Ranking the Power Rankings


Power rankings are now an entrenched part of the sports news cycle. This is a good thing for baseball, because there is simply no way to tell how successful your team is based upon the performances of other teams.

So as I perused the power rankings universe to figure out just how the Brewers doing against other teams in the league, a thought occurred to me: there is little to no oversight on how power rankings are developed. How do I know that the power ESPN gives my team is correct over the power that CBS decides to hand out? There must be a way to figure this out.

The answer, it turns out, was right there on my monitor: POWER RANKINGS.

Since it is already obvious that ranking teams based on success and failure over an arbitary period of time is the best assessment of a team’s place in the league, it should stand to reason that the same logic can be applied to those giving out the rankings. By using a secret formula and looking closely at each ranker’s rankings, I believe we have provided you with the best information possible on where to get your power rankings from.

1. TeamRankings.com

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Team Rankings has Milwaukee as one of the worst teams in the league bar none, and that did cost them some points because I assumed they just hated the Brewers. But upon closer inspection the team at TR has created a scientific masterpiece. They not only have overall rankings, but home vs. away rankings, strength of schedule rankings, and predictive rankings. And not a single team is ranked with a whole number, so you know it’s very science-y and accurate.

2. Sports Illustrated

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SI is desperately trying to grab a hold on the Sabermetric market, and their power rankings reflect that change in thinking perfectly. From their power rankings website:

"The system used to rank the teams is based not on the current standings or a gut feeling about team quality, but on how well they’ve performed at the underlying traits that predict future performance better than wins and losses.Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2012/baseball/mlb/05/21/power.rankings.week.6/index.html#ixzz1vieBSKS7"

This is an important shift in power ranking theory. They aren’t using arbitrary numbers here, people: they’re using arbitrary stats in a secret way. This explains why the St. Louis Cardinals (4-6 over the last 10 games) are better than the Dodgers right now (8-2 in the last 10 games) – because the Cardinals aren’t winning one-run games like LA. One run games aren’t predictive of whether or not a team is actually winning, because all one-run games are too close to take anything away from. It’s better to lose those in the long-run and focus on blowing out teams with more accurately predictive statistics. SI does get major points for putting Milwaukee in the 19th spot, ahead of the Reds, Cubs and Pirates.


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CBS Sports does a lot of things right: they have one guy doing the rankings, so you get a real sense of absolute power from the rankings. They also talk about “formulas” a lot, which makes me feel safe in the knowledge that their rankings were verified by at least one calculator. The use of puns and metaphors also helped them capture the third spot, along with a vehement denial of market bias. Unfortunately, they lost marks in my book by ranking Milwaukee 25th, talking about trading Zack Greinke, and the fact that he didn’t quip at all about the Padres, Phillies or Mets which makes me unsure if he has enough time before deadlines. For shame, CBS, the power rankings are a tedious scientific process that require time and patience.


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Fox Sports and ESPN were neck-and-neck up to this point in the season, but ESPN gets the edge for two reasons – the colors on their up/down arrows are easier to see at-a-glance, and they sometimes rely on other, lesser known sports blogs for the team notes. If they were to ask someone else to help with the Brewers notes, they might get ahead a spot or two. Just sayin’.


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What will it take for Fox to usurp the World Wide Leader? Two words: BIGGER LOGOS. The layout of the power rankings forces me to read rather than just recognize colors and letters. The writing is punchy, and the “Biggest Movers” section is delightful, but I need snap judgements. Ranking Milwaukee 25th didn’t help either.


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Rounding out the group in this edition of Power Ranking Power Rankings is MLB.com. Why? Well it’s actually pretty simple:

  1. They only go to the top 15 teams. How can you find the biggest ranking swing if you only have half the league?
  2. The experts’ rankings are worth THREE times as much as fan rankings. As a fan, I’m pretty positive I know baseball better than the experts at MLB.com, that’s why I’m allowed to comment on the internet. The admission by MLB.com that I know less than I think I do is a slap in the face. Period.

They need to get their act together quick if they expect to climb to the top of our leaderboard.

All in all, using a secret formula derived by math I can do without making my head hurt, the Milwaukee Brewers have recieved a composite power ranking of 20.333. Despite a few red arrows and a place in the bottom third of the league standings, these power rankings show that Milwaukee might not be in as bad a position as originally thought. You can take stock in Power Rankings if you’d like, but I think making the playoffs is far more predictive of success than anything else. And I still expect Milwaukee to be there.