It’s Friday, which means that it’s time for another round of SI’s MLB Power Rankings. For this week’s theme, we’re spotlighting ten teams who have an opportunity to make some history, whether for good or for bad. (To read more about this format, go here, and for the last edition, here.) Rank on!
30. Detroit Tigers (34-78; Last Week: 30)
Are the Tigers going to be the worst team ever? No. That’s a high bar. (Er, low bar.) Are they going to be one of the worst teams in modern history? Probably! Thanks to their dismal last month, they’re currently on track to go 49-113. Since baseball integrated in 1947, there have been only four teams who have finished more poorly than this: the 1952 Pirates (42-112), 1962 Mets (40-112), 2003 Tigers (43-119), and 2018 Orioles (47-115). Detroit, then, will almost certainly finish as one of the very worst teams in modern baseball. The only question is just where they’ll be in the pecking order.
29. Baltimore Orioles (38-76; Last Week: 29)
There are 99 teams in baseball history that have allowed more than 200 home runs in a season. It’s become an increasingly common threshold to pass in recent years—homers have spiked; pitching staffs have struggled to adjust; 200 HR is an unfortunate, rather than damning, mark to pass.
The 2019 Orioles have a month and a half of baseball left to play. They have already given up 234, tied for eleventh most in history. They average more than two homers allowed per game, which blows the existing record rate out of the water (1.6, set by the 2016 Reds—versus 2.1, from the 2019 Orioles). In other words, Baltimore could see its home run rate get cut in half, and then get cut in half again, for the rest of the season… and it would still break the record for most home runs allowed in a season (258, by those same 2016 Reds). But don’t expect that to happen. The Orioles’ rate should stay steady, meaning that they’ll break the record by a lot.
28. Miami Marlins (43-71; Last Week: 27)
The Marlins may not be the worst team in baseball, but they do have the worst offense. Their 78 OPS+ (.662 OPS) is only slightly weaker than the Tigers’, but it’s weaker all the same, and it’s in the running to be one of the worst that baseball has seen in recent decades. It almost certainly won’t be the worst ever (shoutout to the 1901 Boston Beaneaters, 70 OPS+), but considering that it’s currently among the fifteen worst in the last half a century… it’s a special level of bad.
27. Kansas City Royals (41-75; Last Week: 28)
26. Seattle Mariners (48-68; Last Week: 24)
The Mariners’ injury-marred pitching staff has run through 39 different pitchers so far this year. The record for a season is 40. September’s expanded rosters will almost assuredly allow Seattle’s poor staff to break this record—perhaps by quite a bit!
25. Chicago White Sox (51-62; Last Week: 26)
24. Toronto Blue Jays (47-71; Last Week: 25)
23. Pittsburgh Pirates (48-66; Last Week: 23)
22. Colorado Rockies (52-63; Last Week: 22)
21. San Diego Padres (53-61; Last Week: 21)
Before 2013, no team had ever struck out 1,500 times in a season. Since? 10 clubs have done it, and we’re on track to see several more do it in 2019. The record is currently held by the 2018 White Sox, with 1,594 Ks (26.3% of their at-bats), and it’s being threatened by the 2019 Padres. San Diego has baseball’s highest strikeout rate—26.0%—with five everyday players K’ing even more than that. (Wil Myers is the clubhouse leader, at 34.9%.) So the record isn’t a lock, but it is… in striking distance. (Sorry.)
20. Los Angeles Angels (56-60; Last Week: 17)
The Angels have laid down just two successful sacrifice bunts all year—making it almost a guarantee that they’ll finish the season under the existing record low of five. They’ve clearly embraced the fact that the sac bunt is rarely a statistically smart move, which has become a larger trend; sacrifice hits are at an all-time low across baseball. (Much like the IBB, of course, this is driven by clubs in the AL, who don’t have to strategize for pitchers at the plate.) So... mark this one down as one good thing for the 2019 Angels, Non-Mike Trout Category!
19. Texas Rangers (58-56; Last Week: 20)
18. San Francisco Giants (57-59; Last Week: 16)
17. Cincinnati Reds (54-59; Last Week: 18)
16. Arizona Diamondbacks (58-57; Last Week: 15)
15. New York Mets (59-56; Last Week: 19)
14. Philadelphia Phillies (59-56; Last Week: 14)
13. St. Louis Cardinals (58-55; Last Week: 11)
12. Milwaukee Brewers (60-56; Last Week: 13)
11. Boston Red Sox (61-56; Last Week: 10)
The 2019 Red Sox will not be the worst team ever to follow a 100-win club. There are many things for fans to worry about, but this isn’t one of them. But they’re currently on track to be the 10th worst, which… is not great! (And the worst? The 1918 White Sox, who went 57-67 after losing many of their best players from the previous year to World War I. In 1919, of course, they had the Black Sox Scandal. So, really, add some perspective, and the 2019 Red Sox don’t look too bad as a follow-up to 100 Ws.)
10. Washington Nationals (61-53; Last Week: 12)
9. Chicago Cubs (63-52; Last Week: 9)
8. Oakland Athletics (65-50; Last Week: 7)
7. Atlanta Braves (68-49; Last Week: 8)
6. Tampa Bay Rays (66-50; Last Week: 5)
5. Cleveland Indians (69-46; Last Week: 6)
4. Minnesota Twins (70-45; Last Week: 3)
When the 2018 Yankees broke the record for most home runs in a season, they toppled a mark that had stood for more than two decades and had not been particularly close to being broken by anyone else.
But it’s almost certainly about to fall. The 2018 Yankees’ 267 home runs came at a rate of 1.65 per game—impressive and unprecedented. The 2019 Twins, however, already have 224 HRs, which have come at a rate of a whopping 1.95 per game. If that holds? Minnesota will finish with 315 home runs, destroying the old record.
3. New York Yankees (76-39; Last Week: 4)
This one is a bit tricky to find concrete historical records for. But it seems unlikely that it’s ever been matched. The 2019 Yankees have sent 25 (!) players to the injured list so far this year—1,799 cumulative days on the IL. That’s more days than any team had on the IL in all of 2018, and, remember, we’re still only in early August. On track for a definitive record? Hard to say. A crazy result that feels all the crazier for how well the team’s replacements have done? Definitely.
2. Houston Astros (75-40; Last Week: 2)
The 2018 Astros set baseball’s record for fewest intentional walks in a season, with A.J. Hinch calling for just four of them. (Read about those four and what they meant right here.) In 2019? The Astros have yet to issue a single intentional walk. This is reflective of a larger trend: While the IBB is alive and well in the NL, where walking a guy to get to the pitcher remains tried-and-true, it’s becoming increasingly rare in other situations and is accordingly scarce in the AL. As a result, the overall rate of intentional walks has fallen to its lowest rate ever in 2019, with 0.16 IBB per game, compared to last year’s 0.19. And the Astros—ever the savvy trend-setters—are leading the way, almost certain to beat their own record of fewest by one team, and with the potential to make it through the season without issuing any at all.