|Kansas City Royals finish 2014 atop the Power Ranking|
Two nights ago, after a draining, exhilirating rally, the Royals celebrated a victory over the Oakland A's in the AL Wildcard Game.
And now, the Royals have also finished on top of the 2014 regular season final Power Ranking.
For the first time this season, the full 30-team MLB ranking list is presented below. All season long, I presented the Top 10 teams in a Power Ranking on either/both of the 1st and 15th of a month. This was followed by recognition for any other team that I felt had a shot to make a move into the Top 10, which was any team with a winning record at that point.
At the end of each Power Ranking, I evaluated where the hometown Philadelphia Phillies were during that point in the season. As you can imagine, it usually wasn't a good place. The Fightin' Phils didn't put up much fight this season. In the Ruben Amaro Era, the Phils have steadily regressed: 2009 - lost World Series, 2010 - lost NLCS, 2011 - lost NLDS, 2012 - .500 finish, 2013 - losing record and 4th place, 2014 - losing record and last place. He has to go.
The Power Ranking itself has been arrived at by an evaluation of each team's WAR performance as provided by 'Fangraphs' in the areas of Offense, Pitching, and Defense, with no consideration of the Win-Loss record. There were always some consistencies, and there were surprises as well. Among the consistencies were the season long battle between Oakland and their division rivals, the LA Angels, for the top spot. In the end, both clubs were passed by multiple teams.
Surprises included that the Washington Nationals, who emerged and have finished as the top team in the National League in the Power Rankings, were not even included at all in the first edition back on June 1st. At that point, the Nats were below .500 and floundering. Obviously, they more than righted their ship.
Another surprise was that the Boston Red Sox consistently showed up in the Top 10, despite the fact that the defending World Series champions were sputtering through an awful season when measured by wins and losses. Boston finished in last place in the AL East, 20 games under the .500 mark. However, they finished 6th in the final Power Ranking. This team will be back in 2015.
A final surprise, on the bad side, were the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Buccos made the playoffs as an NL Wildcard team for the 2nd straight season. However, their Power Ranking was never very high, and the finished all the way down at 21 of 30 MLB teams. This was a flawed team, and it showed when they were shutout by the similarly flawed (17 ranked) San Francisco Giants in that Wildcard Game.
POWER RANKING - 2014 REGULAR SEASON FINAL
1. Kansas City Royals
The Royals were on top of the rankings on July 1st, and returned to the top in both the September 1st and 15th rankings. And it is at the very top of the Power Rankings that the team has finished as well. KC earned it's first MLB post-season appearance in 29 years, and it was indeed well-earned. The Royals speedy club finished as the #1 overall team on Defense by a wide margin, a place that they occupied all season long. They also finished as the #5 Pitching team, and their Offense rose to finish at the #10 spot. They were one of only two teams, the other being the club that they would defeat in the AL Wildcard Game, the Oakland A's, to finish in the Top 10 in all evaluation categories. As they showed in that Wildcard Game, this is a dangerous team that needs to be taken seriously in the MLB playoffs moving forward.
2. Washington Nationals
It says here that right now, the Nats are the best team in baseball. They finished just a hair behind KC in the final Power Ranking, but they have been rising steadily ever since missing the first ranking completely. Washington has the #1 ranked Pitching staff and the 5th rated Offense in the game. They finished up at #11 in defense, where they had been 14th in the three previous rankings. Given more time, they would likely have taken over the top spot. Now is that time. The Nationals are my personal choice to win the World Series, and I believe that this post-season could very well be Bryce Harper's true launching pad to on-field stardom.
3. Baltimore Orioles
Buck Showalter is a baseball genius. I have no trouble saying that whatsoever. Have you seen the pitching staff that he has had to work with? At least by past reputation coming into this season, it is easily the least recognizable staff among baseball's serious contenders. The same can be said for their bullpen. Besides that, they lost catcher and team leader Matt Wieters early on for the season to injury. Then they lost talented young 3rd baseman Manny Machado later in the summer for the season to injury. Then they lost slugging 1st baseman Chris Davis to a 25-game suspension for a violation of MLB's drug policy, with Davis ineligible for the first 8 games into the post-season. All that, and the O's still won the always tough AL East by a dozen games. They have the 2nd ranked Defense, and that pitching has been managed to the point that it finished 3rd overall. The Orioles only finished 14th on Offense, and they will have to show that they can consistently score runs if they want to extend their season deep into October.
4. Los Angeles Angels
The Angels battled for the top spot all summer, and were tied for 2nd as recently as the last Power Ranking on September 15th. But like their primary opponents for both the top of this list and the top of their division all summer, the Oakland A's, they were passed at the end. For the Halos, it wasn't so much that they faded, but that other teams simply got hot and passed them. They finished at #2 on Offense and #7 on Defense, so they can score and they don't make a lot of mistakes. However, their Pitching finished just 12th in the rankings. I said at mid-season that the Angels needed to add not just one, but two more proven veteran arms before the trade deadline. They added none, and lost a pair of strong, young starting pitchers, Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs, to the DL for the season. Their failure to bolster the rotation behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson may very well end up costing them a real World Series shot.
5. Oakland Athletics
They met up with the top team on this final Power Ranking, the Kansas City Royals, in the Wildcard Game, and now they are out. Much as with their regular season performance, the A's bolted out hot, but then collapsed at the end, and watched the Royals literally run them out of Kauffman Stadium. They will finish, along with KC, as the only team to finish in the Top 10 of every category: 9th in Offense, 8th in Pitching, 8th in Defense. They made moves at the trade deadline to bolster a weakness in their rotation to help with a deep October run. Unfortunately, they now don't get to show off that depth. It was a lost opportunity for the A's, who now may be facing a refacing, or even a rebuilding, during the off-season.
6. Boston Red Sox (O-18, P-7, D-4)
7. New York Yankees (O-22, P-2, D-9)
8. Los Angeles Dodgers (O-1, P-13, D-20)
9. Saint Louis Cardinals (O-11, P-18, D-5)
10. Detroit Tigers (O-6, P-3, D-26)
10. Atlanta Braves (O-19, P-10, D-6)
12. Tampa Bay Rays (O-14, P-9, D-14)
13. Toronto Blue Jays (O-6, P-14, D-22)
14. Seattle Mariners (O-22, P-10, D-12)
15. Milwaukee Brewers (O-13, P-25, D-9)
15. Chicago Cubs (O-24, P-6, D-17)
17. San Francisco Giants (O-6, P-28, D-16)
18. Cincinnati Reds (O-21, P-27, D-3)
19. Cleveland Indians (O-20, P-4, D-29)
20. Miami Marlins (O-17, P-16, D-21)
21. Pittsburgh Pirates (O-4, P-29, D-25)
22. New York Mets (O-15, P-30, D-15)
23. Colorado Rockies (O-12, P-26, D-23)
24. Minnesota Twins (O-16, P-19, D-27)
25. Texas Rangers (O-25, P-19, D-19)
26. San Diego Padres (O-29, P-23, D-12)
27. Arizona Diamondbacks (O-26, P-24, D-18)
28. Philadelphia Phillies (O-27, P-22, D-24)
28. Chicago White Sox (O-28, P-17, D-28)
30. Houston Astros (O-30, P-21, D-30)