Feb 072012
 

2012 American League West by Position (Part 1)I recently got into an argument with a fellow Rangers fan regarding how much the Angels improved though their off-season acquisitions.  As we talked through Pujols and C.J., it lead to a position-by-position comparison of the Rangers and Angels for the 2012 season.  I’ve taken the next step here to bring the Mariners and Athletics into the argument.  While they look to have no reasonable chance to contend in the division, there are two reason to include them here:

  1. You never know.
  2. Allows us to rank 1-4 for each position.  So, even if you are primarily interested in Rangers vs. Angels, you can get an understanding of where the players actually stack up against other peers to give you a frame of reference.
We’ll break this up into four pieces to be posted over the next couple of weeks.  Feel free to chime in with your comments!
  • Catcher & Infield
  • Outfield & DH
  • Bench & Manager
  • Starting Rotation, Relievers & Closer
We’ll track inverse points (ex. Napoli is #1 catcher, so he get’s 4 points), and award a bonus point in situations where the top player has an extreme advantage over the rest of the players at that position.  We’ll define extreme advantage as a WAR (wins above replacement) variance of 2 or more in 2011.  WAR can be a bit inconsistent depending on the source, so we’ll be using fangraphs.com.

Catcher

  1. 2012 American League West by Position (Part 1)Mike Napoli, TEX
  2. Chris Ianetta, LAA
  3. Kurt Suzuki, OAK
  4. Miguel Olivo, SEA

Nap takes the top spot here easily and get’s the +1 with a 2011 WAR of 5.6, compared to Ianetta who was at 3.3.  Even with Napoli’s season being a bit of an outlier when you look at his career, I don’t see Ianetta or Suzuki closing the gap enought in 2012 to argue against it.

The biggest debate here is between 2nd and 3rd place, primarily because Ianetta is changing leagues and may be in adjustment mode during the first part of 2012.  That said, Ianetta had a better WAR and OPS in 2011, and will be managed by a former catcher that can certainly help in improve even further behind the plate.

1st Base

  1. 2012 American League West by Position (Part 1)Albert Pujols, LAA
  2. Mitch Moreland, TEX
  3. Justin Smoak, SEA
  4. Brandon Allen/Daric Barton/Chris Carter, OAK

Similar to catcher, you can’t argue with number one, as Pujols not only takes the prize, but also takes the bonus point with relative ease.  Pujols put up a 5.4 WAR last year in the National League with the Cardinals and a .906 OPS, which was a down year for him, compared to a .733 OPS for Moreland and .717 for Smoak.

The battle for 2nd and 3rd is a lot closer than most Rangers fans would like to think, as you can tell by the OPS stats above.  Statistically, Moreland and Smoak had  very similar years in 2011, with Moreland producing at a slightly higher level than Smoak in almost all categories.  Both are still young players that should improve even further in 2012.

I give the edge to Mitch here in a close one.  Smoak was the more highly touted prospect, so you might expect him to progress at a more accelerated rate than Moreland, but I don’t think you’ll see that in this case, primarily because of the teams that surround them.  Mitch faces far less pressure and will face many more bullpen caliber pitchers because of the extremely productive lineup that he is playing in.  Switch their situations, I would lean the other way.

2nd Base

  1. 2012 American League West by Position (Part 1)Ian Kinsler, TEX
  2. Howie Kendrick, LAA
  3. Dustin Ackley, SEA
  4. Jemile Weeks, OAK

This is by far the best position across the board.  Kinsler had the strongest campaign in 2011 and should be the most productive in 2012, but the divide between he and Kendrick is not big enough for the bonus here.

I think the rankings are clear cut, but we could see both Ackley and Weeks close the gap even further during 2012.

All three players had an OPS in 2011 above .761, with Ian leading the pack at .832.  There is no weak player in this bunch.

3rd Base

  1. 2012 American League West by Position (Part 1)Adrian Beltre, TEX
  2. Alberto Callaspo, LAA
  3. Scott Sizemore, OAK
  4. Kyle Seager, SEA

Clear cut number one at the hot corner, as Beltre dominated the group statistically.  Beltre’s dominance is enough to get him the bonus point here as well, outpacing Callaspo’s 2011 WAR ranking by 2.1 (5.7 for Beltre to 3.6 for Callaspo).

Callaspo get the nod for 2nd place here, but again, it could be closer than you think, and rumors of Mark Trumbo making the switch to 3rd base cloud the ranking a bit.  That said, if Callaspo is the starting 3rd basemen for the Angels in 2012, he’ll be hitting in the much more productive line-up and is better defensively.

Shortstop

  1. 2012 American League West by Position (Part 1)Elvis Andrus, TEX
  2. Erik Aybar, LAA
  3. Cliff Pennington, OAK
  4. Brendan Ryan, SEA
Close race for the top spot between Andrus and Aybar here, but Elvis takes 1st place by a small margin.  Statistically, the two are very close, with Aybar posting a higher OPS in 2011 at .743 compared to Elvis at .708.  Elvis is superior defensively and is the younger player.  Both stand to improve in 2012 as Elvis continues to mature and Aybar welcomes a much needed bat to the Angel’s line-up (Mr. Pujols).

This is my biggest decision in the rankings so far, and I have to lean towards Elvis here.  Even factoring out my bias, if that’s possible, I see Elvis improving at the plate in 2012 to an equal level of Aybar, and far outplaying Aybar defensively.

Score at the end of Round 1:

  1. Rangers: 5 + 3 + 4 + 5 + 4 = 21
  2. Angels: 3 + 5 + 3 + 3 + 3 = 17
  3. Athletics: 2 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 2 = 8
  4. Mariners: 1 + 2 + 2 + 1 + 1 = 7
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Jan 032012
 

Will Cooperstown Call?Next Monday Cooperstown will be calling.

Calling upon it’s newest inductees to be forever enshrined in the Hall of Fame of our countries great past-time.  Here are just a few that are prime for consideration (need 75% of vote to get inducted):

  • Barry Larkin…very deserving and will probably get the nod; got 62% of vote in 2011.
  • Jeff Bagwell…he’d get my vote, but I wonder if the era he played in works against him; only got 42% of vote in 2011.
  • Jack Morris…13th year on the ballot for this big-game pitcher, with good (not great) career numbers; got 54% of vote in 2011
  • Lee Smith…478 career saves (was all-time leader for a few years); 10th year on ballot; got 45% of vote in 2011.
  • Tim Raines…transcendent player who changed the game with his speed; 38% of vote in 2011
  • Mark McGwire…Rafael Palmeiro…steroids.
  • Bernie Williams…1st year on the ballot for a great defensive center fielder that played for a dynasty.

There are others of course, but we don’t need to go any deeper than what’s above.  My guess would be that Larkin and Morris make it this year, with Bagwell and Raines improving their vote totals and Williams being the strongest of the newly eligible.

All of the debate over the players above got me thinking about our current Rangers team, and wondering if we had anyone on this team that had a legitimate shot at someday receiving the call from Cooperstown.  Here’s a look at four current Rangers whom you could build a solid argument on, based on achievement and/or potential.

  • Will Cooperstown Call?Michael Young – Mr. Ranger will be 35 during the 2012 season and has played in 11 seasons (not counting 2000 when he only played in 2 games), 9 of which have seen him play in 155 games or more.
    His career totals are  strong:

    G H HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG OPS
    1667 2061 169 917 87 0.304 0.350 0.451 0.801

    Accomplishments & Awards: 7 time All-Star, 2006 All-Star game MVP, 1 Batting Title (2005), 1 Gold Glove (2008), let the AL in hits twice (2005 & 2011), Twice finished in top 10 MVP voting.
    Assumption for projecting career: plays 6 more seasons (through Age 40), with playing time and production decreasing 5% per season starting in 2013, with a increased decline of 10% in his final season (at age 40).
    Career Projections:

    G H HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG OPS
    2509 3051 248 1358 127 0.299 0.346 0.443 0.789

    Again, this is pretty elementary approach to projecting out the remainder of a players career, as there are many factors that can come into play, but I think this is a fair approach.  If anything, you could probably argue that it’s not conservative enough.  I’m not going to attempt to project any additional accomplishments and awards for Michael or anyone below for that matter.
    Hall of Fame or Not: With the exception of Pete Rose (banned), Craig Biggio, Derek Jeter and our very own Rafael Palmeiro (none of the 3 are eligible yet), 3,000 career his is a lock for the Hall of Fame, so if Michael can produce at the level assumed above, I think he will one day get the call from Cooperstown.

  • Will Cooperstown Call?Josh Hamilton – Had Josh not been derailed by the demons that plagued him early in his professional career, this may be a no-brainer, but one could also argue that had Josh not faced and eventually overcome those demons, he might not be the player that he is today.
    Josh is 30 years old, with 5 big league seasons under his belt, only one in which he played in 135 games or more.
    Career totals:

    G H HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG OPS
    589 698 118 425 36 0.308 0.366 0.543 0.909

    Accomplishments & Awards:  4 Time All-Star, 2010 AL MVP, 2010 ALCS MVP, 2 Time Silver Slugger (2008 & 2010), 1 Batting Title (2010), Led AL in RBI (130 in 2008), and one hell of a life story that impacts anyone who knows about it.
    Assumption for projecting career: Plays 8 more seasons (through age 38), averaging 145 games per season through 2014 with playing time and productivity decreasing ~10% through remainder of career.
    Career projections:

    G H HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG OPS
    1604 1879 321 1168 86 0.307 0.358 0.543 0.901

    Hall of Fame or not: The numbers won’t do it alone.  What’s hard to project, especially with a player as skilled as Josh, is the what he might do as far as additional accomplishments and awards.  Josh could also exceed expectations as far as playing time and productivity, but his first five MLB seasons don’t back that up, so I’m not comfortable being more aggressive in these areas.  With all that said, I’m going to say that Josh won’t get the call, but there isn’t a guy on this team that I would rather see get in the Hall of Fame.  He means a lot more than stats and awards to a lot of people.

  • Will Cooperstown Call?Adrian Beltre – Adrian was playing at the Major League level at the age of 19.  I asked Jasen what he was doing when he was 19. and wasn’t surprised to find out that he wasn’t playing Major League baseball, but instead he was working at Oshmans Sporting Goods, sponging off his parents and spending a lot of “me” time.
    With an early arrival, comes more time to accumulate statistics.  Adrian has played 14 season in the majors with the Dogers, Mariners, Red Sox and Rangers.  He has played in 150 games or more in 7 of those seasons.  Here’s Adrian’s career stats :

    G H HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG OPS
    1959 2033 310 1113 114 0.276 0.329 0.469 0.797

    Accomplishments & Awards: 2 Time All-Star (2010 & 2011), 2nd in NL MVP voting in 2004, 3 Gold Gloves, 3 Silver Sluggers, Led AL in doubles in 2010 (49), let NL in HRs in 2004 (48).
    Assumption for projecting career: Plays 7 more seasons through age 39, averaging 145 games through 2013, with 5% decrease in playing time and production through age 39 (steeper decrease in production during final 2 seasons).
    Career projections:

    G H HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG OPS
    2851 2953 494 1717 126 0.271 0.317 0.468 0.787

    There is no way in hell that a 39 year-old Adrian Beltre would hang’em up just 47 hits away from 3,000 and 6 HR’s away from 500, so let’s put one more limited season at Age 40 on top of these projections.

    G H HR RBI SB BA OBP SLG OPS
    2909 3001 504 1748 126 0.270 0.316 0.466 0.782

    Hall of Fame or Not: No question, if Adrian can play to the level assumed above, he will be a lock for the Hall of Fame.  500 HRs doesn’t mean what it used to, but coupling that with 3,000 hits and any additional awards and accomplishments he can corral, and I think Adrian Beltre will get the call from Cooperstown in 2025 or sometime shortly thereafter.

  • Will Cooperstown Call?Elvis Andrus – Elvis Augusto Torres Andrus was born in 1988.  I won’t get into what Jasen was doing in 1988, but I was 12-year old in love with the game of baseball.  On August 26th, 1988, when Baby Elvis entered this world, the Texas Rangers were 20.5 games out of first in the AL West, looking up at the Bash Brothers.
    By far the shortest career and youngest of the four that we are examining here. You could argue that it’s ridiculous to even put Elvis in the conversation here, but I have to.  The idea for this article came about when my Dad and I were at a game in late-2010, and he asked me who on the field could ever become a Hall of Famer.  At the time, without digging into the stats, we agreed that Josh and Cliff Lee might have a chance if they remained highly productive for the next several years.  When also both agreed that Elvis, while very limited in experience and
    I’m not going to even bother with the numbers.  He’s only 23 years old with three major league seasons to his name.
    Elvis is smart and has the tools to become something very special.  He is one of those guys (like Josh) that can make the difficult plays look easy.
    Hall of Fame or Not:  He could be the next Edgar Renteria, Alan Trammell or possibly even Barry Larkin – or better or worse than any of these guys.  Elvis is smart and has the tools to become something very special.  He is one of those guys (like Josh) that can make the difficult plays look easy.  If I had to go out on limb, I’d have to say that I don’t think Elvis will get the call from Cooperstown, but that’s only because most don’t.  It’s reserved for the elite…the greats…the transcendent players that play at a level above their peers.  Could Elvis become this type of player?  No doubt.

So there you have it.  Apologies in advance if I left your favorite Rangers off the list.  Ian, Nellie, Nap and Neftali all crossed my mind to include here, but for various reasons, I don’t think they are quite ready to be part of the conversation.  I realize that by including Elvis, I might be opening myself up for a little criticism – feel free to leave a comment.  In the end, it’s about the team.  Awards and recognition are great, but its about winning the games and winning a Championship, and we should all be ecstatic with the fact that OUR team understands and embraces this.

 

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Dec 212011
 

Baseball Do Podcast Episode 43rd Base is up for discussion in our weekly off-season position roundup…yo Adrian (greatest pic from last year)!

Jasen and I spend some time talking about the Yu Darvish bid and the potential impact Darvish has on the Ranger’s rotation and bullpen.

And finally, Jasen and I rehash our traumatizing experiences with having to put beloved pets to sleep…forever.

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