- This week's power rankings looks away from the teams in the middle, instead focusing on the best and worst squads as we pass the season's quarter point.
Gather ‘round, for it is once again time for SI’s MLB Power Rankings. After using last week’s edition to zoom in on the teams in the middle of the pack, we’re using this week’s to do the opposite—looking at baseball’s five best and five worst records. (For more on the rankings’ format, click here.) To the list!
30. Miami Marlins (10-31; Last Week: 30)
The Marlins have baseball’s worst record, worst run differential, worst pitching (82 ERA+), and worst hitting (66 OPS+). They’ve been worth negative WAR, worse than what you might be able to expect from a random team of replacement players. They’re flirting with historical ineptitude, currently on track for the worst record in more than a century. And they have not suffered from any serious injuries or statistically poor fortune, so there’s no reason to expect that any improvement might be around the corner. These are the Marlins, for better or for worse, and, truly, it can’t get much worse—but this doesn’t mean that it has a chance to get much better, either.
29. Baltimore Orioles (14-29; Last Week: 28)
The Orioles are in a better place than they were last year. They’re no longer the worst team in baseball (which owes more to the collapse of Miami than to any sort of improvement from Baltimore, but still!) and their recognizable player is no longer threatening to post one of the worst seasons in history.
The Orioles, essentially, are no longer astonishingly and historically bad. They’re just a particularly robust strain of regular ol’ garden-variety bad. They’re a team that can be guaranteed to offer something depressing on a daily basis, with little to feel intrigued by and even less to feel excited about, but they’re (probably) not a team who will eventually have a retrospective written about their particular brand of ineptitude, so… there’s that.
28. Kansas City Royals (15-29; Last Week: 29)
What the Royals have going for them: They lead baseball in stolen bases, with 44, way above the next team at 32, and more than double the league’s average of 20. They have four players in the top 25, including the current leader, Adalberto Mondesi, at 15.
What the Royals do not have going for them: Uh, just about everything else.
27. San Francisco Giants (18-24; Last Week: 27)
26. Toronto Blue Jays (17-26; Last Week: 26)
Two weeks ago, Toronto’s situation wasn’t looking so bleak. It wasn’t great, no, but it wasn’t terrible. Now? The Blue Jays have lost nine of their last eleven, with a dismal offensive stretch of 77-for-416 (.185). They’ve been outscored 30-70. (Though two of those runs have been the first two career dingers from Vlad Jr., so there’s something good to focus on.) It’s been rough out there, and it might not be letting up anytime soon—it certainly doesn’t help that their list of upcoming opponents is stacked with winning records, featuring series against the Red Sox, Padres, and Rays.
25. Detroit Tigers (18-24; Last Week: 18)
24. Chicago White Sox ( Last Week: 24)
23. Washington Nationals (18-25; Last Week: 22)
And now for the only one of these bottom five records that truly registers as a surprise. Rewind one month, to April 18, when Washington’s playoff odds were 81% and the team was considered a division favorite. Since then, those odds have been in freefall, and the club has been scrambling. The Nationals’ postseason chances currently sit at 43%—and that’s actually an improvement over the beginning of the week, when they hit a low of 36%. But the situation might not be quite as bad as it seems.
If you look at adjusted standings, such as FanGraphs’ BaseRuns and Baseball Prospectus’ third-order wins, Washington’s run differential and strength of schedule indicate that it should have won a few more games than it actually has. The Nationals’ 84 OPS+ and 91 ERA+ are far from great, or even decent, but neither is among baseball’s bottom five. There’s certainly not anything you can pull up here to suggest that the situation is good—but it’s marginally less bad than it looks, and, well, that’s something.
22. Oakland A’s (20-25; Last Week: 21)
21. Texas Rangers (19-22; Last Week: 17)
20. Cincinnati Reds (20-24; Last Week: 25)
19. Colorado Rockies (20-22; Last Week: 20)
18. Los Angeles Angels (20-23; Last Week: 23)
17. San Diego Padres ( Last Week: 12)
16. New York Mets (20-22; Last Week: 19)
15. Seattle Mariners (22-23; Last Week: 11)
14. Pittsburgh Pirates (21-19; Last Week: 13)
13. Cleveland Indians (23-19; Last Week: 14)
12. Atlanta Braves (23-21; Last Week: 15)
11. St. Louis Cardinals (23-21 Last Week: 10)
10. Boston Red Sox (23-20; Last Week: 16)
9. Arizona Diamondbacks (24-20; Last Week: 8)
8. Philadelphia Phillies (24-19; Last Week: 7)
7. Milwaukee Brewers (27-19; Last Week: 9)
6. New York Yankees (26-16; Last Week: 6)
The Yankees have half a regular roster’s worth of men on the IL. (Literally: 13!) They’ve lost a combined 598 days to the IL, more than double that of the average club this year. They’ve had to make liberal use of guys like Gio Urshela, Mike Tauchman, Tyler Wade, and Thairo Estrada—guys who’d previously been expected maybe to hang around the margins of the roster, rather than regularly occupy a starting role. And, yet, they’ve somehow been winning.
It’s encouraging that only one of these injuries has so far proved season-ending (Miguel Andújar), and in another month or two, this roster might look markedly different, more similar to what it had originally been projected to be. Even now, though, they’re closing in on the division lead for the first time since the opening week of the season—which only makes it all the more remarkable to imagine what they might be able to do when they’re full strength.
5. Chicago Cubs (25-16; Last Week: 4)
4. Minnesota Twins (27-15; Last Week: 2)
It’s been a full month since the Twins took control of first place in the AL Central, and it’s been two weeks since their first stretch as the best record in baseball. Yet questions about whether they’re for real are still circulating, because… well, they’re still the Twins!
It’s not too surprising that they’ve launched to the top of the division; given the state of the AL Central, it seemed clear from the start that it would only take a small dose of bad luck for Cleveland to give the top spot to Minnesota, and that’s exactly what’s happened. To the top of baseball, though, among the very best teams in the league? Believe it. The Twins’ offense has emerged as one of the strongest in baseball, second only to the Astros in OPS+. They’ve enjoyed the long-awaited breakouts of former top prospects Jorge Polanco and Byron Buxton, a hail of dingers from Eddie Rosario and C.J. Cron, and even the emergence of an offensive threat from catcher Jason Castro. Minnesota’s pitching might not stand out as quite as exciting, but it’s been more than sufficient, with a collective 116 ERA+, and taken together, it’s enough to put them among baseball’s best clubs.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers (29-16; Last Week: 3)
The NL West’s playoff odds graph just might be the most soothing in baseball. You’ve got four teams who’ve spent the season jostling at the bottom, bumping up and down, but always below the threshold of 25%. And then you have the Dodgers, serenely gliding miles above their heads, fluctuating only in the peaceful territory between 90% and 100%. (Today’s number: 98.8%.) They have easily the best offense in the National League, with its highest OBP, OPS, OPS+, and BB/K. Their pitching staff is among the best, second in ERA+, and with the lowest walk rate in all of baseball. In other words, they’re exactly where they were always expected to be.
2. Tampa Bay Rays (26-15; Last Week: 1)
As has been the case for weeks now, Tampa Bay has the highest performing pitching staff in baseball—by an insanely large margin. They’re MLB’s only team with a sub-3.00 ERA. Their 155 ERA+ is, obviously, the highest in the game, and the gap between first and second place is as big as the gap between second and eighth. There’s never been a team with a pitching staff that’s stayed this dominant, relative to its competition, over the course of an entire season. The leaderboard of the teams who have gotten closest looks like this:
The 2019 Rays, and the original turn-of-the-century dynasty of the Cubs. That’s it. It’s terrifying for everyone—not least Tampa Bay, who now might have to worry about a century-long curse following any success it has in the next few years.
1. Houston Astros (29-15; Last Week: 5)
Really, there’s only one good comparison for Tampa Bay’s pitching dominance, and it’s Houston’s hitting dominance:
Yep. The Astros’ offense, relative to the rest of the league, has been “The Murderer’s Row Yankees, just a little bit better,” because that’s an entirely normal and reasonable concept to process. Throw in a top-notch pitching staff, plus the fact that they’ve lost fewer days to injury than any other team in the American League, and what hope is there for anyone else?