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2014 MLB Capsule: Summarizing All 30 MLB Teams

Felipe Melecio uses advanced statistics to rank the best and worst 2014 MLB teams and where they stand heading into 2015.

Anthony Rendon

We continue our 2014 Major League Baseball Capsule Series by taking one last look at Felipe’s Ultimate Baseball Advanced Rankings (or FUBAR for short) team rankings. Let’s take a quick look at the criteria being used when compiling these rankings:

  • Hitting Prowess–Weighted On Base Average (or wOBA for short).
  • Plate Discipline–Walks per Strikeout ratio (BB:K). Does the hitter know how to take a walk or is he out there hacking?
  • Base Running–Per fangraphs.com, Base Running (BsR) is a stat used to gauge the value of a player’s base running.

For more details on the stats used to determine our team rankings, please be sure to check out our All-Offensive Team feature.

For pitching, we use two advanced stats to measure pitching performance. They are Field Independent Pitching (FIP) and Skill-Interactive Earned Run Average (SIERA). For more detail on these stats, please read our piece on the Ultimate Starting Rotation.

For defense, we use both Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) to evaluate defensive ability. For a more detailed look at both stats, be sure to check out our All-Defensive Team recap.

HITTING PROWESS

The Colorado Rockies finished the season in first place in wOBA as Coors Field proved once again to be a hitter’s paradise, thanks in large part to the limited contributions of Troy Tulowitzki. Finishing behind the Rockies were the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers.

On the other side of the spectrum, the Cincinnati Reds suffered injuries and inconsistencies to their hitting lineup. The Phillies and Mariners would finish slightly ahead of the Reds in this category.

PLATE DISCIPLINE

The Oakland Athletics’ collective batting eye, led by veteran Coco Crisp, our 11th best player per FUBAR, was not enough to get them over the hump in the postseason and for that, General Manager Billy Beane decided to perform a facelift on the hitting lineup. Finishing behind the A’s were the “Moneyball East” Tampa Bay Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays.

Finishing among the worst in this category, the Chicago Cubs’ fans saw just how raw players like Javier Baez can be once they’re called up to the Majors. Tying for the penultimate spot was the other Chicago team, the White Sox, along with the Rockies, and the playoff bound Baltimore Orioles.

BASE RUNNING

Thanks to the efforts of budding superstar, and our 19th best player of 2014Anthony Rendon, the Washington Nationals were the best base running team in baseball this past offseason. The Cleveland Indians and Minnesota Twins, thanks to the 14th best player Brian Dozier, finished behind the Nats this past season.

The St. Louis Cardinals did not have to rely much on speed to obtain their runs, but they still finished as the worst base running team in MLB. Finishing ahead of the Cards in this category were the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox.

STARTING ROTATION

The Nationals tied with the Indians in this category, with Corey Kluber winning the American League Cy Young Award. Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg would finish in the top 10 in our Starting Pitchers’ Rankings.Tying as the two worst rotations were the injury-riddled Texas Rangers and the pitching-scarce Rockies.

BULLPEN

What the Padres lacked in hitting, they made up by owning the best bullpen in baseball anchored by Joaquin Benoit. The White Sox finished in last place in this category, but went out this offseason and improved their bullpen with the signings of Zach Duke and David Robertson.

DEFENSE

The Kansas City Royals and Orioles finished tied for first place in defense and it was no coincidence that both teams faced off in the American League Championship Series. The Reds also finished at the top of this category as we’ve noted the efforts of speed demon Billy Hamilton.

The Indians needed a great rotation because the team would finish as the worst defensive team in baseball. How bad were they with the glove? Of the eight players that logged in 750+ innings on the field, seven of them would finish with -5.0 runs or worse in UZR.

SEPTEMBER TO REMEMBER

Here are what the top teams in the month of September looked like:

  1. Pirates: 24 points, 17-9 record, 39 run differential
  2. Nationals: 25, 19-8, 25
  3. Athletics: 28, 10-16, 6
  4. Brewers: 38, 9-17, -22
  5. Yankees: 42, 14-13, -4
  6. Mets: 47, 15-10, 24
  7. Indians: 50, 14-13, -9
  8. Royals: 52, 15-11, 6
  9. Padres: 55, 13-14, -19
  10. Dodgers: 62, 17-8, 42

As far as the other playoff teams go, the Cardinals finished 11th in September FUBAR, Tigers in 13th, Giants in 17th (so much for the momentum argument), Orioles in 19th, and the Angels in 24th.

For those rolling their eyes at the sight of the Athletics being in third in these rankings, their pitching staff was pretty strong for that month and once again displayed a strong approach at the plate. The Brew Crew finishing with a -22 run differential, but surprisingly did a good job at taking walks and limiting their strikeouts on offense. Plus their bullpen was pretty good for that month. And the Mets finished with a winning record for the month despite having a mediocre bullpen.

TOP 10 OF 2014

  1. Nationals: Equipped with a strong offense and pitching staff, their defense was the only questionable trait on this club. Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t enough to knock out the eventual champions, the San Francisco Giants.
  2. Athletics: Finishing a respectable 12th in wOBA, the A’s hot start helped them stay atop FUBAR for the majority of the season. They also owned a top 10 pitching staff and defense.
  3. Dodgers: All the talent was in their lineup and starting rotation. If only they had spent some money to shore up their bullpen. Their defense was also suspect.
  4. Rays: They lost manager Joe Maddon to the Chicago Cubs, but the Rays received another stellar performance from one of the best in the game. Frustrating opponents on the base paths and at the plate, and possessing a top five starting rotation (thanks to David Price), the Rays may have been lacking the talent from past teams but refused to go down easy in 2014.
  5. Indians: It would appear that Cleveland had the necessary tools to make it to the playoffs. However, a questionable bullpen along with a horrendous defense prevented them from displaying their talent in the month of October.
  6. Yankees: As mentioned in another piece about the club, the Yankees may have had enough pitching to will their way to a playoff berth. Unfortunately, injuries and an inconsistent offense (and placing Derek Jeter in the two-hole) saw the Yanks waste a good effort from their pitching staff.
  7. Padres: FUBAR has liked the Padres for most of the season. If only their offense could get any kind of production. We’re about to find out if Matt KempJustin Upton, and Wil Myers can remedy the Padres’ offense.
  8. Royals: The AL Champions, the Royals, were carried by their glove work and bullpen. The rotation finished in 24th. The offense would finish in 13th place.
  9. Angels: The best team in the American League (in terms of record) proved to be a versatile club. Injuries to their rotation crippled the club for the playoffs.
  10. Braves: Despite all the injuries to the rotation, they once again managed to place spare parts to that aspect of their game, finishing with a top 10 rotation. Bullpen and defense were also near elite-level. It was the offense, and the high yield in strikeouts that ruined their season.

MIDDLE OF THE PACK

  1. Pirates: Would eventually make the playoffs, but lose at home to Madison Bumgarner and the Giants.
  2. Cardinals: Another playoff team, the Cardinals fell out of the top 10 because aside from their defense, their offense and pitching were middle of the pack at best.
  3. Giants: The World Series Champions, San Francisco was carried by an elite starting rotation. As a team, the Giants did not look very impressive, but as long as Bumgarner was there to pitch, the Giants proved to be unstoppable.
  4. Brewers: After getting off to a great start, the Brew Crew came down back to Earth.
  5. D’backs: After firing almost everybody in their baseball management department, Arizona looks to former A’s mainstays Dave Stewart and Tony LaRussa to make things right in the desert.
  6. Marlins: Miami was a pesky team to deal with throughout the year and have proven to be just a big of a nuisance in the offseason, locking up Giancarlo Stanton to an enormous deal and trading for Mat Latos to anchor their rotation for 2015.
  7. Mariners: They fought to the end, but it wasn’t enough for Seattle to earn a playoff spot. Their bullpen was superb, but were one of the worst teams on offense. They will hope that Nelson Cruz will provide the punch they desperately need on offense.
  8. Mets: Their starting rotation looks promising for years to come, but they need to do something to fix their offense. Michael Cuddyer alone will not turn things around.
  9. Red Sox: They made an immediate splash in free agency, signing both Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval, but their rotation shouldn’t scare anyone.
  10. Orioles: Their defense was superb, but their offense broke into long slumps due to their free-swinging approach. And of course, their starting rotation will not blow anyone away.

WORST OF THE WORST

  1. Blue Jays: The signing of Russell Martin could prove to be a pivotal point in the franchise’s history.
  2. Tigers: If they lose Max Scherzer, you might as well shut that championship window down.
  3. Cubs: Signing Jon Lester was the perfect acquisition for a team deep in hitting prospects, but lacking in pitching prowess.
  4. Reds: Seeing the continuing progress of Billy Hamilton might be the only thing worth seeing next season.
  5. Twins: Pretty much going with the same team next season. They might find themselves in this same position next season.
  6. Astros: They don’t start taking things seriously until 2017.
  7. Phillies: It’s about to get real ugly before it gets any better. Dealing Jimmy Rollins to L.A. marks the beginning of the end of a successful era in Phillies’ baseball.
  8. Rangers: Rotation should not impress anyone. If lineup stays healthy, they may be able out-slug opponents. Not very likely that happens, however.
  9. Rockies: This team is a disaster. Disgruntled superstar (Tulowitzki) and once again searching for anything that resembles a pitching staff.
  10. White Sox: A horrific 2014, next year will have this team ascending up these rankings with all of the offseason acquisitions they made this offseason.
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