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MLB Power Rankings: Taking This Chance To Reflect On Projections

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The 15th edition of our MLB power rankings, as voted on by SB Nation MLB bloggers Jim McLennan, Will McDonald, Sam Page, Kyle Lobner, Jeff Sullivan, and Randy Booth. You should probably take these very seriously, because they are uncommonly important.

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We're now at the midway point of the 2010 Major League Baseball season. Or, more accurately, we're a little beyond it. I guess it'd be cool if the All-Star Break fell in the true middle, after everyone's played 81 games, but that has more novelty value than anything else, and the second half is harder on players anyway so you might as well do what you can to make it shorter.

Anyhoo, the break gives every fan a breather and an opportunity to step back and think about more than just the last game your team played or the next one to come. You can reflect on more than the last game or the last week - you can reflect on the whole first half of the year, and how it's measured up against preseason projections. Remember that, as soon as the middle of January rolls around, all any baseball fan does is talk about how things are looking for the upcoming season. People spend more time forecasting than they think they do.

And forecasts are important. Especially the legitimate ones. The legitimate, complicated, mathematical ones. They can be hard for the average person to wrap his head around, but it's vital for a fan to have some understanding of how his team and its components are objectively projected to perform. It isn't vital in a you'll-die-if-you-don't-know-what-PECOTA-means kind of way, but it's vital in that there's a lot of information in there that can help any fan manage his expectations and prepare for the year.

So with that in mind, now that we have more than half of the season in the bank, I'd like to do a quick comparison between the current MLB standings and the MLB standings projected over at the Replacement Level Yankees Weblog. You can find the AL projections here, and the NL projections here. Those projections take into account five different premier forecasting systems, which makes them a handy source.

Once again, I must issue the caveat that this is not a scientific journal, and should not be treated as such.

Top five teams doing better than projected:

1. Padres, +0.111 winning percentage
2. Blue Jays, +0.092
3. Tigers, +0.077
4. Mets, +0.075
5. White Sox, +0.070

Top five teams doing worse than projected:

1. Orioles, -0.130
2. Diamondbacks, -0.125
3. Indians, -0.107
4. Pirates, -0.105
5. Mariners, -0.104

The projected standings, of course, were not intended to be taken as predictions of the standings in 2010. As the author writes:

These are the averages of 1000 seasons, so the results will tend to regress towards the mean. The final standings will not look like this, because they only play the season once. The idea behind is not necessarily to tell us how the final standings will look. Think of it more as a starting point for discussion. You can look at these and think about why you think teams will be better or worse.

So we can't take this to say that the Padres are on pace to win 18 more games than their projection. What we can say, though, is that the Padres are outperforming their projection to the greatest degree among successes, and that the Orioles are outperforming their projection to the greatest degree among failures. Which is something. It's especially interesting in the latter case - nobody figures the Orioles would be very good, but they've gone and been the worst team in baseball. Fans of bad teams are typically described as numb. The O's have still found a way to pluck a nerve of one of the most beaten-down fanbases in baseball.

I don't have a greater point, here, so I'll leave it at that, and you can explore the links if you like at your leisure. For now, let's proceed to this very special All-Star Break edition of the power rankings.

30. Pittsburgh Pirates

SBN Blog: Bucs Dugout

2010 record: 30-58

Last week's rank: 29

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 30

This is how you know you're in full-fledged sell mode: The Pirates are reportedly close to a deal to send AAA pitcher Hayden Penn to Japan's Chiba Lotte Marines. Another note for the "nothing is going right" file: While the team was in the middle of getting swept in Milwaukee, assistant pitching coach Ray Searage was hit in the face by a ball during BP.Searage is fine. If only someone could say the same about the Pirates.

29. Baltimore Orioles

SBN Blog: Camden Chat

2010 record: 29-59

Last week's rank: 30

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 28

The Orioles are pretty good at getting hot and cold. After getting swept by the Tigers in three games, the O's bounced back and swept the Rangers in four games to finish the first half. It's bittersweet, but the O's have won almost as many games under Juan Samuel (14) as old manager David Trembley (15) in 20 fewer games.

28. Cleveland Indians

SBN Blog: Let's Go Tribe!

2010 record: 34-54

Last week's rank: 25

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 25

Cleveland limps to the All-Star Break with a 2-6 slide. Fewer than 14,000 fans were on hand for the team's last home game of the first half, a tilt last Sunday against the A's. This time, there won't be any big names to trade, although the mildly interesting Austin Kearns should eventually find a new home.

27. Arizona Diamondbacks

SBN Blog: AZ Snakepit

2010 record: 34-55

Last week's rank: 27

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 26

Life under new manager Kirk Gibson has not proven to be any easier for Arizona than it was before, with a mediocre 3-7 record for Gibson to date, despite a significantly easier schedule, with most of the opposition to date having sub-.500 records. The Diamondbacks were swept at home by the Cubs, but then split a four-game series against the Marlins. That set included the lowest crowd at Chase in franchise history; only 16,664 attended the game on Thursday night.

26. Houston Astros

SBN Blog: The Crawfish Boxes

2010 record: 36-53

Last week's rank: 28

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 29

The Astros entered the break with just one regular (Lance Berkman) with an OPS+ over 100 and only two others (Hunter Pence and Jeff Keppinger) over 90 so it's hard to feel too bad for hitting coach Sean Berry, who was relieved of his duties and replaced by Jeff Bagwell this weekend. Berry has been offered a chance to remain in the organization, but hasn't decided if he'll accept. Meanwhile, the team finished the first half with a 4-2 homestand and has won ten of its last 18 games, which isn't bad for a team that will likely spend much of the second half fighting to stay out of last place.

25. Seattle Mariners

SBN Blog: Lookout Landing

2010 record: 35-53

Last week's rank: 23

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 26

They finally traded Cliff Lee. Now what? There aren't any big pieces left to wheel and deal - at least, not any pieces who're going to go anywhere - so the second half becomes about seeing Justin Smoak develop, Michael Saunders get better, and Michael Pineda beat down the door from AAA. It's not altogether unpleasant, but it is a good deal less exciting. For a little while, the Mariners were at the center of the baseball universe. Now they're right back to the forgotten periphery. 

24. Chicago Cubs

SBN Blog: Bleed Cubbie Blue

2010 record: 39-50

Last week's rank: 24

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 22

You can't really blame the Cubs if frustrations are starting to run high: both Lou Piniella and Carlos Silva were tossed from games over the weekend as the Cubs lost three of four to the Dodgers to drop to 19-27 on the road. Ten of the team's first 16 games after the break are against potential contenders (Philadelphia, St. Louis and Colorado), but the other six are against the Astros, so it evens out.

23. Washington Nationals

SBN Blog: Federal Baseball

2010 record: 39-50

Last week's rank: 26

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 24

Is Mike Rizzo blowing a chance to build for the National's bright future? He's talking about the Nationals like they're still in contention, saying it would take an "extraordinary offer" to trade Adam Dunn. These comments come on the heels of Buster Olney at ESPN quoting a rival GM saying, about Rizzo, "He'll give you the kind of proposals that just end conversations. They're very one-sided." Hopefully that's not the case here, as Dunn could use a move to the American League and the Nationals need another young talent to complement Strasburg and Harper.

22. Kansas City Royals

SBN Blog: Royals Review

2010 record: 39-49

Last week's rank: 21

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 19

Just when the Royals started to dream about actually contending, they finished the first half by getting swept in Chicago. Now, the dreams shift to trading Jose Guillen, something the Royals have pursued doggedly.

21. Milwaukee Brewers

SBN Blog: Brew Crew Ball

2010 record: 40-49

Last week's rank: 22

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 21

Corey Hart's Home Run Derby performance (13 home runs in the first round, none in the second) was a microcosm of the Brewers' season to this point. Over the last few weeks, the Brewers have swept the Twins and Pirates and been swept in a four game series by the Giants. They've scored one run or fewer in five of their last twelve games. This weekend's sweep of the Pirates brought them back to within 8.5 games of the NL Central lead, but a tough four-game series in Atlanta to open the second half could knock them right back down.

20. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

SBN Blog: Halos Heaven

2010 record: 47-44

Last week's rank: 15

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 23

The Angels kept up while the Rangers were on that impossible hot streak. So now that the Rangers have come back down to Earth, how have the Angels responded? By playing some terrible baseball. LAnaheim is now 2-8 since winning that series against Texas, having lost twice to the Royals, four times to the White Sox, and twice to the A's, who suddenly loom just behind them in the standings. The lineup has a .586 July OPS and Scott Kazmir just allowed more runs in one start than Ubaldo Jimenez allowed in 13. From one extreme to the other.

19. Florida Marlins

SBN Blog: Fish Stripes

2010 record: 42-46

Last week's rank: 20

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 16

The Marlins are nearly out of contention, and seem primed to sell like crazy at the trade deadline. Unlike the trademark total rebuilds of Marlins teams past, however, this firesale will be orchestrated with the clear goal of opening their new stadium in 2012 with a solid core to build around. That likely means players like Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson and Mike Stanton will be totally untouchable with others like Ricky Nolasco and Leo Nunez requiring a nice ransom of prospects.

18. Toronto Blue Jays

SBN Blog: Bluebird Banter

2010 record: 44-45

Last week's rank: 19

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 10

Toronto ended its skid -- sort of -- going 3-3 since last Tuesday. They beat the Twins in a series, but then lost a series to the Red Sox before the All-Star break. This is the point in the season when you feel bad for Shaun Marcum. He could be a difference-maker for a team down the stretch, but it looks like the Jays will hold on to their pitchers this season.

17. Oakland Athletics

SBN Blog: Athletics Nation

2010 record: 43-46

Last week's rank: 17

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 14

I don't want to say that the A's are back in this thing all of a sudden, but they did just manage to gain their first substantial ground since the middle of June. Given that the Rangers were better all along and now have Cliff Lee as well, the AL West isn't happening, but the A's have made great recent progress in catching up to the Angels, which would be an acceptable consolation prize. With Brett Anderson on the way back again, hey, maybe. It's something to look forward to as the trade deadline promises to be pretty slow.

16. Minnesota Twins

SBN Blog: Twinkie Town

2010 record: 46-42

Last week's rank: 12

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 3

Two mediocre months, which saw the Twins go 27-33, have Minnesota in third place in the AL Central. Nevertheless, Minnesota isn't in terrible shape for the second half, though it's difficult to see much room for improvement. An MVP second-half from Joe Mauer would be a help. Although they were never considered on the verge of a move, missing out on Cliff Lee has changed everything.

15. New York Mets

SBN Blog: Amazin' Avenue

2010 record: 48-40

Last week's rank: 14

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 20

While the Mets are soon to be connected in trade rumors to every single vaguely-available pitcher, they will quietly make one of the best midseason upgrades possible. The return of Carlos Beltran from lengthy knee surgery rehab will shift breakout-star Angel Pagan to right field, forcing the league's worst starting outfielder, Jeff Francoeur, to the bench. Will it be enough to catch the Braves? Maybe; after all, ditching Francoeur turned their franchise around too. 

14. St. Louis Cardinals

SBN Blog: Viva El Birdos

2010 record: 47-41

Last week's rank: 8

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 7

The Cardinals are just 32-33 since May 1 and haven't been able to pass the Reds in the standings, even while the Reds are starting to show signs of coming back to Earth. An eight-game homestand to open the second half against the Dodgers and Phillies could do a lot to tell if the Cardinals are a dominant team that's getting ready to run away with the NL Central or an underachiever that's going to struggle to put away the Reds.

13. San Francisco Giants

SBN Blog: McCovey Chronicles

2010 record: 47-41

Last week's rank: 18

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 18

Last week, San Francisco's season looked all but over, as they sat 7.5 back, having lost eight of nine. But a four-game sweep of the Brewers and a series win over the Nationals has put them back into the race, and they're just two out in the NL Wild Card race again. Surprisingly, it's been the offense that has exploded: the Giants scored 53 runs this week, being held to fewer than six only once - though holding the opposition to two runs or fewer in a majority of the games certainly didn't hurt!

12. Cincinnati Reds

SBN Blog: Red Reporter

2010 record: 49-41

Last week's rank: 6

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 12

The Reds dropped to 5-6 in July after getting swept in a four-game series by the Phillies, a series that included back-to-back 1-0 losses. Help is on the way, though: Edinson Volquez is expected to return to the rotation after the break, although when he'll pitch is to be determined.

11. Philadelphia Phillies

SBN Blog: The Good Phight

2010 record: 47-40

Last week's rank: 13

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 17

The All-Star break will likely be little relief for Phillies fans as Charlie Manuel will have to scratch Chase Utley from the National League's lineup, a harrowing reminder of the Utley-less days to come. Still, the Phillies are just a half-game behind the second-place Mets, thanks to two consecutive 1-0 wins before the break. Unfortunately, with their current lineup, that might the only score they can count on winning with, at least until mega-prospect Dominic Brown gets the call. 

10. Los Angeles Dodgers

SBN Blog: True Blue LA

2010 record: 49-39

Last week's rank: 11

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 13

Los Angeles dropped two of three against Florida, but then rebounded to take three of four from the Chigaco Cubs at Chavez Ravine this week, and closed the gap between themselves and the division-leading Padres from 3.5 to two games. James Loney is hitting .447 this month, and it looks like Andre Ethier is now fully recovered from his pinkie injury, going 10-for-28 in the past week. Vincente Padilla and Clayton Kershaw have each allowed two runs in their two July starts.

9. Colorado Rockies

SBN Blog: Purple Row

2010 record: 49-39

Last week's rank: 10

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 11

Colorado doesn't seem to be missing the injured Troy Tulowitzki or Ubaldo Jimenez's sub-one ERA much. They ran off six straight wins, including a sweep of St. Louis with an insane comeback powered by a nine-run ninth inning, and were five outs from doing the same to San Diego, which would have put them into a tie for first place in the division. That finished off an 8-2 stand at Coors Field, which gives the Rockies 31 wins at home, the most in the National League at the All-Star break.

8. Texas Rangers

SBN Blog: Lone Star Ball

2010 record: 50-38

Last week's rank: 7

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 5

The Rangers celebrated their big acquisition of Cliff Lee by getting swept at home in a four-game set against the league-worst Orioles. Baseball's a weird game. It wasn't a soul-crushing series, and Texas still holds a solid grip on first place, but a better performance would've allowed them to turn their sights a little more towards the playoffs rather than to trying to hold off the Angels, which is annoying for them. Though he did lose his first start, it's difficult to overstate just how much Lee could and should mean to this team. If Derek Holland can make it back and get himself in a groove down the stretch, the Rangers will have an actual pitching staff worth fearing.

7. Detroit Tigers

SBN Blog: Bless You Boys

2010 record: 48-38

Last week's rank: 9

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 8

A 7-2 run to the All-Star Break for the Tigers, who nevertheless might regret being unable to complete the sweep of the Twins on Sunday. Like the White Sox, the Tiger lineup features an odd blend of old (Damon, Guillen, Ordonez) and young players (Jackson, Boesch) that have a lot of variability in their game. Holding things together has been MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera.

6. Chicago White Sox

SBN Blog: South Side Sox

2010 record: 49-38

Last week's rank: 16

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 15

A stunning 27-9 run has the White Sox in first place in the AL Central. After a terrible start, the pitching staff has prevented runs as many expected it would in the off-season. The first half offense was carried by a renaissance season by the 34 year old Paul Konerko, who hit 20 home runs and posted a .299/.382/.560 (BA/OBP/SLG) line that no one really saw coming. Helping Konerko of late has been Carlos Quentin, who has hit .291/.386/.718, with 14 homers in his last 33 games (127 plate appearances)

5. San Diego Padres

SBN Blog: Gaslamp Ball

2010 record: 51-37

Last week's rank: 5

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 9

Road losses to the Nationals and Rockies have San Diego looking nervously over their shoulder - only a comeback victory over Colorado on Sunday stopped them from falling into a tie for the lead in the competitive NL West. Three times just last week, their pitching staff allowed seven or more runs - that's more often than they did during the 36 games from May 28-July 6. Arizona and Pittsburgh are their opposition in six of the first nine back, and the Padres will want to take full advantage.

4. Boston Red Sox

SBN Blog: Over The Monster

2010 record: 51-37

Last week's rank: 3

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 4

The Red Sox are trying to make do with a depleted lineup, but the results as of late haven't been good. Boston is 2-5 in its last seven games and continues to lose ground in the tough AL East. The good news? Clay Buchholz is supposed to be ready to start pitching after the All-Star break ... maybe. It would only make sense if health turns out to be the thing that separates three very nearly equally-talented teams.

3. Atlanta Braves

SBN Blog: Talking Chop

2010 record: 52-36

Last week's rank: 4

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 6

A sign of the good times: the Braves are sending four players to the All-Star game in Anaheim. Well, technically three, not counting Omar Infante, whose selection is inexplicable. Still, everything in the first-half is looking up for the Bravos, punctuated by a vital series win over the second-place Mets. With Yunel Escobar and Melky Cabrera finally hitting a little, the Braves have no obvious holes as they approach trade deadline. The burden falls on the Mets or Phillies to make a move that will ruin Bobby Cox's farewell tour.

2. Tampa Bay Rays

SBN Blog: DRays Bay

2010 record: 54-34

Last week's rank: 2

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 2

Like the Yankees, the Rays are getting hot again. Tampa Bay has won 10 of its last 12 while it tries to creep back up on New York in the AL East race. The Rays can thank the 2010 American League All-Star starting pitcher -- and their most consistent pitcher -- David Price for a lot of its success. Price has a 2.30 ERA in two July starts.

1. New York Yankees

SBN Blog: Pinstripe Alley

2010 record: 56-32

Last week's rank: 1

Last week's Beyond The Box Score rank: 1

Just when you think the Yankees are down, they come roaring back. The Yankees are 8-1 in their last nine games, winning two series against Oakland and Seattle. Mark Teixeira has been a big reason why the Yankees continue to win. Teixeira is hitting .419 with four home runs in 11 games in July. As with the Twins, though, one must wonder how the Yankees' missing out on Cliff Lee will shape the rest of the season. Lee could've been a piece to really put the Yankees over the top. Now they're reduced to staying closer to the pack.