How is it that the American League features three of the best teams in recent memory and three of the worst? Welcome to baseball’s era of the haves and the have-nots. Let’s dig into this week’s Power Rankings!
TIER SIX: CELLAR DWELLERS
30. Baltimore Orioles (25–66) How, exactly, has baseball’s worst team managed to sink even lower? Their .291 OBP has slipped to an uglier .272 over the last two weeks; it’s not a coincidence that they’ve lost 13 of their last 14. Or, if you want to look at it another way, for the year, they’ve been displaying the worst on-base skills of any team since 1981—but over the last two weeks, they’ve been looking like the worst since 1908. Keep chasing history, Baltimore.
29. Kansas City Royals (25–65) The Royals now boast the longest losing streak in baseball, at ten in a row. They also continue to hold bragging rights on leading baseball in home runs allowed (126) while being dead-last in home runs (70).
28. Chicago White Sox (30–60) It’s a little ridiculous to think of any modern rotation posting an equal number of walks and strikeouts, but the White Sox just might pull it off. They rank second in BB% (10.9%) and second-to-last in K% (18.8%). Watching to see if those numbers converge may not sound exactly fun, but most of the reasons to watch the White Sox aren’t too much fun right now.
27. New York Mets (36–52) On Sunday, 24-year-old Chris Flexen made his first start of the season. He allowed five runs in three innings, which is actually better than he did in his first relief appearance of the season, when he allowed seven runs in two innings. And, uh, that’s where the Mets are right now.
26. Miami Marlins (38–55) Do you know what Starlin Castro has done in the last two weeks? He’s gone 28-for-67, hitting .459/.507/.705. Meanwhile, Miami’s .680 OPS is still second-worst in the National League.
TIER FIVE: COULD BE WORSE, I GUESS…
25. Texas Rangers (40–52) You probably know that defenses shift a lot against Joey Gallo. You might guess that defenses shift against Joey Gallo far more often than they not. But would you have guessed that defenses shift against Joey Gallo 88% of the time? And considering that his OPS has dropped by more than 100 points from last season, it’s working.
24. San Diego Padres (39–54) Since returning from the disabled list on June 21, Wil Myers has a 1.075 OPS. More than half of his hits have been for extra bases. Sadly, San Diego is further back of first place than they’ve been all year.
23. Detroit Tigers (40–53) Time to check in on baseball’s extremely cruel aging process: It’s only been four years since Victor Martinez was MVP runner-up. Four years since he led baseball with a .974 OPS! Fast-forward to present day, where he’s one of just eight players with a sub-.620 OPS.
22. Cincinnati Reds (39–51) The trio of Joey Votto, Eugenio Suarez and Scooter Gennett solidly deserve their All-Star roster spots, and Cincinnati is still this bad. Is there any bigger indictment of the team’s pitching staff?
21. Minnesota Twins (40–48) An update on large adult son and rookie Willians Astudillo, who built a reputation in the minor leagues for being remarkably allergic to both strikeouts and walks: Five games into his major-league career, he has yet to notch one of either.
TIER FOUR: MEH
20. Toronto Blue Jays (41–48) Rookie Ryan Borucki has been a bright spot in a rotation that’s sorely needed one. Since being called up to make his debut on June 26, he’s gone at least six innings in each of his three starts and has yet to allow more than two runs, putting together a 2.25 ERA. Unfortunately, the Blue Jays have lost all three of those games.
19. Pittsburgh Pirates (42-48) On Sunday, Pittsburgh snapped a five-game losing streak with a win against Philadelphia. Rookie Nick Kingham played the hero, pitching six innings of one-run ball and delivering the go-ahead RBI double—and bringing the team up from the rock bottom that they hit the day before, when they fell eight games below .500 for the first time this season.
18. Tampa Bay Rays (45–44) Here’s a surprising one: Over the last two weeks, baseball’s lowest ERA (1.74) belongs to the Rays. They’ve allowed just 24 runs in that time—only one other team has given up fewer than 40—and that’s including the two runs credited to backup catcher Jesus Sucre.
17. Colorado Rockies (46–44) This was Colorado’s first full week since demoting erstwhile ace Jon Gray to the minor leagues, a move that’s still a little curious. Gray’s ERA was among the highest in baseball (5.77), but his fielding-independent pitching was dramatically and even historically lower (3.10) and he’d actually improved from last season in several key areas like strikeouts and flyball rate. Post-Gray life has been good to the Rockies so far, however, as they’ve won eight of their last ten.
16. Los Angeles Angels (46–45) The Angels have stepped backward in a big way in the last two weeks, losing 10 of their last 15. They’ve had one of the worst offenses in baseball in that time, hitting .206/.279/.334. That’s what happens when Mike Trout slumps, though, even if his definition of “slump” still involves a .421 OBP.
TIER THREE: A-OK
15. San Francisco Giants (47–45) At this point last week, San Francisco seemed poised to make some serious progress after sweeping first-place Arizona. Unfortunately, they followed that by getting swept by then-fourth-place Colorado.
14. St. Louis Cardinals (46–43) The Cardinals got some good news this weekend: the return of Paul DeJong, who’d been one of their better hitters before going to the disabled list with a broken hand in May. They’ve lost two of the three games since his return, but the shortstop notched a hit in each one.
13. Washington Nationals (45–45) The good news: Last week, the Nationals pulled off the biggest comeback in franchise history. The bad: They’ve lost seven of their last ten and now sit 5.5 games out of the wild card race.
12. Oakland A’s (51–40) The A’s have slugged their way to victory in 11 of their last 13. A key part of their last few wins? Matt Chapman. The third baseman returned from the disabled list on July 3, and he’s 7-for-16 in his last three games with three doubles and a stolen base.
11. Arizona Diamondbacks (50–41) On Saturday, the Diamondbacks put together their highest-scoring game of the season, a 20–5 win over the Padres. As you’d expect, that required contributions from just about the entire line-up—but one of the standouts was Daniel Descalco, who went 3-for-5 with two doubles and is enjoying a breakout season that’s made him one of the team’s most valuable hitters. The infielder has never before been so much as league average at the plate, but he currently boasts a 118 OPS+.
TIER TWO: THE NEXT BEST THING
10. Cleveland Indians (49–39) For baseball’s weakest probable playoff team, the bullpen has attracted more attention than any other deadline need. But Cleveland requires almost just as much help in the outfield as it does in the ‘pen. Other than Michael Brantley, the offensive production there has been bleak: Only the Royals, Orioles, Marlins, White Sox and Rays have a worse outfield OPS. Yeesh.
9. Philadelphia Phillies (50–39) With a 3.80 ERA and 3.65 FIP, Philadelphia’s starting pitching has been among the best in the National League, but that’s not all Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta. One of the biggest keys to the rotation’s success has been 24-year-old Zach Eflin, who’s taken some remarkable steps forward in his third major-league season. After 11 starts, his 3.15 ERA ranks among baseball’s top twenty for pitchers with at least 60 IP. He’s recorded a win in six of his last outings.
8. Los Angeles Dodgers (49–41) Big news: The Dodgers spent one day in first place this week. Their first such day all year, and, again, just one day. (They’ve since hung a game or two behind Arizona.) But for a team that’s underperformed all season—despite the fact that their time atop the division has been limited to just 24 hours, they’re tied for the NL’s best OPS+—it’s a start.
7. Milwaukee Brewers (54–37) The Brewers have won six of their last eight, and it’s now been three weeks since they’ve had to share their first-place spot with the Cubs. Their .739 OPS remains well behind Chicago’s .772, and all the available numbers continue to indicate that the Brewers are overperforming while the Cubs are underperforming—but, hey, those aren’t the numbers that determine first place.
6. Atlanta Braves (50–39) The Braves have lost five of their last six, meaning that they’re sharing first place for the first time in a month. A quick series against Toronto should help them reset before facing some stiffer competition in Arizona and then heading into the All-Star break.
TIER ONE: CREAM OF THE CROP
5. Seattle Mariners (57-34) By FanGraphs’ BaseRuns, Seattle has now won a full 10 games more than they statistically “should” have. Meanwhile, no other team has a gap of more than five between their actual record and their BaseRuns. The Mariners may be illustrating that it’s better to be lucky than good, but they’re also showing that it sure doesn’t hurt to be both.
4. Chicago Cubs (51–37) The Cubs have now won eight of their last ten. A big part of that? Javier Baez, who’s hit 16-for-43 in those games and, more importantly, has been the best hitter on this team this season. Really! His 129 OPS+ is above that of the slumping Anthony Rizzo, the injured Kris Bryant or the surging Kyle Schwarber. He’s even gone out of character and drawn a few walks lately—five in June, which more than doubled his monthly total from May.
3. New York Yankees (59–30) Gleyber Torres’ trip to the disabled list with a hip injury last week means that the Bronx Bombers will have to go without the AL’s leading rookie home run hitter. Which is unfortunate, but it would probably hurt a little more if they didn’t also have the AL’s second-leading rookie home run hitter, in Miguel Andujar.
2. Boston Red Sox (62–29) The Red Sox have now won seven straight, and there’s nothing to coax them into losing for the foreseeable future. Their July schedule is filled with cupcakes from here on out: Texas, Toronto, Detroit, Baltimore, Minnesota. That’s a collective .411 winning percentage, which means that it’s only an opportunity for Mookie Betts’ numbers to get even more ridiculous.
1. Houston Astros (61–32) What number best reflects just how good the Astros are? Their 118 OPS+? Sure, it sounds pretty impressive for the entire team to be nearly 20% better at the plate than the average hitter, and no club has put up a number this high in a decade and a half… except for, of course, the 2017 Astros. So what about their 133 ERA+? They’re one of just eight teams to post such a gaudy figure since World War II. But here’s another one to try on for size—their run differential of 188. (No other team is above 150.) The Royals’ run differential is -186. By this, Houston is as good—a little better than, even—as Kansas City is bad, which is a truly terrifying proposition if you’ve watched the Royals at all this year.