Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Will the Orioles offense ever get better?


Like many people, I expected the Orioles to have a much better offense this year than they have had in previous years.  They added Vladimir Guerrero, Derrek Lee and Mark Reynolds, among others, to a lineup with Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Luke Scott and Brian Roberts.  They weren't going to be the Yankees, but the new lineup was expected to improve on 613 runs they scored in 2010 (#27 in ML).

The team started strong (6-1 to start the season) because of strong pitching and the offense never took off.  They are currently, you guessed it, #27 in runs scored again.  They don't have anyone having a great offensive season, although Vlad, Brian Roberts and Matt Wieters aren't embarrassing themselves. 

The blame lies mostly with a group of players with good track records: Adam Jones, Derrek Lee, Nick Markakis and Mark Reynolds.  They're all struggling at the same time, but it's unlikely that they'll all keep it up for too long.  They were all much better than this just a year ago, let along over the course of their career.  While the Orioles might not be a top-tier offense, they should end up much better than 27th again.

OPS (2011, 2010, Career)
Nick Markakis (.580, .805, .824)
Derrek Lee (.584, .774, .862)
Mark Reynolds (.620, .753, .810)
Adam Jones (.674, .767, .743)

Update: The Orioles won 5-4 tonight, with 10 hits and 2 HR.  Markakis, Lee and Jones combined to go 6-12 with 3 R and a HR (Jones).

Friday, April 22, 2011

Will the Indians hit enough?


The Indians are one of the biggest surprises of the 2011 season, going 13-6 after losing over 90 games each of the last two seasons.  Both their hitting and pitching are much improved, but the hitting seems especially likely to fall a bit.  Last year, they were ranked 26th in runs scored, and this year they're 3rd.

The ranking might be a little high because they've played 19 games while other teams have played less (Yankees at #8 have only played 16 and have scored 11 fewer runs), but their offense is doing very well even taking that into account.

They've gotten a boost from the return of Grady Sizemore who made his season debut (he had been on the DL) just last week and is hitting over .400.  They have some quality hitters (especially Shin-Soo Choo), but you have to wonder how long a lineup with Carlos Santana (.215, 2 HR, 10 RBI) hitting cleanup can remain at the top.  The bottom of their lineup is unimposing (Matt Laporta, Adam Everett, Michael Brantley, Jack Hannahan).

That is going to end up putting a lot of pressure on Travis Hafner to produce at a high level (which is fair since he's making $13 million this year).  If he hits like the perennial MVP candidate of 2004-2006, the Indians might have no trouble scoring enough runs.  If he hits gets hurt and struggles like he did from 2007-2010, then it's hard to see them having enough firepower to compete unless they have lights-out pitching all year.

If Sizemore and Hafner hit like it's 2006, the rest of the lineup can be decent complementary players and they can win.  If they get hurt or struggle, the rest of the lineup is almost certain have difficulty scoring enough runs to remain competitive.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

LA Angels: Back to Basics


LA Angels Bullpen
2000 #7 (4.16 ERA)
2001 #4 (3.54)
2002 #3 (2.98)
2003 #2 (3.15)
2004 #3 (3.47)
2005 #7 (3.52)
2006 #7 (3.78)
2007 #19 (4.24)
2008 #6 (3.69)
2009 #23 (4.49)
2010 #19 (4.03)
2011 #3 (2.34)

They were able to compensate for mediocre relief pitching in 2007 (94-68) and 2009 (97-65) because they scored a lot of runs, 822 in 2007 (#6 in ML) and 883 in 2009 (#2).  That formula probably won't work anymore because they finished 19th in runs in 2010 and are currently 19th in 2011, so the Angels better relief pitching if they're going to challenge the Rangers.

Will it continue? They don't have as many solid veterans as they used to or an all-star closer, but Jordan Walden (0.00 ERA in 7.1 IP) and Rich Thompson (1.59, 5.2) have a lot of potential.  Scott Downs (first season with Angels) is capable of having a great season and Fernando Rodney might be ready to finally break out. 

With a rotation that is strong at the top (Dan Haren, Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana), they can stay competitive if their relief pitching is in the top 10 and they get a little more offense.

.310 BA, 250 HR: Hall of Fame?


.310+ BA, 250+ HR (players who debuted after 1940)
1941-1963 Stan Musial .331 BA, 475 HR
1987-2004 Edgar Martinez .312, 309
1989-2005 Larry Walker .313, 383
1993-2011 Manny Ramirez .312, 555

1996-present Vladimir Guerrero .319, 437
1997-present Magglio Ordonez .311, 289
1997-present Todd Helton .324, 334

2001-present Albert Pujols .331, 412
2003-present Miguel Cabrera .313, 252

Helton and Guerrero are likely close enough to the end of their careers to be safe from falling below .310 and Pujols will probably finish well about .320 even if he declined late in his career. 

For various reasons (DH, Coors Field, performing enhancing drugs), Pujols is the only lock to be in the Hall of Fame of anyone on the list not already in, although Miguel Cabera is on the right track if he can stay out of trouble.  If enough people are excluded from the Hall because of steroids, Edgar Martinez's DH issue might seem like not as big of a deal and he can come up from the 36% he's gotten his first two years.

Vladimir Guerrero proved last year that he has something left in the tank, but he needs a few more good years to be in serious consideration for the Hall.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

How are the top pitchers of 2010 doing in 2011?


Top 10, ERA (2010)
#1: 2.27 Felix Hernandez, Mariners (2011: 4.50 ERA; ML Ranking: #76)
#2: 2.30 Josh Johnson, Marlins (1.35, #13)
#3: 2.33 Clay Buchholtz, Red Sox (7.20, not enough IP to qualify)
#4: 2.42 Adam Wainwright, Cardinals (DL, will miss 2011 season)
#5: 2.44 Roy Halladay, Phillies (1.23, #11)
#6: 2.70 Jaime Garcia, Cardinals (0.60, #3)
#7: 2.72 David Price, Rays (3.92, #69)
#8: 2.76 Roy Oswalt, Astros/Phillies (2.25, #34)
#9 2.83 Tim Hudson, Braves (3.48, #60)
#10 2.84 R.A. Dickey, Mets (2.13, #32)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Strikeout Kings


ML Leaders - SO/9 (Qualified - 2011)
14.21 Matt Garza, Cubs (6.6, 2010)
12.66 Jonathan Sanchez, Giants (9.5)
12.19 Cliff Lee, Phillies (7.8)
11.76 Jered Weaver, Angels (9.3)
11.70 Bud Norris, Astros (9.3)
11.57 Edwin Jackson, White Sox (7.8)
11.57 Tim Lincecum, Giants (9.8)
11.00 Huston Street, Rockies (8.6)
10.98 Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers (9.3)
10.80 Jaime Garcia, Cardinals (7.3)

It's odd that the top guy had the lowest strikeout ratio last year of anyone on the list, although Garza did strik out 8.4/9 in 2009.   How far down do you have to go to find someone below 6.6 last year? Trevor Cahill at #17 (5.4, 2010).  Garza's numbers don't look all that great (0-1, 5.68 ERA, 20 H, 12.2 IP), but it's only 2 starts.  The Cubs should be encouraged by the fact that he has 20 SO and 3 BB in 12.2 IP, even if he struggled in his last start.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The .400 Club


.400+, 25+ PA (2011)
.500 Miguel Montero, D-Backs (2010, .266; Career, .272)
.476 Yunel Escobar, Blue Jays (.256, .291)
.455 Joey Votto, Reds (.324, .316)
.444 Paul Janish, Reds (.260, .237)
.440 Nick Hundley, Padres (.249, .248)
.438 Matt Kemp, Dodgers (.249, .287)
.417 Shane Victorino, Phillies (.259, .280)
.400 Paul Konerko, White Sox (.312, .281)
.400 Prince Fielder, Brewers (.261, .280)
.400 Pablo Sandoval, Giants (.268; .307)
.400 Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox (.288, .306)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

World Series Champs: The Next Season


World Series Champions (1st 10 Games of following season)
1999 Yankees 7-3 (98-64)
2000 Yankees 7-3 (87-74)
2001 Yankees: 7-3 (95-65)
2002 D-Backs 5-5 (98-64)
2003 Angels 5-5 (77-85)
2004 Marlins 8-2 (83-79)
2005 Red Sox 5-5 (95-67)
2006 White Sox 5-5 (90-72)
2007 Cardinals 5-5 (78-84)
2008 Red Sox 5-5 (95-67)
2009 Phillies 4-6 (93-69)
2010 Yankees 7-3 (95-67)
2011 Giants 1-4 (?)

They don't usually get off to a great start (the average # of victories over the first ten games for these 12 years is 5.83), but only 1 team has been under .500.  The last time a WS champ got off to a terrible start was 1998, when the fire-sale Marlins started 1-9 on their way to 54-108.  There is still time for the Giants to rebound, but they might be in trouble if the Dodgers and Giants are both serious contenders.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The last teams to get a win (2002-2010)


Longest winless streak to start season (2002-2010)
2002: Tigers 0-11 (55-106)
2003: Tigers 0-9 (43-119)
2004: Mariners 0-5 (63-99)
2005: Mets 0-5 (83-79)
2006: Pirates 0-6 (67-95)
2007: Astros 0-4 (73-89)
2008: Tigers 0-7 (74-88)
2009: Nationals 0-7 (59-103)
2010: Astros 0-8 (76-86)
2011: Rays, Red Sox, Astros, Brewers 0-3

The Brewers (Reds), Astros (Phillies) and Red Sox (Rangers) were all playing 2010 playoff teams, while the Rays were playing the Orioles, who lost 96 games last year but are expected to be much improved this year.  Starting 0-3 isn't promising, but it's not very difficult to overcome.  If any of them get to 0-5 or worse, though, they're probably looking at a very tough season ahead.

Update (4/8):  The Rays outlasted everyone and, at 0-6, are the last team standing after Boston defeated  New York 9-6 this afternoon.
 
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