Welcome to The Hardball Times Dartboard, our weekly attempt to rank all the teams in baseball. The Dartboard Factor is how many wins a team would be expected to have at the end of the season if it played a neutral schedule. Next to that, you’ll find the Dartboard Factor from the previous week. An explanation of our method can be found here.
In this week’s addition of the Dartboard, we’ll take a look at each team’s most productive player. You’ll notice that the list is dominated by hitters.
#1 Tampa Bay Rays (Dartboard Factor = 100, 100): Evan Longoria. He’s 22 and signed on with the Rays until he’s due for a mid-life crisis and he’s already a fantastic hitter and defender. It’s hard to think that he’s not going to just keep getting better leaving this a steal of a player for the Rays.
#2 Chicago Cubs (Dartboard Factor = 97, 98): Mark DeRosa. This one’s a surprise and and although Aramis Ramirez has been more valuable, he’s also had more playing time. wOBA ranks DeRosa higher and he also mans the more difficult position.
#3 Boston Red Sox (Dartboard Factor = 96, 98): Kevin Youkilis. What’s gotten into Youkilis’ slugging? He’s already smashed his previous career mark for extra base hits though, perhaps as a consequence, his plate patience has taken a hit with a markedly lower walk rate and much fewer pitches seen per PA.
#4 Los Angeles Angels (Dartboard Factor = 95, 97): Ervin Santana. What a turnaround for Santana. He had been on a three-year trend of throwing fewer strikes and missing fewre bats which he’s suddenly reversed this season in a dramatic fashion.
#5 Chicago White Sox (Dartboard Factor = 93, 93): Carlos Quentin. No big surprise here as Quentin has been the boom for the White Sox this year flashing not only tremendous (albeit park-assisted) power, but great discipline as well with 61 walks to 77 strikeouts.
#6 Minnesota Twins (Dartboard Factor = 91, 89): Joe Mauer. Pretty even on offensive contribution with teammate Justin Morneau, Mauer wins on the defensive side of things. Always a possessor of great discipline, Mauer has ramped it up further this season with 70 walks to just 38 strikeouts.
#7 Milwaukee Brewers (Dartboard Factor = 91, 91): Ryan Braun. CC Sabathia is making a case for this billing despite just a month plus of playing time, but for now the nod has to go to Ryan Braun. Braun has followed up his sizzling freshman campaign with no major sign of a sophomore slump and has managed to lower his strikeouts a bit.
#8 New York Yankees (Dartboard Factor = 88, 88): Alex Rodriguez. He never had much of a chance to repeat his amazing 2007, but Alex has managed to not regress much and as such, remain a hugely valuable player. His homeruns per ball hit in the air is back to normal career levels which explains why he’s not going to challenge 50 dingers this season.
#9 St Louis Cardinals (Dartboard Factor = 87, 87): Albert Pujols. Not a surprising result, but it is surprising how close Ryan Ludwick comes to eclipsing Pujols’ offense. Nevertheless, Pujols has regained some of the power that had disappeared last year.
#10 New York Mets (Dartboard Factor = 87, 85): David Wright. Wright hasn’t missed a beat though his BABIP is depressed a bit this season, causing an artificial dip in his triple slash line.
#11 Philadelphia Phillies (Dartboard Factor = 85, 85): Chase Utley. Utley is pulling a mighty high 70% of his hits and while his walk and strikeout rates have not improved this year, he’s hitting for far more power.
#12 Toronto Blue Jays (Dartboard Factor = 85, 85): Roy Halladay. He’s been a workhorse for the Jays in the mold of yesteryear. Beyond that, Halladay has also seen a significant rise in his strikeout rate which helps to offset a career low in groundball percentage.
#13 Arizona Diamondbacks (Dartboard Factor = 82, 82): Brandon Webb. Webb is far and away the most valuable player at his designated job on the Diamondbacks, but he is so bad at hitting that his negative contribution there almost allows Conor Jackson to slip ahead in overall value. Webb is doing what he always does, throw strikes, miss some bats and keep everything on the ground.
#14 Los Angeles Dodgers (Dartboard Factor = 81, 82): Chad Billingsley. Ignoring Billingsley even worse hitting, his pitching has taken another big step forward this year getting his walk rate under control and missing more and more bats. He’s also recovered from flyball-itis of 2007 to return to a roughly neutral groundball pitcher.
#15 Detroit Tigers (Dartboard Factor = 80, 81): Curtis Granderson. Results-wise, Granderson has pretty much matched his 2007 output, but his route to those results is improved this season. His walk rate is up almost three points with a strikeout rate down over four points.
#16 Florida Marlins (Dartboard Factor = 80, 80): Hanley Ramirez. The strikeouts are way up but Ramirez has countered that with a ginormous increase in power (an over four point increase in homerun per ball in air rate) and the same increase in walk rate. The homeruns have come somewhat at the expense of doubles though so it’s not all gravy, but still another tremendous offensive season.
#17 Baltimore Orioles (Dartboard Factor = 79, 81): Nick Markakis. Markakis continues to improve smashing his previous career high (set last year) in walks and raising his OBP to around .400.
#18 Texas Rangers (Dartboard Factor = 79, 80): Milton Bradley. For a man who most thought wouldn’t even be ready until mid-May, Bradley has certainly been a surprise not only with his health but with his production as well. Sure Texas plays a part in that, but Bradley’s running an OBP near .450 with a slugging percentage up near .600.
#19 Houston Astros (Dartboard Factor = 79, 80): Lance Berkman. Besides Carlos Lee who’s a solid 2nd place, Berkman dwarfs the entire rest of the Astros. He was never going to flirt with a batting average in the upper 300s, but he’s managed to keep it well above .300 while cutting his strikeout rate. Watch out for that BABIP to regress though.
#20 Cleveland Indians (Dartboard Factor = 78, 77): Cliff Lee. Never much a groundball pitcher, Cliff Lee turned himself into one this year and meanwhile decided to throw nothing but strike and yet still miss enough bats to garner a high number of strikeouts as well. Lee’s transition might be the mystery of the season.
#21 Oakland Athletics (Dartboard Factor = 76, 78): Jack Cust. Rich Harden would be here if not for the trade to Chicago. Cust has seen a dip in all his core stats this season except in those strikeouts which remain stratospheric in nature.
#22 Colorado Rockies (Dartboard Factor = 72, 72): Matt Holliday. Holliday is quietly having one of the best seasons in baseball this year continuing a five year trend of improvement. His walk rate is through the roof and he’s even reduced his strikeout rate a bit while maintaining his power overall.
#23 Kansas City Royals (Dartboard Factor = 71, 74): Mile Aviles. THT’s Craig Brown gives Aviles his own column-length introduction here.
#24 Atlanta Braves (Dartboard Factor = 71, 74): Chipper Jones. Has anyone noticed that Chipper Jones has posted three straight OPSs over 1? And that he was at .968 in 2005? His OBP this year is .460. He leads the majors in wOBA at an astounding .432 mark, .437 when adjusted for his park.
#25 Pittsburgh Pirates (Dartboard Factor = 70, 71): Jason Bay. No longer with Pittsburgh, Jason Bay did a fine job of recovering from a bizarre 2007 that saw his batting average drop over 40 points and losing nearly 200 OPS points. His walk and homerun rates came back in 2008 and he headlined a trade to Boston.
#26 Cincinnati Reds (Dartboard Factor = 70, 69): Adam Dunn. Edinson Volquez will likely overtake Dunn in overall value by the end of the season for the Reds, but Dunn makes an interesting free agency case this winter. Remarkably consistent, Dunn needs six homeruns to finish with exactly 40 for the fourth straight year and just six more walks to eclipse 100 for the fifth consecutive season.
#27 San Francisco Giants (Dartboard Factor = 68, 66): Tim Lincecum. If it weren’t for Brandon Webb’s wins, Lincecum would be (and should be) in the Cy Young discussion. He’s striking out more than 27% of batters that he faces.
#28 San Diego Padres (Dartboard Factor = 60, 63): Brian Giles. Giles has enjoyed a bit of a rebirth in 2008 with the bat. Still unable to conquer PetCo’s generous dimensions, Giles has instead continued to raise his on base percentage, now getting within .400 territory.
#29 Seattle Mariners (Dartboard Factor = 60, 64): Raul Ibanez. The always steady, always dependable Raul Ibanez puts up another good year (at the plate). Having a problem the last few years facing lefties, Raul has done an about face and demolished them this season.
#30 Washington Nationals (Dartboard Factor = 56, 57): Ronnie Belliard. Belliard’s had himself a surprisingly good season albeit in a somewhat limited sample. A .278/.372/.486 line represents 100 more OPS points than 2007.
The playoff picture takes the above ranking and reforms the teams back into their leagues and divisions including the wild card. This is in no ways a prediction, this is an assessment of how teams have played so far this season, not how each team is going to play.
Rays – 100
Red Sox – 96
Yankees – 88
Blue Jays – 85
Orioles – 79
White Sox – 93
Twins – 91
Tigers – 80
Indians – 78
Royals – 71
Angels – 95
Rangers – 79
Athletics – 76
Mariners – 60
AL WILD CARD
Red Sox – 96
Twins – 91
Yankees – 88
Mets – 87
Phillies – 85
Marlins – 80
Braves – 71
Nationals – 56
Cubs – 97
Brewers – 91
Cardinals – 87
Astros – 79
Pirates – 70
Reds – 70
Diamondbacks – 82
Dodgers – 81
Rockies – 72
Giants – 68
Padres – 60
NL WILD CARD
Brewers – 91
Cardinals – 87
Phillies – 85