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FanGraphs Power Rankings – 9/19/11

Posted By Paul Swydan On September 19, 2011 @ 3:30 pm In Daily Graphings,Power Rankings | 47 Comments

The end of the season has been exciting times here in Power Rankings-land. This past week, five teams jumped two or more spots in the standings, with San Francisco’s jump from 17th to 13th the biggest. As a result, 14 teams slid backwards, the most of any week all season. Heading into the final two weeks of the season, the real pennant races may lack drama — outside of the Red Sox potential collapse that is — but there is some real juice in the Rankings’ races. Six sets of teams are separated by .002 or less — Tigers and Cardinals, Angels and Rays, Braves and White Sox, Rockies and Marlins, Indians and Padres and Pirates and Astros. We often hear that baseball is a game of inches, and the fact that these teams are grouped so closely both up and down the rankings really illustrates that point.

(As always click here to check out the methodology behind the Power Rankings.)

1. New York Yankees: Last week – 1, WAR% – .670 (1), FAN% – .580 (2), TOTAL% – .664
Back in January, Ivan Nova had a chance to be the Yankees’ fifth starter. Now, he has a chance to be their #2 starter in the playoffs. That’s what you call a good season.

2. Boston: Last week – 2, WAR% – .656 (2), FAN% – .605 (1), TOTAL% – .653
The Red Sox have only had a starting pitcher post a WPA of better than .100 twice this month — September 1st from Jon Lester and September 5th from Josh Beckett. Even Shemp turned in a quality performance more frequently than that.

3. Texas: Last week – 4, WAR% – .645 (3), FAN% – .525 (7), TOTAL% – .639
Adrian Beltre saw his 19-game hitting streak snapped on Friday, but he is still on fire nonetheless. Since (arbitrary end point alert!) July 1st, Beltre is hitting .356/.382/.750.

4. Philadelphia: Last week – 3, WAR% – .614 (4), FAN% – .556 (3), TOTAL% – .610
In its first 124 years, the Philadelphia Phillies finished first in their division/league eight times. In the last five years, they have done so all five times. That’s pretty cool.

5. Milwaukee: Last week – 5, WAR% – .595 (5), FAN% – .519 (9), TOTAL% – .591
Note to National League Cy Young Award voters — Zack Greinke has the best xFIP (2.46) in the Majors this season.

6. Arizona: Last week – 6, WAR% – .576 (6), FAN% – .463 (25), TOTAL% – .570
Joe Saunders has posted a superficially-nice 3.41 ERA in the second half, but xFIP isn’t biting — Saunders has yet to post an xFIP under 4.00 in any month this season.

7. Detroit: Last week – 10, WAR% – .5702 (7), FAN% – .512 (12), TOTAL% – .5670
People once again bent over backwards this weekend reviving the Justin Verlander for MVP talk, but I just want to point out (with an assist from Mike Axisa) that while Verlander is having a nice season, it’s chump change compared to Pedro Martinez’s 1999 season — Pedro’s 2.07 ERA, 1.39 FIP, 12.1 WAR, 13.20 K/9, 0.38 HR/9 and 1.56 BB/9 that year don’t just trump Verlander’s stats, they outright murder them. If Verlander wins MVP, I demand that Pedro be retroactively credited with the ’99 MVP. In fact, Pedro should be retroactively credited with it either way. Who do I talk to about this?

8. St. Louis: Last week – 7, WAR% – .5701 (8), FAN% – .512 (12), TOTAL% – .5666
Rafael Furcal has played well enough in September that several milk manufacturers have recalled their cartons so that they can remove the picture of Furcal’s career from the side.

9. Los Angeles of Anaheim: Last week – 8, WAR% – .560 (9), FAN% – .488 (19), TOTAL% – .555
Erick Aybar is swinging more than ever before, and that suits him just fine.

10. Tampa Bay: Last week – 9, WAR% – .554 (10), FAN% – .537 (5), TOTAL% – .553
Overheard in the visiting clubhouse in Fenway Park yesterday afternoon: “Your line drive couldn’t drop me, I took it and smiled / Now I’m back to set the record straight / With my fastball, I’m still the ace Boston loves to hate.”

11. Atlanta: Last week – 13, WAR% – .542 (12), FAN% – .506 (14), TOTAL% – .540
Fredi Gonzalez seems to have come to his senses, as Jose Constanza has not started over Jason Heyward since September 6th. Heyward’s power has yet to come back, but since September 7th, he has a .455 OBP. Step by step, day by day, the power will come back — the question is whether or not it comes back in time to matter in October.

12. Chicago White Sox: Last week – 11, WAR% – .543 (11), FAN% – .488 (19), TOTAL% – .539
If you lump in Alejandro De Aza with the Edwin Jackson trade, as he was called up to Mark Teahan’s place on the roster following the deal, it becomes slightly more palatable for White Sox fans. De Aza — now Chicago’s fourth-best position player this season by WAR — has been a real bright spot for the Sox down the stretch.

13. San Francisco: Last week – 17, WAR% – .537 (13), FAN% – .519 (9), TOTAL% – .536
Pablo Sandoval had quite the series in Colorado, with a historic cycle on Thursday, and then a two-homer inning yesterday. His career-high UZR may prove to be an aberration, but we have seen this kind of season from him offensively before. The trick will be seeing if he can hit this well in consecutive seasons.

14. Los Angeles Dodgers: Last week – 15, WAR% – .536 (14), FAN% – .488 (19), TOTAL% – .533
Congrats to Jerry Sands, who tallied a .667 BABIP last week to become the BABIP’er of the Week.

15. Cincinnati: Last week – 12, WAR% – .534 (15), FAN% – .494 (17), TOTAL% – .531
A lot has gone wrong for the Reds this season, but one thing that has remained a strength is the team’s infield defense. They rank in the top five in team UZR at first, second and third, and they rank first in the game at shortstop.

16. Colorado: Last week – 14, WAR% – .515 (18), FAN% – .556 (3), TOTAL% – .517
The first two starts for Drew Pomeranz were a good news-bad news situation for the Rockies. He compiled a .304 WPA in the first and a .221 in the second, which is good, but they were also the Rockies’ two best starts in their last seven games, which isn’t so good.

17. Florida: Last week – 16, WAR% – .5160 (16), FAN% – .525 (7), TOTAL% – .516
Hanley Ramirez ended the worst season of his Major League career by undergoing shoulder surgery this past week, but you may not want to write him off for 2012.

18. Kansas City: Last week – 21, WAR% – .5158 (17), FAN% – .420 (29), TOTAL% – .511
The Royals, on the strength of a mini-resurgence from Mike Moustakas, broke into the Rankings’ top 20 for the first time this season.

19. Toronto: Last week – 18, WAR% – .502 (19), FAN% – .488 (19), TOTAL% – .501
The Blue Jays seem to be specializing in comeback stories these days. Last week it was Dustin McGowan, this week it’s Adam Loewen.

20. New York Mets: Last week – 19, WAR% – .491 (20), FAN% – .519 (9), TOTAL% – .493
In these complicated times, sometimes it’s the simple things that are the most comforting: things like apple pie, bacon and eggs, and a September swoon from the Metropolitans.

21. Chicago Cubs: Last week – 20, WAR% – .4866 (22), FAN% – .506 (14), TOTAL% – .488
Even though the Cubs are just nine games from not winning the World Series for the 103rd straight year, I don’t think Cubs fans should sit around waiting for this type of apology from Tom Ricketts.

22. Washington: Last week – 22, WAR% – .4873 (21), FAN% – .457 (26), TOTAL% – .485
Had he played in 1991, Danny Espinosa’s 19 home runs would have tied him for third among second basemen with Robby Thompson. Unfortunately, it’s 2011, and his 19 homers are tied for sixth place with Rickie Weeks.

23. Cleveland: Last week – 25, WAR% – .476 (23), FAN% – .451 (27), TOTAL% – .474
Last year at this time, Vinnie Pestano was a 25-year old getting his first cup of coffee in the bigs. This year, he is the proud owner of the sixth-best K/9 (12.10) among qualified relievers.

24. San Diego: Last week – 23, WAR% – .472 (24), FAN% – .494 (17), TOTAL% – .473
The Jason Bartlett trade looked like it might restock the Rays’ bullpen, and it did to an extent — Brandon Gomes, Cesar Ramos and Adam Russell have thrown a combined 106 1/3 innings this season. But they haven’t exactly been high-quality innings, as the trio has combined for -0.3 WAR, which pales in comparison to the 1.8 WAR compiled by Bartlett in San Diego this season.

25. Oakland: Last week – 24, WAR% – .470 (25), FAN% – .481 (23), TOTAL% – .470
When Josh Willingham hit the disabled list in mid-June with a strained left Achilles, he was hitting .231/.307/.410, and it looked like 2011 might be a lost year for him. But since returning to action on July 7th, he has hit a much more vigorous .276/.369/.561, and in doing so has restored a lot of his value as he enters free agency.

26. Seattle: Last week – 26, WAR% – .433 (26), FAN% – .469 (24), TOTAL% – .436
Last week, the Texas Rangers scored 36 runs in winning five of six games. The only game they lost was at the hands of Blake Beavan, who turned in the best start of his young Major League career in shutting them down on Friday.

27. Baltimore: Last week – 28, WAR% – .419 (29), FAN% – .500 (16), TOTAL% – .425
It’s always nice to see someone become who they were meant to become — especially when to do so you bash lots of home runs the way Matt Wieters has done in the past month.

28. Pittsburgh: Last week – 27, WAR% – .421 (28), FAN% – .438 (28), TOTAL% – .4222
Just when you’re starting to think that Brad Lincoln might make it after all — he had thrown four straight quality starts heading into this past week — he gets tuned up for a 7.02 FIP in two starts against the Cardinals and Dodgers.

29. Houston: Last week – 29, WAR% – .425 (27), FAN% – .370 (30), TOTAL% – .4220
Jimmy Paredes might provide some good stolen base value out of the third base position next year for those in deep leagues, but color me skeptical on his overall batting profile — he hasn’t drawn very many walks, and his triple slash numbers are being propped up by an unsustainable .402 BABIP.

30. Minnesota: Last week – 30, WAR% – .402 (30), FAN% – .537 (5), TOTAL% – .412
To date, 341 players have compiled at least 200 plate appearances this season. Of them, three of the ten worst players by wRC+ are Twins — Drew Butera (9, and dead last), Matt Tolbert (40, 7th worst) and Tsuyoshi Nishioka (42, 8th worst).


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