Archive for July, 2014

Royals Most Likely To Make A Mistake

As we enter the final week before the July 31 trade deadline, it’s a fun diversion to try to figure out who ought to be “sellers” and who ought to be “buyers.” But in the world of two wild cards per league, that’s not as easy a distinction as it used to be. These days, some teams wind up not really belonging in either category.

Still, we can look at the current FanGraphs playoff odds and split baseball pretty evenly in half to get a good idea of who should be doing what.

Fifteen teams have at least a 25 percent chance of making it to the playoffs, or in the case of theNew York Yankees, are within one game of a playoff spot. Everyone else is looking at odds that are less than 15 percent, and while mathematically generated odds don’t automatically rule out a late run, a low probability isn’t exactly a reason to dive into the trade market looking for help.

Most of those bottom-feeding clubs have no uncertainty about where they are, of course. Teams like the San Diego Padres, Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers have known for a while now that 2014 won’t be their year. Others, such as the Philadelphia Phillies, New York Mets and Minnesota Twins have begrudgingly accepted that they won’t be playing in October. These teams might not outright be sellers, but they aren’t going to give up the future for this year, either. That is, except for one team, a team that looks increasingly unlikely to make a run but seems hell-bent on making the wrong decision anyway: the Kansas City Royals. Read the rest of this entry »


How Garrett Richards Became A Star

It’s pretty easy to argue the Oakland Athletics are the best team in baseball, and maybe they are. After all, they do have the most wins, the best run differential and a rotation recently reinforced by Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel. They could be headed for their third consecutive AL West title.

But don’t count out those Los Angeles Angels, who quietly won 10 of 11 games heading into the break. They find themselves just a game and a half behind the A’s and are no doubt thinking about earning more than just a wild-card spot.

So how did the Angels get to this position after finishing 18 games out the past season? Well,Mike Trout has solidified his position as the no-doubt best player in the game, but he was this great in 2012 and 2013 too, and it didn’t get the Angels to October. Rebounds by Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton from disappointing 2013 seasons have helped of course, as has cutting out dozens of lousy starts from the 2013 group of Tommy HansonJoe Blanton and Jerome Williams.

But those improvements were countered somewhat by steps back and injury concerns from the veteran duo at the front of the rotation, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson. Rather, the biggest reason the Angels are 20 games over .500 at this point because of the emergence of a 26-year-old who can rightfully be thought of as the staff’s ace: Garrett Richards. Read the rest of this entry »


What Happened to Cards’ Offense?

The St. Louis Cardinals stormed their way to the NL Central title (and then the World Series) last season, and the popular thinking was that it was largely on the strength of their talented young pitching, with Shelby MillerMichael Wacha and Trevor Rosenthal joining the consistently excellent veteran leader Adam Wainwright. To a certain extent, that was true, because only four teams allowed fewer runs than the Cardinals did, and despite injuries to Wacha, Joe Kelly and Jaime Garcia, the pitching has again been good in 2014. In fact, no starting rotation in baseball has allowed fewer runs.

Yet something isn’t quite the same. After winning the most games in the National League last year, the Cardinals have been stuck in second place in the NL Central behind the Milwaukee Brewers all season and sit on the precipice of the second wild-card spot. It’s not that being eight games over .500 is a problem, of course, but this year’s Cardinals team is not in the driver’s seat as it was last year.

And why aren’t they? Well, last year’s team scored the most runs in the National League, and the third-most in baseball. The 2014 version has outscored only the whiff-happy Atlanta Braves and the historically awful San Diego Padres, and they’ve hit fewer home runs than any team in the league. What caused this scoring outage, and more importantly, can it be fixed? Read the rest of this entry »


Will Contact Rate Keep George Springer Good Rather Than Great?

Let’s be resoundingly clear about one thing: George Springer has been everything the Houston Astros could have hoped for and more. His .240/.346/.469 slash line is good for a 127 wRC+, which means that he has been 27 percent more productive on offense than a league-average hitter. It puts him among the top-40 marks in the game, and he’s all but certain to smash Lance Berkman’s team record for homers by a rookie (21 in 2000).

The Astros have rebounded from a wretched start to play close to .500 ball over the past two months, and Springer’s contribution is a huge reason why. In fact, only the performances of both Masahiro Tanaka and Jose Abreu will keep him from being the obvious AL Rookie of the Year award recipient this fall.

Given his plus speed — he stole 77 bases in the minors in 2012 and 2013 — and center-field-quality defense, Springer can provide considerable value in other ways than just at the plate. And yet it’s difficult to shake the feeling that because of all the incredible things he has done in his short time in the big leagues, we’re willfully turning a blind eye to the one thing he’s really, really bad at, which happens to be quite important: making contact with the baseball.

So the question must be asked: Will Springer’s contact issues ultimately make him merely a good player rather than a great one? Read the rest of this entry »