They’re Not In World Series, But Dodgers Were Baseball’s Best This Season
It’s time for my annual batted ball-based year-end team true-talent rankings —here’s a quick refresher on the methodology.
In a nutshell, league averages for each exit speed/launch angle “bucket” are applied to each team’s population of batted balls, both for and against, to derive the production they “should have” achieved and allowed. Add back the Ks and BBs, and voila, each team receives an offensive and pitching rating, relative to league average of 100. For hitters, the higher number the better, for pitchers, the lower.
Team defense is also measured, in a somewhat unique manner. Clubs’ performance is compared head-to-head versus their opponent; the ratio of actual production versus projected performance for both clubs is compared to each other, resulting in a overall defensive multiplier that can also be spread among the individual batted ball types.
In 2020, I added a new wrinkle. I introduced a team extreme ground ball-pulling penalty, similar to a concept I use for individual batters. It does not impact the overall team rating, but it more appropriately punishes a team’s offense rather than its defense for shortcomings in this area.
To qualify for such a penalty, a team had to both A) pull more than 5 times as many grounders as it hit to the opposite field, and B) post actual grounder production lower than the level it “should have” posted based on its exit speed. The penalty is equal to the amount of that difference. It should be noted that perhaps the shift-banning rules that take effect in 2023 aren’t necessary – only three clubs were subjected to this penalty this time around, well down from seven in 2020 and six in 2021.
Today we’ll tackle the top 15 clubs, including all 12 who advanced to the playoffs. (You can see the bottom 15 here.) We will cover one club who collapsed totally in the 2nd half – but finished ahead of the NL champ Phillies in these rankings. Here we go:
15. Cleveland Guardians (Actual Record = 92-70, Projected Record = 83-79)
Offensive Rating = 90.4 (26th), Pitching Rating = 99.0 (14th), Defensive Rating = 89.3 (1st); 2022 All Star Break = 19th
The Guardians fractionally nosed out the White Sox to avoid finishing in the bottom half of these rankings. They are by far the worst offensive team we’ll cover today. They tied the Nationals for the lowest average exit speed (86.7 mph) in the game, and were out-homered by 45. They were exceptional at one key offensive facet, however – they put the ball in play 403 more times than their opponents, striking out 268 fewer times. Team defense was also a massive strength – their grounder multiplier was an amazing MLB-best 78.0. Who knew what stationing shortstops and center fielders all over the place could do? That said, a power bat or two must be added.
14. San Francisco Giants (Actual Record = 81-81, Projected Record = 83-79)
Offensive Rating = 100.1 (14th), Pitching Rating = 90.7 (7th), Defensive Rating = 107.9 (29th); 2022 ASB = 10th
What a difference a year (and a half) makes. The bottom finally dropped out for this group in the second half. Their position players got old real quick, and it had a major impact at bat and in the field. Pros? They outhomered their opponents by 51, and their average launch angle was +5.8 degrees higher. Their pitching staff’s average launch angle allowed of 9.0 degrees was baseball’s best. Cons? They actually didn’t hit their fly balls much harder than their opponents; they just hit a lot more of them (+160). And their team defense was just horrible everywhere, with Joc Pederson anchoring a 109.7 fly ball and Brandon Belt a 106.5 ground ball multiplier.
13. Seattle Mariners (Actual Record = 90-72, Projected Record = 85-77)
Offensive Rating = 103.0 (11th), Pitching Rating = 96.8 (12th), Defensive Rating = 100.8 (21st); 2022 ASB = 13th
The Mariners probably got ahead of themselves a little bit in 2022, but they’re on their way to being a very good baseball team. Batted ball authority and frequency-wise, this was pretty close to a .500 club, but a +149 walk margin propels them onto the positive side. Bear in mind that they were doing this with a couple fairly large holes in the lineup that will be erased when Jarred Kelenic either improves or is replaced, and Adam Frazier lapses into more of a utility role. And Julio Rodriguez is only scratching the surface.
12. Tampa Bay Rays (Actual Record = 86-76, Projected Record = 87-75)
Offensive Rating = 93.3 (21st), Pitching Rating = 90.3 (6th), Defensive Rating = 96.4 (6th); 2022 ASB = 14th
No, your eyes weren’t lying to you when you watched the anemic playoff series between the Guardians and Rays – neither team could hit. The Rays’ offensive strengths? They could draw a walk (+116 walk margin over their opponents) and they hit their liners hard (94.6 mph average tied for 2nd best in MLB). Other than that….well, at least they had their pitching and defense to pick them up. Their staff K/BB ratio was impeccable, and their average exit speed allowed (87.4 mph) was 4th best in MLB. Defensively, they posted an 87.6 grounder multiplier thanks to a strong team effort. Other defensive systems didn’t pick this up as Tropicana Field is notorious for allowing far more ground ball base hits than other parks.
11. St. Louis Cardinals (Actual Record = 93-69, Projected Record = 88-74)
Offensive Rating = 109.1 (6th), Pitching Rating = 103.6 (19th), Defensive Rating = 96.4 (5th); 2022 ASB = 15th
The Cards came on like gangbusters in the 2nd half, only for their season to take a hairpin turn during the Phillies’ bizarre six-run inning in the wild card series. Based on most of the batted ball metrics, the Cards look an awful lot like a .500 club – but there were a couple notable exceptions. The Cards hit 161 more fly balls than their opponents, and though their average fly ball authority was close to their opponents, this keyed a +51 homer differential. Their +4.7 launch angle advantage over their opponents was one of the game’s biggest gaps. Team defense was also a huge strength, as Nolan Arenado and Tommy Edman keyed a 93.1 grounder multiplier.
10. Milwaukee Brewers (Actual Record = 86-76, Projected Record = 88-74)
Offensive Rating = 101.1 (13th), Pitching Rating = 94.1 (8th), Defensive Rating = 98.2 (10th); 2022 ASB = 11th
My method has the Brewers fractionally nosing out the Cards for the NL Central and a berth in the playoffs. In reality, they were nosed out by the Phillies for the final wild card. The Brewers did a lot things well – they had a solid team K/BB profile (+56 BB, -66 K), and had team exit speed and launch angle advantages of +1.5 mph and +1.7 degrees, enabling them to outhomer their opponents by 29. They’re the first of three clubs who were assessed an excessive grounder-pulling penalty. Their 93.6 fly ball multiplier was created by fine defensive work from an array of center fielders.
9. San Diego Padres (Actual Record = 89-73, Projected Record = 88-74)
Offensive Rating = 101.3 (12th), Pitching Rating = 95.6 (11th), Defensive Rating = 96.8 (8th); 2022 ASB = 8th
An almost identical team to the Brewers across the board. The Padres had an even more significant team K/BB profile advantage (+106 BB, -124 K), but were actually outhomered by 20 due to some offensive batted ball frequency shortcomings. Though they put 167 more balls in play than their opponents, they hit 48 fewer fly balls – but 60 more pop ups. They offset that to an extent with a +53 liner differential. Their team defense was quite good, especially in the outfield where CF Trent Grisham paced them to an MLB-best 83.8 fly ball multiplier.
8. Philadelphia Phillies (Actual Record = 87-75, Projected Record = 89-73)
Offensive Rating = 109.1 (7th), Pitching Rating = 94.1 (9th), Defensive Rating = 105.3 (27th); 2022 ASB = 6th
Well, the Atlanta Braves won it all in 2021 despite finishing 9th in these rankings, so why can’t the Phils pull it off this year? They are the first of six teams who earned top ten rankings for both of their offense and pitching. They had big average exit speed (+1.5 mph) and launch angle (+1.5 degrees) advantages over their opponents while hitting more fly balls (+54) and liners (+46) and striking out more batters (+60). This enabled them to post an impressive +55 homer differential. Of course, team defense remains a significant problem, both in the outfield (105.7 fly ball multiplier thanks to Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos) and the infield (112.2 grounder multiplier thanks largely to Rhys Hoskins).
7. Minnesota Twins (Actual Record = 78-84, Projected Record = 90-72)
Offensive Rating = 111.3 (5th), Pitching Rating = 100.1 (16th), Defensive Rating = 99.6 (15th); 2022 ASB = 5th
OK sports fans…..this is the one club you can point at this year to discredit my method (there’s always one). What on earth happened to these guys in the second half? Their biggest asset is a big one…..they smoke the baseball in the air. Only the Yankees and Braves posted higher average fly ball exit speed than the Twins’ 92.1 mph mark. They were also near the top in average liner authority. Unfortunately, their pitching staff gave back a number of those same advantages. One big pitching plus was their ability to generate pop ups (-75 pop up differential despite being basically dead even in fly balls). They were crippled by injuries – expect a healthier Twins’ club to fare better in 2023.
6. Toronto Blue Jays (Actual Record = 92-70, Projected Record = 92-70)
Offensive Rating = 115.1 (4th), Pitching Rating = 100.9 (17th), Defensive Rating = 99.0 (14th); 2022 ASB = 9th
Last year, the Jays finished 5th in these rankings, and really didn’t have a material weak spot. Despite finishing just one notch lower this time, there is a clear weakness – at least for a top contender – their pitching. I mean offensively, these guys are great. No team hit the ball as hard (89.9 mph average exit speed), and they hit the hardest line drives (95.4 mph average) in the game. Their team K/BB profile (+76 BB, -148 K) was super. Vladimir Guerrero Jr.’s ground ball rate shot back up, in part causing a -2.1 degree launch angle differential compared to their opponents, so there is room for improvement. Their pitchers allowed contact almost as loud, with Jose Berrios and Yusei Kikuchi most at fault, though Kevin Gausman also took some lumps.
5. New York Mets (Actual Record = 101-61, Projected Record = 95-67)
Offensive Rating = 106.2 (9th), Pitching Rating = 89.2 (5th), Defensive Rating = 100.2 (18th); 2022 ASB = 7th
These guys were good, but my method confirms what my eyes told me – this was no 100-win team. Offensively, they didn’t hit the ball very hard (87.7 mph average exit speed, a mere +2 homer differential), and didn’t have a very high launch angle (11.6 degrees, -1.0 degree below their opponents). Their +155 liner differential, keyed by NL batting champion Jeff McNeil, was huge. There was one even larger component of their success – their amazing team K/BB profile (+82 BB, -348 K), largely the product of their pitching staff. This enabled them to put 453 more balls in play than their opponents, which really adds up.
4. New York Yankees (Actual Record = 99-63, Projected Record = 103-59)
Offensive Rating = 116.2 (2nd), Pitching Rating = 84.9 (3rd), Defensive Rating = 103.6 (24th); 2022 ASB = 2nd
A big dropoff from their incredible first half, but excepting team defense the Yankees remained the Dodgers chief competitor. They outhomered their opponents by 97, thanks to huge advantages in average fly ball (+3.1 mph) and line drive (+1.8 mph) exit speed. They hit 99 more liners than their opponents, thanks mostly to the stinginess of their pitching staff. Their team K/BB profile (+176 BB, -68 K) was also excellent. Besides second half injuries, their biggest weakness was team defense, particularly in the “soft” liner multiplier (MLB-worst 111.4) area. A cast of thousands led by the departed Joey Gallo were the biggest culprits.
3. Houston Astros (Actual Record = 106-56, Projected Record = 104-58)
Offensive Rating = 107.6 (8th), Pitching Rating = 83.7 (2nd), Defensive Rating = 96.3 (4th); 2022 ASB = 3rd
Just a boringly efficient baseball team. The second of our three teams assessed an excessive grounder-pulling penalty, their opponents hit the ball almost exactly as hard as the Astros on average. How then, did they out-homer their opponents by 80? Well, putting 467 more balls in play, including 278 more flies and 146 more liners, has its benefits. Their team K/BB profile (+70 BB, -345 K) was incredible. Team defense was also a strength, as they posted an MLB-best 82.5 fly ball multiplier, led by their squad of CFs, Chas McCormick, Chad Meyers and the departed Jose Siri.
2. Atlanta Braves (Actual Record = 101-61, Projected Record = 104-58)
Offensive Rating = 116.6 (1st), Pitching Rating = 88.3 (4th), Defensive Rating = 98.5 (11th); 2022 ASB = 4th
Surprised? The Braves check in baseball’s best offensive team despite an off year from Ronald Acuna and an injury-shortened campaign from Ozzie Albies. Their team K/BB profile was ordinary for a great team, despite some historic numbers from Spencer Strider on the pitching side. The Braves had a massive +95 homer differential, thanks to big advantages in overall (+2.1 mph), fly ball (+3.5 mph) and liner (+1.9 mph) exit speed. They also had a sizeable average launch angle (+1.3 degrees) advantage. Free agent to be SS Dansby Swanson anchored a strong defense, leading the infield to a 93.2 grounder multiplier. This team is young, cost-controlled and might have the brightest future of all 30 clubs.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (Actual Record = 111-51, Projected Record = 116-46)
Offensive Rating = 115.7 (3rd), Pitching Rating = 79.8 (1st), Defensive Rating = 90.8 (2nd); 2022 ASB = 1st
No one will remember it due to their early postseason exit, but the 2022 Dodgers were one of the very best regular season clubs of all time. Where to begin? Very strong team K/BB profile (+200 BB, – 91 K). 313 more fly balls than their opponents, with a +2.4 mph exit speed differential, leading to a +60 homer advantage. 160 more liners than their opponents. And these huge surpluses were due both to hitting and pitching excellence. I’d argue that, as currently constituted, their pitching greatness is more readily sustainable. Perhaps that’s why they’re rumored to be in the Aaron Judge sweepstakes. Also, they’re the third and last of our extreme-grounder pulling team – that’s not an evergreen way to produce runs, though the 2023 shift elimination could change that. Toss in strong team defense, with an 87.6 fly ball multiplier keyed by RF Mookie Betts, and you have a lethal mix.
#Theyre #World #Series #Dodgers #Baseballs #Season