Athletics' July Preview: A deeper look at the A.L. West contenders.

Mike Scioscia complains about the A.L.West - AP

The A's finished June with (barely) their best monthly record yet. Unlike the previous April-June previews, I'm going to spend most of the time today on just the two main contenders in the A.L.West to see where they stand and just how far the A's need to be looking over their shoulder.

Athletics July Preview.

First, some A's records and stats.

A's record by month
April 
18-10
.642
May
16-12
.571
June
17-9
.654


The A's came tantalizing close to making it the second best start in Oakland history with the non win vs Detroit yesterday.  As it is they are right with the best teams ever.  With the A's depth plus a few expected upgrades along the way, the A's could break the best overall record ever in Oakland history with 105 wins. (1988 with 104). The A's would need to play .675 ball (54 wins) the rest of the way, something they achieved over the last 80 games of 2012.

Oakland Athletics' best record after 82 games:

Year
Record
1971
53-29
1972
52-30
1988
52-30
2014
51-31
1975
51-31
1990
51-31


1931
57-24


Division leader, division leader, division leader wild-card 1, wild-card 2.

Looking at the first part of the month ahead, the A's face what I think is their toughest two week stretch of the year. I'm highly looking forward to the A's testing themselves against the best teams in baseball. A few of those teams might not be in first place at all very soon.

UPDATE: How about a little Schadenfreude for your day?  The Giant's have given up a 9.5 game lead in just three weeks to the Dodgers, the gnats now sitting 0.5 games back.

  • On the hot streak side, Detroit and Seattle have both gone 8-2 their last ten games.
  • On the slump side, San Fransisco has gone 3-7 and the Jays 4-6 in their last ten games. But looking further back, they are both slumping harder with the Giant's 4-15 (worst in baseball) and Blue Jays 6-13.

Coming out of the break, the A's play the #3 wildcard team and then both Texas teams. The Rangers are talking about how everyone on the team is for sale. They may be missing a few good-great players by the time the A's get to them.

The Astros are doing better of late with some top prospect call ups. They have gone 19-15 if I cherry pick their last 34 games. They had a .315 winning percentage in 2013. So far this year, .429 and not the worst team in baseball. (Arizona and others). The Astros still have some good players they will probably trade away this year for prospects, but it might by the last year they do that for awhile.

A's June Schedule


Home / Away Team

Runs Scored/Runs Against/(diff)

http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/MLB/2014-standings.shtml

ESPN Power Ranking

http://espn.go.com/mlb/powerrankings

MLB Predictive Rankings

teamrankings.com

Win%
2 @ Detroit Tigers 4.6.....4.4.....(+0.2).....#9 #4
#7 .570
4 VS Toronto Blue Jays 4.7.....4.3.....(+0.4).....#8 #7
#9 .536
2/2 Hm/Vs S.F. Giants 4.1.....3.7.....(+0.4).....#7 #5
#8 .561
3 @ Seattle Mariners 4.0.....3.5.....(+0.5).....#5 #10
#6 .542
3 VS Baltimore Orioles 4.2.....4.1.....(+0.1).....#12 #13
#13 .524
3 VS Houston Astros 3.7.....4.4.....(-0.7).....#28 #27
#30 .429
3 @ Texas Rangers 4.2.....4.9.....(-0.7).....#27 #23
#21 .451
3 @ Houston Astros





A's 5.2.....3.5.....(+1.7).....#1 #1
#1





Average Rank- Average Rank-
25 12 hm / 13 rd 9 games vs A.L West
#15
#15 .505

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Lets take a mid-season look at the A's two main rivals.

------------------------------------------------------------------


The Ainrofilac Slegna of Miehana

45-35 (15-10 in June) and solidly the number one wild card team at the moment.

Just about everything has gone well for them this year just as teamrankings.com predicted earlier in the year. Offense, bench, starting pitching and health have all been good to great for L.A.

Their relief pitching has been terrible, but they also didn't make any trades or spend any money on good free agent money relievers to upgrade that spot this off-season. That's probably going to change. One of the reasons I would be in favor of the A's trading for a closer would be to target the Angels first choice. (Say Houston Street for $7 million this year and seven million team option for next).

That is a win win for the A's. I don't know about you, but I would rather not put in a pitcher with a ERA over six (2013 Anderson) at any point in this years playoffs if I can help it. The A's could also have one of the most complete lefty-righty bullpens known to MLB history. First of all, left handed closer are rare. But the A's could do lefty-righty all the way down. Take a quick look:


Inning..................Lefty.........................ERA.............................FIP............................Righty

9th

Sean Doolittle
2.08                  
0.98                     
Huston Street
0.90      
2.54       
8th                  
Eric O'Flaherty              
1.72                  
3.27                    
Luke Gregerson
2.32       
2.63      
7th                  
Fernando Abad
2.20                 
3.69                    
Dan Otero
2.17      
3.20      


Worst case scenario the Angles overpay if the A's lose out.  With an already weak farm, one of the worst in MLB (they only have two grade B prospects in their system), that may force the Angles to give up a platoon player having a good year or choose trade options that will have less of an impact for them. Off on a tangent. Back to the Angels.


The Great.

Offense: is scoring 4.8 a game. Second in MLB. Run differential. (+0.6) is also second in MLB.

  • Mike Trout. Trading SB for SLG, 1.015 OPS / 182 wRC+. Trout is on pace for the usual 10-11 WAR this year.
  • Erik Aybar. Solid season for the SS. Hitting .746 OPS / 111 wRC+ with good D. On pace for 5 WAR.

Bench:

  • Collin Cowgill. Out of nowhere, the journeyman maintains his consistent year. .796 OPS / 130wRC+.
  • Rookie OF/DH. C.J. Cron. 2011 first round pick has started off hot. .893 OPS  /152wRC+ in 41 games after not playing above AA in 2013.
  • Rookie OF/2B/3B Grant Green. Green has been a nice offensive utility option for the Angle's this year with a .756 OPS / 112wRC+ in 26 games.

The O.K.

Starting Pitching

Middle of the pack in runs against at #13 best but that was #24 last year. #8 in starting pitcher WAR.

  • Their starters are solid with one spectacular in Garrett Richards this year. 2.76 era / 2.78 fip. Their new ace is on pace for 5 WAR.
  • Tyler Skaggs has also been a good trade for them as he is currently their #2 best starter.

The money players.

  • Albert Pujols- .787 OPS / 117 wRC+. Yes it's better than last year. No its not worth $23 million dollars for the 34 year old.
  • Josh Hamilton- June: 22 games: .675 OPS / 92 wRC+. The Angels are only paying Josh $17 million this year for the 33 years old.
  • C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver have been average #3 starters ( 1 WAR) while being paid $16 million each this year.

The Bad.

  • Relief pitching. Several metrics have them as among the worst teams in baseball. WAR 30th ERA 25th era. FIP 29th.
  • The AL West. Not a good year to be the second best team in the American League ( or thereabouts) with the A's having one of the most dominate seasons of the last decade and the re-insurgent Mariner's nipping at your heels. Right now the Angles are 5 games back with Seattle only 6.5.  The Angles would be in first or only .5 games out in four other divisions this year. (Brewers). 

Conclusion: The Angels are going to try and batter their way into the playoffs but will be hard pressed to really upgrade their roster this year. A normal injury curve and lack of pitching depth could also derail them. Finally, the Mariners really might be better than them.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Washington State Mariners of Seattle

Lloyd_mcclendon_seattle_mariners_introduce_zjkiria6hy9l_medium

Seattle Manager Lloyd McClendon.  Credit: Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images North America

45-38 and the #2 Wild Card team at the moment. 18-10 in June.  The Mariners have been favored by teamranking.com metrics all year and now that their early season starting pitching injuries are mostly behind them they are stepping it up. The Mariners have been lead by their pitching.

The Great.


Pitching. As of today, the Mariners lead MLB with only 3.4 runs given up a game. Oakland has slipped down to #4 in a virtual three way tie with STL and WSN.

  • Felix Hernandez is having a monster Cy Young season with 4.8 WAR. That is 1.5 WAR better than #2 best Jon Lester and Yu Darvish. You name the stat, he's having a career year in it. 2.10 era, 1.98 fip, 179 era+, whip around 0.9, 0.3 HR/9, 1.5 W/9, 9.6 K/9. Might be one of the best seasons in a decade.
  • Rookie Roenis Elias has also had a solid starter holding down the #2 job after skipping AAA.
  • #1 prospect Taijuan Walker is also being called up this week to potentially make them even more deadly or headline a Price trade at the deadline.

Relief Pitching.

  • Fernando Rodney is having himself a fine year with a 2.23 era / 2.42 fip / 23 save season for $7 million dollars.
  • Rookie Dominic Leone has also had a nice year with a 2.18 / 2.8 after skipping AAA. The M's are #3 in ERA and #5 in relief FIP.

The O.K.

Offense. Seattle has been middle of the road somehow with 4.0 runs a game, #17 in MLB.

  • 3B Kyle Seager has lead the way for the M's putting up a career best .277/.347/.490 line to the tune of a .837 OPS / 133 wRC+ and good D with 3.1 WAR this year. 
  • 2B Robinson Cano has been somewhat of a disappointment for the M's this year with a .809 OPS / 123 wRC+ for $24million dollars. This puts him on pace for his worst year since 2008.

The Bad.

The Bench

None of the breakout candidates have broken out. Logan Morrison and Nick Franklin have been mediocre and Corey Hart injured most of the year. This can happen when you spend over half your total budget on just two players. I'm still not sure how they aren't worse at scoring runs after looking at their roster.


Conclusion: The Mariners are going to try and pitch their way to the playoffs and be quite dangerous if they get there. They could possibly have better pitching in the second half. Unlike the Angles, the Mariners have minor league prospects to trade and also are sitting $25 million dollars below their historic payroll high of $117 million in 2008. I think the Mariners are my choice for the most dangerous of the two in the second half and are no worse than the 2012 A's at this time in 2012.

I don't know about you, but the thought of the Angles and Mariners having to use Garrett Richards and Felix Hernandez in a 162 or 163 play in game before facing the A's would be fine by me. A number one seed could make a lot of difference. Of course if the A's maintain the number one seed, Detroit will probably end up winning the wild card game with the Royals winning the central.

-OmahaHi














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