Mar 272013
 

Weekly preview of each of the Rangers’ American League West rivals for the 2013 season – from the bottom up.

  1. Oakland Athletics
  2. Seattle Mariners
  3. Houston Astros

Breaking down the West   Oakland cant do it again in 2013...can they?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…

Projected Line-up

  1. Coco Crisp, CF
  2. Jed Lowrie, SS
  3. Josh Reddick, RF
  4. Yoenis Cespedes, LF
  5. Brandon Moss, 1B
  6. Seth Smith, DH
  7. Josh Donaldson, 3B
  8. John Jaso, C
  9. 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:

  • Breaking down the West   Oakland cant do it again in 2013...can they?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.
  • Breaking down the West   Oakland cant do it again in 2013...can they?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 Arms

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.

Projected Rotation

  1. Brett Anderson, LHP
  2. Jarrod Parker, RHP
  3. Tommy Milone, LHP
  4. A.J. Griffin, RHP
  5. 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.

The Bullpen

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.

The Manager

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!

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Sep 062012
 
Jered Weaver  3

The last time I produced an article for BaseballDo, I received unexpected acclaim and notoriety from a couple of local sports radio talk shows which I have admired for many years. To hear my name had been associated with decent writing was pretty surreal based on my past failures in freshman and sophomore English at Bryan Adams High School.

I received instant popularity and credibility throughout social media as I gained at least 10 new followers the first day. You might think I am being sarcastic, but 10 new followers in a day for me is something which does not occur very often, even on Follow Fridays.

In all honesty, I really do not feel I did spectacular work on my article in regards to Michael Young’s struggles so far in 2012. I felt as if I was just providing the reader with information any person could have found on the internet late at night when one is unable to sleep. I am still very grateful for all the kind words though.

Well, my last article might have gained me some baseball writing credibility, but with this piece, I might be losing every bit of the cred I might have earned.

Presenting Team D BagOne popular phrase or moniker for a certain type of individual in today’s society is douchebag. We all are cognizant of what a douchebag, or doucher for short, really is. Douchebags tend to walk around with this arrogant, pompous sense of entitlement like they are better than you.

The clothes douchebags wear are more than annoying. There are the button-up shirts with crosses stitched on the back, Ed Hardy tees, and blue jeans with dragons printed on them. Douchers even style their hair a certain way.

The most vexatious (thank you Google)trait douchers have is the tendency to brag incessantly about their accomplishments, possessions, or jobs where they make an infinite amount of money more than you do . Douchers will even begin to speak about themselves before one even touches the subject. Yes, humility is not in the cards for the doucher.

Being a douchebag can be advantageous as I have noticed women tend to flock towards the doucher, and also the D-bag tends to have a chiseled physique resembling a Greek God, while we are left to look like Al Bundy in the later years of Married with Children.

The term douchebag has also found its way over into the sports world, in particular, the great game of baseball. For some odd reason, some select baseball players have earned a reputation of being a douchebag, despite the fact many of the fans referring to the player as a doucher do not even know the player personally.

Presenting Team D BagI cannot tell you how often I hear a player is awful because he is a douchebag. Recently, I was engaged in an argument over New York Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher and whether or not the Texas Rangers should pursue him this offseason when Swisher becomes a free-agent. I asked another writer on Twitter what he thought about pursuing Swish. He responded, and I am paraphrasing, he would be surprised if the team did not try to sign the soon to be free agent.

Immediately, I received all kinds of tweets from fans about what a douche Swisher is, and how he would have this pernicious effect on the clubhouse. My response to these tweets I received was Swisher has produced above average numbers since becoming a Yankee as he has yielded an OPS over .800 4 straight seasons, and is on pace to have a career high in extra base hits in 2012. Well, none of that mattered because many still believed Swisher sucks because he smiles a certain way, or walks to the plate with an overly arrogant stroll with his sunglasses a certain color.

The most controversial perceived douchebag in DFW is former Rangers pitcher CJ Wilson, who now plays for the Los Angeles Angels. As the Rangers ‘ace’ heading into the 2011 postseason, Wilson struggled the entire playoffs and the Rangers lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals in 7 games, a game in which Wilson hit the first batter he faced with the bases loaded in the 5th inning.

When CJ signed with the Angels, many were upset with him (myself included) despite the fact he pitched wonderfully as a starter in two seasons while in Texas. Wilson compiled a 31-15 record with an ERA slightly above 3.00 and a WHIP close to 1.20. Ceej gave the Rangers over 420 innings pitched in two seasons, and earned the contract he was given by LA.

Presenting Team D BagFans are still upset with Wilson for leaving the Rangers to go play with their main rival as they have booed Ceej relentlessly all three times he has pitched in Arlington this season. Fans are angry about last postseason, but most are still annoyed by Wilson’s douchebag like behavior he exhibited while in town. His knife fighting, piloting, and DJing skills are just too much for people in DFW to handle. My belief is the CJ hatred is simply in regards to his incessant boasting, and bragging montages.

While the fans should be showing Wilson appreciation for his years of service in Texas, they boo him because they think he is a douchebag, and they do not even know him personally. Much of what Ceej says can make one roll his or her eyes, but off the field stuff should not matter as long as he produces on the field.

All of this unwarranted douchebag hatred and bashing got me to thinking, “What if all of the perceived MLB douchebags were on one team? How would the team fair against other competition?”

So, I began my research by finding out who in MLB is considered a douchebag by simply asking fans on Twitter. I received a few obvious answers, but had to search the world wide web for a few others. I was even tweeted a picture of the All-Douchebag team someone had taken their time to construct.

After about an hour of research, I had compiled my team of MLB douchebags. I even gave them the moniker ‘Arizona D-Bags,’ using a funny play on words. Without further ado, here is my team of D-Bags based solely on reputation according to baseball fans.

C  – AJ Pierzynski

1B – MarkTeixeira

2B – Ian Kinsler

3B – Alex Rodriguez

SS – Jhonny Peralta

LF – Ryan Braun

CF – Bryce Harper

RF – Nick Swisher

DH – Mike Napoli/Josh Reddick

BN – Johnny Gomes, Greg Dobbs, Ryan Theriot

SP  – CJ Wilson, Jered Weaver, Stephen Strasburg, James Shields, Bronson Arroyo

RP – Brandon League, Chris Perez, Jonathan Papelbon, Brett Myers, Jose Valverde, Fernando Rodney, John Axford, Robbie Ross

Yes, I realize I have a 26 man roster, but this is a team full of perceived douchers, someone will get injured. Also, I added Robbie Ross and Ryan Theriot to the team because the team needed a left-handed reliever and utility infielder. While Ross and Theriot do not seem like douchebags, one never knows.

My experiment included using the player’s current statistics from 2012, and finding out how the overall combined statistics stack up against other current major league teams.

What I first wanted to do was appease the traditionalist and see how the basic offensive numbers compared to other MLB teams. The 13 D-bag hitters have combined to hit 224 home runs so far as of September 2nd, that would rank 1st in MLB. The Yankees would be 2nd with 202.

Then, every traditionalists’ favorite statistic, batting average. The D-Bags are hitting a mediocre .267 so far in 2012. However, the .267 batting average would rank 7th in MLB.

Next, I thought I would compare the advanced offensive numbers because those are the numbers sabermetricians will tell you matter. The D-Bags OBP is .340, tied for 1st in MLB. They’re slugging .457 as a team, and have a collective .797 OPS, both 1st in MLB. When one adds up the runs all of the D-Bags have scored, one will find out the D-Bags have scored 758 runs between 13 offensive players, also 1st in MLB.

As one can tell, douchebags can apparently hit the baseball as they are 1st in MLB in 5 of the 6 major offensive categories. But, can the douchebags pitch and play defense?

Again, I will begin with the baseball traditionalist favorite pitching statistic, the W-L record. The D-Bags starting rotation is a combined 64-33 so far, the 33 losses would be the lowest in MLB.

Now, let’s go to the traditionalists’ next favorite pitching statistic, ERA. The entire D-Bags’ rotation, bullpen included, possesses a 3.24 ERA, which would be the lowest in MLB.

The D-Bags have combined to strike out 1,141 hitters so far, which would be 2nd in MLB only to the Brewers. The D-Bags have a slight problem walking hitters as the 376 free passes given would rank 11th in MLB.

Now, let’s move on to the more exciting advanced pitching statistics. The .231 average batters hit against the D-bags would be the lowest in MLB, and the 1.19 WHIP the D-Bags pitchers possess would be tied for the best in baseball.

The .284 BABIP against the D-Bags as a team is about average, and the 3.39 team FIP is outstanding. Sorry, but, I could not find team rankings for these stats.

Can the D-Bags play defense? Well, the 75 errors the team has committed in the field (not including pitchers) would rank 7th in baseball. So, apparently douchebags can play defense and pitch too.

Finally, I wanted to use the Pythagorean expectation formula created by sabermetrician Bill James to estimate how many games this D-Bags team should win based on their current performance. One will notice the Pythagorean W-L record on baseballreference.com next to the amount of runs a team has allowed and scored. If one so chooses, one can look at any team’s Pythagorean W-L record in baseball history. The formula has been slightly modified since the formula’s genesis, but here is the formula used today on baseballreference.com. Remember, the answer to the formula will be the team’s should be winning percentage.

The D-Bags have scored 758 runs so far this season, and the pitchers have allowed 539. Yes, that is a +219 run differential, which would be far and away 1st in MLB this season. After I entered in the numbers and worked the formula, I arrived at a .651 overall winning percentage for the D-Bags. When I multiplied the .651 winning percentage times the numbers of games the team should have already played (133) the answer was 86.5.

The D-Bags overall record after 133 games should be 87-46, best in MLB by a substantial margin. The D-Bags are on pace to have a final record of 106-56, 50 games over .500, and only 10 off the regular season win record set by the 2001 Seattle Mariners.

What does all of this mean? Well, for one, the perceived douchebag players fans think are horrendous because they might wear an Ed Hardy shirt to a night club can play the game of baseball very well. Also, if a fan considers a player a douchebag, the player is probably a stud the fan secretly wishes were on his or her favorite team.

I realize the numbers do not factor in team chemistry, and whether or not other teammates loathe any of these players personally, but the numbers do not lie. Most of these players are very solid, and are key contributors who will help teams win.

Yes, I have been guilty of name calling in the past, there is proof out there I have done this. However, I have realized my foolish behavior, and you can too. So, before you claim a player sucks because he is a speed reader, or script writer, remember those things have nothing to do with baseball. While the behavior may be annoying, it has nothing to do with what happens on the field. These players are enjoyable to watch. Learn to look past the off the field behavior and appreciate the talent these players display on the field.

Presenting Team D BagFollow Dustin Dietz on Twitter @DustinDietz18

 

 

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Feb 102012
 

2012 American League West by Position (Part 2)On to round two…

To catch up on what we’re doing and understand the scoring, check out Part 1.

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

Left Field

  1. 2012 American League West by Position (Part 2)Josh Hamilton, TEX
  2. Vernon Wells, LAA
  3. Seth Smith, OAK
  4. Trayvon Robinson, SEA

Let’s break this down.  Vernon Wells is a better player than what we saw in 2011.  Josh Hamilton is as well.  Josh Hamilton is a better player than Vernon Wells.  Is he so much better that he deserves the bonus point here?  I think so.  If we go by 2011 alone, Josh would easily get the bonus, posting a 4.2 WAR, with Wells at 0.3 (Seth Smith was actually better than Wells with a 1.9).

I’m willing to look beyond just 2011 as I do really think Wells will improve upon his first season with the Angels, in which he only played in 131 games.  That said, I think you could say the same thing about Josh.  While his 2011 numbers look good, they were accomplished in only 121 games due to injuries.  Hamilton posted a .882 OPS, compared to the 1.044 OPS he posted in 2010 (MVP season).

In addition to the superior 2011, Josh is also the superior player.

Center Field

  1. 2012 American League West by Position (Part 2)Peter Bourjos/Mike Trout, LAA
  2. Coco Crisp, OAK
  3. Craig Gentry/Julio Borbon, TEX
  4. Franklin Gutierrez, SEA

This was the weakest position across the board in 2011, with Bourjos putting together the best year without question.  There are rumors swirling that the Angels may look to deal Bourjos to make room for phenom Mike Trout.  While I like the idea of Bourjos leaving the American League West, I don’t know if I like the idea of Trout getting more playing time.  Whether it’s Bourjos or Trout or a combination of both (worst case), they lead the pack.  In fact, I’m giving the Angels duo the bonus here, which can base on speculation or Bourjos’ production last year (4.2 WAR) compared to the others on the list.

The battle for 2nd here was very close in my mind, and while I think Gentry can continue to improve (if he wins the job outright), I think Crisp is a better player in 2012.  This is definitely one to watch.

You could make an argument to put Gutierrez in the 3rd spot here, but he’s too far removed from his best season (2009) to think he’s going to be able to bounce back enough to outperform whoever mans center for the Rangers.

Right Field

  1. 2012 American League West by Position (Part 2)Torii Hunter, LAA
  2. Nelson Cruz, TEX
  3. Ichiro Suzuki, SEA
  4. Josh Reddick, OAK

This was the toughest ranking of the outfield positions by far.  Let’s start at the bottom.

Reddick put together a nice season, but needs to prove he can do it again, which I don’t think he’ll do in 2012 as he’ll be in  much weaker line-up.

Ichiro is a Hall of Famer, and one of the greatest hitters of my lifetime.   Ichiro is also going to turn 39 later this year, and while it doesn’t look like he’s slowing down (40 SBs in 2011), his offensive production is on the decline.

So, it comes down to Nellie and Torii for the top spot.  I know many of my fellow Ranger fans are going to gripe about this one, but I have to give Hunter the top spot for 2012.

Cruz had the higher OPS in 2011, and is the better offensive player at this point.  Hunter is the better defensive player and has proven to be more durable and reliable.  It’s very close, but 150 games from Hunter edges out 125 games from Cruz.  Prove me wrong Nellie…

Designated Hitter

  1. 2012 American League West by Position (Part 2)Michael Young, TEX
  2. Jesus Montero, SEA
  3. Mark Trumbo/Kendry Morales, LAA
  4. Jonny Gomes, OAK

Jesus Montero has the ability to be #1 on this list, as does Mark Trumbo, but they won’t in 2012.

Montero was a very highly regarded prospect that came up in the Yankees farm system and debuted last year with the big league team.  He was recently dealt to Seattle in exchange for Michael Pineda.  While he’s well on his way to becoming a productive big league hitter, he’s still developing and has moved to a weaker line-up.  If we’re talking long-term, Montero is easily #1 on this list, as he has more upside than just about anyone on any of these lists. With that, I feel good about slotting him 2nd.

At first glace, I had the Angels in the 2nd spot here, but The Angels, like the Rangers, have some flexibility (though not as much) with the guys that are going to DH this year in that Trumbo and Morales can also play first base.

The soon-to-be 38 year-old Bobby Abreu struggled in 2011, and is becoming more of a situation hitter as opposed to a full-time DH, so I’ve removed him here.  It’s going to be interesting to see who get the bulk of at-bats at the DH position for LA in 2012.  I’m leaning towards it being split pretty evening, with Morales seeing a few more at-bats if he’s healthy, primarily because he’s a switch hitter.

Score at the end of Round 2:

  1. Rangers: 21 from Round 1 + 5 + 2 + 3 + 4 = 35
  2. Angels: 17 from Round 1 + 3 + 5 + 4 + 2 = 31
  3. Athletics: 8 from Round 1 + 2 + 3 + 1 + 1 = 15
  4. Mariners: 7 from Round 1 + 1 + 1 + 2 + 3 = 14

Round 3 will be posted early next week and will cover the bench and the manager.

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