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Wednesday, July 09, 2003

Bi-Weekly Review: A.L. West

The A.L. West through June 7th.

                    July 7                   At Last Update           Since Last Update
           -------------------------    -------------------------     -----------------
Team        W      L     Pct.     GB     W      L     Pct.     GB     W      L     Pct.     Str
Seattle    55     32     .632      -    47     22     .681      -     8     10     .444     L 1
Oakland    49     38     .563      6    39     29     .574    7.5    10      9     .526     W 1
Anaheim    44     42     .512   10.5    34     34     .500   12.5    10      8     .556     L 1
Texas      35     52     .402     20    27     41     .397   19.5     8     11     .421     W 1
                   July 7                At Last Update       Since Last Update
          --------------------------   -------------------    ------------------
Team        R     RA     Pct.   Diff     R     RA     Pct.     R     RA     Pct.
Seattle   438    321     .641  -.009   368    173     .647    70     67     .519
Oakland   406    353     .565  -.002   318    151     .648    88     83     .527
Anaheim   419    375     .552  -.040   350    198     .542    69     61     .553
Texas     434    545     .387  +.015   351    274     .428    83    116     .340

American League West Team Stats - Through July 7

Team        AVG     OBP     SLG     ERA   BABIP  BABIP Allowed
Seattle    .277    .347    .426    3.54    .310      .262
Oakland    .254    .326    .413    3.73    .272      .269
Anaheim    .271    .332    .431    4.07    .288      .278
Texas      .269    .334    .455    5.97    .293      .323

We have arrived at the halfway point of the season.  Sample sizes are getting more and more meaningful, and the “Games Behind” column of the standings is getting more and more important.  And since that column looks nearly the same as it did last update, instead of focusing on the teams, this edition will focus on the players.  Enough games have been played that we can start to draw meaningful conclusions from individual player performances this year.  And the standings haven’t seen any radical shifts lately, so it’s a good time to focus on a whole half year of individual performances.

So, in honor of the upcoming All-Star Game, we’ll be taking a look at the AL West All-Stars—the players who have shaped the standings.  But first, a quick note and a brief look at the last two weeks:

The Quick Note…

There’s a feature in CBS Sportsline’s stats area where you can see how the league has fared against each team.  Just click on “Opponent” under sortable stats.  This makes it vastly easier to calculate BABIP allowed (I used to have to add up all the at-bats and sacrifice flies from a listing of team stats against each specific team).  In honor of this simplification of my life, I’m giving CBS Sportsline a hearty recommendation, a link, and my eternal gratitude.  They’re also my source for internet gamecasts.  Thanks, Sportsline!

...And the Brief Look at the Last Two Weeks

The AL West is in order.  The lack of difference between last update’s records and this update’s is striking—only the Mariners are more than .012 away from where they were last time.  They’ve had a rough few weeks, thanks largely to San Diego’s Rondell White hitting two grand slams in two different games, each of which turned an easy Mariner win into an immediate or near-immediate loss.  But the bigger problem has been Seattle’s lack of offensive production—they’ve scored just 3.89 runs per game between updates.  However, the anemia of the offense has not proven to be more than a bump in the road yet.

Also pleasing is the proximity of the Pythagorean records to the actual records.  Only Anaheim is notably off, suggesting that they’ve had a little bad luck, which isn’t surprising—they’re better than their 44-42 record.  But the Pythagorean percentages don’t suggest that the standings are out of line; in fact, they show that the teams’ records reflect nicely how well each team has played.  We run a tight ship here in the AL West, and everything appears quite nice and tidy.

So, with that out of the way, let’s select the best of the West: the 2003 First-Half AL West All-Stars.  Because we’re interested in how these players have affected the standings this year alone, we’ll only be considering this year’s performance.  I have selected one player for each position (including designated hitter), five starting pitchers, and four relievers (two lefties and two righties).  We’ll see how they stack up against their AL West peers.

Catcher: Ramon Hernandez, Oakland (.270/.329/.464, 263 AB)

Ramon Hernandez’s hot April (.983 OPS) is the reason his season-to-date line sits at .270/.329/.464, well above his career .250/.319/.392.  He also leads AL catchers in at-bats with 263.  There’s not much competition with Ivan Rodriguez no longer in the division; the weak-hitting Bengie Molina, Einar Diaz, and Dan Wilson have received most of the playing time on the other three teams.  Maybe the best hitting catcher in the AL West, Seattle’s Ben Davis (.282/.320/.486), has received only 137 AB behind Dan Wilson.

First Base: Rafael Palmeiro, Texas (.245/.359/.500, 294 AB)

Palmeiro’s .245/.359/.500 line is more than enough to earn him the spot even if it is below his career performance—no one else’s OPS reaches .800.  John Olerud’s defense and .387 on-base percentage for the Mariners make him a viable candidate, but his lack of power so far this year (4 HR, .397 slugging) has left him less valuable than usual.

Second Base: Bret Boone, Seattle (.310/.368/.579, 342 AB)

There’s really no contest here.  Boone’s .310/.368/.579 line as a second baseman makes him one of the most valuable players in the league.  Boone leads all AL second basemen in OBP, slugging, OPS, home runs, and runs batted in.  Michael Young of Texas is second in line with an .808 OPS.

Third Base: Hank Blalock, Texas (.330/.383/.540, 300 AB)

The AL West has a surprising amount of depth at third base, with Anaheim’s Troy Glaus and Oakland’s Eric Chavez both among their team’s most valuable players, but youngster Hank Blalock has outshone them so far.  Blalock is hitting .330/.383/.540; his .923 OPS leads AL West third basemen easily.

Shortstop: Alex Rodriguez, Texas (.293/.380/.560, 334 AB)

Yeah, a .939 OPS is nice, but it’s not Alex Rodriguez nice.  Still, Rodriguez easily destroys the competition in the AL West.  Last year’s AL MVP, Oakland’s Miguel Tejada, has been struggling all season, putting up a line of .244/.299/.429.  That’s not as good as Carlos Guillen’s OBP-heavy .762 OPS for Seattle, but Tejada’s 112 extra at-bats make up the difference to earn him the runner-up spot.

Left Field: Garret Anderson, Anaheim (.308/.338/.582, 347 AB)

Anderson’s holding the left field spot is no surprise; his excellent defense and hitting have made him the division’s only consistently great leftfielder.  In fact, the only other player who’s consistently played left in the AL West in Randy Winn, who sports a .666 OPS.  Garret Anderson’s .920—a career high so far—makes him the easy choice.

Center Field: Mike Cameron, Seattle (.272/.365/.483, 290 AB)

No one else has really even played enough to be considered, but just in case, Mike Cameron’s hitting a superb .272/.365/.483—Safeco Field and all—and playing great defense.  Anaheim’s Darin Erstad is an excellent fielder as well, but with a .674 OPS and just 149 at bats, he can’t catch Cameron.  Oakland’s Eric Byrnes has been a terrific hitter, but too much of his playing time has come in left field.

Right Field: Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle (.349/.388/.467, 364 AB)

Anaheim’s Tim Salmon and Texas’s Juan Gonzalez both have plenty of value, but with Ichiro putting up a .388 OBP and .855 OPS in a pitcher’s park, with 364 at bats, he’s the clear choice for right field.  Ichiro’s even shown a little extra power this year, with a .467 slugging percentage and eight home runs already (he hit eight in each of the previous two years).  He’s also stolen 23 bases with an 79.3% success rate.

Designated Hitter: Edgar Martinez, Seattle (.305/.413/.559, 256 AB)

An excellent .305/.413/.559 line puts Edgar above the group here, but both Anaheim’s Brad Fullmer (.887 OPS) and Oakland’s Erubiel Durazo (.841 OPS) deserve mention.  AL West DHs have hit very well this year on the whole.

Pitching Rotation:
Mark Mulder, Oakland (3.10 ERA, 130.7 IP)
Tim Hudson, Oakland (2.89 ERA, 134 IP)
Jamie Moyer, Seattle (3.01 ERA, 107.7 IP)
Gil Meche, Seattle (3.14 ERA, 103.3 IP)
Barry Zito, Oakland (3.49 ERA, 126.3 IP)

And the standings become a little clearer.  Of all the pitchers in the AL West with at least ten starts, the seven best ERAs belong to Oakland or Seattle—Oakland’s big three (Mulder, Hudson, Zito), and four of the five and only five pitchers who have started for the Mariners this year (Moyer, Meche, Joel Pi?eiro, and Ryan Franklin).  And it’s not just the defense; the five best quick DIPS ERAs belong to Hudson, Mulder, Pi?eiro, Moyer, and Meche.

Putting these guys in order is almost futile; Zito belongs fifth, but the other four are almost a tossup.

Right-Handed Relievers:
Brendan Donnelly, Anaheim (0.41 ERA, 44 IP)
Scot Shields, Anaheim (1.76 ERA, 66.3 IP)

Brendan Donnelly has been phenomenal, striking out 53 in 44 innings while walking 12 and allowing no home runs.  He’s given up two earned runs in 37 appearances.  No reliever in the West has come close to matching his performance.  Scot Shields has been impressive as well, striking out 55 in 66.3 innings, with a 1.76 ERA.  Just missing the cut are Seattle’s Shigetoshi Hasegawa (0.79 ERA) and Oakland’s Keith Foulke (2.85 ERA in 47.3 innings).

Left-Handed Relievers:
Arthur Rhodes, Seattle (3.65 ERA, 37 IP)
Aaron Fultz, Texas (3.63 ERA, 39.7 IP)

Rhodes, despite a few recent struggles, has been his usual self: the most effective lefty in the division.  He’s struck out 31 and walked 13, allowing one home run.  Fultz has 32 strikeouts, 10 walks, and 3 home runs.  Brian Shouse has also been an effective lefty for Texas, with a 3.26 ERA, and only one home run and seven walks in 38.7 innings.

Those are the players that have done the most for their team at each position so far.  Texas has a great deal of offense, but their run prevention doesn’t measure up.  Seattle is strong in both areas, and that’s been the key to their hold on first place.  And the best part: every team is represented on this All-Star team with no difficulty.

Dan 'The Boy' Werr Posted: July 09, 2003 at 06:00 AM | 1 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Danny Posted: July 09, 2003 at 02:25 AM (#612076)
Putting these guys in order is almost futile; Zito belongs fifth, but the other four are almost a tossup.

If your DIPS top 5 were in order, then Hudson and Mulder are 1-2 in ERA, IP, and DIPS. Higher quality pitching with 30 extra innings each doesn't seem like it should make ranking the top 4 futile. I would say that Zito's extra IP make him nearly Meche's equal.

On another topic: Ramon Hernandez, All-Star. Do players around the league give him credit for helping to develop the Big 3? I believe he leads AL catchers in defensive Win Shares. Varitek, however, is easily outhitting him.

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