American League Storylines for Astro Fans

BALTIMORE - JUNE 30: Luke Scott #30 of the Baltimore Orioles hits a home run in the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics at Camden Yards on June 30

Last week there was a poll up on TCB asking how much we each pay attention to the "other" teams in Major League Baseball. It's safe to say we all follow our Astros closely, then NL Central a little less, and the rest of the bigs to an even lesser extent. That's not a bad thing necessarily, that's just the way things go sometimes with busy schedules, families, work, etc.

Even though I write here at the blog I don't always have the opportunity to write about the "other" league, the AL. The extent to which I keep up with those folks usually goes like this:

  • Fantasy Baseball purposes
  • Checking up on the Texas Rangers for general comparison purposes between Texas' major league cities
  • Making sure the Orioles, Mariners, Royals, and Indians still have worse records than the Astros
  • Marveling at how every season the AL Central comes down to a battle between the White Sox and Twins
  • Looking at the A's lineup and pondering how they manage to stay around .500 in the tougher league
  • Wondering how the Toronto Blue Jays haven't paid Bud Selig to move them to another division

That's about the extent to which I pay attention to the Junior Circuit. However, I did take note of a couple stories that were of particular interest to me. The first of which a Cy Young debate that will probably match what occurred last season in our league. Felix Hernandez has probably been the best pitcher in the AL this season, but his 11-10 record does not compare favorably with that of his chief rivals for the award, CC Sabathia (19-5), David Price (16-6), and Francisco Liriano (12-7). Cliff Lee (10-8) faces a similar "record" quandary that Hernandez does, but unless Lee can regain his health and catch fire in September, he won't be in the final Cy Young discussion. King Felix' line of 8.58 K/9, 2.46 BB/9, while allowing only 14 HR in 219.1 IP are all impressive to say the least. While Hernandez hasn't been the most valuable AL starter in terms of WAR, he's logged more innings than any other pitcher in the league and his WPA (win probability added) is far and away the best in the AL.

The fact that he plays on the West Coast and on a bad Seattle Mariner team shouldn't take away much of anything form his candidacy, but in the past this definitely would not have been the case. Last season's victories of Zack Grienke and Tim Lincecum should give hope to Felix though, in that their W-L records were not as impressive as the other starters up for the award, but their superior peripheral statistics won the day. We all remember last year's firestorm associated with Keith Law and his Cy ballot, but I just don't see Felix garnering anywhere near the support that Lincecum did last season to make this a point. Sabathia and Price play on the best teams in baseball and are damn good pitchers in their own right. It won't be a travesty for either of them to win, it's just that Felix has been better.

Last, I know he hasn't been an Astro for a few seasons, but my God, Luke Scott has been mashing this season. He's only played in 110 games, but his ISO mark of .275 is impressive to say the least as is the fact that just about 20% of his flyballs leave the park. That struck me as particularly high, and when I checked, sure enough he was fourth in the AL behind only power studs Josh Hamilton, Jose Bautista and Carlos Pena.

His season has been injury shortened (as most of his seem to be) and his overall value takes a hit because of his less than stellar defense in the outfield and his ABs as a DH in the Baltimore lineup. With the season the Orioles have had thus far, I can't believe the O's didn't trade him to a winner. He was one of the most potent outfield bats available at the deadline and at only 32, Scott still has more good years in the majors left. He's a late bloomer, but boy how he has bloomed.

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