The Oakland A's have shown a knack for winning in style in 2012.
Before the season, a popular narrative in some circles held that Billy Beane had lost his touch. His A's hadn't finished with a winning record since 2006, and Moneyball had run its course. Once Brad Pitt plays you in a movie, there's nowhere to go but down.
The Dodgers have spiraled out of control since late May, and with seemingly no plan for offense, it's a three-team race in the wild West.
Do you realize how bad the National League West has been since May 27? This is an arbitrary date reflecting my desire to cast the division in its worst possible light, so probably not. But consider what the standings looked like at the start of that day:
Geoff discovers the wonders of Seattle baseball, Aaron Cook, tubas, Jeremy Guthrie, and Family Circus.
After our failed attempt at watching Danny Hultzen and Jamie Moyer do battle in Tacoma, my wife and I drove north to Seattle via Federal Way (where we enjoyed Hawaiian barbecue with Baseball Prospectus alum Brandon Isleib. Our lunch stop isn't central to the plot, but Brandon is a good guy whose wife helped me remember the name of a “Burn Notice” villain that I'd forgotten—Simon Escher, played by the excellent Garret Dillahunt, if you must know). We stayed on Lake Union, near a local seafood chain that served delicious chowder. The Wooden Boat Festival took place across the street from us. As was the case for most of our journey throughout the typically rainy Pacific Northwest, we encountered almost no precipitation; temperatures sat in the range of a Livan Hernandez curveball, occasionally dipping into slightly less comfortable Vicente Padilla eephus territory.
We caught two Mariners games, both against the Boston Red Sox. Seattle won on Saturday night thanks to a Chone Figgins sacrifice fly, which was as unexpected as (check all that apply):
What is Dexter Fowler doing this season to achieve sustained big-league success?
I stare at Dexter Fowler in search of inspiration. Not at the actual man, of course—that would be awkward and inappropriate—but at his statistical record. What do the numbers say about him? Again, not the actual man, but the player. More specifically, the hitter.
The lanky 26-year-old center fielder is playing his fourth more-or-less full big-league season and, despite a recent slump, enjoying unprecedented success at the plate. After being sent down to Triple-A Colorado Springs for brief “refresher courses” in each of the previous two seasons, Fowler seems to have figured out how to avoid repeat visits.
The keys to the Angels' recent success and the Rangers' downturn could be the fortunes of two superstars and two ex-Padres.
The Rangers started 2012 strong. The Angels did the opposite. Premature conclusions were drawn. Then the two teams' fortunes reversed. There are many reasons for this shift. One is the play of the teams' superstars. Another is the acquisition and emergence of a key arm in Anaheim. These aren't the only factors, but they are among the most intriguing and are the ones we'll focus on today.
Remember the “Rangers are running away with the American League West” narrative from April, when it appeared that they were, in fact, running away with the division? Well, that narrative broke and has been replaced by the ever-popular “it's a long season” and “that's why they play the games.”
Of all the natural interleague rivalries, none are more viciously fought than the Vedder Cup series. Wait, you've never heard of it? Then read on!
When Major League Baseball introduced interleague play in 1997, Bud Selig decreed that certain teams would be “natural rivals.” One such “rivalry” pits the San Diego Padres against the Seattle Mariners, presumably because they share a spring training facility in Peoria, Ariz.
Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder has called San Diego and Seattle home at various points in his life, ergo the series is played for a “Vedder Cup” that doesn't actually exist, which is fine because Vedder is a Cubs fan. Much like the “rivalry” itself, none of this makes any sense.
How much does the success of a team dictate attendance? The Dodgers and Diamondbacks' narratives are still being written.
Whether an injury to a key player is considered devastating or galvanizing depends on what happens to the team next. Results dictate narrative.
The Diamondbacks and Dodgers both started strong, at least in part due to the play of their respective center fielders. Chris Young was hitting .410/.500/.897 with five home runs when he separated his right shoulder while crashing into a padded wall while making a catch in the fourth inning of an April 17 game against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Arizona lost that contest, 5-4, bringing their record on the young season to 7-4.
Justin Smoak isn't producing for the Mariners, and he isn't a particularly interesting character, either, so when you research his woes, you end up in a time warp.
You look for things to write about the Mariners. You watch some games, flip through stats pages, maybe think about clever puns for Justin Smoak. Because probably that hasn't been done to death.
You ponder how Smoak has done since coming over from Texas for Cliff Lee in July 2010. Smoak was supposed to provide power, but he has five homers and isn't hitting or getting on base. Still, that is more homers than Albert Pujols, and he is hitting more and getting on base more often. Also, Smoak is seven years younger and a tad less expensive.
The Padres are off to a horrible start, so a housecleaning might be forthcoming. Who stays and who goes?
The San Diego Padres, perhaps predictably, have gotten off to a miserable start in 2012. Although expectations were not high coming into the season, almost nothing has gone right for the club. Between injuries and ineffectiveness, not to mention ongoing ownership/television deal issues (I live 15 minutes from Petco Park and cannot watch the team on TV in my home, which might qualify as “charmingly retro” if it weren't so annoying), the Padres are staring at their worst-case scenario only a month into the campaign.
Last week, Kevin Goldsteinsuggested that a “housecleaning in San Diego could be coming.” Reader pobothecat wondered what such a housecleaning might look like, and so did I.