The playoffs in Major League Baseball have a tendency to be a cruel and fickle beast. You can blast through the regular season, crushing all opponents in your path and come October, all it takes is facing one team at the wrong time and it’s all over in a mere handful of games. The 2014 postseason has been no exception, with many of the projected favorites and higher seeds headed home and back to the drawing board earlier than expected.
This year’s Angels team is the best representative of that cruelty. They not only won more games than any other team in baseball, but they did so with a run differential that surpassed every team in the league outside of Oakland. And after 3 games against a feisty Kansas City squad it was all over, sending the Angles and their management back to square one. So, what does Los Angeles need to do rebound in 2015 to make a deep playoff run? Continue reading
For the better part of the past 6 years, Josh Hamilton has been an absolute force for pitchers to deal with. Just look at his list of accomplishments: one MVP award, 5 All-Star appearances, a majestic power display in the ’08 Home Run Derby, 2 AL pennants, and a .304/.363/.549 slash line with 161 homers to boot. Pitchers just couldn’t figure this guy out and thanks in part to Hamilton, the Rangers were able to have more success over the past 5 years than at any other point in the franchise’s history.
But the shine started to fade on Hamilton sometime around midseason last year. The then-Ranger struggled mightily during the 2nd half of 2012, hitting .259 (compared to .308 before the break), while dealing with a myriad of personal and health issues. As the offseason rolled around the Rangers decided that Hamilton’s baggage outweighed his production. Instead, the division rival Los Angeles Angels swooped in to nab Hamilton in the hopes that they could form a modern day Murderer’s Row.
Author’s note: This article was originally posted on High Heat Stats (link).
When the Los Angeles Angels announce over the winter that they had agreed to a deal with former Rangers’ slugger Josh Hamilton, the first thought that ran through my head was “Good God, pitchers aren’t going to stand a chance against this modern day murderer’s row.” Those thoughts didn’t change much throughout the spring and by the time April rolled around I, like so many others, felt that a lineup including the legendary Albert Pujols, the powerful Josh Hamilton, and the electric Mike Trout would be piling up runs like they were going out of style. After all, if they could rank among the 3 or 4 best scoring lineups in 2012 without Hamilton, just imagine how scary they would be with him plopped in the #4 hole.
But as we sit here on May 16th, nearly 40 games deep into the regular season, the Angels enter play with the 11th ranked scoring attack in the American League and one of the worst records in baseball. So what’s been the deal in L.A.? The Angels have done a solid job making contact at the plate (their 103 OPS+ is 6th best in baseball) and they’re starting to work the long ball, averaging just over 1 home run a game, so why are they stuck with one of the most mediocre looking attacks in the league? The answer, I believe, lies somewhere as simple as the base paths.
Every single Major League team now has 30 games under their belts, which gives us enough data to start surveying the MLB landscape looking for surprises and disappointments. Fans in Boston, Kansas City, and Denver have to be thrilled with their respective teams hot starts.
However, for fans in other cities things haven’t been as bright. The Toronto Blue Jays were handed the AL East by most pundits before the season even began and they’ve fallen flat on their face out of the gate, carrying a 10-21 record that only the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins are envious of. Things are also starting to get dicey in Anaheim, where the Angels have once again stumbled in the early weeks of the season. Their supposedly vaunted offense has yet to earn its pay, thanks to its middle of the pack ranking in the AL in runs scored, and L.A.’s pitching staff minus Jered Weaver has been a disaster.
They’re not the only cities that are getting anxious about their ball club’s slow start either. Fans in Philadelphia were hoping that a once-great pitching staff led by Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, and Cliff Lee could rebound to carry the Phillies to the playoffs, but that hasn’t materialized thus far. The Dodgers were imagining themselves as the west coast Yankees with a budget to match. So far all that lavish spending has gotten them is 4th place and a struggling Matt Kemp.Even the handful of fans that attend Rays games have to feel a little nervous in the AL East watching their starting nine drop to 1-6 in games started by Cy Young winner David Price.
How much does momentum matter on a baseball field? Can a team that enters the playoffs at its lowest point top one that’s been riding a hot streak for more than a month now? How much stock do you put into the notion that the team with the most talent eventually wins out? Does being a two-time defending champion with all the benefits of big game experience matter? Or can a team that’s seemingly been playing above its head continue to their magical ways? These are just a sampling of some of the storylines floating around a compelling winner-take-all contest between Texas and Baltimore to kick of the American League playoffs.
Even though all 10 playoff spots have already been claimed this year, the last day of the season still has the potential for fireworks, particularly in the American League. There are plenty of important story lines floating around out there including: the American League West having a winner-take-all game out in Oakland, the AL East dogfight finally reaching a conclusion , and a Triple Crown coming into fruition, among other things. Let’s take a sneak peek at some of the more intriguing bits of news still left in the regular season.
Earlier this week I took a look at the best pitching staff in baseball this season, the Tampa Bay Rays, and today I want to take a look at the team with the best, highest-scoring lineup in baseball, the Texas Rangers. Texas has outscored every team in baseball this season and the margin, quite frankly, isn’t even close. The New York Yankees homer-ific attack is 38 runs behind in 2nd place, and the National League’s best outfit, the Milwaukee Brewers, have scored 42 fewer runs.
Sit down and watch a couple Rangers games sometime over the next couple of weeks, and you can immediately note the biggest reason why: no team in baseball possesses more depth, one through nine, than Texas. Leading off with Ian Kinsler, on down through the destructive middle of the order featuring Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre among others, this team is stacked. Hell, they just called up top prospect Jurickson Profar, and all he’s done so far is hit .333 with a homer and a game-winning RBI in 3 games. Texas has an excellent mix of speed, power, on-base ability, and clutch hitting to outscore any club in baseball, so let’s run through it, 1 through 9.