- In this week's list we take a look at the teams bunched in the middle. Which are primed to surge their way toward the top and which are due for a setback?
We’ve reached the end of another week in baseball, which means it’s time for another round of SI’s MLB Power Rankings. This week’s theme? .500. Here’s a zoom-in on 10 teams at or close to .500, with a look at whether they’re here to stay or simply passing through. For last week’s edition, click here, and for more about this format, here. Rank on!
30. Miami Marlins (10-27; Last Week: 30)
29. Kansas City Royals (13-25; Last Week: 28)
28. Baltimore Orioles (13-24; Last Week: 29)
27. San Francisco Giants (16-21; Last Week: 27)
26. Toronto Blue Jays (15-22; Last Week: 17)
25. Cincinnati Reds (16-22; Last Week: 24)
24. Chicago White Sox (16-20; Last Week: 22)
At the bottom end of the band here is the White Sox, whose starting five makes a very strong argument for the worst in baseball. (A 6.16 ERA will do that.) There’s only one member of the rotation with a sub-4.00 ERA, and you only get that by using a generous definition of “member of the rotation”: It’s Dylan Covey, who’s made just one start. Luckily for the White Sox, though, they a) have the benefit of playing in a weak division, and b) have had a relatively solid offense. With Tim Anderson’s breakout, Yoan Moncada’s development, and Jose Abreu’s steady power, they’ve been markedly better at the plate than they were last year. But, of course, that’s a low bar, and with this pitching, it can only take them so high.
23. Los Angeles Angels (17-20; Last Week: 26)
The Angels’ hitting has been almost exactly league-average. Mike Trout has been Mike Trout, Tommy La Stella has apparently evolved into a legitimate slugger, and Shohei Ohtani has just made his long-awaited (half-)return from Tommy John; meanwhile, Zack Cozart has seemingly lost all sense of self at the plate, and Justin Bour has looked relatively close to doing the same. In other words, it’s all averaged out, or close to it. The hitting has been fine. The pitching, though? Yiiiiikes. With a 5.09 ERA (87 ERA+), Los Angeles’ staff has been among the weakest in baseball. The relief has been bad (Cody Allen, in particular, has looked in over his head at closer) and the rotation has been worse. The Angels’ high-water mark so far has been exactly one game over .500, and with this pitching, it’s hard to imagine getting back there, let alone past it.
22. Washington Nationals (15-22; Last Week: 20)
21. Oakland Athletics (17-22; Last Week: 25)
20. Colorado Rockies (17-20; Last Week: 21)
The Rockies’ outlook is markedly better than it was a few weeks ago, which really is not saying too much, considering that they began the season 3-12. Since then, they’ve… well, not exactly fixed everything, but they’ve gotten somewhat close-ish. Unfortunately, in the NL West, close-ish doesn’t count for too much. And perhaps the most interesting feature here is just how the team has done it—they’ve been carried by their pitching (101 ERA+) much more than by their hitting (79 OPS+), to an extent that has not ever before been seen by the franchise. The Rockies have never had an ERA+ so much higher than their OPS+, which would not necessarily be a problem if it indicated an all-world pitching staff with an average line-up, but with average pitching and a dreadful offense…. well, there’s a reason they’re only hanging around the underside of .500.
19. New York Mets (17-20; Last Week: 12)
The Mets fell below .500 for the first time this week, as they slid into a stretch in which they’ve lost six of their last eight. Despite the very fine constituent pieces at the top of the rotation, the team’s pitching has struggled, and their only upgrade so far in this department has been Wilmer Font, who can really only generously be called an “upgrade.” The Mets’ outlook is better on the other side of the ball, but not so much better that they haven’t had two pitchers in the top five for offensive wins above replacement. Oh, well. They can, at least continue to bask in the glow of Pete Alonso.
The Mets' offensive WAR leaderboard, via FanGraphs, tells you a lot about how their season has gone.— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) May 9, 2019
1(t). Pete Alonso, 1.3
1(t). Jeff McNeil, 1.3
3. Michael Conforto, 1.1
4. Dominic Smith, 0.4
5(t). J.D. Davis, 0.3
5(t). Noah Syndergaard, 0.3
5(t). Zack Wheeler, 0.3
18. Detroit Tigers (16-18; Last Week: 18)
There are three teams with more than one starting pitcher on the list of ten lowest ERAs in the American League. One is the Twins (best record in baseball). One is the Rays (best pitching in baseball). And one is… the Tigers? Yep. With Matthew Boyd, who’s jumped out as one of the best pitchers in the AL (2.86 ERA, 2.30 FIP, 5.7 K/BB) and rookie Spencer Turnbull, who’s been a pleasant early wonder for Detroit. If this team were rounded out by more stable relief—opposed to the ‘pen’s current 5.74 ERA—and a solid offense—opposed to an 80 OPS+—it might have a chance of looking competitive-ish this year. Alas.
17. Texas Rangers (17-18; Last Week: 19)
Pro: Joey Gallo’s 12 dingers and 171 OPS+, Elvis Andrus’ projection for a career year at the plate, Mike Minor’s surprising renaissance as a valuable starter. Con: Well, not entirely everything else, but… much of everything else. Result: Absolutely better than last year’s last place team, if not anything else, and, you know, considering where the expectations were set for this club entering the year, that’s fine.
16. Boston Red Sox (19-19; Last Week: 23)
The Red Sox’s situation is looking considerably better than it did a few weeks ago. After beginning the season 9-15, Boston has since gone 10-4. In the AL East, however, they still have their work cut out for them. The Red Sox’s playoff odds are up from their low mark of 48%, but only to 64%; they’ll still require a steep push to move past Tampa Bay and New York. But the early-season swoons for stars like Mookie Betts and Chris Sale appear to have largely dissipated, and this weekend, Boston has the chance to end up somewhere new—over .500, as a series against Seattle will be an opportunity to push the team over the edge to a winning record for the first time this season.
15. Atlanta Braves (18-20; Last Week: 16)
Thanks to the collapse of the Nationals and the struggle of the Mets, the Braves’ recent troubles haven’t been as serious as they might have been. But Atlanta’s bullpen still has the highest walk rate of any team in baseball, among other problems, and it’s clear that steady success in the NL East is going to be hard to come by if it isn’t able to shore up its relief corps.
14. Cleveland Indians (20-16; Last Week: 14)
That Cleveland has a winning record with its current offense is, frankly, astounding. Its 72 OPS+ is the worst in the American League, second overall only to Miami, and while some of that struggle was due to early injuries that have since abated, the underlying problems are still there. If Cleveland’s rotation was living up to its projection as the best in baseball, this would be one thing, but… Corey Kluber and Mike Clevinger are out indefinitely, Carlos Carrasco has floundered, and Jefry Rodriguez is now a real member of this starting five. The AL Central looks like it belongs to Minnesota now, and Cleveland doesn’t look like it has much to stop it.
13. Pittsburgh Pirates (17-17; Last Week: 15)
Remember two or three weeks ago, when the Pirates really looked like they had become one of the best teams in baseball? Yeah. Since then, Pittsburgh has lost 11 of its last 16. Its pitching, previously its greatest strength, has looked considerably shakier and fallen below league-average by ERA+, and its offense hasn’t offered much to bolster the overall effort here. The Pirates’ run at the top of the NL Central was nice while it lasted, but it doesn’t seem likely to return.
12. San Diego Padres (21-17; Last Week: 10)
11. Seattle Mariners (20-20; Last Week: 11)
The Mariners’ 119 OPS+ is almost the best in baseball, second only to the Astros. Edwin Encarnacion is having his best season in years, Omar Narvaez has evolved into a serious hitter and the team has scored more runs than any other. Unfortunately for Seattle, however, this offense has been accompanied by a predictably lackluster pitching staff, which hasn’t been able to sustain the club’s early run at the top of the division.