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Archive for the ‘American League’ Category

A’s-Angels Series: A’s Are Good, Angels…meh

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While I realize that the A’s and the Tigers have already split the first two games of their weekend series, I still wanted to note what I saw during the preceding A’s and Angels series. I watched almost all of that series.

The A’s flashed their power all series long. Though they can thump up and down the lineup, Yoenis Cespedis shows some serious power. Note that in the highlight video, you can’t see where the ball actually landed as the camera is focused on the rocks behind the wall but the ball lands somewhere high among them. Remeber that the A’s swept the series, outscoring the overwhelmed Angels 28-11. The Angels only retired A’s batters in order 3 times in the entire series, meaning there were too many baserunners for a lineup with ample power.

I remember last season listening to baseball announcers talk about how the A’s were offensively anemic because they had a low team batting average. After shouting at the screen about the stupidity of that “analysis,” I looked at their stats, and they looked terrible when filtered through a batting average lens. But when park-adjusted, the A’s actually put up the 8th-highest True Average in baseball last year. Their low batting average masked two things: (1) the spread between their batting average and their on-base percentage was relatively high, meaning they were talking lots of walks (5th highest BB%), and (2) the spread between their batting average and their slugging percentage was also relatively high, meaning they were getting lots of extra-base hits (7th highest ISO). And so far in 2013, their road numbers show them to be hitting well in the early going, as they finished their six-game road trip with 6 wins, 0 losses, 51 runs scored, 15 doubles, and 13 homeruns.

You should listen to what Buster Olney and Tim Kurkjian have to say about both of these ballclubs, starting at about the 22:15 mark and lasting until 25:55 (or so), first addressing how good the A’s are and then addressing how not-as-great-as-sportswriters-seemed-to-think-the Angels-would-be the Angels are proving to be.

Written by jjvedamuthu

April 13, 2013 at 17:19

On the Struggles of the LA Angels

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If you are an ESPN Insider, you should read Buster Olney’s piece from this morning.

If you are not an ESPN Insider, I shall summarize. Olney writes that no baseball owner could throw around cash the way Angels’ owner, Arte Moreno, has without being really upset about their miserable start to the season. And it’s a lot of cash: close to a billion dollars either already spent or committed in future contract value since the last time the Angels made the playoffs (2009). Despite this spending, the Angels already trail the red-hot but wounded Oakland A’s by six-and-a-half games. Hamilton has been just awful, topping off his horrific performance at the plate (.179 AVG, .261 OBP, .051 ISO, .228 wOBA, 35.9% K rate) with an unthinkable baserunning blunder, which ended the Angels’ 5-0 loss to the wretched Astros, which has to really hurt since some expected the series with the Astros to be a sure-fire cure for the Angels’ woes.

As I am a fan of small-market teams (MIN, PIT, SEA, TB, MIL), I find the angst surrounding the Angels…amusing, particularly because T. J. Simers is such an ass, by which I mean bitter old hack.

Written by jjvedamuthu

April 13, 2013 at 16:40

Jered Weaver and the Angel Response (Updated)

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Weaver is going to the 15-day DL, but he will be lost to the Angels for 4 to 6 weeks.

The interesting thing is that there are arguments that run both ways over how this injury will affect the Angels.

Buster Olney talked about it today on his podcast, noting that the Angels possess little starting pitching depth. His replacement will be Garrett Richards, who has not produced at anywhere near Weaver’s level.

Now, what is problematic about simply assuming that Richards will necessarily provide less production than Weaver is that Weaver has shown diminished velocity, and he has been rather ineffective so far in 2013. In fact, in a way, given his reduced velocity and lack of effectiveness, Weaver’s injury may–may–save the Angels from having a Roy Halladay-like situation on their hands in the way the Phillies do. (I mean, how much time can the Phillies afford to give Halladay to right himself? To call his performance thus far sub-replacement level is a kindness in that it elides its actual awfulness.)

On Monday Dave Cameron called the dip in Weaver’s fastball velocity a “giant red flag.”

On Tuesday Cameron argued that the relationship between Weaver’s fastball velocity and his effectiveness might mean that the loss of Weaver may not mean much in the long run since putting a substandard Weaver out there on the mound might not have produced significantly–note the word “significantly” here–better results than using Richards in his place. While bearing in mind that Weaver’s projected performance remains slightly better than Richard’s, Cameron concluded “it won’t matter that much.”

While I am sympathetic to Cameron’s analysis, and I think it saves the Angels from having to run him out to mound, grit their teeth, and pray for him to be effective in the same way the Phillies are going to have to do with Halladay, I also am sympathetic to the perspective arguing that the loss of Weaver may well expose the Angels’ weaknesses. And it will probably really ramp up the pressure on Josh Hamilton, who needs to produce lest he be labelled a free agent bust.

Look, the Angels have spent a ton of money in the past two off-seasons signing former MVPs on the free agent market, and the expectations surrounding them are huge. While they had a better record than the AL Champion Tigers last season, they still finished behind both the A’s and the Rangers. And their rotation did not get better. All of this means their offense has to be as spectacular as advertised, and their bullpen needs to be solid as well, and it needs to do so over more innings than it worked last year in order to compensate for a weakened rotation.

In other words, a lot of moving parts now need to move in concert for the Angels for the next few weeks.

UPDATE–A profile of Garrett Richards and his pitches. It’s not too encouraging for a starting pitcher.

Written by jjvedamuthu

April 10, 2013 at 12:01

Have Glove, Will Travel

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“Fourth outfielder with superior glove seeks a field to patrol.”

So should read the headline of the piece explaining that Jackie Bradley’s ascent to Boston’s opening day roster leaves Ryan Sweeney without a major-league job.

Sweeney’s bat can’t be confused with Ryan Braun’s, but he swings left, shows good on-base skills, and his glove should be enough that if released he easily catches on with a team that has thin leather in the corner OF spots as Sweeney’s  UZR is significantly above average for both LF and RF. (For a much longer and deeper discussion of UZR, see the FanGraphs essay here.)

While the Rays and Braves and Angels demonstrate little, if any, need for such a player, there should be plenty of others who could use a plus defender with above-average on-base skills.

Philadelphia, for example; even if Dominic Brown and Delmon Young produce offensively, and Young’s wOBA may not exceed Sweeney’s by much), they are significantly below-average defenders.

Just think about it.

 

AL Central Prediction: Pitches

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Pitches, as in those things people on Mad Men do professionally, or a screenwriter does to an agent, or whatever. Pithy bromides about why I picked my picks the way I picked them.

What follows are just summaries of my reading (see the blogroll), looking at depth charts (click on the team names in bold below to look at how kick-ass the Baseball Prospectus website is) and some video about the American League’s Central Division.

1. Detroit Tigers. Let’s just say that if they are anywhere near as good as they look on paper, even if they are sevens wins less good in real life, they will easily win this division. Best (known) offense and best rotation should trump a possibly shaky back end of bullpen.

2. Kansas City. Let’s just say their offseason  moves demonstrated faith in their young position players. They  turned over most of the rotation while adding no new bats, instead trading a prospect to land a pitcher.

3. Cleveland. Let’s just say they risk becoming a vastly entertaining close-to-.500, a few games, somewhere between 77 and 84 wins, with an improved offense. Outfield defense also improved, but their starting pitching may be interesting (Brett Myers and Scott Kazmir?) Lot’s of slugfests will ensue. Wildly entertaining.

4. Chicago White SoxLet’s just say we don’t have much to say since very little news came out of the South Side over the winter. The impression depth chart study made inclines towards regarding their lineup as having poor on-base skills and their pitching as being workmanlike. Fodder.

5. Minnesota TwinsLet’s just say Twins fans should prepare themselves for the anxiety, and perhaps even terror, they will feel if the Astros turn out to not be as bad as everyone thinks. Replacement-level rubber is going to meet a fanbase road in either Houston or Minneapolis in 2013. While “better,” the Twins’ rotation is…not even interesting; it’s just terrible. Good outfielders lurk in the minor league system. Things will improve, but it will be 2015 when they really start to do so.

Twins Out of Last Place

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Holy Apocalypse is Upon Us!

The Twins are no longer in the AL Central Cellar. Heck, they only trail the top of the division by 8 games and they will be getting healthier (if only because they couldn’t possibly get less healthy going forward, could they? I mean, absent a major transportation disaster or a Target Field Tornado or something similarly gruesome).

(Royals fans: I’m so sorry you are now alone in last, but it IS for a good cause.)

Not only are the Twins not in last place, but their run differential is no longer far and away the worst in the Bigs; it is merely the third worst. Which goes to show you/us how truly terrible the Cubs and Astros are.

(As a lifelong Pirates fan I am so damn happy that, indeed, I was right last season when I said that no matter what the 2010 results were–and they STUNK–that the Pirates were better set up for the long term than the Astros and Cubs. Whew!)

The depressing part of the Twins weekend is that Drew Butera ended Sunday’s game with a game-winning hit, which will encourage Gardenhire to keep him around, even though Butera is sub-replacement level (his wOBA is below .210?!).

Written by jjvedamuthu

June 19, 2011 at 16:12

More Realignment Musings

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Diamondbacks don’t want to move to AL. Bah! Who cares?! They came into existence in 1998. Their opinion matters not!

Calcaterra’s arguments about the logistical problem(s) of adding another Texas team to the AL West make a lot of sense, too. The Mariner already travel more miles than almost every other team pretty much every year; some (most) years they are first in miles traveled, other years they are second, depending on what sort of interleague nightmare the Marlins end up having to deal with (last year,  because they played AL West teams, the Marlins traveled the most miles, but pretty much every other year the Mariners do).

Calcaterra then asks if realignment is just a Trojan Horse method of universalizing the DH? Gosh, I hope not. Not that I like watching pitchers hit, since they generally don’t, but rather I like watching managers try to use their benches, though thanks to Tony LaRussa-influenced bullpen construction, they don’t have much to work with these days.

[Parenthetical Rant–Curse LaRussa and his “defined bullpen role” stuff that makes bullpen management kind of a paint-by-numbers routine. And how come announcers who always pine for the old pre-pitch count days also say that guys in the bullpen need to know their roles? Huh? Back when they didn’t use pitch counts they brought in bullpen aces in high-leverage situations rather than just in ninth with a three-run lead and no one on base. I tell ya’, announcers really take the cake for failing to consider the lather that passes their lips. (I like Bert Blyleven, but he’s as guilty as anyone for talking out both sides of his mouth: starters should finish what they start ’cause he did it, but bullpen guys HAVE to know their role. Read The Long Season, read Ball Four, those guys had no idea when they’d be used…..) *sigh* 3 shots and a beer later and I still wish LaRussa would swallow the lemon he’s been sucking on since about 1980 and retire…so. damn. overrated.]

Here is a link to Goold’s piece, “The Problem with Perpetual Interleague Play,” which Calcaterra references. Note, however, that the short response to its contentions is this: how about we add two roster spots, instead? Granted, LaRussa would immediately add two more relief pitchers so he can make the sixth to ninth innings last even longer, but other teams might rationally use them to extend their benches and add additional hitters so that NL teams will be DH-capable. The problem with Goold’s piece is that while he makes a bunch of decent arguments about the problem of perpetual interleague play, he leaps to the conclusion–without a shred of evidence–that it’s all just a ploy to force the DH on the NL. Huh? It’s not completely terrible, but it’s pretty weak and weasley. While he isn’t writing for Foreign Affairs or an appellate court, you gotta’ figure he could at least reach his conclusion with some evidence or at least a decent argument.

Joe Lemire at Sports Illustrated doesn’t like abolishing divisions. Divisions, he says, “have a sense of identity and purpose.” This argument makes some sense on its face. Apply it to other circumstances, however, and you begin to see its inherent weakness. For example, in the former Yugoslavia, ethnic nationalism supplies “a sense of identity and purpose.” Uh, not so positive. It is an appeal to “the ways things have been” rather than to any intrinsic necessity. He then says that divisions heighten rivalries. As though there were no rivalries before divisions. Sorry, pal, but rivalries between the Cubs and Cardinals and Yankees and Red Sox persisted long before anyone in the Commissioner’s Office even dreamed of divisional play. The rest of his piece nicely demolishes the problem of persistent interleague play, so I’ll that be.

Here is an example from 2008 on why divisions suck and insert a imbalance (and irrationality) into the game that should be corrected.

Written by jjvedamuthu

June 14, 2011 at 14:40