CloseESPN baseball columnist/function author
Former editor-in-chief of Baseball Prospectus
Co-author of “The Solely Rule Is It Has To Work”
It’s, just like the story started, the perfect of occasions and the worst of occasions — an period obtained, for good or for evil, within the superlative diploma of comparability solely.
There are three main league groups on tempo to win 104 or extra video games — a mark reached by solely 10 groups previously 40 years — and one other two on tempo to win 99.5. (There have by no means been 4 100-win groups in a single season.) There are three groups on tempo to lose 104 or extra video games, one other on monitor to lose 101 and a fifth on tempo to lose 99. (There has solely as soon as been 4 100-loss groups in a single season.) Totally a 3rd of the league might find yourself at one of many two triple-digit extremes that sometimes would mark The Greatest or The Worst group in baseball.
Tips on how to put the hole between, say, the Yankees and, say, the Orioles, in context? A easy approach is to notice that the Yankees are 17-2 when the 2 golf equipment play. Or to notice that the Yankees, Astros and Dodgers — the three 104-wins-or-better golf equipment — are collectively 41-12 in opposition to the Orioles, Tigers, Royals and Marlins, the 4 101-losses-or-worse golf equipment.
A extra sophisticated approach is to ask this: What number of of those dangerous groups would it not take to make up one in all these nice groups? Would a playoff superteam of the Royals, Orioles, Tigers and Marlins have the ability to grasp with the tremendous playoff groups in Houston, New York and Los Angeles? In an period of complete teardowns on the awful aspect of the standings and insatiable depth hoarding on the intense aspect of them, is there room for any good gamers on a last-place roster?
To reply this query took 17 tabs in a spreadsheet.
Right here had been the foundations: We constructed 25-man rosters for the Astros, Yankees, Dodgers and Tigeroyiolins — on second thought, that is the one time we’ll try to name them that. Henceforth, they would be the Superteam — based mostly completely on 2019 stats: a starter at each place, 4 bench gamers protecting infield, outfield and catcher, a four-man beginning rotation (as a result of solely 4 are wanted within the postseason) and an eight-man bullpen. We prorated every participant’s 2019 WAR for a full, wholesome season within the function he’s assigned to: 600 plate appearances for starters (besides 500 for the catcher), 250 for bench gamers, 175 innings for beginning pitchers and 65 for relievers (besides 95 for one designated swingman).* The plan was to see what number of dangerous groups it takes to compete with the Astros, Dodgers and Yankees.
We’ll begin the bidding at 4 groups, do I hear 4 groups?
C Pedro Severino, 1B Garrett Cooper, 2B Jonathan Villar, 3B Hanser Alberto, SS Adalberto Mondesi, LF Trey Mancini, CF Whit Merrifield, RF Hunter Dozier, DH Jorge Soler
C Will Smith, 1B David Freese, 2B Max Muncy, 3B Justin Turner, SS Corey Seager, LF Alex Verdugo, CF Joc Pederson, RF Cody Bellinger, DH A.J. Pollock
C Robinson Chirinos, 1B Yuli Gurriel, 2B Jose Altuve, 3B Alex Bregman, SS Carlos Correa, LF Michael Brantley, CF Jake Marisnick, RF George Springer, DH Yordan Alvarez
C Gary Sanchez, 1B Luke Voit, 2B DJ LeMahieu, 3B Gio Urshela, SS Gleyber Torres, LF Giancarlo Stanton, CF Brett Gardner, RF Aaron Decide, DH Edwin Encarnacion
The perfect participant on any of the Orioles, Royals, Tigers or Marlins, by complete WAR, has been Jonathan Villar, acquired in a midseason commerce by Baltimore final summer season. On the time, the aggressive Brewers had been attempting to improve at second base, in order that they traded their second baseman (Villar) and a few prospects for the non-competitive Orioles’ second baseman, Jonathan Schoop. Since then, Villar has been the 42nd-best participant in baseball, simply forward of Trea Turner, Paul Goldschmidt and Manny Machado. He has been the ninth-best second baseman, whereas Schoop is 42nd. It was a masterful commerce by the Orioles: 21 homers, 33 steals, three.eight WAR this yr.
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So, there are good gamers on the Superteam, of which Villar is undeniably one. Soler has 44 homers, Alberto is hitting .320, Mondesi has 39 steals, Dozier is slugging .550. However the truth that Villar is the perfect participant that the 4 groups can produce places the Superteam’s uphill climb in perspective: Groups who’re dedicated to dropping do not hold MVP candidates round. Villar just isn’t an MVP candidate, the way in which Cody Bellinger and Alex Bregman are. He isn’t even above-average by the requirements of the opposite three groups’ rosters: There are 21 Dodgers, Astros or Yankees who’ve produced extra WAR than Villar on a per-plate-appearance stage this yr. Villar is solid right here as the perfect participant on any of 4 main league rosters.
The Superteam may make it up on depth or pitching, however its 9 greatest gamers merely cannot compete with the 9 regulars on any of our three traditionally nice groups:
Superteam: 175 homers, .281/.341/.474, 26.four WAR (scaled to 600 plate appearances per participant)
Dodgers: 199 homers, .276/.361/.532, 42.three WAR
Astros: 210 homers, .293/.372/.544, 46.2 WAR
Yankees: 206 homers, .279/.355/.519, 39.7 WAR
(Word that each one of those groups’ WARs are exceptionally excessive, even increased than the Astros, Dodgers and Yankees’ lineups have really produced this yr. That is as a result of we’re selecting solely their perfect participant performances, after the actual fact, giving the groups full well being and awarding practically all enjoying time to these 9 greatest gamers. Actual life would not go this easily.)
However these are simply the starters. In idea, depth may benefit the Superteam. There is no Cody Bellinger on a 100-loss group, nearly by definition, however there may be a complete lot of Mike Fords.
However, depth is a part of what makes these Dodgers, Astros and Yankees so unimaginable. They are not constructing nine-man lineups, however 13-man lineups — gamers capable of platoon, to maneuver across the subject and to not simply fill in however very practically replicate injured starters. Over the course of a full season, when 50 or 60 gamers may be referred to as upon, the Superteam’s depth nearly actually would win out. However for only a 25-man roster, the great groups are practically as deep:
C Jorge Alfaro, INF Miguel Rojas, OF Anthony Santander. UT Jon Berti
C Russell Martin, INF Enrique Hernandez, OF Matt Beaty, UT Chris Taylor
C Martin Maldonado, INF Abraham Toro, OF Josh Reddick, UT Aledmys Diaz
C Austin Romine, INF Didi Gregorius, OF Cameron Maybin, UT Mike Ford
Superteam: .276/.330/.437, four.6 WAR (scaled to 250 plate appearances per participant)
Dodgers: .254/.331/.434, four.1 WAR
Astros: .251/.322/.425, three.9 WAR
Yankees: .260/.318/.473, three.6 WAR
The Superteam inches up, however barely.
As to beginning pitchers:
Matthew Boyd, John Means, Brad Keller, Spencer Turnbull
Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Walker Buehler, Wealthy Hill
Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Zack Greinke, Wade Miley
James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, Domingo German, J.A. Happ
The Superteam’s workers has one All-Star look (Means, this yr) and 0 Cy Younger votes. The opposite three groups’ pitchers have gained 5 Cy Youngs and appeared in 31 All-Star Video games. Nevertheless it’s not fairly as dangerous because it seems. The Superteam’s rotation really has been higher than the Yankees’ rotation, regardless of a 28-48 mixed document this yr (because of horrible offenses behind them and horrible bullpens defending their leads). Nonetheless, it isn’t nice:
Superteam: four.24 ERA, four.31 FIP, 12.zero WAR (scaled to 175 innings per pitcher)
Dodgers: 2.84 ERA, three.51 FIP, 15.6 WAR
Astros: three.08 ERA, three.62 FIP, 17.zero WAR
Yankees: four.45 ERA, four.62 FIP, 10.5 WAR
Once more, in an extended season the Superteam may profit. It is truthful to say the Superteam’s eighth- and ninth-best starters — Daniel Norris and Jakob Junis, perhaps? — are higher than Houston’s. However Houston is not going to wish eight starters to get by way of October, and on the prime of the staffs it is an enormous mismatch.
For bullpens, we selected to restrict our choices to precise relievers, so unused beginning pitchers (for instance, Daniel Norris, Jakob Junis) weren’t typically thought-about for the Superteam’s bullpen. Pitchers resembling Ross Stripling and Kenta Maeda, who’ve each began and relieved this yr, and who’re prone to be within the Dodgers’ precise postseason bullpen, had been:
CL Ian Kennedy, RP Mychal Givens, RP Scott Barlow, RP Buck Farmer, RP Shawn Armstrong, RP Jarlin Garcia, RP Jose Cisnero, SWING Sandy Alcantara
CL Kenley Jansen, RP Pedro Baez, RP Yimi Garcia, RP Ross Stripling, RP Dustin Might, RP Kenta Maeda, RP Joe Kelly, SWING Julio Urias
CL Roberto Osuna, RP Ryan Pressly, RP Will Harris, RP Joe Smith, RP Hector Rondon, RP Chris Devenski, RP Josh James, SWING Brad Peacock
CL Aroldis Chapman, RP Tommy Kahnle, RP Adam Ottavino, RP Chad Inexperienced, RP David Hale, RP Zack Britton, RP Luis Cessa, SWING Jonathan Loaisiga
Superteam: three.96 ERA, three.90 FIP, 7.three WAR (scaled to 65 innings per pitcher)
Dodgers: three.74 ERA, three.85 FIP, 7.9 WAR
Astros: three.24 ERA, three.86 FIP, 6.9 WAR
Yankees: three.15 ERA, three.78 FIP, eight.four WAR
Add all of it up:
Superteam: 50.three WAR
Dodgers: 69.9 WAR
Astros: 74.zero WAR
Yankees: 62.2 WAR
To repeat one thing from earlier: 74 WAR is a crazy-high complete for the Astros, and it might equate to a couple of 120-win group in actual life. Nevertheless it assumes nearly excellent well being and nearly excellent decision-making by the Astros, funneling practically all of their enjoying time to the gamers who really had been the perfect this yr.
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2019 postseason schedule
However the identical applies to the Superteam. The ex put up facto nature of this train advantages them most of all, as a result of it permits us to precisely decide, from the 215 or so principally nameless gamers these 4 groups will subject this yr, the 25 who really had the perfect years — in lots of instances, profession years, years not like any they’ve ever had or may have once more.
Certainly, if we had been to make use of not precise, noticed WAR to measure every roster’s energy, however projected, future WAR, the Superteam would fall even additional behind. In that case, group energy would look one thing extra like this:
The Superteam constructed above, in different phrases, initiatives to be someplace round a .500 group, assuming good well being, whereas the others venture to be round 100-win groups. I believe we are able to say, conclusively, that 4 groups put collectively nonetheless aren’t pretty much as good because the Astros, the Dodgers or the Yankees. Wild.
Do I hear 5 groups?
Superteam 2: Superteam + Blue Jays. Add Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Bo Bichette, Danny Jansen, Wilmer Font and Ken Giles. Take away Miguel Rojas, Trey Mancini, Jorge Alfaro, Jose Cisnero and Sandy Alcantara.
Complete WAR: 58.1.
Do I hear six groups?
Superteam three: Superteam 2 + Mariners. Add Kyle Seager, Tom Murphy, Marco Gonzales and Sam Tuivailala. Take away Jon Berti, Danny Jansen, Brad Keller and Jarlin Garcia.
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Complete WAR: 64.three, ok to go this yr’s Yankees (who, it is price noting, are with out wonderful outfielders Aaron Hicks and Mike Tauchman, each key contributors this yr however each out for the season, and Luis Severino and Dellin Betances, who haven’t any statistical data to go on this yr however might every return for the playoffs).
Do I hear seven groups?
Superteam four: Superteam three + Rockies. Add Trevor Story, Nolan Arenado, Ryan McMahon, Jon Grey, German Marquez and Scott Oberg. Take away Adalberto Mondesi, Hanser Alberto, Garrett Cooper, Spencer Turnbull, Marco Gonzales and Buck Farmer. Break the foundations and transfer Bo Bichette to second base.
Complete WAR: 68.four. Nonetheless worse than the Dodgers and the Astros. Do I hear eight groups?
Superteam 5: Superteam four + Pirates. Add Josh Bell, Bryan Reynolds, Jacob Stallings and Felipe Vazquez. Take away Ryan McMahon, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., Pedro Severino and Shawn Armstrong.
Complete WAR: 72.9. Forward of the Dodgers and one way or the other nonetheless behind the Astros.
Do. I. Hear. Niiiiiiine groups?
Superteam 6: Superteam 5 + White Sox. Add Lucas Giolito, James McCann, Aaron Bummer and Tim Anderson. Take away Matthew Boyd, Jacob Stallings, Scott Barlow and … Jonathan Villar.
Complete WAR: 75.7. Phew.
Is the conclusion too arduous to imagine? Does it appear credible in the event you merely take a look at the rosters?
C Tom Murphy, 1B Josh Bell, 2B Bo Bichette, 3B Nolan Arenado, SS Trevor Story, LF Bryan Reynolds, CF Whit Merrifield, RF Hunter Dozier, DH Jorge Soler, UT Tim Anderson, UT Kyle Seager, UT Anthony Santander, UT James McCann, SP Lucas Giolito, SP John Means, SP Jon Grey, SP German Marquez, RP Felipe Vazquez, RP Ian Kennedy, RP Ken Giles, RP Mychal Givens, RP Sam Tuivailala, RP Aaron Bummer, RP Scott Oberg, RP Wilmer Font
C Robinson Chirinos, 1B Yuli Gurriel, 2B Jose Altuve, 3B Alex Bregman, SS Carlos Correa, LF Michael Brantley, CF Jake Marisnick, RF George Springer, DH Yordan Alvarez, UT Aledmys Diaz, UT Abraham Toro, UT Josh Reddick, UT Martin Maldonado, SP Gerrit Cole, SP Justin Verlander, SP Zack Greinke, SP Wade Miley, RP Ryan Pressly, RP Roberto Osuna, RP Will Harris, RP Joe Smith, RP Hector Rondon, RP Chris Devenski, RP Josh James, RP Brad Peacock
The Astros have the 2 greatest beginning pitchers, perhaps the three greatest. They’ve, simply, the perfect participant (in Bregman), and by WAR per plate look this yr they’ve the three greatest (Bregman, Alvarez, Springer). They’ve 5 of the highest seven, with solely Trevor Story and Bo Bichette reaching 5 WAR per 600 plate appearances on the Superteam aspect. Whereas depth ultimately will favor the Superteam, the entire 104-win groups have constructed extraordinarily deep 25-man rosters. Of our authentic Superteam 1 gamers, perhaps half would have made the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster.
The purpose is, that is actually some sort of period we’re dwelling in. You are seeing among the worst baseball that is ever been performed. The Tigers really haven’t got a single above-average hitter, in any variety of plate appearances above two. And also you’re seeing among the greatest baseball that is ever been performed. In keeping with Baseball Prospectus’ third-order successful percentages, this yr’s Astros and Dodgers really are the 2 greatest groups since 1950. It is wonderful that these groups have coexisted in the identical league, sometimes enjoying in opposition to one another, standing subsequent to one another, and had it even appear like baseball in any respect. It is a baseball miracle.
However that is not the payoff for this period. The payoff is the postseason, when as many as 5 100-win groups — and three traditionally nice ones — are going to smash into one another, with barely a below-average participant within the bunch. Really, it may’t get right here quick sufficient.
* In instances of harm, the participant was included on the roster if he appeared prone to return someday this yr or if he would return however for his group being out of competition. He was not included if he undoubtedly is out for the yr, just like the Marlins’ Brian Anderson. Gamers who’ve been traded away, like the previous Tiger Nick Castellanos, aren’t eligible. There was some choice to gamers with extra enjoying time, however primarily we went with the most efficient gamers on a per-PA foundation. And gamers are allowed to play barely out of place if, as with Whit Merrifield, they’ve performed no less than some important time on the place to which we want to assign them. We used Baseball-Reference’s WAR for hitters and FanGraphs’ WAR for pitchers.