AL West Players To Watch


Dan Marino continues his trek through each division in the major leagues and giving you one player he thinks is the: Rookie to Watch, Breakthrough Player, The Party’s Over, Non-Roster Invitee Most Likely to Stick, and Just Not Seeing it.

Now, in part five of six, he brings you the American League West:

Part 1: AL East Players to Watch.

Part 2: NL East Players to Watch.

Part 3: AL Central Players to Watch.

Part 4: NL Central Players to Watch.

Houston Astros Continue reading


Baseball Notes for December 10, 2012


If you happen to follow many baseball writers on Twitter, chances are your timeline was blowing up this past week. With MLB’s winter meetings taking place in Nashville, Tennessee, there was a lot of activity, as more free agents were taken off the market. Heck, there was even some trading going on. It was all part of the dance as we get closer and closer to the start of spring training.

***Perhaps the most shocking move to come out of the winter meetings was the Red Sox giving a three-year, $39 million deal to outfielder Shane Victorino. The Red Sox have publicly declared their new distaste in  giving out large contracts of lengths exceeding more than three or four years. Apparently they are content with grossly overpaying players on shorter-term deals. Continue reading

Rangers Upgrade Defense and Potentially Offense with Geovany Soto

The Texas Rangers have acquired former All-Star and Rookie of the Year catcher Geovany Soto in exchange for right-handed pitching prospect Jacob Brigham in a deal that makes a lot of sense for the Rangers while the Cubs get a bit of salary relief and a serviceable arm in return. Continue reading


Free Russell Branyan

If you know me, or have read any of my works from the past, you would know that I have an unhealthy man crush on Russell Branyan. The crush continues, too, as he is crushing Triple-A pitching and there are a handful of contenders who need help at first base and/or designated hitter. Continue reading


Surprises in Early Offensive Numbers

We are more than halfway through the month of April and most teams have already played double-digit games. This is not a big sample size but there have been some surprises in the beginning of this long season, from the Los Angeles Dodgers 9-1 start to the St. Louis Cardinals scoring the most runs in the game despite the face of the franchise and future hall-of-famer Albert Pujols leaving for the Los Angeles Angels.

And, to our surprise, there have been some major overachievers and some major underachievers, including the aforementioned Albert Pujols who has yet to hit a homerun and is hitting only .268/.318/.366 through his first 44 plate appearances outside of St. Louis red. Here are a few of the statistical surprises so far this season:

The “No Walk” club includes some surprising names as well as some you might expect to see (min 30 PAs) with three Texas Rangers appearing on the list: Continue reading


Strange Occurances in Early Numbers


We are 10% of the way through the 2011 season and there have been some amazing numbers so far, both pretty and ugly. It is early but who doesn’t enjoy a nice dose of numbers for your brain to chew on? Well, I’m providing the numbers so go ahead and give your brain an appetizer.

*Walk Rates*

Vladimir Guerrero and Brent Morel are the only two players with at least 50 plate appearances and no walks. Morel has 52 PAs and Vlad has 62 PAs. Adrian Beltre and Michael Young, the Rangers new and old thirdbasemen, have two combined walks in 133 PAs.

-The Rockies know how to walk. Chris Iannetta ranks 2nd with a BB-rate of 23.1%, Jonathan Herrera is 4th at 21.6%, and Troy Tulowitzki is 9th at 19.2%. They have 37 combined walks, more than the entire Twins team, the same as the entire Orioles team, and one less than the entire Astros team. Three up-the-middle players have as many or more walks than two American League teams. Unbelievable.

**Strikeout Rates**

-Apparently Chicago is a good place for contact. A.J. Pierzynski only has one strikeout in 53 PAs for a 2.1% K-rate, tops in the Majors. Aramis Ramirez, who had a career K% of 15.5% and a 19.4% in 2010 only has three strikeouts in 68 PAs this year for a 5.0% K-rate, the 2nd best K% in the league. Starlin Castro has the 3rd best rate at 5.6% and Darwin Barney is 6th best at 6.7%.

-Detroit outfielders are exempt from making contact. Ryan Raburn leads the Majors with a 41.5% K-rate and Austin Jackson is 10th at 32.8%. They have a combined 42 strikeouts in 128 PAs. Only two others have reached the 20 strikeout mark so far this season. By comparison, teammate Justin Verlander, a good strikeout pitcher, has faced the 2nd most batters this season (116) and has 27 strikeouts.

***Extra-Base Hits***

Jason Barltett is the only player with at least 50 PAs that does not have an extra-base hit. Another former Ray, Carlos Pena, only has one extra-base hit (a double) in 53 PA.

-Tulowitzki, Alex Rodriguez, and Jonny Gomes rank 1-3 in ISO with each at or above .400. Sick early power! More on Tulowitzki: With a Major League leading 7 homers he has more homers than the Twins (5) and as many as the A’s.


-These are very early numbers but the Mariners, who have long been known for good defensive metrics, are dead last in UZR with -16.1 and have the 3rd and 4th worst players according to UZR. Ichiro Suzuki apparently has a -4.6 UZR and Milton Bradley has a -4.5 UZR. Early UZR numbers are hard to take as gospel especially when you see Carl Crawford with a -4.2 UZR.

-The Indians are amazing on defense with a Major League leading +10.3 UZR lead by Jack Hannahan who leads all players at +4.2 UZR. Shin-Soo Choo is tied for 10th with a +3.2 UZR.

*****Biggest Team Stat Surprise*****

-If you thought the Astros were a horrible offensive club you were correct. They have a wRC+ of 91 (100 is league average) and are hitting .262/.315/.381 which is bad by itself but actually may be higher than their norm. That poor triple-slash line is carried by a .326 BABIP (3rd best in the league) which means that once the BABIP evens itself out you might see a decrease in production from an already poor offense.

******Biggest Player Surprise******

-There really is no bigger surprise this season than Sam Fuld, is there? Fuld was a career minor-leaguer who was the last piece, a throw-in, of a trade. He made the Rays out of spring training as their 5th outfielder and found himself in the starting lineup shortly after. He is currently hitting .396/.431/.604 with a .449 wOBA, wRC+ of 197, and AL leading 7 stolen bases. He also has a +2.4 UZR and has been worth 1.0 fWAR. He is a human highlight reel and has become a Legend in the Tampa Bay area and beyond.


2011 AL West Preview

1. Texas Rangers

The Good: The Rangers are a young talented team that has emphasized pitching over offense and this group has not hit the ceiling yet. They may have one of the best offenses in the game with MVP Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz (a MVP caliber player), Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus and having 3 guys to play all 8 positions and DH with David Murphy, Mike Napoli and Mr. Ranger Michael Young. Adding Adrian Beltre was a smart move because he helps improve a shoddy Rangers defense and will benefit greatly from hitting in Texas with this lineup. The Rangers have talent on the mound as well with CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, Derek Holland, Darren O’Day and Neftali Feliz.

The Bad: How does this team fare without Cliff Lee? Granted, Lee was average in the regular season with the Rangers but, he will be sorely missed. Asking to have CJ Wilson and Colby Lewis  replicate 2010, something they have never done before that, while also anchoring the rotation is the biggest key to the Rangers season. If this duo falters the Rangers are not winning this division. The bullpen has talent and plenty of nice numbers but, it needs to show more poise as they were occasionally hit up in big spots last season.

What to Look For: The balance of playing time and productivity of the Napoli-Murphy-Young trio will be interesting to watch. If RHP Tanner Scheppers and OF Engel Beltre continue to shine in the minors they could get a call up. Is Brandon Webb OK? Is he still the best sinker ball pitcher in the game? That is something to watch. Also, the learning curves of Tommy Hunter, Matt Harrison and most importantly, Derek Holland will be critical to the Rangers success.

Projection: While maybe a tick below last year’s bunch the Rangers are plenty good and could be even better. The pitching has to fall into place, like any team. It would be a wise choice not to bet against this bunch.

89-73 (1st Place)

2. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
The Good: The Angels can go toe to toe with anyone with starting pitching. Dan Haren, Jered Weaver, Ervin Santana and Joel Pineiro are a pretty safe quartet to keep you in games. Although it had some problems last year the bullpen has promise too considering it added Hisanori Takahashi and Scott Downs to go along with Fernando Rodney and Kevin Jepsen.

The Bad: The Angels were embarrassed in free agency this past winter and had to take on the overly bloated Vernon Wells contract. The Halos have major question marks with C Jeff Mathis and 3B Maicer Izturis. Both guys are usually bench guys with little power and are being forced into everyday roles. While it is good that the Angels are giving kids 1B Mark Trumbo and CF Peter Burjos shots at the big leagues they also need these kids to produce right away which maybe too much to ask. The Halos can only hope and wonder when 1B Kendry Morales can come back and contribute after ankle surgery. Morales is the most vital cog to the Angels offense.

What to Watch For: The Angels need top prospect C Hank Conger to make the break through to the Show sooner rather than later. The same can be said for OF Mike Trout. The outfield trio of Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells and Bobby Abreu gets another year older with the same measure of offensive expectation to produce. Can they all still do it? Can Erick Aybar replicate his 2009 season or is the player we all saw last year? The bullpen while upgraded, has major issues.

Projection: Age, bullpen problems and consistent offense, not something you are used to hearing with a Mike Scioscia team. The Angels have plenty of questions but, they also have plenty of starting pitching and a good manager. If the Rangers falter don’t be too surprised to see the Angels somehow in the mix to take the AL West flag.

86-76 (2nd Place)

3. Oakland A’s

The Good: The A’s have one of the  best starting rotations in the AL when all healthy. Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden and Gio Gonzalez can confound and hold down offenses most nights. The great thing about the staff is there aren’t all the same type of pitcher each one is different and has a different wrinkle throwing offenses off.  Adding OF’s David DeJesus, Josh Willingham and Hideki Matsui was a major boost to a punchless offense. The A’s also have a very good bullpen as well with Grant Balfour, Brian Fuentes, Mike Wuertz, Brad Ziegler and closer Andrew Bailey.

The Bad: The A’s offense got off the hook in 2010 because the Mariners offense was so historically bad. This team needs home runs desperately because it was powerless in 2010. The A’s have to hope the additions of Matsui, Willingham and DeJesus pay off. Also, having OF prospects Chris Carter and Michael Taylor break through to the MLB Level full time would help too.

What to Look For: If the A’s stay healthy and pitch to their potential and possibly get Rich Harden healthy throwing strikes out of the bullpen then look out, this team could win the division their pitching is that good.

Projection: A down year for the AL West means the time is ripe for the A’s to strike. This is a good team that just needs more runs to be scored. Billy Beane did a solid job upgrading this team and while they are picked here at 3rd place I think if Texas loses this division it’s more likely because the A’s win it not the Angels.

85-77 (3rd Place)

The Good: A very limited selection here. The Mariners do have the reigning CY Young Award winner who is soon to be 25 in Felix Hernandez. The Marniers also have a future Hall of Famer in Ichiro Suzuki who is good for a .310 plus batting average, 30 plus steals, 200 hundred plus hits and a Gold Glove in rightfield. The Mariners boast a pretty good defensive team as well.

The Bad: The offense was so bad last year it was epically and historically atrocious. Scary thing is the only thing the Mariners did was add Jack Cust to the everyday lineup which means a lot more of unneeded strikeouts but, some much need walks and homeruns. The Mariners desperately need 2009 years from Franklin Gutierrez and Chone Figgins not the bad 2010 years they had. The bullpen had its problems last year as well. You can add David Aardsma as a guy needed to have a year like he did in 2009 not last year. Jason Vargas and Doug Fister were OK for this rotation in 2010. It would be nice to see Erik Bedard just get on the mound in 2011 doing his Carl Pavano Yankees impression for the Mariners. This staff doesn’t have a real compliment to Felix Hernandez which is a problem.

What to Look For: The Mariners desperately need 1B Justin Smoak and LF Michael Saunders to figure it out and impact the everyday lineup immediately if this team has any expectation to be decent. You better add prospects LHP Mauricio Robles, RHP Michael Pineda and 2B Dustin Ackley to that list as well. That’s a lot of things that have to happen for things to be good this year in Seattle.

Projection: The offense couldn’t be much worse than it was in 2010 could it? Or could it be?  This is an odd year and the book says the Mariners will be 85 plus win team if you follow their past 5 years. I don’t know how they will pull that off this year but, then again no else saw them being good in 2007 and 2009 either. I don’t forsee them being a .500 or better team this year. But, then again I have been wrong many times before.

65-97 (4th Place)