Midseason MLB Discussion: The A.L. West

I’m back and I’m going to continue banging away at this. Today: baseball’s only four-team division!

LOS ANGELES: 37-28 (.569) –
TEXAS: 35-29 (.547) 1.5
SEATTLE: 28-35 (.444) 8
OAKLAND: 27-38 (.415) 10

Here we have a division clearly split into two groups.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Orange County, California, Just Off Interstate 5 And A Bit North of Irvine, About a $30 Cab Ride From John Wayne Airport And You Can Like Totally Drive To Vegas In Like 5, 6 Hours: Baseball’s most ridiculously named team is doing it with pitching; the team 3.62 ERA is the third best in the league. Despite Kelvim Escobar missing a few starts the rotation is insanely solid; Paul Byrd is a respectable 6-5, 4.18, and he’s the worst starter in the rotation. I would be concerned about Jarrod Washburn, though, whose K/W numbers suggest a guy who’s getting by on luck. The offense has been just average, and lacks home run power; the “Vlad was hurt” excuse holds little water, as he’s only missed a couple of weeks’ worth of games.

Los Angeles has scored 305 runs and allowed 255, which would normally result in a record of 38-27, so they have essentially the record they deserve.

Texas Rangers: The precise opposite of the Angels; mediocre pitching, great hitting. The offense has scored more runs than any other in the league, though the park helps a little with that. Richard Hidalgo’s been kind of a bust but other than that everyone can do something. The danger is that the pitching consists of two great performers so far, Curt Young and Kenny Rogers, and a bunch of bums; if Rogers or Young get hurt, there will be trouble in the metroplex. What a total bust Pedro Astacio has been.

Texas has scored 358 runs and allowed 304, which would normally result in a record of 37-27, so they may have been a bit unlucky so far.

Seattle: Before the season every Dodger fan in the world, including a few on the Dope, was whining about how Paul DePodesta is such an idiot, a stupid stathead, because he let Saint Adrian go to the Mariners. So far, Adrian Beltre is batting .244 with 5 homers, one stolen base, and nine walks; he’s one of the worst players in the American League. He’s also indicative of the Mariners offense, which is the worst in the AL (again, though, that’s a bit of park effect there.) The pitching has been subpar too, although Eddie Guadardo has been frigging awesome. Aaron Sele is another pitcher whose low K rate suggests imminent disaster.

Seattle has scored 263 runs and allowed 283 runs, which would normally result in a record of 30-33, so they’ve been a bit unlucky.

Oakland: After years of choking, the A’s have decided to let the fans off the hook early. The pitching, usually the team’s strength, has been extra mediocre, with Rich Harden being the only good starter and he’s missed six or seven starts. The team’s offense hasn’t been as bad as the raw numbers suggest (again, park effects) but there’s just not enough coming from the guys they were counting on, like Eric Chavez and Erubiel Durazo. I don’t see a late season surge in 2005.

Oakland has scored 276 runs and allowed 318 runs, which would normally result on a record of 28-37. Close enough.

The biggest problem with the Rangers pitching this season is that the bullpen (with the exception of Cordero) is a disaster. The biggest miracle is that Chan Ho Park is 7-1 after basically taking a big dump on the mound in each start over the past three seasons (the best run support in the league hasn’t hurt, but he’s genuinely been impressive in most of his starts). No doubt, Rodgers will fade like last year, and the bizzare release of Ryan Drese earlier this week, combined with Astacio’s ineffectiveness, has left a big hole in the rotation. It’s very possible that Rogers will fade, Park will meltdown, and Young will hit the rookie wall all at the same time (and soon), which would even be too much for the monster bats to overcome. On the other hand, last season they were teetering on the brink of disaster the entire second half of the season, and ending up making it interesting into the final week. So it could go either way, although the LAA of A will be hard to catch. I’m hoping the Ms and As are done for the year, but they both still scare me.

The Dreese situation still hasn’t been explained. He was definitly underperforming this year, but did have a few brilliant outings (including last night for Washington vs. LA of A). The rest of the team seemed shocked by his release (technically designation for assignment), and slumped for a stretch after he was gone. My biggest fear is this is the first sign of Showalter wearing out his welcome, like he’s done everywhere else he’s managed. Last season was a magical one, despite coming up short in the final week, and I give Buck all of the credit for that. I sure hope he can keep it together for at least a few more seasons.

Pash

Buck Showalter needs to be back on Baseball Tonight.

Either that, or he can be yet another former Yankee manager rumored to be replacing Torre.

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim by way of Europe, Scandinavia and the subcontinent are gonna win this division. Oakland’s got no chance, the Rangers have too many problems and Seattle’s not the team they were a few years ago when they owned this division.

This division was so much more fun when Oakland was good, which just makes me hope that Texas can keep it up. Chan Ho… very interesting. I think Orel Hershiser needs some credit. Maybe the Cubs can hire him as their next manager.

The Los Angeles Angels of the 21st Century, Pacific Time Zone, Milky Way Galaxy, in the foremost solar system accessible through Interstellar Overdrive, of Anaheim, should run away with this division. All the fighting with Washington this week certainly provided me with something to keep in mind the rest of the season.

I think this is the most boring division is baseball. There isn’t a single true ace in the division right now IMO, Oakland might have the most bland lineup in baseball, Texas still doesn’t have the pitching to take seriously long-term, Seattle plays in a pitcher’s park without any pitchers to take advantage of it, and the Angels are just good enough to run away with the division and just bad enough to get swept in the first round again unless they add another part or two - hell, this team can’t manage a decent DH.

I will agree though that Buck was great on Baseball Tonight!

I’m a little late coming in to this, so I’m wondering: what’s the formula you used to derive the expected records?

I live in the East Bay, so this is really “my” division as far as my baseball attention goes. I think it’s shaking down mostly as expected in the preseason. The Angels won’t run away, but they’re a safe bet to win the division. And they probably will get taken down in the first round again, unless they have more gems in the farm system to call up late and give the team a boost (a la Francisco Rodriguez).

I think Texas is for real, in terms of their talent with the bats, but I doubt they can make or get very far in the playoffs. The Rangers have had good teams before that wilted in the heat of a long Arlington Summer, and even if they stay up in the standings, you still need superior pitching to make a dent in the postseason. They don’t have it, whatever the records might be now. (I still remember Kenny Rogers, with the Mets at the time, giving up the walk-off walk in the NLCS that put the Braves in the Series. '99, if I remember right. You new he was going to walk that guy before he even threw the first pitch. He’ll fold like Superman on laundry day in the playoffs.)

I too miss the days when it was the A’s and Mariners dominating the division. They’re just “cooler” teams that Anaheim and Texas. I thought it was great the way Seattle turned around their permanent loser status and became a team to be reckoned with in the '90s. And they really do have a nice ballpark; I watched a game there last year on a trip to Washington, and really enjoyed the atmosphere. (Though not the traffic getting away from the park after the end of the (day) game–the worst traffic I’ve ever experienced. A nightmare.) I think, after bottoming out last year, the Mariners should be just looking for incremental progress this season, and it is within their reach.

As for the A’s, my home team, I’ve had a very specific idea all along about what they need to accomplish this season. I didn’t like, but understood, the Tim Hudson trade; it was the Mulder trade that bothered me most, because they didn’t need to get rid of him just yet, even from a performance/injury standpoint, let alone the financial standpoint. And they kept the one member of the Big 3 who’s been turning into Steve Avery before our very eyes. Not good. Nevertheless, I think they got some solid players in return, there’s still quality in the position players (Crosby coming back made them a different team; Kotsay is vastly underrated; and Kendall and Chavez are coming around) and I don’t think the farm system is tapped out either. So a run back into contention is still possible in my eyes–after Harden comes back; certainly not before–though most likely they won’t get close enough to be a serious threat. But the way I see it, they must finish above .500 this year, something like 86-76, to have a chance in the near future. (That record would require playing at something like a .630 clip, but that’s not impossible for half to two thirds of a season.) If they finish strong, last year’s trades will appear validated, the attitude around the club will be positive, etc. If they tank this season–and that’s where they are now–everyone will say the trades backfired, key players will leave or be traded in a “fire sale,” and the A’s will start from scratch, and won’t be truly competitive for another 3-4 years.

So I guess this is really a pivotal year in the division: if Seattle and Oakland get their acts together, it will be a “four team race” division for the foreseeable future. If both stay down for the rest of this season, the division really will split and stay that way, probably for the rest of the decade.

This is the Pythagorean Projection. It is:

Runs scored squared / (runs scored squared plus runs allowed squared) = Winning Percentage

Generally speaking this formula will predict winning percentage very accurately. A team that has won far more games than the formula will predict is quite likely to sag back towards what the formula predicts, and vice versa; teams that haven’t won as many as the formula predicts will probably do better.

Interesting. Thanks for the insight.