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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.

Oakland Athletics

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.

Seattle Mariners

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 Angels

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.

Texas Rangers

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.

Dan 'The Boy' Werr Posted: September 05, 2003 at 06:00 AM | 5 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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Reader Comments and Retorts

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Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. User unknown in local recipient table (Craig B) Posted: September 05, 2003 at 02:38 AM (#612832)
I now have a nickname for my next DMB league team.

"Oakland Rocket Tortoises"

Thank you, thank you, thank you.
   2. Toby Posted: September 05, 2003 at 02:38 AM (#612834)
Tortoise with a jet pack? And to think all this time I thought that was an elephant on a circus drum.
   3. Dan 'The Boy' Werr Posted: September 07, 2003 at 02:38 AM (#612839)
Rather than address this here, I'll try to include an analysis of Anaheim in my next column.
   4. Too Much Coffee Man Posted: September 09, 2003 at 02:38 AM (#612844)
I think if I were the Mariners AT THIS POINT, I'd consider activating Snelling. His AAA numbers are not that impressive, although he did hit well earlier in the year at AA. Randy Winn's had a solid year and I'm not suggesting starting Snelling every game, but they could catch lightening in a bottle. If Snelling got a few starts, say spelling Winn and then Cameron and got hot, they'd have at least one more weapon for the last few weeks. If he's not ready, they can stick with Winn/Cameron/Suzuki and let Snelling get a feel for a pennant race from the bench.
   5. Law Boy Posted: September 09, 2003 at 02:38 AM (#612846)
FYI for the poster above this: Snelling's season ended on another knee injury, though this one isn't nearly as serious as the previous. He should be rehabilitated within 6 weeks and will likely player winter ball somewhere.

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