Unlike some college sports, pro sports don’t come out with pre-season 1st and 2nd teams, but if the AL West had its pre-season team, this is how I think it would shake out. Clearly this is not a perfect method to predicting the AL West in 2013, and by season’s end the 1st and 2nd team selections will look different. But, it does provide a snapshot of how the division stacks up. My selection process looks at last year’s performance as well as potential this upcoming year, and projected impact/playing time. Some of the picks are obvious and others are less obvious, so of course I’d love to hear your thoughts too.
A couple bullets:
It is hard to find much separation at the top between Oakland, Texas, and LAA. All 3 have playoff potential, but from this breakdown I would also suggest the Mariners are closer to the good teams in the division, rather than the bad (Houston).
Say what you want about Oakland’s 2012 season being an anomolye, but it’s hard to criticize the roster Billy Beane has been assembled this year. The A’s don’t have a lot of star power but they are solid at every position, and have a ton of depth, which will surely be an asset at some point.
The positions that were hardest to find a clear cut 1st and 2nd team selection were Catcher, DH, and the 2nd team OFs and Starting Ps. At catcher, Montero projects to have the most playing time and potential, so I gave him the honors. You could make a case for Jaso and Pierzynski too. The same is true between Kendrys Morales, Berkman, and Trumbo, but the numbers suggest Morales (when healthy) is the best option in the group. David Murphy is a nice player, as is Coco Crisp, Franklin Gutierrez, and Chris Young. Take your pick, I went with Murhpy. Starting pitching was a bit of a toss up to when you start picking the 8th-10th best in the AL West. I tried hard to justify an Astro but simply could not. Iwakuma was my 10th selection, but it could have easily gone to Derek Holland, Jason Vargas, or really any Oakland starter.
In order to visually quantify the separation between teams based on these picks, I’ve awarded 2 points for a 1st team selection, and 1 point for a 2nd team selection. Here’s how it shakes out on a fancy bar graph.
One year ago I asked your reaction following Prince signing in Detroit. One year later, I’m curious what your take is on Josh Hamilton signing with a division foe, for nearly $100 million less than Prince got.
This is my 5th installment in a series of posts I’ve done recapping and forecasting the Mariners Rebuilding Process, since Jack Z took over as GM. You can find the prior posts here: Years 1 and 2Year 3Year 4
Let’s recap the 5 year rebuild plan I laid out in October 2008.
2009, Year 1: Shed dead weight, Begin overhauling the farm Summary:Traded Putz for Guti, Carp, Vargas, and managed to get rid of Silva, Betancourt, and Johjima, while also using 3 of first 5 picks on Ackley, Franklin, Seager. Grade: A+
2010, Year 2: Shed dead weight, Continue building the farm (and lock up Felix) Summary:Signed Griffey and Sweeney, locked up Felix and acquired Cliff Lee, then swapped him for Smoak. Could have done without the Morrow trade and of course the Figgins contract. Selected Walker, Paxton, Pryor in rounds 1, 4, 5. Grade: B-
2011, Year 3: Bring the youth up, Evaluate potential, Acquire more young talent Summary:Hired Wedge, traded for Brendan Ryan, picked up Wilhelmson at a local bar, and signed low cost vets such as Cust, Olivo, Kennedy. Fielded an even mix of youth and vets, but loads of young talent in the pipeline for the first time in forever. At the deadline traded Fister for Furbush and Wells. Hultzen chosen with #2 pick. Grade: B
2012, Year 4: continue youth movement, achieve .500 record Summary:Swapped Pineda for Montero and made some shrewd acquistions in Jaso, Iwakuma, Luetge, Millwood, Perez, then saw a young roster come up 6 games short of .500, while improving by 8 games from prior season. Picked Mike Zunino #3 overall. Grade: A
2013, Year 5: add 1-2 big pieces, contend for playoffs Summary: Thus far we’ve seen a few low cost signings in Bay, Ibanez, Bonderman, and a 1 for 1 swap of Vargas-Morales. Grade: ???
I’ve said this before, but in 4 1/2 years on the job, Bill Bavasi set this organization back 5 years, minimum. Last year I stated
“For the first time on Jack’s watch, I think the on field W/L record is important. .500 ball is a reasonable expectation this year, which would be a welcomed site for our eyes.”
Well, The M’s flirted with .500 in 2012 and showed noticeable improvement, albeit without much offense yet again. Entering year 5 the talk of laying the foundation and replenishing the system should be over, and playoff contention ought to be close. Zduriencik has said as much if you’ve heard any of his recent interviews.
If the blueprint holds form, the M’s will be adding 1-2 big pieces this offseason, and assembling a playoff capable team in 2013. This sounds great but it is nearly January and almost all the big name free agents have signed elsewhere, and the only acquisitions Seattle has made are Robert Andino, Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, and a swap of Jason Vargas for Kendrys Morales. Not exactly blockbuster moves capable of propelling the M’s from 75 wins into contention. I suppose the big moves we hoped for are still possible if Jack can, for example, land Justin Upton and Michael Bourn, and add a veteran pitcher to round out the rotation. That would certainly be a competitive team, but is that the best route to take?
Given how the AL West is shaping up, it may be best to hang onto the prospects, add a couple decent pieces, and shoot for a respectable 80-85 wins in 2013, while waiting until next year to make the big splash. I don’t see a scenario, at this point, for the M’s to overtake Texas or Anaheim in 2013, and probably not Oakland either. So why go all in? I’m not suggesting Seattle give up any hopes they had for next year, just because the division rivals are pulling away, but I don’t want the M’s to mortgage the future to field a better team next year, but one that cannot be sustained.
Keeping a positive trajectory is crucial next year, seeing an improved offense is also important, but that’s about all we can reasonably expect in 2013. This puts real contention off until next year, and adds a year to the original 5 year blueprint, but taking the path that leads to sustained success is what is most important. We’ve seen the Washington Nationals do this, and Tampa Bay also, and with much less money. It may not be popular, given the fractured fan base, plummeting attendance, and a decade of bad baseball, but Seattle has never given a player a $100 million contract, and unless it is a Felix extension, I don’t see it happening for at least another year. And surprisingly, I’m fine with that.
Everything football and basketball related is too depressing to write about at the moment, so let’s talk Mariners. It’s been a long time since the Mariners were the least depressing of the Seattle sports teams. Helps that they haven’t played a game in two months.
So far, the off-season has been pretty uneventful. There have been few actual moves, and most of those have been to address roster issues and limits. That doesn’t mean they lack excitement, however, because Chone Figgins is gone! The team waived him, meaning they’ll eat the remaining $8 million or so on his contract and he’ll be free to play with anyone who will take him. They’ve tried to trade him literally for years and no one would bite, so this is the next best thing. They were going to have to pay him either way, but at least now they have the roster spot to (hopefully) bring in a better player. No offense to Figgins personally, but I’m so glad he’s gone, and he probably is too. He had no role on the team and was sucking the air out of the fanbase to some extent. Here’s to moving forward.
The only other move of note was a trade that sent OF Trayvon Robinson to Baltimore for infielder Robert Andino. Andino plays a solid shortstop along with pretty much every other position and will likely be the primary back-up infielder for Seattle next year. He doesn’t hit much, but that’s pretty standard for utility infielders. Some people are upset to see Trayvon go, but it’s one of those unavoidable moves I wrote about here. The Mariners were going to lose him if he didn’t make the team this spring, and that wasn’t likely to happen. It wouldn’t shock me if Robinson turns into a solid player three or four years down the road, but the Mariners can’t keep a below-average player on the roster that long, waiting for him to blossom. That’s just the way it goes. When there’s no guarantee he ever gets better, sometimes you have to move on. Continue reading →
Unlike NCAA sports, pro sports don’t come out with pre-season 1st and 2nd teams, but if the AL West had its pre-season team, this is how I think it would shake out. My selection process looks at last year’s performance as well as potential this upcoming year, and often I use the sabermetric WAR to break ties. Some of the picks are obvious (Pujols), and others are less obvious (DH), so of course I’d love to hear your thoughts too.
A quick analysis shows that Texas is the class of the division, with more 1st team selections than the rest of the west combined. Anaheim has good 2nd tier depth, solid pitching, and balance. Texas and Anaheim each have 8 1st or 2nd team selections of the possible 10 positional categories, and of the 14 pitching spots, a whopping 11 are Rangers (6) and Angels (5). The M’s are a distant 3rd, but a ways ahead of the re-building A’s, who are loaded with average players but no star power whatsoever.
I wanted to take this chart one step further, and visually quantify the separation between teams based on these picks. To do so, I’ve simply awarded 2 points for a 1st team selection, and 1 point for a 2nd team selection. Here’s how it shakes out on a bar graph.
Last week, Dan put up a post with his pre-season all-AL West team. Matthew, in the comments, alluded to the lack of star power in the division. When you look at the list Dan has assembled (which I think is pretty accurate, especially the first team) the amount of stars on the team are a bit underwhelming.
With that in mind, I thought I’d compare Dan’s list to the best players in the AL East (which is the strongest division in my opinion). These are all my opinions and I’ve based them on prior season stats, sabermetrics, and potential. I choose to just assemble a first team for both divisions because the topic is star power, not depth.
AL West: Kendry Morales, LAA
AL East: Adrian Gonzalez, BOS
The Winner: Gonzalez (AL East)
Overview: I’m pretty high on Morales, I think he is vastly underrated, but Adrian Gonzalez is one of the top players in the game. Gonzalez edges out Teixeira for the 1st baseman in his division. Teixeira would be a first teamer in the AL West.
AL West: Ian Kinsler, TEX
AL East: Robinson Cano, NYY
The Winner: Cano (AL East)
Overview: This one’s a fairly obvious choice also. Kinsler is a good player, and is an all-star when completely healthy, but Cano is the best 2nd baseman in the league (edging out Utley). Cano posted a 6.4 WAR in 2010 (he hit .319 with 29 homers while playing decent defense). Kinsler can post similar offensive numbers when healthy but he’s only played over 130 games once in his career. Cano has played 159 or more the last 4 seasons. Maybe in a couple years we’ll be seeing how Ackley stacks up against Cano. Here’s to hoping. A healthy Pedroia enters into this conversation, also.
AL West: Elvis Andrus, TEX
AL East: Yunel Escobar, TOR
The Winner: Andrus (AL West)
Overview: I might take some heat for putting Escobar over Jeter but I put him there because Jeter is one of the worst defensive short-stops in the league, while Escobar is pretty sharp. The AL East is pretty weak at short-stop and Andrus wins this one easily, based on potential alone. Both Escobar and Jeter put up WAR’s in the 2’s last year and Andrus put up a WAR of 1.5. But, if I had to choose one of those 3 players to be on my team this year, I’d take Andrus without question. His bat will continue to get better, while his defense is superb (unless he has a Yuniesky-type flop). J.J. Hardy could also sneak into the picture for the East.
AL West: Adrian Beltre, TEX
AL East: Evan Longoria, TB The Winner: Longoria (AL East)
Overview: The East shows their dominance in this position. They have Longoria (a top-5 player in the league), A-Rod (a future hall-of-famer, who’s put up at least 30 HR’s and 100 RBI’s each of the last 7 seasons), and Kevin Youkilis (who’s more annoying than A-Rod, but just as effective) who each have a strong case to be picked over Beltre. I love Adrian, he’s one of my favorite players in baseball, but Longoria wins this one easily.
Top of the first, Mariners up, Colby Lewis on the mound. Ichiro doubles to lead off, Figgins walks, they go to second and third on a wild pitch with Kotchman up. Kotchman drives in Ichiro with a groundout, Figgins is at third with one out. Bradley strikes out, Griffey flies out. Mariners up 1-0.
Bottom of the sixth, Rangers at-bat, a tiring Jason Vargas on the mound. Young grounds back to Vargas for a quick first out. Josh Hamilton walks, then Vlad scorches a pitch on the outside corner for a double, scoring Hamilton. Cruz singles to score Vlad, on another decent pitch. Chris Davis gets an infield single when Kotchman dives and has the ball go off his arm and bounce into foul territory. First and second, one out, Shawn Kelley in for Vargas. Teagarden strikes out, but Arias sneaks a single past the diving Lopez and Wilson, scoring Davis. Borbon flies out to end the inning. 4 runs in, Rangers up 5-1.
The first inning started exactly how the Mariners would love to start every game, with Ichiro and Figgy on 2nd and 3rd with no outs. It’s the linchpin of the Mariners’ offense. And really, they’d be pretty happy to start every game 1-0. They should have gotten Figgins in, but it wasn’t a bad start. In comparison, the Rangers got Hamilton on because he’s scary to pitch to, then they smoked a couple of tough pitches and had two runs in three batters. Not real different from the Mariners’ first at that point. They scored in drastically different ways, but there was only a run difference. At that point in the sixth, luck kicked in for the Rangers, with a couple of weak hits to score the final two runs.
I don’t have a lot of point in this, except that those two half innings exemplify the current difference between the Rangers and Mariners. They were similar innings, except that the Rangers had a couple of huge hits from the middle of the order with a runner on, and then the bottom of the order kept the inning alive for an extra couple runs. The Mariners only hit of the first was Ichiro’s leadoff double, it took a lot of work and a wild pitch to score him, and then the middle of the order couldn’t come through to add on any runs. Both pitchers threw similarly, well enough to win if they got a few runs or were facing a weak offense. Unfortunately, both of those were the case for Lewis and neither was for Vargas. Will it stay this way for the Mariners all season? It shouldn’t. They have good hitters who just aren’t hitting. Still, without some major line-up changes, they’re not ever going to come close to what the Rangers can run out there. Whether that will be the difference in the division remains to be seen.
There were some positives. Vargas looked solid until the sixth, when he ran out of gas a little and the Rangers figured him out a little. Before that, he looked pretty similar to Braden for the A’s on Tuesday: solid command, good change. Franklin continues to swing the bat well. He needs to be hitting higher in the order against righties and lefties. Kotchman hit his homer farther than he’s probably ever hit a ball before. I’m not convinced on him by any means, but you can see the potential for him to blossom into a threat. He’s shown more than I expected, so far. Sean White looked solid, although it didn’t really matter by then. Franklin had a couple of excellent catches. And that was the game. Better luck tomorrow. It’s still plenty early, but they could really use a win with Felix throwing.
Hero: No one stands out, but I’ll give it to Franklin, as the only guy who looks like he’s in midseason form.
Goat: Milton got the biggest suckfest at LL, so we’ll give it to him. A double, or even just a single, in the first could have made it a different ballgame.