Okay, my fellow Major League Baseball fans, we have reached Memorial Day weekend. Nearly two full months of play have seen our game slowly returning to some semblance of normalcy after the devastating COVID-19 pandemic shortened the 2020 season.
The pandemic is not completely over. MLB games have again been postponed over these first few months, resulting in teams having played between 44-52 games. Players are being diagnosed as COVID-positive or found to have been in close proximity to someone who came down with the virus on a weekly basis, resulting in a number of temporary IL stints.
Still, we have three effective vaccines, and the large numbers of Americans getting vaccinated has resulted in a drastic drop in infections, hospitalizations, and especially death rates. Mask mandates are disappearing, social distancing restrictions relaxing, and ballpark capacities increasing.
On the field, the game looks to be in great shape with young stars like Vlad Guerrero Jr and Fernando Tatis Jr emerging and future Hall of Famers like Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera winding down their careers. In the standings, eight of 15 teams in the American League have winning records while just a half-dozen National League clubs are winners at the moment.
Two months is now plenty of time to get a legitimate read on where the 30 teams of Major League Baseball stand. The season’s first Power Rankings have been tabulated, with the NL’s San Diego Padres and AL’s Tampa Bay Rays sitting at the top. I will be releasing my next MLB Power Rankings on Independence Day weekend.
Writing to a largely Philadelphia Phillies audience, I’ll always specifically highlight our home ball club and its recent performances with its own breakdown section. The final 2020 MLB Power Rankings saw the Phillies finish 12th, which belied their losing record and postseason miss. Last year’s team fell apart under the weight of a horrific performance from the bullpen and a defense that deteriorated as the year moved along.
To this point in 2021, manager Joe Girardi’s team has once again been a disappointment. Tied with the Atlanta Braves for second place in the NL East Division, they sit just 2.5 games behind the front-running New York Mets. But at 25-26 the Phillies once again have a losing record and are a full six games in back of the Mets in the loss column. The Phillies have won back-to-back games just once in the last three weeks.
As for their place in the first MLB Power Ranking of the season, they are worse than a middle-of-the-road ball club, sitting at 22nd among the 30 teams. An offensive attack that ended 2020 ranked 5th in MLB is struggling this year, tied for 19th. The pitching staff, which finished 14th a year ago despite the awful bullpen performance, is once again ranked 14th overall.
One problem has been injuries. Right now the Phillies lineup is missing key regulars Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, and Didi Gregorius. Reliever Archie Bradley missed more than a month. Center field had been a mess, with both Adam Haseley and Roman Quinn spending time on the IL while being largely unproductive when available.
Keeping the Phillies in the fight have been the performances from starting pitcher Zack Wheeler, first baseman Rhys Hoskins, second baseman Jean Segura, and somewhat surprisingly excellent work from pitcher Vince Velasquez and outfielder Odubel Herrera.
The real killer for the 2021 Philadelphia Phillies has been their poor defensive performance. The Phillies have the statistically worst defense in the National League and are tied with the Oakland A’s as the worst overall defense in Major League Baseball.
Somehow, the Athletics have overcome that poor glove work to lead the AL West Division at eight games over the .500 mark. The Phillies have not been as fortunate. In the thick of the division race in the standings, the Phillies are the lowest NL East team in the Power Ranking.
I am always evaluating the Power Ranking formula to see if it can be improved upon. It is currently made up of the same categories as used in 2019 and 2020: winning percentage (most recent 30 games), runs-per-game, FIP (fielding independent pitching), and defensive runs saved as measured by Fangraphs.
The ‘winning percentage/30 days’ component reflects each team’s ability to actually win ball games during recent weeks. ‘FIP’ reflects a pitching staff’s ability to control the game and limit damage. The ‘runs-per-game‘ component acknowledges that teams play various numbers of games as of the time of each ranking. For example, it wouldn’t be fair to consider a club that had scored 100 runs over 50 games as effective as a club who scored 100 runs over just 45 games. ‘Defensive runs saved‘ is a stat measuring the effectiveness or costliness of each club’s defenders in trying to keep opposition runs off the scoreboard.
Each team’s placement in the four component categories gets them assigned a 1-30 numerical value. Those are added up to determine a final overall rankings points total. The lower the overall points total, the higher you finish in the rankings.
Where there are any ties, those are broken using each team’s winning percentage over the last 30, and then by their current overall winning percentage since, in the end, winning is what it’s all about. If still even, run differential is used to break the tie.
2021 MLB RANKINGS – MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND
(through games of May 27)
In parentheses below are each team’s total ranking points
- San Diego Padres (17)
- Tampa Bay Rays (18)
- Los Angeles Dodgers (27)
- Chicago White Sox (33)
- Boston Red Sox (33)
- Houston Astros (36)
- New York Mets (40)
- San Francsco Giants (41)
- Saint Louis Cardinals (44)
- Cleveland Indians (49)
- New York Yankees (54)
- Atlanta Braves (54)
- Miami Marlins (56)
- Chicago Cubs (59)
- Toronto Blue Jays (62)
- Cincinnati Reds (64)
- Oakland Athletics (68)
- Washington Nationals (68)
- Minnesota Twins (69)
- Milwaukee Brewers (70)
- Colorado Rockies (72)
- Texas Rangers (73)
- Philadelphia Phillies (79)
- Arizona Diamondbacks (80)
- Seattle Mariners (90)
- Los Angeles Angels (92)
- Kansas City Royals (94)
- Pittsburgh Pirates (95)
- Detroit Tigers (97)
- Baltimore Orioles (109)