Throughout the season I’m separately assessing the fortunes of teams in the NL and AL, and ranking them accordingly. Standings aren’t dependent on record alone and factor in such elements as injuries, strength of competition, and acquisitions, amongst other things. Yesterday, in The Senior Class: Week 10, I ordered the NL. Today, it’s the turn of the AL. It’s The Designated 15 – Week 10! (All records correct as of Sunday morning).
- Oakland Athletics (5-2 last week, 38-24 overall) → Like their Bay Area mates the Giants, Oakland are lapping the field in terms of run differential (their mark of +118 is more than double the next best team, the Blue Jays). Unlike San Francisco however, the rest of their division is looking pretty frisky too, with only the Astros rocking a losing record amongst the other four AL West teams. They might well be the best team in the AL, but the A’s are going to have to be on their game all year long to stay at the summit of their own division with such stellar competition.
- Toronto Blue Jays (5-1, 38-25) ↑ As a starter, Marcus Stroman has pitched 12 innings of 1.50 ERA ball, walking two while striking out 13. As a reliever, he was rocked for 9 earned runs in just 6.1 innings, and had a 2.21 WHIP. A small sample size admittedly, but lets keep handing Stroman the ball to start games, rather than finish them, eh Mr. Gibbons?
- Detroit Tigers (2-4, 33-25) ↓ Three weeks ago, the Tigers looked like they were pulling away from the rest of the AL Central. Having just swept the Red Sox in a three-game series at Fenway Park, getting some measure of revenge for the 2013 ALCS, they stood seven games clear in the division, at 27-12. Since then however, Detroit has gone 6-13, and seen their division lead cut back down to 4. Surprisingly at the forefront of the Tigers’ struggles is their usually dominant pitching; Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer have both been excellent, and Rick Porcello his steady self, but Drew Smyly has failed to live up to expectations since being promoted to the rotation in place of the departed Doug Fister, and Justin Verlander looks to be a shell of his former self. Remember the panic this time last year when the 2011 AL MVP had a 3.71 ERA after 13 starts? Well this year, he’s gotten off to an even worse start – through 13 starts, he has a 4.19 ERA, a heightened walk rate (3.7 BB/9 compared to a career mark of 2.8, and a 2.0 figure in that career 2011 season), and is displaying a diminished strikeout rate (just 6.4 k/9 after averaging 9.0 over the prior four seasons). In return for collecting $20 million in salary this year, Verlander has been distinctly average, as proven by his 101 ERA+. Of course, Verlander rebounded in the second half last season, and might still be getting back into the swing of things after offseason core surgery, but at 31 years old, and owed $28 million per season for the next five years, I’d say there’s significant cause for concern amongst Tigers fans.
- Los Angeles Angels (3-3, 33-28) →
- Baltimore Orioles (4-2, 31-29) ↑
- Seattle Mariners (4-1, 32-29) ↑
- New York Yankees (2-5, 31-30) ↓ New York’s record in games in which Masahiro Tanaka hasn’t pitched you ask? 21-28. First on the list of pointers for improvement, stop playing Brendan Ryan at first base while riding with Derek Jeter at shortstop! If you couldn’t tell, this drives me insane.
- Chicago White Sox (3-3, 31-32) ↑ Just as I was about ready to gush about how amazing Chris Sale had been of late, Mike Trout happened. Oh well. Prior to the eighth inning last night, Sale had allowed just 5 hits in 31 innings, a mere 7 to the last 107 batters he had faced, and owned a 0.72 ERA over his last four starts. Of course, after 93 pitches and seven scoreless innings last night, aided by an error, he allowed all five Angels he faced in the bottom of the eight to score, as L.A. erased a 5-0 deficit in the blink of an eye. Still, as of right now, I’m of the belief that the man known as ‘The Condor’ is the best pitcher in the AL. Mike Trout is the Most Valuable Horse after all.
- Cleveland Indians (5-1, 31-31) ↑ In his second game back off the 7-day concussion DL, Carlos Santana yesterday went 2-2, with 2 walks, a home run and a single, lifting the Tribe to an 8-3 win over the Rangers. No more games behind the plate for Mr. Santana methinks…
- Boston Red Sox (1-5, 27-34) ↓ They lose 10 in a row. They win 7 in a row. They lose 6 in a row. Why Boston, must you make it so incredibly difficult for me to rank you?!
- Texas Rangers (3-3, 31-31) ↓ Just hours after Kendrys Morales, you know, a designated hitter/first baseman type, signed with the Twins, Mitch Moreland, you know, Texas’ designated hitter/first baseman type, who had replaced Prince Fielder, you know, the Rangers’ presumed first baseman/designate hitter type after he went down with injury, was announced to be in need of reconstructive ankle surgery, and out for the next three months. The Rangers now have made 19 DL moves this season. No other team has made more than 12.
- Kansas City Royals (4-3, 30-32) ↓ Eric Hosmer home run alert! I repeat, Eric Hosmer home run alert!
- Minnesota Twins → (4-3, 29-31) The Twins came out of nowhere yesterday to ink Kendrys Morales to a one-year deal, thought to be “in the ballpark” of the $10 million contract that Stephen Drew signed with the Red Sox in May. After the 30-year-old hit .277 with 23 home runs and 80 RBIs with Seattle last season, he’ll likely slot into the DH spot which has preeminently been manned by Josmil Pinto (19 GP) this year. Jason Kubel was designated for assignment in a corresponding roster move.
- Tampa Bay Rays (1-6, 24-39) → The Rays are holding on to 14th place in these rankings by the skin of their teeth, probably because I still can’t comprehend fully how they are three games back of the Astros. Seriously, I look at the standings and think it’s a mistake. Things have got to a point with the Rays however, where Joe Maddon‘s optimistic tweets, have got about as much baloney to them as the sandwiches he makes in the clubhouse.
- Houston Astros (3-3, 27-36) → Not a bad way to get your first hit Jon Singleton.
Whilst I should technically have been listening to a lecture on Thomas Hardy’s The Mayor of Casterbridge in my English class earlier today, I was instead thinking about Prince Fielder – and more specifically, the news that emerged earlier today that he had opted to undergo season-ending fusion surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck. With Fielder becoming the 17th Rangers player to hit the DL this year alone, I naturally began to wonder whether any team in baseball had been hit so hard in terms on injuries. My Reds have had a few notable ones for sure, injuries striking down arguably three of Cincy’s top five players in Joey Votto, Mat Latos, and Jay Bruce. Both the A’s and Brave’s lost a pair of pitchers to Tommy John surgery before the season even started. But there was only one other team, in one particular element of the game, that I could draw a truly accurate comparison of hurt with – the New York Yankees’ starting rotation.
After forty minutes of pretending to listen, but silently pondering, I still can not choose who’s in worse shape; the Rangers, or the Yanks. Let’s break it down;
At the head of each rotation is an unquestionable ace. For the Rangers, it’s Yu Darvish, he of the 2.35 ERA this year, a 2nd-place Cy Young award finish last year, and a mind-boggling array of pitches – wouldn’t you agree Torii Hunter?
For the Evil Empire, it’s their new Japanese Import and $155 million man, Masahro Tanaka, who has raced out to a 6-1 record with a 2.39 ERA while leading the league in strikeout to walk rate. He’s got some pretty nasty stuff of his own, as brilliantly detailed by Grantland‘s Shane Ryan earlier today. Little needs to be said about these two – ultimately they should both finish with top-five finishes in the AL Cy Young race this year, and cancel each other out in terms of our little contest.
It gets considerably dicier immediately after those two however, and all because of those pesky injuries.
It’s been a long while since he was as good as his reputation foretold, but C.C. Sabathia being out for six weeks with his degenerative knee problem might not especially hurt the Yankees considering how this year he has a 5.28 ERA in 46 innings. Losing Michael Pineda to first a suspension, and then a strained back muscle, has been a significant blow – the young righty had a 1.83 ERA in the four games he started earlier in the season. Ivan Nova too, after seemingly figuring it out at the end of 2013, is gone for the year after requiring the dreaded TJ.
What’s left isn’t scaring anyone. Hiroki Kuroda has been a shadow of his former self, and with a 4.61 ERA at 39-years-old, looks cooked. Vidal Nuno has been similarly awful, but doesn’t have the excuse of needing a stick to walk out to the mound for his disgusting 5.82 ERA. David Phelps is David freakin’ Phelps, whereas Alfredo Aceves (who is listed as their fifth starter by ESPN’s depth chart but is yet to start a game) is really just a poor man’s version of Phelps – lacking incredible velocity, with marginal stuff and shaky command, the sort of pitcher who profiles best to a long-man relief role. That’s a whole lot of David Phelps mentioned right there. Eeesh…
Texas on the other hand, lost presumptive no. 2 Derek Holland before the season began in a curious incident with a dog (in the night time – read the book, if you haven’t already). Matt Harrison returned after missing the majority of last season, but would only give the Rangers one additional quality start before bowing out spondylolisthesis, a forward displacement of a vertebra which causes severe nerve irritation, in the lumbosacral joint (L5-S1) in his lower back (yes, I googled that). To add to their starting pitcher availability woes, free agent signing Tommy Hanson didn’t make the team, Alexi Ogando couldn’t be stretched out from the bullpen in time, and Neftali Feliz was moved back into a relief role (and is at Triple-A).
All of which left the Rangers in their current situation, rolling out Nick Tepesch, Nick Martinez, and Scott Baker behind Colby Lewis and the aforementioned Darvish. Things have gotten so desperate in Arlington that Joe Saunders, who lasted 3.2 innings and gave up four earned runs in his only start of the year thus far, will immediately step into the rotation when he returns from the DL soon, the same of which can’t be said for Tanner Scheppers. I might just have to give this one to the Yankees, but by the slimmest of margins.
Neither staff is especially helped by their home park. Yankee Stadium is infamous for its short right field porch, and undeniably augments home runs – just ask Phil Hughes, who having escaped to the cavernous Target Field in Minnesota is looking like the solid pitcher many expected when he was a Yankees farmhand many moons ago. Globe life Park in Arlington too, is incredibly friendly to power hitters, particularly when it heats up. One of the biggest reasons why many predicted Prince Fielder would rebound this year was the fact that he’d be playing half his games in the Texas heat. Presumably this would not only aid his fly balls out of the park, but help him lose a little weight in the process while rounding the bases. All looks equal here then.
But the defense, oh the defense. To the left side of the infield in Texas, the combination of Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus gobble up ground balls. J.P. Arencibia is (mercifully) gone from behind the plate, and their outfield defense is stellar. In the Bronx on the other hand, though the outfield is solid, the infield is dire; Yangervis Solarte is a utility player manning third base, and Brian Roberts a statue at the keystone. Mark Teixeira is a long way removed from his gold glove caliber days. And then there’s Derek Jeter.
Throughout the season I’m separately assessing the fortunes of teams in the NL and AL, and ranking them accordingly. Standings aren’t dependent on record alone and factor in such elements as injuries, strength of competition, and acquisitions, amongst other things. Yesterday, in The Senior Class: Week 6, I ordered the NL. Today, it’s the turn of the AL. It’s The Designated 15 – Week 6! (All records correct as of Sunday morning).
- Detroit Tigers (5-2 last week, 22-11 overall) → For the season, Victor Martinez has 8 home runs, 7 intentional walks, and just 5 strikeouts. Before Monday’s game against Houston, he’d gone 154 games without being called out on strikes (his streak went back to May 21st of last year, with Jarred Cosart finally getting him with a 94-mph fastball). That’s ridiculous. AT 35-years-old, V-Mart’s now batting .328/.381/.588, making his free-agency at the end of the year all the more interesting. The Tigers meanwhile, after facing a creampuff schedule last week, will be tested more sternly in the next seven days with trips to first Baltimore, and then Boston on the docket.
- Oakland Athletics (4-3, 22-15) →
- Baltimore Orioles (5-1, 20-14) ↑ A great week on the field for the Birds was only marred by the ongoing Matt Wieters injury saga. While it at first appeared they dodged a bullet when it was cleared up that Wieters would not need Tommy John to cure his right elbow ailment (the track history of the surgery on catchers is brutal), just maybe some rest days at DH rather than behind the plate, the 27-year-old was this morning placed on the DL. Perhaps it was due to him going 1-13 in his four games as the DH, a move which forced Nelson Cruz to play the field, but losing Wieters’ production at the dish (.308/.339/.500, 130 OPS+) for any longer than the 15 days his stint mandates will be a huge blow to Baltimore. The return of Chris Davis to the lineup today however (he’d been out with a strained oblique), should go some way to mask the loss of their All-Star catcher.
- Los Angeles Angels (3-3, 18-17) ↓
- New York Yankees (3-3, 19-16) → After being taken deep 3 times during his 5.1 innings against his former team Milwaukee yesterday, C.C. Sabathia was today banished to the DL with a mysterious ‘fluid in his right knee’ problem. The injury seems a little odd given how a MRI showed no meniscus tear (and Sabathia’s incredible weight loss), but if some rest gets him back on track, it will be well worth it for New York. In the meantime, their rotation is paper-thin all of a sudden; behind the excellent Masahiro Tanaka, with Sabathia, Michael Pineda, and Ivan Nova out, Alfredo Aceves, David Phelps and Vidal Nuno have all been pushed into starting roles. Such rough starting pitching isn’t going to cut it for long in the AL East.
- Boston Red Sox (3-2, 18-18) →
- Texas Rangers (3-4, 19-18) → Despite their winning record, Texas have the second worst run differential among Junior circuit teams (-25), and lousy playoff odds (19.1%, 4th worst in the AL). Yu Darvish‘s one hitter was pretty darn impressive mind you, blown call and all.
- Seattle Mariners (6-2, 19-17) ↑
- Toronto Blue Jays (5-2, 18-19) ↑ After missing the first six weeks of the season due to a back injury that he originally suffered at the end of spring training, 32-year-old closer Casey Janssen was activated from the DL today. Hopefully for those north of the border, he’ll shore up the Toronto relief corps – entering Sunday, the pull pen had the fourth highest ERA in the majors, with a mark of 4.77.
- Kansas City Royals (3-4, 17-19) ↓ That the Royals are even close to .500 speaks to their crappy division and solid pitching, because their offense is truly abysmal. Twice in their last three games, they’ve scratched just four hits, shutout on Thursday by the combination of Hisashi Iwakuma and Fernando Rodney, and limited to just one run by Chris Young yesterday. Chris Young!
- Tampa Bay Rays ↓ (2-4, 16-21) For a team that prized itself on its organizational depth, and for years brought up non-heralded pitching prospects who achieved instant success, Tampa Bay are really struggling for decent innings right now.
With Matt Moore and Alex Cobb out, Jake Odorizzi and Chris Archer underwhelming, and David Price somewhat languishing, the Rays have only got 12 quality starts so far in 2014 – 28th in the majors. If things don’t pick up soon, which seems unlikely considering their tough upcoming schedule, the Rays are at risk of falling even further down these rankings.
- Cleveland Indians (4-3, 17-20) ↓ John Axford was removed as closer after Friday’s blowup in a move which came about a month later than I originally expected. On the bright side of things, Asdrubal Cabrera had himself an encouraging week, batting .321 over the last week – all nine hits coming in a three-game span. With Francisco Lindor presumably on track to take over the shortstop job next year, would it be a surprise to see Cabrera moved at some point this summer if he keeps on hitting? Does anyone even care about baseball in Cleveland anymore now they have Jonny Football?!
- Chicago White Sox (5-5, 19-19) ↑
- Minnesota Twins (3-4, 16-19) ↓ In absolutely terrifying news, top prospect Byron Buxton is scheduled to undergo an MRI exam on his left wrist in the next few days after reinjuring it on a slide on Thursday. Considering the blah season the Twins are currently enduring, anymore bad news about their vaunted corral of prospects (Miguel Sano is already out having had TJ surgery remember) might just turn Minnesotans off baseball for the rest of the year.
- Houston Astros (1-6, 11-26) → Picking no. 1 overall in the upcoming draft is becoming more of an advantage by the day it seems; what with top amateur prospect Jeff Hoffman (East Carolina RHP) needing Tommy John surgery and UNC working LHP Carlos Rodon to disgusting pitch counts (former Tar Heel Matt Harvey‘s opinion on their ethics might be interesting), the number of potential top picks is dwindling. Unfortunately for fans of the rebuilding Astro’s though, Houston are on pace for their fourth consecutive 100-loss season and worst record yet. Even the promise of the first two #SpringerDingers of the year can’t mask the fact that Jeff Luhnow’s experimental tear-down job is taking a lot longer than originally thought.
Every week throughout the season I’m separately assessing the fortunes of teams in the NL and AL, and ranking them accordingly. Standings aren’t dependent on record alone and factor in such elements as injuries, strength of competition, and acquisitions, amongst other things. Yesterday, in The Senior Class: Week 5, I ordered the NL. Today, it’s the turn of the AL. It’s The Designated 15 – Week 5! (All records correct as of Sunday morning).
- Detroit Tigers (4-0 last week, 16-9 overall) ↑ You can only beat what’s put in front of you, and recently, Detroit have been doing just that. After playing just four games last week, bringing their season total to 25 (Seattle have played the next fewest in the AL, with 28), and handily winning them all, the Tigers finally have a full slate to look forward to over the next seven days. Considering how they’ll face Kansas City (once), Houston, and Minnesota, while being scheduled to send Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer to the mound twice apiece, Brad Ausmus‘ crew stand a good chance of remaining in single-digit losses by this time next Sunday.
- Oakland Athletics (3-3, 18-12) ↓ The A’s sure got their revenge on Texas by outscoring them 25-4 in their three-game sweep, but were comprehensively dealt with by Boston over the past couple of days. Having faced a pretty light schedule so far this season, today’s tilt at Fenway will serve as somewhat of a yardstick; are the A’s actually good enough to beat the cream of the crop, and compete all year with the likes of Boston and Detroit? With Sonny Gray on the bump to face John Lackey, the Oakland have a decent enough chance to prove they belong.
- Los Angeles Angels (4-2, 15-14) ↑ Scoring 5.38 runs per game, the Angels have by some distance the best offense in the AL thus far – not that much of a surprise considering Mike Trout‘s continued excellence (he once again leads the AL in WAR), Albert Pujols‘ solid bounce back, and Howie Kendrick‘s nice start at the plate (.314/.391/.441). Where Anaheim have stood out most so far though, has been on the mound, where they have allowed just 4.03 runs per game – the third best mark in the AL. C.J. Wilson, Tyler Skaggs and Jered Weaver have all been solid, but Garrett Richards has been the star so far; the 25-year-old Oklahoma product has struck out 40 and allowed an opponent’s batting average of just .184 in his first 38 innings (6 starts), posting a surprising 2.84 ERA. If the hard-throwing righty can get the walks under control (18 BB in the early going), the Angels might really have found something here.
- Baltimore Orioles (3-2, 15-13) ↑ Manny Machado returns, fielding nerds rejoice everywhere. Including me.
- New York Yankees (2-3, 16-13) ↓ With a -13 run differential, the Yankees are still somewhat getting by with a smoke and mirrors act. Visiting the Angels and Milwaukee for series this week, the Bombers will receive a stern test of their mettle – the Friday return of C.C. Sabathia to Miller Park should see a hero’s welcome from the Brewers fans however.
- Boston Red Sox (3-3, 15-16) →
- Texas Rangers (1-5, 16-14) ↓ I must have cursed Texas in this space last week; in likely their healthiest state since the start of the season, the Rangers were simply punted by AL West rivals Oakland and Los Angeles over the past seven days, with Martin Perez and Yu Darvish getting knocked about especially brutally. Things aren’t going to get much easier for the frontline pair this week either; Darvish is slated against the top-ranked Angels offense today, and will face Boston on Friday, whereas Perez will be tasked with stymying Colorado’s explosive offense during the days in between.
- Tampa Bay Rays (3-4, 14-17) → Heath Bell was finally DFA’d, but the equally terrible, yet much more despicable Josh Lueke remains on the team. Urgh.
- Kansas City Royals (3-3, 14-15) → Fun stat of the day: to start the season, the Royals are winless when scoring 3 or fewer runs (0-15) and unbeaten when scoring at least 4 runs (14-0). Bonus factoid: thanks to Billy Butler‘s first home run of the year on Friday, the Royals as a team are now one jack ahead (12) of Jose Abreu‘s individual bomb total (11).
- Toronto Blue Jays (2-4, 13-17) → Well, Dustin McGowan is starting again today, so I guess my Marcus Stroman love was a tad premature. With Brandon Morrow now out though, it can’t be long until the Jays call up the diminutive righty.
- Cleveland Indians (2-4, 13-17) → It’s probably not an encouraging sign for your team when Michael Brantley has been by far and away your best player. The 26-year-old is having a veritable breakout, hitting .271/.336/.458, while leading the team in HR (5), runs (15), and RBIzzzzz (23), but unless Carlos Santana starts mashing (he did hit .261 with 3 homers last week, though his average remains a ghastly .158), the Indians will be up against it with both Jason Kipnis (strained oblique) and Michael Bourn (hamstring/continued case of NL-to-AL-itis) out for the near future.
- Seattle Mariners (4-1, 13-15) ↑ Wouldn’t you know it, the Mariners become a somewhat frisky team when someone else along with Robinson Cano hits. Mike Zunino (1.071 OPS), Michael Saunders (1.033), and Kyle Seager (1.030) have been terrific over the past seven days, helping Seattle to an impressive 4-1 record over that time – the M’s taking two apiece from Texas and the Yankees. With no. 2 starter Hisashi Iwakuma making his return yesterday against the Astros too, it’s been a good week for Seattle. Shame they have to travel for a 4-game set against Oakland this week really then, a series which will likely set them back down the standings again.
- Minnesota Twins (1-4, 13-15) ↓
- Chicago White Sox (2-4, 14-17) ↓ Adam Eaton‘s hamstring strain lands him on the 15-day DL, and suddenly the offense that has kept the Pale Hose afloat so far becomes a little less potent. The Sox could badly do with their pitching picking up some of the slack – at 5.29 runs allowed per game, they are worst among Junior Circuit teams.
- Houston Astros (2-3, 10-20) → Through 66 plate appearances, the George Springer era has not got off to a good start. Known for his prodigious power/speed combination, the 24-year-old has yet to clear the fence, and has a 0 SBN number, all whilst batting just .180/.254/.213 and looking lost at the dish; even before his call-up there were worries about his plate discipline and contact rate – with 23 strikeouts to 5 walks, those concerns have been more than justified. Throw in his 5 errors in fifteen games out in right field, and its little wonder why Bo Porter dropped him from the lineup yesterday. On the bright side though, Collin McHugh!
Throughout the season I’m separately assessing the fortunes of teams in the NL and AL, and ranking them accordingly. Standings aren’t dependent on record alone and factor in such elements as injuries, strength of competition, and acquisitions, amongst other things. Yesterday, in The Senior Class: Week 4, I ordered the NL. Today, it’s the turn of the AL. It’s The Designated 15 – Week 4! (All records correct as of Sunday morning).
- Oakland Athletics (3-4 last week, 15-9 overall) →
- Detroit Tigers (4-3, 12-9) → For a presumed powerhouse, Detroit have somewhat underwhelmed thus far. With their upcoming schedule consisting of trips to Minnesota, Kansas City, and Chicago (White Sox), and games at home against Houston and Minnesota (again) however, the Tigers have themselves a creampuff of a fortnight on the way. Against such an easy slate, you would think Brad Ausmus‘ squad should roll. If they don’t, well, perhaps then it will be time to worry.
- Texas Rangers (4-2, 15-9) ↑ The Rangers rode into the O.co Coliseum this past week to face the rolling A’s, and emerged unsullied (there’s a sewage joke to be made in there somewhere). Capping off the 3-game sweep*, Martin Perez threw his second straight compete-game shutout, extending his scoreless innings streak to 26 in the process. Throwing more strikes, generating ground balls, and letting his defense do the work, the 23-year-old lefty has thus far been sensational backing up Yu Darvish in the Texas rotation – a group which is about to get a further boost; Matt Harrison starts today for the first time after back problems sidelined him during Spring Training. The injury bug continued to riddle the Texas lineup, with Shin-Soo Choo (ankle sprain) and surprise contributor Kevin Kouzmanoff (back) both dinged up during the past seven days, but things are getting slight better in regards to health – star third baseman Adrian Beltre returned to have a key go-ahead hit in the ninth inning of Friday’s 6-5 loss in his first game back. Just imagine what they’ll be capable of when they all finally get healthy.
- New York Yankees (4-2, 14-10) ↑ Quite the news week in the Bronx, and it pretty much all centered around Michael Pineda‘s pine tar use. After being ejected on Wednesday for his stupidity (and inspiring humorous analogies for his error on Twitter), Pineda was suspended for 10 games by MLB the day after, but the debate over Sticky Fingers II and the use of gripping aids will likely continue on into the offseason. In the meantime, the Yanks will be somewhat short of starters until his return on May 5th – fellow rotation member Ivan Nova formally confirmed what we all feared last week; he’ll need Tommy John surgery and miss the rest of the season.
- Boston Red Sox (4-3, 12-13) ↑
- Baltimore Orioles (4-3, 12-11) ↑ Getting Manny Machado back should offset the loss of Chris Davis to the DL with a strained oblique. Do the Birds sneakily have the AL’s best lineup?
- Los Angeles Angels (3-3, 11-12) ↑ Despite their losing record, the Angels have the second best run differential of the Junior Circuit (+30, trailing only Oakland), suggesting they’ve perhaps been a tad unlucky so far**. With Mike Trout still warming up (which sounds stupid considering his .977 OPS, but hey, it’s Mike ‘Freakin Trout we’re talking about), Albert Pujols has shouldered the offensive load over the last week; “The Machine” not only posted a 1.101 OPS, but slugged his way into the 500 Home Run Club with a two-homer night in Washington, becoming the 26th player to the mammoth landmark. After being plagued by injuries during his first two years in L.A., perhaps the Angels are finally getting the Old Albert Pujols rather than just the old Albert Pujols.
- Tampa Bay Rays (2-4, 11-13) ↓
- Kansas City Royals (2-5, 11-12) ↓ As if losing 5 of 7 wasn’t bad enough, Kansas City fans were dealt yet another gut punch by team manger Ned Yost on Saturday; after KC closer Greg Holland never left the bullpen in the Royals’ 3-2 loss in 10 innings to the Orioles, Yost told Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star that he would never use Holland in tied road game again. Asked why he did so against the Detroit Tigers back on March 31/Opening Day, Yost responded, “Because I really wanted to win that game Opening Day.” I’m so dreadfully sorry for all Royals fans out there that this man is in charge of your team. Really, I am.
- Toronto Blue Jays (1-5, 11-13) ↓ After a promising start, the Jays have dropped four straight to AL East rivals. Maybe they’re too busy watching the Raptors in the NBA playoffs #WeTheNorth!
- Cleveland Indians (4-3, 11-13) → With Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar struggling, down at Class AAA Columbus Trevor Bauer must be rubbing his hands with glee in anticipation of an extended shot at cracking the big league rotation. If they’re to make it back to the postseason, the Indians can’t afford to wallow in mediocrity much longer.
- Minnesota Twins (4-2, 12-11)↑ Go vote for your All-Stars everybody!
- Chicago White Sox (4-3, 12-13) →
- Seattle Mariners (2-4, 9-14) ↓ The Mariners offense remains putrid overall, but Robinson Cano rebounded from his slow start to hit .409 over the past seven days. Cano is heating up at an especially convenient time, for on Tuesday he’ll return to the short right field porch of Yankee Stadium for the first time since leaving the Evil Empire over the winter. If the over/under for his HR total in the 3-game series is 2.5, give me the over, as Jay Z’s client looks to stick it to his former mates.
- Houston Astros (3-4, 8-17) → After exhibiting a worrying dip in his pitching velocity during Spring Training and then putting up a 6.23 ERA in 13 innings of work at Class A Advanced Lancaster, Houston’s top pitching prospect Mark Appel was demoted on Friday to participate in extended spring training sessions in Florida. Jeff Luhnow is for now insistent upon last years 1:1 pick not being injured, but the big righty’s setback raises questions over the viability of the Astro’s four-man tandem Minor League rotations.
** In fact, they’re second by a huge margin of 25, with Minnesota (!) next highest at +5.
You certainly can’t blame John Farrell for his post game comment “it’s not been a good night.” He’d just seen his Boston Red Sox get pasted by their AL East arch-rival – the New York Yankees – in an ugly affair that took a marathon 3 hours, 51 minutes to complete. His much-vaunted lineup had seemed disinclined to swing at any of C.C. Sabathia‘s sluggish offerings (seriously, someone get C.C. a feed bag of Captain Crunch quick – he looks horrible right now), Jacoby Ellsbury was lacing hits seemingly every time he came up to bat, and Boston’s starting pitcher Felix Doubront was abysmal; it most certainly was not a good night – at least from his perspective.
But for the objective fan of baseball (like me), woah boy. Never before had the end of a 14-5 game been so exciting, completely because Farrell had actually prefaced his lament with a phrase that is like catnip to an impartial observer: “Any time you end up with a position player on the mound (it’s not been a good night).” Position player + pitching = high comedy. In yesterdays instance, having already used three relievers to combine for 5 1/3 innings, first baseman/occasional outfielder/pinch-hitter/NON-PITCHER Mike Carp was asked by Boston to stretch his valuable versatility even further, and climb the mound for the top of the ninth. And thus, as is always the case whenever a position player is summoned to the bump, an otherwise-boring game suddenly became must-watch (mlb.)TV.
It all started so promisingly – after being cheered voraciously to the mound by the remaining Fenway faithful, and walking Mark Teixeira, Carp (somewhat hilariously) induced a 6-5-3 double play from the second batter of the inning, Brian McCann; Carp would later acknowledge “That was cool right off the bat.” Unfortunately (for him and the Sox at least), that would be the highlight of the inning, because with two outs and none on, the wheels officially came off – and the exceptional performance began.
Mixing a genuine 66 to 70 mph knuckleball with what appeared to be both a four-seam and two-seam ‘heater’ (offerings that apparently ranged from 79 to 84 mph), Carp would walk the next four hitters – pushing across a run – before getting pinch-hitter Kelly Johnson to pop-up to David Ross for the final out. Though he didn’t cede a hit, Carp would face seven batters, and throw a total of 38 pitches – only 15 of which were strikes*! The resultant plot graph of his pitch location was a masterpiece in horrible command/beautiful entertainment:
More than simply that analytical equivalent to the Mona Lisa though, Carp’s outing provided additional entertainment value thanks to the trolling tweets, inspired trivia questions, and exquisitely tongue-in-cheek scouting analysis that followed. Furthermore, though Carp was quoted post-game in saying “Obviously, I’m not taking it too seriously out there,” the shaking off of his catcher at least once and look in at the umpire when he disagreed with a non-strike call suggested otherwise – only adding to the mirth-factor of his pitching debut.
Now this is not intended to bash Carp – he actually looked incredibly comfortable in an otherwise tough spot, and admirably saved an already-taxed Boston bullpen from further embarrassment – but his appearance last night was brilliant in its exceptionally farcical nature. The Yankees looked genuinely unwilling to swing in fear of inciting a brawl (or just couldn’t reach that far outside the zone). It wasn’t the first time we’ve seen a position player seen on a mound this year either, nor will it likely be the last, but Mike Carp’s outing may well be the funniest come seasons end.
Only if you’re not John Farrell that is.
Throughout the season I’m separately assessing the fortunes of teams in the NL and AL, and ranking them accordingly. Standings aren’t dependent on record alone and factor in such elements as injuries, strength of competition, and acquisitions, amongst other things. Yesterday, in The Senior Class: Week 3, I ordered the NL. Today, it’s the turn of the AL. It’s The Designated 15 – Week 3! (All records correct as of Sunday morning).
- Oakland Athletics (7-0 last week, 12-5 overall) ↑ As much as I want to make a ‘there’s something in the water’ joke here, I have no grounds to do it – Oakland, much like the top-ranked Braves in the NL, are defying the cruel bite of the injury bug and winning legitimately behind their starting pitching. Jesse Chavez, Scott Kazmir, and Sonny Gray have been brilliant in masking the losses of Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin, the trio not only having accounted for 11 of the team’s 14 quality starts, but also largely responsible for Oakland ranking 1st across the ML in both WHIP and BAA. In off-the-field news, the A’s also this week finalized a five-year deal with Sean Doolittle – after their offseason addition of Jim Johnson, perhaps it’s another sign that expensive relievers are the new market inefficiency?!
- Detroit Tigers (2-3, 8-6) ↓ After going just 5 for 30 in a Tigers uniform, Detroit yesterday released their 37-year-old Opening Day shortstop, Alex Gonzalez, and purchased the contract of Danny Worth from Triple-A Toledo. I give it a further two weeks before Mike Ilitch’s pizza money brings Stephen Drew into the fold.
- Tampa Bay Rays (2-4, 9-9) ↓
- Kansas City Royals (5-2, 9-7) ↑ The Royals have taken five straight, but their streak has benefitted from an extremely light schedule (Astros and Twins). Yordano Ventura takes to the mound today, so adjust your schedule accordingly.
- New York Yankees (4-2, 10-8) ↑ The Yankees continue to baffle me. Behind Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda, they held the Cubs scoreless for 18 innings of doubleheader baseball in the Bronx on Wednesday, before taking it to David Price the following day – a win in which they turned their third triple play behind C.C. Sabathia since 2010. Over the past two games however, Tampa outscored them 27-6, and Ivan Nova was forced to the DL with a partial UCL tear. Talk about a Jekyll and Hyde week.
- Boston Red Sox (3-3, 8-10) ↓
- Texas Rangers (6-1, 11-7) ↑ Injuries, schminjuries – even after officially losing Adrian Beltre, the Rangers mercilessly beat up the White Sox and Mariners over the past week, remedying their various ailments with a strong dose of victory. Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder both hit their first jacks in Texas uniforms (though Fielder is still hitting at a sub-Mendoza level), but it was Kevin Kouzmanoff who was the (Lone) Star of the Rangers’ week, batting .414 over the past seven days. Texas will face Oakland 6 times in the next 1o days – a crucial stretch not just in determining where Texas really stand as a squad, but in the ultimate complexion of the AL West.
- Toronto Blue Jays (4-2, 10-8) → I’m pretty sure Mark Buehrle (boasting a 0.64 ERA through four starts) could pitch effectively well into his 40s, á la Jamie Moyer.
- Baltimore Orioles (3-2, 8-8) ↑
- Los Angeles Angels (3-3, 8-9) ↑ Another member of the Angels’ outfield joined Josh Hamilton on the DL this week, but thankfully it wasn’t Mike Trout. Kole Calhoun‘s ankle injury did have its silver lining however; his replacement J.B. Shuck‘s home run trot amusingly felled a FOX cameraman.
- Cleveland Indians (1-4, 7-10) ↓
- Seattle Mariners (1-6, 7-10) ↓ Congratulations to Robinson Cano on hitting his first home run as a Mariner. I’m sure the $240 million is making watching Blake Beavan pitch a lot more bearable.
- Chicago White Sox (2-4, 8-10) ↓ The Pale Hose got a tremendous effort from Chris Sale against the Red Sox on Thursday, but Robin Ventura‘s decision to leave his ace out there for a career-high 127 pitches in April was a questionable one.
- Minnesota Twins (3-3, 8-9) → I hate to break it to Twins fans, but Kyle Gibson‘s smoke-and-mirrors act can’t continue much longer, nor is it likely Chris Colabello continues to rake. Enjoy them while you still can.
- Houston Astros (0-6, 5-13) → George Springer made it to the majors, not that it helped much; in losing 6 straight, the Astros dropped their run differential by an additional 18 to a hideous overall figure of -38.