June 18, 2012

By virtue of winning nine straight games and going 13-2 overall in June, the Yankees have overtaken the Rangers for the best record in the American League and are currently looking like the best team in baseball. This week they have a chance to extend that streak when they face two teams they already swept for the first six wins in their streak: the Mets and Braves.

So why are they still No. 5 in these rankings? Because the system encompasses the season as a whole, rather than just the most recent week, and is thus less prone to overreacting to short term spikes. The Yankees are definitely a top tier team, but we should remember that the Rangers looked unbeatable in April as well. The timing of slumps and hot streaks shouldn't cause us to miss the fact that both Texas and New York have now had a stretch of each.

NOTE: All stats are through Sunday, June 10.

Rankings written by the Ben Duronio of Fangraphs. The system used to rank the teams is based not on the current standings or a gut feeling about team quality, but on how well they've performed at the underlying traits that predict future performance better than wins and losses.

wRC+ is an offensive index where 100 is league average and every point above or below that denotes how far from league average a player's performance has been up to that point. It is adjusted for park and league, so it takes into account the context of a player's surroundings, and allows for comparison of performance from players in different situations and in different times.

MLB Power Rankings
1 Texas Rangers
Last Week: 1
WAR Winning Percentage: .684; Current Winning Percentage: .597; WAR Wins: 40; Current Wins: 46
The Rangers have been one of the healthiest teams all year, but some key pitchers in the rotation and bullpen have succumbed to injury over the last few weeks. Neftali Feliz and Derek Holland got hurt, forcing the Rangers to move Alexi Ogando to the rotation, but he then strained his groin running the bases in interleague play and was placed on the disabled list, where he joins reliever Koji Uehara. All those injuries make the performance of rookie pitcher Justin Grimm on Saturday all the more important. Grimm delivered a quality start, going six innings and allowing three runs, six hits and no walks while striking out seven in a win over the Astros. The Rangers starting pitching problems have not been solved but Grimm at least gives them another option to consider.
2 Washington <a href=Nationals" title="Washington Nationals">
Last Week: 2
WAR Winning Percentage: .619; Current Winning Percentage: .594; WAR Wins: 40; Current Wins: 38
Washington continues to lead the NL East but is far from putting the division away, which will make for a very interesting decision in a few months. The Nationals have repeatedly said that Stephen Strasburg will be shut down after 160 innings, a mark he should reach in August. If the Nationals are winning the division and headed toward their first playoff appearance since moving to the nation's capital for the 2005 season, are they really going to shut down one of the top pitchers in baseball? One way to make the decision easier will be to open up a bigger lead in the division, but that will be tough to do this week with series against the Rays and Orioles.
3 St. Louis <a href=Cardinals" title="St. Louis Cardinals">
Last Week: 4
WAR Winning Percentage: .596; Current Winning Percentage: .507; WAR Wins: 40; Current Wins: 34
While the Cardinals boast one of the top offenses in baseball, their starting pitching gets somewhat overlooked. St. Louis has the second-lowest starting pitching FIP in all of baseball at 3.29, backed by stellar seasons from Lance Lynn and Kyle Lohse. Adam Wainwright seems to have gotten on track, with back-to-back seven inning starts in which he's combined for 15 strikeouts and three walks with just three earned runs allowed.
4 Los Angeles <a href=Dodgers" title="Los Angeles Dodgers">
Last Week: 3
WAR Winning Percentage: .591; Current Winning Percentage: .627; WAR Wins: 40; Current Wins: 42
It's fair to say Andre Ethier is having a pretty good year so far. His 2.4 WAR is on pace to shatter his career high of 3.5, and he recently agreed to a five-year, $85 million contract extension. There is some reason to worry about Etheir though, as his walk-rate is the second-lowest of his career, and his 22.4 percent strikeout rate is by far his career high at the moment. Most of his other stats are in line with his career norms, but the Dodgers need him to sustain his elite-level performance to continue to dominate the National League west, so his walk-to-strikeout ratio is something to monitor.
5 New York Yankees
Last Week: 5
WAR Winning Percentage: .575; Current Winning Percentage: .615; WAR Wins: 37; Current Wins: 40
The Yankees are the hottest team in baseball, winning nine straight to improve to 40-25 overall, the best record in baseball. Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova have been huge reasons for the team's recent surge, with Hughes netting a 1.69 ERA over three starts in 21 1/3 June Innings, and Nova recording a 0.79 ERA over 22 2/3 innings. The Yankees offense is again among the game's best, so if they get this type of production from their middle-of-the-rotation starters they will continue to shoot up the rankings and could pull away in the AL East.
6 San Francisco <a href=Giants" title="San Francisco Giants">
Last Week: 8
WAR Winning Percentage: .566; Current Winning Percentage: .552; WAR Wins: 38; Current Wins: 37
After his perfect game last week, Matt Cain may officially be the best pitcher in San Francisco. Over his past 316 2/3 innings since the start of 2011, Cain has a 2.67 ERA with 275 strikeouts to 79 walks. The Giants have needed Cain to be every bit as good as he has been with Tim Lincecum getting awful results start after start. Lincecum's 6.19 ERA is atrocious, but his FIP of 3.89 and xFIP of 3.84 suggest that his ERA is inflated and should come down. Even though his results should improve, his strikeout-to-walk ratio has decreased over the past four years from 3.84 to 3.04 to 2.56 to this year's 2.02 mark. Along with that, his rate of home run per nine innings has risen from 0.40 to 0.75 to 0.62 to 0.94. Lincecum is not nearly as bad as his ERA suggests, but there are legitimate concerns about the two-time Cy Young award winner for the rest of the year.
7 Boston <a href=Red Sox" title="Boston Red Sox">
Last Week: 7
WAR Winning Percentage: .565; Current Winning Percentage: .500; WAR Wins: 37; Current Wins: 33
The Red Sox have scored the most runs in the majors and can thank a good portion of that run scoring to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. While "Salty" has not produced much in the on-base department, with an OBP below .300, his .281 Isolated Power mark is by far the highest of any catcher with at least 180 plate appearances. (The next-highest is Mike Napoli at .216.) Saltalamacchia also has 12 home runs and 12 doubles, putting him on pace to best his career highs of 16 and 24, respectively, in those departments.
8 Chicago <a href=White Sox" title="Chicago White Sox">
Last Week: 6
WAR Winning Percentage: .549; Current Winning Percentage: .530; WAR Wins: 36; Current Wins: 35
Phil Humber has been awful since his perfect game on April 21, with a 7.47 ERA over 53 innings and 10 starts. While Humber has struggled, lefthanded starter Jose Quintana has been quietly producing a very solid season. The 23-year-old has a 1.53 ERA and 3.15 FIP over seven games, five starts, and 35 1/3 innings pitched. He has only struck out just over five batters per nine, which is rather low, but he has kept his walk rate down and avoided home runs. If Humber continues to struggle, Chicago may look for pitching help down the stretch, but Quintana's emergence has been a big help for the first place White Sox.
9 Cincinnati <a href=Reds" title="Cincinnati Reds">
Last Week: 15
WAR Winning Percentage: .543; Current Winning Percentage: .585; WAR Wins: 35; Current Wins: 38
Joey Votto has a major-league-best 28 doubles, which puts him on pace for 70 this season. The single-season record is 67, and no player has reached 60 doubles since 1936. There probably won't be a big chase for 73 home runs this year, but following Votto's pursuit of the doubles record could still be fun to watch, although it would likely fly under the radar. Just like the man himself.
10 Los Angeles <a href=Angels" title="Los Angeles Angels">
Last Week: 11
WAR Winning Percentage: .541; Current Winning Percentage: .537; WAR Wins: 36; Current Wins: 36
Mark Trumbo's improvements in his plate approach have been paying huge dividends this season. For players like Trumbo, who relies heavily on power, striking out more is not always a bad thing. In fact, Trumbo has both walked and struck out more frequently this season, with his walk-to-strikeout rate improving from 0.21 to 0.35, a notable jump for a second-year player. While he hit 29 home runs last season, his batting average (.321 from .254) and on-base percentage (.378 from .291) have shown marked improvement since 2011. Oh yeah, and the power hasn't gone anywhere, as he is on pace to hit 36 homers.
11 Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 14
WAR Winning Percentage: .536; Current Winning Percentage: .591; WAR Wins: 35; Current Wins: 39
With each and every start, Jason Hammel's season is looking less and less like a fluke. The Orioles ace threw the complete game shutout of his career on Saturday and took a no hitter into the seventh inning. Hammel has not given up more than four runs all season, and the highest his ERA has been at any point is 3.22. Fellow rotation member Wei-Yen Chen has been very impressive as well, with a 3.36 ERA on the season in 80 1/3 innings in his first season since coming over from Japan.
12 Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 9
WAR Winning Percentage: .535; Current Winning Percentage: .585; WAR Wins: 35; Current Wins: 38
Evan Longoria is expected back sometime this week, which is tremendous news for the Rays and terrible news for the rest of the AL East. Longoria will be returning just as Ben Zobrist is getting hot. The rightfielder/second baseman has hit .333/.444/.600 in June, pushing his wRC+ to 122 and not far off of last year's 131 mark. His average is just .236, but his walk rate of 16.7 percent has been a huge part of his game all season.
13 Detroit <a href=Tigers" title="Detroit Tigers">
Last Week: 16
WAR Winning Percentage: .530; Current Winning Percentage: .485; WAR Wins: 35; Current Wins: 32
The Indians and White Sox have had their chances to pull away with the AL Central while the Tigers muddled along, but they have not capitalized on the surprising struggles in Detroit. Now, the Tigers are getting hot, going 7-3 over their past 10 while no other team in the division has played better than .500 ball during that span. The Tigers are just three games out now and both Austin Jackson and Doug Fister are off the disabled list.
14 Philadelphia <a href=Phillies" title="Philadelphia Phillies">
Last Week: 10
WAR Winning Percentage: .525; Current Winning Percentage: .456; WAR Wins: 36; Current Wins: 31
In one of the strangest developments of the season, Cliff Lee still doesn't have a win yet, although that really does not mean anything of substance. He has not pitched as well as he has over the past two years, but his 3.11 FIP is still elite and his strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.50 is incredible as usual. Of bigger concern for the Phillies is that they enter the week fresh off being swept in Toronto and now sit nine games out in the NL East.
15 Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 13
WAR Winning Percentage: .515; Current Winning Percentage: .530; WAR Wins: 35; Current Wins: 35
The Braves just lost Brandon Beachy to elbow soreness, which is as big of a blow as that team could suffer at this point. Beachy has been wild at times this year, but he is still the major league leader in ERA at 2.00. The Braves are replacing Beachy temporarily with Jair Jurrjens, who recorded a 9.37 ERA over four starts early in the season before being sent to Triple-A. Jurrjens has not pitched much better in the minors, with a 5.27 ERA and seven home runs allowed in nine starts. The drop off from Beachy to Jurrjens is a huge one, and the Braves need their other starters to step up in order to maintain pace with the Nationals, whom they trail by four games in the NL East.
16 Arizona <a href=Diamondbacks" title="Arizona Diamondbacks">
Last Week: 12
WAR Winning Percentage: .515; Current Winning Percentage: .485; WAR Wins: 34; Current Wins: 32
Over the past 30 days, the Diamondbacks offense has improved dramatically, in particualr first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and second baseman Aaron Hill. Those two have hit .355 and .330 respectively with eight home runs and five steals between them. Along with their production, outfielders Gerardo Parra and Jason Kubel both have a wRC+ above 120 over the past month. On the pitching front, Wade Miley and Trevor Cahill have been very impressive, with both having an ERA below 3.10. If they can find room for top prospect Trevor Bauer, the D-backs could be poised to make a big move in the NL West.
17 New York Mets
Last Week: 19
WAR Winning Percentage: .503; Current Winning Percentage: .522; WAR Wins: 34; Current Wins: 35
Have a week, Kirk Niewenhuis. The Mets outfielder had just three home runs in his career play on June 11 but hit three in five games last week. First baseman Ike Davis has also gotten into a bit of a grooev, hitting .450 over his past 6 games. Davis' walk rate has been solid all year at 10.4 percent, but the hits just have not been landing. This recent mini-surge may be exactly what Davis needed to get his bat going like it did at the start of last year before he was injured.
18 Milwaukee <a href=Brewers" title="Milwaukee Brewers">
Last Week: 18
WAR Winning Percentage: .490; Current Winning Percentage: .455; WAR Wins:326; Current Wins: 30
Ryan Braun may be in for yet another MVP season if he keeps up his torrid pace. His numbers almost match last year's, with a line of .316/.395/.620 (175 wRC+) this season compared to .332/.397/.597 (179 wRC+) last year. Braun hit four homers last week, even though the Brewers went just 3-4 during that time. Outside of Braun, Rickie Weeks finally seems to be getting things together. He has a .377 OBP in June with 10 walks and three extra base hits.
19 Kansas City <a href=Royals" title="Kansas City Royals">
Last Week: 22
WAR Winning Percentage: .477; Current Winning Percentage: .453; WAR Wins: 30; Current Wins: 29
Kansas City is still very much alive in the rather open AL Central and now sit just five games out. The Royals have won five of their last six, with Alex Gordon being a big catalyst for the team this month. In 15 June games, Gordon has 14 walks and eight extra base hits. The Royals have also received some pretty good pitching this month, as Vin Mazzaro, Felipe Paulino and Luis Mendoza all have June ERAs at or below 1.80.
20 Miami <a href=Marlins" title="Miami Marlins">
Last Week: 17
WAR Winning Percentage: .470; Current Winning Percentage: .500; WAR Wins: 31; Current Wins: 33
Only the Pirates have accumulated a lower position player WAR than the Marlins' 5.0 mark this season. Omar Infante has cooled significantly over the past month. From May 16 to June 16, the second baseman has hit .231/.259/.269 with no home runs after hitting six homers in the previous month and a half. Infante is more of a role player, but with Emilio Bonifacio injured and Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez struggling, the Marlins could really use Infante to perform to his potential.
21 Toronto <a href=Blue Jays" title="Toronto Blue Jays">
Last Week: 21
WAR Winning Percentage: .453; Current Winning Percentage: .515; WAR Wins: 30; Current Wins: 34
The Blue Jays had a rough week, and not just because they were swept at home by the Nationals (though they did then sweep the Phillies). Pitchers Brandon Morrow, Drew Hutchison and Kyle Drabek all were placed on the disabled list this week, a massive blow to a team that was already struggling in that department. The Jays got a decent start out of former rotation member Brett Cecil yesterday, and will need him and Ricky Romero to help compensate for the absence of the aforementioned trio.
22 Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 20
WAR Winning Percentage: .439; Current Winning Percentage: .508; WAR Wins: 29; Current Wins: 33
The Indians have a very nice offense, but they have some serious issues against lefthanded pitching. The only lineup regular with a wRC+ above 100 against lefties this season is Asdrubal Cabrera. Jason Kipnis (70 wRC+), Shin-Soo Choo (59 wRC+) and Carlos Santana (73) need to improve against southpaws to keep the lineup producing against lefthanded pitchers.
23 Colorado <a href=Rockies" title="Colorado Rockies">
Last Week: 23
WAR Winning Percentage: .483; Current Winning Percentage: .385; WAR Wins: 28; Current Wins: 25
The Rockies have struggled a ton this year, but their outfield hasn't been the problem. Carlos Gonzalez is a potential MVP candidate with a 171 wRC+ (wRC+ accounts for park factor, so the Coors production bump is included). Dexter Fowler and Michael Cuddyer have a 118 and 119 wRC+, respectively, while Tyler Colvin has a .568 slugging percentage in 134 plate appearances.
24 Chicago <a href=Cubs" title="Chicago Cubs">
Last Week: 24
WAR Winning Percentage: .420; Current Winning Percentage: .333; WAR Wins: 28; Current Wins: 22
The Cubs are looking to improve their future and are willing to move almost every player on their team to do so. The Cubs actually made a very big splash earlier last week on the international free agent market, signing Jorge Soler to a nine-year, $30 million contract. Chicago's future may get even better if they are able to trade starting pitchers Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza for some quality prospects. Managing the deadline appropriately will be crucial to speeding up the Cubs' rebuilding process.
25 Seattle <a href=Mariners" title="Seattle Mariners">
Last Week: 27
WAR Winning Percentage: .415; Current Winning Percentage: .426; WAR Wins: 28; Current Wins: 29
Jesus Montero has really gotten it going this month, but unfortunately for the Mariners his production has come just as Kyle Seager has cooled off. Montero is hitting over .300 in June while Seager is hitting just .167, despite hitting three home runs. The Mariners are out of the AL West race, so the most important thing to watch the rest of the year will be the development of their young hitters: Montero, Seager, Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak.
26 Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 25
WAR Winning Percentage: .412; Current Winning Percentage: .523; WAR Wins: 27; Current Wins: 34
A.J. Burnett appears to be having a career resurgence in Pittsburgh, with a 3.52 ERA and 58 strikeouts in 69 innings. Aside from Burnett's disastrous outing against the Cardinals in his third start of the year ? he allowed 12 runs in 2 2/3 innings -- he has given up more than two runs just once in 10 starts. If Erik Bedard can provide Burnett and James McDonald some consistent help, Pittsburgh can remain a contender in the NL Central. The problem is that the Pirates just do not have the hitting to keep up and any regression from their top starting pitchers will doom their efforts to reach the postseason.
27 Oakland <a href=Athletics" title="Oakland Athletics">
Last Week: 29
WAR Winning Percentage: .400; Current Winning Percentage: .409; WAR Wins: 26; Current Wins: 27
Many thought the success of ex-Rockie Seth Smith was simply attributable to Coors Field, but his .381 on base percentage and career high 131 wRC+ in his first season in Oakland indicates that he is a good hitter no matter where he plays. The A's have fallen out of the race, but Smith could be an interesting trade target for any team seeking a lefthanded bat. He has two years left on his contract, so the A's do not have to move him, but they could receive a nice player or two that might speed up their rebuilding efforts.
28 Houston Astros
Last Week: 26
WAR Winning Percentage: .381; Current Winning Percentage: .409; WAR Wins: 25; Current Wins: 27
While their isn't much good news in Houston these days, Jed Lowrie at least continues to get better and better. Lowrie has the highest WAR of any shortstop in baseball, along with the most home runs (13). The position has thinned since the days of A-Rod, Jeter and Nomar, but that does not make Lowrie's production any less impressive. While the Astros are not in contention, the trade they made with the Red Sox that included Kyle Weiland and Lowrie for Mark Melancon looks like one of the biggest steals of last offseason.
29 San Diego <a href=Padres" title="San Diego Padres">
Last Week: 28
WAR Winning Percentage: .367; Current Winning Percentage: .358; WAR Wins: 25; Current Wins: 24
Carlos Quentin may make a very nice trade target for a team like the Indians, who desperately need a righthanded power hitter. Quentin has played just 16 games this year for the Padres after being injured for most of the season, but the slugging outfielder has six home runs and a 277 wRC+ in his 65 plate appearances.
30 Minnesota <a href=Twins" title="Minnesota Twins">
Last Week: 30
WAR Winning Percentage: .356; Current Winning Percentage: .400; WAR Wins: 23; Current Wins: 26
Despite the best efforts of Trevor Plouffe, the Twins still come in as the last team in our rankings yet again. Plouffe hit five of his 14 home runs last week and has nine home runs for the month of June already. The big half month has seen him improve his line from .163/.261/.347 at the end of May to .238/.321/.571 currently, about as big a two-week jump as possible this late in the season.

You May Like

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)