A month ago that question would have sounded absurd. Now, it’s not so completely out of the question. As I am writing this, the Angels are beating the Rangers 15-8, which will pull them within 4 games. (Game now finished!) The Rangers’ pitching surprisingly hasn’t been the biggest issue – the lineup has. Yes, that’s right, the lineup that put up a .292/.353/.484 (including Michael Young!) in April, has only managed a .242/.313/.369 line in July. Despite this, the Rangers still have the highest team batting average and on-base percentage in the American League – which shows you just how good they were in April and May. You may have heard of one “Josh Hamilton” who hit 4 HR in a single game back in May? Well, back in April and May, Josh Hamilton was the best player in baseball, hitting anything and everything. Many sportswriters had already filled out and mailed their MVP ballots in. Since then, instead of hitting anything and everything, Hamilton has been swinging at anything and missing everything. His line in July is .141/.229/.282. Maybe it’s a good thing the Rangers didn’t lock him up long term a couple months ago.
Others in the lineup have struggled as well. Mike Napoli and the aforementioned Michael Young have both had a severe drop off in performance this year, which was not a complete surprise. Colby Lewis is out for the rest of the year, and Roy Oswalt has been inconsistent at best. With a loss tonight, the Rangers will fall to 9-13 in July, with their run differential dropping to +77 for the season. Now, their record is still 59-42 for the season, and they’re still 4 games up on the Angels and Athletics (depending on the outcome of the Athletics game), so the odds are still in their favor. At the start of today, Baseball Prospectus had their playoff odds at 98.7%, with an 85.4% chance of winning the AL West. I’m just saying that if I was a Rangers fan I would be a little nervous. The A’s are 18-4 (!) in July, and can seemingly come back from any deficit. The Angels are actually only 13-12 in July, but the addition of Zack Greinke greatly improves their rotation for the stretch run. Things are getting tighter in the AL West, which is surprising.
Recently the rumours are that the Rangers won’t acquire a starting pitcher at the deadline, but will instead get a reliever and move Alexi Ogando back into the rotation. Clearly the weakest spot in the lineup has been at DH, where the Rangers have continued to trot out Michael Young, even though he has hit .268/.298/.347 this season, good for -1.3 fWAR. You’d think this performance would be enough to be replaced as the designated HITTER, but this is Ron Washington we’re talking about. Besides, fWAR can’t capture things like “leadership” and “clubhouse presence”, which would obviously put Young back in to the positive.* It’s probably not likely that Young will be replaced, even though he maybe should, so the Rangers have to hope that Hamilton will regain his early season form. Maybe more media “scoldings” from Nolan Ryan will do the trick.
*****EXCITING UPDATE: Moments after I posted this, the Rangers acquired Geovany Soto from the Cubs, so problem solved!
Have you heard of Miguel Batista? He’s a pitcher. Well, the Mets released him yesterday, because he had been pitching poorly. Now, he’s 41 years old, so this shouldn’t be too surprising. What is surprising, is that the Atlanta Braves signed him today. Those same Braves are currently in second place in the wild card race (or first place in the second wild-card race, if you will.) Miguel Batista has walked 6 batters/9 innings so far this year. That is one of the key factors that likely led to his release by the Mets. What is unkown, is what are the key factors that led to his signing by the Braves.
Here are some other Miguel Batista facts you may or may not have known previously:
Starting in 2004 at the age of 34, and continuing for a season and a bit, Miguel Batista became the Toronto Blue Jays closer. Before that year he had 1 career save. During his time with the Jays, he had 36 saves. Despite racking up a bunch of saves, he didn’t pitch real well. Did you know that in 2005 Derrick Turnbow was a dominant closer?
Before the 2008 season, Batista signed a three year deal with the Seattle Mariners, for $25 million. The first year was for $6 million, while the last two were for $9.5 million. Per season. That seems like a lot of money for 37 and 38 year old Miguel Batista. The first year of the deal Batista was actually decent, putting up 2.4 WAR. The last two years, (for a combined $19 million, I might add) the Mariners received -1.3 WAR for their money. A fine investment.
Baseball Reference’s Bullpen section for Miguel Batista states that he is working on a crime novel. While this seems like something that I would put in as a joke, I assure you that I did not. I also cannot verify its accuracy.
Don’t worry, I haven’t suffered a stroke. That title is a joke.* I already know that Aroldis Chapman is good. But how good? Let’s take a look:*Probably my closer when I go into standup comedy! I’m here all week.
46.2 IP – 19 H – 9 R – 8 ER – 14 BB – 89 K
Chapman’s K/9 is 17.16 right now. Kenley Jansen set the record last year for K/9 at 16.1.
Chapman has struck out 50.3% of the batters he has faced this year. That’s more than half. That’s crazy. (Jansen struck out 44% last year)
In June Aroldis Chapman had a few bad games. After starting out the season by not allowing an earned run in his first 29 innings, he had a bit of a rough stretch, where over 7 games he blew 3 saves and gave up 8 ER in 6.1 innings. Since then, he’s struck out 28 of the 40 batters he’s faced. That’s 70%. That means if he strikes out 2 in 1 inning, his K% goes down. That’s 28 Ks in 11.1 IP since June 26; a K/9 of 22.2. Rumor has it, the only people that haven’t struck out with him are the ladies!
I apologize. That didn’t even really make sense.
Did you know that Aroldis Chapman has never had a major league at-bat?
Aroldis Chapman is 58th in all of baseball in strikeouts with 89. He has thrown 46.2 innings, which I mentioned earlier. Everyone else ahead of him in strikeouts has thrown over 100 IP except Bud Norris, who has thrown 96.1. Are you guys getting a sense of how good Aroldis Chapman is? What about a sense of how much I like him? If Aroldis Chapman asked me to murder my entire family, I would strongly consider it. I mean, I’m not sure why he would ask me to do that, so I would probably have some questions regarding that first off, but if he had a really good reason, I would consider it. Please don’t tell my family I said this.
Hey, you know how everyone’s talking about whether Andrew McCutchen can hit .400 this year?* Well, he’s had another 25 ABs since my original post, so I thought I would do a quick update on where he’s at.*everyone may not be talking about this. I didn’t have time for a survey.
This is complex math, guys. You can’t do these calculations yourself.**you can probably do these calculations yourself
Current – .373 – 129 for 346
Rest of Year Update – 589 ABs, 236 hits needed (I’m still using my projection of 155 games)
So that’s 107 for 243, or a .440 average over the rest of the year. This isn’t getting any easier, McCutchen.
Bonus Brendan Ryan Update: Needs to go 123 for 169 to finish at .400, which is a .728 average. He’s going to need to pull up those socks.
In a move not many people saw coming, the Seattle Mariners have unloaded Ichiro Suzuki to the New York Yankees for a couple of younger relief pitchers, DJ Mitchell and Danny
Farquar Farqhuar Farquhar. The Mariners will also reportedly eat about 4.5 million of Ichiro’s remaining salary for this season. Now some may be surprised by the somewhat low return for Ichiro, but those people may not have seen him play in the last 2 seasons or know how to use a computer.
You see, Ichiro’s been not too great over the past 2 seasons. Of the 170 players who have had at least 700 PAs over that period, Ichiro’s wOBA of .286 ranks 160th. That’s just ahead of Gordon Beckham. And just behind Ryan Theriot. So, he’s basically been similar to some pretty awful middle infielders. Now, let’s be fair – Ichiro used to be good. One could even say he was quite good. But those days have passed. Add on the fact that he’s a free agent at the end of the year, and you see him being traded for 2 non-prospects, including one who’s been designated-for-assignment multiple times this year.
The trade gives Ichiro a chance to play in the postseason for the first time since his rookie year in 2001. Do you remember that year? That was the year the Mariners won 116 games. In 2010 and 2011 combined, the Mariners won 128 games. That’s only 12 more than they won in that one really good season. Ichiro is now old. He’s not the premier player he once was. But he can still probably provide some value against righties in a platoon role, or off the bench. Maybe.
*This trade has actually happened, unlike the Ryan Dempster one. Probably.
Hey fellas, did you know that Ryan Dempster has been traded to the Atlanta Braves? Maybe. Or maybe not. No one can be sure. Some people seemed sure. But then Dempster himself seemed to contradict that.
The Braves currently are in the 2nd wildcard spot in the NL, but are only a half game up on the Dodgers. Their rotation has been an unexpected weakness, following the losses of Brandon Beachy and Arodys Vizcaino to Tommy John, and the relative ineffectiveness of Tommy Hanson and Randall Delgado, who could be on his way to the Cubs.
Dempster offers an immediate upgrade over Delgado this season for the Braves, so it’s a good move for them for the stretch run, but also gives the Cubs an arm with some upside going forward. If it happens at all, that is. It may not. Or it may. Perhaps Ryan Dempster planned out this whole scenario to get more twitter followers. I wouldn’t put it past him.
With their win today against the Yankees, the A’s are now 51-44 and tied for the wildcard lead with the Angels and the Orioles. Wait, the Orioles are still tied for the wildcard? How can that be? I don’t know for sure, but there’s probably some witchcraft involved.
Anyway what I was talking about earlier was the Oakland Athletics being 7 games over .500, and making a run at the postseason. This was unexpected at the start of the season, because they traded away their two best starting pitchers in the offseason. Normally, teams that want to contend do not do things like this. That would be strange. For instance, the Giants did not trade Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain in the offseason. Now, they might have actually been better off if they had traded Lincecum, but I’m getting off-topic again. Back to the Athletics. They have been able to make up a rotation out of guys they got in return from the Diamondbacks and Nationals, as well as some guys they already had on the team. This rotation has put together a 3.67 ERA. Their bullpen has been even better, with a 2.80 ERA, and has been led by Ryan Cook, who they got in the Cahill trade. I don’t even really have much else to say about the A’s – just that they have surprised me. They’re winning with great pitching – the best in the AL, and juuuuussssttt enough runs to get by. You should know that they’re last in the AL in runs scored. And hits. And batting average. And second last in OBP. Their hitters aren’t good; that’s what I’m trying to get at here.
Their 3rd basemen this year have put up a line of .184/.230/.327. Brandon Inge has been their best 3rd baseman this year. That’s right, the A’s have had multiple 3rd baseman play worse than Brandon Inge. More than one.
Their shortstops on the other hand, have put up a line of .186/.247/.276. Sweet Jesus, that’s awful.
Their catchers – .189/.242/.243. I just threw up a little bit. Kurt Suzuki owes me an apology.
Luckily for the A’s, they do have some outfielders and DH types who have been pretty good. Because their entire infield may be dead. I didn’t watch the game today, but has anyone looked to see if maybe all of Oakland’s infielders died in a bus accident back in April? Because that would partially explain their play.
At this point, it’s still probably a long shot that Oakland makes the playoffs. It would be a fun story though.