Ranking Every MLB Offense at 2021 Season's Quarter Mark

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterMay 19, 2021

Ranking Every MLB Offense at 2021 Season's Quarter Mark

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    If one thing is clear at the quarter mark of the 2021 Major League Baseball season, it's that offense is at a premium as hitters are working on an all-time-low .236 batting average.

    There is, however, still a clear hierarchy for the best and worst offenses in the league right now.

    We've ranked every offense in MLB from No. 30 down to No. 1. Since pitchers are (unfortunately) back to hitting for themselves in games at National League parks, we made things fair by considering only what teams are getting out of their actual hitters so far this season.

    Otherwise, this was simply a matter of weighing what teams are and aren't doing well offensively. The more balanced an offense is, the higher it placed in our rankings.

    We'll go five at a time for No. 30 to No. 6, and then one at a time for the top five. All statistics are current through play on Monday, May 17.

30-26: Tigers, Pirates, Rockies, Cleveland, Orioles

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    Miguel Cabrera
    Miguel CabreraAssociated Press

    30. Detroit Tigers

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 39 HR, 22 SB, .221 AVG, .289 OBP, .357 SLG, 81 wRC+

    To the extent that their guys rank second in MLB at generating batted balls in the sweet spot—i.e., with a launch angle between eight and 32 degrees—the Tigers offense has at least one redeeming feature.

    But then there's, you know, the fact that this same Tigers offense is trending toward an all-time record with a collective 29.0 strikeout percentage. They're also last in the American League for isolated power, so ultimately their offense is about as ugly as the surface-level numbers say.


    29. Pittsburgh Pirates

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 26 HR, 16 SB .232 AVG, .309 OBP, .356 SLG, 87 wRC+

    The Pirates offense isn't without its bright spots. Bryan Reynolds has an MLB-high 15 doubles to go with a .396 OBP, and Adam Frazier and Jacob Stallings are likewise having solid seasons.

    But that's pretty much where the good news ends. Collectively, the Pirates have had a devil of a time hitting fastballs. It's also never a good thing to rank 30th in the league in home runs, but that's an especially bad thing at a time when going deep is every team's best hope of scoring.


    28. Colorado Rockies

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 41 HR, 26 SB, .253 AVG, .319 OBP, .412 SLG, 86 wRC+

    At home, the Rockies are just fine on offense. Better than fine, even; their .786 OPS at Coors Field ranks as the fifth-best mark of any team at its home stadium.

    But in case you don't know where this is headed, well, here it is: With just a .593 OPS on the road, the Rockies are trending toward their worst ever offensive performance away from Coors Field. Not so coincidentally, they're hitting just .158 against breaking balls on the road.


    27. Cleveland

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 49 HR, 18 SB, .211 AVG, .284 OBP, .385 SLG, 84 wRC+

    Cleveland is getting excellent stuff out of resident sluggers Jose Ramirez and Franmil Reyes, who have combined for a 139 wRC+ and 21 home runs.

    Still, one excellent duo does not a functioning offense make. In spite of Ramirez's and Reyes' work, Cleveland nonetheless ranks 29th in batting average and dead-last in on-base percentage. Barring a turnaround, the club is on track for one of its worst ever offensive seasons.


    26. Baltimore Orioles

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 39 HR, 12 SB, .232 AVG, .295 OBP, .377 SLG, 89 wRC+

    When a left-hander is on the mound, the Orioles offense is actually solid. Because while their .736 OPS against southpaws might not look like much, it actually places them squarely in the top half of MLB for that particular category.

    Naturally, right-handers are a different story. Despite Cedric Mullins' best efforts from the leadoff spot, the O's have an MLB-low-tying .638 OPS against righties. And they generally just need more from a handful of hitters, up to and especially including rookie slugger Ryan Mountcastle.

25-21: Brewers, Mariners, Royals, Marlins, Mets

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    Francisco Lindor
    Francisco LindorAssociated Press

    25. Milwaukee Brewers

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 43 HR, 17 SB, .222 AVG, .311 OBP, .369 SLG, 89 wRC+

    It was only two years ago that the Brewers got a combined 163 wRC+ and 63 home runs out of Christian Yelich and Keston Hiura. But in 2021, the former has been limited to 10 games and zero home runs by a bad back, and the latter is now at Triple-A following a strikeout-laden slump.

    Thus does Milwaukee's lineup lack even one lynchpin hitter. Furthermore, its issues also include MLB-worst numbers against breaking balls and a league-low .193 average with runners in scoring position.


    24. Seattle Mariners

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 50 HR, 18 SB, .204 AVG, .285 OBP, .370 SLG, 89 wRC+

    If nothing else, the Mariners have the home run ball figured out in 2021. They're one of 12 teams with as many as 50 home runs from their hitters, and it's certainly a related story that the Oakland Athletics are the only other team that's generating fly balls on more than 40 percent of its batted balls.

    All the Mariners need now is to start getting other hits to fall. Though there's almost certainly some bad luck involved, the club's .246 batting average on balls in play ranks ahead of only Cleveland's .245 mark.


    23. Kansas City Royals

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 37 HR, 31 SB, .235 AVG, .306 OBP, .379 SLG, 91 wRC+

    True to their customary form, the Royals are putting a lot of balls in play and tearing up the basepaths in 2021. Among AL clubs, they boast the second-lowest strikeout rate, and they're tied with the Texas Rangers for the most stolen bases.

    But apart from Salvador Perez and Carlos Santana—who have 17 home runs between them—the Royals have had a hard time getting power out of their regulars. Nobody needs to get going more than Jorge Soler, who's gone deep only 11 times since he set a club record with 48 blasts in 2019.


    22. Miami Marlins

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 37 HR, 23 SB, .239 AVG, .307 OBP, .384 SLG, 95 wRC+

    There are some exciting individual pieces in Miami's everyday lineup. Jazz Chisholm Jr., for example, is teasing a future as an elite power-speed threat. Then there's Jesus Aguilar and Adam Duvall, who have provided the bulk of the team's power with 17 combined home runs.

    Yet power is also where the Marlins are struggling to keep up. And because they have an MLB-high 11 players with at least 50 plate appearances and no more than two home runs, the blame for that is widespread.


    21. New York Mets

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 27 HR, 11 SB, .237 AVG, .328 OBP, .358 SLG, 98 wRC+

    Approach-wise, the Mets offense is off to an excellent start. They have the third-best walk-to-strikeout ratio in the majors, and they're hitting a solid .289 on balls in play.

    The power, though, just hasn't been there. The Mets' .121 ISO is the lowest in the league, and that mark is further underscored by the fact that only the Pirates have fewer hard-hit (i.e., with an exit velocity of at least 95 mph) line drives and fly balls. It's time to start putting a charge into the ball, guys.

20-16: Rays, Phillies, Atlanta, Rangers, Cardinals

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    Ronald Acuna Jr.
    Ronald Acuna Jr.John Bazemore/Associated Press

    20. Tampa Bay Rays

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 44 HR, 21 SB, .226 AVG, .307 OBP, .381 SLG, 99 wRC+

    Even though they led the AL with 40 wins in the regular season and eventually made it to the World Series, the Rays had a fatal flaw on offense in 2020: Only the Tigers struck out more frequently than they did.

    New year, same story as the Rays once again trail only Detroit with a 27.5 strikeout percentage. So thank goodness that they're slugging a sturdy .551 when they do make contact. That's obviously a niche market, yet it's nonetheless where the Rays have even the Houston Astros beat.


    19. Philadelphia Phillies

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 44 HR, 25 SB, .246 AVG, .321 OBP, .400 SLG, 99 wRC+

    The Phillies are getting a combined 157 wRC+ out of superstars Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto, as well as above-average production from Rhys Hoskins, Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen. To these extents, their offense is mostly functioning as intended.

    Yet the Phillies simply aren't getting enough from the left side of their infield, where Didi Gregorius and Alec Bohm have flat-out stunk to the tune of a 65 wRC+. Getting them going is a major priority for the club moving forward.


    18. Texas Rangers

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 53 HR, 31 SB, .242 AVG, .312 OBP, .396 SLG, 100 wRC+

    Because theirs is the only one with as many as 50 home runs and 30 stolen bases, the Rangers have showcased one of baseball's more exciting offenses. Nobody has been more fun to watch than Adolis Garcia, who leads the majors with 11 home runs since April 15.

    Alas, only the Tigers have a worse ratio of walks to strikeouts than these Rangers. That gets at how their regulars have some rough edges, particularly when it comes to producing against off-speed offerings.


    19. Atlanta

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 57 HR, 11 SB, .228 AVG, .315 OBP, .417 SLG, 98 wRC+

    In Ronald Acuna Jr. (12) and Freddie Freeman (11), Atlanta has the National League's two most prolific home run hitters. Yet the club's league-leading 58 long balls have also been a group effort. Overall, Atlanta has MLB's highest in-zone swing rate and the NL's top rate for barrels per batted ball.

    All Atlanta needs now is for some non-homer hits to fall. Its .262 BABIP is the third-lowest in MLB, and that number exists in part by way of a .204 batting average on ground balls. Fortunately for them, some good luck seems to be in order there.


    16. St. Louis Cardinals

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 52 HR, 18 SB, .239 AVG, .314 OBP, .413 SLG, 101 wRC+

    Good news, Cardinals fans. Your team already has more home runs through 41 games this season than it did in all 58 of the games it played in 2020. That comes down to contact improvements across the board, including for exit velocity and hard-hit rate.

    The less good news is that the Cards are hitting just .274 on balls in play. That points to the double-edged sword that is their NL-best rate of contact outside the strike zone: It's good that they're not whiffing when they go fishing, but it doesn't count for much when it results in just a .157 average.

15-11: Diamondbacks, Yankees, Nationals, Angels, Athletics

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    Shohei Ohtani
    Shohei OhtaniJae C. Hong/Associated Press

    15. Arizona Diamondbacks

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 47 HR, 13 SB, .243 AVG, .324 OBP, .413 SLG, 102 wRC+

    As he's been on the injured list with a hamstring strain since April 8, the Diamondbacks have had to do without star Ketel Marte for all but six of their games. More recently, Carson Kelly (toe) and Asdrubal Cabrera (hamstring) have also had to go on the IL.

    Yet two things are sustaining the Snakes offense. For one, only two teams have a lower strikeout rate. For two, they actually lead the NL in extra-base hits. So if they can get to a point where the worst of their injury issues are behind them, watch out for them as a potential Cinderella team.


    14. New York Yankees

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 56 HR, 7 SB, .225 AVG, .317 OBP, .384 SLG, 100 wRC+

    The Yankees hit 55 more home runs than any other team between 2017 and 2020, so it's not exactly a surprise to see them tied atop the American League in that category thus far in 2021.

    But even more so than in any of the four previous seasons, the Yankees offense just feel so darn one-dimensional this year. Per their .266 BABIP, they're specifically having issues generating hits on balls in play. Their league-worst .233 average against the shift would seem to be a big factor there.


    13. Washington Nationals

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 39 HR, 16 SB, .258 AVG, .327 OBP, .408 SLG, 101 wRC+

    The Nationals are still waiting on Juan Soto to resemble the guy who staked a claim as one of the greatest young hitters in history between 2018 and 2020. No thanks to a left shoulder injury that sidelined him for a bit, he only has a 110 wRC+ through 27 games.

    Yet the rest of Washington's offense has been surprisingly efficient, specifically to the extent that it's turning swings into hits at a higher rate than any other NL club. Nobody deserves attention more than Trea Turner, who's up to a 157 wRC+ with 10 homers and seven steals already.


    12. Los Angeles Angels

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 50 HR, 17 SB, .251 AVG, .312 OBP, .412 SLG, 104 wRC+

    The Angels are going to be without Mike Trout (calf) for as long as two months, but what he, Shohei Ohtani and Jared Walsh have done as a trio still counts. Ohtani leads MLB with 13 home runs—the most recent of which came off a pitch at eye level—and collectively they boast a 175 wRC+ and 28 home runs.

    It's too bad that fellow star Anthony Rendon has struggled to keep up. The Angels have also suffered from a less-than-selective approach that's netted them an MLB-low 7.0 walk percentage. Even relative to his usual standards, it's baffling that Jose Iglesias has only two free passes in 140 plate appearances.


    11. Oakland Athletics

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 53 HR, 22 SB, .224 AVG, .308 OBP, .395 SLG, 104 wRC+

    The A's might not be the best home run-hitting team in baseball, but they could be the most democratic homer-hitting squad. They're tied with the Mariners for the league's highest fly-ball percentage, and only they and the Yankees have eight players with as many as four homers.

    But much like the Yankees, the A's are having issues generating non-homer hits. Their .267 BABIP barely ranks ahead of New York, which largely comes down to how their .176 batting average on ground balls is the lowest such mark of the 14-year pitch tracking era.

10-6: Blue Jays, Twins, Cubs, Padres, Giants

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    Buster Posey
    Buster PoseyMarta Lavandier/Associated Press

    10. Toronto Blue Jays

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 56 HR, 24 SB, .247 AVG, .314 OBP, .418 SLG, 103 wRC+

    Because of injuries, the Blue Jays have had George Springer for only four games this season. They're also enduring down years from Cavan Biggio, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Rowdy Tellez, who have gone from a combined 130 wRC+ in 2020 down to just a 62 wRC+ this season.

    Yet the Jays are still tied for the AL lead in home runs and likewise have the fourth-most runs of any Junior Circuit squad. Bo Bichette, Teoscar Hernandez, Marcus Semien and Randal Grichuk deserve their share of credit, but it's Vladimir Guerrero Jr. who's led the way with a .319/.440/.609 line and 11 long balls.


    9. Minnesota Twins

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 52 HR, 16 SB, .246 AVG, .315 OBP, .424 SLG, 106 wRC+

    Don't blame the Twins offense for the club's ugly 13-26 start. It could stand to have a more refined approach than the one that's paced it to a modest 0.35 walk-to-strikeout ratio, but its 43.4 hard-hit percentage is the best in the majors.

    If there's a long-term concern here, it regards how much the Twins will get out of hitters not named Byron Buxton, Nelson Cruz or Josh Donaldson. Whereas those three boast a combined 161 wRC+ and 23 home runs, none of Minnesota's other regulars have really stood out.


    8. Chicago Cubs

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 48 HR, 27 SB, .241 AVG, .326 OBP, .418 SLG, 105 wRC+

    The Cubs lived through an offensive nightmare earlier in the year, hitting just .203/.298/.375 as a team through April 28. In particular, they had a hard time hitting four-seam fastballs, with a league-worst .175 average against them.

    The Cubs have fixed that problem to the tune of a .301 average against four-seamers since April 29. They have a 120 wRC+ since then, and it's made a difference, as they've won 10 of 16 games. Keep an especially close eye on Kris Bryant, who's been reborn with a 172 wRC+ and 10 home runs.


    7. San Diego Padres

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 40 HR, 43 SB, .249 AVG, .340 OBP, .388 SLG, 105 wRC+

    A team with more stolen bases than home runs? In 2021? It's weird, but it's worth noting that the Padres have more than just their speed to thank for that. Their league-best 0.58 walk-to-strikeout ratio highlights a solid team-wide approach that's helped lead them to the major's third-best OBP.

    It's also just a matter of time before they turn on the power. Call it a safe guess based not only on the track records of Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr. and Wil Myers but also on the reality that they're turning swings into hard contact better than any other team.


    6. San Francisco Giants

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 56 HR, 18 SB, .235 AVG, .327 OBP, .420 SLG, 108 wRC+

    Even when the Giants were winning three World Series championships in five years between 2010 and 2014, their offense wasn't their defining feature. It generally did just enough to accommodate the club's stellar pitching.

    It's therefore odd that the Giants offense is not only good but also genuinely so. Only Los Angeles Dodgers hitters have done a better job of laying off pitches outside the zone. Likewise, a strong sweet-spot rate has helped Giants hitters turn fly balls into home runs at a league-best rate.    

5. Cincinnati Reds

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    Bryan Woolston/Associated Press

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 56 HR, 9 SB, .259 AVG, .335 OBP, .445 SLG, 112 wRC+

    The Cincinnati Reds hit more home runs than all but three National League teams in 2020, so it's not the biggest shock that they're now tied for second in that department in 2021.

    What is different about these Reds, however, is that they've improved on last year's batting average and on-base percentage by 47 and 23 points, respectively. This specific turnaround can be traced back to the club's performance against fastballs, which has gone from middling to elite.

    Even further to the Reds' credit, they're not missing their chances when they get runners on base. They're particularly good at hitting with runners in scoring position, where their .302 average is 15 points better than the next-best team.

    If there's a catch, it's that Cincinnati's early offensive excellence has been heavily aided by Great American Ball Park's notoriously hitter-friendly environment. The Reds' 185-point difference between their home OPS and road OPS is the third-largest mark after the Rockies (193) and Blue Jays (188).    

4. Boston Red Sox

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    Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 53 HR, 16 SB, .265 AVG, .327 OBP, .447 SLG, 112 wRC+

    As bad as the Boston Red Sox were in 2020, their offense saved face by leading the American League with a .265 batting average. And that was in spite of down years from J.D. Martinez and Rafael Devers.

    Those two are back with a vengeance in 2021 and getting plenty of support from fellow slugger Xander Bogaerts. In all, the Martinez-Bogaerts-Devers trio boasts a 170 wRC+ and 30 of the team's 53 homers.

    More broadly, the Red Sox are swinging their way to offensive excellence. Their overall swing rate ranks second behind only the Orioles, and their out-of-zone swing rate is actually the highest. These are risky propositions, yet Boston ranks third in the AL in both contact rate and hard-hit rate.

    Granted, there isn't much to see in Boston's everyday lineup outside of the club's resident trio of sluggers. And the more games the Red Sox play, the more unlikely they are to sustain their .315 batting average on balls in play.    

3. Houston Astros

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 48 HR, 9 SB, .267 AVG, .334 OBP, .433 SLG, 119 wRC+

    Go ahead and make jokes about trash cans and buzzers. But after going to the American League Championship Series in 2020, the Houston Astros are again proving that they don't need to cheat to hit.

    Their .267 average is the highest in MLB this season, and it mainly flows from the team's unrivaled ability to make contact. The Astros have both the league's lowest strikeout rate at 18.4 percent and its highest contact rate at 81.0 percent.

    After something of a slow start in April, Houston's hitters have also been turning on the power in May. They're tied for second in MLB with a .187 ISO for the month, with much of the damage coming from lineup stalwarts like Yordan Alvarez, Kyle Tucker, Jose Altuve and Yuli Gurriel.

    Considering that Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa are also having much better seasons than they did in 2020, the amount of depth that the Astros have in their lineup right now should frankly make any team nervous about facing them.      

2. Chicago White Sox

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 39 HR, 20 SB, .263 AVG, .349 OBP, .416 SLG, 119 wRC+

    The Chicago White Sox were the American League's leading home run-hitting team in 2020, so it's a tad odd to see them toward the bottom of the pile thus far in 2021.

    But when a team is also leading its respective league in on-base percentage and all of MLB with an average of 5.4 runs per game, its power outage doesn't necessarily qualify as a "problem."

    The White Sox have simply had a good approach going this year, wherein they've balanced walks against strikeouts and made use of the whole field when they've put the ball in play. To wit, their .356 batting average on balls up the middle and to the opposite field is MLB's best by a healthy margin.

    This is not to suggest that Chicago's league-best .327 BABIP is sustainable, but the White Sox shouldn't have to keep it up in order to maintain their status as one of baseball's elite offensive teams. They'll just need to build on a power surge that's seen them post a top-10 ISO in May.    

1. Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Non-Pitcher Stats: 45 HR, 15 SB, .253 AVG, .358 OBP, .421 SLG, 120 wRC+

    The Los Angeles Dodgers lead the majors neither in runs scored nor in home runs, so it's fair to ask why their offense should be considered the best in baseball right now.

    Well, here's at least one compelling reason: By way of their .358 on-base percentage, Dodgers hitters are the best in the business at not making outs. And by a substantial margin to boot.

    They're a picky bunch, as their 21.3 out-of-zone swing percentage is the lowest such mark in the majors and the main cause of their MLB-best 12.2 walk rate. And while the team itself has hit the skids in May, their offense has actually gotten better to the tune of 129 wRC+ even as it's produced only 14 homers.

    As always, it's depth that really makes the Dodgers go. Though it's hurt to be without Cody Bellinger (leg) and it will likewise hurt to be without Corey Seager (hand) for the next few weeks, he's one of nine Dodgers who've posted an OPS+ of at least 110 over 50 or more plate appearances. No other team has that many.


    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference, FanGraphs and Baseball Savant.