The AL Two Months In

Before we get to our baseball Memorial Day Review, we’ve got to give our token WORD UP to tennis. We enjoy tennis here at VFLOAB, and while we don’t really watch it outside of the majors, we follow those majors and could name most winners from each over the past few years. And with the French Open in full swing… well it’s time to give that WORD UP to tennis. So today’s WORD UP goes to Marina Hingis, the saucy Swiss via Bohemia who’s back and tearing things up on clay. Our WORD UP to Brad Gilbert, a VFLOAB favorite, will come later when we watch Brad Baby more on the Telly.

With Memorial Day passing, it’s finally time to start looking at what’s going on in baseball. Who’s got it, who doesn’t, and who needs a tune up. Let’s take the American League first…

Best Team: Chicago White Sox
While they don’t have the best record and aren’t even in first place in their own division, they haven’t done anything to make anyone feel that they aren’t the best team in the majors. The Tigers great start has more to do with the Sox being in second than anything else… and don’t forget the Sox are still the second best team in the majors. Their pitching has been as good as advertised (4.05 team ERA). Their bats have been even better (285 runs (fifth most in the majors) and 78 home runs (top in the majors)), and the only thing Sox fans need to worry about (besides Uribe’s bat going south and Anderson not looking like a major league player) is a some what shaky bullpen. But if the Sox landed one quality arm, they wouldn’t need to worry any more. Still the team to beat if you ask us, oh and by the way, they’re on pace to win 106 games. That’s more likely to happen than…

Most Surprising Team: Detroit Tigers
The most obvious call of them all since they’re on pace to win something like 110 games… the Tigers key to success has been their pitching which has been out of this world. Their team ERA is an eye opening 3.51, which in the American League is something to brag about (past three years the best team ERA in the AL was 3.61, 4.04, 3.63). The Tigers plus 74 run differential is the best in the majors and just about everything has gone right for this team so far (their only ‘bum’ was when the Sox came into Detroit in April and swept them). The Tigers are for real because their pitching has been so fantastic. And while we highly doubt they’ll finish with an ERA under 3.60 and 100 wins, let alone 110; they’ve gotten off to such a great start that it will be hard for them not to be in this race come September. And their hot start just means that not only do the Indians have to be really worried, but also the Jays, Yankees, and Red Sox.

We Told You So: Cleveland Indians
We didn’t expect the Tribe to be as good as they were last year. But we didn’t expect them to be under .500 right now either. They’ve scored a lot of runs (288), but they’re pitching has failed them big time. Sabathia has been good, but was hurt to start the year. And someone tell Cliff Lee the season started. The Paul Byrd experiment hasn’t been too pleasant, and not surprisingly, Jake Westbrook came back to Earth. But Lee’s the guy that really hurts. After pitching okay in 2004, Lee took what looked like that ‘jump’ last year. But now at 27, one has to wonder what’s going on. His 5.46 ERA is pretty bad and he’s not even giving the Tribe that many innings. But he’s only part of the problem; Lee’s the difference between where they are and being three games over .500. They’re lack of starting pitching is the reason they’re not in this race with the White Sox and Tigers. Yes folks, the Indians are 9.5 games out of first place and 8 behind the White Sox (if you’re thinking about the Wild Card). This team might be in big trouble.

Biggest Train Wreck: Minnesota Twins vs California Angels
Yuck… what happened here? Did these two trains collide or did they derail themselves in separate accidents? Let’s look at the Twins first:

What happened? Last year they averaged 4.2 runs again… this year they’re averaging 4.72… so while their O was never great to begin with, it’s a tad better so far this year. So why are they five games under .500? Oh yeah, pitching. They’re pitching imploded over the winter, last year their team ERA was 3.71. This year? A brutal 5.24. So while they’re scoring a half run more, they’re allowing 1.5 more runs. Ummm, not good. Brad Radke doesn’t look bad, he looks washed up. Amazing since last year his ERA was 4.04, this year it’s 7.08… what the Hell happened? He is walking people a lot more (well for Brad Radke (he’s almost matched last year’s total) and he’s turning opponents into a line up of Ted Williams’. Unfortunately, ESPN won’t talk about this because they’re too busy discussing Randy Johnson’s ‘mechanics’ (we like to point out that HE’S 43 YEARS OLD, BRISTOL!). Meanwhile Carlos Silva and Kyle Lohse were some how WORSE than Radke and we’re mercifully pulled from the rotation. Santana got off to a bit of a slow start but he’s righted the ship, this Liriano kid looks like he’ll be a hundred times better than Silva, and your guess is as good as mine when it comes to the fantastically named Boof Bonser. Hope isn’t completely lost on the Twins, this team still has talent and if they can get good pitching from Bonser and figure out what the Hell’s going on with Radke… well they’ll need to beat up on the Tigers from here on out which has been hard for them to do (remember that weekend the Tigers beat them something like 33-1 over three games?), but you never know. Odds are the Twins season was over the moment they let the Sox come back and beat them on Sunday Night Baseball after the Sox spotted them a 7 run lead. But I’m not at the point where I’m declaring them dead.

Meanwhile the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in Orange County from California are probably a bigger disappointment than the Twins considering that they were in the ALCS last year and were what was probably a bad call away from taking a 2 game to none lead over the White Sox. Right now they sit six games under .500 in a very average AL West. The Angels problems start with their bats… or rather the fact they don’t get on base. Their .310 on base percentage (OBP) is 28th in the majors behind only the Cubs and Rays. Their OPS sits a disgusting .702 (on base plus slugging) and is second worse in the majors after only the truly terrible Cubs. It comes down to the Angels desperately needing someone to help Vlad Guerrero. Guerrero’s performing at the level you expect, but other than Vlad, only Tim Salmon has an OPS over .800. That’s just not going to get it done. Anderson’s never been much of a power hitter, but since Kotchman, Erstad, and others have been so bad, his limitations are being exposed even though he’s doing about what you’d figure he’d be doing. I know that Kotchman has been ill, but he was killing this team when healthy and Erstad looks to be at the end of the road.

The Angels pitching has been just okay, their middle of the pack in ERA, their WHIP places them 7th in the majors, and teams don’t hit them all that well. But Colon’s been hurt much of the year and Jeff Weaver has been pretty bad, not Brad Radke bad, but 6.64 ERA bad.

So who’s the bigger Train Wreck? The Angels, things look pretty bleak there. They need to do something to shake things up.

Watch Out, Bullpen may Explode!: Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees
Buster Baby pointed this out, but these two pens are being over worked big time.
Red Sox
Jonathan Papelbon: 25 games, 26 inningsOn pace for: 81 games, 84 innings
Keith Foulke: 26 games, 28 inningsOn pace for: 84 games, 91 inningsCareer highs: 72 games, 105.1 innings
Mike Timlin: 21 games, 19.1 inningsOn pace for: He just landed on the disabled list.

There is no way that Papelbon is going to hold up at this rate. The guy is young and he’s on pace for a lot of innings (in contrast to the White Sox and Tigers were there isn’t one guy projected for more than 75 innings). Foulke has proven to have a rubber arm from his days with the White Sox when he threw 105 innings in 1999, then 88, 81, 78, and 87 in the four seasons following that. I wouldn’t be as worried about him. But with Timlin on the DL… well the Red Sox better start scoring more runs, pray that Schilling doesn’t start sucking, and that they find a #4 and #5 starter.

Mariano Rivera: 21 games, 27.1 inningsOn track for: 71 games, 89 innings
Scott Proctor: 25 games, 34 inningsOn track for: 81 games, 110 innings
Kyle Farnsworth: 25 games, 24 inningsOn track for: 81 games, 78 innings

Rivera can give the Yanks some where around 70 innings, but they don’t want to use him much more than that especially if they want him to have something in the tank in October. Torre has to start cutting back on his innings… and Scott Proctor too. Proctor’s career high in innings pitched? 45, he’s going to match that by Flag Day at this rate. Torre has to start using Myers for more than just to face lefties (righties are hitting worse off him than lefties, fyi) and he can’t be afraid to use Villone in tight games either. There’s no way Proctor is going to hold up at the rate he’s being used. Luckily for the Yankees, their pen seems to be in better shape than the Red Sox. But this is something to watch as the season continues.

Oh My Gawd They Suck: Kansas City Royals
Let’s put it this way, they’ve already had two ten game losing streaks this year, they have a negative 124 run differential, and their team ERA is 6.24… they may just lose 120 games and allow 1,000 runs as we predicted.

Final thoughts…
I know the A’s are playing really bad right now, but I still expect them to win the AL West. I just thought they’d be better. Bean will swing a few deals and they’ll be fine I’m sure… I have nothing to say about Seattle, sorry… Texas, doesn’t this happen every year? They get off to an okay start and then fade?... The fact that Tampa isn’t hitting or scoring as many runs as they are is sort of surprising, maybe it has more to do with Jorge Cantu’s injury? Who knows. But Scott Kazmir looks like he’s not going to be good, but make a run for the Cy Young this year. We’ll see what Jose Contreras has to say about that though… The O’s are the O’s aren’t they? They’re like the Texas Rangers of the East. Still can’t pitch at all even with Kris Benson having a nice year… Finally the Jays. Lot to like here. They hit the crap out of the ball. They’re going to be there and unlike the Yanks and BoSox their pen situation is in a much better shape.

Playoff Predictions:
AL East – New York Yankees
AL Central – Chicago White Sox
AL West – Oakland A’s
Wild Card – Detroit Tigers

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great comments. You really know your baseball. Someone must have taught you the fundamentals of being a fan very well. Whoever that might be, my hat is off to that person!
The Bobfather