Four series. Four sweeps in the wild-card round.
After a long, grueling 162-game calendar filled with tensions, stress, injuries, slumps, trades and unexpected obstacles, the season ended in the blink of an eye for the Toronto Blue Jays, Tampa Bay Rays, Milwaukee Brewers and Miami Marlins.
The eight teams still left standing will vie for the right to be called World Series champions. And we’re ranking them using our adjusted team ratings and raw value rankings.
Adjusted team ratings normalize a team’s performance (for any sport) from league environmental factors that can either inflate or deflate its numbers. That’s done with a model that uses advanced data and other factors to calculate how many runs per nine innings better or worse teams are compared to the league-average club during that season.
From this, we’re able to create an overall adjusted team rating, as well as an adjusted offensive rating and adjusted defensive rating.
Raw value, on the other hand, evaluates performance on a per-pitch basis, including elements such as quality and quantity of contact, plate discipline, and more.
To help us examine performance relative to the league average, we use RV+ for hitters (or offensive team performance) and RV- for hurlers. In both cases, 100 is considered league-average play and higher is better for batters. Lower is better for pitchers.
1. Los Angeles Dodgers
- Record/Seed: 100-62/No. 2 in National League
- Adjusted Team Rating: 1.40/1st
- Overall Raw Value: 122.53/2nd
Yes, the Braves were the best team in the regular season with a 104-58 record. However, our adjusted team rankings love what the Dodgers have done.
LA is first in both offense and defense. The defensive rating basically encapsulates run against and considers both pitching (starters and bullpen) and defense.
It’s important to note, however, that Atlanta leads the pack when it comes to raw value: it has the best overall mark among MLB teams (133.63) and also the best offensive RV+ (127).
The Dodgers weren’t too far from the Braves in the standings with their 100-62 record, though. They won’t have Julio Urias, but Clayton Kershaw is ready to headline the rotation and had a 2.46 ERA in 131.2 innings. Bobby Miller, Lance Lynn and Ryan Pepiot complete a talented staff.
Hitting-wise, the Dodgers had the second-highest team RV+ (120) and have two superstars leading a prolific lineup: Mookie Betts (170 RV+, third in the league) and Freddie Freeman (166 RV+, fourth in MLB).
There is a good foundation in place to fight for the World Series trophy and the Dodgers went 8-5 against their next opponent – the Arizona Diamondbacks – during the regular season.
2. Atlanta Braves
- Record/Seed: 104-58/No. 1 in NL
- Adjusted Team Rating: 1.29/2nd
- Overall Raw Value: 132.14/1st
The best team of the regular season finds itself second in our adjusted team ratings but first in overall raw value. The Braves were first in adjusted offensive rating and 20th in defensive rating.
Make no mistake: this is a historically great collection of hitters. They tied the record for most home runs by a team in a single season (307) on Sunday, courtesy of Marcell Ozuna. With Ozuna reaching 40 homers, Atlanta has three hitters in its lineup with as many long balls: Matt Olson (54) and Ronald Acuna Jr. (41) are the others.
As a result, the Braves were first in MLB in total raw value and offensive RV+. Pitching-wise, the stat has them seventh in baseball at 94 RV-.
Spencer Strider led the league with a brilliant RV- of minus-56 and is the league’s best strikeout artist even if his 3.86 ERA is not particularly good. Max Fried should be healthy for the NLDS, and even though Charlie Morton might not be ready, there are enough arms to support the incredible offense.
The Braves, who went 8-5 against the Philadelphia Phillies during the regular season, will be wanting revenge after falling to them in last year’s playoffs.
3. Texas Rangers
- Record/Seed: 90-72/No. 5 in AL
- Adjusted Team Rating: 1.00/4th
- Overall Raw Value: 117.47/4th
Even without Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, the Rangers made the playoffs for the first time since 2016 and cruised past the Rays at Tropicana Field. Adjusted team ratings are fond of them, too: Texas ranks fourth in MLB, with the third-best offense but 17th in defense/pitching.
At 114 RV+, the Rangers were the third-best squad in baseball and the best in the AL, confirming their offensive supremacy. Of course, when you have a player like Corey Seager (42 2B, 33 HR, .330 AVG) dominating the league with his 179 RV+, you have a nice foundation. Seager went 4 for 8 with three doubles against the Rays.
Jordan Montgomery (2.79 ERA in Texas) and Nate Eovaldi were sharp in the wild-card series, but make no mistake: the offense will carry them. Besides Seager, they have a plethora of productive hitters in Marcus Semien, Evan Carter (3 for 4 with a home run and two doubles vs. Tampa), Jonah Heim, Nathaniel Lowe, Ezequiel Duran, Mitch Garver, Leody Taveras and Josh Jung (10 for 23 in 2023 vs. BAL).
And don’t forget about Adolis Garcia, who homered in the wild-card round.
4. Baltimore Orioles
- Record/Seed: 101-61/1st in AL
- Adjusted Team Rating: 0.90/6th
- Overall Raw Value: 105.10/11th
It’s shocking to see such a bad team two years ago (they lost 110 games in 2021) making the playoffs with the best record in the AL, but here we are.
Our adjusted team ratings confirm Baltimore’s place in the elite. The Orioles finished sixth overall (eighth on offense and fourth on defense). Raw value, however, tells the story of a mediocre team, with an 11th-place finish overall (eighth on offense and 18th on pitching). They actually finished behind the Rays (eighth) and New York Yankees (10th) in overall raw value.
The Orioles, however, have proven they are a truly competitive, deep roster, capable of taking down even the best teams in baseball. Catcher Adley Rutschman had the ninth-best RV+ in MLB at 146, Anthony Santander and Gunnar Henderson both hit 28 home runs, and Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodríguez broke out on the pitching side of things.
Together with their dominant bullpen (fourth-best reliever RV- of 85), the AL East champs can dream big. They split the six meetings with the Rangers during the regular season, though Austin Hayes went 7 for 18 with a home run, triple and two doubles in the matchups.
5. Houston Astros
- Record/Seed: 90-72/2nd in AL
- Adjusted Team Rating: 0.75/8th
- Overall Raw Value: 111.11/9th
It’s a bit surprising to see Houston ranked eighth in our adjusted team ratings. However, despite looking bad at times, the Astros are still the reigning World Series champion with the same offensive core they had last year.
They went from almost missing the playoffs in the last week to potential being an AL wild-card team to winning the AL West after a series of results over the weekend. Now that they are in, they are as dangerous as ever heading into the division series against the Minnesota Twins.
Per our rankings, the Astros finished with the sixth-best adjusted offensive rating in MLB and the seventh-best defensive rating. Their offensive RV+ of 109 was good enough for fifth, and their pitchers were 14th with a 98 RV-.
In Justin Verlander (3.31 ERA in 68 IP with the Astros) and Framber Valdez (3.45 ERA in 198 IP), the Astros are set for Game 1 and Game 2 of the ALDS. There are questions about the rest of the rotation, though, as Cristian Javier wasn’t as solid as usual (4.56 ERA) and Hunter Brown had a disappointing 5.12 ERA.
Still, they have a really solid closer in Ryan Pressly and a boatload of impact bats: Yordan Alvarez, Jose Altuve, Kyle Tucker, Chas McCormick, Alex Bregman and Yainer Diaz all surpassed a .800 OPS. It should make for a fun matchup between Houston’s lineup and Minnesota’s pitching. The Twins took four of the six regular-season meetings.
6. Minnesota Twins
- Record/Seed: 87-75/No. 3 in AL
- Adjusted Team Rating: 0.75/9th
- Overall Raw Value: 116.87/5th
The Twins really didn’t have too much competition in the AL Central, finishing with the worst record of any division winner in baseball. But they relied on an impressive rotation (league-leading 82 RV- by starters) to return to the postseason and advance to the AL Division Series against the aforementioned Astros.
Pablo Lopez (69 RV-, third-best in MLB), Sonny Gray (88 RV-), Joe Ryan, Bailey Ober and Kenta Maeda are all capable of racking up the Ks, and Jhoan Duran and other talented relievers do it from the bullpen.
Our adjusted team ratings say that the Twins were the ninth best team in baseball, with the 10th-ranked offense and a sixth-ranked defense/pitching. Raw value believes the pitching is even better than that.
It’s clear that the Twins can pitch. Can they hit, though?
Carlos Correa, who went 3 for 7 with an RBI in the wild-card series, will try to take down his old team. And If Royce Lewis (.921 OPS and 15 HR in 58 games) have another big series after hitting two homers in Game 1 against the Blue Jays, they have a chance. He went 3 for 9 with a home run against the Astros during the regular season.
7. Philadelphia Phillies
- Record/Seed: 90-72/No. 4 in NL
- Adjusted Team Rating: 0.56/12th
- Overall Raw Value: 112.43/7th
The Phillies had the 12th-best adjusted team rating: they were seventh on offense and a rather disappointing (considering the talent available) 11th in defensive ratings.
Traditional numbers say the Phils’ pitching staff is closer to good than great, as it finished with a 4.04 ERA in the regular season (12th in MLB). RV-, however, has them as the best in business with an RV- of 86. They showed that by outscoring the Marlins 11-2 in the wild-card series.
Zack Wheeler (62 RV-) and Aaron Nola (83 RV-) were impressive in their first two playoff starts, though Philadelphia has yet to name a starter for Game 1 against the Braves. It could be the surprising Cristopher Sanchez (3.44 ERA).
Offensively, RV+ says they were in the middle of the pack (17th, 99 RV+), but the offense does have several potential difference-makers. Bryce Harper (21 HR, .900 OPS in 126 games) is the most prominent of them, but Kyle Schwarber (47 HR), Nick Castellanos (29 HR, 106 RBI), Alec Bohm (95 RBI) Trea Turner, and J.T. Realmuto can also change any game with one swing.
Last year taught us all not to sleep on the Phillies, who upset the St. Louis Cardinals in a wild-card series, Braves in the division series and San Diego Padres in the NLCS.
8. Arizona Diamondbacks
- Record/Seed: 84-78/No. 6 in NL
- Adjusted Team Rating: -0.07/16th
- Overall Raw Value: 89.93/22nd
Our models have been down on the D-backs all season and they ended up performing as a below league-average team in both adjusted team rating and overall raw value. However, Arizona, which outfought the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds for a playoff spot, has reasons to be hopeful after knocking off the NL Central champion Brewers on the road.
Corbin Carroll had an incredible regular season even if raw value is not his best friend: He hit 30 doubles, 25 homers and stole 54 bases. The favorite for NL Rookie of the Year then went 4 for 7 with a home run and double in the wild-card round. Christian Walker (33 HR, 103 RBI) was an impressive run producer who went 3 for 8 with a double against Milwaukee.
But Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly, Arizona’s top two pitchers, went a combined 0-4 with a 5.93 ERA in six starts against the Dodgers during the regular season. And Brandon Pfaadt, who started Game 1 in Milwaukee, was 0-2 with a 9.35 ERA in his two starts versus Los Angeles.