As a general life principle, I think it’s more constructive to look forward than to look back, or better yet, to simply enjoy the moment that you’re in. But it’s hard not to get nostalgic when putting together a final MLB Power Rankings. It’s always fascinating to see how teams evolve throughout the year, whether it’s through natural progression, a few lucky breaks, a few bad ones or some combination of the three. For those of you who don’t have photographic memories or were too lazy to scour through the archives, here’s what my Power Rankings looked like in Week 1.
1. Chicago Cubs
2. Cleveland Indians
3. Boston Red Sox
4. Los Angeles Dodgers
5. Washington Nationals
6. Houston Astros
7. San Francisco Giants
8. New York Mets
9. Toronto Blue Jays
10. Texas Rangers
Not much changed along the front line as the Indians, Dodgers and Nationals all ended up about where I thought they would. The Astros, Cubs and Red Sox followed suit, never venturing too far from their initial rankings.
Of course, the bottom half of the top 10 was a bloodbath. The Giants’ season was doomed as soon as Madison Bumgarner got on that dirt bike while injuries to Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and Yoenis Cespedes eventually led to a fire sale in New York. The Rangers took themselves out of the running as soon as they dealt Yu Darvish to the Dodgers and despite a monster second half from Josh Donaldson, the Blue Jays could never overcome the loss of Edwin Encarnacion.
Meanwhile the D’Backs (No. 22), Rockies (No. 17) and Twins (No. 28) vastly outperformed their preseason expectations, pushing their way into the limelight after beginning the year in obscurity. Small-market clubs like the Twins are always up against it in a league where $200 million payrolls have become increasingly common. But playoff baseball doesn’t follow any hard-and-fast rules. Any team can catch lightning in a bottle and that’s what makes October such a thrill.
Will a Wild Card team steal the show or is an Indians/Dodgers Fall Classic all but inevitable? A champion will be decided soon enough. While we wait for the unveiling, here are my final Power Rankings of the 2017 season.
1. Cleveland Indians
Last Week: 1
White Goodman forged his fitness empire on elbow grease and a little can-do attitude. The Indians built theirs on pitching. MLB produced a dozen 16-game winners this year. Three of them were Cleveland Indians including Corey Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, who tied for the major league lead with 18 wins a piece. Kluber, who should be a lock for his second AL Cy Young award, also led the majors in ERA at 2.25.
2. Houston Astros
Last Week: 2
Pop quiz: how many players have led their respective league in hits four years in a row? Just one: pint-sized Jose Altuve, who led the majors with a career-best .346 average this year. Alex Bregman enjoyed a stellar second half for Houston, slashing .315/.367/.536 with 11 homers and 44 RBI after the All-Star break.
3. Los Angeles Dodgers
Last Week: 3
A scarcely-used utility man in his early years, Chris Taylor entered 2017 with one homer in 197 big league at-bats. This year he left the yard 21 times while delivering 34 doubles, 17 steals and 85 runs scored. He did it all while splitting time at five different positions (2B, SS, 3B, CF and LF). Professional knucklehead Yasiel Puig led the league in driving his manager crazy (let’s get Dave Roberts an endorsement deal with Excedrin) but also set career-highs in home runs (28), RBI (74) and steals (15).
4. Washington Nationals
Last Week: 4
Stephen Strasburg enjoyed the finest season of his illustrious career in 2017, matching a career-best with 15 victories while delivering a sensational 2.52 ERA. He was especially dominant in the second half, impressing with six wins and a 0.86 ERA after the break. Washington’s road to the World Series is tough enough with the Dodgers and Cubs standing in their way. The last thing they need is an injury to Max Scherzer, who left Saturday’s start with a hamstring cramp.
5. Chicago Cubs
Last Week: 7
Anthony Rizzo is nothing if not consistent. This year he produced 32 homers and 109 RBI, which were his exact totals in 2016. In fact, it’s the third time in four years Rizzo has contributed exactly 32 home runs (he only hit 31 in 2015). This could be John Lackey’s last go-round after 15 seasons in the major leagues. He’s tied with Justin Verlander for third among active pitchers with 188 victories.
6. Arizona Diamondbacks
Last Week: 6
Marvel and DC have beat the superhero film genre into the ground but if they want some fresh blood, why not bring in J.D. Martinez? No cape necessary—all the man needs is a Louisville Slugger. Martinez was an absolute behemoth in September, tying a major league record with 16 homers in the final month. Zack Greinke’s 215 strikeouts were his most in a season since 2009, which happened to be the year he won his first and so far only Cy Young Award.
7. Boston Red Sox
Last Week: 5
For the first time in franchise history, the Red Sox have won the AL East in consecutive seasons. Chris Sale fell short of Pedro Martinez’s team strikeout record but did more than enough to earn a Game 1 start against the Astros, who he has yet to face this year. David Price has been electric out of the bullpen, delivering 8 2/3 scoreless innings over his last five relief appearances.
8. New York Yankees
Last Week: 8
Masahiro Tanaka balled out against the Blue Jays, fanning a career-high 15 hitters over seven shutout frames in Friday’s victory. Tanaka couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start this year but redeemed himself by going 6-4 with a 3.77 ERA and a 10.73 K/9 across 12 second-half appearances. It’s getting hard to keep up with all the Yankees’ shenanigans. A couple weeks ago they were all about thumbs down but now the Bronx Bombers have moved on to fake press conferences.
9. Colorado Rockies
Last Week: 9
Are you guys ready for Rocktober? Jon Gray sure is. He’ll take a five-game unbeaten streak into Wednesday’s start against the Diamondbacks. Charlie Blackmon was the cream of the National League crop this year, leading the league in hits (213), batting average (.331), triples (14) and runs scored (137). He also became the first leadoff hitter in MLB history to top 100 RBI in a season.
10. Minnesota Twins
Last Week: 10
Kyle Gibson finished the year in style, going 6-0 with a 2.92 ERA over his last eight regular season starts. Could this be the end of the road for Bartolo Colon? 2017 won’t go down as one of Colon’s better seasons, though the 44-year-old pulled one last rabbit out of his hat Sunday in a victory over Detroit (6 1/3 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 4 Ks).
11. Milwaukee Brewers
Last Week: 11
Domingo Santana, Travis Shaw and Eric Thames each slugged 30-plus homers this year. The last time the Brewers featured a trio of 30-homer players was 1982 when Cecil Cooper, Ben Ogilvie and Gorman Thomas accomplished the same feat. Aaron Wilkerson’s second big league start was a good one. He silenced the Cardinals over seven innings of one-run ball in Sunday’s season finale for his first career victory.
12. St. Louis Cardinals
Last Week: 12
The offseason couldn’t come fast enough for St. Louis. This team was running on fumes down the stretch. Doctors determined Matt Carpenter won’t need surgery on his ailing shoulder though Adam Wainwright will go under the knife Tuesday for an arthroscopic elbow procedure. Even with his team crumbling around him, Jose Martinez put together a banner last month, slashing .345/.427/.548 over 84 September at-bats while earning Rookie of the Month honors in the National League.
13. Tampa Bay Rays
Last Week: 16
Blake Snell had everything working on Sunday, compiling 13 strikeouts over seven shutout frames in a win over Baltimore. He pitched well down the stretch, going 5-1 with a 3.10 ERA over his last 11 starts. Chris Archer also helped himself to a victory, twirling five scoreless innings on Saturday to snap a six-start winless streak. Among AL starters, only Chris Sale and Corey Kluber finished with a higher K/9 than Archer (11.15) in 2017.
14. Kansas City Royals
Last Week: 13
Danny Duffy’s year ended on a sour note with a poor performance in his last start against the Tigers (4 1/3 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 3 BB) and on Tuesday he’ll undergo surgery to remove loose bodies from his left elbow. That could be the plot of a Southwest Airlines commercial. The Royals aren’t known for big spending but perhaps they’ll make an exception for impending free agent Eric Hosmer. He was tremendous this year, leading all American League first basemen in both batting average (.318) and runs scored (98).
15. Los Angeles Angels
Last Week: 14
It’s unlikely Mike Trout wins AL MVP this year, but the fact that he was even in the discussion after missing six weeks with a thumb injury is quite an accomplishment. He went deep for the 200th time in his career Friday against the Mariners. What a bizarre season for Albert Pujols. The 37-year-old finished 132nd out of 144 qualified hitters in slugging percentage (.386) but still eclipsed 100 RBI for the 14th time in his career.
16. Seattle Mariners
Last Week: 17
Nelson Cruz was sooo close to reaching 40 homers for the fourth consecutive season but finished one shy of the mark. He led the American League with a career-high 119 RBI. That would be an impressive feat for anyone, let alone a 37-year-old. Hisashi Iwakuma’s future in the M’s rotation looks cloudier than ever. Injuries limited him to six starts this year and now his 2018 outlook is up in the air after undergoing shoulder surgery.
17. Texas Rangers
Last Week: 15
I could spend days combing through the Rangers’ stats from 2017. There are so many good nuggets. Try these two on for size—Joey Gallo failed to top 100 RBI despite 41 homers (he finished with 80) while Nomar Mazara reached the century mark with the help of only 20 long balls. What a time to be alive. Pitching obviously wasn’t the Rangers’ strong suit this year, but Andrew Cashner deserves a tip of the cap for going 7-4 with a 3.27 ERA in the second half.
18. Toronto Blue Jays
Last Week: 19
Josh Donaldson’s “go big or go home” mentality served him well in 2017. He homered once every 12.6 at-bats this season, a rate that would have ranked sixth among qualified hitters. Teoscar Hernandez enjoyed every bit of September, muscling his way to eight homers and 20 RBI over 84 at-bats in the season’s final month. He did fan 33 times during that span, but we’ll save that discussion for another day.
19. Miami Marlins
Last Week: 21
Giancarlo Stanton didn’t make it to 60 home runs, but he did grace us with the hardest-hit single of the Statcast Era, which isn’t a bad consolation prize. And get a load of this—Giancarlo and Dee Gordon are the first teammates in MLB history to accrue 50 homers and 60 steals respectively. Now let’s all gather round to observe Derek Jeter and his many iPads.
20. Baltimore Orioles
Last Week: 18
Maybe the Orioles would have been better off pacing themselves. The O’s somehow finished dead-last in the AL East after leaping out to a 22-10 record to begin the year. Jonathan Schoop was a revelation for Baltimore (career-high 105 RBI), though he limped to the finish line by hitting just .230 with two homers after September 1. The Orioles were right there with him, losing five straight against Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh (not exactly a murderer’s row) to close out the season.
21. Oakland Athletics
Last Week: 20
The Athletics finished the year with a flourish, winning 10 of their last 14 to reach 75 victories. Khris Davis left no stone unturned, walloping a career-high 43 homers while also finishing third in the majors with 195 punch-outs (ironically, he tied Baltimore’s Chris Davis in that category). Only Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez doubled more frequently than Jed Lowrie in 2017.
22. Pittsburgh Pirates
Last Week: 24
2017 didn’t go as planned for the Pirates but Andrew McCutchen still went out with a bang, finishing the year on a seven-game hitting streak while taking home NL Player of the Week honors. John Jaso is ready to hang up his cleats after eight major league seasons. He plans to spend his post-playing career traveling the high seas (very pirate-like) while also helping the relief efforts in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.
23. Atlanta Braves
Last Week: 22
2017 was a mixed bag for Julio Teheran, though he did show some promise over his last nine starts (4-3, 2.79 ERA). Matt Kemp did the opposite, getting off to a brilliant start before slumping badly in the second half (.243 AVG after the All-Star break). The Braves ended the year in disappointing fashion by dropping six of their last seven against the Marlins and Mets.
24. San Diego Padres
Last Week: 23
Jhoulys Chacin was money at home this season, spinning a phenomenal 1.79 ERA across 16 starts at Petco Park. He also finished the year on a five-game unbeaten streak. Here’s something that will knock your socks off—Luis Perdomo finished second on the club with four triples this year. That’s right—four of the right-hander’s five hits this year went for three bags.
25. New York Mets
Last Week: 25
Guess what, gang? Terry Collins is out as Mets manager after seven seasons but will remain with the organization in a front office role. I’m sure that won’t be awkward or anything! Jeurys Familia finally usurped the closer role from A.J. Ramos down the stretch, converting three straight save chances to end the year. Shoulder issues and a suspension limited him to 26 appearances out of the Mets’ bullpen.
26. Cincinnati Reds
Last Week: 26
The Reds let this year get away from them but that shouldn’t dampen Joey Votto’s MVP chances. He was brilliant this year, leading MLB in walks (134), on base percentage (.454) and wins above replacement (9.6). Zack Cozart milked his contract year for all it was worth, slashing .297/.385/.548 while setting career marks in home runs (24) and runs scored (80). That should buy him plenty more donkeys.
27. Chicago White Sox
Last Week: 27
The White Sox showed some fight down the stretch, winning seven of their last 11 to overtake the Tigers for fourth in the American League Central. If Avisail Garcia wasn’t a household name before this year, he should be now. He went bonkers over the final two months, hitting an absurd .382 after August 1. Carlos Rodon’s shoulder surgery could sideline him through the early part of next season.
28. Philadelphia Phillies
Last Week: 28
Cesar Hernandez could be packing his bags this winter along with fellow infielder Freddy Galvis as the Phillies plan to shop them in hopes of improving their patchwork pitching staff. Hernandez didn’t hit for much power this year (only nine-round trippers), though he did impress with a .308 average after the All-Star break. Pete Mackanin is out as manager, lasting less than three years as the Phillies’ skipper. 2017 marked the team’s fifth straight losing season.
29. San Francisco Giants
Last Week: 30
Good going, Panda. Pablo Sandoval, who limped back to San Francisco this summer after a failed stint in Boston, propelled the Giants to victory with a walk-off home run in Sunday’s season finale. In doing so, he cost the Giants’ the No. 1 pick in next year’s draft, which now belongs to the Tigers. Matt Cain delivered a gem in his final major league start, blanking the Padres over five dominant frames in Saturday’s no-decision.
30. Detroit Tigers
Last Week: 29
Detroit tied for the league’s worst record this year, but at least the Tigers unearthed a future star in Nicholas Castellanos. The 25-year-old plated 55 runs in the second half, which ranked fifth in the majors behind Giancarlo Stanton, J.D. Martinez, Nolan Arenado and Edwin Encarnacion. Maybe you’ve heard of them. Andrew Romine did a cool thing on Saturday, playing all nine positions in one game. He’s only the fifth player to pull off that feat and the first since 2000.
Biggest Jump: Rays
Biggest Drop: Orioles, Rangers, Red Sox