Texas Rangers v Toronto Blue Jays

The Oakland A’s are doing it again. The Oakland A’s are exploiting that most inefficient of inefficiencies: winning a whole bunch of games in a very short period of time.

The Oakland A’s were, for a brief time this weekend, in first place the American League West. The two AL West powers traded the division lead back and forth over the past few days, Texas starting today in first after they avoided a sweep in Toronto. Oakland dropped two straight in Chicago to the White Sox – and might have lost a third game if not for Josh Reddick’s defensive heroics.

This scene should repeat itself over and over for the reason of the season, all the way down to wire. Two goods teams battling throughout the summer and into the fall.

Maybe.

As Rangers writer Jamey Newberg notes, these are the real Rangers. The Rangers are scuffling in all sorts of ways right now, playing bad baseball and running out a lineup which is far from optimal.

Newberg points out that the Rangers currently have seven pitchers on the disabled list, five of which he considers “core guys.” Not to mention the ailing Ian Kinsler (ably replaced by Jurickson Profar), guy who apparently hits everything Mitch Moreland and a gimpy Adrian Beltre.

The A’s are winners of 15 of their last 20 games and 20 of their last 30. For their trouble, they are a half game behind the Rangers.

These are odd times for the Rangers, who are beginning a transitional time for the franchise. They are expected to lose David Murphy and Nelson Cruz to free agency. There is the matter of finding room for Jurickson Profar, the shortstop prospect currently getting comfortable at second base.

Rangers fans expect a big splash, as their online greed for all things David Price, Giancarlo Stanton attests. Not to mention the virtual eyes they’re constantly making at the likes of Cliff Lee and Jose Bautista.

The Rangers will make their splash and will keep on being a terrific baseball team. The Athletics will continue confounding skeptics, right up until the moment they don’t. It is an interesting time to be a fan of the good teams in the AL West, as the high chum levels make each head to head battle that much more important.

Blame Blanton

The Los Angeles Angels are conspicuously absent from the above conversation regarding AL West powers. That’s because the Angels are quite bad. They’re not BAD BAD Astros bad but they’re bad enough. Why are they bad? Because Josh Hamilton is bad and the pitching is really bad.

The poster boy for bad pitching in LA is Joe Blanton, brought in as a serviceable innings eater who would scoop up some wins and throw in and around 200 innings, sailing by on a powerhouse offense.

That hasn’t happened, mostly because Blanton is too bad to be imagined. He was lit up in Boston yesterday, allowing seven runs on eight hits in five innings, including a cool three home runs. Blanton has allowed the most hits of any pitcher in baseball this season with 111. That is nearly 20 more than the next closest pitcher. Among those hits counts 13 home runs, which is very bad for business.

How bad is Blanton at pitching? He is so bad he ruined Mike Trout‘s defensive metrics. Despite passing every eyeball test you could ever come up with, Mike Trout’s Defensive Runs Saved ranks him second worst among qualified fielders in 2013 at -9. Mike Trout, NINE runs below average already this season! Unthinkable!

ESPN Stats & Info did some digging into the granular data to find out what’s gong wrong with Trout’s fielding so far this season. While he has made a few misplays which cost him, there is one peculiar culprit costing him chances in the outfield.

It could even be something related to the early-season absence of Jered Weaver (whose fly balls tend to hang in the air longer than most and are more easily catchable) and the early struggles of Joe Blanton (whose fly balls have a lower hang time and may be less catchable).

JOE BLANTON BROKE MIKE TROUT! There will be no 10 WAR season for you, Mikey. Blame the one man laser show, Joe Blanton, when you don’t win any Fielding Bible awards this year.

(Yes, this DOES open all sorts of ugly discussions over the validity of small sample fielding metrics and the inability to track something for which the chances are not equally distributed. But that’s another debate for another day.)

Top to Bottom

Rk Tm W L W-L% GB vEast vCent vWest last10 last20 last30
1 BOS 39 25 .609 15-9 12-8 10-6 7-3 12-8 18-12
2 NYY 37 26 .587 1.5 16-11 10-3 7-6 7-3 10-10 17-13
3 BAL 35 28 .556 3.5 14-14 7-5 9-5 6-4 12-8 15-15
4 TBR 34 28 .548 4.0 14-17 7-8 4-2 6-4 12-8 20-10
5 TOR 27 35 .435 11.0 12-20 6-7 3-3 5-5 10-10 16-14
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 6/10/2013.

Even though the Toronto Blue Jays are kind of bad, the American League East is shaping up pretty much exactly as most expected. Turns out there are some pretty good teams in this division. You might notice in the standings listed above, no team in the American League East has a losing record over the last 10, 20, or 30 games. Not one.

No AL East team has lost more than they’ve won in the last 30 games. Across five teams. Compare that to the AL Central, where only one team has a winning record overall and, if we presented the same games matrix, we would find only two .500 stretches outside the Tigers.

It is also interesting that the American League East standings go in reverse order of “games played versus the AL East.” Now, the first place Red Sox have the fewest games played versus the ALE but they also have a 15-9 record against those teams.

It isn’t anything scientific but it does get me thinking about an old hobbyhorse of mine, that the games played versus the AL East have more effect in the following series as the long games and drawn out pitch counts as the wear and tear slowly seeps into bullpen arms and the like.

Maybe it’s nothing more than an oddity. But the division games awaiting the Red Sox will certainly be a good test of what appears to be a very good team.

Game of the Weekend

So many to choose from! It has to be this 18 inning saga between the Jays and Rangers. At least these two offenses threatened to score. The endless Mets/Marlins mess was more about futility than it was about tension.


Source: FanGraphs

Financially secure pitchers are affable, excellent

Oh, those wacky aces. Just like a couple kids out there!

RELATED

Via our friend Bill Baer: Cliff Lee gets a little stir crazy and/or bored and/or loses his mind after realizing Delmon Young plays the outfield behind him, attempts disrupting Jonathan Pettibone‘s on-air interview.

Failure in Layers

I mean, c’mon man. You don’t deserve to hold the ball aloft after picking it up off the damn floor. The hero who does retrieve it has the good sense to do the right thing with the souvenir – give it the hell away, possibly for his own gain at a later date.

The Mets in a nutshell

Mr. Met, unfazed.

BARELY RELATED

The “HISTORICAL INEPTITUDE” graphic refers to the Mets/Marlins game which went 20 innings on Saturday. As that odyssey sucked years from the life of attendant beat writers, the Blue Jays and Rangers were locked into a 18 inning extra inning behemoth of their own. Blue Jays receiver J.P. Arencibia caught all 18 of those innings, which landed him in these crazy space legs after the fact as he attempted worked to recover.

Photo of the Weekend

ALL RIGHT, CARDINALS. WE GIVE UP. YOU WIN. YOU WIN EVERYTHING. STOP KICKING, WE’RE ALREADY DEAD.

Arizona Diamondbacks v St. Louis Cardinals