On a red hot Tuesday in the city of the tottering Astros who still lead their division, league and all of the majors with their record….here are two subjects for discussion and disagreement.
1) The Four Dwarfs
The Astros are off to a great start to the season, even with their recent stumbles and injuries. Thetros even with injury problems are not likely to blow their lead by their performance only. One of the four dwarfs trailing them will have to play better than they have to date. If the first two and a half months are any signal of future performance, it is tough to guess which of the teams in the AL West have improvement in their gut.
W. Dallas Rangers – 34-34 (11 GB)
331 Runs (5th in AL), 93 HR (7th), .243 BA(13th), .315 OBP (11th), .732 OPS(12th)
Starters – 4.17 ERA (5th), 1.34 WHIP (T – 7th); Relievers – 4.68 ERA (12th), 1.43 WHIP (14th),11 out of 23 saves
The Rangers started the season in a 13-20 rut and then rode a 10 game winning streak to be three games over .500. That is their high point for the season as they’ve bumped along going 11-14 since and are currently sitting at an even-steven 34-34 and 11 games behind the Astros heading into Monday night. Like the Astros they have been struggling with pitcher injuries with Cole Hamels, Andrew Cashner, A.J. Griffin and Jake Diekman currently on the DL. Their 2016 one run luck has run aground as their 4-10 record in one run games shows. Their offensive stats such as OBP and OPS would not seem to support being 5th in runs scored. Their starters are good, their relievers are bad.
Prognosis – It is going to be tough to sustain long runs in chasing the Astros without a consistent bullpen.
LA Angels of Anastasia – 36-37 (11.5 GB)
309 R (12th), 79 HR (12th), .242 BA (13th), .310 OBP (10th), .701 OPS (15th)
Starters – 4.37 ERA (6th), 1.32 WHIP (6th); Relievers – 3.56 (4th), 1.18 (T4th), 16 out of 26 saves
The Angels came into the season with two potential starting pitchers (Nick Tropeano and Andrew Heaney) out for the season after TJ surgery. Garrett Richards their potentially best pitcher has missed most of the season with a long term injury and Matt Shoemaker is currently on the DL. Oh and Mike Trout one of the best players on the planet has missed and will continue to miss time with a torn thumb ligament. They have been the most consistent team in the AL West – consistently blah as they have never been more than 4 games under .500 (7-11) or more than 4 games over .500 (6-2). They were not a good offensive team even with Trout and that is holding them back overall.
Prognosis – This is the team to fear overall. If they get Trout back as solid as before and perhaps trade for another offensive piece or two – they are the scariest team behind the Astros.
Seattle Ancient Mariners – 34-37 (12.5 GB)
338 R (4th), 73 HR (14th), .264 BA (4th), .334 OBP (4th), .744 OPS (9th)
Starters – 4.95 ERA (14th), 1.41 WHIP (12th); Relievers – 4.48 ERA (10th), 1.27 WHIP (8th), 12 out of 23 saves
Seattle’s season has been one of falling below .500 on road trips and then struggling to get close to .500 with good home play. Their low point on the year was 21-29 after 50 games and their high point was 31-31 before clunking along to their current 34-37 record. They had bad long term injuries early with SP Drew Smyly and SS Jean Segura and have seen two other starters King Feliz Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma spend some time on the DL (though both are returning for the Astros series). They are a good offensive club, but their SPs have been their biggest sore spot, while their bullpen is mediocre.
Prognosis – Getting Hernandez and Iwakuma off the DL might give them a shot at a run, but they were pretty middle of the road with them to begin with.
Oakland F’s – 31-38 (14.5 GB)
298 R (13th), 98 HR (5th), .242 BA (13th), .310 OBP (14th), .741 OPS (10th)
Starters – 4.72 ERA (12th), 1.34 WHIP (T – 7th); Relievers – 4.95 ERA (14th), 1.38 (10th), 15 out of 26 saves
The A’s are a good team at home (22-13) and awful on the road (9-25). They have less injuries than the other teams in the division with Kendall Graveman and Marcus Semien the most significant at this point. They are poor at scoring runs and poor at preventing runs. But they do have a GM who was played by Brad Pitt in a movie. That has to count for something.
Prognosis – Hard to see Oakland as anything but the least likely team to challenge the Astros
Do you fear anyone from the Astros’ division?
2) Trading Partners
From the Department of Obvious Observations …. it takes two to make a trade. So, right now what does that look like for the Astros?
The American League has so much parity below the top few teams that it is tough to pick out a team that is ready to throw in the towel. The Tampa Bay Rays and Chris Archer? Currently in the 2nd Wild Card spot at 37-35. The last place Blue Jays (33-35) – 2 GB of the playoffs – 0 games in the loss column. The last place Chisox (31-37)? 4 GB and 2 in the loss column. Even the bad Oakland A’s are 31-38 and only 4.5 GB of the Rays. So, yes you may be able to get Brad Pitt’s doppleganger to trade you Sonny Gray, but he can certainly plead that you need to give him a bunch of players to give up his very alive playoff hopes.
Now, the National League is definitely the other hand here. Since the three best teams in the league (Rockies, D’Backs and the Dodgers) reside in the same division, the 2nd Wild Card is currently filled by either the 44-26 D’Backs or Dodgers. This basically has resulted in a number of teams in the NL East and West being way out of the playoff hunt already. The NL East teams best shot is pretty crappy as they are chasing the very good 42-27 Nats. The Braves, Mets, Marlins and Phillies are between 10.5 and 19.5 games behind the Nats and farther behind the 2nd WC spot (12 to 21 GB). In the NL West, the Padres at 16 games out of the WC and 17 games out of the division lead and the Giants (18.5 and 19.5 GB back) are toast.
The teams in the NL Central all have one shot at the playoffs and that is to catch the slightly above average (38-33) Brewers. The Cubs, Cards, Pirates and Reds range from a close 2.5 GB to a fringy 7.5 GB, though the Reds recent 1-9 plunge may set them up to put up a white flag.
So, it would seem that the best shots for finding a trading partner would be to look over at the “other ” league.
Is there anyone pitching for the Braves, Mets, Marlins, Phillies, Giants, Padres, and Reds that you would like to see Jeff Luhnow chase? Do you think he should wait until more teams are out of the running? Do you think he should trade with someone who is going to drive a hard bargain because they are still in the race?