Note: The playoffs have already begun – the Colorado Rockies and the New York Yankees won their respective wild card games and have moved on to the Divisional Round of the playoffs, while the Chicago Cubs and the Oakland Athletics were eliminated from the playoffs. However, at the time this article was written, the playoffs had not yet commenced.
Monday marked the beginning of October, and every fan of Major League Baseball knows what that means – it’s playoffs season!
The 2018 MLB regular season officially came to a close on October 1st (while most teams ended on September 30th, there were two division tiebreaker games held on October 1st).
I want to recap this regular season – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and rank all 30 teams based on their performances.
I added some commentary for certain teams (the best (top 5 got full paragraphs, rest of the top 10 got smaller write-ups), the worst, and some surprising/disappointing teams), while the rest of the teams were just assigned a ranking.
As anyone who reads ESPN and other “power-ranking” websites knows, baseball rankings are subjective and it’s rare to find two that match perfectly.
The following rankings and analyses are based on team records and certain team statistics, but of course they still reflect my opinions. This is meant to be a fun recap of the 2018 regular season – I have no intention of insulting certain teams and fans. With that said, enjoy!
Rankings & Analysis:
1.) Boston Red Sox (108-54) – This team has been unbelievable this year, finishing with the most wins in Red Sox history. They are an offensive powerhouse with Mookie Betts leading baseball in batting average and runs scored, and J.D. Martinez leading in RBIs and placing second in batting average and home runs. Plus, with veterans Chris Sale and David Price in the starting rotation and Craig Kimbrel in the bullpen, their pitching is extremely formidable. Having secured home field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Red Sox are in a good spot to make a deep run this October. However, with the American League stacked with some excellent teams, nothing can be taken for granted.
2.) Houston Astros (103-59) – The reigning World Champs are making a strong case for returning to the Fall Classic, having put up an even better regular season record this season than in 2017. The Astros’ greatest asset is their pitching. They have given up the fewest runs in baseball by a huge margin, and their 3.11 ERA is fantastic. This is largely due to their starting rotation full of superstars. Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole have had incredible seasons, with 2.60 and 2.88 ERAs respectively after over 30 starts. Charlie Morton and Dallas Keuchel have put up very strong numbers too. You know your starting rotation is good if your fourth best starter this season (Keuchel) has a Cy Young Award win under his belt. However, the Astros’ lineup should not be underestimated. Jose Altuve has an excellent .315 batting average, and Alex Bregman has 31 home runs and 103 RBIs. Like the Red Sox, the Astros look like a World Series caliber team, but these American League Playoffs could shape up to be some of the most competitive in baseball history.
3.) New York Yankees (100-62) – The Yankees finished with their best regular season record since their 2009 World Series-winning season. This is due in part to their ridiculous ability to hit home runs. The Yankees officially set a record for most home runs by a team in a single season in the history of Major League Baseball, beating the record set by the Seattle Mariners in 1997, which is amazing because that team had Ken Griffey Jr. and was also in the height of baseball’s Steroid Era. Six Yankee hitters have mashed more than 20 home runs – however, the team is arguably a little too dependent on home runs, and that could prove costly when playing teams like the Red Sox and the Astros, each of which have multiple players with batting averages north of .300. Regarding the starting rotation, the key word is inconsistency. No starter, not even Luis Severino, had a season void of a down period, and in the last weeks of the regular season the Yankees were still trying to determine who would start for them in the Wild Card Game. However, the team finished with a solid 3.78 ERA, with Severino at 3.39 and J. A. Happ at 3.65 (granted he was with the Blue Jays for half of the year). The bottom line is that this team is full of extremely talented hitters, starters, and relievers, but you never quite know what you’re going to get on any given day. If the Yankees play to their capability, they have the potential to go far in the Playoffs.
4.) Oakland Athletics (97-65) – What a pleasant surprise this team has been. Since having a losing record (35-36) on June 16th, the A’s have gone 62-29 to easily grab the second wild card spot. This team, with its fantastic and unexpected performance in the second half, draws parallels to the 2012 squad that took the AL West crown. You have to hand it to the A’s. They play in arguably the most competitive division in baseball, with the reigning world champion Astros, an Angels squad with Mike Trout and Shohei Otani, and a Mariners team with Nelson Cruz and Jean Segura. Matt Chapman and Khris Davis have been huge for this team’s offense, with the latter hitting the most home runs in baseball this season. Regarding pitching, Sean Manea and Trevor Cahill have picked up the slack and put together solid seasons, both finishing with an ERA below 4. The heralded bullpen lived up to its expectations, and received a boost at the trade Deadline with the acquisition of Jeurys Familia from the New York Mets. Closer Blake Treinen has been unbelievable. Having won a whopping 97 games this season, the A’s could be a powerhouse for seasons to come, especially once they get some of their injured players back.
5.) Chicago Cubs (95-68) – The NL Central got even better this year, with the Brewers, Cardinals, and Pirates all improving on their 2017 seasons. But the Cubs managed to put together a better record than last year, finishing at 95-68. That is in part due to some killer members of their lineup, like Javier Baez, who mashed 34 home runs and got 111 RBIs, as well as Anthony Rizzo, who finished the season with 25 home runs and 101 RBIs. However, starting pitching was arguably the Cubs’ greatest strength. Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks finished with 3.32 and 3.44 ERAs respectively, and Trade Deadline acquisition Cole Hamels went 4-3 with a stellar 2.36 ERA. In addition, closer Brandon Morrow finished with a 1.47 ERA and 22 saves, while Steve Cishek and Pedro Strop also put together excellent seasons. Overall, it was a very solid regular season for the Cubs. However, like I stated earlier, it is clear the NL Central competition for the Cubs will not get any easier, especially with a Brewers team that secured the NL’s best record on the last day of the season.
6.) Milwaukee Brewers (96-67) – MVP-caliber season from Christian Yelich, as well as strong seasons from Jesus Aguilar and Travis Shaw, ace-quality pitching from starter Jhoulys Chacin, strong bullpen. But starting rotation is still not as lock-down as others on this list
7.) Los Angeles Dodgers (92-71) – Solid lineup, great run differential, excellent starting rotation led by Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler. However, no standout performances from any hitters that match some of those on other squads
8.) Cleveland Indians (91-71) – Great run differential, excellent seasons from Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez, great starting pitching with Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger, and Carlos Carrasco. But had some of the easiest competition in baseball, as they play in the worst division (AL Central)
9.) Atlanta Braves (90-72) – Great performances by rookie Ronald Acuna Jr., Freddie Freeman, and Nick Markakis, strong starters like Mike Foltynewicz and Anibal Sanchez, and solid relievers in Arodys Vizcaino and A.J. Minter. Offensive stats are good but don’t quite match up with those of the other teams in the Playoffs.
10.) Colorado Rockies (91-72) – Nolan Arenado and Trevor Story were fantastic, each with > 100 RBIs, > 35 home runs, and > .290 batting average. Excellent seasons from starters Kyle Freeland and German Marquez. But run differential was average and the starting rotation still needs some help.
11.) Tampa Bay Rays (90-72) – Pleasant Surprise! – It’s hard to compete in a division with powerhouses like the Red Sox and the Yankees but this team proved itself this year. Stellar pitching numbers (Blake Snell is a boss) and a decent offense helped the Rays reach their best record since 2013. We’ll see if the playoffs are in reach for next season, but I really think the Rays have the goods to be a strong team for a long time.
12.) St. Louis Cardinals (88-74)
13.) Seattle Mariners (89-73)
14.) Washington Nationals (82-80) – Disappointment! – It has gotten to the point where MLB analysts just assume the Nats will win their division and go far in the playoffs every season, so fans of other NL teams must feel pretty good that they didn’t make it this time around. But man, this team was really disappointing. The Nationals are definitely talented, with stars like Max Scherzer and Bryce Harper, but they just couldn’t put together wins this season. But don’t get too excited other NL fans; I have a feeling they’ll be competing again next season.
15.) Pittsburgh Pirates (82-79)
16.) Arizona Diamondbacks (82-80)
17.) Los Angeles Angels (80-82)
18.) Philadelphia Phillies (80-82)
19.) New York Mets (77-85) – Hope for the Future – While you can’t really call this season a disappointment for the Mets since they did better than last year, it is unfortunate that they couldn’t make the playoffs for Jacob DeGrom’s historically good season. It was a smart move to hold onto him at the trade deadline, because the Mets really aren’t that bad. I think a few additions in the offseason could allow them to compete next season. And with DeGrom and hopefully a healthy Syndergaard, their rotation could be powerful in 2019. With small improvements to the Mets, and if the Nationals manage to play to their ability, the NL East could be more competitive next season than it has been in many years.
20.) Minnesota Twins (78-84)
21.) San Francisco Giants (73-89)
22.) Toronto Blue Jays (73-89)
23.) Texas Rangers (67-95)
24.) Cincinnati Reds (67-95) – The Reds have a decent offense but their problem for years now has been pitching. In one of the hardest divisions in baseball, I can’t see them competing until they invest in a better rotation.
25.) San Diego Padres (66-96) – The Padres put together another poor season, particularly on the offensive side. Serious changes need to be made because this fan base must be getting frustrated – the Padres haven’t had a winning record since 2010.
26.) Detroit Tigers (64-98) – The Tigers finished with the same terrible record as last season, but the AL Central is so bad they still finished in 3rd. This is just a classic case of a rebuilding team. Right fielder Nicholas Castellanos, however, was a bright spot for this team.
27.) Miami Marlins (63-98) – The Marlins are perhaps one of baseball’s sadder stories, with their average of just over 10,000 fans at each game (the fewest in baseball), their second-worst run differential in baseball this season, and their ninth consecutive losing record. This is in part due to partial team-owner Derek Jeter trading away some of the team’s biggest talent, like Dee Gordon, Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich. In fact, when you write out all the talent the Marlins lost like that, it’s a miracle they weren’t the worst team in baseball this season.
28.) Chicago White Sox (62-100) – The White Sox are also in a rebuild, but fans hope it is coming to a close soon (considering they have not had a winning record since 2012), since their farm system is considered to be very strong. Jose Abreu had a solid season, and the White Sox did produce a winning record in the month of August. However, their final season record reached a low point since that 2012 mark, so it seems there is still work to be done.
29.) Kansas City Royals (58-104) – The Royals were terrible all year, finishing with the third-worst run differential in baseball. It’s hard to believe they won the World Series just three years ago. However, they finished the month of September with a winning record, and in interviews manager Ned Yost expressed optimism about next season.
30.) Baltimore Orioles (47-115) – And finally there’s the Orioles. The O’s were historically bad this season, with baseball’s worst run differential and the worst single-season record since the 2003 Detroit Tigers who went 43-119. The Orioles didn’t look that terrible on paper going into the season, but I think after trading away (rightfully) talent like Manny Machado at the trade deadline, the mentality and morale of the team completely sunk. Hey, the Tigers wound up being the AL champions in 2006, just three years after their 43-119 year – that should give at least a little hope to O’s fans. Almost every team goes through a rebuilding stage, it may be hard to picture now but the O’s will be competitive again for sure.
This article was written by Contributor Jeremy Porter ’20.