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— Where BTF's Members Investigate the Grand Old Game
Friday, September 05, 2003
Bi-Weekly Review: A.L. West
The A.L. West through September 3rd.
Sept. 2 At Last Update Since Last Update ------------------------- ------------------------- ----------------- Team W L Pct. GB W L Pct. GB W L Pct. Str Oakland 83 55 .601 - 72 53 .573 4 11 2 .846 W 10 Seattle 81 57 .587 2 76 49 .605 - 5 8 .385 W 4 Anaheim 67 71 .486 16 60 66 .484 16.5 7 5 .583 L 1 Texas 64 75 .460 19.5 59 67 .460 17.5 5 8 .385 W 3
American League West Pythagorean Standings - Through Sept. 2 (Previous Update Aug. 18)
Sept. 2 At Last Update Since Last Update -------------------------- ------------------- ------------------ Team R RA Pct. Diff R RA Pct. R RA Pct. Oakland 648 529 .593 +.008 564 474 .579 84 55 .695 Seattle 698 553 .608 -.021 628 488 .616 70 65 .536 Anaheim 660 626 .525 -.039 575 548 .523 85 78 .544 Texas 727 847 .423 +.037 663 760 .431 64 87 .354
American League West Team Stats - Through Sept. 2
Team AVG OBP SLG ERA BABIP BABIP Allowed Oakland .253 .324 .416 3.48 .253 .270 Seattle .276 .348 .419 3.84 .288 .270 Anaheim .273 .333 .425 4.23 .276 .288 Texas .269 .334 .461 5.74 .268 .318
There’s an old story from Greek mythology or the Bible or TV or something about a tortoise and a hare (which is just like a bunny, only more dignified-sounding). The story says that the tortoise and bunny were going to race. I don’t know why, and I’m not sure either of them did either, as I doubt that bunnies and tortoises can actually comprehend the concept of a race. More likely, two guys got drunk and made a bet about who could make an animal go faster, and one guy was stupid enough to let the other one pick the animals. If I remember correctly, that guy’s name was Noah.
Anyway, the day of the big race came, and people came from far and wide to watch, because it was blacked out where they lived. This was considered great entertainment back then, too, because the previous big race had been between a saber-toothed tiger and a tree, so this looked like competitive balance. The bunny and the tortoise were placed at the starting line, and off they went.
Allegedly, the bunny rabbit got so far ahead, that he decided to stop and take a nap. While he slept, the tortoise passed him and won the race. Now, this strikes me as more than a little fishy. Personally, I think the fix was in. And, of course, there were a few reporters commenting on how quickly the tortoise had seemed to bulk up before the race. But regardless of the reasons why the story ends this way, it does, and its moral is this:
Slow and steady wins the race, as long as your opponent is so stupid or inept that they just lie there while you walk past.
That strategy has now worked for the Oakland Athletics two years in a row. Well, that and their solar-powered tortoise jet pack that kicks in late every summer. And of course, in addition to the rocket tortoise and the lethargic rabbit, the AL West race also features a confused, spastic, mouse-like creature, and a large, off-balance dinosaur who only walks in circles. But neither of them pose much of a threat to win this race. And by now, the peasant spectators must be wondering what makes that jet pack work, and whether the bunny will ever learn not to take a nap.
Some interesting numbers:
Pre All-Star Post All-Star Chavez 2003 .802 OPS .931 OPS Chavez 2000-2002 .822 OPS .911 OPS Tejada 2003 .725 OPS .951 OPS Tejada 2000-2002 .793 OPS .875 OPS Hernandez 2003 .769 OPS .757 OPS Hernandez 2000-2002 .648 OPS .741 OPS Long 2003 .705 OPS .683 OPS Long 2000-2002 .741 OPS .740 OPS Mulder 2003 3.03 ERA 3.45 ERA Mulder 2000-2002 4.22 ERA 3.74 ERA Zito 2003 3.28 ERA 3.02 ERA Zito 2000-2002 4.01 ERA 2.29 ERA Hudson 2003 2.71 ERA 1.74 ERA Hudson 2000-2002 3.54 ERA 3.37 ERA
Oakland’s second-half surging is not simply the result of good moves at the trade deadline. This year’s major acquisition for the Athletics, Jose Guillen, has put up an OPS of just .740 for the A’s, compared to his 1.013 mark for the Cincinnati Reds. Yet Oakland’s gone 21-9 (.700) since the trading deadline.
Amazingly, the A’s seem to do it differently every year, but they still manage to consistently improve in the second half. This year’s ten-game winning streak may not seem as impressive when compared to 2002’s 20-game streak, but it’s still been enough to propel Oakland into first place in the AL West.
The following table shows the performance of Seattle’s major trading-deadline acquisitions over the past few years:
Oh, that’s right; there haven’t been any. And the Mariners have now seen their division lead vanish in the subsequent month each of the past two years. The Mariners would be well suited to realize that Oakland is bound to improve, even just a little, if only because they try every year to do so. And Seattle, perhaps due to age, slows down as the season wears on. The failure of the Mariners to address their mid-year weaknesses has drawn much criticism from fans, analysts, and even players, and their routine inactivity hurts not only their playoff chances but also their image, as public support is bound to wane with the appearance that Seattle is satisfied with just being competitive.
It’s not all bad news for the Mariners, though. They’re a good enough team that failure to improve doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll miss the playoffs. That Pythagorean mark of .608 is in fact the best in baseball, suggesting that Seattle has been unlucky (indeed, the Mariners have managed to go just 5-8 since the last update despite outscoring their opponents). Right now, it looks like the head-to-head matchups between Oakland and Seattle could make the difference in the AL West race.
Anaheim’s free fall may be over, but the damage is done as they stand four games under .500 and 16 games out of the division lead, despite having a Pythagorean percentage above .500. Anaheim has been disappointing and unlucky, which is a shame, as they were a legitimately great team in 2002. But they’ve had their turn; it’s time to give another AL West team a shot at a championship.
Angel pitching has been particularly suspect, as the team’s ERA has dropped from 3.91 before the All-Star break to 4.87 after the break. The starting pitching has been especially bad, as the four pitchers who have recorded nine starts since the All-Star break (Washburn, Lackey, Ortiz, and Sele), have ERAs of 4.71, 4.81, 5.66, and 6.55 respectively.
There’s not much new to say about the Rangers. They continue to score plenty of runs, and continue to allow plenty more. Alex Rodriguez has decided he wants to join the MVP race after all, hitting .345/.466/.748 since the break. He now leads his team in OBP, slugging, home runs, total bases, RBI, walks, strikeouts, runs, and even stolen bases. He’s one of several excellent Ranger hitters, but the brightest spot in the rotation has certainly been John Thomson, whose ERA is at 4.99. It’s obvious what the problem for Texas is, but it’s unclear if and when and how it will be fixed.
So the race in the AL West has, in a way, gotten better, with a switch in lead to add some excitement. As the year winds down with intra-divisional play, the games between Oakland and Seattle take on a great deal of importance in determing who finishes on top.
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