One of the biggest surprises of the season is that the Athletics have the third-worst record in baseball, writes Fangraphs’ Dave Cameron. The reason for Oakland’s woes, he continues, has been a bullpen that has performed dreadfully in high-leverage situations. Oakland relievers have allowed an opponent batting line roughly similar to Alexi Amarista’s career rate in low-leverage situations, Cameron notes, but in high-leverage situations, opposing batters are hitting the A’s relief corps at a clip similar to Mike Trout’s slash line. Cameron notes that according to BaseRuns, which estimates a team’s win-loss record based on context-neutral data, the A’s should be an 18-15 club. It’s not too late, then, for the team to expect a turnaround — especially with Ben Zobrist and Sean Doolittle nearing returns in what looks to be a weak division. However, the team has dug itself into a significant hole, so even another few weeks of poor baseball might make that hole too deep to escape.
Here’s more from the AL West…
- In his latest notes column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports discusses a number of AL West topics and also notes the weak nature of the division. Rosenthal writes that the Rangers, who got off to an 8-16 start, have done well to stay afloat with a 5-2 road trip that has them within striking distance of .500. With Derek Holland and Martin Perez both potentially joining the club this summer, the team could hang around in contention, though he opines that they’ll need to add two relievers to make that realistic. Rosenthal also notes that the Rangers’ front office asked a number of Pirates players about former Pittsburgh bench coach Jeff Banister before hiring him as their new skipper. Andrew McCutchen, Russell Martin and A.J. Burnett were among the names to give Banister glowing reviews, and Rangers officials are quite pleased with the early returns on their hiring.
- Also in Rosenthal’s piece, he notes that sources have told him that Yunel Escobar wanted nothing to do with playing in Oakland when he was originally acquired alongside Ben Zobrist in the trade that sent a package headlined by Daniel Robertson to the Rays. Escobar’s distaste for playing with the A’s helped prompt the one-for-one swap of Escobar for Tyler Clippard. Clippard has delivered perhaps the best face-value results in the Oakland bullpen, but his peripherals have taken an alarming step backwards, as he’s averaging nearly four fewer strikeouts per nine innings and walking more than an extra batter per nine as well.
- The struggles of Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor will likely get him sent to the minors soon — possibly as soon as today, reports Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. Odor’s batting line stands at an abysmal .144/.252/.233 in 103 plate appearances this season, and Grant breaks down the reasons for his struggles, most notably an inability to make any form of contact with pitches outside the strike zone. Grant breaks down the weak spots in Odor’s swing and addresses the issues he must work on to return to the Majors following his likely demotion.
- Pedro Moura and Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register discussed the landscape of the AL West as well as several Angels-related topics in their latest podcast, including whether or not the team should be interested in Allen Craig and whether or not reinforcements are needed for the back of the bullpen. (Much of the roster-related banter comes in the final 10 minutes of the podcast.) They also welcomed Jose De Jesus Ortiz of the Houston Chronicle on this episode to discuss the division-leading Astros.