FanGraphs Power Rankings – 9/19/11

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).

We hoped you liked reading FanGraphs Power Rankings – 9/19/11 by Paul Swydan!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs




Paul Swydan is the managing editor of The Hardball Times, a writer and editor for FanGraphs and a writer for Boston.com. He has written for The Boston Globe, ESPN MLB Insider and ESPN the Magazine, among others. Follow him on Twitter @Swydan.

newest oldest most voted
Steve
Guest
Steve

Nothing like belittling what Verlander has accomplished by comparing to pedro’s all-world season and on par with Walter Johnson’s 1913.
What do you do other than love the redsox and use your soap box here to say another team or it’s player are good but the redsox player or team is better.
what are they 4 and 14 in september and still ranked #2 ??
yep they are # 2.

Tom B
Guest
Tom B

It’s not belittling anything.

He simply points out that if Pedro couldn’t win an MVP throwing one of the top 3 most amazing seasons in history… what chance does Verlander have?

drewcorb
Member
drewcorb

I’d have to say that calling Verlander’s season “chump change”, even in comparison to Pedro’s, is belittling it at least a bit. I’m not sure everyone here is on a Red Sox soap box, but they might be on a Pedro soap box.

Sultan of Schwwingg
Guest
Sultan of Schwwingg

Pedro didn’t win the MVP that year because he went up against the best defensive catcher in the game who also hit .914 w/ 35 HR’s and stole 25 bases. The contention that pitchers can’t win – as proof we give you ’99 Pedro! – should end. It’s disrespectful to one of the finest catcher years in history.

Eric
Guest
Eric

Fortunately for Verlander, 1999 Pedro isn’t in consideration for this award. MVP awards are funny. Sometimes there are 2-3 very deserving candidates that have monster seasons at the same time. Other times you get really weak winners in seasons without a dominant candidate.

Verlander might not win it, but he’s easily one of the best candidates in the AL and has a good chance.

Matt C
Guest
Matt C

I think it’s a ridiculous argument to say that Verlander shouldn’t win or doesn’t have a chance to win just because Pedro didn’t win in 99. So Pedro didn’t win in 99, what does that have to do with Verlander? I could see if no pitcher has ever won an MVP award before but they obviously have.

You be better off comparing his season to Clemens in 86(the last SP to win MVP). Clemens finished with 8WAR(Verlander’s currently at 7) so depending on how many starts Verlander has left and how he fares in it Clemens may only finish a half win or so more than Verlander. But if you look at it from a traditional standpoint, Verlander will likely finish with a better ERA, more wins, better WHIP, more K’s and if he gets 2 more starts more innings. So I’d say overall he stacks up pretty nicely with Clemens’ season.

Anyway basically what I’m getting at si If you want to say Verlander doesn’t deserve it because he hasn’t been as good as the other contenders this year than that’s fine, it’s hard to argue against that but to imply that he doesn’t deserve it because a guy who had the greatest pitching season ever didn’t win it is ridiculous. You shouldn’t penalize Verlander because Pedro was robbed.

GiantHusker
Guest
GiantHusker

Chill out! Swydan was being facetious, dummies.

DavidCEisen
Guest
DavidCEisen

It is amazing how poor American’s reading comprehension abilities have become.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

It’s amazing how many people just make snarky comments about reading comprehension instead of actually saying why they disagree.

PatsNats28
Guest
PatsNats28

Americans’

might wanna work on your grammar there ;)

DavidCEisen
Guest
DavidCEisen

@Jeff: Because everything he said was completely off base? Pedro struck out 13.2 per 9 while walking 1.5. His WAR was five full runs greater than Verlander’s. Yeah, his season is chump change compared to that. The point was obviously that pitchers rarely win the MVP and Verlander hasn’t really done anything out of the ordinary this year to deserve it.

Also somehow Steve thinks that Paul has some sort of control over where the Red Sox place in the Power Rankings. Acting as if Paul is some kind of Red Sox homer is a bit silly.

Eric Cioe
Guest
Eric Cioe

“Pedro struck out 13.2 per 9 while walking 1.5. His WAR was five full runs greater than Verlander’s. Yeah, his season is chump change compared to that.”

Should we totally discount Jose Bautista’s season just because it doesn’t compare to Barry 2002? If the standard you’re holding pitchers to is Pedro 1999-2002, then everyone is going to look like a loser. Those are the best pitching seasons we’ve seen, period. But you can’t go around watching a shutout and saying it was no big deal, Randy Johnson’s 14 strikeout perfect game puts Tim Lincecum’s 6 hit shutout to shame. Because then everything would suck.

The point is that Verlander is the best we have right now, and it’s very good, and he’s fun because he’s really good and he pitches tons of innings, more this year than Pedro ever had. We haven’t seen a pitcher of his skills (high strikeouts, high velocity, endless stamina and endurance, good command, no-hitters) since Randy Johnson. But because he’s not Pedro circa 1999, his accomplishments are chump change? That’s bull. Take WAR out of it for a second, and consider the following: Halladay, Lee, Santana, Haren, Hernandez, Lincecum, none of them have had a season with this many innings and this low of an ERA and this low of a FIP. The only one comparable was Sabathia in 2008, when he spent 1/3 of the year in the NL. And Verlander’s ERA is still more than half a run lower than that.

Welp
Guest
Welp

^Good argument for the Cy Young award, but not for the MVP.