Some numbers
League Primer

League Primer: Rankings

Starting this week Words Above Replacement is rolling out a series of articles intended to be primers for unaffiliated/independent leagues before their season starts. A part of these primers will be league rankings. More specifically a small paragraph detailing what I believe the actual talent level of a league is and where that means they fall on a rating scale. I think it’s important to be transparent about this process because ranking unaffiliated leagues is always a bit dicey.

The idea of ranking unaffiliated leagues isn’t a new one. This topic has been in place since unaffiliated leagues first existed at the very beginning of organized baseball as we know it. There’s never been a true tanking of the talent level of unaffiliated leagues for many reasons. The idea has existed, and some attempts have been made, but for one reason or another no ranking system has ever stuck or caught on in any meaningful way. I’m not really expecting my system to catch on either, but if I’m going to be ranking all the leagues I owe it to those reading the primers to explain my system.

There’s nothing much complicated about my system, it looks like this,


That’s it, that’s the whole system, can’t be more simple than that, right? Everything from AAA down is easy as those rankings mirror the ones used by affiliated baseball. They exist, there’s nothing wrong with those rankings. Why fix something that isn’t broken? The AAAA ranking has been used by people for some time, though never legitimately. It is definitely a legitimate ranking and there are a few leagues that are going to fall into this level. These leagues are definitely better than AAA level, but not quite at the ML level. Speaking of which, ML (Major League) is the American League and National League. They’re the only two that qualify for that now, though I won’t be writing about them as they are affiliated leagues.

The argument against these rankings is that there’s no real way to know the talent level of say, the American Association versus the Atlantic League. This line of reasoning is as true as can be. That’s the thing with any sort of non-performance based rankings, it’s all subjective. I’m simply looking at the wide swath of talent in the American Association and ALPB to make a subjective decision that they deserve to be ranked at one level or another. It’s all a crapshoot and anyone who says otherwise is fooling themselves. I’m confident in my rankings, but if you were to tell me you disagree I’m not really going to tell you that you’re wrong. The lone exception is the ML level. There is some subjectivity at play in attaining that level, but there are also hard markers a league must hit to be considered ML level. I’m not divulging those yet as they are part of a larger project I am working on and they don’t much affect present-day unaffiliated rankings.

Hopefully, this will help readers better understand the rankings that will start rolling out. If you have issues with any of the rankings I provide then, by all means, hit me up and let me know. The first league to be ranked will be Serie del Caribe (I know it’s actually a series or tournament, but league and tournament are interchangeable in this instance) and following that each new primer will provide a ranking for the league in question. There’s no concrete way to find a league’s true talent level, but maybe this will bring us to a better understanding of the unaffiliated leagues. At least that’s my hope as the site begins this new journey.

Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Unknown

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Bill Thompson
Father (human/feline/canine), husband, Paramedic, Socialist, writer Internet Baseball Writers Association of America and Off the Bench Baseball; freelance writer at various online and print publications. Member Internet Baseball Writers Association of America & Society for American Baseball Research.

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