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Oakland A's trail Houston Astros by 4 games: AL West reset

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Every off day, we reset the AL West landscape, updating you on the standings and key storylines from around the division.

Jake Marisnick has been an incredibly positive addition to the Houston Astros.
Jake Marisnick has been an incredibly positive addition to the Houston Astros.
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Since the last off day, the A's have fallen from a half-game lead after 10 games to trailing the Houston Astros by four games. The only consolation is that most of the division is trailing the Astros by four games.

Standings through April 26
Actual
Steamer/ZiPS
projection
PECOTA
projection
Pythagenpat
extrapolation
W L GB Since 4/15 RS/G RA/G Place W L Place W L Place W L
Astros 11 7 -- 7-2 3.9 3.6 T-3rd 81 81 4th 80 82 1st 89 73
Angels 9 10 2.5 5-5 3.9 3.9 T-1st 84 78 1st 89 73 3rd 81 81
Athletics 8 12 4.0 3-7 4.8 4.3 T-3rd 81 81 3rd 81 81 2nd 87 75
Mariners 7 11 4.0 4-5 3.7 4.9 T-1st 84 78 2nd 84 78 5th 61 101
Rangers 7 11 4.0 3-5 3.9 4.8 5th 71 91 5th 76 86 4th 66 96
Steamer/ZiPS projection from Fangraphs. PECOTA from Baseball Prospectus.

The Astros were the big winners this week in terms of where the projections are putting them, gaining three wins in both the Steamer/ZiPS and PECOTA projections. The Angels (+1) and Astros (+6) both managed to pull their run differential to the plus side, joining the A's (+11).

To explain a little bit more about the pythagenpat extrapolation. It's essentially an extrapolation of pythagorean record for remaining games, but it does not modify a team's actual record. To put it in formula terms: Actual record + pythagenpat for remaining games = pythagenpat extrapolation. Read it more as, "All else equal, if the team scored and allowed runs at the rate they have been, this is what the team's record projects to be." "All else equal" is an incredibly important caveat in that sentence.

Here's your AL West roundup, good until Oakland's next off day on May 14.

1. Houston Astros (11-7, 7-2 since 4/16)

We know the Houston Astros are not the pushovers they once were, and the A's saw that last weekend after the Astros completed the franchise's first sweep of Oakland. The end of April 26 is the latest day on the calendar the Astros have held a division lead since 2001. They have won three in a row and seven of their last eight.

Dallas Keuchel looks really good as he approaches his first year of arbitration. He has given up just two earned runs in 29 innings for a 0.62 ERA, and has a 2.95 FIP. That performance does come with a .165 BABIP, and his career BABIP allowed is .300, so we'll see if he gets some bad breaks that turn him from Cy Young candidate into merely very good.

A nice surprise for the Astros has been Jake Marisnick's performance. Marisnick missed a couple of games before the Oakland series due to leg discomfort, but he is 16-for-44 with three walks and seven strikeouts for a .364/.408/.591 line in 50 plate appearances. He has two doubles, a triple, and two home runs already, as well as six stolen bases. The Astros acquired Marisnick from the Miami Marlins at last year's trade deadline with two minor leaguers and a compensatory draft pick for Kike Hernandez, Jarred Cosart, and minor leaguer Austin Wates.

If the offense is coming around, then the Astros are probably most worried with the back of their bullpen. Beyond Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh are a number of question marks. Asher Wojciechowski has not looked good in his starts and is sitting on a 7.31 ERA. Scott Feldman has been so-so (4.81 ERA, 86 ERA+), but that basically describes his career (4.48 ERA, 96 ERA+). Roberto Hernandez (the former Fausto Carmona) has made three starts, two of the vaunted "quality" variety to make it to a 3.57 ERA in 17⅔ innings.

Brad Peacock returned to the disabled list after getting called up to start in place of Asher Wojciechowski during Oakland's last visit to Houston. Peacock was returning from hip surgery, but now is diagnosed with a left intercostal strain, the same sort of injury Sean Doolittle had last September. The Astros are currently riding an eight-man bullpen after activating Josh Fields from the disabled list and optioning Jonathan Villar to Triple-A.

Astros results since April 16
Date Opponent Result Astros rec. Div. GB Streak Astros starter Opp. starter
17-Apr vs. Angels L 3-6 4-6 1.0 L1 Roberto Hernandez Jered Weaver
18-Apr vs. Angels W 4-0 5-6 0.5 W1 Dallas Keuchel C.J. Wilson
19-Apr vs. Angels W 4-3 6-6 +0.5 W2 Scott Feldman Garrett Richards
20-Apr at Mariners W 7-5 7-6 +0.5 W3 Asher Wojciechowski Hisashi Iwakuma
21-Apr at Mariners W 6-3 8-6 +1.5 W4 Collin McHugh Taijuan Walker
22-Apr at Mariners L 2-3 8-7 +0.5 L1 Roberto Hernandez J.A. Happ
23-Apr OFF DAY +1.0 OFF DAY
24-Apr at A's W 5-4 (11) 9-7 +1.5 W1 Dallas Keuchel Scott Kazmir
25-Apr at A's W 9-3 10-7 +1.5 W2 Scott Feldman Kendall Graveman
26-Apr at A's W 7-6 11-7 +2.5 W3 Asher Wojciechowski Drew Pomeranz

2. Los Angeles Angels (9-10, 5-5 since 4/16)

The Josh Hamilton saga is drawing to a close with an agreement sending Hamilton to the Texas Rangers only awaiting a review by Major League Baseball and the Players Association. On the field, the Angels dropped a series with the red-hot Astros, split a four game set with the A's, and took two of three from the Rangers.

ame the youngest player to hit 100 home runs and steal 100 bases when he hit his 100th dinger at age 23 years, 253 days. The record for youngest was previously held by Alex Rodriguez, who reached the milestone at 23 years, 309 days in 1999.

Garrett Richards returned to the Angels rotation on April 19 and has been fine in his two starts. He took the loss against the Astros after surviving only five innings and giving up four runs (three earned) but got the win against the Texas Rangers after giving up just two runs in seven innings. He has struck out nine of the 50 batters he has faced so far.

C.J. Wilson's scheduled start against the A's on April 23 was instead pushed back to April 25 after what was reported as "elbow tightness." Nick Tropeano was called up to start in Wilson's place after Matt Shoemaker was placed on the bereavement list following the death of his grandfather.

So what's been holding the Angels to a 5-5 record since April 16? They just haven't been scoring. The Angels have only scored more than four runs twice since the 16th. Otherwise, the Halos have scored four runs twice (1-1), three runs three times (1-2), two runs twice (1-1), and were shutout once.

Angels results since April 16
Date Opponent Result Angels rec. Div. GB Streak Angels starter Opp. Starter
17-Apr at Astros W 6-3 5-5 +0.5 W2 Jered Weaver Roberto Hernandez
18-Apr at Astros L 0-4 5-6 0.5 L1 C.J. Wilson Dallas Keuchel
19-Apr at Astros L 3-4 5-7 1.0 L2 Garrett Richards Scott Feldman
20-Apr vs. A's L 3-6 5-8 2.0 L3 Matt Shoemaker Kendall Graveman
21-Apr vs. A's W 14-1 6-8 2.0 W1 Hector Santiago Drew Pomeranz
22-Apr vs. A's L 2-9 6-9 2.0 L1 Jered Weaver Sonny Gray
23-Apr vs. A's W 2-0 7-9 1.5 W1 Nick Tropeano Jesse Chavez
24-Apr vs Rangers W 3-2 8-9 1.5 W2 Garrett Richards Wandy Rodriguez
25-Apr vs Rangers W 4-1 9-9 1.5 W3 C.J. Wilson Colby Lewis
26-Apr vs Rangers L 4-5 (11) 9-10 2.5 L1 Hector Santiago Nick Martinez

3. Oakland A's (8-12, 3-7 since 4/16)

The A's are in third place by percentage points and are still looking for their first three-game winning streak. After making national headlines for their dustup with the Kansas City Royals, they strolled into Anaheim hoping for more but only managed two out of four. And then we know all about the Astros.

Jesse Chavez was the hard luck loser of the April 23 contest, where the only hit he and the rest of the Athletics gave up was a two-run home run to Kole Calhoun. With Kendall Graveman demoted to Triple-A, Chavez will slot into the rotation either where Jesse Hahn was pitching until skipping a start to allow a blister to heal, or into Graveman's slot. Chris Bassitt will the long reliever for now, possibly until Jarrod Parker returns to the rotation.

Speaking of Jarrod Parker, he made his first minor league start on April 23 for the High-A Stockton Ports.

The A's also saw a lot of debuts over the last 10 days. Ike Davis made his major league debut as a pitcher in the 14-1 blowout loss on April 21. Arnold Leon made his major league debut on April 22. Chris Bassitt appeared on the roster on April 23 and made his Oakland debut on April 25. Max Muncy made his major league debut on April 25. Ryan Cook returned on April 26 to make his 2015 debut with Oakland.

These last 10 games have been painful just for the way the A's have been losing them. To wit:

  1. April 17: tied in the 7th before Dan Otero gave up two runs in the eighth.
  2. April 19: 2-1 A's lead in the eighth before Eric O'Flaherty gave up two earned runs and one of the runs inherited from Scott Kazmir.
  3. April 21: A laugher with Ike Davis the most effective reliever.
  4. April 23: A one-hit loss
  5. April 24: Scoreless after nine, then filled with exciting comebacks only to be dashed by ineffective performances from Dan Otero and Eric O'Flaherty.
  6. April 25: Kendall Graveman loses any hope of regaining his star in the near-term.
  7. April 26: Blown in the ninth inning.

A lot of hope was crushed over the last 10 games. But to paraphrase a wise man, often the difference between hopelessness and greatness in baseball is 72 hours.

A's results since April 16
Date Opponent Result A's rec. Div. GB Streak A's starter Opp. Starter
17-Apr at Royals L 4-6 5-6 0.5 L2 Sonny Gray Jeremy Guthrie
18-Apr at Royals W 5-0 6-6 +0.5 W1 Jesse Hahn Yordano Ventura
19-Apr at Royals L 2-4 6-7 0.5 L1 Scott Kazmir Danny Duffy
20-Apr at Angels W 6-3 7-7 0.5 W1 Kendall Graveman Matt Shoemaker
21-Apr at Angels L 1-14 7-8 1.5 L1 Drew Pomeranz Hector Santiago
22-Apr at Angels W 9-2 8-8 0.5 W1 Sonny Gray Jered Weaver
23-Apr at Angels L 0-2 8-9 1.0 L1 Jesse Chavez Nick Tropeano
24-Apr vs. Astros L 4-5 (11) 8-10 2.0 L2 Scott Kazmir Dallas Keuchel
25-Apr vs. Astros L 3-9 8-11 3.0 L3 Kendall Graveman Scott Feldman
26-Apr vs. Astros L 6-7 8-12 4.0 L4 Drew Pomeranz Asher Wojciechowski

T-4. Seattle Mariners (7-11, 4-5 since 4/16)

The Mariners are suffering the same fate as the Angels, they're not scoring runs. They were held to three runs or fewer in six of their last nine games played and went 3-3 in those games. When they have scored more than three, they've had the bad luck to lose anyway, going 1-2.

Seattle won't be helped by Hisashi Iwakuma going on the disabled list with a Grade 1 lat strain. He will miss 2-4 weeks. Starting in his place is Roenis Elias Elias wasn't too bad last year, striking out 143 batters in 163⅔ innings with a 3.85 ERA (94 ERA+). Iwakuma has been better for longer, however. The Mariners lost Elias's first start in extra innings 4-2.

I'd say if A's fans were following the Mariners, we'd probably be more infuriated by what's happening, just because this time is supposed to be contending for a title. April 18 was the first time they won a game after nine innings since Opening Night. They've lost their share of games late too:

  1. April 20: Lost when Danny Farquhar gave up two runs in the eighth inning of a tie game.
  2. April 21: Lost when Charlie Furbush and Danny Farquhar gave up five runs in the eighth inning with a 3-1 lead.
  3. April 25: Lost when Dominic Leone and Yoervis Medina allowed four runs total in the 6th and 7th inning in a game that finished 8-5.
  4. April 26: Lost when Tyler Olson gave up two runs in the 11th inning of a tie game.

All the Mariners can do is wait for regression.

Mariners results since April 16
Date Opponent Result Mariners rec. Div. GB Streak Mariners starter Opp. starter
17-Apr vs. Rangers L 1-3 3-7 2.0 L4 J.A. Happ Yovani Gallardo
18-Apr vs. Rangers W 3-1 4-7 1.5 W1 Felix Hernandez Colby Lewis
19-Apr vs. Rangers W 11-10 5-7 1.0 W2 James Paxton Ross Detwiler
20-Apr vs. Astros L 5-7 5-8 2.0 L1 Hisashi Iwakuma Asher Wojciechowski
21-Apr vs. Astros L 3-6 5-9 3.0 L2 Taijuan Walker Collin McHugh
22-Apr vs. Astros W 3-2 6-9 2.0 W1 J.A. Happ Roberto Hernandez
23-Apr OFF DAY 2.0 OFF DAY
24-Apr vs. Twins W 2-0 7-9 2.0 W2 Felix Hernandez Phil Hughes
25-Apr vs. Twins L 5-8 7-10 3.0 L1 James Paxton Trevor May
26-Apr vs. Twins L 2-4 (11) 7-11 4.0 L2 Roenis Elias Kyle Gibson

T-4. Texas Rangers (7-11, 3-5 since 4/16)

The Texas Rangers will soon get Josh Hamilton back, and Grantland's Ben Lindbergh thinks they're perfect for each other. Hamilton will spend a little bit of time in Surprise, Arizona rehabilitating his shoulder before returning to Texas. What reception he receives will entirely be up to the people of Dallas.

Prince Fielder added his first home run in more than a year to his batting totals. He is now 26-for-72 with five walks, a home run, and four doubles for a .361/.418/.458 line.

Matt Harrison is targeting early July for his return to the Texas Rangers, which would be around the same time Martin Perez and Matt Holland returns. That would suddenly make Texas have a really interesting rotation should they return to top form.

Meanwhile, Wandy Rodriguez was called up after the Rangers took advantage of two off days to rearrange their rotation thanks to the interleague series with the Arizona Diamondbacks. For now, the rotation appears to rotate Yovani Gallardo, Ross Detweiler, Wandy Rodriguez, Colby Lewis, and Nick Martinez.

Rangers results since April 16
Date Opponent Result Rangers rec. Div. GB Streak Rangers starter Opp. starter
17-Apr at Mariners W 3-1 5-6 0.5 W1 Yovani Gallardo J.A. Happ
18-Apr at Mariners L 1-3 5-7 1.0 L1 Colby Lewis Felix Hernandez
19-Apr at Mariners L 10-11 5-8 1.5 L2 Ross Detwiler James Paxton
20-Apr OFF DAY 2.0 OFF DAY
21-Apr at Diamondbacks W 7-1 6-8 2.0 W1 Nick Martinez Chase Anderson
22-Apr at Diamondbacks L 5-8 6-9 2.0 L1 Yovani Gallardo Archie Bradley
23-Apr OFF DAY 2.0 OFF DAY
24-Apr at Angels L 2-3 6-10 3.0 L2 Wandy Rodriguez Garrett Richards
25-Apr at Angels L 1-4 6-11 4.0 L3 Colby Lewis C.J. Wilson
26-Apr at Angels W 5-4 (11) 7-11 4.0 W1 Nick Martinez Hector Santiago