"Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss."
The lyrics, of course, are from The Who's epic "Won't Get Fooled Again," and they are certainly misleading. My new method for ranking the teams is certainly not boss-like (especially if you consider Bruce Springsteen to be the Boss).
But the results are awfully similar to the old methodology.
The old methodology - Take every team's OBP, SLG, and opponents' OBP and SLG. Scale them to the league averages, take the reciprocal of the opponents' OBP and SLG, and add together. Rank from highest to lowest.
The new methodology - Use the following equation on a team's stats and opponents' stats:
(((TB+SB) * (H+BB+HBP-CS)/(AB+BB+HBP))/GP)
And, for reference:
TB = total bases
SB = stolen bases
H = hits
BB = walks
HBP = hit by pitch
CS = caught stealing
AB = at bats
GP = games played
Scale them to the league average, take the reciprocal of the opponents' figure, and add together. Rank from highest to lowest.
There weren't all that many changes in the ranks. I ranked the teams both ways using today's stats and I took the change in their spot from the old methodology to the new methodology. Here's what the ranks say:
+4: Red Sox
+1: Astros, Devil Rays, Mariners, Phillies, Rangers, Rockies, Tigers
0: Angels, A's, Braves, Brewers, Cardinals, Giants, Nationals, Orioles, Pirates, Reds, Twins, White Sox
-1: Blue Jays, Dodgers, Marlins, Royals, Yankees
-2: Indians, Mets, Padres
So there weren't all that many changes, and the changes were not too drastic. Interestingly, the Angels' success was unchanged with the additional of the steals metric to all of this, so we will see where that goes. The Diamondbacks, the other major controversial team, saw the biggest drop, rather than a rise.
There's nothing static about the new methodology. I'm not set on it or attached to it, just like the old one. So if it needs to be changed, it will be. But, in either case, the goal of the ranks' formula as a whole is to get a clear picture of positions from many different sources, and then combining them to give one (hopefully) clear ranking. Here's what we're using these days, for the new readers:
Third-order winning percentage from Baseball Prospectus.
- My own "computer poll" - a ranking of a team's run scoring ability by using adjusted OBP and SLG figures.
ESPN's RPI, which seems like the best measure to rank a team's current performance. (This takes into account strength of schedule, winning percentage, and opponents' winning percentage).
- The rank of of team's average of 5 power rankings from various media outlets / baseball sites (none are dropped, unlike the BCS):
- Baseball Prospectus
- CBS Sportsline
This was a volatile week in terms of the rankings, though, for many different reasons. There were a couple of huge leaps and some large drops, even in unexpected places. The interesting thing is that it's not particularly evident that one system is causing it; there's a bit less controversy between some of the systems today.
- Orioles (1) - How many more ways can we describe the Orioles as resiliant? They're in a tough division and just keep chugging along at #1. This next stretch of games will be telling; they've got a couple more with the Sox, then three series that they should win. Congratulations, Baltimore, you've made the AL East race exciting.
- Cardinals (5) - Bouncing back 3 spots after getting dropped last week. The Cardinals are far too good to draw a challenge from anywhere in that division. Jim Edmonds is very quietly building a case for a Hall of Fame bid; he's hitting .282.409/.558 this year and is still one of the best hitters in the NL. If he's still doing this in 2007...
- Twins (4) - It's official: the Twins have moved ahead of the White Sox (here, not in the standings, yet). Together, Santana, Radke, and Silva have walked less than 2/3 of a batter per 9 innings. I do not know an appropriate adjective for that type of performance. I was a skeptic in the spring, but I'm gradually starting to buy into the Twins as a real pennant-favorite in the AL.
- Rangers (13) - WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? The Rangers just won 9 in a row, and all of a sudden, the AL West has a representative at the top of the league. Kenny Rogers has been a great story, but when your strikeout-rate resembles a good ERA, you're probably in trouble. Rogers is inducing groundballs (1.26 G/F ratio), but not nearly enough to sustain his performance level or something close to it. Oh, and Texas shot up 9 spots this week as our biggest mover, so we'll let Rogers slide for a bit.
- Padres (9) - 22-6 in May is very, very nice news, and it all stems from some great pitching. Peavy's fantastic on the road and home, and the Padre bullpen remains untouchable. Giles, Klesko, Greene, and Ramon Hernandez are all doing their part offensively, and the Padres are starting to put some distance between themselves and the D'Backs.
- White Sox (2) - Chicago ran into the steamroller from Texas, so I'll cut them some slack. Their average in media power rankings, for the first time, was below #1 (they're down to 2). Jon Garland got hit hard against the Rangers, so we'll watch that... if he regresses to something more expected, that will be a huge blow to this team. .500 ball the rest of the way still might be enough to grab that wild card at 90-72, so they're not going away any time soon.
- Red Sox (6) - The new Scotto system likes the Red Sox a lot, and it's at least partially attributable to the addition of steals to the fold. The Sox have stolen 12 bases and have only been caught once, which is extremely valuable to run scoring. In other news, David Wells finally had a good start and the Sox took a series at Yankee Stadium. Good week, and they still dropped a spot.
- Blue Jays (10) - It's tough to get excited about the Blue Jays because they really don't have a chance in the AL East this year. There's only enough room for one surprise team to take the AL East by storm, and the Orioles have stolen that spotlight. Although I would be quite amused if somehow the Jays took the division... Vernon Wells had a much better May than his April, hitting .282/.333/.505. That's about where I would have projected him for a full season.
- Marlins (3) - Cruising along until they ran into the Mets, and they were very nearly swept there. The Marlins always seem like they're on the verge of a huge, Padres-esque run, but it hasn't come yet. Much like in 2003, they could use a big-time reliever to bolster the bullpen for the stretch run.
- Mets (11) - Very enigmatic, as well. They've been very up and down in the early going, but, for the optimists out there: the Mets have the fourth highest playoff odds percentage in the NL, but it's nothing to write home about. In other news, the Mets refuse to give Aaron Heilman any high leverage innings and instead give them to Mike DeJean and Dae-Sung Koo. What gives?
- Braves (7) - How about Kyle Davies? Three starts, 1.15 ERA! Otherwise, not a good week for Atlanta. They went 2-4 in a divisional stretch... and yet they're still in first, by a game. Don't write them off yet, but I don't think that this team, unchanged, will take the division. They need another bat.
- Indians (18) - Cleveland rolls into 12th place on our list behind the hot bat of one Victor Martinez, who is finally breaking out of his slump. Over the last 7 days, Victor's hitting .375/.444/.813, and Cleveland swept Oakland. Again, it's really unfortunate that the Twins and ChiSox are playing so well, because in other years, Cleveland could be poised to steal the division. This year is just another step in the 5-year plan, but it's another forward step. Kudos to Shapiro.
- Cubs (20) - The big plus about playing in the NL is that there's no clear-cut group of wild card teams yet. The recent hot streak from the Cubs moves them to 26-24 and only a couple games behind the D'Backs for the wild card. I still think that they have a shot at it. In other news, Derrek Lee is still the league's MVP, leading the bigs in VORP with 42.0.
- Yankees (8) - One of the problems with the statistical approaches. In a game like the Yankees' crushing 17-1 defeat against the Red Sox, there's a point where there should be a "mercy" rule implemented statistically (especially in things like Pythagorean record). The runs after the 10 run margin seem pretty useless. The stats, based on their nature, will weight it equally with any other stats, when, in reality, it was just one game. That's as good a reason as any for the 6-spot drop (the Sox hit .519/.537/.712 in that game). For what it's worth, though, they've given up the third most runs in the AL, behind only Tampa and KC.
- Tigers (14) - So it appears that I was wrong about Carlos Pena, who is hitting an abysmal .181/.307/.283. He still looks a lot like Hee-Seop Choi, to me, statistically, but it's just not coming together for Pena. The Tigers aren't the laughingstock that they used to be, either. The Central is the New West - very intriguing with a few very good teams and some good contenders. Well, and the Royals.
- Nationals (12) - I like what the Nationals are doing here... I'm the biggest Brad Wilkerson fan out there and Nick Johnson's a really good player, but I think they're about due to fall out of it. The injuries are going to catch up, and their next few games aren't all that friendly (Braves and Marlins). Prediction with no backbone: Nats lose 7 of their next 8 to the Braves, Marlins, and A's.
- Angels (17) - Not helped by the new system, unfortunately for them. Their problem is pretty apparent - they've had little or no offense from... everywhere. Outside of Guerrero (who is hurt), their best hitter has been Garrett Anderson, who is hitting .301/.322/.449, which is nice but not particularly good.
- Brewers (16) - If everything breaks well, they'll be looking at the Wild Card as a potential option this year. This is a much better team than people think, and the NL is rather wide open this year. That said, EVERYTHING has to go right, starting from the return of Ben Sheets.
- Dodgers (15) - Still plummeting. They just don't pitch well at all, outside of Lowe and Penny. Another good starter, or a rebound from Jeff Weaver, would go a long way towards fixing their problems. I'd still give them a fair chance to win the NL West, but they're not a flawless team. Also, they might be learning the lesson that the best signings are the ones sometimes not made. Adrian Beltre isn't looking too great these days.
- Phillies (21) - Considering the way that contenders are going to need relief help, if the Phils can't turn it around and Wade isn't on the phones constantly trying to get some top prospects for Wagner, then he's not doing his job. The season's not lost for the Phils, though; they're only 3.5 out of first and are one 6-game winning streak from moving into first place.
- Diamondbacks (19) - Still not computing too well, and the new method actually dislikes them a lot more than the old one. I don't like their chances against the Padres, and, eventually, the Dodgers in this division. "Worst to first" is a great story, but this isn't their year. Quentin and Jackson are coming soon to a city near you, assuming that you live near a city with a National League baseball team. They haven't done too horribly with their rebuilding phase. If only they hadn't signed Ortiz...
- Pirates (23) - Jason Bay is 6th in the NL in VORP. Bay's starting to remind me a lot of the guy he replaced in Pittsburgh...
- Mariners (24) - I'm starting to feel bad for Ichiro because I'm getting the feeling that the M's are a long, long way from the playoffs. Whatever the stats say, Ichiro's a fun player and a joy to watch, and he's wasting his prime on a last place team. Anyway, our second HOF question - what does Ichiro need to do to get HOF consideration? Or does he deserve it already? I'm already leaning that way; he's gotta be one of the greatest ever in Japanese baseball, and he's proven that he can play here at a high level as well, even after his younger years are behind him.
- Giants (22) - Sabean "has a very interesting way of evaluating," says my good friend, trying to spin the Hawkins deal nicely. They're gearing up for one more run at the division, I guess, but this can't end well. It just can't.
- Astros (27) - I heard my first Brad Lidge trade rumor the other day and was mildly surprised, but I guess it makes sense. The Astros, to me, are so far away from competing that they need a lot more before they can use a "luxury item" like a good closer (Prospectus describes them that way in the paragraph on Danys Baez). Anyway, Lidge is still striking out 14+ per 9, but this year, lefties have handled him to the tune of .368/.429/.553. I'll chalk that up to sample size, but that's a worry at this point.
- Devil Rays (25) - Pick a token all-star here... good luck. Alex Sanchez? Scott Kazmir? My money's on Toby Hall as the backup catcher for the club, because someone's gotta make it. I really want to find something positive here, but Sanchez has been their best hitter so far, with his .342/.376/.470 line. It's disappointing.
- Reds (29) - Now that the evil massage chairs have been removed, the Reds can resume winning. Oh, and someone should pick up D'Angelo Jiminez, because I still think he's an above average second baseman (hitting-wise) who sees a ton of pitches and would be an upgrade in a lot of places.
- A's (26) - At the time of writing, the A's have scored 7 runs. Gammons said it early in the year: Bobby Crosby was the least replaceable player on the A's, and I agreed wholeheartedly. I think that they'll be much better with his return and the inevitable returns to form of the slumping lineup. 92 wins and the division isn't likely anymore, unless Blanton and Haren mature really fast.
- Royals (28) - Buddy Bell. The three week searches yields Buddy Bell. That's the best you could do? Buddy Bell? On the bright side, he's 2-0 to start, and he's taken two from the Yankees.
- Rockies (30) - I know we love looking for the bright side of things, but Clint Barmes isn't any good. He's hitting .255/.296/.353 on the road and .384/.430/.636 at home. For the rest of the team, Helton's only hitting .259. It's sabermetrically sacreligious to talk about batting average as a big offensive stat, but one of Helton's hallmarks is hitting .300. Maybe the losing is getting to him psychologically? Anyway, he's still a possibility to be traded at the deadline, but I'm going to say that he'll be stuck 5280 feet up for a few more years.