Start of June, AL East : Where my starters at?

The AL East is regarded as a very tough division to play in. In all of Major League Baseball, the two teams with the deepest pockets, the Yankees and Red Sox, inhabit the same division. In the same group of 5 teams, there are also the Tampa Bay Rays, arguably the most efficiently run team out of all 30 in the league. They have made the playoffs multiple times on a limited budget. The fourth team in the group, the Blue Jays, is run by the most aggressive GM in baseball, widely credited with knowing more about every player available than anyone else in his position, willing to angle any deal he can to improve his team. The division’s traditional doormat, the Orioles? Still in first place at the start of June.

With a high stakes game being played in this division every year, it all comes down to the players on the field, and how they stack up against one another. It is a simple fact that 72 of the 162 games each season are played against opponents in one’s own division. I  looked at the offensive production within the AL East in my previous post. Now I’ll take a look at the pitching side of the equation. Who are the dominant starters of the AL East, and which pitchers are taking it on the chin by being in the best division in baseball? Continue reading

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End of May, where all my batters at? (AL East Edition)

So, since it is the end of the month, I thought we could take a look at the offenses around the AL East and see how they compare to one another. I’m going to go team by team, and pick out the highlights and lowlights for each lineup. Maybe this will help you with your all-star ballot. Or maybe you’ll just punch our your home team’s starting nine anyway. Whatever, I’m sure about 75 players will be selected for each league anyway.

I’m using a really simple chart, with at bats and 2 other stats, wRC and wRC+. The wRC stand for Weighted Runs Created. And in-depth explanation of these 2 numbers is here at Fangraphs, which also happens to be the site from which I gathered data to create these handy tables. wRC is a way of counting offensive contributions, it is a complete total of walks, hits, homers, strikeouts, etc. It is expressed as a running total, if you have a player who has accumulated 120 wRC by the end of the season, you are a happy manager. Since it is the end of May, we’re about 1/3 of the way through the season. That means 35-40 wRC is indicative of a hitter having a great year.

wRC+ is a normalized stat, which means a 100 wRC is a league average level of production. If wRC+ is 120, you have created 20% more runs than the average hitter would have in the same number of plate appearances. You can have just a few plate appearances, and have a wRC over 100, as long as your times at bat have been productive ones.

Continue reading

Showdown at the SkyDome corral

A wild, immature pitcher with an “electric arm” travels north following the money. When he arrives in the baseball’s hinterland, he meets an almost mythical talent, a man who, despite residing in said hinterland and having no real exposure to the American masses, has managed to become widely accepted as one of, if not, the best pitchers in the game.

aj burnettAfter three mostly disappointing years in the hinterland, the “electric arm” cites some contractual mumbo jumbo to leave and again chases the money. This time it takes him to the bright lights of the big city; a place where the sense of entitlement is such that a championship is expected every year.

But a funny thing happened after the wild one left in search of even greater riches: The team from the hinterland improved by leaps and bounds, while the pinstriped lads from the big city are struggling to even win as many games as they lose.

And so it comes to pass. Tomorrow night, the pinstriped boys from the big city will arrive in the hinterland to do battle with the squad that has assumed the leading role of the league. And the man with the electric arm is scheduled to take the mound. Too bad for him.

AJ, the Doctor will see you now.

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Thoughts on the weekend sweep

Everybody loves Aaron

Everybody loves Aaron

Friday and Saturday past were my first two chances to get out to the Rogers SkyDome Centre this season. Of course I used the opportunity to drink a little too much, but here are some thoughts from those two games that I had at the time and somehow managed to remember:

Friday’s 8-4 win (or The good Doctor cures the Jays of the runs)

• Coming off the dismal series against the Royals, I was a little worried at what was going to transpire in this weekend series. Doc’s first inning on Friday (specifically the Nick Markakis dinger) did nothing to make me feel better. Doc’s next seven innings, and the performance of the offence in general, relieved me of any worries I had.

• Crowd cheering Gregg Zaun in his first at bat of the weekend? Classy. Crowd treating Zaunn like he’s a Yankee after that first at bat? Horseshit. Whatever you think of Zaunn, this is a guy who loved playing Toronto and didn’t want to leave. He doesn’t deserve the hate.

• Details from the rest of the game are a bit hazy, but I do remember Adam Lind hitting a mammoth bomb to straight away centre and I remember that Scott Downs finished out the game.

Saturday’s 5-4 11-inning win (or Aaron Hill toys with Baltimore then crushes it)

• Going in: “I hope Rob Ray gives us enough to win.”

First inning: “Home run to the second deck in left? Rob Ray is not doing so well.”

Innings 2-4: “The Orioles are hitting this Ray kid pretty damn hard. This does not look good.”

Fifth inning: “Ray got through this inning pretty quickly. Hmm.”

Sixth inning: “Hey, he’s striking people out now! Must’ve just been nerves earlier on.”

By the end of his 5-2/3 innings, Ray had gone a long way toward winning me over. Like his ice-bound namesake, he seems pretty scrappy. Fighting through some awful innings in a major league debut to put in an overall good performance (4 hits, 4 walks, 3 ER), I hope this guy gets another shot.

• Hey, Cito, I know you make the team win and I like that, but I’ve got a question for you: Why the hell do you stick with your lineups through thick and thin, never pinch hitting because it might destroy confidence, etc… Why do you employ that philosophy and then, in the bottom of the 8th, with the bases loaded in a tie game, you pinch hit for Overbay?

Seriously, does Millar give you something Overbay doesn’t? What, he does. He gives you a downgrade defensively when he doesn’t come through at the plate and the game goes into extras.

And what is Overbay supposed to take from being pinch hit for? Cito’s apparently got faith in every other hitter on the team, but not him. Or is Lyle just so mentally tough that it won’t get to him at all?

I don’t get it.

• Seriously, why do the Jays fans boo Zaunnie?

• Aaron Hill: On his way to becoming Greatest Blue Jay Ever. I’m convinced he screwed up that play at second just so he would have the chance to tie the game with a dinger in the 10th and then drive in the winning run in the 11th.

Sunday’s 4-3 win (Sweep!)

• I didn’t see this game, but I didn’t have to. With Scott (Captain Canada) Richmond on the mound, you pretty much know exactly what you’re going to get. Opponents score three runs, Jays win. Bingo Bango.

Leftovers

• That may have been Toronto’s first series against the AL East, but Baltimore doesn’t really count, does it?

• Scutaro apparently knows a thing or two about which stats people should be paying attention to.

• Today is May 4. The Toronto Blue Jays are 18-9. The Toronto Blue Jays are leading the AL East by two full games. The Toronto Blue Jays are not going to be jinxed by me saying the P-word. Not today.

Delusional ramblings

sabathia-burnett

Unable to write off the Jays’ season already, I have managed to convince myself that Toronto has a shot at making the playoffs. I’ll get into why the Jays are amazingly awesome in later posts, but here’s a few reasons why the AL East is not as tough as everyone seems to think it is:

Why we don’t need to worry about the Yankees

People say that the Yankees “won” free agency this year. People are also stupid.

Any Jays fan knows that AJ Burnett has a history of only pitching well in contract years. Any Jays fan also knows that Burnett is a head case. And how’s he acclimatizing himself to New York? MacLeod says that AJ’s not doing so hot:

I made the trek into Tampa this morning to check out the zoo that is the New York Yankees and ran into a fellow scribe whilst setting up in the press box here at luxurious George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Of course, I asked him about A.J. Burnett, the former Blue Jays pitcher who bolted Toronto for the dough in the Big Apple.

“He’s an idiot,” came the quick response.

As for the other free agents:

CC Sabathia wanted to stay in California, but came to New York because of the filthy lucre. Anyone interested in seeing how players perform when they’re unhappy with their situation need look no further than Robert Reichel’s tenure with the Maple Leafs.

Mark Teixeira is the only signing that worries me even a bit, but you’ve got to remember that his is one bat attempting to fill the whole left by two (Bobby Abreu and jason Giambi.)

And there’s the little matter of this:

Sitting beside Rodriguez at the head table were Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and manager Joe Girardi. Many of Rodriguez’s teammates watched soberly from the side. The high-powered group included Pettitte, Derek Jeter, A.J. Burnett, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada. Posada, however, left abruptly during Rodriguez’s opening remarks.

Cancer much? Posada couldn’t even be bothered to stay for the whole press conference!

The Monyeballers out there will say that chemistry means nothing and it’s all about the numbers, but come on. A-Rod is not Reggie Jackson. He won’t be able to handle the fans and the media in New York and mash up to his capabilities.

Why we don’t need to worry about the Rays

They are a talented, young team that has good (if not great) pitching. But Tampa’s likely to regress toward the mean a bit this year, it’s science. Last year, they had lightning in a bottle, it’s unlikely they’ll pull that off two years in a row.

Something else to think about: The last three teams to lose the World Series have failed to make the playoffs in the following year.

(Yes, we’ll just ignore the entire history of baseball previous to the last three years, thanks!)

Why we don’t need to worry about the Red Sox

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They’re banking on Brad Wilkerson to cover first base.