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Introducing FUBAR: Ranking the Best and Worst Teams in MLB

Felipe Melecio came up with a ranking system that is as free from subjectivity as possible. He calls it Felipe’s Ultimate Baseball Advanced Rankings or FUBAR for short.

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yovani-gallardo

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After two weeks worth of Major League Baseball games, now would be a good time to stop and reflect on the season so far. Frustrated by the lack of decent “power rankings” that’s available by popular sports media, I decided to make one of my own, one that consists of Sabermetrics and takes into account the stuff that really matters in today’s game:

  • Hitting prowess
  • Base running
  • Plate discipline
  • High strikeouts
  • Limiting walks and home runs
  • Defense

Utilizing the most logical stats available that takes into account the above criteria, taking each team’s rankings of all stats used for this project, and coming up with an aggregate figure (the lower the score, the better the team), I came up with a ranking system that is as free from subjectivity as possible and tries to explain the how and why of the current campaign. I call it Felipe’s Ultimate Baseball Advanced Rankings or FUBAR for short.

All stats and standings are as of April 13, 2014. Also included are the “power rankings” provided by the world wide leader as a basis of comparison. They are good through April 14, 2014. So how does the 2014 season look so far?

1. Milwaukee Brewers–83 Points; 10-2 Record; ESPN Ranking: Ranked 2nd

Are the Brewers for real? Well, based on their pitching and offensive production, at the very least, they have earned the best record in baseball after two weeks of play. The biggest surprise has been their bullpen which ranks number one overall in these rankings (based on Field Independent Pitching (FIP) and Skill-Interactive Earned Run Average (SIERA), pitching stats that take into account strikeouts, walks, home runs, and batted balls). Last year, the Brewers bullpen struggled to close out games. This season, they look to have the makings of a formidable relief corps.

Their offense has been doing well so far, but the plate discipline (using Walk:Strikeout ratio (BB:K)) has been virtually lacking as their best hitters have also been very aggressive at the plate. Guys like Carlos Gomez and Khris Davis have Stikeout Rates well above 27 percent. Ultimately, that may lead to a prolonged slump. It’s painful to watch one hitter going through a slump. But when it’s the whole team, that can prove to be cancerous. They also have a middle-tier defense, so perhaps those balls in play will turn into opponents’ base-hits.

Strengths: Hitting, base running, pitching.

Weakness: Plate discipline.

Stock: Slightly Down

2. Los Angeles Angels: 89 Points; 6-6; ESPN: 18th

Got some controversy going as a .500 team is already ranked second in these rankings. However, having Mike Trout on the team will make your offense look good. Plus Albert Pujols makes the overall team discipline look good and Howie Kendrick has done a great job on the basepaths. The defense has also been elite, as having a guy like Trout in the outfield and Erick Aybar in the infield help the team immensely, especially the pitching.

Unfortunately, the pitching has been a disappointment as the starters, as a whole, have been middle of the pack, while the bullpen seem to be more lucky than good. It’s tough to win in this league without a lights-out bullpen.

Strengths: Offense, defense

Weakness: Bullpen

Stock: Slightly down

3. Oakland Athletics: 90 Points; 8-4; ESPN: 8th

Their starting rotation, led by Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir is arguably behind the Brewers’ rotation as the best in baseball. Their bullpen has not been as dominant as their starters as they try to figure out their closer situation, but they definitely have potential to be top 10. Their defense is also top-notch.

On offense, however, they haven’t been a very imposing group and a lack of speed makes this club a station-to-station team. On the bright side, they have the second highest BB:K in the league so at least there’s hope that the team can produce more on offense.

Strengths: Plate discipline, starting pitching, defense

Weakness: Base running, bullpen

Stock: Even

4. Atlanta Braves: 90 Points; 8-4; ESPN: 7th

Just like the Brewers, the Braves are a very aggressive hitting club. However, despite the potential for high levels of power and run production, their team Weighted On-Base Average (wOBA–offensive stat that takes into account the fact that not all hits are created equal) is ranked 15th overall. And though the pitching has been excellent, especially when taking into account the injuries they have sustained, based on their SIERA, there’s been some luck involved in their success. Doesn’t hurt that they have what could be the best defense in baseball, led by Andrelton Simmons in the infield and a trio of very fast and athletic outfielders.

Strengths: Pitching, base running, defense

Weakness: Plate discipline

Stock: Slightly up

5. Toronot Blue Jays: 92 Points; 7-6; ESPN: 19th

A rare occurrence that the Blue Jays are doing much better than the rest of their AL East rivals. No respect is shown by Bristol, but there are plenty of things to like here. Base running and plate discipline are top 10. Plus the starting rotation has been doing well, although they do have a high SIERA thanks to R.A. Dickey‘s unpredictable knuckleball. The bullpen also got off to a shaky start, but perhaps the have righted the ship with Sergio Santos seemingly taking control of the closer’s role (not counting tonight’s game, of course), but as a whole, they are somewhat suspect.

Strengths: Base running, plate discipline, starting pitching, defense

Weakness: offense, bullpen

Stock: Down

That is your top five so far this season. We now quickly move along to the rest of the teams.

Felipe’s Ultimate Baseball Advanced Rankings (FUBAR)

Rank

Team

Total Points

Win

Loss

ESPN

6

Cardinals

112

7

5

5

7

Pirates

112

6

6

10

8

Rockies

113

6

7

17

9

Padres

115

5

7

26

10

Indians

117

6

7

15

ESPN and FUBAR have similar rankings for the St. Louis Cardinals. However, unlike their division rivals, the Brewers, they are not clicking on cylinders as their hitting, bullpen, and defense have been inconsistent. Their starting pitching ranks in the top 10.

The Pittsburgh Pirates continue to not make any sense as they are held together by a strong bullpen, defense, and what looks to be an “old school” approach to baseball.

Meanwhile, the Colorado Rockies continue to try to out-slug opponents as their bullpen has done everything they can to keep this team competitive.

If the San Diego Padres can get some offense going, this can be a scary team out west.

The Cleveland Indians have an adequate lineup and decent pitching, but the defense is suspect. They have the worst-ranked defense among the top 10 teams.

Felipe’s Ultimate Baseball Advanced Rankings (FUBAR)

Rank

Team

Total Points

Win

Loss

ESPN

11

Yankees

118

7

6

12

12

Dodgers

118

9

4

1

13

Nationals

122

7

5

6

14

Giants

124

8

5

9

15

Marlins

126

5

8

23

ESPN and FUBAR have similar rankings for the New York Yankees. Predictably, the hitting lineup has been crushing the ball, but their pitching has been more luck than good, while their defense can be very porous.

The Los Angeles Dodgers might be the best team on paper as they are loaded with uber-talent. However, what needs to be taking into consideration is poor discipline at the plate and on the bases, an underwhelming bullpen, and shoddy defense. As long as their big boppers continue to hit and the starting pitching continues to dominate, they can continue to overcome those flaws.

The Washington Nationals are a great-hitting club and a bullpen to match, but their starters need to pull it together and defense must improve.

Just like the Nats, the San Fracisco Giants have themselves and outstanding bullpen and a more than adequate lineup. And just like D.C., they need do better with the glove work and there’s too much talent on the rotation for them to be this poorly ranked.

Here’s a surprise: the Miami Marlins might be better than people think they are. Their offense is serviceable, the starting rotation is living up to the hype, and their defense can be good enough to get by. It’s the bullpen that’s holding them back.

Felipe’s Ultimate Baseball Advanced Rankings (FUBAR)

Rank

Team

Total Points

Win

Loss

ESPN

16

Rays

126

7

6

4

17

Royals

142

4

7

20

18

Red Sox

145

5

8

13

19

Mariners

149

6

5

11

20

Tigers

151

6

4

3

The other Florida team, the Tampa Bay Rays are once again at the top in plate discipline, but need to show more offensive production. Just like the Marlins, they too have bullpen issues that need fixing.

The Kansas City Royals are off to a rocky start as their offense has been inefficient and the rotation has been near-disastrous. At least the defense might be able to keep things stable.

Boston Red Sox have a great bullpen, but need work on all the other phases of the game.

The Seattle Mariners have a decent rotation, but just like the BoSox, they are looking like a one-dimensional club.

Detroit Tigers are off to a slow start on offense, but their pitching is keeping them from falling too far in the standings and rankings.

Felipe’s Ultimate Baseball Advanced Rankings (FUBAR)

Rank

Team

Total Points

Win

Loss

ESPN

21

Twins

154

6

6

27

22

Cubs

157

4

8

29

23

Reds

165

4

8

24

24

Phillies

166

6

6

25

25

Rangers

168

6

6

16

Minnesota Twins are actually looking pretty good on offense. It’s everything else that’s worrisome.

Those lovable losers, the Chicago Cubs, play good team defense and their rotation can be adequate.

Cincinnati Reds also play good defensive ball, but have not been offering much else these days.

Philadelphia Phillies know what to do at the plate, but offense alone doesn’t win many games.

The Texas Rangers were supposed to be better than this, but so far, their plate discipline is the only thing they have going for them.

Felipe’s Ultimate Baseball Advanced Rankings (FUBAR)

Rank

Team

Total Points

Win

Loss

ESPN

26

Mets

188

5

7

22

27

White Sox

190

7

6

21

28

Diamondbacks

198

4

11

30

29

Orioles

203

5

7

14

30

Astros

216

5

8

28

For these teams, rather than focusing on negatives, I will (try to) focus on at least one positive:

New York Mets: Average defense

Chicago White Sox: They can definitely crush the ball…in Colorado.

Arizona Diamondbacks: At least they weren’t the worst team on these rankings.

Baltimore Orioles: Base running is ranked 16th in the league.

Houston Astros: There’s always the farm system to look forward to.

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