after crashing into a wall and fouling a ball off his foot against the Giants, and Chris Taylor doesn’t look anything like the player who broke out in a big way last year. Perhaps most concerning, the team looks like it lacks motivation, as manager Dave Roberts benched Cody Bellinger on Sunday for his lack of hustle. Already seven games back of the red-hot division-leading Diamondbacks, the Dodgers have their work cut out for them if they want to repeat as division champions.
14. Washington Nationals (12-16), (13.455)
Adam Eaton, Anthony Rendon, and Daniel Murphy remain on the DL, but the 12-16 record is inexcusable at this point. Walks aside, Bryce Harper has cooled off, and the offense overall is only 18th in the MLB in runs per game, leaving a lot more to be desired. A six-game division deficit is by no means insurmountable, but with the Nats sitting in fourth place in the NL East, DC fans should start worrying.
15. Seattle Mariners (16-11), (13.727)
Don’t look now, but the Mariners are two games behind the Astros and control the second Wild Card spot. They’re outperforming their Pythagorean W-L by 3 games, mind, but that’s mostly due to closer Edwin Diaz’s abject refusal to give up ninth-inning leads. Now at full strength for the first time this season, the lineup has looked as potent as advertised. Particularly notable is Mitch Haniger’s hot start. The best outfielder in the AL West hit his tenth home run yesterday, tying him with the equally hot Didi Gregorius and some guy named Trout.
(Editor’s note: Mitch Haniger is not actually the best outfielder in the AL West)
16. Milwaukee Brewers (16-13), (16.000)
The Good: In the previous power rankings I said that the Brewers would want to take care of business when they faced the cellar-dwelling Reds, Marlins, and Royals. And that they did. The Brew Crew went 8-1 in that 9-game stretch.
The Bad: Immediately following that 9-game stretch, the Brewers had a 4-game series against the Cubs that wrapped up over this past weekend. They got swept.
The Ugly: Not only did they get swept, they got shutout three times (fifth time this year against the Cubs) and only scored two runs all series. It’s a good thing the Brewers don’t have to play the Cubs again until June. Milwaukee 15-6 against opponents not named the Cubs.
17. Toronto Blue Jays (15-12), (16.636)
The Blue Jays are still only a game out of the wild card, but they’ve lost 7 of their last 10 games. Their +27 run differential is a great sign going forward, and they’re 5th in the majors in runs scored despite a below average wRC+ of 99. Teoscar Hernandez has been remarkable since getting called up, and Curtis Granderson has been a great hitter even at 37 years of age. Oh, and Vlad Jr. is hitting .373 in AA while walking more than he strikes out.
18. Colorado Rockies (15-14), (16.909)
I was personally ready to pencil in the Rockies in for another round of Rocktober this year after the Padres series and the 1-0 game they won over the Marlins this past week, but then they dropped two straight this weekend to the lowly Marlins to slow their momentum. Now, they have to go to Wrigley for a three-game set against the Cubs, who won their series last weekend. The Rockies are good and their stud bats are producing. That said, the team has five players with negative WAR (including Ian Desmond and Pat Valaika who have been abysmal) and desperately needs stronger production moving forward from the non-superstars.
19. San Francisco Giants (14-14), (17.545)
The Giants have turned it around these past two weeks crawling back to a .500 record while recently nabbing three wins out of a four-game series against the Dodgers. First baseman Brandon Belt has been great, hitting five home runs to go along with ten RBIs since April 16th. Ace Johnny Cueto has been on absolute fire as well. He is the current MLB leader in ERA with a 0.84 mark. If Cueto keeps this up he will be a contender for the NL Cy Young award. The Giants have a lot going for them right now, but they still have a long ways to go as they are five and a half games back from the Diamondbacks and three back from the final NL Wild Card spot.
20. Tampa Bay Rays (12-14), (19.364)
The Rays have been hot recently, just coming off an eight-game winning streak that included a sweep of Minnesota and series win against the Red Sox in Boston. After a somewhat slow start, the Rays’ offense has been on a tear, even without Kevin Kiermaier’s bat in the lineup. The starting rotation, including the misshapen blob of relievers that pitches every fifth day, is solid enough to keep the offense in plenty of games should it maintain its recent level of production. Keep an eye on Blake Snell: in six starts this year, the third-year lefty has already surpassed his WAR for last year and is a little under halfway to matching what Steamer predicted he would finish with in 2018.
21. Oakland Athletics (14-14), (20.273)
The A’s offense has continued to be red-hot over the past two weeks, highlighted by 30 runs in their 3-game series against the White Sox. Other than Sean Manaea, who has a quality start in 5 of his 6 starts, including his no-hitter, and a few good performances from others every once in a while, the pitching leaves much to be desired.
22. Minnesota Twins (9-14), (22.909)
The Twins have had a very rough time over the past two weeks. After splitting a series in Puerto Rico with the Indians, the Twins fell apart, losing 9 of their next 10 games. That run of 10 losses in 12 games took them from their spot atop the AL Central to them being 3.0 games back of the Indians, who haven’t been tearing things up either. Joe Mauer’s hot start is in the rearview mirror, and he’s now slashing a more human .293/.454/.373.
Besides Mauer’s usual brilliance at the plate, the only supporting cast members on the Twins who have kept up with Mauer’s offensive production are Eddie Rosario (.308/.356/.564) and Max Kepler (.280/.344/.512), with all other contributors more than 70 points of OPS below Mauer’s .827.
On the mound, things have been hit-or-miss for the Twins. Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi continue to put up similar metrics, with Berrios being the standout performer among the two. The Berrios and Odorizzi have similar W-L records and ERA, Berrios’ FIP of 2.84 really separates his performances from those of Odorizzi’s (5.84 FIP). Kyle Gibson has also been able to string together a few good starts together, which was much needed considering the rest of the staff’s production. Lance Lynn and Phil Hughes both have an ERA over 7 in their combined 6 starts and everyone in the bullpen has an ERA above 5 except Addison Reed and Ryan Pressly (sidenote: my prediction for Fernando Rodney to be an all-star in MSABR’s bold prediction article is not off to a good start). And to top it all off, Byron Buxton was placed on the DL with a toe injury and there is currently no timetable for his return. At least Twins fans can look forward to three more replayed games against the cellar dweller Chicago White Sox in the summer.
23. Texas Rangers (11-18), (23.273)
The Rangers have continued to struggle, taking over sole possession of last place in the AL West. Adrian Beltre is due to miss a couple of weeks with a hamstring problem, joining Elvis Andrus and Rougned Odor on the DL. Ranking near the bottom of most offensive and pitching categories, the Rangers are in a lot of trouble. One of the few bright spots this season has been Bartolo Colon, who leads Rangers starters with a 2.87 ERA. Other than him, the pitching staff leaves much to be desired, as does the rest of the team.
24. Detroit Tigers (11-15), (23.818)
Very surprisingly, the Tigers actually went on a run to make it back to .500 for a short time. They went on a three-game losing streak between the Pirates and the Orioles to fall back to 11-15, but things are looking up for the Tigers. Currently, Detroit sits 2nd in the AL Central only three games back from first place, far better than where they were two weeks ago.
25. San Diego Padres (10-19), (24.000)
The Padres have had a pretty bad past few weeks, as they find themselves in the N.L. West cellar. Wil Myers has been limited to just ten games on the season and is back on the disabled list. Christian Villanueva has been the Padres best offensive player, posting a triple-slash of .348/.438/.768 with 8 home runs. The quartet of Craig Stammen, Jordan Lyles, Adam Cimber, and Brad Hand has been solid out of the pen, with each posting an ERA under three. Rookie Joey Lucchesi has had a good start to the season posting 0.7 fWAR through his first six starts in the majors.
26. Baltimore Orioles (8-20), (26.273)
Despite taking two of three games from the Tigers this weekend, the Orioles look like they’re headed nowhere, and Alex Cobb is a big reason why. After signing a 4 year/$57 million contract at the end of spring training, Cobb was supposed to provide a strong veteran presence atop the Orioles rotation. He has failed to make it through the 5th inning in any of his starts, has only struck out 4 batters, and has posted an unsightly 13.11 ERA and 2.83 WHIP. While an abbreviated spring training may be to blame for his poor performance so far, Orioles fans can’t help but worry that they are looking at Ubaldo Jimenez 2.0.
27. Chicago White Sox (8-18), (26.364)
The White Sox’s currently own a 8-18 record. Last week, the team was able to manage four wins including three versus the Royals. The other win came against the Mariners. The White Sox will continue to struggle with teams outside of the AL Central. Matt Davidson is hitting .253/.375./.609 with nine home runs. Most of these home runs came against the Royals, but if Davidson can continue this against other teams, the White Sox may be able to win more games. This week the White Sox play the Cardinals and the Twins, so they should be able to nab a few wins.
28. Miami Marlins (9-18), (29.091)
After hitting three home runs in a series against his former team, Lewis Brinson looked like he may finally have been turning things around. Those three hits ended up being his only three hits in the series. Brinson has not done much since, and neither has the rest of the Marlins’ offense. The good news is that the Marlins’ starters have pitched well in seven straight games, highlighted by Trevor Richards’ 10 strikeouts in 4.2 innings, Caleb Smith’s and Jarlin Garcia’s solid performances, and Wei-Yin Chen’s first start off the disabled list. The Marlins went 4-3 over that stretch, and in doing so, have won their past two series against the Dodgers and Rockies.
29. Kansas City Royals (7-20), (28.909)
Good news for the Royals came in the form of the return of five-time all-star Salvador Perez; his presence will be greatly appreciated as the offense is slumping badly and failing in the clutch, marked by a .215 team batting average with runners in scoring position through play on Sunday.
30. Cincinnati Reds (7-21), (29.909)
The Reds’ hitters have finally begun to turn it around, especially Joey Votto, who homered in the 5th inning of four straight games. Jose Peraza, whom I have called “the worst player in baseball” several times, is hitting .299 after 4 multi-hit games this week, and he’s put up a wRC+ over 100 this year. Despite Luis Castillo’s struggles, it was a great week for the Reds. They won their first series of the year, more than doubled their win total, and for a brief amount of time had a better record than the Royals. Baby steps.
For the sake of transparency, here are each voter’s individual rankings: