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Welcome to the 2018 MLB Heartening Rankings

Just a few months ago, we were busting out the Frustrating Rankings, my how things have changed

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Tampa Bay Rays Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s get this out of the way at the start. Yes, this article should have ran yesterday. That was before the Rays were smacked 10-3 by the Toronto Blue Jays. That was before Tyler Glasnow gave up seven runs and couldn’t even make it out of the first inning. That was before the Rays slipped back to 8 GB of the second wild card, and their FanGraphs odds slipped to 0.2 percent.

But sometimes life comes at you and your best intentions of getting back to write the article portion of the research you did in the morning becomes impossible, and the timing of the rankings you produced (that cover through Wednesday’s standings) lose a bit of their shine.

However, I think the overall vibe that these rankings produce remains the same. A few of the columns might be slightly different on Thursday than Wednesday (the record in the last 10 games and playoff bonuses in particular), but for the most part, the teams who are near the top remain there, and the teams near the bottom remain there as well.

Let’s keep the good feelings going on this off-day with the following.

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So, to get to the actual article, this is the rebuttal to my Frustration Rankings that DRaysBay created last year and updated after a particularly slow start for the Rays in 2018. The idea behind the Frustration Rankings was: The Rays are killing me right now, can we quantify if any other fanbase is going through this as well. The Rays were runners up in the debut rankings, and they eventually took the number one spot earlier this year.

Now, five months after those most recent Frustration Rankings, the vibes in St. Pete are a lot different. The Rays have called up the kids, made a few heady trades (again, ignore last night’s Glasnow appearance, because these rankings certainly do), and rattled off a 72-52 stretch since their 3-12 start. Things are good in Rays Land. And as such, we needed to know how the good vibes compare to other teams around the league. Hence the Heartening Rankings. While the end of 2017 and beginning of 2018 were very disheartening for Rays fans, the last five months have been anything but so.

Now, again: This is a Rays blog. Of course the metrics chosen to measure how Heartening a team’s 2018 season has been are going to favor the Rays. When we did the Frustration Rankings, pace of play was chosen because it was one of the most frustrating aspects of being a Rays fan at the time. White Sox fans might now select “number of elite prospects the team refuses to bring up” if the rankings were being written for Southside Showdown.

So without further ado, here are the 2018 MLB Heartening Rankings:

2018 MLB Heartening Rankings

Team Record Last 10 games Projected Delta Rookies Lack of holes W-L one-run Clutch Payroll Playoff bonus Total
Team Record Last 10 games Projected Delta Rookies Lack of holes W-L one-run Clutch Payroll Playoff bonus Total
OAK 27 17 30 8 25 30 26 28 10 201
TBR 18 29 28 30 25 12 8 30 0 180
MIL 24 26.5 22 16.5 13.5 24 18 22 10 176.5
BOS 30 23.5 27 8 13.5 28 29 1 10 170
ATL 20.5 8.5 29 16.5 25 26 16 17 10 168.5
PHI 16 8.5 17.5 22 25 23 27 23 0 162
NYY 29 17 17.5 16.5 25 25 13 6 10 159
PIT 14 17 24.5 21 13.5 20 20 27 0 157
STL 22.5 17 14.5 24 25 14 22 8 10 157
COL 20.5 23.5 22 6 1.5 27 25 13 10 148.5
CHC 26 23.5 17.5 4.5 25 19 14 4 10 143.5
SEA 22.5 8.5 26 3 13.5 29 30 10 0 142.5
MIA 4 8.5 22 29 5.5 17 19 26 0 131
SFG 13 17 17.5 11 25 15 28 2 0 128.5
HOU 28 26.5 10.5 1.5 25 10 4 9 10 124.5
CLE 25 17 10.5 4.5 13.5 17 11 14 10 122.5
CHW 5.5 23.5 20 16.5 13.5 5 7 29 0 120
MIN 11 1 5 23 25 6 24 21 0 116
TOR 9.5 3 10.5 21 13.5 22 23 11 0 113.5
CIN 7 3 14.5 16.5 25 1 21 25 0 113
SDP 3 17 13 27.5 5.5 13 9 24 0 112
LAD 19 29 3 11 25 17 1 3 0 108
DET 5.5 3 24.5 21 5.5 11 17 18 0 105.5
KCR 2 29 8 25 13.5 4 2 19 0 102.5
LAA 12 8.5 3 27.5 5.5 21 6 7 0 90.5
NYM 9.5 17 6 16.5 5.5 3 15 12 0 84.5
TEX 8 8.5 7 11 13.5 8 10 16 0 82
ARI 17 8.5 10.5 1.5 5.5 7 12 15 0 77
WSN 15 17 1 8 13.5 9 3 5 0 71.5
BAL 1 8.5 3 26 1.5 2 5 20 0 67

And look who’s right there, second in all of baseball. The A’s coming in first is no surprise, they’ve been arguably the story of the season, an out-of-nowhere contender intent on breaking up the monotony of the American League Power Four.

A few words about the categories chosen for these rankings. Record and record in last ten are no brainers. It is heartening to win games, it is even more heartening to win the games in most recent memory. Projected Delta is merely the difference (either positive or negative) from the team’s original spot in the preseason ESPN power rankings compared to where the team sits in the current standings. This clearly matters. Rays fans are a lot happier with their 75-64 record than Dodger fans are with their 76-64 record.

Rookies is the most Rays-specific category, and it’s no surprise to see them come out on top in all of baseball in terms of rookies played in 2018 (min. 10 PA or 10 IP). Some might say this category is cherry-picking to help the Rays, but honestly: the sport of baseball, and really all sports in general in 2018, thrive on “selling the future.” It’s why the league’s trade deadline is given more attention than any other time of the year, as players coming in and out, and fresh faces with potential truly move the needle of fandom.

Lack of holes was determined simply by the team with the fewest positions (all around the diamond and relief pitchers) with a negative fWAR. By far the most shocking revelation of this category was that the NL West-leading Colorado Rockies have four such positions, tied with the historically horrible Baltimore Orioles (41-99). Baseball is strange. (And WAR is likely too harsh on players in Coors Field, but that’s for another article.)

Win-loss in one-run games and FanGraphs’ clutch stats (for these rankings, both hitting and pitching clutch were combined to get a composite clutch ranking) likely overlap a bit in terms of which teams were awarded points here, but there’s not much more in baseball that is heartening than a team repeatedly pulling wins out of their butt. Those magical seasons are always remembered fondly. (Unless somehow you’re the 2018 Seattle Mariners and even despite a historic record in close games, you’re still almost certainly going to miss the playoffs for the 17th straight season.)

Finally, doing all of that on a budget makes everything feel a little better. Sure, the Red Sox have the best record in baseball, but they also have the highest payroll in baseball, they should have the best record. The A’s and Brewers (and Rays), on the other hand, are putting together impressive seasons while being ballers on some sort of a budget. This category is the one most likely to piss off the Goliaths of baseball, and that’s exactly what we want here at DRB.

Hope you enjoy the debut of these rankings, and let me know your thoughts on how they could be tinkered with in the comments section.