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BP's Most Recent Look at the AL West and the Intangible Angels

UPDATE: We'll discuss the implications of this more in detail on Friday, but Susan Slusser reports this morning that Jake Fox IS out of options, which means that if Fox doesn't make the club out of Spring Training, he has to clear waivers in order to return to the team.

I checked with Fox this morning, however, because I'd heard from so many people who'd said he's out of options, and he insisted that he was out and was horrified to think otherwise. He said his agents also had confirmed that.

So I asked the A's yet again, and - yes, Jake Fox is right. He's out of options. "Brain cramp" on the A's part, I was told.

UPDATE 2: Our very own grover has reported that to use an option, a player must be in AAA for 20 days. The 2007 numbers have Fox only at 19 (grover and oaktownpower) Is he really out of options?

UPDATE 3: It's possible that the A's think Fox is out of options because of one of the following: 1) They think he was on the 40-man roster of the Cubs in 2007, and used an option when he started the year at AAA (he wasn't)

2) They think he spent 20 days in AAA to use an option July-Aug of 2007. As grover pointed out, he could have only been there 19 days; oaktownpower pointed out that he played in the majors before and after the supposed 20 day span.

What else are we missing that used an option for Fox?

UPDATE 4: It looks like Fox was sent down again on 8/25/07, even though it's not on the MLB transactions list. This would be enough to use his option and it looks like Jake Fox is out of options, which means he better make the club out of Spring Training this year, because I honestly don't know how the team could take Chavez over him. If Chavez makes the team, it should be at the expense of another player.

UPDATE 5: Jake Fox is out of options. From our favorite staff writer:

**UPDATE**OK, there has been a lot more discussion this morning about Jake Fox's options, and he still doesn't have any left. The issues revolved around when his contract was first purchased (July 2007) and whether he then spent enough time in the minors after that to qualify that as an option year.

Here is the timeline that a member of the A's front office forwarded me:

Fox selected to ML roster July 19, 2007.

Optioned July 27.

Recalled Aug. 14. (No optioned used, not 20 days)

Optioned Aug. 24 for remainder of season. (Option)

Also optioned in 2008 and 2009.

Apparently the Aug. 24 transaction was not accounted for on various sites, which seems to have led to a lot of confusion and probably more wasted time than members of the A's front office might have liked. Thanks to them for their patience in helping clear this up; I'm impressed how many people took an interest in this and tried to track down as much information as possible.

It would be nice if MLB just provided full information about option status every spring so we could avoid all this; I remember one spring telling Dan Meyer that he had a fourth option and how upset he was to learn that. He'd had no idea. Safe to say, that ruined his spring and probably a lot of his year. Options are one of the trickier bits of business around, which is why I usually just ask the experts.

Baseball Prospectus is counting down the minutes until Spring Training begins (and aren't we all?), but they have published a recent standings update for the AL West that I thought I'd share (subscription):

Texas Rangers
Projected record: 87-75

Seattle Mariners
Projected record: 83-79

Oakland Athletics
Projected record: 82-80

Los Angeles Angels
Projected record: 76-86

My initial thought after my first glance at the data? No way do the Angels end up ten games under .500. I don't care how it's calculated.

Let's take a closer look.

Like most of us already assume, BP has projected the AL West to be an interesting, tightly-fought race between four clubs, who could all end up finishing at any position in the standings. Based on the Angels winning 5 of the last 6 division titles, you would assume they are the team to unseat this year, but after losing ace Lackey to the Red Sox, and Figgins and Vlad to division rivals, the Angels' stronghold on the AL West could very well slip this year. However, Angels usually outplay their run differential and exceed BP's PECOTA projections year after year, so I wouldn't bet against them, especially considering the weaknesses of the other clubs. In their division write-up, BP highlights the Angels' weakness of late-inning relief.

The Mariners have added a second ace to their rotation (Cliff Lee to join Felix Hernandez) behind their solid defense. Wildcard Milton Bradley will try his luck with another AL West team, which could be good or bad for the M's. BP doesn't like the Mariners' chances based on the fact that they gave up more runs than they scored last season (they still managed a 85-77 record).

Nothing about the A's projections should be a surprise to AN, including the fact that the A's season hinges on the health of their starting pitching. As we know, Justin Duchscherer is already hurt at Spring Training, and despite what positive reports will be thrown our way, this does not bode well for his 2010 campaign.

PECOTA's darling this year is the Texas Rangers, and it is predicting a changing of the guard for the AL West this season. However, when your starting rotation includes Rich Harden, I wouldn't pop the champagne quite yet.

The real question for the day is although the BP ranking system seems to make sense overall; that there is a true connection between the runs scored/runs allowed ratio and overall record, why does it always seem to low-ball the Angels? How do the Angels keep winning, even though on paper, they really shouldn't? Is it even possible for the Angels to win 97 games last season and 20 fewer this season? Were Lackey, Figgins, and Vlad worth 20+ wins or did the Angels really get that "lucky" last season? Is Scioscia a real factor, as some seem to think? Do they win close games and lose blowouts? What is PECOTA missing when it comes to projecting the Angels?