Following an MLB team with a good offense makes the experience so much more exciting for fans. If a team with a bad offense surrenders a one or two runs in the early innings, the rest of the game can almost feel pointless at times. Conversely, if a team with a good offense allows several runs early, the game always feels within reach.
That brings two questions to mind. From what we’ve seen in the 2018 MLB season so far, which teams have offenses that feel perpetually stuck in the mud? And on the other end, which teams have the offenses that will keep you on the edge of your seat until that final out is recorded?
We expected teams like the New York Yankees to fall into the latter category, and certainly, they have. On the other hand, teams like the Los Angeles and Arizona Diamondbacks have fallen well short of expectations. Conversely, the Pittsburgh Pirates have gone the other way.
Starting with the worst, finishing with the best and covering every spot in between, this is how each MLB offense ranks on the explosive scale.
30. Miami Marlins
Justin Bour and J.T. Realmuto are definitely nice players. But they are by far the best hitters in this lineup. That should not be the case. We’re also not throwing in the towel on Lewis Brinson. But from what we’ve seen so far, he’s still very much a work in progress.
Miami ranks at or near the bottom of MLB in most major offensive categories. When we look at the names in the lineup, it’s not hard to see why.
29. Kansas City Royals
The Kansas City offense is one that, even when things are going well, isn’t especially explosive. Only the Marlins, a National League team just starting a lengthy rebuild, have hit fewer home runs than the Royals.
Mike Moustakas and Jorge Soler are dangerous hitters. Beyond them, Salvador Perez and Whit Merrifield are certainly capable. But this just isn’t the same team that it was three years ago. The explosive element is not there.
28. San Diego Padres
While the Padres have to love what they’ve seen from Christian Villanueva, the rest of the offense has struggled. Manuel Margot has slumped. Hunter Renfroe has been on the shelf for most of the year. When he’s been healthy, he’s also struggled. Like Renfroe, Wil Myers has been out for most of the year, playing in only 10 games.
Outside of Villanueva, the only San Diego players with more than three home runs are Eric Hosmer and Franchy Cordero, who each have six. This offense could move up a few slots when everyone is healthy. But in terms of what we’ve actually seen, it’s not all that dangerous.
27. Cincinnati Reds
A lineup that includes guys like Joey Votto, Adam Duvall, Eugenio Suarez, Scooter Gennett, Scott Schebler, and Tucker Barnhart should be no worse than middle of the pack. But the Reds have been much worse than that all year. Duvall — Cincinnati’s home run leader — gives us something of a microcosm for the team’s problems. He’s hit a respectable nine home runs, but is hitting less than .200 and has an OBP under .300.
The Reds boast plenty of capable hitters that will likely draw attention as we approach the trade deadline. But this group as a whole just hasn’t produced much in 2018.
26. Texas Rangers
It’s actually hard to believe that a team playing in a hitter’s ballpark with so many big-name hitters would have so little punch. But the numbers don’t lie. Joey Gallo has a solid 13 home runs. But with a .199 average, .277 OPB, and 67 strikeouts, he’s definitely someone that pitchers can deal with. Besides, with the Rangers ranking 29th in OBP, he’s not hitting with men on base too often.
It’s not just an OBP problem, either. Pick a major offensive category. Chances are that Texas ranks near the bottom of the league in it. It certainly hasn’t been an explosive offense.
25. New York Mets
No one player jumps out when we look at the New York lineup. In a way, that’s good. Nobody stands out as the real liability. But nobody stands out as the real star, either. The Mets have a lineup filled with guys who should be hitting sixth or seventh. That’s not a good thing.
The lineup definitely looks better when Yoenis Cespedes and Todd Frazier are healthy. But even then, its still a group that needs an improvement in at least one or two spots if we’re going to call it truly explosive.
24. Detroit Tigers
Detroit is something of a difficult team to rank here. The Tigers are 13th in slugging percentage and 10th in batting average, which would suggest that we’ve underrated them. On the other side of the coin, though, is Detroit’s home run production, or lack thereof.
The Tigers are ahead of only the Marlins and Royals in terms of home runs hit. Additionally, nobody on the team has more than five home runs, which is too low for this point of the season. Even if there are areas where it’s not bad, we just can’t call the Detroit offense that explosive.
23. Minnesota Twins
Not unlike the aforementioned Reds, the Twins feel like they should be much higher on this list. With guys like Eddie Rosario, Eduardo Escobar, Miguel Sano, Max Kepler, Brian Dozier, Logan Morrison, and Joe Mauer, this lineup looks formidable.
Appearances can be deceiving, though. Minnesota actually ranks in the bottom half of MLB in most major offensive categories. This includes slugging percentage (17th), home runs (21st), and runs (27th). The names may suggest that this is a fairly explosive group. Unfortunately, though, the production says something much different.
22. Los Angeles Dodgers
Los Angeles has definitely been one of baseball’s most disappointing teams through the early part of the season. The offense has been a big reason why. The Dodgers rank 20th in slugging and 23rd in home runs.
Given the talent that Los Angeles boasts, the Dodgers could rank 10 spots higher on this list in one month’s time. The return of Justin Turner has certainly helped matters. But while there’s a lot of season left, we’re too deep into the year to rank teams based on their potential talent. Based on the results we’ve seen from Los Angeles, this spot is appropriate.
21. Arizona Diamondbacks
Much like the Dodgers, the Diamondbacks were never a team that we figured to be ranked this low at the beginning of the year. But Jake Lamb missed a good portion of the season. His return essentially coincided with an injury to A.J. Pollock. Making matters worse, Paul Goldschmidt has slumped for much of the year.
As a result, we’ve seen an offense that just hasn’t had an explosive feel to it. The talent certainly exists, so, like Los Angeles, Arizona could rank much higher if we revisit this list in another month. But in terms of actual production, it’s impossible to rank the D-Backs any higher.
20. Chicago White Sox
Based on their home run numbers, the White Sox should much deeper into the top-20 on this list. The problem is that, for a team to be explosive, it needs to be able to score bunches of runs in a short period of time. While Chicago has power, it also has one of baseball’s worst OBP. That makes the big spurts of runs much harder to manage, and the White Sox don’t have enough home run power to offset that.
There’s definitely some good, young potential on this team. With one of baseball’s top farm systems, Chicago has even more explosive potential on the way. But in 2018, the White Sox offense lacks the overall spark needed to be a truly explosive group.
19. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles have been arguably baseball’s worst team through the first quarter of the season. The pitching staff deserves its share of the blame for that. But we can’t let the offense off the hook.
While Baltimore ranks eighth in home runs, it ranks 18th in slugging, 18th in OBP, and 23rd in runs scored. Yes, several players in this lineup are home run threats every time they step into the box. But how much fear do opposing pitchers have when facing this team? Manny Machado’s greatness can’t be questioned. But top to bottom, this offense just isn’t that explosive.
18. St. Louis Cardinals
The Cardinals can hit the long ball. They rank 12th in all of baseball and fourth in the National League in homers. There are two problems, though. One is that St. Louis is 16th in team OBP. The second is that, despite the decent home run totals, the Cards rank 23rd in slugging.
So, while the power has been fine for St. Louis, the lineup isn’t doing enough to make the threat of big innings prevalent. That keeps the Cardinals from being considered a truly explosive offense.
17. San Francisco Giants
The San Francisco offense is definitely formidable when Brandon Belt is going well, and he’s been productive in 2018. To be quite honest, most of the statistics say that we’ve underrated the Giants and that they should be at least in the top half of the rankings. But another statistic is hard to overlook.
Belt leads the team with 11 home runs, while Evan Longoria has eight. That’s decent. The problem is that Nick Hundley — who’s third on the team — is San Francisco’s backup catcher. After Hundley, nobody else has five. That points to a team that, while more powerful than in past years, still goes station to station quite a bit. That’s just not explosive.
16. Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies are a difficult team to figure out. In some respects, we’ve badly underrated them. In others, we’ve severely overrated them. Based on the overall numbers, Philadelphia should check in a little worse on this list.
The problem is that this offense features very few easy outs. Outside of Odubel Herrera, there’s nobody having an overwhelming statistical season. But if the opposing team makes a mistake, it will almost certainly lead to the pitcher facing a dangerous hitter with at least one man on base. The overall numbers prevent us from ranking Philly any better on this list. But the constant threat that the lineup offers prevents us from making the Phillies any worse.
15. Seattle Mariners
Without question, the Mariners are the hardest team to rank here. By the numbers, this is a top-10 explosive offense. The problem, of course, is that many of those numbers were achieved with Robinson Cano in the lineup, and he’s going to be out for quite some time.
There’s plenty of explosive potential with Mitch Haniger. While they’re not having great overall offensive seasons, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager have brought enough power to be explosive. Cano’s absence will definitely be significant. Time will tell how significant, though. For now, right around the middle of the pack feels appropriate.
14. Milwaukee Brewers
In far too many stats, the Brewers have an average to below-average ranking. But we’re cutting them slack because the offense has had to deal with of a number of key injuries (Eric Thames, Ryan Braun, Christian Yelich).
Even with those injuries, Milwaukee ranks second in the National League in home runs. Offenses like the Dodgers and Diamondbacks have underachieved and just haven’t shown the traces of being truly explosive. While the Brewers offense could be better, the explosive element has been there.
13. Colorado Rockies
The Rockies are very much like the Brewers. In some respects, the Colorado lineup has underachieved. What’s telling about that is that the Rockies still lead the National League in home runs. An even crazier stat is that significantly more than half of those home runs have come away from Coors Field.
Any lineup with Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon will be explosive. Even Ian Desmond, who’s hitting only .175, has a respectable seven home runs. Yes, the potential outweighs the actual production. But the potential, combined with what the offense actually has done even when things haven’t been clicking all the time, keeps us from ranking Colorado any worse.
12. Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays are the antithesis of what we’ve already seen with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. At the beginning of the year, it seemed highly improbably that Tampa would rank in the top half of a most explosive offenses list. But when we put aside what we thought would happen and look at what’s actually taken place, the high ranking is justified.
This is a team that ranks fourth in batting average and third in OBP. The decision to part ways with Corey Dickerson to make room for C.J. Cron was puzzling since there should be enough room for both men. But Cron’s effectiveness has made that decision a little less painful. The overall power hasn’t been great, which keeps the Rays from moving closer to the top-10. But the Rays have hit consistently well in 2018 and certainly have the explosive potential that must be taken seriously.
11. Toronto Blue Jays
In a way, Toronto has been the American League’s version of the Brewers and Rockies. The power numbers have been good, while the rest have not quite been up to par. But even struggling to put men on base, the Blue Jays still rank 11th in slugging, and then sixth in both home runs and runs scored.
So, this isn’t just a matter of potential. Toronto’s hitters have been somewhat inconsistent in 2018, but they are still explosive. The Blue Jays have pieces that other teams will covet. So, if they can’t get back into contention and decide to sell, the offense will obviously lose much of what makes it explosive. But until then, this is absolutely one of baseball’s most explosive offensive teams.
10. Pittsburgh Pirates
Tampa probably didn’t need to get rid of Dickerson, but the Pirates are certainly happy to have him. He’s been a contributor to an offense that’s been more explosive (and more effective, in general) than anyone could have predicted.
Pittsburgh ranks in the top-10 in runs scored and all three slash stats. The Pirates have 51 home runs, which ranks in the middle of the pack. That’s a little too low to move the Pirates deeper into the top 10. Even still, this offense has had an explosive element to it, which easily earns Pittsburgh a high spot on the list.
9. Washington Nationals
Washington’s offense has been the inverse of Pittsburgh’s. Some of the offensive stats have been below average. But the Nats have been much more effective with the long ball.
We’re also somewhat intrigued by the potential of Juan Soto. While ranking teams on potential is something we’re trying to avoid, it’s worth noting that he’s a recent call-up and has already made a sizable impact. That could improve Washington’s standing in the stats where it’s been struggling, and even aid the power. It’s unlikely that the Nats would have called him up if they didn’t think he could make a big impact.
Washington hasn’t been complete enough offensively to be any higher. But the potential and what’s already happened puts the Nats in the top-10.
8. Cleveland Indians
The Cleveland offense got off to an abysmal start to the season. Despite that, the Indians rank towards the top of the league in most major offensive categories, which shows how good the offense has been since the season’s early weeks.
Cleveland ranks fifth in slugging and is tied with the Yankees for second in home runs. Thanks to a fairly mediocre OBP and batting average, the Indians rank only 10th in runs scored. So, while the power has been good, Cleveland hasn’t put the fear of the cooked number in the hearts of its opponents just yet. Still, this has been one of baseball’s more explosive teams.
7. Oakland Athletics
The lack of starting pitching probably means that the A’s are a year away from being a real playoff contender. But the offense will keep Oakland in the race for a good portion of the season. We’ll also say confidently that if they stay healthy, the A’s will have a better offense than at least half of the teams that do make the playoffs.
Oakland has a lot of pop. Khris Davis has been the leader in recent years and leads the team in home runs again in 2018. But guys like Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, and even a veteran like Jed Lowrie can all change a game with one good swing. The future may be better than the present in Oakland, which is saying something. The present is pretty darn good.
6. Los Angeles Angels
We were never worried about the Halos offense coming into the year. That confidence has been justified. Los Angeles ranks in the top half of MLB in most major offensive categories, is ninth in slugging, and fourth in home runs.
Mike Trout can change a game with one swing of the bat. Justin Upton and Albert Pujols may not quite be the offensive weapons that they once were, but they bring plenty of pop. Shohei Ohtani may not entirely realize it, but he’s a dangerous offensive weapon as well. This is a dangerous lineup and easily one of the most explosive in the game.
5. Houston Astros
How can we rank a team this high that doesn’t even have one player with 10 home runs? Indeed, that’s a fair question. The simple answer is that eight Astros players have four or more home runs. Mind you, that list doesn’t even include Jose Altuve, who’s certainly an explosive player in his own right.
So, while Houston may not have one overwhelming threat, the constant threat of power has to be respected. The Astros are probably the only team with the depth to challenge our most explosive offense. Things haven’t gone well enough in Houston in 2018 for us to put the champs that high. But we can’t keep them out of our top five, either.
4. Chicago Cubs
The Cubs have a similar feel to the Astros. The depth of their lineup creates a constant feeling that, no matter how things may be going, they can change at any moment, regardless of where Chicago is in the order.
And in reality, Chicago’s offense has been better than Houston’s. Chicago ranks in the top-six in runs scored and all three slash stats. That, combined with the long ball capabilities of guys like Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Willson Contreras, and Kyle Schwarber, makes this lineup a proverbial powder keg.
3. Atlanta Braves
The youth movement has come to Atlanta and boy, what a movement it’s been. The Braves are 10th in home runs. Other than that, Atlanta ranks in the top-three of most major offensive categories.
This team has solid veterans like Freddie Freeman and Nick Markakis. It also has explosive young talent with Ozzie Albies, Ronald Acuna, and Dansby Swanson. The lineup offers no breaks and can beat opposing pitchers in multiple ways. The Braves are rubbing elbows with some pretty impressive company. But both in terms of what’s already happened and what could happen in the future, the ranking is well deserved.
2. Boston Red Sox
What a difference a year makes. The Red Sox were good in 2017, but we wouldn’t exactly have called them explosive. But thanks to the addition of J.D. Martinez and some big improvements from players like Hanley Ramirez and Mookie Betts, things have been 180 degrees different for Boston in 2018.
The Red Sox actually lead the league in home runs, though they have also played two more games than their top two competitors. They’re also first in slugging and second in runs scored. If that doesn’t convince you that Boston is one of baseball’s two most explosive offenses, then nothing will.
1. New York Yankees
Time and time again, we’ve seen what the likes of Giancarlo Stanton, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez can do. But this lineup is far from just a three-headed monster. There is genuine punch up all throughout the lineup.
We can cite New York’s stats all day. But really, this boils down to something more simple. If we were to offer every manager a 5-0 lead to start a game, then ask him who the last team he’d want to protect that lead against would be, the clear answer would be the Yankees.
That makes New York MLB’s most explosive offense.