Analyzing and Ranking the American League "Super Six" by Position

Christopher BenvieCorrespondent IIJanuary 28, 2012

Analyzing and Ranking the American League "Super Six" by Position

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    I made a mistake.  The other day I wrote an article ranking the top five American League powerhouse teams by position.  It was meant to be a fun article and to be taken lightly.

    I'm not sure what I was thinking.

    Though I stated that I didn't do a full-on analysis of each player and team, I was repeatedly called on the carpet for my selection.  Rightfully so.

    Instead, I've decided to expand and look at the "Super Six" teams of the American League:  Anaheim Angels, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, New  York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers.

    Baseball is a game of passion and I owe it to my readers to be more diligent in my analysis of teams when ranking.  Having said that, this is my mea culpa piece.  I've put these figures together using specific stats.

    While making these rankings I factored in 12 offensive categories and four defensive metrics. Awards were also considered.  All information was based on how well the players performed in 2011.  

    In my rankings for 2012, I took experience or lack thereof into consideration.

    I also looked at the entire season statistically.  I don't care if a player finished off hot or started the season cold.  I went with the entire body of work.

    Having said all of that, here is a look at my new rankings.

First Base: Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox

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    Stop right there.

    I want to remind you before we get any further, this is ranked on 2011 performance, 12 offensive metrics, four defensive metrics and award considerations.  I don't care how a player finished the year or started the year, I looked at the whole body of work on this slide as well as every other one from here on in.  Now...here we go:

    In 2011, Gonzalez led the American League in hits for a first baseman.  Among his peers he also led the charge in runs, doubles, triples and batting average while raking up an All-Star bid, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and finished seventh overall in MVP voting.

    Second:  Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers

    Third:  Albert Pujols, Anaheim Angels

    Fourth:  Mark Texeira, New York Yankees

    Fifth:  Carlos Pena, Tampa Bay Rays

    Sixth:  Mitch Moreland, Texas Rangers

    Notes:

    The obvious questions out there are in one form or another:  "How can you put Gonzalez over Fielder/Pujols?"  Answer:  Fielder led his peers in RBI, OBP, SLG and OPS, however, his defensive metrics were lacking.  

    He also had fewer hits, scored fewer runs and was by no means a threat on the base path all while playing in every game of the season (a stat that went in his favor, by the way.)

    Pujols on the other hand only led his peers in stolen bases.  Call it what you will, an injury shortened season or just an off year for Pujols, he was not the same dominant Pujols of the past in 2011.

    Now, that doesn't mean he won't be an absolute beast in 2012, but heading into the season, there were two other first basemen who played better overall last year.

Second Base: Robinson Cano, New York Yankees

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    As I said in my last article, this decision was insanely close between Cano and Pedroia.  Cano eventually barely edged Pedey out for the top slot.

    In 2011, Cano bested his peers in games played, doubles, triples, RBI, SLG and OPS.  He also was an All-Star and received a Silver Slugger Award while finishing sixth overall in the MVP voting.

    Second: Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox

    Third:  Ian Kinsler, Texas Rangers

    Fourth:  Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay Rays

    Fifth:  Howie Kendrick, Anaheim Angels

    Sixth:  Ramon Santiago, Detroit Tigers

    Notes

    Generally speaking, second base was one of the closest races in all of the rankings.  Howie Kendrick was an All-Star, Ben Zobrist finished 16th overall in MVP voting, while Kinsler finished 11th overall.  

    Having said that, take the rankings in this category with a grain of salt, its fairly neck and neck across the board.

Third Base: Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers

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    In my previous article, I was hesitant to place Miggy at the top spot because he hadn't played third in a while.  It wasn't a solid argument, I get that now.  Once again, I was called out for it, as I should have been.

    In 2011, Cabrera was off the charts good.  While, for comparisons sake this category is a bit skewed with Miggy making the move to third, the fact of the matter is, he'll probably put up similar numbers in the hot corner.

    He led the American League in games played, doubles, batting average and OBP.  Compared to his peers he led the charge in runs, hits, RBI, SLG and OPS.  

    Whatever concerns I had about his defense should be ignored.  What he gives the team in offense will always outweigh any defensive deficiencies.

    Second:  Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers

    Third:  Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox

    Fourth:  Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays

    Fifth:  Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees

    Sixth:  Alberto Callaspo, Anaheim Angels

    Notes:

    Evan Longoria fans, I am not anti-Tampa Bay.  I was surprised by the findings as well.  Kevin Youkilis had a better year all around, even though injured. 

Shortstop: Jhonny Peralta, Detroit Tigers

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    Originally, Derek Jeter was placed at my number one position.  However, after it was pointed out that I had made an error in statistics I went back, reassessed the shortstop position and had to correct this to reflect Peralta as the winner.

    I had accidently copied down Jeter's career average, OBP, SLG and OPS instead of his 2011 numbers, thus, altering the results enough to put him in first place, when, the obvious choice should have been Peralta.  My bad folks.  I made a mistake and I'm owning up to it.

    Second:  Derek Jeter, New  York Yankees

    Third:  Erick Aybar, Anaheim Angels

    Fourth:  Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers

    Fifth:  Sean Rodriguez, Tampa Bay Rays

    Sixth:  Mike Aviles, Boston Red Sox

    Notes:

    Peralta and Aybar are both excellent shortstops.  Peralta was edged out by Jeter in just one additional category. While proving that he is a better power hitter, leading his peers in home runs and RBI, his inability to get on base as much as Jeter hurt him.

    Aybar is a great doubles and triples hitter, and is solid defensively winning the Gold Glove in 2011.  Aybar was right there finishing a hair behind Peralta in my analysis.

Left Field: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers

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    One of the few positions where there is no significant debate:  Left field.  Josh Hamilton was once again a beast in 2011.  

    He provided the Rangers with both offense and defense while leading his peers in such categories as hits, doubles, home runs, RBI, batting average, slugging percentage and OPS while making the All-Star team once again and finishing 22nd overall in the MVP voting.

    Second:  Brett Gardner, New York Yankees

    Third:  Carl Crawford, Boston Red Sox

    Fourth:  Desmond Jennings, Tampa Bay Rays

    Fifth:  Delmon Young, Detroit Tigers

    Sixth:  Vernon Wells, Anaheim Angels

    Notes: 

    I really like Brett Gardner and think he will develop into an All-Star in the near future.

    Those questioning Carl Crawford's ranking, he had the third best statistics pretty much across the board in the analysis.  While Jennings might have surpassed him in a couple of categories, Crawford proved just good enough to land at the three spot.

Center Field: Jacoby Ellsbury, Boston Red Sox

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    Jacoby Ellsbury is finally developing into the player that the Red Sox have long hoped him to be.

    In 2011, he led his peers in games played, hits, doubles, stolen bases and batting average to name a few.  He also was named to the All-Star team while winning a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and finishing second in the MVP voting.

    Second:  Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees

    Third:  BJ Upton, Tampa Bay Rays

    Fourth:  Peter Bourjos, Anaheim Angels

    Fifth:  Austin Jackson, Detroit Tigers

    Sixth:  Craig Gentry, Texas Rangers

    Notes:

    I don't think there are any surprises in this category.  With Ellsbury coming in second to Justin Verlander in the MVP voting, that means he was the second best player in the AL last year, let alone his position.

    Curtis Granderson was incredible, and finished fourth in the MVP voting while also making the All-Star team and winning a Silver Slugger award.

Right Field: Matt Joyce, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Joyce has emerged into a premier right fielder for the Tampa Bay Rays.

    In 2011 he led his peers in doubles, triples, stolen bases and OPS while coming in a close second in other offensive categories like batting average, OBP and OPS.  Joyce was named to the American League All-Star team as well.

    Second:  Nick Swisher, New York Yankees

    Third:  Nelson Cruz, Texas Rangers

    Fourth:  Torii Hunter, Anaheim Angels

    Fifth:  Brennan Boesch, Detroit Tigers

    Sixth:  Cody Ross, Boston Red Sox

    Notes:

    I was actually surprised by this finding.  I mean that as a compliment to Joyce and the Rays fans.  I truly thought that Swisher would have finished first, with Cruz a close second.  

    Torii Hunter, while showing some signs of aging (not many...) is proving that he is still a solid fielder, while Brennan Boesch is developing nicely for the Tigers.

Catcher: Alex Avila, Detroit Tigers

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    Alex Avila crushed in in 2011, leading his peers in several categories such as games played, hits, doubles, triples, RBI while adding 19 home runs with a nice .295 BA.

    Avila was the starting catcher for the American All-Star team in 2011, he also put up the most well-balanced statistics out of any catcher in the "Super Six" of the AL.

    Second:  Mike Napoli, Texas Rangers

    Third:  Russell Martin, New York Yankees

    Fourth:  Chris Iannetta, Anaheim Angels

    Fifth:  Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Boston Red Sox

    Sixth:  Jose Molina, Tampa Bay Rays

    Notes:

    Offensively, the only competition Avila had was Mike Napoli, who proved himself to be a monster in 2011.  He led his peers in home runs, batting average, OBP and OPS.  Defensively, he certainly was not a liability.

Designated Hitter: Michael Young, Texas Rangers

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    While Young was not afraid to voice his displeasure when moved to the DH position, he has transitioned into it quite nicely.  In 2011, his bat was ferocious.  He led his peers in games, runs doubles, triples, RBI, batting average and led all of the American League in hits.  

    Young made the All-Star team and finished eighth in MVP voting.

    Second:  David Ortiz, Boston Red Sox

    Third:  Mark Trumbo, Anaheim Angels

    Fourth:  Eduardo Nunez, New York Yankees

    Fifth:  Luke Scott, Tampa Bay Rays

    Sixth:  Brandon Inge, Detroit Tigers

    Notes:

    I don't know what the Tigers are going to do for a DH in 2012, honestly.  However, with Cabrera taking over for Inge at third, I assume he'll be the DH... then again, maybe not.

    So, in that regard this analysis could be flawed, however, unless the Tigers decide to make Prince the DH, I don't see anyone they have beating out Young or Ortiz at this point.

No.1 Starter: Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers

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    There is no debate here.  Verlander won the Cy Young and MVP in 2011, need I really give any other argument for him?

    Second:  TIE:  James Shields, Tampa Bay Rays and Jered Weaver, Anaheim Angels

    Fourth:  CC Sabathia, New York Yankees

    Fifth:  Colby Lewis, Texas Rangers

    Sixth:  Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox

    Notes:

    Shields and Weaver finished with some pretty impressive numbers at the end of the 2011 season.

    Shields won 16 games for the Rays with a 2.82 ERA, 1.043 WHIP and led all American League pitchers in complete games with 11 and shutouts with four.  He was an All-Star, finished third in the Cy Young Award race and was 16th overall in MVP voting.

    Weaver, on the other hand, finished with 18 wins for the Halos with a 2.41 ERA with a 1.010 WHIP with four complete games and two shutouts.  He finished second in Cy Young voting and made the All-Star team.

No.2 Starter: Dan Haren, Anaheim Angels

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    At the beginning of the 2011 season, it looked like Haren was going to win 34 games, having won something like three games in the first seven days of the season.

    He would go on to win 16 games for the Angels while starting 34 games, finishing one, adding four complete games and three shutouts during his 238.1 innings of work.

    Haren finished seventh overall in the Cy Young voting.

    Second:  Josh Beckett, Boston Red Sox

    Third:  David Price, Tampa Bay Rays

    Fourth:  Doug Fister, Detroit Tigers

    Fifth:  Hiroki Kuroda, New York Yankees

    Sixth:  Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers

    Notes:

    I mentioned in the first slide that there would be factors, like inexperience, that came in to play.  So, don't hang me for putting Darvish last, Ranger fans.  He hasn't thrown a pitch in MLB yet.

No. 3 Starter: CJ Wilson, Anaheim Angels

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    Wilson performed well enough in 2011 for the Texas Rangers, he earned himself a pretty hefty contract from the Angels, making him the most formidable No. 3 in the American League, arguably in baseball.

    In 2011, he had 16 wins and led his peers in ERA, innings pitched and strikeouts to name a few categories.  He was named to the All-Star team and finished sixth in Cy Young voting.

    Second:  Derek Holland, Texas Rangers

    Third:  Jeremy Hellickson, Tampa Bay Rays

    Fourth:  Ivan Nova, New York Yankees

    Fifth:  Max Scherzer, Detroit Tigers

    Sixth:  Clay Buchholz, Boston Red Sox

    Notes:

    Not much to add on this one, its pretty straightforward.  Wins, ERA, WHIP, games played, etc.  all played a major role in the considerations here.

No.4 Starter: Ervin Santana, Anaheim Angels

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    The Angels rotation is going to be no joke in 2012.

    With Santana as their fourth starter, they've got a player who is a horse.  Santana pitched in 33 games and put in 223.1 innings of work in 2011 with four complete games and a shutout.  His ERA wasn't bad at all, 3.38 with a 1.220 WHIP.

    Second:  Michael Pineda, New York Yankees

    Third:  Wade Davis, Tampa Bay Rays

    Fourth:  Rick Porcello, Detroit Tigers

    Fifth:  TIE:  Daniel Bard, Boston Red Sox, Neftali Feliz, Texas Rangers

    Notes:

    Sox fans and Ranger fans, I don't want to hear it.  Bard and Feliz are both taking over roles that neither of them have performed (significantly) before.  Until they produce as starters, at the bottom they'll be.

No.5 Starter: Matt Harrison, Texas Rangers

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    Matt Harrison is a solid number five man for the Rangers.  He gave the team 14 wins in 31 games last season and leads his peers with 185.2 innings pitched with 126 srtikeouts.

    Second:  Phil Hughes, New York Yankees

    Third:  Jerome Williams, Anaheim Angels

    Fourth:  Matt Moore, Tampa Bay Rays

    Fifth:  Jacob Turner, Detroit Tigers

    Sixth:  Take your pick:  Carlos Silva, Aaron Cook, Vicente Padilla for the Red Sox.

    Notes:

    Up until a couple of weeks ago, Hughes was probably going to be the Yankees' number three man. Now, he doesn't have to be.  While in 2011 he only went 5-5 for the Empire, he did give them one complete game and one shutout.

    Also, I can't wait to see how Turner and Moore develop in 2012.

Setup Man: David Robertson, New York Yankees

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    Robertson was just plain filthy in 2011.

    Four wins, 1.08 ERA in 70 appearances with 100 strikeouts and a cool 1.125 WHIP.  Robertson was an All-Star, finished 11th overall in the Cy Young voting and 22nd overall in the MVP voting.  

    It says a lot when your setup man gets MVP nods.

    Second:  Mike Adams, Texas Rangers

    Third:  Scott Downs, Anaheim Angels

    Fourth:  Mark Melancon, Boston Red Sox

    Fifth:  Joel Peralta, Tampa Bay Rays

    Sixth:  Joaquin Benoit, Detroit Tigers

    Notes

    Mike Adams was also nasty in 2011, finishing just behind Robertson.  In 75 games, Adams went 5-4 with a 1.47 ERA and 0.787 WHIP with 74 strikeouts.  

Closer: Jose Valverde, Detroit Tigers

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    Valverde led all American League relievers, making 75 appearances and 70 games finished in 2011 as well as saves with 49.

    The man posted a 2.24 ERA with a nice 1.189 WHIP in 72.1 innings of work adding 69 strikeouts. Valverde was an All-Star and finished fifth overall in the Cy Young voting.

    In other words, Tiger starters had no issues handing the ball over to the bullpen knowing Valverde would just shut down opponents.

    Second:  Mariano Rivera, New York Yankees

    Third:  Kyle Farnsworth, Tampa Bay Rays

    Fourth:  Jordan Walden, Anaheim Angels

    Fifth:  Joe Nathan, Texas Rangers

    Sixth:  Andrew Bailey, Boston Red Sox

Positional Conclusion

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    At this point, I want to look at some conventional logic.  Looking at how each team ranked for each position, I applied a point system.  For every first place finish (statistically) that team received six points.  Five points were awarded for second place on so on through the six.  With that in mind, here is how the teams finished for positional players:

    First:  New York Yankees: 39 points

    Second:  Texas Rangers: 35 points

    Third:  Boston Red Sox:  33 points

    Fourth:  Detroit Tigers: 30 points

    Fifth:  Tampa Bay Rays: 29 points

    Sixth:  Anaheim Angels: 26 points

General Pitching Conclusion

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    This looks at how the five starting and two bullpen pitchers fared as a whole against their peers, using the same point system.

    First:  Anaheim Angels: 35 points

    Second:  New York Yankees:  29 points

    Third:  Texas Rangers:  27 points

    Fourth:  Tampa Bay Rays:  23 points

    Fifth:  Detroit Tigers:  17 points

    Sixth:  Boston Red Sox: 12 points

Starting Pitching Conclusion

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    Once again, this looks at how the five starting pitchers fared as a whole against their peers, using the same point system.

    First:  Anaheim Angels: 28 points

    Second:  Texas Rangers:  20 points

    Third:  New York Yankees:  18 points

    Fourth:  Tampa Bay Rays:  17 points

    Fifth:  Detroit Tigers: 10 points

    Sixth:  Boston Red Sox:  8 points

Relief Pitching Conclusion

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    Once again, this looks at how the two relief pitchers examined fared as a whole against their peers, using the same point system.

    First:  New York Yankees:  11 points

    Second:  TIE: Anaheim Angels, Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers:  7 points each

    Fifth:  Tampa Bay Rays:  6 points

    Sixth: Boston Red Sox: 5 points

General Conclusion

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    While this entire process has taken me quite some time to sift through, I've learned a lot that I didn't know or wasn't fully aware of regarding a few players on these amazing teams.

     At the end of the day, these rankings will be arbitrary to any fan, so I stuck to statistics as much as possible, relying on on past experience/lack of experience when necessary.  

    What we have learned from this experience is that the Angels have one hell of a scary starting rotation.  While adding Albert Pujols was a significant upgrade for them offensively, it will surely be their pitching that propels them in 2012.

    Speaking of pitching, not like its a big surprise, but we see just how shallow the Boston Red Sox pitching depth really is right now.  Having made no significant upgrades at the position, they may find themselves struggling, even with an offense as potent as theirs.

    The Yankees are the Yankees.  They're a damn good team, but they do have age issues.  If they can stay healthy, they may be the most balanced team heading into the 2012 season.

    The Texas Rangers have given fans no reason to think they'll take a step back this season.  The big question mark is the performance of Yu Darvish.  Will he fit in?  Will he be a bust?  October baseball could hinge on that question.

    Tampa Bay will be a silent killer, as always.  With Evan Longoria being their only "marquee" name, they have managed to annihilate other clubs with their teamwork and solid pitching.   I expect no less out of them in 2012.

    Lastly, the Detroit Tigers are going to be offensive beasts and they have the game's best pitcher on their staff.  However, Verlander is going to need more help than just Valverde.

    I hope to see the Tigers make another solid pitching acquisition by the trade deadline if they expect to go deep into October.

    Having said that, going into the 2012 season, this is how I would rank the "Super Six" of the American League:

    No.1:  New York Yankees

    No.2:  Texas Rangers

    No.3:  Anaheim Angels

    No.4:  Detroit Tigers

    No.5:  Tampa Bay Rays

    No.6:  Boston Red Sox