Sunday, April 29, 2012

Matt Kemp's Ridiculous April

Top OPS - April (min. 50 PA)
2012: Matt Kemp (Dodgers) 1.383
2011: Jose Bautista (Blue Jays) 1.312
2010: Robinson Cano (Yankees) 1.201
2009: Jorge Cantu (Marlins) 1.222
2008: Chipper Jones (Braves) 1.171
2007: Barry Bonds (Giants) 1.349
2006: Albert Pujols (Cardinals) 1.423
2005: Derrek Lee (Cubs) 1.258
2004: Barry Bonds (Giants) 1.828
2003: Jim Edmonds (Cardinals) 1.268
2002: Barry Bonds (Giants) 1.428
2001: Larry Walker (Rockies) 1.298
2000: Mark McGwire (Cardinals) 1.346

The month isn't over yet (the Dodgers have 1 game left), but Matt Kemp is making his mark (although his OPS did plummet after an 0-3 yesterday).   He is still well ahead of Josh Hamilton in 2nd place (1.173), which is an unusually high differential (except for Bonds in 2002 and 2004). 

He is performing at such a high level that you can't completely dismiss talking about him hitting .400 or winning the Triple Crown (he wasn't that far off last year) or going 50/50 (although he only has 2 SB after 40 last year). 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Best Bullpens - 2012

1. Rangers (#26 in bullpen ERA in 2011)
1. Orioles (#27)
2. Yankees (#4)
3. A's (#18)
4. Pirates (#20)

This is bad news for every team in the AL except the Rangers, because their bullpen was their biggest weakness last year (when they still came within a strike of winning the World Series).

 The Orioles (who have ranked near the bottom in bullpen ERA for the last decade) have almost completely revamped their bullpen and it is working so far.  They've had a nice run lately, winning 4 in a row (allowing only 5 runs in the process).  It seems likely that the O's will eventually be overwhelmed by all of the talent in the AL East, but they're holding their own for the time being. 

The Yankees need their bullpen to be this good because their starting rotation is ranked 28th, and they just lost Michael Pineda for the season.

It looks like Pittsburgh may need the best pitching in the league (they're currently #2) to avoid losing 100 games, because they are dead last in runs scored by a wide margin.  Oakland is in basically the same boat, except they're 28th in runs instead of 30th.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Highest OPS, Home or Away

Highest OPS (Home or Away) min 25 PA
Nolan Reimold, Orioles (Away) 1.700
Matt Kemp, Dodgers (Home) 1.653
David Ortiz, Red Sox (Home) 1.478
Evan Longoria, Rays (Home) 1.456
Josh Willingham, Twins (Home) 1.434
Chase Headley, Padres (Home) 1.401

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Racing Against Time, Part 1

Michael Young: 3000 H (2085 H, 35 yrs)
Paul Konerko: 500 Home HR (398 HR, 36 yrs)
Juan Pierre: 700 SB (or close to it) (557 SB, 34 yrs)

Here are 3 players that are thought of as very good, but probably not Hall of Fame yet.  Of the 3, the only milestone that would make it a near-certainty that they would get into the Hall would probably be 3000 hits for Michael Young.  It is not clear how home runs will be treated after the steroid era inflated, but 500 HR would still be a great achievement for Konerko.

Juan Pierre is theoretically still in the hunt for 3000 hits too (2032 H), but his hit totals and batting average are down from his 2003-2007 heyday.  He is currently tied for 25th all time in SB, but with only 101 more he would move into 13th all time.  This seems likely if he can stay healthy, and 700 would put him at #11 (between Honus Wager and Joe Morgan)

It is possible that they will achieve these milestones with room to spare, but it seems unlikely.  There are some players who reached these milestones in their 40's (Paul Molitor, Randy Johnson), but it is rare.  Players often start wearing down quickly around 40, so there is not a lot of time for these three players.  For right now, they are playing at a high level, which makes these milestones very possible in the years ahead.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Why is Atlanta scoring so many runs?

The Atlanta Braves are #1 in runs scored, after being #22 last year.  Looking at the other numbers, you would expect that the Rangers, Cardinals or Yankees would be leading in runs.  How are the Braves doing it?

Atlanta Offense - 2012
#1, R
#6, BA
#9, OBP
 #6, SLG
#5, OPS
t-#7, HR
t-#8, 2B
#7, OPS with RISP
#19, OPS with no runners on
t-#1, OPS with runners on

In 2011, they were #21 in BA and #22 in OPS with runners on.  The resurgence of Jason Heyward is playing a big role (.682 OPS with runners on in 2011, .978 this year), but the biggest story is Freddie Freeman.  He is hitting 1.252 with runners on (3 HR, 13 RBI in 27 AB) after .826 (with a solid .306 BA) in 2011.  If the veterans can stay healthy, the Braves could have their best offense in years.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

More Home Runs than Strikeouts

More HR than SO (2012)
A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox (4 HR, 3 SO)
Omar Infante, Marlins (4, 2)
Ian Kinsler, Rangers (4, 3)
Nate Schierholtz, Giants (2, 1)
Chris Denorfia, Padres (1, 0)

Nate Schierholtz struck out 61 times last year in only 335 AB, so it is surprising that he is here.  It is possible that A.J. Pierzynski or Omar Infante will have big power seasons, although it's unlikely (the White Sox would probably be happy with A.J. hitting around 15 again, instead of the 8 he hit last year).  Ian Kinsler could be a legitimate MVP candidate if he can raise his batting average back to where is was in 2008 (.319), and go 30/30 again and score a lot of runs.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The importance of April pitching success

Team ERA, April

1. Nationals
2. Rangers
3. Phillies
4. Mets
5. Cardinals

1. A's (#10 at end of season)
2. Angels (6)
3. Padres (3)
4. Marlins (16)
5. Phillies (1)

1. Cardinals (5)
2. Giants (1)
3. Padres (2)
4. Mets (7)
5. Rays (8)

It's not the end of April yet, and the last 2 years isn't a large sample size, but this does show something positive for the teams that pitch well in April.  If these are the same teams at the end of the April, then it is not ridiculous to assume that four of them will end up in the top 10 at the end of the season.  If so, then it will end up being a very tough year for batters in the NL East, and possibly a good battle for the division crown.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Are the Indians a contender?

Team OPS, 2012 v. 2011

1. Cardinals (#5 in 2011)
2. Red Sox (#1)
3. Tigers (#3)
4. Indians (#t-17)
t-5. Rangers (#2)
t-5. Rockies (#8)
t-5. Orioles (#12)

Nobody picked the Indians to make the playoffs, but they're showing some firepower that could make things interesting.  Their starting rotation isn't bad either: Derek Lowe, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Tomlin and Justin Masterson have all had success and could keep them competitive throughout the season.  The bullpen is a major concern, and it might be their biggest stumbling block. 

The wild card is Ubaldo Jimenez, who has shown in the past that he is capable of being dominant for long stretches.  The Tigers are rightly favored to win the division, but they are not invincible.  Their #2 starter is on the DL, and their rotation behind Verlander isn't unhittable. 

The Indians clearly have some talent, and some of the other teams predicted to be contenders in the AL might have issues as well (see Angels, Rays).   They probably won't make the playoffs, but they are a team worth watching and might end up causing problems for some teams planning on playing in October.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Saturday Question

The consensus for the AL this season was that 6 teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Rays, Tigers, Rangers, Angels) would battle for the 5 playoff spots.  In a preseason poll of 50 experts on, the only deviation from these 6 teams was that 2 experts picked the Blue Jays to win one of the wild card slots.  After watching everyone in action for a little over a week, are there any surprise playoff teams in the AL?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Best/Worst Pitching 2012

OPS Against

1. Phillies, .500
2. Nationals, .514
3. Royals, .558

28. Reds, .850
29. Rockies, .863
30. Yankees, .930

There are some nice surprises here, such as Kansas City (29th in starters OPS allowed last year).  The Yankees being dead last by a wide margin is a little jarring, although it does reflect only starts.  Two of those starts have been by C.C. Sabathia, and we have to assume he'll get better. 

It has to be disconcerting for an organization that is expecting a championship and has a payroll over $200 million to see such poor starting pitching for the first week.  There are questions about all of their starters except for Sabathia, and winning the AL East with a weak rotation could prove tough even to the Yankees.

1. Diamondbacks, .438
2. White Sox, .512
3. Pirates, .529

28. Angels, .857
29. Rays, .864
30. Giants, .919

The Giants did have the one terrible game in Colorado, but this has to be a concern to all of these teams that are expected to contend and have excellent pitching.  Again, it is very early, but these might show a disturbing trend that could make life difficult for some teams with high expectations. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Minnesota is probably hitting too many ground balls

The Twins routinely rank at or nor the top of hitting ground balls in relation to fly balls, but this year it is off the charts:

Ground Balls/Fly Balls (2012)
1. Twins: 2.33
2. Indians: 1.22
3. Padres: 1.20
4. D-backs: 1.20
5. Giants: 1.07

For an idea of how bizarre 2.33 is, here are the highest ratios from the last few seasons:

Highest G/F (2008-2011)
2011: Twins .99
2010: Astros .98
2009: Astros .99
2008: Giants: .98

Not surprisingly, the Twins are last in runs, hits, and near the bottom in doubles and home runs.  They're 0-4, and they started the season by losing three straight to the Orioles.  The Orioles may have some promising arms, but they're not all Brandon Webb in his prime. 

This will undoubtedly come back to earth a bit at some point (Denard Span and Alexi Casilla will hit a fly ball at some point), but we might be looking at a team that hits an unusually high number of ground balls (and scores very few runs).  It might even be tonight with Jered Weaver, who is a great pitcher, but allows a fair number of fly balls.

Update (4/13): The Twins offense came to life, scoring 16 runs over 2 games, and the G/F is down to a less outlandish 1.34 (still highest in the league).

Improved starting rotations in 2012?

Rank, ERA of Starters (up 15+ spots since 2011)
1. Royals (#29 in 2011)
3. Pirates (19)
5. Orioles (30)
6. Indians (21)
7. Astros (24)

It is very early, and one bad start would cause this to change quickly.  It is very unlikely that all, or even most, of these teams will finish in the top 10 of Starters ERA at the end of the year.  That said, these are not the same staffs that they had last year. 

Some of these teams have added new pitchers, and younger pitchers might be ready to make big leaps forward.  The Royals, for instance, would seem to have a rotation good enough to avoid being ranked 29th again, but we will have to wait and see.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Will the Mariners actually have a decent offense this season?

We shouldn't make too much of a few games at the beginning of the season, but the Mariners may have shown a way for them to have an improved offense this season (they've finished dead last in runs scored each of the last two years). 
Chone Figgins is looking like he did with the Angels, which is a very good development for the Mariners.  Ichiro is also hitting well, and could return to form after hitting below .300 for the first time last year.  Dustin Ackley (the 2nd overall pick in the 2009 draft) has been productive, and is in a good spot hitting 2nd.  Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak haven't hit much, but they are enormously talented players and will likely be given a lot of at-bats this season to prove themselves. 
The odds are that the Mariners will be luckly to break .500 and will be buried by the Angels and Rangers early in the season.  While Ichiro is probably nearing the end of his career, they have a lot of young talent in the lineup that could make them relevant again soon.  If Chone Figgins and Ichiro return to form and the young talent develops quickly, they could make a major stride forward this year.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Pitching gems in 2012

7+ IP, 0 ER (2012)
Chad Billingsley, Dodgers (8.1 IP)
Justin Verlander, Tigers (8)
Jered Weaver, Angels (8)
Roy Halladay, Phillies (8)
Jake Arrieta, Orioles (7)
Johnny Cueto, Reds (7)

The biggest surprise is clearly Jake Arrieta, who did not look like an ideal opening day starter for the Orioles.  It should be noted that he was pitching against the Twins, who lost 99 games last year (although they do have Mauer and Morneau back in the lineup).  If Billingsley (who has been a solid starter for 5 years) is primed for a great year, then the Dodgers are in great shape at the top of their rotation. 

The Reds need Johnny Cueto to have a good season is they are going to make a playoff run.  The NL Central is kind of up in the air with the Brewers losing Prince Fielder, but it looks very possible that the Cardinals will be tough to beat. 

Weaver, Halladay and Verlander are all (as always) top contenders for the Cy Young, and their performances are not a surprise.  There were elite pitchers that struggled (Lincecum, Sabbathia), so the Tigers, Angels and Phillies should feel very good.  Although it is unlikely that the Orioles will make any noise in the AL East, Jake Arrieta might be a pitcher to watch out for this season.
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