MLB

MLB lineup tiers — Which teams are in their own league?

The Los Angeles Dodgers have spent the past two months steamrollering just about everything in their path. Ever since a six-game losing streak leveled their record at 8-8, they’ve gone 40-16 for an MLB-best .714 winning percentage while outscoring their opponents by 95 runs. Part of that has been outstanding work from a rotation led by Cy Young hopeful Hyun-Jin Ryu, and while their bullpen has been shaky, their lineup has largely papered over its mistakes by pummeling opponents. The team’s 5.18 runs per game ranks fourth in the league, but adjusted for ballpark, their 113 wRC+ is first, and they also have the Senior Circuit’s strongest defense, whether measured by UZR, DRS or defensive efficiency.

While it’s not easy to measure, defense counts. For this exercise, I’m using FanGraphs’ version of WAR to estimate each team’s offensive and defensive production to date (the latter using UZR) and to forecast its work going forward. For the latter aspect, I’m relying upon FanGraphs’ Depth Charts projections, which use as its inputs the average of two excellent projection systems (Steamer and ZiPS) and manually applied estimates of playing time for the remainder of the season.

I’ve divided the 30 teams into six not-necessarily-equally-sized tiers based upon those combined numbers and gaps in the rankings. For example, the top three teams here, all with combined WARs (season-to-date and rest-of-season) in the 31-35 range, are clearly ahead of the next seven, in the 24-28 WAR range, and everybody from that latter group appears to be a cut above the third tier, in the 20-23 WAR range. Within those tiers, I’ve reserved the right to go off-menu if I think it’s merited, particularly when playing time estimates appear out of line or projections appear to be underselling prospects who have clearly broken through. All statistics are through Sunday.



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