Each year, at the start of the season, we attempt to rank the top lineups in MLB based entirely on conjecture and projection. It is a fun but ultimately fruitless endeavor, because none of the games have been played and predicting baseball is impossible.
Now that the season is ending, we have a full season's worth of stats to help us rank the lineups of the remaining contenders … and it is STILL a fun and fruitless exercise, because predicting what happens in the postseason is even MORE impossible!
Regardless, here's how we line up the offenses of the October teams. (For pitching staffs, click here.)
(All stats are through Wednesday's games.)
MLB ranks: first in runs (847), wRC+ (119), wOBA (.337) and OPS (.775)
Bottom line: Freeman (157 wRC+) and Betts (144) are both in the NL MVP conversation, and Trea Turner (128), Smith (127) and Justin Turner (123) join them in having wRC+ marks at least 20% better than league average. But beyond the obvious star power, what makes the L.A. lineup special is that it doesn't beat itself (it ranks 11th in MLB in K rate and has hit into the second-fewest double plays), it runs the bases well (third in FanGraphs' Baserunning score) and it seizes opportunities (highest average with runners in scoring position).
2. Blue Jays
MLB ranks: second in wRC+ (118) and wOBA (.331), third in OPS (.760) and fourth in runs (775)
Bottom line: Though it leans heavily to the right-hand side, can be streaky and can struggle at times to cash in on opportunities (none of the postseason teams has grounded into as many double plays as the Jays), this lineup is absolutely terrifying when it is going right. Seven regulars have been above-average, and Springer (132 wRC+), Guerrero (132), Hernández (129), Kirk (129) and Bichette (129) have been significantly better than average.
MLB ranks: Second in OPS (.761), third in wOBA (.330) and runs (789), seventh in wRC+ (111)
Bottom line: Atlanta has posted the best slugging percentage in MLB despite Olson's overall production not quite being what it was in Oakland last year and Acuña not having all that dynamic a season in his return from major right knee surgery. The Braves have needed big power from Riley and Harris, because, as a team, their walk rate has declined this season, ranking 19th in MLB. Last year's club advanced with huge hits from unheralded sources, but nothing would ignite the Braves quite like Acuña getting hot at the right time.
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MLB ranks: Fifth in wRC+ (114), OPS (.745) and wOBA (.326), tied for fifth in runs (772)
Bottom line: St. Louis' offensive success this season is largely attributable to turn-back-the-clock seasons from Goldschmidt and Pujols, along with Arenado returning to MVP-caliber output. But the Cards have also been lifted by the previously unproven likes of Donovan and Nootbaar, who continued a tradition of this club getting impact in-house. The Cards rank among the top seven in MLB in both on-base and slugging percentage.
MLB ranks: Second in runs (807), fourth in wRC+ (115), wOBA (.327) and OPS (.751)
Bottom line: This lineup is obviously dangerous. But it is also very Judge-centric, which is why we have it fifth instead of, say, second. As of this writing, Judge alone accounts for 21.7% of the Yankees' runs created. If teams can do a good job of pitching around or otherwise neutralizing Judge, that limits the Yanks in a big way. The good news is that this team is healthier now than it was for much of the second half, though they could sure use a hot stretch from Stanton.
MLB ranks: Third in wRC+ (116), tied for fifth in runs (772), sixth in wOBA (.326) and OPS (.744)
Bottom line: Though Alonso's 40-homer season is at the heart of it all, the Mets predominantly score their runs by getting on base by any means necessary (even if it means setting a modern record for hit by pitches). Only the Dodgers have a higher OBP than the Mets' .332 mark. From a power perspective, the Mets are more of a middling team, with an isolated power mark that is tied for 15th in MLB, and that affects their ranking here.
MLB ranks: Sixth in wRC+ (112), seventh in wOBA (.324) and OPS (.743), eighth in runs (737)
Bottom line: The departure of Carlos Correa and a season-ending injury to Michael Brantley make for a Houston lineup that is not quite as deep as the one that soared to another AL pennant last year. But this is still a tremendous high-power (fifth in SLG), low-strikeout (second in K rate) group. Altuve (164 wRC+) and Bregman (136) have both had fantastic offensive seasons, and Alvarez (185) has had a monster year, even amid injury issues.
MLB ranks: Seventh in runs (747), eighth in wOBA (.322) and OPS (.739), 10th in wRC+ (106)
Bottom line: Harper has not been his dynamic offensive self since returning from a fractured left thumb that cost him two months, and Castellanos has had a puzzling first year in Philly. Nevertheless, the Phillies have been one of the more potent offensive forces in MLB, thanks to Schwarber, Realmuto and Hoskins all posting at least 20 homers and 20 doubles. The postseason performances of Harper and Castellanos should be the X-factors.
MLB ranks: Tied for eighth in wRC+ (107), 14th in wOBA (.311) and OPS (.705), 18th in runs (690)
Bottom line: Rodriguez's otherwise electric rookie campaign has been compromised by wrist and, more recently, back issues. Suárez dealt with a late-season fracture in his right index finger. The M's have other guys capable of stepping up (Raleigh hit the biggest homer of the season in the playoff clincher), but a Seattle squad that generally rates as a middling offensive team likely needs its two key cogs healthy and productive in order to advance.
MLB ranks: Tied for 12th in wRC+ (102), 13th in runs (705), 15th in wOBA (.308) and OPS (.700)
Bottom line: San Diego's earth-shaking Trade Deadline seemed as if it would launch the lineup to another level. Instead, the overall numbers are no better — 4.4 runs per game prior to the arrivals of Soto, Drury and Bell; 4.2 since. Thanks to Machado and Soto, the Padres draw their walks and get on base, but the power has been in short supply.
MLB ranks: Tied for 15th in runs (698), 16th in OPS (.699), tied for 16th in wRC+ (99), 18th in wOBA (.306)
Bottom line: There is a lot to like about the Guardians' brand of baseball geared around high-contact (first in MLB in contact rate) and smart and aggressive baserunning (fifth in FanGraphs' BsR rating). The contact-oriented approach could play up in the postseason, as it did for the 2014-15 Royals. But in the past four postseasons, 86.2% of games have gone to the team that outhomers the other (compared to 77.5% in the regular season). So it's hard to rate a Cleveland team with the second-lowest homer total in MLB high here.
MLB ranks: Tied for 14th in wRC+ (101), 21st in runs (666), 23rd in wOBA (.302), 25th in OPS (.686)
Bottom line: This lineup is not exactly oozing with star power. Or power, in general. The Rays rank 25th in MLB – and last among the playoff teams — in SLG, with a .377 mark. Limited by injury, Franco did not have the dynamic sophomore year so many expected, and a back issue cost the Rays one of their more consistent offensive weapons in recent years in Brandon Lowe. But we've seen the Rays prove pesky in the postseason before.
playoff teams best lineups – MLB.com