CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Camp Battles: AL West (02/18)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Division Preview: NL W... (02/18)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Division Preview: AL C... (02/19)
Next Article >>
Fantasy Article Team Health Reports: T... (02/19)

February 18, 2010

Division Preview

AL West

by John Perrotto

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

Baseball's smallest division figures to be one of its most interesting in 2010. The Los Angeles Angels have won three straight American League West titles, and five of the past six. However, they appear vulnerable after losing ace pitcher John Lackey to the Boston Red Sox as a free agent, third baseman/leadoff hitter/defensive whiz Chone Figgins to the division rival Seattle Mariners as a free agent, and designated hitter Vladimir Guerrero to another division rival, the Texas Rangers.

Meanwhile, the Mariners and Rangers are looking for more after being surprise teams last season. The Mariners have added a second ace, Cliff Lee, to team with Felix Hernandez in the rotation-and the Rangers' financial situation should improve now that the Nolan Ryan/Chuck Greenberg group is ready to assume ownership. PECOTA expects a shakeup in the AL West this season.

Texas Rangers
Projected record: 87-75
Why They Might Win: Pitching and defense went from being a perennial weakness to a strength last season; this should also be true in 2010. They were fourth in the AL in runs allowed (an average of 4.57 a game) thanks to the fine work of new pitching coach Mike Maddux, and they ranked second in the league in defensive efficiency, a simple metric that measures the number of balls in play that are turned into outs.
Why They Might Not Win: They are pinning a lot of hope on Rich Harden staying healthy and being their top starter, even though he has topped 150 innings just once in six full major-league seasons. They are also counting on an untested Julio Borbon in center field; PECOTA projects him for just a .335 on base percentage and a .404 slugging percentage.
Player Who Could Surprise: Colby Lewis returns stateside after spending the past two seasons pitching in Japan. PECOTA believes the time abroad has helped the Rangers' first-round draft pick from 1999-it projects Lewis to post a fine 3.84 ERA in 165 innings.
Player Who Could Disappoint: Scott Feldman seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the team with 17 victories last season. PECOTA doesn't see a repeat, forecasting a 9-9 record and 4.78 ERA in 157 innings.

Seattle Mariners
Projected record: 83-79
Why They Might Win: They have two of the best starting pitchers in the game in Hernandez and Lee. The defense that will back up the duo led the AL in defensive efficiency last season. Ichiro Suzuki and Figgins should form a dynamic 1-2 punch at the top of the batting order.
Why They Might Not Win: They went 85-77 last season despite giving up more runs than they scored. Teams that do this will historically regress the next season. Milton Bradley can help the offense if he's healthy, but with his history of outbursts, he might also destroy the outstanding clubhouse chemistry.
Player Who Could Surprise: Brandon League, acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays in an off-season trade, is projected to have a 3.34 ERA in 55 innings by PECOTA. That could make the flamethrower the much-needed reliable set-up man for closer David Aardsma.
Player Who Could Disappoint: Lee is projected for a 3.67 ERA in 204 innings by PECOTA, which certainly isn't bad, yet that would be a letdown for Mariners fans, after he posted a combined 2.89 ERA mark in the past two seasons.

Oakland Athletics
Projected record: 82-80
Why They Might Win: If Ben Sheets and Justin Duchscherer are healthy and return to their old form, they would anchor a rotation that could include a number of intriguing young pitchers, including Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Dallas Braden, Gio Gonzalez, and Vin Mazzaro. Andrew Bailey is back to close after being the AL Rookie of the Year last season.
Why They Might Not Win: They were ninth in the AL in runs scored last season but traded their big bopper, Matt Holliday, to the Cardinals last July, and got more mileage than the law allows out of Adam Kennedy, who was allowed to walk as a free agent in the offseason. They were also ninth in the league in defensive efficiency.
Player Who Could Surprise: Duchscherer is projected by PECOTA to have a solid 3.97 ERA, albeit in 97 innings, after missing all of last season with elbow and hip injuries.
Player Who Could Disappoint: The Athletics spent big money (at least for them) when they gave a one-year, $10 million contract to Sheets as a free agent, even though he sat out last season while recovering from shoulder surgery. PECOTA isn't optimistic about a big return on the investment, as Sheets is tabbed for just five wins and 92 innings.

Los Angeles Angels
Projected record: 76-86
Why They Might Win: While they have lost Lackey, they still have a very formidable rotation with Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders, Ervin Santana, Scott Kazmir, and Joel Pineiro. Mike Scioscia is among the game's best managers; his teams always outperform the sum of their parts.
Why They Might Not Win: Figgins is a big loss. He was excellent both as a table-setter at the top of the batting order and with the glove at third base. Counting on Brian Fuentes and Fernando Rodney to be the primary late-inning relievers just seems to be asking for trouble.
Player Who Could Surprise: Brandon Wood, whom it seems has been a prospect since Jim Fregosi was the Angels' star, will finally get his chance at the major-league level. PECOTA projects Wood to hit 25 home runs as Figgins' replacement.
Player Who Could Disappoint: Rodney converted 37 of 38 save opportunities for Detroit last season, but PECOTA sees him with a 4.34 ERA this year, a high figure for a guy who was paid a lot of money on the free-agent market to pitch in high-leverage situations.

A version of this story originally appeared on ESPN Insider Insider.

John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see John's other articles. You can contact John by clicking here

Related Content:  The Who,  Flamethrower

36 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Ira

to summarize: Texas: great offense, great defense, good pitching. Seattle: great pitching, great defense, bad offense. Oakland: great pitching, average defense, very bad offense. LAAngels: good pitching, good hitting, bad defense.

How likely is Colby Lewis to win Comeback player of the year based on Pecota?

Feb 18, 2010 09:40 AM
rating: 0
 
pbconnection

I doubt he has a chance because the writers won't remember that he had an MLB career before this.

200ish innings scattered over 5 years didn't really establish a level to "comeback" to either...

Feb 18, 2010 10:34 AM
rating: 1
 
R.A.Wagman

So you're saying he wins ROY?

Feb 18, 2010 17:30 PM
rating: 0
 
psalveso

The Angels won 97 games last year - they are going to win 21 less by replacing Lackey, Vlad and Figgins with Pinero, Matsui, Wood and a full season of Kazmir? That seems a little harsh to me. Certainly they shouldn't win 97, but 85 seems about right to me.

Feb 18, 2010 10:33 AM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

Yeah...the might not win the division, but I doubt they bomb like PECOTA thinks.

Feb 18, 2010 10:39 AM
rating: 1
 
ahemmer

As stated in the Mariners' section, PECOTA doesn't like overachievers, and tends to have them under perform in the following year. The Angels won 97 games last year, which was about 10 games above their expected win-loss. So, they were actually a 87 win team, projected to have 76 wins. If they overachieve by ten games again, that would put them at about 86 wins.

Feb 18, 2010 10:55 AM
rating: 0
 
Nater1177

Well you also need to remember when PECOTA looks back at lasat year it doesn't see a 97 win team, it sees something closer to an 87 win team based on RS/RA. So using that as a baseline a 10 win dropoff that 'seems about right', you get the 75ish wins. I tend to think they'll overachieve as the always seem to do and get to the mid 80's as well however. How Oakland could expect to get to .500 without getting 200 IP total from Sheets and Duch as PECOTA projects is beyond me, unless it sees a lot of promise in several of the young staff.

Feb 18, 2010 11:19 AM
rating: 0
 
smdavis

But haven't the Angels historically overachieved their 3rd order wins. I think this was the subject of an article last year. *Something* is going on in Anaheim that PECOTA isn't dealing well with.

Feb 19, 2010 08:10 AM
rating: 2
 
Andrew Kneeland

Past results are not necessarily indicative of future success. Last year's W/L record can't be looked upon as a base-line. Players regress and progress, and there were plenty of fluke seasons and events during the Angel's 2009 campaign.

Feb 20, 2010 09:04 AM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

And Oakland - PECOTA just cannot project them under .500

There's no way that team wins 82 games. No. Way.

Feb 18, 2010 10:42 AM
rating: 5
 
arcee555
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

The Angels will win with about 89-91 wins, Seattle & Tex will be close at with 83-85 wins, and Oak will win 73. NO pecota, no #'s, just common sense.

Feb 18, 2010 11:18 AM
rating: -6
 
JasonC23
(97)

I am intrigued by your ideas and look forward to purchasing Arcee555 Prospectus 2011, touting "arcee555's deadly accurate Common Sense Forecasting."

Feb 18, 2010 11:31 AM
rating: 26
 
ObviouslyRob

By the looks of how adversely Bradley's chemistry will affect the Mariners, arcee here may actually be making his/her debut as the next BP writer.

Feb 18, 2010 16:16 PM
rating: 0
 
Vinegar Bend
(477)

You are blowing me away with your "just common sense" analysis.

Feb 18, 2010 13:11 PM
rating: 1
 
Vinegar Bend
(477)

"Milton Bradley can help the offense if he's healthy, but with his history of outbursts, he might also destroy the outstanding clubhouse chemistry."

This is not the Baseball Prospectus I once knew and loved.

Feb 18, 2010 12:43 PM
rating: 3
 
ObviouslyRob

In fact, I was a little stunned to see that as a reason. I wonder what PECOTA projects for Bradley's CHEM score? Does that figure into his EQA or just the team's?

Feb 18, 2010 16:13 PM
rating: 5
 
Ogremace

Bradley's a total douchebag and one of the few players in baseball for whom chemistry might be a concern. You can say all you want, which is probably right, about how this is not something that should be privileged over talent/production, but Bradley has worn out his welcome in every city he's played in, and being an asshole constantly has an effect.

What's important really is if he produces: when he does, he doesn't bitch and he isn't an issue. If he's hurt and not doing well, he'll both be creating outs and creating controversy and won't last long.

Feb 18, 2010 22:03 PM
rating: 1
 
JoeSky60

I don't disagree with your first paragraph, except for the "total douchebag" part. I think he's just so intense, and expects the same from his teammates, as he does from himself. Which, of course, means that your 2nd paragraph is 110% accurate. When he was here in Dallas, he was a great teammate, until the end of the year, when he was dinged up. His production fell off, which coincided with the rest of the team starting to fade, and the last few weeks, apparently were contentious, at best. Fortunately, Daniels had the foresight to give him a 1 year deal, allowing him to walk, and get the Type A supplemental pick.

Feb 20, 2010 10:00 AM
rating: 1
 
Fresh Hops

"[Seattle] went 85-77 last season despite giving up more runs than they scored. Teams that do this will historically regress the next season."

This is correct, however, Seattle does not look like a candidate to do so. Here's why:
2009 Mariners hitters: .258/.314/.402
Hitters against Mariners, 2009: .247/.316/.394

The Mariners offense was ever so slightly better than their opponents. The pythagorean observation is correct, but when you look a little deeper, what you see is that the M's offense scored fewer runs than you would expect given its overall performance. Which is to say that their actual runs scored are a bad predictor of future runs scored, so they usual pythagorean regression isn't as likely as usual.

The Mariners were outscored by their opponents last season but still managed a winning record. This is unusual, and a nice bit of luck. But there was also some bad luck for the M's, mostly in the form not hitting well in leverage situations. When you look at what they did last season and figure out how much they should have scored, they looked like about a .500 team, despite what runs scored and runs allowed suggest. In an ironic way, the two forms of luck cancelled each other out to yeild a nearly .500 team.

Feb 18, 2010 13:03 PM
rating: 5
 
Vinegar Bend
(477)

Also: "Teams that do this will historically regress the next season."

How does a team "historically regress"? [Will Alvin Davis be back at 1B this year?]

I think he means "Historically, teams that have done this regress the next season."

Feb 18, 2010 13:17 PM
rating: -3
 
brucegilsen
(999)

It sure looks like GM Jack realized that they weren't as good as their record and went about trying to improve them a lot.

It reminds me of the 1984 Mets, another Pythagorean over-achiever that did not pat itself on its back and sit tight.

Feb 27, 2010 13:18 PM
rating: 0
 
Evan
(47)

PECOTA is obviously broken. You really shouldn't be writing these articles util your prejections are fixed.

This is also terribly misguided analysis. Don't compare to last year's performance, because last year's performance has statistical noise in it.

Feb 18, 2010 15:11 PM
rating: 2
 
BrewersTT

cwc has gone beyond looking at batter and pitcher splits to looking at infinitives split.

Feb 18, 2010 17:59 PM
rating: 4
 
hyprvypr

I was surprised the Angels fell as far as they did but they did lose really two major parts and some smaller pieces. The biggest drop to me is Figgins to Wood. Wood has to slug .500 to have any kind of value because he just won't reach base or make productive outs very often. Just as important, his defense probably won't be in the same catagory as Figgins.

I'd say 82-80 is more realistic for the Angels.

Also, unless Oaklands young pitching continues to improve, I can't see them as a .500 team. Their offense is really pretty ugly.

Feb 18, 2010 19:38 PM
rating: 1
 
montanabowers

The Angels and PECOTA go together like Courtney Love and sobriety! I've been a subscriber for about four years and every year the Angels beat PECOTA's forecast. Seems to me that PECOTA can't see the forest for the trees. Why? Because there is such a thing as intangibles that create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. The big intangible here is Scioscia. Also to consider: Matsui was BETTER than Vlady last year - period. Lackey missed at least one month at the start of the last two seasons and his K/9 is on the decline, while the rotation he leaves will do just fine without him. Figgins ground ball rate is increasing and his speed is in gradual decline . . . a bad time to get rid of him to allow a potential franchise player to prove himself. Really? Focus on Rodney, while ignoring the return of a healthy Shields, a rising Jepson, and capable Bulger. Really? Sorry folks, but the Angels will be looking down from the top once again because they will be the most balanced. Seattle has no offense and Texas, well they have to play in Arlington in July and August - the heat takes its toll. Once again guys, how about a BP West location. Your writing on the west coast teams is ill-informed. We need a "left coast" sports perspective.

Feb 18, 2010 20:23 PM
rating: -1
 
Ogremace

And what if Matsui's knees give out and he plays 45 games? No matter what you say, lackey was the best pitcher in the rotation and would be again in 2010. As far as relying on bullpen pitchers... well that just never works out well.

And finally, can we stop the Scoscia fellation? The man is no god, and that he's had teams that outperform run differential calculations should not be immediately attributed to him. The worst part about it is that if the Angels underperform and simply don't overperform their pythag all we'll hear about is how Scoscia couldn't have done anything about it, since, clearly, he's so good it couldn't be possible that he doesn't improve the team. The man has somehow created a cult in his name, I can't wait for the Angels to miss the palyoffs so we can start dispelling this notion.

Feb 18, 2010 22:09 PM
rating: 0
 
ScottyB

Intangibles exist. They just can't yet be reliably measured and entered into formulas. What is "left over" after running a statistical analysis is called ERROR VARIANCE and is NOT LUCK. Too many BPers chalk up anything they can't measure to luck or chance. They should instead chalk it up to "things I can't yet reliably measure (like defense 8 years ago)"

Feb 19, 2010 16:45 PM
rating: 4
 
montanabowers

You nailed it ScottyB, thank you! I'm not a stat head but enjoy BP immensely. I was just trying to point out that I think PECOTA has room for improvement, as with any model - it is only as good as its inputs.

Feb 21, 2010 08:24 AM
rating: 0
 
montanabowers

If Matsui's knees go, then he would be on par with Vlady and his decline over the past two years. My money is on Matsui and his better plate discipline. You're right, Lackey is very good, and now will be much better just because he's pitching in the East coast media lime light. Heck, I'm preparing for the second coming now that he's pitching for the Red Sox. All of sudden he's lost all his warts. That's my point about this article - it's not objective in what the Angels truly lost and what they gained. As for Scioscia, like it or not, he is now in a class with LaRussa, Torre, and Cox - longevity and success. Not a lot of those kinds of managers around. btw - the Angels have missed the playoffs before under Scioscia, so it would take more than one year to remove him from the top tier of coaches.

Feb 19, 2010 05:55 AM
rating: 1
 
Ira

The issue with the Angels is that most of the reason that they've been out-performing their runs scored and runs allowed projection was their bullpen. Last years pen, however, was no prize, and the best pitcher in it, Darrin Oliver, left to the Rangers. He and Kazmir were the only pitchers on the team with an ERA below 3.00

The team is also getting older, particularly the outfield, and they have defensive sink holes all over the place. That, more than the loss of Lackey, more than the loss of Oliver, might sink them.

However, this is just projection. not prediction. You want to say that the Angels will win the AL West, that's fine. Because that's a prediction. Me, I'll stick with the projection and say that the Rangers 87 win total listed here is conservative, and see them winning many more. Holland's 4.12 SIERA confirms what I saw last year, that his stuff was much much better than the results that he produced, and he's poised to really break out in 2010.

Feb 19, 2010 10:55 AM
rating: 2
 
montanabowers

The issue is that PECOTA, when it comes to the Angels, isn't PROJECTING well - not for the last 3 or so years. That is my point - formula/model doesn't seem to function as accurately as one would like.

Feb 19, 2010 12:30 PM
rating: 1
 
montanabowers

And, Shields is returning with Jepson and Bulger on the rise. Oliver left because the Angels have replacements they feel are ready at a lower price point. This is where this organization excels and no one gives them credit. Look at how many players remain from 2002 World Series. I think they're now down to Shields and that is it. Yet they have won consistently since then. HMMM. Plus, a stats guy hanging his hat on ERA for Oliver and Kazmir, while going to SIERA for Holland. Apples to apples?

Feb 19, 2010 12:35 PM
rating: 0
 
amazin_mess

Why does PECOTA project about 90% of pitchers to have an ERA over 4? That baffles me. It's not reality.

Feb 19, 2010 20:04 PM
rating: 0
 
greensox
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

How can you say Texas has a "great" offense? They also lost their statistically best starting pitcher. 87 wins isn't that many and sounds reasonable, but they aren't that great.
I think PECOTA reflects the biases of this site. Teams that have GMS that abide by the sabremetric theories are always ranked higher...good gracious the awful Indians are considered contenders (fringe, but still contenders) in the Central again....Riccardi leaves and the always overhyped jays suddenly fall of the map to 60 something wins.
It's not coincidence.

Feb 19, 2010 23:09 PM
rating: -4
 
JoeSky60

OMG! It's the dreaded BP/Sabermetric Conspiracy!!! Where's my aluminum foil hat?!

Feb 20, 2010 10:09 AM
rating: 3
 
montanabowers

You nailed it ScottyB, thank you! I'm not a stat head but enjoy BP immensely. I was just trying to point out that I think PECOTA has room for improvement, as with any model - it is only as good as its inputs.

Feb 21, 2010 08:24 AM
rating: -1
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Premium Article Camp Battles: AL West (02/18)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Division Preview: NL W... (02/18)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Division Preview: AL C... (02/19)
Next Article >>
Fantasy Article Team Health Reports: T... (02/19)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Friday, May 22
West Coast By Us: Day 1: In The Land Where E...
Premium Article Rubbing Mud: The Quarter-Season Odds Report
West Coast By Us: Day 2: Taco the Town
Going Yard: The Near Perfection of Pederson
West Coast By Us: Day 3: Nice
BP Boston

MORE FROM FEBRUARY 18, 2010
Premium Article Camp Battles: AL West
Premium Article Division Preview: NL West
Premium Article Squawking Baseball: Non-traditional viewing
Premium Article Under The Knife: Hitting the Floor
Premium Article You Could Look It Up: Get Back in Line, Part...
Premium Article Player Profile: Frank Thomas

MORE BY JOHN PERROTTO
2010-02-24 - Premium Article On the Beat: Mid-Week Update
2010-02-21 - Premium Article On the Beat: Weekend Update
2010-02-19 - Premium Article Division Preview: NL Central
2010-02-18 - Premium Article Division Preview: AL West
2010-02-17 - Premium Article On the Beat: Mid-Week Update
2010-02-14 - Premium Article On the Beat: Weekend Update
2010-02-10 - Premium Article On the Beat: Mid-Week Update
More...

MORE DIVISION PREVIEW
2010-02-19 - Premium Article Division Preview: NL Central
2010-02-19 - Premium Article Division Preview: AL Central
2010-02-18 - Premium Article Division Preview: AL West
2010-02-18 - Premium Article Division Preview: NL West
2010-02-17 - Premium Article Division Preview: AL East
2010-02-17 - Premium Article Division Preview: NL East
More...