Revisiting the top 3 teams in the American League


About three months ago in the depths of the slowest part of the off-season, this blog visited what it had determined to be the top 3 teams in the AL (Red Sox, Yankees, Astros) heading into 2019…..

After about a month of games, how is that prediction looking?

Houston Astros  

After a bumpy 2-5 start to the season, the Astros took off on a 10 game winning streak, before cooling off with a 3-5 run in the last week plus. They have spent all of three days in first place to date and stand 15-10, a 1/2 game back of the Seattle Mariners heading into games 2 through 4 of a four game series with the Cleveland Indians.

Their offense after a slow start has been a bright, but inconsistent spot. The are #1 in the AL in BA (.277) and OBP (.354) and #2 in OPS (.842), but only tied for 5th in runs scored (121 runs) – 56 runs behind those same Mariners. The biggest offensive contributions to date have been from George Springer, Jose Altuve, and Michael Brantley. Josh Reddick and Alex Bregman have both flashed high averages and inconsistent run production. Part time DH Tyler White has been raising his BA while not knocking in a run.

The starting pitching, which was best in the world in 2018 is slightly above average with a 3.97 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP, reflecting a staff that has mostly had solid starts with a few stinkers thrown in the mix. This was to be expected with  the loss of the still available Dallas Keuchel, the Tampa Bay Ray Charlie Morton and the out for the season Lance McCullers. Justin Verlander is coming on strong, Gerrit Cole seems to be righting his ship, Wade Miley has been mostly good as has Collin McHugh.

The Astros bullpen is easily leading the AL in ERA (2.88), WHIP (0.99), BA allowed (.193) and OPS allowed (.571). Their ERA for everyone not named Josh James (who has given up 10 of the bullpens 23 earned runs to date) is 1.68. Roberto Osuna (7 saves, 0.87 ERA) and Ryan Pressly and Will Harris (both 0.00 ERA) have led the charge for a fairly stingy bullpen to date.

New York Yankees

This has to be considered a very dangerous team. It would seem to be a minor miracle that the Yanks are 14-11 and two games back of the Rays with the equivalent of a whole everyday lineup and 1/2 a pitching staff on the Injured List. OFs Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Giancarlo Stanton, Clint Frazier, Jacoby Ellsbury, IFs Greg Bird, Troy Tulowitzki, Didi Gregorious, Miguel Andujar, (Catcher Gary Sanchez just came off the IL), SPs Luis Severino, Jordan Montgomery, and RP Dellin Betances are all on the IL right now. That’s about $80 million in salary on the IL for the pinstripers…..

Despite being 7th in BA (.251) in the AL and Tied for 5th in OPS (.783) the Yanks are 3rd in runs scored (131 runs) in the league. They have been riding the bats of a couple sluggers who are active now (Sanchez and Luke Voit) and the big bats of others who are now out (Frazier and Judge). Can they hold their end of the deal up going forward? That is to be learned.

Even without Severino and Montgomery, the Yankees starters have been quite good, sporting the 4th best ERA (3.52) and WHIP (1.17) in the AL. With the exception of former Astro J.A. Happ (5.96 ERA), the other starters Masahiro Tanaka (3.60 ERA), James Paxton (3.10), C.C. Sabathia (2.40), Jonathan Loiasiga (2.70), and Domingo German (1.75) have been between good and exceptional.

The Yanks bullpen has been the biggest disappointment to date sporting a 4.45 ERA (10th in the AL) and only converting 5 of 10 save opportunities. In truth, the bullpen has been a combination of guys doing good jobs (Adam Ottavino, Aroldis Chapman, Tommy Kahnle, Luis Cessa and Zack Britton) and guys getting bombed (The recently sent down Chad Green, Jonathan Holder, Joe Harvey and Stephen Tarpley).

Boston Red Sox

The World Champion Sox dug a big hole to start the season (about a week ago they were 6-13 and 8-1/2 games back of the Rays) and have been working to steady the boat winning 5 of their last 7 and pulling up to within 5-1/2 games of the Rays heading into their weekend series against Tampa Bay.

The Red Sox, who dominated the hitting stats in 2018 as the Astros did in 2017 are off to a very slow start in 2019.  They are 11th in the AL in BA (.239), 12th in OPS (.712) and 10th in runs scored (117 runs).  Xander Bogaerts, JD Martinez, Mookie Betts, Mitch Moreland and Andrew Benintendi have all gotten off to solid, but unspectacular starts. Astro killer Jackie Bradley Jr. has been pitiful (.147 BA . .390 OPS) as has the whole bench, most of them well below the Mendoza line and/or hurt.

The starting staff has been brutal with a 5.91 ERA to date. The not unexpected injury to oft-injured Nathan Eovaldi has not helped, but the bigger concern may be the bookend matching ERAs of ace Chris Sale and Rick Porcello (7.43 ERAs) and the 5.88 ERA of Eduardo Rodriguez. Only David Price has really given the team what they expected to date from the rotation.

The Boston bullpen has not been good, but not a complete disaster with a 4.84 ERA (11th in the AL) and converting 7 of 10 save opportunities. Like the Yankees, the Sox have had a mix of good and bad efforts out of the bullpen with new closer Ryan Brasier (1.46 ERA, 6 saves), Brandon Workman (1-1, 2.38 ERA), Marcus Welden (3-0, 2.38 ERA) and Matt Barnes (2-0, 1 save, 2.61 ERA) leading the way. Sox fans have to wonder how the pen would look if some of the innings put up by Heath Hembree (5.11 ERA), Tyler Thornburg (7.5( ERA), Colten Brewer (7.45 ERA) and others were taken up by former closer (and still available) Craig Kimbrel.

Conclusion

Al three top teams have had their struggles at times in the early going, but none of the three have done their chances irreparable harm to date. The Astros and Yankees are lurking just behind their division leaders and the Sox are working their way back towards .500 before they start worrying about the top of the division.

The Astros are riding a great bullpen, a warming up offense and a starting rotation that would seem to be the eventual spot for a mid-season boost from the minors or from others.

The Yankees would seem to be playing beyond expectations with so many injuries and if they get most of the tools back could run away with the division. Or it could be one of those years relative to injuries for the Yanks.

The Red Sox would seem to be in a fragile spot. They have slowly cut into the 8-1/2 game lead, but a slight shove back down the slope might be tougher to overcome. Their key would seem to be getting Sale back on track and not on the IL.

Are these the three best teams in the AL at this point in the season? No. But they could still reach those heights. The marathon is only the equivalent of 4 miles done at this point.

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78 comments on “Revisiting the top 3 teams in the American League

    • Astros lead the AL in batting but have scored fewer runs than 4 other teams (to include fewer than the Rangers). Need to pick up more runners. Of the other two teams, don’t care as long as we beat the one that emerges.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Two things tonight:
    Tyler White should be sent to AAA after this series. He doesn’t have *1* RBI.
    I believe Josh James has to be sent down to pitch more innings. Having him pitch every 5-6 days, and thinking he can come out with guns a blazing isn’t fair to him or this team. With the ingury he had in spring training he probably wasn’t ready when the season opened. Let him go down and pitch every 3rd day or so to work on his timing. He has a power arm and we are going to NEED that arm, bring up Cionel Perez for a couple of weeks, or another bullpen arm.
    McHugh looked very good tonight….I’m glad he and Cole shook off those two ugly games.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Tyler White is out of options. He has to designated for assignment, which would probably result in losing him to another organization. I don’t think the Astros are ready to lose some depth to their team at this stage. Furthermore, the player who is more expendable than Tyler White is Tony Kemp. He really offers very little to what the Astros already have. He doesn’t have power, he’s not a good defensive player and he’s really just about average in speed. I love Tony Kemp the person, but the player is very expendable and more so than Tyler White.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I agree Tim, Putting Kemp in center field with both George and Jake available is a head scratcher. I just don’t get it.

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      • White put himself at a disadvantage when he arrived in camp obviously out of shape. But a DH needs to play regularly, just as a position player does. When you get on base 7 times in a row and then get rewarded with two days off, it’s got to be hard to get going.

        We’ve got two solid left handed bats in the outfield. And we know Jake is not going anywhere.

        With our present middle relief issues, we might see 13 pitchers soon. Kemps odds are not good.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Given our lack of real left handed hitting depth I think Kemp is safe. Plus he plays defense and White doesn’t. Gold glove no, but he looks comfortable in center, left, can play 2B, and did I mention he bats from the left side?

        Kemp, White, and Marisnick are all out of options, it’s been noted by a lot of writers that the roster was determined more from that then ST. I really don’t know what they will do if they go to 13 pitchers, there is not a single position player that can be optioned except Gurriel (I think) and Stassi, and we know that isn’t happening.

        The easy fix is Keuchel on the one year deal at 18 mil, put Peacock in the BP and option James to get some innings at AAA.

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      • Steven,

        Stassi is out of options as well. They can still option Marisnick, but only for about a week and then his service time removes that possibility. Aledmys Diaz can be optioned, but I doubt they would do this.

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    • You can probably make the argument that Diaz is better than White at 1B. This is probably why the Astros are putting him there. They like to have flexibility to give regulars rest during the season.

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  2. Good to hear from you, Tim.
    – I’m with Becky on sending James down. His confidence looks shot right now’
    – I’m with Tim and Sandy on the DFA for Kemp (there is so little chance you could trade him I think). He might sneak through without being picked up. YOu could bring up any of 3 OFs – Yordan Alvarez who has been hitting it big time (though you might get him just when he is cooling off), Myles Straw, who brings you speed, glove and the ability to get on) or Derek Fisher who has experience and speed and inconsistent bat and glove.
    – Tucker is slowly warming up at Round Rock – needs to get to Mendoza and upward….
    – I’m a little disappointed in the team starting this homestand – thought they would get it going. However as someone (OP?) said they have played only teams over .500 so far. No Orioles or Angels in that diet.
    – The inconsistent offense and failure with men in scoring position has been more hurtful than a few poor starts by the pitchers

    Liked by 1 person

    • Late to the party, but I think if you were to DFA both Kemp and White today the player who would get claimed first would be Kemp. I am wondering if this was White’s plan all along – come to spring training out of shape and force the team to let him get claimed somewhere he might get what he considers a real chance. FWIW, he blew it in his rookie year. He got off to the hot start with a couple HR at Yankee stadium and since then has been trying to be a power hitter. That’s not his strength. He should be emulating Kevin Youklis and not trying to be Cody Bellinger.

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  3. .45, I’m with you on squandered run production, esp in the 2nd inning. Kluber pitched the top of the order very carefully, throwing more balls than strikes and our guys looked bad striking out, I.e. White & Springer. Altuve fooled me by not hacking his at bat & Brantley just missed his shot by hitting into an out. I fell asleep tied 2-2.
    Gotta do better with risp. Pitch recognition & patience is still lacking in some key guys at the wrong darn time for a vet tm trying to get back to WS. Base running/stealing still stinks. SP looks like it’s coming around. Said last nite White’s BA is rising but no rbi’s. He had the DH spot handed to him & he doesn’t look ready. Wanted him to come in toned & hitting like he did last yr. Kemp’s inability to hit might bite him soon enough. When they clean up the risp mess, look out.

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  4. Guess the stars are aligned today. My posts have been disappearing into the twilight zone lately.
    Just wanted to say I was praying for you Dan….glad everything turned out good.

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  5. Read an article this morning. Hinch says the Astros will continue to be aggressive on the bases even though they’ve been less than successful.
    Hmmmm.

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  6. I don’t want to treat Kemp as the problem of the team, yes, he is hitting .143, he has 5 hits in 40 ABs, he might go 15 for his next 40 and be at .286. It’s short sample. Releasing him is silly, he is an asset, especially on a team that can’t find any hitting from that side of the plate. He has over 1000 innings in the OF now with ONE error. Yes, he has only 3 assists, so his arm is not Springer or Marisnick or Reddick, but he is serviceable.

    I’ve seen him make a nice diving catch, and watched him put his body on the line trying to make that catch at the wall. His career UZR is showing him as an average to slightly below average OF. His CF range numbers are a little less, but they are far too small of a sample to get a beat. If Springer or Reddick or Brantley misses any significant time Kemp is a better option for at bats against certain right handed pitchers than Marisnick. Jake will get the majority of time, as he should – his glove makes it work, but Kemp’s ability to spell anyone out there (and 2B in a pinch) and give a viable left handed bat is useful.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Steven, good to hear from you. The issue remains though that someone is going to have to go, unless of course the club determines they can work with 12 arms long term. No doubt, White is the least versatile, so he could be the guy to go too.

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      • Right Dave – but I suspect that will come via the DL, er, IL, versus releasing anyone. No team is so lucky that they don’t use the IL over the season.

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  7. I apologize for thinking they were going to lose this game, but I’m still pi$$ed off at Hinch for running Harris out for a *3rd* day in a row! They need a noisy clubhouse this evening! Hard to beat a walk off!!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. But Harris pitched well. He got a. K and then two grounders that found holes.
    That was a pretty significant hit for Tony tonight. Sure it’s early, but instead of being in a position to be swept by the Indians, we can still split and win the home stand.

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  9. Here is my argument. You need 3 outfielders. So you have Brantley, Springer, Reddick, and Marisnick. Kemp does not help you there. Diaz is the sub for the infield. Stassi is the sub at catcher. So you need to pick a DH: White (.268) Diaz (.226), Kemp (.143) and Yep, Marisnick (.282). No one wants to lose anyone off the team, but we just can’t afford to pick based upon “personality.”
    Springer leads the team in RBI’s at 22. And 20-25% of his at bats are with no one on base. So if we are going to cut based upon lack of RBIs, we may be down to five players or fewer.

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      • He’s a reminder that fame can be painfully fleeting. He finished with 50 total RBI’s lifetime. After hitting .375 that September he was designated our catcher of the future. He lost that job on June 1 the following season. Never could hit again.

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    • Noone is picking on personality. The roster is going well the way it is set.

      The question is what happens at 13 pitchers, if the Astros need to go there. I don’t think they will until June. When they do, I assume it will be off the IL.

      If you are going to corner me and make me pick between Marisnick and Kemp, I am taking Kemp. He bats lefthanded, and despite batting averages in the short season so far, he is a better hitter, period. He has proven that through the minors and in the majors both. Marisnick is a special defender, but to be honest, Kemp isn’t bad in CF or LF. He and Springer still provide you CF depth, Reddick and Springer provide RF depth, and they all can play LF.

      Fortunately, we don’t have to pick between them. I am sure some IL trip somewhere will get that 13th pitcher up.

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      • I think you’re right that they won’t have to pick one, but I can’t see any way they let Marisnick go, who has put up 1+ WAR every year with the Astros and has 2 elite skills, in favor of keeping Tony Kemp, who in his best year still only had a 0.7 WAR (sorry for the run-on).

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  10. A couple questions: 1. Becky, you mentioned that you were trying Roku or Hulu or something to try and watch the games. We are moving to Suddenlink Purgatory and wonder if you get it resolved.? 2. 1OP, do you need High Speed Internet to watch MilbTV.com?

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  11. Thus far the Astros have faced the:
    Rays 17-9
    Rangers 13-13
    Athletics 14-15
    Yankees 16-11
    Mariners 18-12
    Athletics 14-15
    Rangers 13-13
    Twins 15-9
    Indians 15-11
    The total winning % of Astros opponents is .521. And yet, the Astros are 16-11, a winning % of .593.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. It would be nice if the Astros could win in a laugher today and give Pressly (1.2 IPs yesterday) and Osuna (2 IPs yesterday) a day off.

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  13. BETTER PAY ATTENTION:
    Rangers DEMOLISHED Seattle last night 15-1
    Rangers are doing the same thing right now 9-1
    They have leap frogged the A’s, and the Angels!
    Both last night and this afternoon the M’s, had *3* errors!
    The arlington little league ain’t gonna roll over for ANYONE.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. I’m listening to it on the radio……I can not blieve we are going to lose this game 1-0. But here comes Framber Valdez, why do I have a bad feeling about this.

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  15. Sometimes I feel like a child again as I watch these games. It reminds me of the days when I was watching a horror/suspense movie on TV. When the music became macabre or I felt something bad was going to happen I’d turn the volume down or turn away from the TV. Sometimes bad things happened and sometimes not. A lot of times the good guys triumphed. That’s kind of how I feel watching the Astros as of late. Afraid they’ll lose the lead or they won’t come back from being down. But Saturday’s and Sunday’s game made me glad I stuck around to see the walk off HR and the 7th inning rally with bull pen staying tough. It’s good, but boy do I sometimes need to reach for the Tums because my stomach is all in a not. Keep it going guys but once in a while lets put the game away early.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Meanwhile, in AAA:

    1. Our Round Rock heroes just lost a series to a team called the ‘Baby Cakes’.

    2. Yordan Alvarez is really Superman. .347/.443/1.310 with 11 HRs and 29 RBIs.

    3. Jack Mayfield has cooled off a little, but is still doing surprisingly well, slashing .311/.372/1.007, 5 HR and 22 RBIs.

    4.Taylor Jones [.303/.368/1.020, with 6 HR and 17 RBI] and Myles Straw [.295/.351/.760, 7 of 9 SBs] have been good.

    5. Trending upward – Derek Fisher [.278/.366/.908, 5 HR, 11 RBI].

    6. Asleep at the wheel – Kyle Tucker, AJ Reed, and Garrett Stubbs.

    7. Forrest Whitely has a 7.71 ERA with a 1.43 WHIP.

    8. Corbin Martin is looking good – 1.80 ERA, 1.07 WHIP – but he is still issuing too many BBs.

    9. Rogelio Armenteros is still looking meh in a year he needs to be kicking donkey.

    10. Dean Deetz’ WHIP is 3.33!!!!

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  17. And, in AA:

    1. This does not look like Corpus’ year. They are lucky, at this point, to be 10-10 and in 3rd place in their 4 team division.

    2. There is one starting pitcher [Tyler Ivey], one reliever [Carlos Sanabria] and three position players [Lorenzo Quintana, Steven Wrenn, and Chas McCormick] who look like they belong at the AA level. The rest, including prospects Toro, Dawson, Rojas, Matijevic, and Benedetti, are mediocre to meh so far.

    3. Bryan Abreu got promoted from Fayetteville, but has struggled so far to catch up to a league with some really good hitters on the rosters of opposing teams.

    3.

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  18. Sure would be nice to score a run or two. The “tuna” is 0 for 3 with 3 K’s. Need I say anymore. Yes I will, a 41% K rate. I’d love for him to hit but I just don’t see it.

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  19. Please tell me we aren’t going to lose this game 1-0. JEEZE.😳
    YES…your boy is a mess. Mean while down in AAA Alvarez is *killing* the ball.

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  20. Verlander threw 100 pitches, gave up *2* hits….and one run.
    How do you look him in the face when the rest of you didn’t show up to play.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Odorizzi was on the corners all night. He was indeed excellent, 45. We’ve seen a whole lot of good pitching this first month. As OP has already illustrated, it has not been an easy schedule. Would be nice to win tonight and be 18 and 12. That would be a very solid start moving into May.

    Those 9 early homers have come back to haunt Jose.

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  22. Since 4/19, here are the starting pitchers we have faced – and their ERAs and WHIPs. With one exception, we have not exactly been facing Cy Young competitors – though it at times feels like it.

    4/29 –Odorizzi – after the game with us, he had a 3.34 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP.
    4/28 – Carrasco – after the game with us he had a 5.86 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP
    4/27 – Bieber – after the game with us he had a 3.68 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP
    4/26 – Kluber – after the game with us he had a 5.81 ERA and a 1.68 WHIP
    4/25 – Bauer – [the exception! Has a 1.99 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP]
    4/24 – Kohl Steward [a last minute call up from AAA]
    4/23 – Michael Pineda – after the game he had a 5.63 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP
    4/22 – Odorizzi – after the game with us (which he won) he had a 4.37 ERA
    4/21 – Shelby Miller – after the game with us he had a 7.52 ERA and a 2.07 WHIP
    4/20 – A. Sampson – after the game with us he had a 5.50 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP
    4/19 – D. Smyly – after the game with us had a 7.80 ERA; has a 1.93 WHIP

    It is not that we are facing superheroes at their best. Yet our record in this interval is 5 wins, 6 losses. One consistent problem: patience. We are flailing – and not running up anybody’s pitch count.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Some unpleasant news from the farm:

    1. Tyler Ivey – on suspension related to foreign substance on glove in last start;
    2. Jake Matijevic – suspended 50 games for 2nd positive drug test.

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  24. He’s so liked in this clubhouse, and an UNBELIEVABLE centerfielder….but at some point you gotta face the facts….Marisnick can’t hit for spit. If the only reason you’re keeping him on your team is a pinch runner, or a defensive replacement in the 8th-9th inning….he’s a liability. Its maddning to see him strike out with runners on, time..after tIme…after tIme.

    Like

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