Friday, July 22, 2011

9 Things I Learned Today: American League Edition

By The Common Man

It’s not easy being a blogger who’s not affiliated with a particular team. There’s a lot of stuff happening around the league, and you feel like you need to be on top of all of it. Inevitably, of course, some things fall through the cracks. And in that spirit, The Common Man is going to circle back around and highlight nine things he feels like he really should have known were happening around each league. Yesterday, TCM tackled the National League. Today, the AL is in the spotlight:

1) Russell Martin should not have been an All Star.

Remember that hot start that Martin got off to, hitting .293/.376/.587 with 6 homers through the end of April? Yeah, he stopped doing that. Since then, he’s hit .187/.300/.280 with 4 homers. His overall OPS+ is 88, which is exactly in line with his performance in 2009 and 2010. Russell Martin continues to not be a very good baseball player. But he’s a 2011 All Star.

2) Jarrod Saltalamacchia probably should have been.

Saltalamacchia got into a big hole because he was the central piece of the Braves as part of the Mark Teixeira trade and he was mediocre. Between the noteworthy name and the possibility of him being a transcendent switch-hitting catcher who could hit the ball a mile, his 82 OPS+ across 899 plate appearances from 2007-2010. But in Boston, Salty has found some of the power that was expected of him, and is hitting .249/.320/.452 to establish himself as a long-term possibility for the Sox going forward. rWAR dings him for the wild pitches and passed balls, which seem a bit out of control. But Saltalamacchia has caught every one of Tim Wakefield’s starts except one, in which he’s allowed 9 of his 12 PBs and 7 of his 22 WPs allowed. Either him or Carlos Santana would have been a better choice than Martin.

3) Meanwhile, Jeff Mathis still has a job for some reason, even though he’s gotten worse.

Freaking Mike Scioscia simply cannot get by without his beloved Jeff Mathis. Through May 31, Mathis hit just .216/.243/.294 while Hank Conger forced himself into the equation at catcher. Since the start of June, Mathis has been EVEN WORSE, hitting .143/.225/.238 while splitting time with Conger, and CONGER IS THE ONE WHO GETS SENT DOWN TO AAA! Jeff Mathis is a terrible, terrible, terrible baseball player. He is, at best, a bad backup. And somehow his hold on the Angels’ catcher spot is growing.

4) Asdrubal Cabrera has gotten demonstrably better.

Cabrera has essentially tripled his career high in homers already in 2011, with an unheard of (for him), 4.0% homerun rate (his previous high was 1.6%). And, as he’s hit more fly balls into the air in 2011, he’s also hitting more of them over the fence, jumping from a career HR/FB of 3.3% to 10.8%. It’s a remarkable turnaround that, frankly, hasn’t been properly explained yet. Did Cabrera revamp his swing or change his approach? Or is this all blind luck? We haven’t seen a shortstop make a jump like this since Mike Bordick suddenly began hitting homers in 2000.

5) The man he replaced, Jhonny Peralta, is also having a huge year.

The Common Man realized he was an All Star, but didn’t quite grasp what Peralta’s done this year in Detroit. Since coming over to Detroit, Cabrera Peralta has exclusively become a flyball hitter, and is, thereby, seeing more hits go over the fence. He’s also benefitting from a .340 BABIP, which is high for him, especially with such a flyball approach. Peralta might be a candidate for regression as the season goes on.

6) Sticking with Detroit, Brennan Boesch might be for real after all.

Last year, Boesch started out like gangbusters, hitting .345/.402/.600 with 12 homers through July 9. There was talk that he could be the AL Rookie of the Year. But that was supported by a .390 BABIP, and we were warned he would come back to earth. He evened out in a big way, hitting .166/.237/.227 the rest of the way, and seemed like he would be a tweener at a corner outfield spot. This year, however, Boesch has made an overall improvement in his game, hitting .297/.352/.491 with 14 homers. His BABIP is a much more reasonable .326, and pitchers can’t seem to find those same holes in his swing.

7) No one on the White Sox should ever try to steal a base again.

The team is 12th in the American League with just 43 stolen bases through 98 games. Meanwhile, they are second in the AL with 34 caught stealing. Juan Pierre leads the team with 15 SBs, but has been thrown out 11 times. Best to just stay on 1B when you get there, Sox, rather than running yourself out of potential rallies.

8) Melky Cabera should feel free to run as much as he wants.

The Common Man seems to remember there being a lot of concern that Melky Cabrera had bulked up too much and lost some of his speed. But in the last three years, he’s swiped 31 bags and only been caught 5 times, including a 14 to 2 ratio in 2011. Cabrera has been one of baseball’s big surprises with his .294/.331/.456 hitting, but his exquisite baserunning has also provided a lot of value to the Royals. Now, if only his defense was at all passable in center field.

9) The most valuable position player on the Seattle Mariners is…Brendan Ryan.

There is literally no debating this. Ryan has hit .263/.324/.331, which is far better, compared to his position, than Justin Smoak, or Jack Cust, or Ichiro Suzuki. He’s been worth 1.5 WAR just with his batting, to say nothing of the contributions added by his defense and baserunning. Fangraphs and Baseball Reference agree that Ryan has been worth 2.1 wins above replacement in 2011. Which would be awesome, if the rest of his teammates weren’t so god-awful. By the way, third among Mariners hitters in WAR in 2011 is Dustin Ackley, who has had 106 plate appearances. It’s been a rough year.


David said...

In the Peralta section, you wrote "Cabrera" instead of "Peralta." I think your mind was still on the previous comment.

The Common Man said...

Thanks for the heads up.

William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

Peralta's season has astounded me. Good call there.

I also had to eat crow about Melky. The guy has had a very good season.

jonathan said...

I actually traded peralta in early may for mitch moreland matt weiters, and jim thome. Peralta was traded along with ryan roberts and the nats closer at the time sean burnett