PTBPR: MLB Power Rankings

Hello, Place to be Nation, and welcome to the first installment of the 2016 MLB Power Rankings!

The season is off to a great start already, with surprises and disappointments, updates and upsets, slumps and successes, around every corner.

As always, we’ll run this feature monthly, tracking all 30 MLB teams based on a mixture of recent performance, overall season standings, some metric-analysis, and old-fashioned “gut” feelings.

Player and team statistics are current through Saturday, April 30.

Team win-loss records are current through May 1.

The first Power Rankings for 2016 are all about the denizens of Wrigley.
The first Power Rankings for 2016 are all about the denizens of Wrigley.
Ranking Team Record Comments
1 Chicago Cubs 17-6 The team’s patience at the plate — team .364 OBP is second in the NL — is a key to the offensive success. Jake Arrieta is cemented as the Best Pitcher on the Planet. The back of the rotation and its likely regression is the only dark cloud on the Cubs’ horizon.
2 Washington Nationals 17-7 They beat out the White Sox because they’ve got Bryce Harper. The rest of the lineup — apart from Daniel Murphy — isn’t really hitting, but the pitching has been super-fine and Dusty Baker has proven a refreshing shift from Matt Williams.

Chicago White Sox

18-8 It’s all roses in the Windy City. Kudos to the Chi Sox’s improved defense, the emergence of Jose Quintana, and a bullpen that’s been fantastic.
4 New York Mets 15-8 Noah Syndergaard is the talk of the town, while Matt Harvey struggles. The bullpen has been fine. Neil Walker, Michael Conforto, and Yoenis Cespedes all look dialed-in at the plate.
5 Pittsburgh Pirates 15-10 In an interesting reversal, the pitching has been pretty *blah* thus far, but the offense is electric. The lowest OBP for the starting lineup belong to Josh Harrison at .372. If Harrison, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco all enjoy breakout seasons this year, it could be a great one in the Steel City.
6 Baltimore Orioles 14-10 A hot start (7-0) has been followed up with a roller coaster (7-8). Manny Machado (193 OPS+) we expected to be this good, but not Mark Trumbo (169 OPS+). With the bullpen looking good, but the rotation awful, look for an up-and-down May as well for the Birds.
7 San Francisco Giants 13-13 Johnny Cueto looks like money well-spent, as does Jeff Samardzija. The offense’s high-contact, on-base approach mirrors that of the Royals. Is more even-year magic in the air?
8 Texas Rangers 14-11 Rookie Nomar Mazara’s hot start is encouraging (.339/.406/.475 in 59 at bats) while the starting pitching has been pretty fine, going 11-4 thus far. Jake Diekman, the less-heralded piece in the Cole Hamels trade, has not been scored upon in 11 appearances.
9 Los Angeles Dodgers 13-13 Kershaw and Maeda and pray for a savior? Maeda and Kershaw and pray for a curse y’all? I dunno. If L.A. doesn’t get some help behind those two, it could get ugly.
10 Detroit Tigers 14-10 The offense is crushing (.268/.325/.430 team line; 3rd in AL with 329 total bases). Jordan Zimmermann looks fantastic (5-0, 0.55 ERA) and the bullpen has generally been a strength. Generally.
11 Seattle Mariners 13-10 As I write this entry, the M’s are beating up the Royals (eventually winning 6-0). Hanging with the defending champs is a good sign. A deep bullpen and sound defense for Seattle might make the AL West a fun watch.
12 Philadelphia Phillies 15-10 Easily the biggest surprise of April, the Phightins have gotten strong starts from Aaron Nola (121 ERA+), Vincent Velasquez (243 ERA+), and even Jeremy Hellickson (3.81 ERA) and Jerad Eickhoff (4.07) have been alright. Odubel Herrea (23 walks in 100 plate appearances) looks good, and Maikel Franco (5 home runs) is a keeper. The future is still a few years away in Philly, but it’s looking bright.
13 Kansas City Royals 12-11 Lorenzo Cain (68 OPS+), Alex Gordon (84 OPS+) and Kendrys Morales (79 OPS+) are the big guns that are not firing yet, while Joakim Soria is a mess (5.73 ERA) is his return tour. Nothing to worry about yet, but the defending champs do look beatable.
14 Boston Red Sox 14-10 The offense looks fine, with six hitters above a 100 OPS+ (which is considered average). David Ortiz (176) leads the team, which is hardly surprising. Travis Shaw (144) is second, which is. The pitching is still a mess, though.
15 Toronto Blue Jays 12-14 One can argue the middle portion of these rankings is pretty interchangeable. One can also argue that Josh Donaldson (1.043 OPS+) is really, really good at baseball. One can also argue that if  the bullpen rights itself (along with R.A. Dickey and his 6.75 ERA) the Jays will rise above the mish-mash and be a legit contender.
16 Cleveland Indians 10-12 A 10-11 April record is certainly better than last year’s 7-14 opening month. The hamstring injury to Carlos Carrasco hurts, but the impending return of Michael Brantley should boost the offense (7th in the AL with a .708 OPS+).
17 St. Louis Cardinals 12-13 Rookies Aledmys Diaz (.420/.452/.739) and Jeremy Hazelbaker (.322/.354/.695) are helping prop up the offense as regulars Randal Grichuk (72 OPS+) and Kolten Wong (40 OPS+) are just the pits. Given the hot starts from the Cubs and Pirates, the Cards need Adam Wainwright (7.16 ERA) and Mike Leake (5.83) to figure things out fast.
18 Tampa Bay Rays 11-13 Steven Souza looks good with five homers and an .855 OPS+, but the 25:6 ratio of Ks to walks is rather unpleasant. Half the batters look genuinely lost at the plate, while nominal ace Chris Archer (5.47 ERA) has struggled too. Good thing the rest of the staff has been amazing (team ERA of 3.33).
19 Miami Marlins 12-12 Dee Gordon got popped for PEDs and no one should be surprised by these things anymore. It happens and the “apologies” are just first-year law school tripe. The real crusher for Miami is the woeful starting pitching (4.31 ERA).
20 Cincinnati Reds 10-15 A 5-1 start was nice, but then the poop hit the oscillator. Since that first week, the Redlegs have gone 5-14 and been outscored 123-61. Yeesh.
21 Arizona Diamondbacks 12-14 The A.J. Pollock injury was a crushing blow, no doubt. But the failings of offseason darlings Zack Grienke (6.16 ERA) and Shelby Miller (8.69) have done far more damage to the D’Backs’ chances.
22 Oakland Athletics 13-13 Rich Hill looks pretty good so far (2.42 ERA, 37 Ks in 26 innings), and the bullpen looks fine. The plan is still to ship the relievers off for future blocks, but a 13-12 April is more than most thought the A’s would do.
23 New York Yankees 8-14 The offense is ice cold (.236/.309/.369) while the starting pitching outside of Masa Tanaka (2.87) has caught a serious case of the butt. The bullpen is just fine, but how many leads will they have to protect? If the Yanks don’t hit … [SIGH] …
24 Los Angeles Angels 12-13 Let’s play a game. Here are the OPS+ numbers for the starting nine in Anaheim: 172, 124, 105, 74, 71, 56, 40, 23, 19. Guess which one belongs to Mike Trout.
25 Colorado Rockies 11-12 Trevor Story and his historic April have been nice to this point, but the Rox need everyone to club the ball for any dreams of contention in Coors.
26 Houston Astros 8-17 I think we all seriously over-rated the Houston pitching staff. The collective 5.08 ERA is the worst in the AL, and they’ve allowed the most hits (231) and runs (121) too. Even with acceptable offense (team OPS of .738 is fourth) the hurlers are dooming this team.
27 Minnesota Twins 7-18 An ugly, ugly, ugly (0-9) start pretty much sinks any October hopes, but Joe Mauer looks good (152 OPS+), while Byung-ho Park (124) and Miguel Sano (119) and coming around too. This team has the look of an out-of-the-race-playoff-spoiler come August and September.
28 Milwaukee Brewers 9-15 Absolutely dreadful pitching (5.62 team ERA) and a bottom-feeding offense (.224/.309/.368). At least Ryan Braun’s good again (1.011 OPS).
29 San Diego Padres 9-16 Matt Kemp (7 homers, 52 total bases) is off to a good start, as is Wil Myers (5 dingers, .804 OPS). Meanwhile, Derek Norris is bumping out a .156/.198/.247 line for an OPS+ of 21! Yuck.
30 Atlanta Braves 6-18 Firing Fredi Gonzalez makes no sense. This team will stink with or without him, so why bother? The fun part is going to be the late-season comparisons to the 1962 Mets, the 2003 Detroit Tigers, and — dare I say — the 1899 Cleveland Spiders.