Power Rankings: The Astros Refuse to Lose

The American League is dominating our Power Rankings and the Astros stand alone.
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This edition of Power Rankings features a new No. 1, the same old No. 30, and yet another ridiculous week from Mike Trout. Here we go!

Tier Six: Cellar Dwellers

30. Baltimore Orioles (20–50) There aren’t too many interesting questions about Baltimore’s season right now, but here’s one: How long will it take for their win total to equal the number of games separating them from first place, if it ever does? They’re 27 ½ games back right now, which means that they’re potentially not too far from making that happen, but with this team… it might be a while.

29. Kansas City Royals (22–50) It’s bad enough that the Royals’ ongoing seven-game losing streak is the longest in baseball right now. It’s worse that it’s their second six-game losing streak just this month.

28. Chicago White Sox (24–47) The White Sox’s hitters have struck out in more than a quarter of their plate appearances, the highest rate of any American League squad. Their rotation has struck out just 15% of batters faced, the lowest rate of any American League squad. Symmetry!

27. Miami Marlins (29–44) The Marlins almost got their first sweep of the season last week, winning their first two of three against the Orioles. Alas, “almost” is the operative word there, as they went on to use that third game to become one of the only teams this year to allow 10 runs against Baltimore.

26. Cincinnati Reds (26–45) Quick, which breakout hitter on this team has a higher OPS than Manny Machado, Andrew Benintendi, and Paul Goldschmidt? Turns out that it’s not Scooter Gennett. (Though he’s close!) It’s Eugenio Suarez, who’s been fantastic this year. Unfortunately, it would take quite a lot of performances like his for any offense to be able to overcome a pitching staff like this one.

Tier Five: Could be worse, I guess...

25. Texas Rangers (30–44) Against Colorado last week, Texas had their highest-scoring game of the season, with 13 runs. But they still needed a walk-off to win, because they allowed 12.

24. New York Mets (31–38) The Mets have actually displayed a pretty promising trend over the last two and a half weeks or so. Their record’s gone like this: lose eight, win one, lose four, win one. Following that math, their next losing streak should be down to just two games—before they’re due to cycle back and lose 16.

23. San Diego Padres (34–40) Entering this week, there were two pitchers who had logged at least 35 innings this season without allowing a home run. One was White Sox starter Dylan Covey, who took himself out of the running here by giving up his first dinger last night. The other is Padres reliever Adam Cimber, who is enjoying a sneaky good rookie season. Craig Stammen and Brad Hand join the sinkerballer in a bullpen that’s been a remarkable bright spot for this team so far, with all three posting a sub-2.50 ERA.

22. Minnesota Twins (31–37) The Twins are the only team in baseball that has hit more flyballs than groundballs. Unfortunately for them, they rank toward the very top for flyballs that stay in the infield and toward the very bottom for flyballs that become home runs.

21. Toronto Blue Jays (33–38) Randal Grichuk has had a marvelous past two weeks, hitting .351/.415/.730, culminating in a 3-for-3 game with two home runs yesterday to help Toronto complete a sweep of Washington. That’s enough to bring him up to… an 89 OPS+, still well below his career average mark of 105.


Tier Four: Meh

20. Tampa Bay Rays (33–39) By Baseball Prospectus’ third-order win metric, which looks at a team’s underlying statistics and strength of schedule, no team has been as unfortunate as the Rays have this year. They’ve lost about seven more games than the numbers say they should’ve—or, to put it another way, they’ve been just about as unlucky as the Mariners have been lucky. Perhaps Tampa fans can at least take solace in the fact that the difference between their team’s actual win percentage of .458 and that projected third-order win percentage of .551 really doesn’t mean so much in this year’s AL East.

19. Colorado Rockies (34–38) The Rockies’ bullpen was supposed to be an asset after they locked in Bryan Shaw, Wade Davis and Kyle McGee with multi-year deals this winter. Instead, it’s been a liability, and the last few weeks have been especially bad. They’re the only NL relief corps with an ERA over 5.00—ranking near the bottom of the league in walk rate and home runs allowed—and while their lone bright spot, Adam Ottavino, has returned from the disabled list, that won’t be enough to save them.    

18. Detroit Tigers (36–37) With their longest winning streak of the season so far, at five games and counting, Detroit is threatening to cross the .500 mark for the first time this year. With a short series against Cincinnati up next, they just might do it.

17. San Francisco Giants (35–38) The Giants fell below .500 last week after losing three of four to the Marlins. They have their chance at revenge this week—with another series against Miami followed by ones against San Diego and Colorado, meaning that it would be a good time for them to gain a little ground back in the NL West.

16. Pittsburgh Pirates (36-36) What’s more surprising: that Francisco Cervelli just might be the best-hitting catcher in baseball right now, or that his most serious competition for the title is Miami’s J.T. Realmuto? With nine home runs, Cervelli has already hit a new career high as he’s nearly doubled his flyball percentage. After back-to-back years of below-average performance at the plate, his current 140 OPS+ is a welcome change for Pittsburgh.

Tier Three: A-OK

15. Oakland A’s (36–36) The A’s have stolen fewer bases than any other team this year, with scarcely a third of the major-league average at just 12. Terribly important? Nah. But for a team that’s smack-dab in the middle of the pack in just about everything—see: a collective 101 OPS+ and 99 ERA+—at least it’s interesting.

14. St. Louis Cardinals (37–32) The Cardinals have been busy with transactions over the last three weeks, most of them unwanted. Paul DeJong, Tyler Lyons, Greg Holland, and Luke Gregerson have gone to the disabled list. Adam Wainwright and Dominic Leone have been moved from the 10-day to the 60-day DL. And Alex Reyes underwent season-ending surgery once again. Ouch.

13. Los Angeles Angels (38–35) It’s been a lousy stretch for the Angels, who’ve lost seven of their last eight. Now, it’s been a magnificent stretch for Mike Trout, who’s hit .556/.658/1.037 with four home runs in those eight games—but you know what they say about no man being an island, even when he appears to be more god than man.

12. Philadelphia Phillies (38–32) At 4.5 games back of first place at one point this weekend, the Phillies fell further out of it than they’ve been at any point this year. With a tough schedule up ahead (Cardinals, Nationals, Yankees, Nationals again) they may not ever get any closer.

11. Arizona Diamondbacks (40–32) It’s hard to describe just how good Mike Trout has been over the past month. (See above for just a little taste, if you need one.) But Paul Goldschmidt has been impressively close to him. Trout’s stat line for the last four weeks is .394/.517/.777, while Goldschmidt is at .363/.449/.765, which… well is a really solid second place!


Tier Two: The Next Best Thing

10. Cleveland Indians (38–33) In the fourth inning of Cleveland’s Friday loss to Minnesota, something mildly astounding happened: For the first time in more than a month, Corey Kluber walked a batter. The famously robotic ace gave Eduardo Escobar a free pass in what would be his shortest and shakiest outing of the year, with four runs in five innings for his first performance this season that didn’t register as a quality start. While Kluber’s streak there has ended, his bullpen is in the middle of developing a fine one of their own—as they’ve now made it more than two weeks without a blown save.

9. Los Angeles Dodgers (37–33) The Dodgers just put together their longest winning streak of the season so far, taking five in a row. With a team line of .251/.332/.521 over the last two weeks, they’ve had the hottest offense of any squad outside of Houston. That’s been enough to shake off any lingering cobwebs from their creaky start and finally put them within shouting distance of first place.

8. Milwaukee Brewers (42–29) Josh Hader has gotten the bulk of the attention when it comes to the Brewers’ relief corps—and reasonably so, with strikeout numbers like that—but don’t sleep on his teammate Jeremy Jeffress. The 30-year-old has been one of baseball’s most effective relievers, allowing just three runs in 34 innings of work so far, and a key part in building one of the league’s strongest bullpens in Milwaukee.

7. Washington Nationals (37–31) It’s now been a week since Washington could claim even just a partial hold on first place in the NL East, and it hasn’t been an especially pretty week. The Nationals were swept by the Blue Jays, and Bryce Harper has one hit in his last 24 at-bats, which puts him in only a slightly less position than Daniel Murphy, who’s gone 3-for-22 since making his anticipated return from the disabled list. On the bright side, whether you want to call 19-year-old Juan Soto “Childish Bambino” or “The Truth,” the kid’s tearing it up. Just check out his home run against the Yankees on Monday.

6. Seattle Mariners (46–26) It’s begun to feel awful tired to keep pointing out that the Mariners’ record looks unsustainable, but the fact that this team is where it is remains ridiculous. To wit—after this weekend, a full half of the team’s wins have come by one run. Half of them! They’re 23–10 in one-run contests, which means that they just might chase down the all-time record here. (Set by the 2012 Orioles, who went 29–9 in such games.)

Tier One: Cream of the Crop

5. Atlanta Braves (42–29) The Braves have won five of their last six, which has given them their biggest lead of the season yet at 3 ½ games. Considering that their upcoming week features series against Blue Jays, Orioles and Reds, they have a pretty good shot at building on that.

4. Chicago Cubs (40–28) This week saw the Cubs take back first place for the first time in more than a month, though they only lasted one day there before the Brewers snapped it back. But Chicago still has a run differential that’s nearly double Milwaukee’s, with stronger numbers across the board—101 OPS+ versus 96, and a 131 ERA+ versus 117—all of which should be taken into consideration here.

3. Boston Red Sox (49–24) The margin between the Red Sox and Yankees remains so thin as to be almost indistinguishable. The Red Sox’s ERA is 3.43, and the Yankees’ is 3.41. Boston’s batting average is ten points higher (.261 to .251), while New York’s slugging percentage is the same (.462 to .452). Boston’s pitchers have walked 8.3% of batters, while New York’s have walked 8.4%. And on and on straight through to the point that Boston has more wins, but New York has a higher winning percentage.

2. New York Yankees (47–22) Luis Severino had his best game of the season so far in Saturday’s win, striking out nine over eight scoreless innings while allowing just three hits. Given that he’s currently posting a 2.09 ERA and striking out nearly a third of the batters he faces, “best game of the season” is a pretty high bar.

1.  Houston Astros (49–25) All season long, there’s been plenty of evidence pointing to the fact that Houston should be the best team in baseball. Their run differential has been nothing short of insane, with numbers that estimate a team’s record like third-order wins and pythagpat continually suggesting that they should’ve been winning more games than they were. Now, finally, they are. The Astros have won 11 straight. They have the best offense in baseball (120 OPS+) to go with the best pitching staff in baseball—the only team with a sub-3.00 ERA, and the only one with a strikeout-to-walk ratio above 4.00. They’ve outscored their opponents by 158 runs, while no other team has done better than 110. And given their upcoming schedule (Rays, Royals, Blue Jays, Rays again, Rangers, White Sox) this winning streak just might last for quite a while.