Just as it was supposed to be last year…the American League West will ultimately come down to the Rangers in Angels in 2013. The Rangers will win the AL West with some new talent (see AJP, Berkman, youngsters), better pitching and better “chemistry” (SABR guys going nuts on that). Given the Rangers Opening Day loss to the Astros last night, this may seem hard to believe, but remember, they have 161 more to redeem that loss and that game means no more than game 40, 80, 120 or 160.
With the season already underway, I thought we’d look at the top 2 spots in the division a little differently and do side-by-side comparisons… purposely glossing over the areas where the Angels are better. Not really. Look, the Angels are the consensus pick to win the division with the Rangers evening dropping a low as 3rd in many preseason predictions.
This is quickly becoming a big rivalry across the MLB landscape. Let’s not kid ourselves and put it in the same ballpark as Yankees-Red Sox, but it is getting stronger every year…and this year will only make it better as it comes down to the final week of the season.
The Angels may be better…on paper. While the “role of the underdog” is fun to take on, it’s not that far-fetched that the Rangers can win this division. Here’s how…
The Bats & Gloves
Michael Young, Clubhouse Leader & Struggling Veteran
While the Rangers lineup took a hit with the departure of Josh Hamilton, you can’t say the same thing in regards to the departures of Michael Young and Mike Napoli. Sure Young was a “leader” and I won’t discount that, but given his performance from last year, he is clearly in the twilight of his career and the line-up should improve with his departure (that hurt to say). Napoli was a fan-favorite and we will miss the “NA-PO-LI” chant (sarcasm), but let’s face it – 2011 Napoli was the anomaly.
Enter Lance Berkman and A.J. Pierzynski – names that aren’t as pretty, but still potentially very effective – mind you, both of which are also in the twilights of their careers.
Adding Josh Hamilton to the Angels lineup, behind Mike Trout, whatever bum bats second and Albert Pujols is frightening…if only for the protection that Hamilton provides based on what he is capable of.
Rangers Projected Lineup
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Elvis Andrus, SS
Lance Berkman, DH
Adrian Beltre, 3B
David Murphy, LF
Nelson Cruz, RF
A.J. Pierzynski, C
Mitch Moreland, 1B
Leonys Martin, CF
Angels Projected Lineup
Mike Trout, LF
Aybar will have plenty to smile at hitting between Trout and Pujols/Hamilton
Erick Aybar, SS
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, RF
Mark Trumbo, DH
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Alberto Callaspo, 3B
Chris Iannetta, C
Peter Bourjos, CF
The Angels top 5 is easily the best in baseball – can’t argue with that, but the Rangers aren’t too far off with:
Freshly extended “Ranger-for-Life” Elvis Andrus has to take the next step in his progression as a hitter. This is the expectation and will be realized in 2013 – I’ll project a .775 OPS, which isn’t All-Star caliber at the plate, but Elvis is so much more than that.
Elvis needs to give Ian more kicks in the butt
Ian Kinsler has to be better than what we saw in 2012, which was the worst season, statistically, of his career. We saw greatness in April last year, but the rest of the season was mediocre at best. He’s still only 30 and last year was clearly the outlier when you look at his career year-over-year.
The Rangers need something similar to the 2011 version of Lance Berkman. Big Puma is 37 now and still a lethal hitter. Players of his age don’t generally improve, but 2012 was injury-riddled, so if can produce close to his ’11 slash (.301/.412/.547), the Rangers have taken a big step towards replacing Hamilton’s production in the lineup…
Three big ifs? No, all three of these keys are more likely than not and will go a long way towards the Rangers maintaining their status as a very dangerous lineup.
Defensivily…well, we’re all cussing Kinsler right now and calling for Profar to take over at 2B and that would improve the Rangers defensively. For the Rangers, the left side of the infield is Legendary and Mitch is a superb defensive first basemen. AJ is average behind the plate and the outfield is average as well.
Between Trout and Bourjos, there won’t be too many balls dropping in left-center against the Angels and we know Hamilton is an excellent defender…when motivated. Pujols is above average at 1B and the rest of the infield and Iannetta are average. Suffice to say, the Angels aren’t built to win with defense, but they aren’t going to hinder themselves here either.
This is an area where the Rangers have an edge. An edge that could grow considerably at the trade deadline…given the recent extension for Elvis and the potential of trading away the top prospect in the game.
Matt Harrison, LHP
Yu Darvish, RHP
Alexi Ogando, RHP
Derek Holland, LHP
Nick Tepesch, RHP (to be replaced by Colby Lewis in the near future)
This thing is going to take a on different look as the season goes on, with Darvish stepping forward as the Ace of the staff and unfortunately some unpredictable twist and/or turn.
Hanson – once a top young arm in the game is bringing up the rear of the Angels rotation after stuggling
Jered Weaver, RHP
C.J. Wilson, LHP
Joe Blanton, RHP
Jason Vargas, LHP
Tommy Hanson, RHP
Weaver is a true #1 who is capable of being dominant night in and night out. C.J. is C.J and the rest of the rotation is meh, bleh and blah.
Neither bullpen is lights out, and while many rankings out there put the Rangers ahead of the Angels in regards to the bullpen, I think they are evenly matched as they stand right now. If Neftali Feliz can return as an effective reliever, that would put the Rangers ahead. The Rangers also have more flexibility in bolstering their bullpen at the trade deadline if necessary, while the Angels depleted farm system will make it tougher for them.
Hard to argue Wash over Scioscia…so I won’t. Given my choice, I’ll take Wash. He needs to improve as a strategist and I think he will.
Why the Angels could win the West:
Josh can be great…when motivated.
The addition of Hamilton’s bat in the lineup provides legit protection for Pujols and bolsters the heart of the order significantly. Put aside what you think of Josh right now and the bad taste he left in our mouths at the end of last season – he’s good, if not great and has the skill/talent to put together a MVP-caliber season.
Mike Scioscia knows how to win…for what that’s worth. But can he manage the egos with extremely high expectations and the circus that can come with the presence of Josh.
Outside of Hamilton, they have a few other guys that could collect some major awards at the end of the season.
MVP – Pujols & Trout
Cy Young Award – Weaver
Why the Rangers will win the West:
Because I’m confident enough to underline the word “will”.
Darvish will elevate to a Ace status in 2013. Last year was his introduction to the Major Leagues and was a major transition, not only in baseball but life for Yu. While he didn’t get better as the season went on, he finished the season on a strong note with a 3-0 record and a 2.21 ERA in Sept/Oct. It’s clear what his objective is – to become the best pitcher in the Majors. 2013 will be a big step in that direction.
AJP and Berkman will exceed expectations. They aren’t long-term solutions, but they are both very good and will help take the edge of off the perceived blows of losing Hamilton, Young and Nap-nap.
The Rangers are in a position to improve at the trade deadline. With hot commodities at the minor league level, they will be able to pull the trigger if necessary.
Adrian Beltre, the new face of the Texas Rangers
There was a problem in the clubhouse last year…call is Josh, call is whatever you want…actually, just call is Josh. The atmosphere will be improved this year with Adrian Beltre assuming the leadership role vacated by Michael Young.
It’s going to be a close race, and in the end I think the Rangers will win the division by a slim margin, but they will win the division. LAA will secure a playoff spot as a Wild Card team. If you want to hear my full predictions for the season, make sure you listen to our last podcast.
It’s the podcast you have all been waiting for…ok, maybe not, but give it a listen and hold Jasen and I accountable for our picks when they are all dead wrong at season’s end.
I don’t want to spoil it, but you’ll never believe who we pick to win the 2013 World Series.
“Hello JD, it’s Jasen with BaseballDo.com, will you marry me?”
Special thanks to all on Twitter who submitted questions. Listen for the “marry one, kill one, naked spoon one” question regarding Wash, Nolan and JD and then let us know below how you would answer that question.
If you want to play along with your prediction, post them in the comments section below:
World Series Champ
Cy Young Award winners
Rookies of the Year
Managers of the Year
Good luck, and don’t be intimidated by the fact that we are professionals.
The Oakland Athletics won the American League West last year in dramatic fashion, snatching the division title away from the Rangers on the final day of the season. If you are reading this, I’m betting that you haven’t forgotten.
With a hodge-podge of contributing veterans, break-out players, timely performances and a Cuban who is slugging his way towards stardom, the A’s won the division when the consensus going into 2012 was that they would finish a distant third to the Rangers and Angels.
So, who would dare pick them to finish third again? Who would challenge Moneyball? Who would give the A’s their bulletin board material in 2013? Me…and Dan Szymborski of ESPN.com…and others for that matter…but most importantly ME.
Bottom line (oddly near the top of the article), I’m not a believer. The Rangers helped the A’s to the West title last year more than any other team in baseball could have. The A’s don’t have what it takes to win the AL West without another collapse from the Rangers and Angels.
The Bats & Gloves
This is still a lineup made up of guys (with the exception of a few) that are relative no-names. No offense to those guys, but these just aren’t names that the average baseball fans is familiar with. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good…
Coco Crisp, CF
Jed Lowrie, SS
Josh Reddick, RF
Yoenis Cespedes, LF
Brandon Moss, 1B
Seth Smith, DH
Josh Donaldson, 3B
John Jaso, C
Scott Sizemore or Eric Sogard, 2B
There are some projections out there that have Jaso batting higher in the order and even 2nd, but Lowrie is leading candidate. Former Diamondback outfielder Chris Young will also probably get plenty of ABs as the fourth outfielder on the team.
Three bats that peak my interest:
Brandon Moss…solid player who far exceeded expectations in 2012 – or – late blooming journeyman who just needed a chance to prove he is a middle of the order talent? The 29 year-old Moss, with his fourth team in Oakland, broke out like no other in 2013, and while I’m inclined to call it a “one-hit wonder”, I’m not quite ready to completely dismiss Moss. In 265 crucial at-bats last year, he hit 21 bombs with a .954 OPS. Projected over a full season, he would have been a 40+ HR, 100+ RBI MVP candidate. The only other season in his career in which he had as many plate appearances was in 2009 when he hit 7 dingers with a .236 batting average with 120 more at-bats than what he had last year. So, will the real Brandon Moss please stand up? Like I said, I’m intrigued.
John Jaso was once trusted to lead off by the great Joe Maddon (he with the sweet black-rimmed specks). Jaso flies under the radar (just like the A’s like ‘em), but is an extremely productive player when you take into account he is a catcher (thin position). Last year with the Mariners, he hit 10 HRs with 50 RBIs over just 294 at-bats, while putting together an impressive slash – .276/.394/.456. While it’s quite possible that Jaso too played above his head a bit in 2012, this dude can hit and he is a perfect fit for this line-up. Derek Norris will still get time behind the plate, but Jaso’s bat will find away in to the line-up more often than not.
Yoenis Cespedes scares me and he should scare you too. As stated earlier, this team is made up of a bunch of second-chancers and no names with the exception of a few….and Cespedes is part of the few. Wanna dark horse for 2013 AL MVP? Look no further. Cespedes put together an impressive rookie campaign in 2012 with a .292/.365/.505 slash, but when you look at the splits, you see that he really figured it out in the second half of the season with an OPS of 119 points higher than the first half. He doesn’t care if the pitcher is a rightie or a leftie, and get’s even better when runners are in scoring position (.345/.430/.540 slash with RISP).
Defensively…well, you’ve probably seen Moneyball…so you know how Billy Beane does it. Outfielders are good, infielders are average…again, breaking down defense is boring. Not dismissing it’s importance, but c’mon…
The A’s have an impressive stable of young starters who, while none of which are Ace material, combine to make a strong rotation – that’s synergy…maybe.
Brett Anderson, LHP
Jarrod Parker, RHP
Tommy Milone, LHP
A.J. Griffin, RHP
Bartolo Colon, RHP
Dan Straily will be the 5th starter for at least the first time through the rotation, but it’s really Colon’s spot to lose.
2nd in the American League in team ERA at 3.48
2nd in the American League in team WHIP at 1.239
Last in American League with just 1 Complete Game – they rely on their pen.
In the bottom 3 of the AL in strikeouts while in the bottom 5 in the AL in walks – they don’t blow you away, but they also don’t give free passes.
They will definitely miss Brandon McCarthy, but Brett Anderson and Jarrod Parker make up a pretty salty 1-2 punch at the top of the order. Parker has the potential to be something special for the A’s long-term at the tender age of 24 and under the team’s control through 2017.
Given the stat above of only one complete game last year, the A’s are a team that leverages their bullpen regularly….exactly 161 times in 2012. Grant Balfour will be the closer once again. The bullpen, like the rest of this team, underwhelms you by name but gets the job done.
Bob Melvin is a healthy 6’4″, 205 pounds and has a career managerial record of 634 – 628, so….there’s that.
The Bottom Line
Look, the Athletics are a dangerous team, as proven by last year’s dominance down the stretch, but…I don’t think they are better than the Rangers or the Angels…on paper…which is why they play the games.
Could the A’s surprise us all again? Of course, but this team is not a playoff team without help, in the form of a collapse, from the Rangers and/or Angels unless both wild card teams happen to come from the American League West (which was the prediction from ESPN The Magazine).
Best Case: 94-68, same as last year. While the Astros will help them out in the win column, I see more consistent and improved play from the Rangers and Angels stopping the Athletics from improving upon last year’s mark.
Worst Case: 82-80, this team is better than .500, barring any major injuries.
Down to the top 2 now…stay tuned.
Side note – we are less than two weeks away from the 2nd Annual Baseball Do Field Trip. We still have tickets available. If you want to go and your want your shirt to be ready for the Field Trip, you need to order your tickets tomorrow. Looking forward to it!
The Mariners look forward to the arrival of the Astros in the American League West with the hope of getting out of last place for the first time in the last three years. The Mariners took some positive steps during the offseason, including securing one of the best pitchers in the game to a long-term contract, but it won’t be enough to overcome Oakland, Anaheim or Texas.
This is a team with young talented players at some key positions in “King” Felix Hernandez (SP), Dustin Ackley (2B), Jesus Montero (C/DH), Kyle Seager (3B), Michael Saunders (RF) and the freshly drafted Mike Zunino (C). Couple the young talent with some veterans sprinkled in and we should see the Mariners improve upon their 77-85 mark from 2012. By how much is the question…
The Bats & Gloves
This lineup has some holes in it, but if a few of these guys can take a step in the right direction, it’s a lineup that could greatly improve over last year’s performance.
Dustin Ackley, 2B
Franklin Gutierrez, CF
Kyle Seager, 3B
Michael Morse, LF
Kendrys Morales, DH
Jesus Montero, C
Justin Smoak, 1B
Michael Saunders, RF
Brendan Ryan, SS
I don’t think Manager Eric Wedge has unveiled his official Opening Day lineup, but it should look similar to what’s above, barring injury. There are three bats in this lineup that peak my interest:
Dustin Ackley was less than impressive last year (.226/.294/.328) and MUST take a major step in 2013 for this lineup to have success. Keep in mind that he is still only 25 years old, but as the table-setter, the Mariners will be depending on him to get on base at a higher rate than .294.
Kyle Seager is an impressive young player (also only 25) who I secretly admire. In his first full season last year, Seager put up a pretty respectable line (.259/.316/.423) with many of his metrics improving in the second half. I think Seager will improve further in 2013 and be an important part of this lineup’s run production.
In mid-December, the Mariners shipped the frustrating Jason Vargas to the Angels for Kendrys Morales who just didn’t have a spot in the Angel’s stacked lineup. It was one of those rare intra-division trades that addressed a need for both teams at the major league level. I loved this trade for the Mariners. Morales has has been hindered by injury and lack of playing time over the last two seasons, but it wasn’t that long ago (2009) that he finished 5th in the AL MVP voting (.306/.355/.569) and was the centerpiece of the Angel’s lineup. Can he return to that form? He’s only 29 years old, and I could see the change of scenery and opportunity to play ever day get him close.
Defensively, the Mariners are good, as the mantra of “pitching and defense” is still part of their identity. They only committed 72 errors in 2012 (2nd best in AL) and had the second highest Defensive Efficiency rating in the American League.
The middle of the lineup may get some help from the fences moving in, but remember…that works both ways.
The Mariners have something that we Ranger fans have coveted for a long, long time…a true Ace. Perhaps one of the more upsetting off-season occurrences that didn’t directly involve the Rangers was the contract extension between the Mariners and King Felix which will keep Hernandez in Seattle through 2019.
Quick – who were the other four starters for Seattle last year?
I gave you Vargas, so that doesn’t count, and you probably thought of former-Ranger prospect Blake Beavan. Do either of those guys do much for you? Me neither, but the Mainers pitching staff was pretty good in 2012 when compared to the rest of the American League:
4th in team ERA in AL at 3.76
3rd in team WHIP in AL at 1.241
So, this is what a pitcher’s park and King Felix will get you.
Brandon Mauer – this spot is still an open competition, but Mauer’s got my vote. Erasmo Ramirez was probably the favorite to win the spot (ala Martin Perez) and could still win the spot (ala not Martin Perez).
Can Hisashi Iwakuma be a legit #2? There is no doubt in my mind that he can if he isn’t already. Last year’s performance was good, but take a closer look – he was great at the end of the season. Keep in mind 2012 was his first season in MLB, so the inconsistencies near the beginning of the season can be dismissed as part of his “adjustment period”. In August and September, Iwakuma posted a 7-3 record with an ERA in the low 2′s. I think he’s adjusted and gives the Mariners a nice 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation.
The bullpen is fair, anchored by Tom Wilhelmson who assumed the closing duties last year and converted 29 saves on 24 opportunities. Bullpens are generally boring.
Eric Wedge. Enough said. Nothing special. Career 703-755 managerial record with Indians and Mariners.
The Bottom Line
In my opinion, the Mariners could push for 3rd place in the American League West, but I think a 4th place finish is more likely.
IF…the the lineup can get consistency from some of the youngsters (Ackley, Montero, Smoak). IF…the back-end of the rotation can be average. IF…they can stay healthy. Three big IF’s, but it could happen.
Best case: 84-78 record behind the emergence of Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero as legit major league all-star caliber players.
Worst case: 77-85…again…hey, they have King Felix.
Up next…you can probably figure it out from here.
Side note – we are close to two weeks away from the 2nd Annual Baseball Do Field Trip. We still have tickets available. If you want to go and your want your shirt to be ready for the Field Trip, you need to order your tickets by next Wednesday at the latest.
Ron Washington has become one of the most beloved managers in Texas Rangers history and has managed this team to levels never attained by previous squads. With the success has come a new level of expectations in Arlington – a trip to the postseason is no longer where the bar is set, but rather considered acceptable and lackluster.
Wash do what Wash do…
Since taking the reins in 2007, Wash has managed the Rangers to a record of 520-452 and finished in the top five for AL Manager of the Year honors three times (’09, ’10 & ’11; not always a good thing). This isn’t the place to compile “the resume of Ron Washington”, but I just wanted to set the stage. Oh yeah, his teams also reached the World Series in 2010 and 2011…but something tells me you knew that.
So, with all this success, why is the term “hot seat” being mentioned in the same breath as Wash? Well, because “that’s the way baseball go”.
There’s a lot of pressure on managers to win when their teams are good enough to win. As long as Ron Washington makes the playoffs, his job will be fine. I think that’s the key, whether it’s the division or the wild-card, he’s gotta do that. If the Rangers are on the outside looking in come November, it would not surprise me at all if they decided to make a change. So, yeah, I think there is pressure there.
As we have been reminded throughout the offseason, baseball is a performance business where winning now is the measure of success – especially for teams with existing talent at the major league level. With that in mind, it’s only fair that we take a look at Wash under the same scope that we would a player who fails to perform as expected when needed (ahem…Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli, etc.).
Two Types of Managerial Situations
For a manager, while winning isn’t everything, it certainly provides a good amount of job security.
Develop and don’t regress. Some managers aren’t necessarily expected to win now (ex. Bo Porter in Houston), but more expected to set the tone for the team, develop young players and wait for more talent to arrive. When Wash arrived in Arlington in 2007, he was
Win now. Then there are managers with good major league talent and fan base and front office that expected a trip to the postseason – for these managers, winning is everything – and it’s on this list of managers where you’ll find Ron Washington.
To be clear, I’m not calling for Ron Washington to lose his job right now. Far from it actually – our 2013 Field Trip T-Shirt has a Wash Theme. We are simply asking the question, should Wash be “on notice”, and if the 2013 season were to get off on a bad foot, should there be a change?
If so, how bad would it have to get for you to feel that firing Ron Washington during or immediately after the 2013 season would be justified? Read on, then comment below.
Argument for the “Hot Seat”
Last year’s meltdown and the perceived loss of respect late in the season are enough to warrant Wash being on the hot seat. The window to compete can be quickly closed, and while the Rangers have some great young prospects in the pipeline, we need a manager that can deliver a championship when provided with a championship-caliber roster.
…I think he’s on something of a hot seat this year. Washington didn’t have a great year last year as the Rangers manager, but I think he learned from it.
The way the 2012 season ended left us all sick, and while that can’t be all we base Wash’s job security on, I repeat…it’s about winning now when you have as much talent as the Rangers.
Loss of respect? We don’t care about Josh, but the fear is that other players that remain on the team feel the same way.
In addition to the decline in on-the-field performance that led to the poor ending last season, it seemed evident that Wash had lost the respect of some players. We all remember the confrontation between Wash and Josh in the dugout in Oakland, and I know we aren’t concerned with Josh’s respect of Wash now, but it’s very possible that other players feel the same way.
If Wash has started to “lose the clubhouse”, there is no question that he should be on notice. He must prove that he has the proper command and respect of the clubhouse in order to maintain his role in this organization.
Unbalanced managers often “lose the clubhouse” because they are too “huggy” or they are overly strict. This could very well be the case with Wash and could be what led to the collapse last season.
Finally, Wash has been out-managed in some key situations and games during his tenure as manager – often going with his “gut” instead of a more statistically-aligned decision. Game management, just like player management, requires balance and if Wash can’t provide more balance in his approach to both, the Rangers will need to look elsewhere for a manager that can lead this franchise back to the World Series.
Even dating back to the team’s back-to-back World Series losses in 2010 and 2011, there were serious criticisms of Washington’s in-game management skills and alleged over-reliance on “gut decisions.
Argument against the “Hot Seat”
Back to the opening statement of this post…
Ron Washington has become one of the most beloved managers in Texas Rangers history and has managed this team to levels never attained by previous squads.
When a manager has taken you to the World Series twice in the last three seasons, he does not deserve to have his role under the microscope. It is extremely difficult to do what the Rangers did in 2010 and 2011 and with that success, Wash has earned our patience, support and respect.
The idea of including Wash in any “Managerial Hot Seat” article is absurd given his track record and impact on this franchise and the DFW sports scene.
He has transcended the status of Major League Manager, and has become a cultural icon synonymous with a new era in Rangers baseball and everything that is fun and enjoyable about this team and this great game.
Josh Hamilton is gone, but not forgotten, as his words once again merit response from the Baseball Do guys and infuriate much of Ranger Nation. Scott and Jasen discuss Josh’s comments on DFW as a “baseball town” and his attempt to play Rangers fans that will be present to boo, cheer or stand in silence at the Rangers first home game (against the Angels) on April 5th, 2013. Nolan thinks the Rangers can still be contenders without Josh, do you?
We experience a technical breakdown, but determined afterwards that editing it out was too exhausting and beyond our technical know-how…so enjoy that!
Do you love have another man’s fingers in your mouth? If not, you’ll wanna hear Jasen horrifying story of a recent visit to the dentist’s office. Got one that top’s it? Share in the comments section below.
We wrap up by breaking down a recent article from ESPN.com’s Buster Olney related to strength of schedules for 2013 in the American League. The rankings is interesting and is yet another way of looking at the decisions that will be made as the Rangers approach the 2013 trade deadline.
Weekly preview of each of the Rangers’ American League West rivals for the 2013 season – from the bottom up.
The Rangers’ cross-state inter-league rival is making the move to the American League West starting in the 2013 season to become a more frequent opponent on the Rangers’ schedule and potentially bring more intrigue and consequence to each match-up.
New Manager Bo Porter hopes to get things turned around in Houston.
The Astros are a young team who will struggle to really build their identity in the American League in 2013. However, with new manager Bo Porter in place, a respected front-office and a strong farm system (4th on Keith Law’s organizational rankings),they hope to get out of the cellar in the next 2-3 seasons.
Unfortunately, with the move to the AL West (Hello DH!), the limited experience of many key players (youth) and the anticipated improvement in Seattle, it’s not likely that they will finish anywhere but last this season. The question is, how many games will this team lose?
After finishing last in the National League Central in 2011 and 2012, with 106 and 107 losses respectively, the win’s won’t come any easier in 2013. Is another 100+ loss season on tap for the Lastros (sorry, couldn’t resist)? Uhhhh…yes.
The Bats & Gloves
As stated earlier, the Astros have some young talent at the Major League level and the large majority of that, if not all, falls to the position players. With some moving parts and flexibility in the line-up, it could easily change, but…
Jose Altuve will set the tone for the Astros’ lineup in 2013.
Jose Altuve, 2B
Tyler Greene, SS
Brett Wallace, 1B
Chris Carter, LF
Justin Maxwell, CF
J.D. Martinez, RF
Carlos Pena, DH
Jason Castro, C
Matt Dominguez, 3B
There are many potential variations out there for the Astros’ lineup, but the players are pretty set with the exception of OF Fernando Martinez who should crack the lineup regularly throughout the season.
The 5’5″ Altuve is a solid lead-off option, but beyond that the Astros have a number of question marks with inexperience and inconsistency being the big culprits. Don’t get me wrong, there are some players here, but I don’t think the Astros can count on the offense to improve enough to avoid 100 losses again.
If a couple of the youngsters (Martinez, Martinez, Wallace, Castro & Dominguez) can break out and if they can get some consistency from the veterans (Pena, Maxwell), they could help win 7+ more games in 2013, but….
Can the Rocket improve this pitching staff?
A few key figures from 2012:
.270 Batting Average Against – 27th in the Majors
.337 Opponents On-Base Percentage – 28th in Majors
.427 Opponents Slugging Percentage – 25th in Majors
2.17 K/BB – 25th in Majors
1.43 WHIP – 29th in Majors
Only blew 19 saves…but that was on only 50 save opportunities, so good enough for a 62% Save Rate – 26th in Majors
With all due respect to Andrew McCutchen, Ryan Braun and Joey Votto…it’s not going to get any easier in the American League West.
The Astros brought former Cy Young award winner Roger Clemens in to help, but that’s not going to help unless he brought Brian McNamee along.
There are as many as 10 pitchers in the mix, vying for a spot in the starting rotation, but here’s what’s likely:
Brad Peacock, Alex White, Jared Cosart and John Ely are all talented young pitchers who will very likely get a shot at some point during the season as well.
Looking at this bunch, I would say there are no clearly defined roles with setup and closing duties open for competition in Spring Training – and the possibility of some of the youngsters mentioned above (Peacock, White, Cosart and Ely) fighting for spots in the bullpen (ala Robbie Ross).
More than likely, Jose Veras will be the closer at least to start the season.
First year rookie manager Bo Porter has his hands full, but barring a cluster of unforgivable mistakes, expect the Astros front office to have some patience with him. I, for one, think Porter was an excellent hire and if given time can be a good major league manager.
From “The Legend of Bo Porter” on RantSports.com:
Porter studied all 162 games of the Astros season last year. He believes the Astros could have won 35 more games than the 55 that the Astros did actually win. If you do the math, that is 90 win season for the Astros and would have ultimately propelled the Astros into the playoffs as the second Wild Card. Porter said those 35 games were lost at the “breaking point”. He also went on to say all the Astros need was mental toughness, and of course, a little motivation.
Maybe a little much, but shows the enthusiasm and confidence.
The Bottom Line
Astros’ prospect Delino Deshields Jr.
New rookie manager
Move to the American League
Lots of unproven young talent
Very shaky (at best) pitching staff
Highly regarded front office
More young talent in the minor league system
Not working this game by game, but here are my predictions:
Best case: 77-95 – Altuve solidifies himself as an up-and-coming MLB star, a couple of the young bats really break out and Brad Peacock and Alex White save the pitching staff.
Worst case: 52-110 – Altuve regresses and Porter can’t find the right mix offensively or with his staff all season.
If you haven’t already purchased your tickets to the Field Trip, we still have tickets available.
Game is Saturday, April 6th against the Angels. Second home game of the season! We’ll meet up at Mixed Up Burgers around 11:30 to hang out, enjoy a good pre-game meal and give away some door prizes. We’ll head to the ballpark around 2pm (3:05 first pitch) and watch the Rangers beat the Angels.