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MLB Influence - June 2012

Last year I rolled out an MLB Influence infographic every month, in place of projected standings. This year, I'm more or less doing the same thing, with an added piece of data.

FanGraphs and Sports Illustrated have teamed up for MLB power rankings this season. The rankings are based on team WAR totals. I've now added this to the Cool Standings data, and search traffic data from Google Insights. I've also tried to make the graphic a little more interactive by sharing it on Google Docs. The result? It's below:

If you'd like to see the data in a more legible table, click here. The playoff odds and popularity ratings are both on a 100-point scale (the most popular team automatically gets a 100-point rating). All data were retrieved June 25.

We would hope that teams which have accumulated more WAR would have a better chance at making the playoffs, and the trend on the graph clearly supports that.

In April, I said to watch the Tigers. They were an outlier, and the question was whether they would round into form or not. They haven't really. The surprising White Sox run continues. They appear to be for real.

The Mets, Royals, and Braves all stuck out as teams with bad luck in April. They seemed to be more talented than their playoff odds suggested. Kansas City sunk down to where their playoff odds suggested. Atlanta is actually on the lucky end now (higher playoff odds than comparable WAR totals), but I wonder how much longer that will last with Brandon Beachy out. The Mets, thanks to the shockingly good R.A. Dickey and friends, are hanging tough. They have similar talent and playoff odds to the Tigers and Rays.

The Rangers are the best team in baseball, and it's not even close. The Twins are the worst team in baseball, and it's not even close. Two clumps of teams seem to be forming as well, the contenders and pretenders. Take a guess as to which group the M's are in. The teams that haven't decided where they are as of yet are the Brewers, Blue Jays, and Pirates, and Phillies.

I'd say watch the state of Pennsylvania over the next month. Based on WAR, the Phillies are clearly better than the Pirates. However, the Pirates have much better playoff odds than the Phillies. The sports fan in me says that Philadelphia has too many veterans to roll over and die. I think they will claw back into contention one way or another. Meanwhile, if/when the Cardinals play up to their talent and/or Pittsburgh goes through an intense midseason swoon, the Pirates will fall out of contention.

Lastly, the Nationals are totally for real. Do they have the guts to shut down Stephen Strasburg when they say they will?