Good Luck/Bad Luck: AL Version
June 29, 2007
Before I get to the analysis of AL pitching, I want to comment on
something I read on ESPN. One of their chief writers suggested
that Frank Thomas,
who hit his 500th career home run last week, is a marginal Hall of
I guess one can take points away from him for being a DH for the
nine years but he did play first base for his first nine seasons.
the real criteria is what he's done with his bat. The argument
made that guys are hitting 500 homers with such frequency these days
it's no longer a guarantee for enshrinement. But here's the
Thomas was not just a home run hitter.
In each of his first eight seasons he scored 100 runs, walked 100 times
and drove in 100 runs and he's accomplished the feat nine times
Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth both did it 11 times. Barry Bonds
done it ten times. That's it. No one else has done it more
Frank Thomas. Ted Williams did it eight times, although he
would have finished with the most such seasons had he not lost four and
half years to war service. Jimmie Foxx did it 7 times.
Willie Mays, Hank Aaron and Joe DiMaggio never did it.
Is that too team dependent? OK, how about this. Frank
Thomas is tied for 16th all-time in adjusted OPS with Hank Greenberg,
Johnny Mize and Tris Speaker with a score of 158. This means that
over the course of his career he was 58% more productive than a league
average player. That 16th ranking is higher than Mays, Aaron,
DiMaggio, Mel Ott, Honus Wagner, Willie McCovey, Mike Schmidt, Willie
Stargell, Harmon Killibrew, Eddie Matthews and about 100 other Hall of
Famers. Oh yeah, and Thomas won back-to-back MVPs and was in the
top 5 in the voting five times. He ranks 16th in
career on base, and will probably finish the season 8th in walks, in
the top 15 in home runs, top 20 in runs created, top 25 in extra base
top 40 in total bases and times on base and just outside the top 20 in
And that's just at the end of this season. He might play
another season or two. That should be sufficient to qualify him
one of the 25 greatest hitters ever. Even if he retired today, I
go so far as to say that Thomas is a mortal lock for enshrinement the
time he comes up for vote.
OK, on to the pitching:
But before I get to the AL, I wanted to jot down a few notes about Rich
Hill's last outing. He gave up 6 earned runs to the Nationals on
4, four of which came on a Dmitri Young grand slam. From a WHIP
standpoint it wasn't a bad outing but his ERA took a beating for the
third time in his last four starts. What struck me was how hard
the Nationals were hitting the ball against him. There were no
bleeders, bloops or seeing-eye singles.
Everything they made contact with was a smash, which led me to
that maybe he was tipping his pitches. I mean, even pitcher Matt
smoked a single. But for the life of me I could not see anything
his delivery that suggested that he was tipping. I did notice
his arm angle seemed to be lower than I remember and that he was
a lot of pitches belt high. Larry Rothchild is a pretty good
coach so I imagine he and Hill will have a solution in fairly short
OK, now for the AL BABIP results:
OK, just as scary as the idea that Jake Peavy could get better in the
half, how about a counterpart in the AL doing the same thing.
Bedard's BABIP is more than 20 points worse than that of the Orioles
but pretty much in line with his career rate. A guy with his
probably shouldn't allow a BABIP over .300 so at worst Bedard will be
good as he's been in the first half.
The news isn't as good for Jeremie Guthrie (.245), who's been the
of some timely catches.
The Red Sox don't have anyone who is exeeding expectation by a
amount but two guys who should have better luck in the second half are
Matsusaka and Curt Schilling, both of whom have a BABIP more than 20
worse than the team (.286).
Both Jon Garland and Mark Beurhle are having remarkably lucky years
with balls in play. The White Sox team average is .296.
career rate is around .275-.280 but this year is at .256 so far.
career rate is around .295 but has a .265 this year. Expect both
fall off in the second half. John Danks is the only starter whose
is higher than expected. The real surprise is the number of guys
the bullpen who are being killed by balls in play. Matt Thornton,
Sisco, David Aardsma, Nick Massett and Mike MacDougal are all over
The Indians are not particularly good at turning balls in play into
Their .308 BABIP is 5th worst in the AL. On the plus side,
are that both CC Sabathia and Paul Byrd will get better support from
"D" in sthe second half as both are well over career and team marks.
Lee's .280 is well under the team mark but pretty much in line with his
The good news for Tigers fans is that they have a great offense and
Nate Roberson should get better in the second half. His BABIP
is well over the team mark of .300 and his career rate of around .295.
bad news is that Kenny Rogers, Andrew Miller and Justin Verlander are
far out of their depth that it's pretty certain the second half will be
more of a struggle for them. Rogers is more than 100 points below
career average and Verlander is more than 50 off his.
There's not much optimism for a team that allows the opposition a .312
on balls in play. Even so, Zack Grienke (.356) and Odalis Perez
almost have to get better defensive support in the second half.
The Angels don't have anyone who is exceeding expectation by a
amount. Their team BABIP is .288. Only Scot Shields is in
territory and for a short reliever that's not uncommon. The two
to keep an eye on in the second half are Ervin Santana and Bartolo
Both are way over their career averages so barring a hidden
each should enjoy a much better second half. Jered Weaver is also
than the team mark and way over last year's .239 but a huge correction
expected anyway. This year's Weaver is probably the real one.
The Twins BABIP is .2997. Johan Santana is at his customary .268
there shouldn't be any worries there although those expecting him to
a historic second half will probably be disappointed. He will be
great. We can expect better from Boof Bonser (.330) and Scott
(.345). The guy who might put up a historic second half is Joe
who has been victimized (.378) by some unlucky bounces and has never
a BABIP higher than .279, even when he was in San Francisco.
For all the optimism in New York about the Yankees finally coming
well, the fact of the matter is that they've actually been lucky to be
good as they've been. Guys like Tyler Clippard, Kei Igawa, Scott
and Andy Pettitte have been lucky on balls in play when either
to the team average (.286) or to their own careers or both. Even
Mussina, who's BABIP is well over the team mark is not that far off his
average. The only two guys who are getting the wrong end of the
are Mariano Rivera and Roger Clemens. That probably won't be
to get them into the playoffs.
The A's have one of the most efficient defenses at turning balls in
into outs. Their BABIP is .2746. Even so, Dan Haren (.225)
Joe Blanton (.265) can't be expected to continue their great first
Haren's career average is around .295 as is Blanton's. Chad
first half BABIP suggests he's in for a good second half and if you
a dark horse closer for a big second half, try Alan Embree. His
is sitting at .324 and his career mark is .309 playing on some teams
did not have good defenses.
The second worst team in the AL at turning balls in play into outs is
Mariners, which is quite surprising given that they have several
fielders, at least by reputation. Ichiro Suzuki and Adrian Beltre
routinely considered among the best glovemen at their positions and
Betancourt, Jose Guillen and Jose Lopez at least have the reputation of
their best glove to the game. But the Seattle team BABIP is
Go figure. All that means is that Jarrod Washburn (.289) is
as good as he can be right now and that Jeff Weaver (.389) and Felix
(.393) are the ultimate in buy-low opportunities.
Welcome to the worst team in baseball at turning balls in play into
outs. People are always saying that the Rays have all this super
offensive talent and just need some pitching to contend. I would
with that statement as long as it's limited to the bullpen. But a
reason the starters struggle as much as they do is because the defense
to turn balls in play into outs. Scott Kazmir (.341 BABIP this
might win a Cy Young award if he ever got average defensive help.
Jackson (.374) might also turn out pretty good. Jamie Shields, on
other hand, has gotten all the defensive breaks with his .260 BABIP.
won't last. Neither will Al Reyes' shocking .192 BABIP.
for more chaos in the Rays' pen this summer.
The Rangers BABIP is .3082. For those who have Kevin Millwood
(.362), Joaquin Benoit (.343), Vicente Padilla (.351) and perhaps even
Loe (.326) that bodes well for the next two and a half months.
those hoping for better days for Brandon McCarthy (.301) or Robinson
(.315)... maybe next year.
For all the brimstone that JP Riccardi brings on himself, he's done
a pretty decent job of assembling an efficient defense. The Jays
mark of .280 ranks as one of the best in baseball. That's good
for Dustin McGowan (.297) and Roy Halladay (.305). One might
better days for Josh Towers (.337) as well, but his career mark is
to .320 so that remains to be seen. One guy who almost certainly
not be as good in the second half is Shaun Marcum, whose .220 is nearly
points better than last year's. I know it sounds crazy but a guy
keep an eye on is Victor Zambrano. I don't know what happened to
other than he's not pitching well this year at any level. And
he won't get a chance to pitch in the majors this year. But his
this year is .395 yet he's never posted a mark over .305 and his career
is .283. To me that makes him a sleeper.
Good luck and enjoy the Break.