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2016 Major League Baseball: Who Are The Teams To Beat?

Updated on February 2, 2016

I realize this isn't about baseball, but...

The Boys Of Summer

"In the Spring a young man's fancy turns lightly to thoughts of love."

With the kindest of regards to Alfred, Lord Tennyson and his wonderful ode to Love in Locksley Hall, I must disagree. For far more men (and increasingly women) Spring is the time we look forward to Major League Baseball. That time when the crack of the bat sends our hearts a'swoonin'; the thunder on the base paths quickens our breath, the soft glow of an evening game lights a glow within our minds; and the scent of singed horsehide becomes the sweetest fragrance on earth.

Well, maybe for some of us.

Source

And so here we stand on the precipice of another year. No team is yet eliminated; injuries are not an issue just yet; and every team has an equal opportunity for success in the eyes of their respective fans.

Last year at this time Kansas City was an afterthought, the Cubs were a year away, Houston a year or more, and Toronto and Washington looked to be the teams to beat. Then a short 162 games later, KC was on top of the heap peering intently towards a stretch run with an eye on the World Series prize, the Cubs, Pirates and Cardinals were beating one another's brains out for the right to represent their division, Toronto still looked unbeatable and Houston was suddenly a contender now.

I can't wait to see what this year holds!

How Do They Stack Up?

Recently, I reviewed the Sporting News' Top 500 MLB Players and decided to see how the Cardinals (my team!) fared when I determined how many of the top 500 players were on their team. I then expanded it to place every single player who was on a team and resided in the top 500 on their respective teams and see who had the best mix of talent. It was an exercise that took less than an hour and in the end I found the tale to be worth telling. It is quite curious when we see who has the most players from that list on their team.

First, I plotted the entire list of 500 onto their teams. I used their rank number and totaled up the entire team's placement, divided by the number of players from the list on that particular team and determined who had the best average of said players. My reasoning was that the team with the lowest average would be the team with the best players. For example, the Dodgers had 19 players from the top 500 on their team so when I added then divided by 19 I arrived at a team number of 256. The Phillies only had 14 players make the list so when I added then diveded, their team number was 367. So theoretically, the Dodgers rank higher than the Phillies, 256 to 367. Sounds good so far, right?

So how did the teams do? Well, I was somewhat surprised to find that when we look at the overall team numbers, Colorado stands as the best overall average at 177, followed by the Reds and Cubs at 182. How in the world are the Reds and Cubs tied?!

Well, the Reds only have 9 players on the top 500 list while the Cubs have 17. And fewer of the Reds are above 200 (3) than the Cubs (7) so that raises the Cubs while lowering the Reds. Funny stuff here.

My Cardinals are just about middle at 230, tied with Seattle (Go Bill!). Boston, who has the most top 500 players on the list at 21 is 23rd on the list at 265. So read into what you will: Is Colorado really a powerhouse team like the Cubs are expected to be? I just can't see that. Let's look closer, shall we?

Number Of Players On Team: Top 500 Players

TEAM
TOTAL PLAYERS ON LIST
AVERAGE
Rockies
11
177
Reds
9
182
Cubs
17
182
White Sox
13
194
Giants
15
201
Rangers
14
205
Mets
19
205
Astros
17
209
Indians
16
210
Nationals
16
213
Marlins
14
214
Tigers
16
216
Diamondbacks
15
218
Yankees
20
227
Mariners
16
230
Cardinals
19
230
Pirates
15
242
Royals
17
242
Blue Jays
19
245
Rays
18
248
Dodgers
19
256
Angels
15
262
Red Sox
21
265
A's
15
286
Orioles
17
291
Padres
13
295
Brewers
11
303
Braves
13
314
Twins
18
314
Phillies
14
367
"I got it!" "No, I got it!"
"I got it!" "No, I got it!" | Source

Taking The Top Nine Players Per Team

So what happens if we take the top 9 players on each team? Who has the best starting lineup now? Of course, this isn't a representation of an actual starting lineup, with 8 position players plus the pitcher; rather it is the best 9 players on the team and several of them might be pitchers. This might make the list somewhat off but by and large, it should tell which team is really loaded.

The Cubs are second at a score of 89. Who beats them? Houston! Yes, Houston has the best top 9 score at 85. In other words, they're loaded. Then surprisingly (to me) Cleveland comes in third at 92 followed by the Mets at 98. I knew the Mets were loaded, mostly due to their pitching staff full of young aces in the making. But Cleveland? Didn't see that coming.

But what does this mean, really? Will the final four teams standing be the Astros and Indians in the American League and the Cubs and Mets (again!?) in the National League? Maybe, but remember: The Washington Nationals. Yes for the past couple of years the Nationals were America's Best Team On Paper, voted Most Likely To Succeed, Most Beautiful, Best Hair, yadda yadda yadda. And basically, they sucked canal water. Having loads of talent doesn't always mean you will win (right, Dodgers?). Sometimes, it is something within that drives one to succeed, some intangible. You may not like him but Charlie Hustle himself, Pete Rose was not the most talented man on the field at any time during his career; yet he was a winner. He played hard, he refused to lose, he tried his best and then some: he hustled. Many of today's teams and players simply do not have that desire to succeed within them and though they may be supremely talented, they are not winners.

The Top 9 Players On The Top 500 List

Teams
9 Players Average
 
Astros
85
 
Cubs
89
 
Indians
92
 
Mets
98
 
Dodgers
108
 
Blue Jays
109
 
Red Sox
109
 
Nationals
111
 
Tigers
113
 
Giants
114
 
Pirates
116
 
White Sox
121
 
Yankees
122
 
Rangers
123
 
Cardinals
124
 
Mariners
124
 
Royals
127
 
Rockies
131
 
Diamondbacks
133
 
Marlins
136
 
Rays
160
 
Orioles
168
 
Angels
170
 
Reds
182
 
A's
211
 
Twins
213
 
Padres
217
 
Braves
257
 
Brewers
264
 
Phillies
304
 
 
 
 
Source

So where are my Cardinals? Smack in the middle again, tied with the Mariners once more (Hello again, Bill!) at 124. To me, that means they are not the sexiest, most talented team out there; they never are. Neither are they the worst team in the league (can you say Philadelphia?). But they do have the makings of a solid team with a higher ceiling than most people give them credit for.

So where does this leave us? Well, to me it says that the teams to beat are the Astros and Cubs; but their youth might be either a savior or a goat (Hey Cubs, here's looking at you!). They have talent, no question; but do they have leadership? On the Cubs, they have the pitching duo of John Lackey and Jon Lester as the "old guard" but are either of them true leaders? Lackey has fire but often turns it on himself while Lester lacks confidence enough to hold a runner on first base. Neither of them are what I term "leaders". Jason Heyward is good but he left the Cardinals because he didn't want to be "That Guy", preferring to settle into a supportive role. Is Kris Bryant seasoned enough at less than one year to be a leader? Kyle Schwarber? Anthony Rizzo is good but is he That Guy? Only time will tell.

On Houston, Dallas Keuchel is a leader-type, albeit a quiet seeming one. Jose Altuve is one I would hitch my wagon to, no question. From there, Carlos Gomez seems to be all about himself, as does Colby Rasmus. Carlos Correa is a future leader and might take the reins from Altuve at some point. Personally, I see them making it farther than the Cubs this year. Sorry, Chicago but your piss and vinegar won't see you through to a championship this year. Better luck next year.

So what does the season portend? I see the Cardinals stepping up once more and winning the National League Central over the Cubs. I realize I'm picking a Dark Horse here, but they're my dark horse. The Mets take the East over the Nationals, while the Dodgers put it all together and make a serious run in the West over the Giants. I know, I know it's an even numbered year and therefore the Giants should reign supreme but that lucks gotta run out sometime and this year, it does.

Over in the American League, Houston wins the West over Seattle (sorry, Bill), Cleveland wins the Central over Detroit with KC fading a bit after the past two years success, and the Blue Jays win the East over a surging Red Sox team.

The National League representative in the World Series will be the Mets once more. Much like Kansas City, last year, the Mets put in their due last year and will win it all this year. The American League will be represented by Toronto and fall to the Mets in seven games.

No, I ain't putting my money where my mouth is. I never said I was a prognosticator par excellance'.

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 16 months ago from Olympia, WA

      The beauty about baseball, probably more so than any other sport, is each spring, every single team believes they have a realistic shot at the title....hope really does spring eternal in baseball, at least until the end of April. Having said that, I think the Cards and the Mariners have realistic shots at winning titles...and that's more than Colorado fans can say. :)

    • Mr Archer profile image
      Author

      Mr Archer 16 months ago from Missouri

      Amen Father William! One of these days we're going to get our Seattle / St Louis match up! What fun that will be! Good luck this year and Play Ball!!!!!

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 16 months ago from Massachusetts

      Hello there Mr Archer. Anything related to baseball usually catches my attention. Add to that the fact that I'm a stats and numbers guy and I loved this hub. Very interesting look at the 2016 season. My Red Sox came in tied with the Blue Jays when looking at just the top nine and I do think the Blue Jays will be a tough team this year. I swore back in 2004 that if the Sox would just win one World Series in my lifetime I wouldn't be greedy. We've been blessed with three now, in my lifetime, so I am happy whether they win or not. Great job.

    • Mr Archer profile image
      Author

      Mr Archer 16 months ago from Missouri

      2004, let's see; who did they beat to win that championship? Hmmm. Oh now I remember! My Cardinals!!!! Oh well, you were due. I actually wasn't upset that the Red Sox won that year, just how they won. My Cards could have made it a little closer!

      I too am a numbers kind of fella and am always looking to see what sense can be made of them. Your Sox will be better than last year and with Big Papi leading them, could very well sneak past the Jays and win the East. That's the great thing about this game: you just never know how the chips will fall. I love it!!! Take care Sir and stay warm!

    • Paul Kuehn profile image

      Paul Richard Kuehn 16 months ago from Udorn City, Thailand

      Mr. Archer, Your statistical method of picking the best teams is very interesting and useful. Maybe that is why my Milwaukee Brewers hired a GM who is a stats freak. It's amazing that four or five years ago, the Astros and Cubs were doormats and laughing stocks of the league. Both clubs certainly knew how to rebuild their teams with good farm players! I certainly hope that my Brewers can follow suit and be up there as a perennial contender or winner in the next 3-5 years. I have always envied your Cardinals ever since the 50s. They certainly knew how to break Brewers' fans hearts in the 1982 World Series and the 2011 AL NLDS. Why is that the Cardinals never seem to have rebuilding years like most other clubs? I enjoyed reading this article and am sharing it with my HP followers.

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 15 months ago from Oklahoma

      Wonderful analysis.

    • Mr Archer profile image
      Author

      Mr Archer 15 months ago from Missouri

      Thank you Sir.

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