- This week's Power Rankings highlights the teams whose performance has differed the most so far from what it “should” have been.
Gather ‘round, for it’s time for the final edition of SI’s MLB Power Rankings before the 2019 All-Star Game. This week’s theme? Teams with the biggest gap between their actual records and their Pythagorean records. Whose performance has differed the most so far from what it “should” have been? (Catch up on last week’s rankings here, and read more about this format here.) Onward!
30. Baltimore Orioles (25-61; Last Week: 30)
29. Detroit Tigers (28-54; Last Week: 28)
28. Miami Marlins (32-53; Last Week: 27)
27. Kansas City Royals (29-59; Last Week: 25)
The Royals are and have been self-evidently bad, and there is no quirk of run-sequencing or scheduling or anything else that can make them look good. But the underlying numbers here suggest that they’re actually not quite as bad as they look. They “should” be 36–52, rather than 29–59… which would still put them in last place and still set them up to be one of the worst teams in baseball. But it would be a slightly less ugly last place, and, well, some teams have to take their wins where they can get them.
26. Toronto Blue Jays (33-55; Last Week: 29)
The Blue Jays, like the Royals, have looked a little worse than they really are—with the same caveat that, of course, the team is so hapless that it would take much more than scrambling the sequence of their scoring to actually look good, or anything close to it.
25. San Francisco Giants (39-47; Last Week: 26)
The Giants—who have been in last place for almost the entire season, with one of the worst offenses in baseball—have actually been helped by run-sequencing, which has given them roughly three more wins than they statistically “deserve.” And, of course, this is just the lay of the land before San Francisco starts selling off at the deadline and likely slips even further. Yikes.
24. New York Mets (39-48; Last Week: 24)
23. Seattle Mariners (38-53; Last Week: 21)
22. Chicago White Sox (41-43; Last Week: 23)
The White Sox have benefitted from good fortune here more than any other team. You’d be forgiven for thinking that there hasn’t been very much “good fortune” here at all—given that they’ve spent the entire season under .500, to say nothing of the extreme bummer that is Tim Anderson’s recent trip to the IL—but this has actually been a decidedly strong outcome for this incarnation of this team. The White Sox’s minus-70 run differential is equal to the Giants’ and worse than the Mariners’, which correlates to a Pythagorean record of 35–49; things might not be great, but they could be much worse.
21. San Diego Padres (42-45; Last Week: 19)
20. Pittsburgh Pirates (42-44; Last Week: 22)
The NL Central is bunched so tightly—all five teams are within four games of one another, while no other division has its clubs clustered even within fourteen—that digging into even the smallest quirks of sequencing and luck is enough to present an entirely different picture. While Cincinnati’s Pythagorean record presents the most radically different alternate reality (more on this further down the page), Pittsburgh’s does quite a bit in this department, too. The Pirates “should” be 39–47—which would put them in a solid last place and space out the division quite a bit more. But, of course, luckily for them, and for all who enjoy divisional chaos, they’ve instead been riding their relative good luck here right into the middle of the pack.
19. Los Angeles Angels (44-44; Last Week: 20)
18. Cincinnati Reds (41-44; Last Week: 18)
The Reds have suffered more in this department than almost any other club. If you looked at everything outside of their record, you’d be left with the impression that this team has been much better than it actually has. Their pitching staff is arguably the best in the National League, with a 128 ERA+, and their run differential falls right in between the Rangers’ and the Red Sox’s, two clubs that are comfortably above .500. But, unfortunately, you do have to look at the record, and Cincinnati hasn’t been above .500 since being 1–0 on March 28. Despite the talent here, it’s struggled throughout the season; Cincinnati’s Pythag demonstrates that it “should” have won six more games than it actually has—which would put the Reds in first place in the NL Central, rather than in last.
17. St. Louis Cardinals (43-42; Last Week: 16)
16. Arizona Diamondbacks (43-45; Last Week: 17)
The Diamondbacks are similar to the Reds, albeit not quite as extreme—a decently capable club, with a pitching staff ranked above average, and some overall not-too-great luck. By their run differential, they should be holding their own in the wild-card race, but by their record, they’re facing the big question of whether to sell at the deadline.
15. Milwaukee Brewers (46-42; Last Week: 12)
14. Philadelphia Phillies (45-42; Last Week: 13)
13. Colorado Rockies (44-42; Last Week: 11)
12. Cleveland Indians (48-38; Last Week: 14)
It’s easy to see “bad luck” as a strong theme in Cleveland’s 2019—the rotation’s injuries, Jose Ramirez’s continued extreme slump, Minnesota’s establishment as a dominant force. But it’s easy, too, to look at all of this and understand how it could have been worse. Cleveland’s Pythagorean record does that for you: 44–42, which, really, seems about right for an offense with a 90 OPS+.
11. Washington Nationals (45-41; Last Week: 15)
10. Boston Red Sox (46-41; Last Week: 8)
9. Chicago Cubs (46-42; Last Week: 5)
The Cubs, all season long, have faced the gap between how they’re doing and how it seems like they should be doing. This gap isn’t nearly as big now as it was, say, in the early days of the season—remember the panic in April?—but it’s still there, and it’s reflected in Pythag, which would have the team at a considerably more comfortable record of 49–39.
8. Texas Rangers (47-40; Last Week: 9)
7. Oakland Athletics (48-40; Last Week: 10)
6. Atlanta Braves (52-36; Last Week: 7)
5. Tampa Bay Rays (50-38; Last Week: 6)
The Rays have cooled off considerably from their torrid start. Since June 1, they’re 15–18 (with a negative run differential, too); they’ve been struck by a series of injuries, and their offense has actually slipped below average. Still, the wild strength of their opening two months of the season built them a considerable cushion here, and Tampa Bay’s Pythagorean record reflects a potential alternate reality with an even more considerable one, at 53–35.