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Return of FUBAR: MLB Rankings Using Sabermetrics

Felipe Melecio uses advanced stats in his latest round of MLB Rankings

With the month of April already in the books, the 2015 Major League Baseball season is off to a very entertaining start. So much parity more than ever; so much unpredictability. It will be hard to gauge the season all year long, but that should be fun for all fans to enjoy.

Helping you get a handle on the year will be Felipe’s Ultimate Baseball Advanced Rankings (or FUBAR for short). We have modified this year’s rankings to be more accurate and less FUBAR-ish (see military term). For example, despite making the playoffs last year, the Detroit Tigers were so bad on defense and in the bullpen, they finished our 2014 rankings as the 22nd best team in baseball.

What is FUBAR?

It’s basically a composite score of where all the MLB teams rank in terms of the criteria being used to compile these rankings. In order to measure the set criteria, we use certain advanced metrics to gauge a team’s real value, despite what the win-loss record might say or what other traditional stats (i.e. ERA, batting average, etc.) tell us.

What “criteria” is being used?

This season, the rankings will be split into six parts:

  1. Offensive Production
  2. Plate Discipline
  3. Base Running
  4. Starting Pitching
  5. Relief Pitching
  6. Fielding

A total of 13 different advanced stats will be used to assess all 30 MLB teams as we try to figure out who are the best, worst, over and underrated teams in baseball.

All stats are courtesy of fangraphs.com and are good through May 2, 2015.

Who is Number One?

Right now, that distinction goes to the Los Angeles Dodgers:

Dodgers Ranks (14-8 record)

Offense Discipline Base Running Rotation Bullpen

Defense

1

3 26 7 1

11

As one will notice, Dee Gordon’s departure is hurting their base running metrics. However, what they lack in speed, they make up for it in power, plus their defense and bullpen are much improved from last season.

On offense, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez has carried the lineup (we explained how Gonzalez was doing his damage). In the bullpen, nine out of 10 pitchers have a Field Independent Pitching (FIP–only takes into account a pitcher’s strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed) of 3.00 or below. And in the rotation, they’re once again led by Clayton Kershaw.

The Rest of the Top Five

2. Houston Astros (16-7)–The Astros are finally here! Well, not really, as they still have their top prospects still in the minors. Nevetheless, arguably their best player has been a former prospectJake Marisnick, as he has become the team’s best hitter, base runner, and fielder.

Weakness: need to improve their plate discipline

3. Kansas City Royals (16-7)–The American League champions are proving that last season was no fluke. Offensively, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer are finally playing like the franchise cornerstones they were always expected to be.

Strength: Same as last season, bullpen and defense are carrying this team.

Weakness: Starting rotation has not been overly impressive and their ace pitcher, Yordano Ventura has been too busy getting ejected from games for hitting opposing hitters.

4. New York Yankees (14-9)–Every time we want to count out this team, they seem to find ways to surprise. Not sure what has helped more: Derek Jeter no longer being with the team or Alex Rodriguez finally back with the Bronx Bombers.

Strength: Just like last season, the Yankees’ pitching has been among the best in baseball.

Weakness: Even with Jeter’s departure, the defense has been a sore spot this season.

5. St. Louis Cardinals (16-6)–The Cardinals a real throwback team. What they lack in power and athleticism, they make up for it with pitching, defense, approach, and overall fundamentals of the game.

Strenght: See above. And despite Adam Wainwright being lost for the season, they still are seeing Lance Lynn step up as the team’s best starter.

Weakness: In terms of the base running metrics, you know you have issues on the base paths when Matt Adams ranks as your best base runner.

Rest of the Top 10

6. Toronto Blue Jays (11-13)

Strength: Offense and defense (see Kevin Pillar)

Weakness: Arguably the worst starting rotation in baseball

7. New York Mets (16-8)

Strength: The pitching has been carrying this team. They’re also surprisingly effective on the base paths.

Weakness: They need to pick it up offensively.

8. Chicago Cubs (13-8)

Strength: Arguably, from top to bottom, one of the best pitching staffs in baseball.

Weakness: Just like the Astros, they need to cut back on strikeouts.

9. Detroit Tigers (15-9)

Strength: No surprise that their offense has carried this club, but their defense has seen major improvements, thanks in large part to Jose Iglesias.

Weakness: No lead is ever safe with this bullpen.

10. Cincinnati Reds (11-12)

Strength: Despite losing record, this is one of the more exciting teams in baseball because of base running and defense. Mainly, they’re good in these two areas because of Billy Hamilton.

Weakness: Inconsistencies in other areas, especially on offense and in their relief corps.

The Middle Ten

11. Cleveland Indians (8-14)–May not be as bad as their record indicates, but defense is letting them down again.

12. Boston Red Sox (12-11)–Hitters have a great understanding of the strike zone, but very weak in bullpen and fielding.

13. Oakland Athletics (10-14)–Plate discipline is among the best, but that’s all they have going this season.

14. Baltimore Orioles (10-11)–One of the best with bat and glove, the other four aspects are still nowhere near respectable.

15. Tampa Bay Rays (13-10)–Most overrated team? Based on record, they are, but are being carried by one of the better starting rotations in baseball.

16. Arizona Diamondbacks (10-12)–One of the more aggressive teams in baseball on the base paths and on the field, they lack skill and talent on offense and bullpen is terrible.

17. Colorado Rockies (11-11)–Despite owning one of the worst rotations in baseball, they’re not entirely awful.

18. Pittsburgh Pirates (12-11)–Poor plate discipline explains slow start on offense, but pitching staff can shut down other teams completely.

19. Washington Nationals (10-14)–In terms of talent, they have been the most disappointing team. In terms of FUBAR, they are exactly who we thought they were as defense is the biggest issue on this terrible team.

20. Miami Marlins (11-12)–Also a favorite to contend for a Wild Card, the team is not all there on offense and the rotation is sorely lacking an ace.

The Bottom Ten

21. Atlanta Braves (11-12)–Got off to a hot start, but have come down to earth. At least they won’t be yielding high strikeouts like in years past.

22. Seattle Mariners (10-13)–Nelson Cruz has been a bright spot this season.

Other than that, the M’s have been disappointing.

23. San Francisco Giants (10-13)–The defending champs have looked like chumps this season. Thankfully, the Angels still exist.

24. San Diego Padres (12-12)–Improvements have been made and starting rotation is good, but there are a lot of holes on this team.

25. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (11-12)–Josh Hamilton is no longer a distraction. If only they can fix the rest of the team. They’re a mess in every aspect of the game, except on defense.

26. Texas Rangers (7-15)–Speaking of Hamilton, you know the team is bad when he is perceived to be a bright spot on the team. They are a speedy team, however.

27. Chicago White Sox (8-12)–Winners of the offseason, Hot Stove league, the White Sox have been losers on the field. It would be a lot worse if it wasn’t for their surprisingly good bullpen.

28. Philadelphia Phillies (8-16)–The saddest team in baseball, they’re not only getting slower and older every day, but the front office has been slow in moving their older pieces for young blood.

29. Minnesota Twins (11-12)–Despite record, the Twins are in big trouble, but if they could face the Chicago White Sox every day, they’d be in much better shape.

30. Milwaukee Brewers (5-18)–The Brewers are so bad, they fired their manager, Ron Roenicke. The team is such a mess, it’s hard to pinpoint one thing that they do completely wrong.

Best of the Best

Offensive Production: The L.A. Dodgers.

Plate Discipline: Boston Red Sox, with Dustin Pedroia leading the way.

Base Running: The New York Mets, but the Reds are nipping at their heels.

Starting Rotation: In a year where their prospects have grabbed all of the headlines, the rotation has become a formidable group. Jake Arrieta has proven to be the real deal.

Bullpen: Once again, the Dodgers have surprised the baseball world here.

Fielding: K.C. Royals, picking up where they left off last season.

Worst of the Worst

Offensive Production: Philadelphia Phillies are asking to be put out of their misery.

Plate (Lack of) Discipline: Pittsburgh Pirates go up there hacking.

Base Running: Once again, the White Sox couldn’t run the bases properly if you gave them a road map. Leadoff hitter, Adam Eaton, can be seen constantly making questionable base running blunders.

Starting Rotation: Tied for last are the Rockies and Blue Jays.

Bullpen: What the starting rotation has, the Padres’ bullpen does not. And that’s with Craig Kimbrel making (allegedly) everybody else’s job easier.

Fielding: (San Diego Padres) The offseason moves to revamp the offense came at the cost of hurting the defense. The outfield alone is enough to make you cringe.

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