Hot starts don’t necessarily dictate the results of May through October, because that’s only one month of baseball done, and even one month’s worth of goodies is a small sample size of information. Still, it’s not like it’s not fun to look at some of the numbers that were a little unexpected.
Win and Losses Division
The AL East really was, and still is anybody’s division to win, and so maybe Boston’s 18-8 record — and the best in baseball — shouldn’t be that much of a surprise. What is the bigger surprise can be found at the bottom of the division where the Toronto Blue Jays reside at 10-17. There are three teams with a worse record than that, two won’t surprise you, one may: Astros, Marlins, Angels.
Another unexpected positive performance has come from the NL West leading Colorado Rockies, and second place Kansas City are only a half game back of the 2012 AL Champs. Different league, but still the Central, the top four teams in the NLC are all within one game of each other.
Position Players Division
Surprising that Justin Upton has 12 homers? Probably not. Surprising that New York Mets catcher John Buck is tied for second with 9? Very! We always knew Chris Davis had power, just wondered if his contact rate would get in the way. You expected him to have more of a slash line like Anthony Rizzo than one like Bryce Harper.
This may not surprise you, but I did not think Carl Crawford would have as solid of an April as he’s had. 1.3 fWAR with a .390 wOBA, including 4 HR and SB. You do that every month and that gets you MVP votes.
Players in the bottom 15 of fWAR include players like Melky Cabrera (0 HR), Matt Kemp (84 wRC+), and Josh Hamilton (51 wRC+). I’m sure Melky’s place there doesn’t surprise the PED skeptics, but bottom 15 bad?
Starting Pitchers Division
Continuing with the bottom, it surprises me that two of the bottom seven fWAR performances belong to starters on the Giants staff, and neither of them are Barry Zito (Matt Cain, and Ryan Vogelsong). Brandon McCarthy may sport a horrible 7.48 ERA, but his 3.67 FIP is better than league average, and that 3.82 residual is pretty astounding for anybody.
In a shocking development, Stephen Strasburg and Jeff Samardzija‘s 1-4 W-L record may not tell you that they’ve actually done quite alright for their team, it’s just, you know, that whole run support thing.
Sergio Romo, Jason Grilli, Mariano Rivera, and Jim Johnson may have ten saves, but your leader for relievers in fWAR is James Russell of the Cubs and Craig Kimbrel, Matt Belisle, and four others at 0.6.
Speaking of Sergio, no “closer” has been brought into more games than him. 15. Brad Ziegler leads in appearances with 17. That’s a pretty healthy dose of usage early on.
I know John Axford was on the decline, but that 8 ERA and 7 FIP are more of a fall from grace than just a “decline.”
If you added Brandon League and Huston Street‘s K% (I know it doesn’t work like that, but work with me here), it would be 20.0%. Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Bailey, and Greg Holland would still have more than double that K%.
So there are some of your surprises from this month, definitely varying on the spectrum of surprisability, but those are some of the things that got my attention. What surprised you this month?
Idea: Rank the best individual seasons of the 2012 MLB regular season (Spring Training, Minor Leagues, and Postseason are not included), while considering offensive and defensive facets of the game.
Consider: Using the individual metrics to measure individual performance; full avoidance of projecting results for shortened seasons, and past years performance to justify or dictate standings.
This is not: “Most Valuable” anything. Rather, this is “best,” like Baseball America does, so there is no confusion as to what I am ranking. It is also not a “this is a ranking of who I want in 2013, or wanted in any other year.”
This is: My opinion, and will be disagreed with by many.
40. Jimmy Rollins (23 HR, 30 SB, .322 wOBA, 4.9 fWAR, 2.3 rWAR) – You’ve got the picture now that I love HR and SB when put up in big bunches, and J-Roll, though 33 already, still’s puttin’ out.
39. Miguel Montero (15 HR, 25 2B, .364 wOBA, 5.0 fWAR, 3.7 rWAR) – Wouldn’t be surprised if Arizona fans feel MM is underappreciated. Definitely not talked about as much when we talk about “good catchers.”
38. Chris Sale (192.0 IP, 9 K/9, 4.06 tERA, 4.9 fWAR, 4.2 rWAR) – Turning 24 at the end of March, some scouts worry about this guy’s delivery, but hopefully Sale will continue to produce and not get injured.
37. Prince Fielder (30 HR, 33 2B, .398 wOBA, 4.9 fWAR, 4.4 rWAR) – Yea, defense kills him also, but that offense is just so hot, it’s no wonder he’s locked up through 2020.
36. Bryce Harper (22 HR, 18 SB, .352 wOBA, 4.9 fWAR, 5.0 rWAR) – Kid turned 20 in October. Really tried to not use his age to rank, but I might be guilty of that here.
35. Yu Darvish (191.1 IP, 10.4 K/9, 4.02 tERA, 5.1 fWAR, 4.0 rWAR) – Not a bad campaign for the “rookie” out of Sendai, and this is probably the guy I wish I would have watched more of. Maybe this year I’ll do that.
34. Joe Mauer (10 HR, 31 2B, .376 wOBA, 5.0 fWAR, 4.1 rWAR) – Just hoping Head & Shoulders is back in the game and ready to mash, especially with that monster contract of his.
33. Matt Holliday (27 HR, 36 2B, .378 wOBA, 5.1 fWAR, 3.9 rWAR) – Who’d have thunk that Holliday would be higher on this list than old buddy Pujols in 2013? Certainly not me.
32. Stephen Strasburg (159.1 IP, 11.13 K/9, 3.34 tERA, 4.3 fWAR, 2.7 rWAR) – Ranking SS was very tough because it’s not his fault the Nats shut him down, and I tried not to extrapolate what he was going to do and just take what he did and rank that. Could be too high, considering most everyone else got through the full season. Maybe it’s just right.
31. Carlos Ruiz (16 HR, 32 2B, .398 wOBA, 5.5 fWAR, 4.4 rWAR) – For how long he was using a substance to help him focus is unknown to me, and maybe it was helping him all year, but that’s not something I feel comfortable speculating on.
30. Torii Hunter (16 HR, 24 2B, .356 wOBA, 5.3 fWAR, 5.5 rWAR) – I do feel kind of bad for him with how things ended in Anaheim, but I think he’ll be happy in Detroit.
29. Austin Jackson (16 HR, 10 3B, .371 wOBA, 5.5 fWAR, 5.2 rWAR) – Someone said to me in the midst of the World Series the Tigers only had two guys in their lineup to fear. Austin Jackson then started his Rodney Dangerfield act, pointing to his regular season numbers.
28. Ian Desmond (25 HR, 21 SB, .362 wOBA, 5.4 fWAR, 3.2 rWAR) – Really difficult to decide between him, Jackson, and Hunter, but the 20-20 thing is just too sexy.
27. Giancarlo Stanton (37 HR, 30 2B, .405 wOBA, 5.8 fWAR, 5.4 rWAR) – He will enter his age 23 season in 2013, and he did all that in 501 plate appearances. Scary to think that he could get stronger.
26. Martin Prado (10 HR, 17 SB, .345 wOBA, 5.9 fWAR, 5.4 rWAR) – Often overlooked because he doesn’t clear the fence more often, Prado is a solid utility player that hasn’t quite seen his payday yet, but hopefully he will get his.
25. Alex Gordon (14 HR, 51 2B, .357 wOBA, 5.9 fWAR, 6.2 rWAR) – I could see people having a beef with me ranking Gordon too low, but if he gets stronger, those doubles might be going down and turning into dingers.
24. Zack Greinke (212.1 IP, 8.48 K/9, 3.58 tERA, 5.1 fWAR, 3.3 rWAR) – The lefty has a new home in LA, but made due with the Milwaukee and other “LA” team he worked for in 2012
23. Ben Zobrist (20 HR, 14 SB, .365 wOBA, 5.9 fWAR, 5.5 rWAR) – Another year of Ben playing multiple positions, and he still churns out the numbers that make him a solid attribute to the club. Good thing they have two team options on him for 2014 and 2015.
22. Joey Votto (44 2B, 19.80% BB%, .438 wOBA, 5.9 fWAR, 5.6 rWAR) – Even if he wasn’t 100%, he still ended up being a big contributor to the NL Central Champs.
21. Gio Gonzalez (199.1 IP, 9.35 K/9, 3.34 tERA, 5.4 fWAR, 4.5 rWAR) – Homey needs to bring that walk rate down, but to have this guy and him not be the #1 in your staff is pretty telling of what the Nationals have.
Today is a showcase of talent. Not all of the best talent are here, but there’s still going to be some amazing players on display like there were in the Futures Game, except of course at the MLB level, where a lot of these guys have for the most part put it all together.
Jeff Passan’s piece on Mike Trout vs. Bryce Harper is something we probably don’t talk enough about, but the Giants have now had the opportunity to see both, and were we ever disappointed. Disappointed that they did so well against our teams, but as a baseball fan, blown away by the fact they’re only 20, and 19 years old, respectively and why the heck couldn’t I do that at 19-20 years old 😦
All told, there were 38 players named or voted to the All Star team for the National League, and 36 voted for the American League squad. 16 National Leaguers are taking part in their first ASG, and for around 10 of them, I’d say this is just the beginning for them. You’d think the American League would be full of non-newbies, but even they have 10 guys new to the festivities and fanfare, with maybe 6 of them figuring this will not be their last trip to the All Star rodeo.
If you add the years up for the number of ASG the rosters have played, you would get 194 ASG played between the 74 players on the roster. The AL has 112 of those years, averaging 3.1111111111111 ASG/player, while the NL only has 90, averaging 2.36842105 ASG/player. There are five players in the ASG that have made 7 or more ASG rosters, can you name them? Think about it… OK I tell you now: Beltran 7; Miguel Cabrera 7; Chipper 8; Papi 8; Jeter 13. The people love them some gift baskets.
A Melky Cabrera homecoming should be heartwarming because Melky’s on record saying he did enjoy his time there, and Royals fans love the guy on their roster as they showed with Wil Myers (oh you thought I was going to talk about someone else, didn’t you?). Chipper Jones should have a nice final All Star Game, whether he plays or not, while Japan should be abuzz that Yu Darvish has the possibility of strutting his stuff on the international stage. Names like Chris Sale, Mark Trumbo, Aroldis Chapman, and Andrew McCutchen should hopefully become bigger household names as I believe all are special players.
So while we may be upset that the likes of Ryan Vogelsong, James McDonald, Johnny Cueto, and even yes, my favorite reliever, Sergio Romo did not make the squad, and others are upset over Matt Cain being chosen over R.A. Dickey and Stephen Strasburg, this should still be an excellent display of the talent that is flourishing within The Show. If you’re going to spend the whole time fuming of this or that, your appreciation for what’s being put out on stage tonight will likely go down, and as a baseball fan, this should be a moment for you to soak it all in, and appreciate some of what today’s game has to offer.
Four consecutive series with teams in the top two of their division have made/will make for more exciting baseball around the Bay, but things are about to get hot, especially if you’re going to go to check out the boys in DC and Pittsburgh. The Nationals have just got off of playing in Colorado and Atlanta, and their bats were certainly alive and well. This will be a series the nation has their eyes on as the NL West and NL East leaders square off in the nation’s capital.
Tuesday, July 3rd: RHP Tim Lincecum vs. RHP Jordan Zimmerman
One sentence summary: The biggest thing Giants fans may be talking about is not necessarily the pitchers, but that Hector Sanchez may bump Brandon Belt out of the lineup, whose bat was loud against the Reds.
Wednesday, July 4th: LHP Madison Bumgarner vs. RHP Edwin Jackson
One sentence summary: 8AM PST start should keep things cooler, but the North Carolina boy shouldn’t find anything foreign about that summer weather.
Thursday, July 5th: RHP Matt Cain vs. LHP Ross Detwiler
One sentence summary: Detwiler has the lowest LD% of the starters at 13.4%, so hopefully the solid contact the Giants get is very loud.
Small Sample Sizes (Last 7 Days) and Overall Numbers
The Nationals have 13 HR from their players in the last seven, while the Giants have had only 2. Does it help to have faced Colorado? Sure, but you still have to hit ’em. Ian Desmond (.568 L7 wOBA, .340 wOBA overall), Michael Morse (.520, .317), Jesus Flores (.505, .284), Tyler Moore (.493, .437 in 68 PA), and Ryan Zimmerman (.485, .291) have all been smiles recently but as you see, most of these guys might be due for some cooling down once they face the likes of Timmy, MadBum, and Cain. The star prospect turned starting OF Bryce Harper (.247, .356) will have a challenge on his hands in getting back on track, even as he has 8 HR already (would be 2nd on the Giants to Buster).
The Giants haven’t had anyone with nearly as ballooned wOBA as the five Nats listed earlier, and you may know Buster (.441, .367) has been the guy doing the most damage, but he’s also grounded into 3 double plays in the last 7 (11 overall). Melky also has a decent wOBA going both in his last 7, and overall (.419, .390), and is one of the two guys that has homered in the past week (Pablo being the other). Gregor Blanco’s actually been flying out to the infield in nearly half his AB in the past week (42.9%), and the guy who we got to read about today in Carl Steward’s article has actually been kind of lackluster recently with the stick (.194, .267). Both squads will have their hands full with the guys opposing them on the mound during this mid-week series.
You may have noticed that these three games will all be solid matchups, and you may have heard that the Giants don’t even get to face Stephen Strasburg or Gio Gonzalez during their time in DC! Does not mean this series will be easy, just not as difficult on paper.
Tuesday: Giants win (just enough offense to support Timmy)
Wednesday: Giants win (MadBum makes All Star case)
Thursday: Nationals win (Cain doesn’t bounce back just yet)
Should be an exciting series for the baseball fan, but the organizational fan might find their hands on their heads more often than not.