One month in and the standings are still working to stabilize. In week four we saw the Angels fight their way back to the positive side of .500 and claim the second spot, while Oakland dropped back and now finds themselves in a tight race with the Rangers and Mariners for the bottom of the league. The Angels surge comes as a bit of a surprise with all the pitching issues they have had to this point. With their bullpen using a Groupon for a trip to the disabled list where they joined staff ace Garrett Richards.
With a month in the books I want to highlight some of the more extreme stats in the early going for each team whether good or bad, so we will just do a quick run through of the past week before jumping into the stats.
Next week will bring the return of the trend chart, but for the time being it is time for our weekly trip around the division to catch up on the happenings for each team in the AL West:
1. Houston Astros (16-9)
Last week saw the Astros post a 3-3 record, as they dropped their second series of the year in Cleveland before bouncing back to take two of three at home against Oakland. Next week the Astros will welcome the Rangers to town for a four game set before heading out to Los Angeles for the weekend.
Now on to the fun part. Lets take a look at some of the crazier stat lines from the opening month of the season:
10.8 – This is the number of at bats per home runs that Houston power threat Marwin Gonzalez is posting through the early going. On a similar note, but even smaller sample it is only taking Jake Marisnick 10.5 at bats per home run. For reference Eric Thames is currently hitting a home run for every 9.4 at bats.
100% - That is the left on base percentage for Chris Devenski. Some other fun numbers to highlight his dominant run to start the season include a 17.28 K/9 rate and 52.5 K%. Devenski will inevitably run into a rough game or two, but if his strikeout rate stays anywhere in the ballpark of those numbers he will finish the season in the elite of all relievers pretty easily.
The crazy thing when looking at the rest of the numbers is that nothing looks too outlandish for the majority of the regulars. Dallas Keuchel will most likely come back to earth, as he did in 2015 after a screaming start, but Lance McCullers and Charlie Morton are both due some positive regression. On the offensive side, Yulieski Gurriel and Evan Gattis most likely will fall back to the pack and fail to hit around .350 for the season, but George Springer and Carlos Correa should climb up to at least .250 in the coming months as well.
2. Los Angeles Angels (14-13)
The Angels posted a strong week, winning five of six behind a sweep of the Athletics and a series win in Arlington. The Angels will keep things in the division as they look to keep the good times rolling in week five, heading to Seattle to face the Mariners before welcoming the Astros to town for a three game weekend set.
5 – That is the number of saves for Bud Norris in April, two more than anyone else on the Angels team. Bud Norris, Blake Parker and Jose Alvarez have been carrying a depleted Angels bullpen and to good results in the early going. Norris in particular has a 2.57 ERA on the season and an impressive 12.2 K/9 rate. Parker is actual doing one better in both categories with a 15.4 K/9 and 2.31 ERA.
2 – That is the WAR accounted for by none other than Mike Trout. That in and of itself isn’t crazy, as Trout is considered the best baseball player on the planet. The crazy part is that the entire Angels offensive production is 2.1 WAR, so the rest of the order has produced 0.1 cumulative WAR through the end of April.
3. Oakland Athletics (11-14)
It was not a pretty week for Oakland as they dropped both series behind a one win week. After running off a five game winning streak in week three, the Athletics responded with a matching five game losing streak in week four. Oakland was able to salvage one game in Houston, but fell in Sunday’s rubber match. Looking ahead Oakland will face the AL Central in week five with a three game set in Minnesota and a three game home series against Detroit on tap.
.390 – Khris Davis’s ISO…The man has just been straight killing baseballs in the early going collecting 10 home runs. The only names ahead of him in the early going for ISO are the red hot Ryan Zimmerman, Eric Thames, Aaron Judge and Freddie Freeman. All five guys should cool off as the year progresses, but out of the group Davis has the most realistic underlying numbers for BABIP and average at .267 and .268 respectively.
5.00/5.18 – Those are the ERAs for hyped young starters Jharel Cotton and Sean Manaea respectively. Both young hurlers are due for some better luck as the calendar turns to May with 3.54 and 3.31 FIPs respectively. xFIP is not nearly as kind to Cotton saying his ERA is actually lower than it should be projecting at 5.21. On the other hand xFIP reaffirms the bad luck for Manaea saying he has pitched more like a 3.84 ERA starter. Manaea may be getting the raw end of some poor defense, as he has induced 63.9% ground balls.
3. Texas Rangers (11-14)
It wasn’t a great week for the Rangers as they dropped both series at home. Coming off of a four game sweep of the Royals things were looking up, but now it looks more like the Royals are just not very good, as they are on a nine game losing streak. The Rangers dropped winnable series to the Minnesota Twins and Angels in week four. Week five has Texas hitting the road to face off against Houston for four and Seattle for three.
17.18 – Sam Dyson has so many numbers to look at, as he had been one of the worst relievers in baseball before hitting the disabled list. We will stick with ERA here, as a 17+ ERA out of your presumed closer just cannot continue. I mean an 11.25 ERA got Mike Hauschild returned to the Astros. Dyson’s numbers aren’t pretty, but the underlying at least point toward some level of regression with a 10.25 FIP and 6.97 xFIP. Looking further, he has given up a .419 BABIP and 33.3% HR/FB rate. Expect some regression back to usable, but something mechanically or injury related has to be adjusted here to get back to the closer level stuff Dyson displayed over the last couple of years.
4.13 – This is Cole Hamels K/9 rate through five starts. Hamel’s has pitched to a 3.03 ERA, but if he can’t find a way to rack up some more strikeouts expect that to change. A .219 BABIP has driven his early results, illustrated by the elevated 5.16 FIP and 5.20 xFIP he is tagged with so far.
5. Seattle Mariners (11-15)
After a rough opening week, the Mariners have now had three straight mediocre showings after going 3-3 in week four. Things started off pretty rough as Detroit plated 19 runs Tuesday, but the Mariners rebounded to take the series. Over the weekend the Mariners took one of three in Cleveland. Looking ahead the Mariners return home to Safeco for week five where they will face off against Los Angeles and Texas for three apiece.
199 – When the Mariners acquired Mitch Haniger they probably would have been thrilled with a 110 wRC+, so the 199 number has to have them ecstatic. However, Haniger’s early season success has been buoyed by an unsustainable .411 BABIP. On the positive side, though, Haniger does have a respectable 13.7 BB% and 21.2 K%. Look for Haniger to come back to earth and probably not hit .300+ the rest of the way, but there is a productive hitter here that gives the Mariners offense a little more depth after the big three.
-0.1 – Sadly this is the WAR for the entire pitching staff if you remove James Paxton… Paxton has put up 1.7 WAR through the opening month and has been dominant across the board, but the rest of the staff has looked anemic. Gallardo is the only other starter with a positive WAR. If the Mariners plan on making a push into contention it is going to come down to finding a couple of guys to slot in behind Paxton consistently.
Down on the Farm:
Sticking with our theme this week, let’s take a look at some early statistics for a couple of Astros farm hands. The Astros are currently set at the catcher position thanks to the addition of Brian McCann, but neither McCann nor Gattis are particularly young. With that in mind it is nice to see the young catchers on the farm putting up some impressive early offensive numbers.
Garrett Stubbs, Corpus Christi Hooks: .341/.413/.634 slash line supported by an 8.7% K rate and .293 ISO.
Jake Rodgers, Quad Cities River Bandits: .258/.300/.565 slash line with a 9.6 BB% and four home runs.
Both of these guys bear watching as the season progresses, as the heir apparent to our current catching duo could already be on the farm and closer than we may realize.
Houston Astros v Texas Rangers - Monday, May 1st – Thursday, May 4th
This one was an easy selection, as the Lone Star Showdown and the battle for the silver boot kicks off this week. While these games aren’t any more important than other divisional games, a rough start against the Rangers could see things snowball from a mental standpoint in the Houston clubhouse. Grabbing at least two and preferably three or four of these games could do a lot to spell the demons that have plagued the Astros when facing the Rangers in recent years.
Corey Kluber (3-1, 4.19 ERA) at Justin Verlander (1-2, 4.60 ERA)– Tuesday, May 2nd
The AL Central is home to our weekly highlighted out of division matchup. Verlander and Kluber are both veterans with Cy Young awards on their resumes, so ignore the ERAs over four and expect both to bounce back in the near future.
Yu Darvish (3-2, 3.03 ERA) vs Joe Musgrove (1-2, 4.88 ERA) – Thursday, May 4th
Closing out our matchup of the week will be the Texas ace who has been electric almost exclusively when healthy and on the field. The Astros will counter with Musgrove, who has looked strong over his last 11.1 innings after giving up four first inning runs in Tampa Bay. If the Astros are going to have a chance in this one, Musgrove will need to continue with his newfound success and efficiency.
James Paxton (3-0, 1.39 ERA) vs Cole Hamels (2-0, 3.03 ERA) – Sunday, May 7th
Two pitchers highlighted in the statistics above will face off to close out the week, as Paxton and Hamels look to remain perfect on the season. As noted above, it will be interesting to note if Hamels can keep things up with such a low strikeout rate, if the strikeouts return or if he starts getting rocked.