Tagged: A's

AL West

Note: a “straight
run differential projection” is based on a team’s actual runs scored and
runs allowed.  A “component runs projected” is based on
basic runs created and component ERA without the adjustment to make it an ERA figure (i.e. IP and
the multiplication by 9 not included).  I then applied the
Pythagorean
Formula
with an exponent of
1.83.


Well, well, the AL West, a division full of teams with flaws.  Only one team in this division is above average at both scoring and preventing runs, and that team plays in a climate that has historically caused their pitching to melt down in the summer heat.  The rest of the teams allow more runs than they score, which is obvious cause to doubt their prospects.  


ANGELS

jered weaver.jpg

39-33, .542 winning percentage, 3.5 GB, 4.5 GB Wild Card.  4.74 runs per game (6th in AL), 4.88 runs allowed per game (11th in AL), straight run differential projection 83 wins and .511 winning percentage; component run projection 79 wins and a .488 winning percentage (an 13 games behind first place…ouch!)

Over the past two weeks the Angels have faced the A’s, Dodgers, Brewers, and Cubs, and they have made the most of their competition, with an 8-5 record over that time.  But their bogus run differential condition persists: they have scored 61 runs (4.69 per game) over that  period, but they’ve allowed 65 runs (5.00 per game).  This is the oddness of this year’s Angels ballclub: they are six games over .500 despite giving up more runs than they have scored, and they are out-performing their expected record by four games.  Their record of 8-5 over the past two weeks is about two games better than we would expect, all things being equal.  On top of this already kind of odd oddity, the Angels’ actual run differential significantly over-performs their expected–component–run differential, which implies that they’ve been efficient and quite lucky so far this season.  Or they are a wild aberration.

Jered Weaver, pictured above, is leading the AL in strikeouts.

From here, the Angels return home to face the slumping Dodgers, then the Rockies, and then the division-leading Rangers as June draws to its close.

The Angels’ offense is surging but…the pitching, particularly the bullpen, remains suspect.  It used to be that once Scioscia went to the ‘pen, the game was over, and you could practically feel that even while watching on TV.  But it hasn’t been like that in either ’09 or ’10, and, in fact, the opposite feeling, one of near panic, has been palpable, even on my computer monitor.  Heck, you can practically smell the flop-sweat dripping off of Angels’ relievers’ faces when they come into tight situations.

A good example of what I’m talking about took place on Friday, when the Angels led the Cubs 7-2 heading into the ninth inning.  The “other Francisco Rodriguez” promptly walked the first two batters than served up a dinger to Tyler Colvin to cut the score to 7-5 and then Fernando Rodney walked a high wire in a high win to close out the Cubs 7-6.  But why did that game end up that close?  in 2008 the Angels’ ‘pen just shut them down.  Of course, the game would have been 3-2 in 2008 in the first place, so maybe I don’t have a point.

Despite infield injuries that include the Erik Aybar’s knee, the Angels are holding together and really swinging the bats very well.  But if they keep on giving up more runs than they score…well, they just won’t be around to play in the post-season.

[Note: I have not hyperlinks for the Angels because…I was delinquent and had a power outage while I was typing this post the other night and all my material went…wherever stuff goes in cyberspace when the power goes out before you save your work….]


A’s

34-37, .479 winning percentage, 8 GB, 9 GB Wild Card.  4.00 runs/game (12th in AL), 4.28 runs allowed per game (4th in AL).  Straight run differential projection for 77 wins and a .473 winning percentage; component run projection for 76 wins and a .467 winning percentage.

Over the past two weeks the A’s have fallen off the pace in the AL West. Granted the Rangers have been really, really hot, but the A’s have faced the Angels, Giants, Cubs, and Cardinals and they have won only 4 games, losing 9, in that time period.  They have scored 50 runs (3.85/game) while allowing 56 (4.31/game), meaning that their offense has been worse and less active in the past two weeks than it has over the course of the season, which is scary, since their offense hasn’t been…so far this year.

From here the A’s host the Reds (whom they trail 0-1 right now in game one of that series), and the Pirates (which maybe should give A’s fans something to be happy about) before they travel to Baltimore to end the month of June.

According to A’s fans, manager Bob Geren isn’t making the grade, and the blog Athletics Nation offers a condensed Managing 101 course for their allegedly confused skipper. 

I’m not sure it’s just an issue with a manager, but rather than this team simply can’t score enough.  


MARINERS

Cliff Lee vs Reds 1-0.jpg

26-41, .388 winning percentage, 13 GB, 14 GB Wild Card.  3.41 runs/game (13th in AL); 4.38 runs allowed per game (8th in AL); straight run differential projection 62 wins, .382 winning percentage; component run projection 63 wins, .390 winning percentage.

Ah, Seattle.  They expected big thins this year but they just can’t score runs.  Their Offensive Ineptitude is pretty entrenched.  On the other hand, they can pitch a little here and there: they just swept the Reds, allowing Cincinnati only 1 run in the entire 3-game series and winning two 1-0 shutouts behind some obviously dominant starting pitching from Cliff Lee, Felix Hernandez, and Ryan Rowland-Smith.  

In the last two weeks the Mariners have faced the Rangers, the Padres, the Cardinals, and the Reds, all teams that are at or near the top of their divisions.  Seattle has gone 6-7 over that stretch of games, but they needed to sweep the Reds to win six games, meaning they were 3-7 versus the Rangers, Padres and Cardinals.  Over the past two weeks, the Mariners have scored 32 runs (2.45 per game) while allowing 61 (4.69 per game), meaning that they weren’t very good until they started playing the Reds, allowing 60 runs over the ten games prior to their series with Cincinnati…yuck.

Going forward, the Mariners host the Cubs–maybe we’ll see the Silva vs. Bradley matchup we’ve been waiting for–before traveling to Milwaukee and the CitiField portion of New York as Seattle closes out June.

The brightest spot for the Mariners has been the ridiculous Cliff Lee, who threw a brilliant 1-0 shutout on Friday night.  Right now the Mariners are being coy and staying mum about what other teams are asking about trading for  Lee.  The blog, U. S. S. Mariner, provides a nice assessment of Cliff Lee trade stuff.  And my heart beats a little faster upon reading this item on the Twins being serious about pursuing him…oh, sorry, the Twins being serious about considering pursuing him.  

Finally, here’s an item comparing the Mariners to the division-leading Rangers.  Kind of funny if you’re not a Mariners fan.


RANGERS

41-28, .594 winning percentage, 0 GB.  5.14 runs per game (4th in AL), 4.33 runs allowed per game (5th in AL).  Straight run differential projection 93 wins and a .577 winning percentage.  Component run projection for 90 wins and a .554 winning percentage.

The Rangers have the largest lead over second place of an division-leading team.  They are HOT, and their offense has been completely ridiculous in June: .302/.361/.467, a .829 OPS, and a .360 team wOBA (that’s in 2009 New York Yankees territory).

While they did just come off a sweep of the putrid Astros, the Rangers hold a 9-1 record over their last 10 games, a 15-4 record in June, and they are 11-2 over the past two weeks, having faced the Mariners, the Brewers, the Marlins, and the Astros, and having scored 80 runs (6.15 per game) while allowing only 38 (2.92 per game).  They have over-performed their expected wins for the past two weeks by 1 game, and they are two games over expectations for the season.  

And Nelson Cruz hasn’t been at 100%.  

Gosh, Vlad Guerrero loves hitting in the Ballpark.  While that .371 BABIP looks unsustainable, he was a .390 career hitter at that ballpark in over 100 career games there before the season started.  He just flat-out hits in Arlington: .389/.439/.690, 1.129 OPS and .476 wOBA.  That. Is.  Obscene.

The Rangers will finish June by playing the Pirates and Astros at home before going to LA to face the Angels.  In other words, they are set up to continue their strong June before facing their nearest division competitor.

One source of strength for the Rangers has been the unexpected contributions they have received.  Additionally, 5 key pieces in their lineup are simply raking with runners-in-scoring-position and 2 outs.  

josh hamilton.jpg

Josh Hamilton has been ridiculously hot as well.  After last season, no one could expect that Hamilton would be good, but the better he is the more likely the Rangers will be to take the AL West.

Right now, Texas is the class of the division, but as I noted in the opening, the summer heat is still on its way, and it tends to melt Rangers pitching.  There’s still 90 games to be played and the Rangers could fold like a Titanic deck chair, but even in they do, none of us should forget the June they’ve had here in 2010 because it’s been special.


Twins Weekend

The weekend for the Twins was frustrating: the won one of the two games they played, but (a) in the game they won, they had to rally after the bullpen–Jesse Crain–allowed the A’s to tie the game in the 8th inning, and (b) on Sunday Nick Blackburn continued to realize it isn’t May and was, well, wildly ineffective as the A’s stuck it to Minnesota.

In Saturday’s game, the Twins were fortunate that A’s reliever Brad Ziegler was ineffective in the top of the 9th rather like Jesse Crain had been in the bottom of the 8th.  Actually, Ziegler wasn’t as ineffective registering a WPA of “only” -.333 compared the the -.425 WPA that Crain “contributed” in the previous half-inning.   
Crain pretty much negated a strong seven-inning, ten strikeout performance by Francisco Liriano in a mere two-thirds of an inning of “work”.  Crain’s stuff looked good, like it always does, with fastballs hitting 95 and 96 mph.  However, he lacks command, and I say that because his location is hittable.  Rosales’ game-tying hit came off a fastball just below belt high and right down the heart of the plate (check out MLB.com’s Gameday if you don’t believe me).  
Sunday’s game displayed a different form of depressing Twins’ pitching in the form of Nick Blackburn still realizing it’s not May and being pretty much terrible in his thankfully short outing;  Blackburn allowed 10 hits and 5 runs in 2 2/3 innings of “work” (make that, getting worked), “contributing” -.372 WPA.  The Twins’ bullpen rocked after that, surrendering no more runs and only three more hits over the next 5 1/3 innings. 
But the damage was done and A’s starter Gio Gonzalez was solid.   
Delmon Young paced the Twins with .099 WPA.  Actually, Young enjoyed his weekend in Oakland: 5 hits in 12 at-bats, with 9 total bases, a home run, 7 RBI, and a .453 wOBA. providing a glimmer of hope with a two-run home run in the top of the eighth to cut the A’s lead to a run.
One thing to be considered is that the Twins have multiple infield injuries that forced Gardenhire to use some creative lineups in this series.   With the prospect that both J. J. Hardy and Orlando Hudson could both end up on the DL, Twins fans ought to, uh, cross their fingers, light some candles, meditate intensely, or just pray their heads off as things might get even more interesting going forward.
Another area of concern has to be Blackburn’s inability to pitch well during months not named May.  Nick Nelson of “Nick’s Twins Blog” focuses on Blackburn’s inability to miss bats in what should be a must-read piece for Twins’ fans.  He writes:
Hitters are making contact with 96 percent of Blackburn’s offerings and they’re elevating plenty of those pitches, so it should come as no surprise that the league is hitting .338 against the right-hander. This isn’t the result of bad luck, as Blackburn’s batting average on balls in play isn’t too far above the league average and is basically in line with his career norms. It’s not that a ridiculous number of balls in play are turning into hits behind Blackburn, it’s that he’s allowing a ridiculous number of balls in play to begin with. 

Twins Snap Skid, Beat A’s in Extra Innings

The Twins entered play Friday night having dropped three straight to the Seattle Mariners.  Well, they recovered, and they won, 5-4, in eleven innings.  Yes, the Twins had to go extra innings in a game that looked like it might go easily for the Twins but which ended up looking really…hard for them.

(A more succinct game recap is available at “Twinkie Town.”)

Justin Morneau’s two-run home run in the top of the first off of A’s lefty Dallas Braden got things started on the right foot, and Twins’ starter Scott Baker pitched well.  

A’s starter Dallas Braden got himself in trouble in the top of the sixth, when the Twins strung some hits together, Mauer scoring on a Jason Kubel single, and Morneau scoring on a double by Delmon Young.  
Baker looked like he had things well in hand.
Uh, not so much.
Two late home runs by Kevin Kouzmanoff, in the seventh, and Rajai Davis, in the eighth, tied up the ballgame.  The second, by Davis, was a line drive rocketed out of left field off a total “cookie” by Baker, a hanging 80 mph breaking pitch, dead center of the plate at slightly below belt level, a pitched that begged to be slaughtered.  Davis complied with the ball’s wishes, and Baker was done for the night.
A’s relief ace Andrew Bailey offering the Oakland faithful little, if any, relief.  Thanks to leftfielder Greg Gross misplaying a Moreau fly to left into a double, the Twins finally had a leadoff man aboard.  One batter later, Delmon Young flicked a single down the rightfield line to both put the Twins up 5-4 and contribute .276 WPA.  Despite a blown pickoff attempt that sent Young to second with one out, Bailey managed to limit further damage.
Rauch came on for the Twins, and while Kurt Suzuki singled with two outs, bringing Three True Outcomes poster-boy Jack Cust to the plate.  Cust did not disappoint, striking out to end the game, and the Twins won.
The MLB.com game wrap is here, and WPA charting is here.
Baker ended up with a negative WPA (-.134) for the game since he surrendered a late game-tying home run that just about snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.  The Twins’ big contributors were Delmon Young (.340), who drove in the winning run, and Justin Morneau (.331), who homered and scored three runs, including the winning run.  Twins’ reliever Matt Guerrier contributed .283 WPA in two innings of hitless relief.  Rajai Davis of the A’s registered at .191 WPA after his game-tying blast.
The Twins face off against the A’s tonight at 8:05 CDT, with Francisco Liriano starting for the Twins and Trevor Cahill starting for the A’s
Go Twins.
    

Twins Drop Third Straight, Head to Oakland

So, the Twins traveled to Offensively Inept Seattle and managed to show even greater Offensive Ineptitude that the Mariners and drop the last three games of their four-game series, losing last night 1-4.  

The Twins have not been all that sharp on the road in 2010 and the series against the Mariners continued and added to their road woes.
Of course, in Thursday night’s game, the Twins ran into Mariner starter Felix Hernandez, aka King Felix, who showed why he has the title, displaying a great degree of mastery versus the Twins and shutting them down, collecting four (4) strikeouts in

the

an inning(!).

This was a bounce-back game for Hernandez, who was the anti-Blackburn: while Blackburn was unbeatable in May, Felix didn’t collect a single victory for the month, though the Mariner bullpen did pretty much all it could to bury the poor guy, blowing leads repeatedly in games he had started, with his May 13 start vs. the Orioles really standing out.
The Twins simply had no answer to Felix’s Kingly pitching.  Twinkie Talk succinctly notes that Felix is good.
Dave Cameron of the blog “U.S.S. Mariner” points out that last night’s game was a model of how the Mariners were built to work:

This game is essentially how
the Mariners drew up their game plan for the season – get some guys on base,
let the top of the order run like rabbits, and score enough runs to support
Felix. 

This brings me to something else that bothered me: the Twins’ utter inability to prevent base-stealing in the early innings.  The Mariners stole five bases in the first three innings, seeminly running at will against Pavano’s slow delivery.  I am blaming Pavano because we all know Mauer has a cannon.  This, I fear, is something we will see more of in Pavano’s future starts.  Unless Mr. Pavano manages to allow no speedy runners to reach base, we should all anticipate more stolen bases by other teams against him, which will be pretty excruciating to watch.  
Parker Hageman, both at his blog, “Over the Baggy” and in the pages of the Star-Tribune, points out that the top two lineup spots in the Twins’ batting order need to produce more and do a better job of table setting for the M&M boys.
On the comparative Offensive Ineptitude of the Twins and Mariners, a quick Excel session furnished me with the following sad tale of woe:
The Twins scored 8 runs (2/game) in the series to the Mariners 17 (4.25); the Twins collected 27 hits and 4 BB in the series, while the Mariners had 40 hits and walked 5 times for a 45 to 31 edge in baserunners.  The Twins slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) was .201/.225/.358 for a rollicking wOBA of .250; The Mariners, by contrast, produced at a .292/.317/.365 clip, with a team wOBA of .303.  Neither team pounded the ball, but the Mariners clearly out-produced the Twins at the plate.  Ouch.
The Twins clearly displayed a greater degree of Offensive Ineptitude than did the Mariners in the series.  And that really hurts.  Alternatively, the Mariners’ pitching is pretty good.  I think this is what a lot of people anticipated–see the Dave Cameron quote above–when they were making the Mariners the Flavor-of-the-Month in the AL West during the offseason.  I’m still skeptical.
On to Oakland to face another team that can pitch but doesn’t really hit the ball.  The A’s enter the series in a tie for first in the AL West, following a 4-3 roadtrip that saw them take three of four from the Tigers and then win the last of three games in Fenway from the Red Sox.  Hopefully jet lag gets them and/or the Twins’ can awaken their bats.
BONUS: A story about the Carl Pavono mustache that has Fetch at “Twinkie Talk” calling him Luigi…
BONUS 2:  The A’s enter tonight’s series 25th in scoring in the Majors at 4.04 runs/game while the Twins stand at 10th in the Bigs with 4.70 runs/game.  The A’s slash line: .259/.323/.383 and a team wOBA of .313 (but remember that the sheer magnitude of the foul ground in Oakland’s park suppresses offensive stats since a lot more foul balls end up as outs rather than souvenirs; their park factors show the Coliseum to be the most run-suppressing park in the Majors.)  The Twins slash line currently stands at: .270/.350/.418 and a team wOBA of .340.  While Target Field is hard on homers, it isn’t as hard on them as the Coliseum (.586 for Target Field vs. .381 for the  Coliseum).   
As always: Go Twins!

Again With the Contraction Talk?

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports suggests a way of boosting attendance at A’s & Rays game: contract the Royals and the Pirates and move the A’s back to KC and the Rays to Pittsburgh.

Craig Calcaterra pointed me towards Rosenthal’s article, and manages to impart a rather amusing and skeptical spin to the whole matter:
I’m not going to slam Rosenthal over all of this because on the most basic level I don’t think he’s serious about it. He makes the points that must be made about the state of the Rays’ franchise, but the contraction plan is kinda nuts and I’ll bet he’d freely admit that. He just wants to get people talking, and I have no problem with that.  In this way it’s much like his realignment proposal from back in February. It’s much like a lot of what I write too.

But apart from their audaciousness, Rosenthal’s posts have something else in common: they’re solutions in search of a problem.  Or at least in search of a problem large enough that it calls for such radical solutions (though it should be noted, Rosenthal obviously thinks otherwise).

Yes, the Rays have trouble drawing, and yes, that makes it harder for them, but (a) as Rosenthal himself notes, their TV ratings are improving (and TV ratings are where the real money is); and (b) it’s obviously not impacting how they’re doing on the field.  

Rangers Win, Hold 2 Game Lead in AL West  (Updated)

The Rangers won a tightly pitched ballgame over the A’s at the Ballpark, 2-1.  (Read the preceding sentence again; five, heck, two seasons ago, who would’ve though the Rangers would win with pitching?)

Vlad Guerrero has been pretty decent for the Ranger so far: his K’s are down, his BB’s are up, his BABIP is right in line with his career rate, there’s no weird spike in his batted ball results, he’s just been himself but in a better park for hitters, which means he’s justifying his contract.  Good signing by the Rangers.
The Rangers now hold a two-game lead in the AL West.  They now head to Toronto for a three game series before before returning home for a seven-game homestand that includes back-to-back mini-series (2-games each) against against the Angels and Orioles and concludes with a three game set with the Cubs.  In taking 2 of 3 from the A’s the Rangers have to be encouraged by the overall performance of their pitching staff and the fact that they have clawed their way into first place despite significant lost playing time for both 2B Ian Kinsler and RF Nelson Cruz.  Their starting pitching is very good.
The A’s head to Los Angeles/Anaheim for 3 games against the Angels, with Dallas Braden getting his first start since his perfect game tomorrow night against Joe Saunders.  They follow that with a seven-game homestand of their own, including consecutive 2-game miniseries against the Mariners and Tigers before hosting the Giants next weekend.  Despite dropping 2 of 3 to the Rangers, they have to be encouraged by Ben Sheets’ performance this afternoon.  Their starting pitching is very good.  
It looks like the Angels have a chance to get themselves back into the thick of things, but both the A’s and Rangers have been playing better baseball than the Angels.
UPDATE:  Jean-Jacques Taylor of The Dallas Morning News has a good piece on the Rangers’ need to take advantage of what looks to be a weak upcoming schedule.  A lot of reporters working on the “real” news could learn from this guy, because he doesn’t mess around or bury the lead; the key quote starts the piece:

This is the time for the Rangers to make a move in the AL West.

The schedule is weak with only nine of the next 53 games against teams currently with winning records. The starting pitching has been excellent, and the Angels are struggling.

Unfortunately, the reporters who focus on the A’s are focused most firmly on Dallas Braden rather on the things the A’s as a team need to do moving forward.  I looked, I really did look, for an informative piece of writing about what the near-term prognosis for this team would be, but Dallas Braden (uh, thanks, but we all knew he should focus on his next start, just like every other starting pitcher), Dallas Braden (oh, and I though he was simply obsessed with living out all the unwritten rules of baseball), Dallas Braden (er, well, yeah, every pitcher would like to throw a perfect game in every start), and–thank goodness someone noticed–Ben Sheets.   
What’s interesting about the last piece, the one about Sheets, is that it says that “Sheets held the impressive Texas lineup to one run in six-plus innings .”  Why that’s interesting is that the Taylor piece about the Ranger kind of downplays the quality of Texas’ offense.  Grass is greener and all that, I guess.  
Oh well, eventually someone will snap out of it and write something useful about the  A’s and the team’s future over the rest of 2010.