A BABS-Eye View of the Pennant Races

(FREE ARTICLE) The last time I attempted pre-season standings projections was when Bill Clinton was faithful. I’ve always considered them a fun exercise with nearly no basis in reality (like Bill’s exploits, I suppose). Opening Day is just a starting point for a season full of roster activity, so to project what October will look like based on today’s rosters is pointless.

But BABS really, really wants to do this.

Frankly, the balance sheet perspective offers up some interesting insights. The risks associated with six months of roster management are somewhat baked into the process. Could it provide a more accurate view?

Nah.

But BABS wants to do it anyway. (Grrr.)

So I isolated the top 10 batters and top 10 pitchers on each team using the BABS ratings. These represented a reasonable core, and for some teams included a top prospect or two. Then I just ranked each 20-player team unit.

Was this the best method for handling the task? Heck, we’re trying to predict what’s going to happen in six months – no method is best. BABS should he happy I even took the time to do this. She should get over herself.

American League East

  1. Toronto
  2. New York
  3. Boston
  4. Tampa
  5. Baltimore

Okay, so I was happy to see that BABS provides at least a reasonably palatable ranking. Toronto’s offense is among the three best in baseball (Colorado and Detroit are the others) and their power paces all 30 teams. However, their pitching is only third best in the division and 11th in the AL. The Jays also have the least injury risk in the division.

The Yankees’ second place ranking behind Toronto represents the smallest gap of all six divisions, so the AL East could, in fact, be a toss-up. When you separate skill from risk, the Bombers have the division’s best pitching (surprise!), though their injury risk is not insignificant. Boston is in a sea by itself, then Tampa and Baltimore will likely fight it out for 4th place. The Rays have the most Injury risk in baseball.

American League Central

  1. Cleveland
  2. Detroit
  3. Minnesota
  4. Kansas City
  5. Chicago

The Indians have far and away the best pitching in the division and just enough offense to support it. The Tigers, Twins and Royals are all pretty much bunched up in the middle; any one could finish in 2nd or 4th as they each have some key flaws.

The Tigers’ offense could be huge, with the 2nd best batting average potential in baseball (behind San Francisco), but their pitching is the worst in the division. The Twins have the best power in the division, but a lot of it is speculative as they shoulder the most Experience risk (Sano, Park, etc.). The defending champion Royals have the most speed and least Experience risk (of all 30 teams!) but significant Injury risk.

American League West

  1. Seattle
  2. Houston
  3. Texas
  4. Oakland
  5. Los Angeles

I thought that these rankings might make a mockery of BABS but then Joe Sheehan came out with his projections that also put the Mariners on top. How does this happen? Slightly better pitching than Houston; slightly better BA potential than the Angels; the least Injury risk in the division.

But the Astros are close. They own the most power and – oddly enough – the least Experience risk – but also significant BA downside. Texas and Oakland will be close, the difference being that the A’s own the most pitching Liabilities in the AL.

National League East

  1. New York
  2. Washington
  3. Miami
  4. Atlanta
  5. Philadelphia

While the world lauds the Mets for their incredible starting rotation, the Nationals actually edge them out in overall pitching thanks to far less Experience risk. But the Nats have the most Injury risk in the division, which pushes them into second place.

The Braves and Phils own more pitching risk combined than the six teams at the opposite end of the list. The Braves have the least power of any team in baseball, and it’s not even remotely close (second to last is KC). The Phils have the most Experience Liability of any team in baseball and could finish the furthest from first place of any team in any division. When was the last time a team finished 40 games out?

National League Central

  1. Chicago
  2. St. Louis
  3. Pittsburgh
  4. Cincinnati
  5. Milwaukee

As much as analysts are trying to downplay the Cubs hype, BABS agrees that Chicago is baseball’s best team on paper. While their Assets don’t lead the pack in any one category, the one list they do take charge of is Injury risk. They have the fewest Liabilities there in all of baseball, just ahead of Arizona.

The gap between them and the Cards is not insignificant, and then to the Pirates is a decent margin as well. Most consider this a three-team race; it might not be.

National League West

  1. San Francisco
  2. Arizona
  3. Los Angeles
  4. San Diego
  5. Colorado

While the Giants are last in the NL West in power, they more than offset that with the best BA in baseball and the best pitching in the division. The D-backs and Dodgers should fight it out for second place, and the Padres might even have an outside shot here.

As usual, the Rockies have the ultimate bipolar team. They combine a top 3 offense with the worst pitching skill and most pitching risk in baseball.

Here are a few more interesting BABS lists:

Top 5 Power                   Bottom 5 Power
Toronto                 Atlanta
Baltimore               Kansas City
Chicago (N)             Chicago (A)
St. Louis               Cleveland
New York (N)            Pittsburgh
Top 5 Speed                   Bottom 5 Speed
Cincinnati              Baltimore
Colorado                St. Louis
Kansas City             New York (N)
Oakland                 Toronto
Miami                   Los Angeles (N)
Top 5 BA                        Bottom 5 BA
San Francisco           Minnesota
Detroit                 Philadelphia
Colorado                Cincinnati
Seattle                 New York (A)
Washington              Chicago (N)
Top 5 ER                        Bottom 5 ER
Los Angeles (N)         Colorado
Chicago (N)             Los Angeles (A)
St. Louis               Minnesota
New York (N)            Baltimore
Seattle                 Detroit
Top 5 Strikeouts             Bottom 5 Strikeouts
Los Angeles (N)         Minnesota
New York (N)            Arizona
Cleveland               Milwaukee
New York (A)            Colorado
Washington              Boston
Least Injury Risk            Most Injury Risk
Chicago (N)             Tampa
Arizona                 Colorado
Minnesota               St. Louis
Cleveland               Los Angeles (N)
Toronto                 Boston/Washington
Least Experience Risk        Most Experience Risk
Kansas City             Philadelphia
Washington              Cincinnati
Chicago (A)             Milwaukee
New York (A)            Atlanta
St. Louis               Minnesota

5 thoughts on “A BABS-Eye View of the Pennant Races

  1. Mark Rush

    thanks, Ron.

    Agreed re: the NL. Wondering what your BABS sees at the bottom of Toronto’s lineup. 7-8-9 are not great. Pillar is iffy at #1. Boston lacks power, but has a real nuisance factor 1-6. Toronto’s pitching is a crap shoot after Stroman and the bullpen is in disarray.

    Surprised at the analysis of NYY. Tanaka is gimpy and the rest are unproven. Bullpen is top shelf. How much Geritol and Bengay to keep the lineup in tact?

    I’ll take the Sox by a nose over Toronto.

    AL Central is intriguing because of Indians pitching. But this division will be a brawl.

    Wondered about Seattle Pitching. But no doubt they are a sleeper.

    It’s an even year for SFO? Enjoy your analysis as always.

    1. shandler Post author

      Mark – BABS does acknowledge the Yankees’ age, but strip away the risk factors and Tanaka, Pineda, Eovaldi and Severino are a highly-skilled group. But if I understand you correctly, the Red Sox will win the division because they have a “nuisance factor”? 🙂

      1. Herrick Goldman

        as a biased Red Sox fan, I am actually happy to see that they are dead average. They only appear on 2 of your “bottom” lists. not the best at anything but only poor in injury risk and strikeouts. Lots of variability and nuisance for sure.

  2. Bob Walker

    Ron, hate to bug you again with a trade question, but . . . first my BABS draft went well, problem is I had AJ Pollock as keeper (next day he got hurt) I got Revere for $20, great price in our auction but now on DL, anyway I have been offered Syndergaard & Conforto for Wainwright & Pence, any thoughts? I like the offer but hate giving up Pence.

    1. shandler Post author

      Given that Syndegaard is potentially much better than Wainwright and Conforto has a ton of upside and is much younger than Pence, I’d have no problem making this deal. The only thing you might be giving up is a handful of steals.

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