MLB Power Rankings: AL West Offenses and Pitching Staffs Entering June
By the time Memorial Day rolls around, Major League Baseball teams are beginning to get a clearer insight into the nature of their hopes for the season. It's difficult to gauge anything based upon April alone, but another month of game action helps to give a stronger indication of whether you and your fanbase should let hopes build or face the grim realities of another season lost. With Memorial Day just behind us, this critical juncture in the baseball schedule is where we stand.
At this point, the American League West is a perfect illustration of divisional parity, still offering great hope to the four franchises within the division. With only four games separating first place from last, all four teams remain well within striking distance, and with two-thirds of the schedule remaining, have enough opportunity to fix what ails them in order to make a charge towards the pinnacle of their division.
Defending American League Champions, the Texas Rangers, flying high from their first-ever World Series appearance last season, have charged out to the division lead, despite losing Cliff Lee and injuries to stars Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz and Neftali Feliz. Buoyed by a strong home record and a dynamic offense, even in light of the injuries to two of their biggest sluggers, Texas aims to repeat their divisional dominance of last year.
Mike Scioscia's Angels, weathering the loss of their greatest slugging threat, Cuban first baseman, Kendrys Morales, as well as new recruit Vernon Wells, have turned in strong starting pitching performances to mitigate their middle-of-the-road offensive production. They have also received surprising production from a few young players, thrust into action due to injuries or lack of production from more established veteran players.
The Oakland Athletics, preseason favorites of many, have struggled out of the gate, currently sitting in fourth place. As far as starting pitching is concerned, they rank among the elite in baseball, however, injuries to closer Andrew Bailey and dissension amongst the relieving corps have caused mild issues within the clubhouse in Oakland. Though they have experienced bullpen issues recently, the relievers have still produced, thanks to a stable of quality arms built over the offseason. What's truly dragging the A's down is their anemic offense.
Seattle, headlined by Felix Hernandez and Ichiro, were not expected by many to do much this year, with the consensus being that they were likely a few seasons away from blossoming as a unit. The 2011 season started out keeping aligned with those expectations, as the Mariners limped out to a woeful start, hitting rock bottom on May 13, losing to Cleveland and dropping to 16-23 on the year. Perhaps mercifully, the next two games of the series were washed away due to inclement weather, and the Mariners were able to leave Cleveland and start anew. Since that messy weekend in Ohio, the Mariners have been one of the hottest teams in baseball, owning an 12-4 record since, and leaping into second in the AL West.
With roughly one-third of the season in the books, let's take a closer look at the offensive and pitching components of each team, ranking them according to performance thus far. Analysis of the bats and arms on each squad may provide us a clearer view of what to expect as the season progresses toward the "dog days of summer."
No. 4 Offense in the West: Seattle Mariners
If not for the woefully impotent Minnesota Twins, the Seattle Mariners would be the undisputed owners of the worst offense in the American League. Even with the Twins factored in, the Mariners may still take the title.
Not that they should have expected much differently after doing virtually nothing to improve the lineup after their dreadful 61-101 finish in 2010.
The offensive ineptitude has permeated the entire squad, even rendering perennial, bat-wielding wizard, Ichiro, a mere shadow of himself. Though he could easily turn things around with a hot month or two, Ichiro has appeared uninspired at times this year and is hitting only .270 with a .633 OPS. Seattle might do well to try to unload the veteran to a contender in exchange for a few prospects while he still retains trade value.
Chone Figgins has continued to make the Angels appear brilliant for letting him walk away to sign with their divisional foes in Seattle. Still hitting .191 after Memorial Day, he is doing his best to replicate his ugly first season as a Mariner from 2010. While getting on base so infrequently, he has virtually nullified his best asset, his speed. Even then, he has only stolen seven bases in 12 attempts.
Milton Bradley was already released, proving to once-again be more of a headache than his .669 OPS could justify.
Jack Cust, a true three-outcome slugger if there ever was one, has forgotten one of his three outcomes in his move to Seattle, his home run power. While leading the team in walks with 31, he has struck out an abysmal 56 times in only 195 plate appearances, while only hitting two home runs all season. That lack of production will eventually find Cust designated for assignment if he doesn't begin to add some power to that mix.
With a light-hitting trio of infielders in Figgins, Jack Wilson and Brendan Ryan, veteran Adam Kennedy has found plenty of opportunity and has performed well in a reserve role, hitting .299 with a .784 OPS .
Justin Smoak provides the only life within the Seattle lineup, posting a solid .813 OPS, with nine home runs and 32 RBI. With a .308 average and 1.081 OPS with runners in scoring position, his RBI total could be much higher, but for the fact that Ichiro and Figgins own on-base percentages of .324 and .232 respectively, hitting just ahead of him.
Seattle has missed center-fielder Franklin Gutierrez who has been sidelined by a debilitating battle with irritable bowel syndrome. Though he will add some more punch to the lineup, he is more of an asset on the defensive side, rather than a major contributor with the bat. He will however, cut into youngster Michael Saunders' playing time, something that may greatly aid the Seattle offense. Saunders, thrust into a more regular role by the release of Bradley, and the health issues of Gutierrez, has struggled mightily, hitting .168 with a .471 OPS.
Seattle Mariner Team Statistics
Runs Scored - 202 - AL West Rank Tied No. 3 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 12 of 14)
Batting Average - .231 - AL West Rank No. 4 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 14 of 14)
Home Runs - 33 - AL West Rank No. 3 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 13 of 14)
On-base Percentage - .302 - AL West Rank No. 4 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 13 of 14)
Slugging Percentage - .336 - AL West Rank No. 4 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 14 of 14)
On-base + Slugging - .638 - AL West Rank No. 4 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 14 of 14)
Avg w/RISP - .216 - AL West Rank No. 4 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 14 of 14)
All Statistical info from:
No. 3 Offense in the West: Oakland Athletics
Sitting just a notch above the offensively-challenged Mariners are the similarly punchless Oakland A's.
If not for the power-hitting capabilities of offseason import Josh Willingham, the Athletics might rank at the bottom of these rankings. His 10 home runs and 37 RBI have provided some desperately needed pop in the heart of the Oakland lineup.
Otherwise, most of Oakland's hitter have been disappointing, as beyond Willingham, only David DeJesus and Coco Crisp have an OPS over .700. But, at .723 and .700 respectively, both outfielders still have room to improve.
Hideki Matsui, signed to provide left-handed pop, has looked old in the DH role, hitting .222 with a measly .616 OPS, making him a prime candidate to be DFA'd if the A's find themselves out of contention somewhere down the road.
The infield is full of disappointment, as shortstop Cliff Pennington's .648 OPS leads all regulars. Mark Ellis is hitting .214 with a .548 OPS, and third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff is hitting .220 with a .603 OPS.
Daric Barton, though never a power hitter, is hitting only .206 with a horrid slugging percentage of .265. If not for his walk total and slick glove, nearly anyone could take his place in the lineup. With zero home runs and only 13 RBI, he could almost be replaced by several pitchers, nine of whom have at least one round-tripper.
Backups Conor Jackson and Andy LaRoche have performed decently, but with room to improve, though their OPS marks of .661 and .654 currently beat all regular Oakland infielders.
Catcher Kurt Suzuki is hitting only .242 with a .660 OPS, though he is valued mostly for his defense and handling of the stellar Oakland pitching staff.
One bright spot is fourth outfielder, Ryan Sweeney, hitting .301 with a .775 OPS in a reserve role. He'll likely find himself in the lineup more frequently if everyone else continues to underachieve massively.
Oakland Athletics' Team Statistics
Runs Scored - 202 - AL West Rank No. 3 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 12 of 14)
Batting Average - .240 - AL West Rank No. 3 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 12 of 14)
Home Runs - 32 - AL West Rank No. 3 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 13 of 14)
On-base Percentage - .306 - AL West Rank No. 3 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 12 of 14)
Slugging Percentage - .353 - AL West Rank No. 3 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 12 of 14)
On-base + Slugging - .659 - AL West Rank No. 3 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 12 of 14)
Avg w/RISP - .240 - AL West Rank No. 2 -(Overall AL Rank - No. 8 of 14)
All Statistical Info from:
No. 2 Offense in the West: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
On May 29, 2010, the Angels were dealt a blow that they never recovered from, losing their slugging first baseman, Kendrys Morales, to a freak ankle injury suffered while celebrating a walk-off grand slam. The loss of their greatest power threat and run-producing bat weakened the Angels' offensive attack and derailed their 2010 campaign.
All would be well when he returned, as they also added veteran outfielder, Vernon Wells to the mix, creating a potent middle of the order that boasted more pop than any previous Angel team during the Mike Scioscia era.
Unfortunately, the Angels' worst fears materialized, as Morales wasn't fit to start the season, and the team would later find out that he required more surgery and would miss the entirety of the 2011 schedule as well.
Adding to their offensive woes, Vernon Wells struggled mightily in his transition to Anaheim and quickly became the target of derision from frustrated fans. His .183 average and .527 OPS simply won't cut it from the highest-paid player on the team.
On the bright side, second baseman Howie Kendrick seems to be emerging as the hitter that the Angels always envisioned. Unfortunately, he has been sidetracked by a hamstring injury and has yet to be able to escape the label of injury-prone that has haunted his early career. When healthy however, he is leading the team with a .322 average and a .908 OPS, while blasting seven home runs early in the year.
The Angels have received great contributions from a trio of infielders, shortstop Erick Eybar, third baseman Alberto Callaspo and utility man Maicer Izturis. Aybar, just back from the DL himself, is off to his best start ever, hitting .315 with an .800 OPS and 14 stolen bases in 16 attempts. Callaspo has blossomed into the regular third baseman and sits 13th in the AL with a .373 OBP. Izturis has played all over the infield, and despite little power, seems to come up with big hits when the Angels need them. In an infield utility role, he has hit .285 with a .768 OPS, filling in admirably for his injured colleagues.
Youngsters Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos have made solid contributions in their first regular big league action. Trumbo, filling in for Morales at first, has provided the power that the Angels have been lacking with two of their bigger bats missing in action. He leads the team with 10 home runs and is second to only Torii Hunter with 28 RBI. Bourjos, after a scintillating start to the season, has appeared overmatched at the plate recently, as his average has dipped significantly, falling to .236. The speedy outfielder still contributes greatly with his incredible range in center, tracking down would-be, extra base hits nightly.
Veterans Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu have wavered throughout the season, and the Angels expect more out of each of them, however they have both stayed healthy and in the lineup, offering some stability to an ever-evolving Angel team. Hunter, though his average sits at only .242 and his OPS of .723 is his lowest since 1999, still leads the team with 31 RBI and leads the league with 10 game-winning RBI. Abreu, part-time outfielder and regular DH, has seemingly lost his power, but his .388 OBP is fifth in the league.
Los Angeles Angels Team Statistics
Runs Scored - 226 - AL West Rank No. 2 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 10 of 14)
Batting Average - .257 - AL West Rank No. 2 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 6 of 14)
Home Runs - 47 - AL West Rank No. 2 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 10 of 14)
On-base Percentage - .321 - AL West Rank No. 2 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 7 of 14)
Slugging Percentage - .390 - AL West Rank No. 2 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 9 of 14)
On-base + Slugging - .711 - AL West Rank No. 2 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 9 of 14)
Avg w/RISP - .233 - AL West Rank No. 3 -(Overall AL Rank - No. 13 of 14)
All Statistical Info from:
No. 1 Offense in the AL West: Texas Rangers
Always a dynamic offense, the Texas Rangers have yet again been forced to deal with an ever-present injury plague that has haunted their star players in recent seasons.
Josh Hamilton, 2010's AL MVP, suffered a fracture in his arm on a possibly ill-advised, head-first slide into home, during only the 11th game of the season. The team's best hitter, Hamilton, missed 36 games but has since returned, though he hasn't quite hit full stride yet.
Also joining Hamilton among the disabled, fellow outfielder Nelson Cruz missed a chunk of time with a quad injury that was initially expected to last only a few days. Cruz, has yet to produce like he did last season, hitting only .234 with a .776 OPS, though his 10 home runs are second on the Rangers.
Fellow outfielders, David Murphy and Julio Borbon have struggled mightily early on, hitting .224 and .270 respectively, but more importantly, have OPS' of .626 and .654, clearly not enough to merit inclusion in the lineup on a regular basis. Borbon has missed nearly three weeks with a hamstring injury and is now on a rehab assignment.
Thankfully, veteran Endy Chavez has helped fill the void created by nearly every OF on the team facing injury. He has played wonderfully, hitting .351 with a .995 OPS in his limited action. Chavez will come back to earth but is a valuable option for team depth.
Newcomer Adrian Beltre, signed to a five-year contract in the offseason, has fit in well, playing spectacular defense and providing pop in the heart of the order. Though he only has a .771 OPS, his 11 home runs and 43 RBI lead the Rangers.
Displaced by the Beltre signing, Ranger stalwart Michael Young has adapted well to his new utility infield/designated hitter role, despite early misgivings about his comfort with the transition. Young is hitting .341 with an .880 OPS, as well as second on the team with 36 RBI. His production has certainly eased the minds of Texas brass for now.
Elvis Andrus, though his OBP of .311 needs to improve, has wreaked havoc on the basepaths once on, stealing 15 bases in 15 attempts.
Mitch Moreland has continued his offensive display from 2010's postseason, hitting .300 with an .888 OPS and seven home runs. He has played first and occasionally right field as Ron Washington has tinkered with his squad in hopes of mitigating the impact of Hamilton and Cruz's absences.
Another newcomer, catcher/DH/first baseman, Mike Napoli, formerly of the divisional rival Angels, has done precisely what Texas hoped, providing excellent pop in a part-time role. His 10 home runs are second behind Beltre, and his .933 OPS leads the team.
Texas Rangers Team Statistics
Runs Scored - 259 - AL West Rank No. 1 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 5 of 14)
Batting Average - .259 - AL West Rank No. 1 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 5 of 14)
Home Runs - 64 - AL West Rank No. 1 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 2 of 14)
On-base Percentage - .327 - AL West Rank No. 1 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 5 of 14)
Slugging Percentage - .426 - AL West Rank No. 1 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 3 of 14)
On-base + Slugging - .753 - AL West Rank No. 1 - (Overall AL Rank - No. 4 of 14)
Avg w/RISP - .262 - AL West Rank No. 1 -(Overall AL Rank - No. 4 of 14)
All Statistical Info from:
No. 4 Rotation in the AL West: Texas Rangers
Following the departure of Cliff Lee, the Rangers appeared to have significant holes in their rotation after C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis.
Wilson, in his second year as a starter, after five as a reliever, has picked up where he left off last year. He is 5-3 with a 3.32 ERA and a 1.217 WHIP. He has improved his command, lowering his walks per nine inning ratio by a full walk so far this year. That's great news after leading the AL in walks last season. On the down side, he has allowed eight home runs this year, after only allowing 10 over the course of the entire 2010 campaign.
Colby Lewis, following up his breakout 2010, is 5-5 with a 3.48 ERA and a 1.147 WHIP, improving upon all three categories from his 2010 totals.
One of last year's primary contributors, right-hander Tommy Hunter, has missed the entire year so far with a groin injury sustained during spring training.
A trio of newcomers has stepped in to help ease the burden on Lewis and Wilson, most notably, converted-reliever, Alexi Ogando. He has pitched like an ace so far, going 5-0 with a 2.33 ERA and a 0.914 WHIP. With no prior starting experience, Ogando was a wild card, but the desire to leave Neftali Feliz in the bullpen opened an opportunity for the right-hander. The move has paid off, and Texas now has a formidable front of their rotation. Please check out my piece on Ogando HERE.
Harrison and Holland both started brilliantly, with Holland falling back to earth recently. Though he is 4-1, his ERA is 4.96, and he has a 1.546 WHIP. If Brandon Webb is able to complete his long-awaited comeback, or if Tommy Hunter returns from his groin injury, Holland may find himself helping in the bullpen. Harrison's record stands at only 5-4, but his 3.26 ERA and 1.25 WHIP indicate that he may very well be a useful member of the rotation throughout the year. He must improve upon his four walks per nine ratio to find continued success.
As indicated by their low batting average against and WHIP, Texas starters have been tough on opposing hitters but have battled with keeping the ball in the ballpark. They are second to Kansas City with 47 home runs allowed. Ranger starters surely rely heavily on the strong defense behind them, especially the left side of the infield of Andrus and Beltre. With three left-handed starters, those two infielders see more than their fair share of action and handle it with skill.
Texas Rangers Starting Rotation Statistics
Starters' Era - 3.45 - AL West Rank No. 4 - (Overall AL Rank No. 4 of 14)
Starters' WHIP - 1.22 - AL West Rank No. 2 - (Overall AL Rank No. 3 of 14)
Quality Starts - 35 of 56 - 62.5 percent - AL West Rank No. 2 - (Overall AL Rank No. 2 of 14)
Innings Per Start - 6.3 Per Start - AL West Rank No. 3 - (Overall AL Rank No. 3 of 14)
Batting Average Against -.238 - AL West Rank No. 1 - (Overall AL Rank No. 1 of 14)
On-base + Slugging Against - .691 - AL West Rank No. 4 - (Overall AL Rank No. 4 of 14)
Strikeouts to Walk Ratio - 2.23 - AL West Rank No. 3 - (Overall AL Rank No. 5 of 14)
Strikeouts per Nine Innings - 6.79 - AL West Rank No. 2 - (Overall AL Rank No. 3 of 14)
FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) - 4.12 AL West Rank No. 4 - (Overall AL Rank No. 9 of 14)
All Statistical Info from:
No. 3 Rotation in the AL West: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Like Seattle, the Angels have a brilliant one-two punch in Jared Weaver and Dan Haren that they feel confident matching up against anyone.
Weaver, after an unbelievable 6-0 start, has struggled to return to the win column lately but has pitched great nonetheless. Overall, he is 6-4 with a 2.10 ERA and 0.946 WHIP. With a little support, he could easily have eight or nine victories so far. He has pitched at least six innings in every start so far.
Matching Weaver's dominance, Dan Haren is proving to be a fantastic acquisition for the Angels. Haren is 5-3 with a 2.29 ERA and a 0.938 WHIP.
Ervin Santana has continued his uneven path, looking like a breakout ace one start, then getting lit up the next. A superbly talented pitched, Santana has yet to find his groove this year, going 3-4 with a 4.34 ERA, while his 10 home runs allowed are double the total of any fellow Halo starter.
Rookie Tyler Chatwood, only 21 years old, has pitched better than expected at the back end of the rotation, but he has been fortunate to keep opponents off the scoreboard considering his 1.523 WHIP. He is 3-2 with a 3.64 ERA and only a 0.85-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio, so fortune has favored the young right-hander.
Joel Piniero has suffered through injury frustrations, making only seven starts so far but performing well in the four slot. At 2-2 with a 3.52 ERA, he has been solid but allows tons of hits, so that may eventually catch up to him.
Mike Scioscia would appreciate a lefty in the rotation, but Scott Kazmir only made one start before spending two months on the DL with a back problem.
LA Angels Starting Rotation Statistics
Starters' Era - 3.31 - AL West Rank No. 3 - (Overall AL Rank No. 3 of 14)
Starters' WHIP - 1.19 AL West Rank No. 1 - (Overall AL Rank #1 of 14)
Quality Starts - 36 of 58 - 62.1 percent - AL West Rank No. 3 - (Overall AL Rank No. 3 of 14)
Innings Per Start - 6.5 Per Start - AL West Rank No. 1 - (Overall AL Rank No. 1 of 14)
Batting Average Against -.245 - AL West Rank No. 3 - (Overall AL Rank No. 5 of 14)
On-base + Slugging Against - .667 - AL West Rank No. 2 - (Overall AL Rank No. 2 of 14)
Strikeouts to Walk Ratio - 2.63 - AL West Rank No. 2 - (Overall AL Rank No. 2 of 14)
Strikeouts per Nine Innings - 6.50 - AL West Rank No. 4 - (Overall AL Rank No. 8 of 14)
FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) - 3.37 AL West Rank No. 2 - (Overall AL Rank No. 2 of 14)
All Statistical Info from:
No. 2 Rotation in the AL West: Seattle Mariners
Headlined by reigning AL Cy Young winner, Felix Hernandez, the Seattle Mariners starting rotation has performed brilliantly so far in 2011. Though King Felix has yet to pitch to his fullest potential, the rest of the staff has stepped up significantly and is the lone reason that Seattle has remained in the AL West race.
Felix Hernandez: though only 5-4, his 3.19 ERA, and 1.13 WHIP are at or better than his career marks, so he's once-again experiencing a lack of run support, something that he has grown accustomed to so far in Seattle. His ERA is nearly a run higher than last season, but nearly all of his other numbers are very similar to his Cy Young campaign of 2010.
Michael Pineda: one of the great revelations of the early portion of 2011, Pineda has given Seattle a co-ace, combining with Felix to provide an intimidating 1-2 punch capable of matching up with anyone. Pineda, currently 6-2 with a 2.42 ERA and a 0.995 WHIP, leads the rotation with 9.4 K/9.
Doug Fister and Jason Vargas have provided stability in the rotation, with Fister exceeding expectations with his 3.24 ERA and 115 ERA+. Vargas has mixed in some great starts, but with a 4.50 ERA and 1.36 WHIP, has regressed after a breakthrough 2010 season.
It's a miracle that Erik Bedard is pitching at all, even more so that he is looking like the pitcher he was a few years ago. After missing all of 2010 and much of the two years prior, Bedard is pitching extremely well after a rough start to 2011. After losing to Detroit on April 20, he has gone 3-0 in six starts, striking out 35 in 39.1 innings, while allowing a BAA of .197 and an OPS of .502, with an ERA of 1.37 in that span. The Mariners will hold their breath that Bedard can stay healthy for a decent chunk of the season.
Seattle Mariners Starting Rotation Statistics
Starters' Era - 3.30 - AL West Rank No. 2 - (Overall AL Rank No. 2 of 14)
Quality Starts - 34 of 55 - 61.8 percent - AL West Rank No. 4 - (Overall AL Rank No. 4 of 14)
Innings Per Start - 6.4 Per Start - AL West Rank No. 2 - (Overall AL Rank No. 2 of 14)
Batting Average Against -.241 - AL West Rank No. 2 - (Overall AL Rank No. 2 of 14)
On-base + Slugging Against - .669 - AL West Rank No. 3 - (Overall AL Rank No. 3 of 14)
Strikeouts to Walk Ratio - 2.88 - AL West Rank No. 1 - (Overall AL Rank No. 1 of 14)
Strikeouts per Nine Innings - 7.69 - AL West Rank No. 1 - (Overall AL Rank No. 1 of 14)
FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) - 3.30 AL West Rank No. 1 - (Overall AL Rank No. 1 of 14)
All Statistical Info from:
No. 1 Rotation in the AL West: Oakland Athletics
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Oakland rotation is that Gio Gonzalez (25) and Brandon McCarthy (27), are the only primary members of the staff older than 24. With such a promising stable of youthful arms at their disposal, the A's are primed for another stretch of pitching-based success, similar to the Hudson-Mulder-Zito era.
Gonzalez and his fellow lefty, Brett Anderson, only 23 years old, provide a dangerous southpaw duo atop the rotation with righty Trevor Cahill, also only 23. Gonzalez, currently 5-3 with a 2.49 ERA, has the most strikeout capability of the group, striking out 8.8 per nine innings, but his control needs work, as he walks over four per nine innings.
Anderson, only 3-5, but sporting a 3.68 ERA, looked a lot better before being shelled by the Yankees a few days ago. Though his numbers took a beating, he has pitched very well in his 12 starts.
Cahill, with a 6-3 record and 2.31 ERA, is once again one of the brightest young hurlers in baseball, following up his top-10 Cy Young finish of 2010.
Rounding out the rotation are McCarthy and Tyson Ross, owning ERAs of 3.39 and 2.75 respectively and have both been pleasant surprises at the back end of the staff.
Dallas Braden had pitched well in his three starts but will miss the remainder of the season following shoulder surgery.
Even fill-ins, Josh Outman and Guillermo Moscoso have kept opponents off the scoreboard, owning ERAs of 2.08 and 3.27 in two starts each.
Oakland Athletics Starting Rotation Statistics
Starters' Era - 2.91 - AL West Rank No. 1 - (Overall AL Rank No. 1 of 14)
Starters' WHIP - 1.26 AL West Rank No. 4 - (Overall AL Rank No. 5 of 14)
Quality Starts - 37 of 57 - 64.9 percent - AL West Rank No. 1 - (Overall AL Rank No. 1 of 14)
Innings Per Start - 6.3 Per Start - AL West Rank No. 3 - (Overall AL Rank No. 3 of 14)
Batting Average Against -.248 - AL West Rank No. 4 - (Overall AL Rank No. 6 of 14)
On-base + Slugging Against - .658 - AL West Rank No. 1 - (Overall AL Rank No. 1 of 14)
Strikeouts to Walk Ratio - 2.15 - AL West Rank No. 4 - (Overall AL Rank No. 7 of 14)
Strikeouts per Nine Innings - 6.52 - AL West Rank No. 3 - (Overall AL Rank No. 7 of 14)
FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) - 3.39 AL West Rank No. 3 - (Overall AL Rank No. 3 of 14)
All Statistical Info from:
No. 4 Bullpen in the AL West: Texas Rangers
Somehow, the Texas bullpen has allowed 25 home runs already, but the team still finds itself in first place.
Neftali Feliz has not been the dominant, shutdown closer he was last season, but he's still finding himself after suffering shoulder inflammation early in April. Though his ERA is a stellar 1.37, and he's only allowed 13 hits in 19.2 innings, he has also walked 14 after only walking 18 batters over the entirety of the 2010 season. The Rangers need him to regain his command to assert his dominance at the rear of their bullpen.
Right-handed sidewinder, Darren O'Day has been missed greatly, as he is currently on the 60-day DL after tearing a labrum in his hip.
The ancient left-handers, 40-year-old Darren Oliver and 41-year-old Arthur Rhodes, have experienced divergent paths in regards to their success out of the Rangers' bullpen. Oliver, long-time Ranger and apparent ageless wonder, has continued to pitch highly effectively late in games, posting a 2.45 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and striking out 18 in 22 innings.
Rhodes on the other hand, has discovered what many do, that it is far different pitching in the AL, than it is dominating the NL. After a couple dominant years in Cincinnati, Rhodes is struggling in Arlington, owning a 4.85 ERA with a 1.462 WHIP, while allowing four home runs in only 13 innings.
Mark Lowe, working his way back from back problems last season, is earning more work as he proves his health has returned. He has back of the bullpen stuff, but he has been very hittable so far, allowing 15 hits in 13 innings, while also walking seven. His progress bears watching as the season move forward.
Texas Rangers Bullpen Statistics
Bullpen ERA - 4.12 - AL West Rank No. 4 - (Overall AL Rank No. 9 of 14)
Save Percentage - 63 percent - AL West Rank No. 3 - (Overall AL Rank No. 7 of 14)
Strikeout to Walk Ratio - 1.43 - AL West Rank No. 4 - (Overall AL Rank No. 13 of 14)
Strikeouts Per 9 Innings - 6.39 - AL West Rank No. 3 - (Overall AL Rank No. 10 of 14)
WHIP (Walks + Hits/Inn) - 1.43 - AL West Rank No. 3 - (Overall AL Rank No. 8 of 14)
Batting Avg Against - .250 - AL West Rank No. 4 - (Overall AL Rank No. 8 of 14)
On-base + Slugging Against - .767 - AL West Rank No. 4 - (Overall AL Rank No. 12 of 14)
All Statistical Info from:
No. 3 Bullpen in the AL West: LA Angels
Frankly, the Angels have struggled with the closer role since letting Frankie Rodriguez walk in free-agency a couple years ago. Tight-rope walking save opportunities and obnoxious histrionics aside, K-rod was actually a highly reliable closer, even if he provided some headaches. For the few million they saved by not offering him a contract, they wound up with Brian Fuentes for a couple years until they shipped him out of town and the ever-frustrating Fernando Rodney.
Well, finally the Angels seem to have found a little stability at the back end of their bullpen. After suffering through the Fernando Rodney experiment early in 2011, the Angels called up touted flamethrower Jordan Walden and he has thrived in the closer role.
Saving 12 of his 15 opportunities so far, the 23-year-old with the tailing 100 MPH fastball, seems born to be a closer. Standing at 6'5", the young hurler hits triple digits with ease, and his fastball has the ability to overwhelm big league hitters. He still needs to improve his command, as he walks 4.6 batters per nine innings, but his 26 strikeouts in 25.1 innings are a testament to his potential dominance. His ERA is currently 3.20, but I might expect him to lower that significantly as he grows into his new role.
Fernando Rodney, expelled from the closer job after blowing three of six save opportunities, can be similarly dominant but extremely frustrating. He has a live fastball and a brilliant changeup, but his command varies wildly and he has shown a propensity for spectacular blowups. In 21 innings, he has only allowed 15 hits but also 14 walks for a 1.381 WHIP. His 3.86 ERA is a direct result of a 6.0 walks per nine innings ratio, completely unacceptable late in games.
The Angels had expected hard-throwing right-hander, Kevin Jepsen, to assume a prominent role in the late innings of games, but he struggled mightily early on, earning a trip back to the minors. His 9.00 ERA and 2.400 WHIP don't even feel right when simply typing the statistics. Jepsen is back in the bigs, working on a few things and attempting to ease back into favor with Mike Scioscia. He still has the arm and talent to make it work but must rediscover his command.
After a spring training injury robbed him of being ready for Opening Day, left-handed veteran, Scott Downs has taken on an important role with his new team. Long recognized as one of the tougher lefty relievers in baseball, the former Blue Jay has picked right up where he left off in Toronto. In 17 innings, he owns a 1.59 ERA and a WHIP of 1.059.
Fellow new recruit, as well as left-handed hurler Hisanori Takahashi, has struggled since being signed from the Mets in the offseason. The transition from the NL has been difficult for Takahashi, as his 4.84 ERA and 1.701 WHIP show. He has allowed 27 hits, four home runs and 11 walks in 22.1 innings, as he has yet to find his groove in the AL.
Rich Thompson, a 26-year-old Australian right-hander, has seen several glimpses of action over the last few years with the Angels, but for some reason, hasn't been granted the trust of Mike Scioscia to allow him to assume a more important role in the pen. If he keeps pitching like he is however, the Angels can't marginalize him any longer. With a 2.96 ERA, a 1.151 WHIP and 27 strikeouts in 24.1 innings, Thompson appears ready to leap into prominence for the Angels.
Los Angeles Angels Bullpen Statistics
Bullpen ERA - 3.67 - AL West Rank No. 3 - (Overall AL Rank No. 7 of 14)
Save Percentage - 60 percent - AL West Rank No. 4 - (Overall AL Rank No. 10 of 14)
Strikeout to Walk Ratio - 1.54 - AL West Rank No. 3 - (Overall AL Rank No. 11 of 14)
Strikeouts Per 9 Innings - 6.85 - AL West Rank No. 2 - (Overall AL Rank No. 9 of 14)
WHIP (Walks + Hits/Inn) - 1.44 - AL West Rank No. 4 - (Overall AL Rank No. 10 of 14)
Batting Avg Against - .246 - AL West Rank No. 3 - (Overall AL Rank No. 7 of 14)
On-base + Slugging Against - .716 - AL West Rank #3 - (Overall AL Rank #7 of 14)
All Statistical Info from:
No. 2 Bullpen in the AL West: Seattle Mariners
I don't know how much longer Seattle can keep doing it with a bullpen that doesn't strike anyone out, and a closer that gives up a ton of hits and has an ERA near 5.00. But for now, the Mariners bullpen keeps getting the job done.
In the absence of closer David Aardsma, the Seattle Mariners have relied on Brandon League to fill the role. He has given up 24 hits in 24 innings, has let 57 percent of inherited runners score and has a 4.88 ERA, but he has converted 15-of-18 save opportunities for the highest conversion rate in the division.
Twenty-eight-year-old, right-hander David Pauley doesn't have the most electric stuff, relying on a heavy sinker and a sweeping breaking ball, but he has been a revelation for the Mariners this season. In 33 innings, he has allowed only 18 hits and five walks, for a tremendous 0.690 WHIP and a 0.81 ERA. He has been completely dominant while not being dominant at all.
Also pitching in surprisingly well is veteran Jamey Wright, a member of eight different teams over his career. Never finding much success previously, Wright has found a home in the Seattle bullpen and is certainly making the most of the opportunity. In 25.2 innings, he has a sparkling 1.75 ERA and has only allowed 19 hits with 17 strikeouts. His walk total needs to come down, as his rate stands at 4.2 per nine innings, but he has kept stranding those runners that he has put on.
As the lone lefty in the pen, Aaron Laffey has posted a 2.05 ERA. Against lefties, he has been great, holding them to a .167 batting average, but the only two home runs he has allowed have been to left-handed hitters.
Chris Ray keeps getting into games but not very many critical situations as of late. His 6.60 ERA and 1.667 might preclude him from being involved in too many high leverage situations as the season progresses.
Seattle Mariners Bullpen Statistics
Bullpen ERA - 3.51 - AL West Rank No. 2 - (Overall AL Rank No. 6 of 14)
Save Percentage - 71 percent - AL West Rank No. 1 - (Overall AL Rank No. 4 of 14)
Strikeout to Walk Ratio - 1.85 - AL West Rank No. 2 - (Overall AL Rank No. 8 of 14)
Strikeouts Per 9 Innings - 5.92 - AL West Rank No. 4 - (Overall AL Rank No. 13 of 14)
WHIP (Walks + Hits/Inn) - 1.26 - AL West Rank No. 2 - (Overall AL Rank No. 4 of 14)
Batting Avg Against - .244 - AL West Rank No. 2 - (Overall AL Rank No. 6 of 14)
On-base + Slugging Against - .643 - AL West Rank No. 2 - (Overall AL Rank No. 4 of 14)
All Statistical Info from:
No. 1 Bullpen in the AL West: Oakland Athletics
Despite missing their All-Star closer, Andrew Bailey, until May 29, the Oakland bullpen has performed admirably over the first two months of the 2011 season. With Bailey back in the fold, the relief corps could conceivably improve upon their already dominant performances thus far.
Filling in for Bailey, veteran Brian Fuentes experienced his ups and downs and will likely move back into a setup and left-handed specialist role which should suit him better than the closer's job. Fuentes recently endured a stretch in which he lost four consecutive decisions, leading him to question the way in which manager Bob Geren utilized his pitchers and communicates with his squad in general.
Right-handed fireballer, Grant Balfour, has fit into the A's bullpen seamlessly after his move from Tampa Bay in the offseason. Balfour's 2.92 ERA and 10.2 K/9 ratio have helped him ease into the Oakland pen and assume a prominent role. With 28 strikeouts in 24.1 innings and only 6.6 hits allowed per nine innings, Balfour is proving to be a dominant force.
Two Oakland veterans, Michael Wurtz and Brad Ziegler join Balfour from the right side, shutting down opponents late in games. Wurtz has been nearly unhittable, only allowing six hits in 14.2 innings, while striking out 15. His ERA of 1.84 and WHIP of 0.886 are stellar. Ziegler too has an ERA of 1.83, but he has been doing it with more guile than outright dominance, as he has allowed 20 hits in 19.2 innings. He still has 17 strikeouts, however.
The other lefty in the group, Craig Breslow, has been solid, yet not up to his standard so far. His 3.63 ERA is decent, but his WHIP of 1.478 is high, and his 10.5 hits per nine ratio is the primary contributor.
Bailey has now been activated, so it should allow everyone to move into more comfortable roles, with Fuentes helping out in the set-up and left-handed specialist roles, making match-ups easier for Bob Geren.
Oakland Athletics' Bullpen Statistics
Bullpen ERA - 3.24 - AL West Rank No. 1 - (Overall AL Rank No. 4 of 14)
Save Percentage - 68 percent - AL West Rank No. 2 - (Overall AL Rank No. 5 of 14)
Strikeout to Walk Ratio - 1.97 - AL West Rank No. 1 - (Overall AL Rank No. 6 of 14)
Strikeouts Per 9 Innings - 7.41 - AL West Rank No. 1 - (Overall AL Rank No. 7 of 14)
WHIP (Walks + Hits/Inn) - 1.25 - AL West Rank No. 1 - (Overall AL Rank No. 2 of 14)
Batting Avg Against - .228 - AL West Rank No. 1 - (Overall AL Rank No. 3 of 14)
On-base + Slugging Against - .635 - AL West Rank No. 1 - (Overall AL Rank No. 1 of 14)
All Statistical Info from: