Ranking the contenders' lineups

As often as the Astros score, are they a league apart when it comes to offense? Chris Szagola/AP Photo

There's something that feels so very real about a team that has an excellent lineup. Sure, any offense can slump, and sure, any offense can be disrupted. But think about the alternatives: If you have a team that has an excellent pitching staff, pitchers come and go, seemingly without warning. Injury or ineffectiveness can strike at any time. And if you have a team that has an excellent defense, well, do you know it has an excellent defense? Defense is a difficult thing to measure. Even now, we're still trying to get a better handle on measuring it.

It's great to have defense, and it's great to have pitching, but a team's run production is the most stable of its core elements. With that in mind, why not embark on a simple exercise: ranking contending-team offenses, considering both objective and subjective criteria.

I set my criterion for who's a contender at who's five games away from a playoff spot -- sorry, Marlins. And this is based on the picture over the rest of the regular season, so injuries matter, even if a given core player is set to return by season's end. These are offenses for the final several weeks, in ascending order of talent.

18. Colorado Rockies: We might as well stir this old, familiar argument. The Rockies rank third in baseball in runs and fourth in OPS. But they're 29th in baseball in wRC+. The major difference between OPS and wRC+ is the latter stat is park-adjusted. There are further considerations, but the Rockies have an .870 OPS at home, against a .690 OPS on the road. Their road wRC+ ranks 29th. I know that Jonathan Lucroy presumably helps, but this offense still doesn't feel complete, which might help explain why the Rockies' playoff position is starting to feel precarious.

17. Kansas City Royals: The Royals' offense really shouldn't be bad, and it isn't, to be totally honest. The problem is that there are a few black holes. The league-average wRC+ for a hitter is 100, but Alcides Escobar has a wRC+ of 48 and Alex Gordon has a wRC+ of 52; together, those add up to 100, and yet those are players who play nearly every day. Ned Yost is understandably loyal, and Escobar and Gordon do make other positive contributions elsewhere. But the offense can be only so good as long as they're making such frequent outs. It's sad to observe, in Gordon's case in particular, but I suppose anyone could be a hero in a critical future ballgame. That's probably the Yost perspective.