Tuesday, May 30, 2006

AL Pythagorean Standings - Week 9
By Zach

Your local paper might list the MLB standings each morning, and a variety of sports websites update them daily. But usually, the won-loss record doesn't exactly tell the whole story. That's why we have Pythagorean wins. Tuesdays, I'll take a look at the AL Standings, while Wednesdays I'll examine the NL. Thanks to Hardball Times for the data.

AL East
New York29-2030-19
Tampa Bay21-3019-32

One prevelant meme heading into the baseball season was that by hiring longtime Atlanta pitching coach Leo Mazzone, the Orioles had assured themselves of an improved pitching staff. Mazzone would help Daniel Cabrera and Erik Bedard realize their vast potential, would turn guys like Bruce Chen and Kris Benson into viable starters, and would euthanize Rodrigo Lopez if necessary. Well, so far this season, none of that has happened.


While the usual small sample size caveats apply, and while it's possible that Mazzone hasn't yet been able to get through to his young hurlers, the truth is that the Orioles pitching staff sucks. They walk way too many batters, and outside of the injured Cabrera and possibly Bedard, don't have the stuff to make up for it.

AL Central

Kansas City12-3713-36

Most of the talk about the AL Central (including from me) has been about whether the Tigers are for real. Of course, it makes sense to ask this, considering they won 71 games last year. Still, I think the question can just as legitimately be asked about the White Sox, World Championships be damned. Chicago has built its record on very good pitching and the stunning return of Jim Thome. Can either last? Well, maybe so. White Sox pitchers are allowing just 17% of hits to be line drives, which is both best in the league and an excellent harbinger of success. They're also stranding a league-high 73% of baserunners, walking a league-low 2.6 batters per game, and allowing opponent hitters to slug just .409. These stats have allowed them to survive striking out just 5.6 batters per game (only the Devil Rays are worse). Can this performance last? Well, the low line drive percentage and the low walks tend to make me think that yes, they can. As for Thome, the outlook is a bit murkier. He's always been viewed as a great power hitter, but he hasn't hit like this in four years. In fact, the only season he posted a higher OPS than his current 1.104 mark was 2002, in 147 games. He's 35, has a history of back injuries, and is currently hitting nearly 1/3 of his fly balls for home runs. His fantastic start has been obscured a bit by Albert Pujols, but unlike the Cardinal, Thome seems much more likely to regress.

AL West

Los Angeles22-2922-29

Heading into the season, the Athletics were one of the teams most frequently picked to win the World Series. People looked at their starting pitching, figured it would dominate, and then expected the offense to provide just enough run support to win 95-100 games. Well, here we are almost a third of the way through the season, and the A's are five games below .500. While it's easy to point to the hitting as the cause, doing so doesn't tell the whole story: the A's rotation has been far more mediocre than expected. First, purported ace Rich Harden has missed a good deal of time with yet another injury, forcing Kirk Saarloos (winner of the most misleading 2005 ERA award) back into the rotation. He's responded by walking more batters than he's struck out, just like last year, only this year he sports an ERA nearly 1.5 runs higher (and one much more in line with his horrific periferrals). Joe Blanton has also been terrible against everyone but the Mariners, while Zito and Halsey sport deceptive ERAs. Dan Haren has been quite good, but there's no way one guy can carry a team, especially when that team's offense has been as middling as Oakland's has. The one good spot for the A's is that their team BABIP is a league-low .266, a number that should improve. Still, it would take a mighty impressive hot streak for this team to even approach 95 wins (though they've done it before, and might not have to in this year's AL West).

Check back tomorrow for the NL Standings.


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