The West was won on the final day of the season. Mike Trout unleashed greatness. Other things happened. But mostly the first two. Here are some final info-graphs about baseball out west.
Early 2013 Projection:
Final 2012 Grades:
AL West MVP: Mike Trout
AL West Cy Young: Felix Hernandez
94-68, 1st in the AL West
Lost in the ALDS to the Tigers
So this is the final team-based Season in Review for 2012 and normally I recited the WARs of the top players and talk about the club’s big story lines. This one will be different, because it deserves it. If you want to check out the stat leaders for the 2012 A’s, here is the link.
When 2012 started, everyone had Oakland pegged as a cellar dweller. Everyone. Me too. When August started, we all agreed they were playing better and we should have been nicer to them. Fair?
Then everything went bonkers. Absolutely bonkers. The made up 13 games on Texas and caught them on, you guessed it, the final day of the season. The final day of the season.
This would be an appropriate time to hear the radio announcer from Moneyball say “WHAT IS HAPPENING IN OAKLAND?!”
What was happening in Oakland was that the geniuses out there got scrap heap platoon split guys and threw them in a blender. Then they got a bunch of young pitchers and told them to pitch well. Lather, rinse, repeat. Pray.
And it worked. Lots of people made the Orioles the Cinderella story of 2012, but the Oakland A’s were the ones to talk about. This was the story of baseball in 2012. There was Mike Trout and perfect games and lots of great stuff going on, but gosh darn it, the Oakland A’s came from nowhere and won the division on the final day of the season.
That was magical.
Tied with Texas going into the final day, the winner was going to real playoffs and the loser was going to a coin flip. I remember watching the final inning on my phone while my wife drove me home from a night class. Watching those guys celebrate winning that division was what sports are all about.
No one saw this coming. How much fun was that?
2012 Grade: A
Early 2013 Projection: 87-75
93-69, 2nd in the AL West, 1st Wild Card
Lost in the Play-in Game
These are things to know about the Rangers. They ran away with the division and then tripped over September and found themselves losing it on the final day of the season. At which point, they played in the inaugural play-in game and lost. So it was all over pretty quickly. Josh Hamilton started fast and cratered. So everyone is kind of thinking the Rangers time has passed, but I’m not so sure it’s over.
Adrian Beltre (6.5) led the way and Josh Hamilton (4.4), Elvis Andrus (4.2), David Murphy (4.0), Ian Kinsler (3.2), Craig Gentry (2.9), and Mike Napoli (2.0) had his back. Texas is a good place to hit, but we should also not confuse that fact with the fact that they employ very good hitters.
Yu Darvish (5.1) and Matt Harrison (3.8) combined for one of the more interesting two headed rotation monsters, but it worked pretty well. Scott Feldman (2.3) and Colby Lewis (2.0) weren’t slouches either. Derek Holland at 1.7 WAR, was a bit of a slouch though. The bullpen was pretty solid too.
Overall, this was a good team who lost it at the worst possible time. They won 93 games, they just probably should have won one more. There isn’t much to say other than that.
Going into next year, I like them as an overlooked club. They lost Hamilton, but they have a good enough platoon in center to keep them only a couple wins worse and I like what Mike Olt and Jurickson Profar can add in. Not to mention Lance Berkman. This is still a deep team. The Angels are the sexy pick and the Athletics are still a menace, but I like the Rangers to bounce back.
2012 Grade: B
Early 2013 Projection : 91-71
89-73, 3rd in the AL West
Let’s talk about the Angels. In order to perform better, they signed Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson to big contracts of different degrees before the 2012 season. Wilson didn’t pitch that well. Pujols struggled early and eventually ended up having a good for most people kind of season. They probably should have been a playoff type team, but instead came in third in their own division. Oh, and there was this Mike Trout fellow too. It was a busy year.
Seven players topped 2.0 WAR and helped the offense get the team on track led by Mike Trout (10.0) and backed up by Torii Hunter (5.3), Albert Pujols (3.9), Erick Aybar (3.4), Howie Kendrick (2.8), Alberto Callaspo (2.7), and Mark Trumbo (2.4). It was a good offense, especially in the sense that they didn’t give a lot of at-bats to any player who was really bad. That might seem easy to do, but the lots of clubs gave 300 plus at bats to replacement level guys.
On the mound, the Angels disappointed. Jered Weaver (3.0) an CJ Wilson (2.5) were the only guys to top 2.0, but the Zach Greinke (1.8 in 13 starts) trade did help. What didn’t help, was Ervin Santana (-0.9). Yup, that’s a minus sign. He made 30 starts.
This was a team that should have pitched better and pitched them into the playoffs. That didn’t happen and they ended up missing by four games. They started slow and never recovered.
But there was Mike Trout. He was baseball’s best player in 2012 and it was hard not to enjoy that. He’ll have company in 2013 because the Angels added Josh Hamilton on a big contract and revamped their pitching staff. They didn’t necessarily do it well, but they gave it a shot.
But they lost Hunter and Greinke and Haren. So that might be a wash. At any rate, this is a good team, but I’m not sure it’s a great one.
2012 Grade: B
Early 2013 Projection: 89-73
75-87, 4th in the AL West
Welp, Mariners. There is one great player on this team who had an amazing year and threw a perfect game. The rest of the team was pretty meh, and while the farm system is interesting, the future still isn’t now.
Just three position players topped 2.0 WAR, Kyle Seager (3.6), John Jaso (2.7), and Michael Saunders (2.3), for the 2012 Mariners and none of them were star level good. Brendan Ryan should also be acknowledged for being awesome on defense at shortstop, because well, he’s pretty freaking good.
Kevin Millwood (2.0) was one of two pitchers on the club to hit the magic 2.0 threshold. I don’t really want to talk about him or the ones who didn’t measure up, I want to talk about the one who exceed that number by a lot. Felix Hernandez (6.1) was awesome. He threw a perfect game and he pitched in near Verlander level fashion. Wow. Worth the price of admission.
Top to bottom this isn’t a great club. But I like some of their pieces. With some exciting prospects on their way and some slugging low risk players coming off other teams’ scrap heaps, 2013 could be better, but at least it shouldn’t be worse.
Ultimately, this is a team with a window to win coming, but they aren’t there yet. When they get going in that direction a little faster, their Season Recap will be more exciting.
2012 Grade: D
Early 2013 Projection: 76-86
What most consider baseball’s toughest division was tough this year as well. The Yankees led the way and the Orioles played out of their minds. The Rays won 90 games. The Sox were bad. The Blue Jays built well in the offseason.
Playoff Odds across time:
Early 2013 Projected Standings:
AL East Cy Young: David Price
AL East MVP: Robinson Cano
95-67, 1st in the AL East
Lost in the ALCS to the Tigers
When the season ended on the 3rd of October, no American League club had won more games than the one that plays in the Bronx. They then faced off against the upstart Orioles in the ALDS and survived in five games on the back of Raul Ibanez. It was, at this point, that their season fell apart. Granted, only three teams made it further.
The offensive contingent followed Robinson Cano (7.8 WAR) and filled in around Nick Swisher (3.9), Derek Jeter (3.2), Mark Teixeira (2.9), Curtis Granderson (2.6), Russell Martin (2.2), and Alex Rodriguez (2.2). The failed to register a starter level player only in left field and DH and that was pretty close.
The top of the rotation was very good with C.C. Sabathia (4.9) and Hiroki Kuroda (3.9), but was shaky below either from poor performance or injury. A few good bullpen pieces helped out and they managed to shut things down even with Mariano Rivera.
The Yankees had a good season, but left the stage with a bad taste in their mouths. A-Rod was benched and Cano set a record for most consecutive outs made in a postseason. And that was only the beginning.
The offseason has been rocky. Jeter is recovering from a broken ankle and A-Rod will miss the whole season and has new steroid issues to deal with. The Yankees lost Swisher. They got outbid on Russell Martin by the Pirates. They’re working to get under next year’s luxury tax, so they aren’t spending big.
It’s hard to even recognize them. But they are the Yankees, so they’re make it work to some extent. They’re certainly no longer a juggernaut, but they have resources and savvy. 2013 will be rocky, but it won’t be a mess
2012 Grade: B
Early 2013 Projection: 87-75
93-69, 2nd in the AL Central, Wild Card #2
Lost in the ALDS to the Yankees
Here’s the thing about the Orioles, they were not supposed to win this many games. If you asked 100 baseball experts entering the 2012 season to rank the 14 AL clubs by how many wins they would achieve during the season, I can’t imagine more than five would have them any better than 10th. But, the funny thing about baseball is that the Orioles won the fourth most games in the AL in 2012. Fourth!
Lots of mean, rational people tried to rain on their parade the whole time. I am among the guilty in this regard. You see, the Orioles were winning in magical ways. They had a ridiculously good record in one run games and extra inning games and they didn’t score more runs than they allowed until like August. They were, by every measure, over performing.
Don’t get me wrong, I love over performing. It’s exciting and it’s fun. But over performing rarely lasts and often the other shoe drops. The Pirates may have something to add to this discussion if you are interested. But the beautiful thing about the 2012 Orioles is that they never stopped over performing. They made the playoffs even though they weren’t playing the best. The lucked themselves in. I don’t say that derisively, I say that as a matter of fact. Normally, baseball teams who play like the Orioles did in 2012 don’t sustain that performance. They did. It was fun.
The offense was led by Adam Jones (4.6 WAR) and Matt Wieters (4.1) and supported by J.J. Hardy (2.8) and Chris Davis (2.1). They had help from a lot of platoons and part time players, but the only players who sustained starter level production are the four listed above.
The starting pitching wasn’t impressive, but it was okay. Jason Hammel (2.9 in 20 starts) set the pace and Wei-Yin Chen (2.2) held his own. No other pitcher made more than 20 starts and no starter made it above 1.6 WAR. That’s not usually how you draw it up.
But, then there was the bullpen. Jim Johnson, Darren O’Day, and Pedro Strop anchored an excellent bullpen, and a bullpen that was well-used by their manager. These gentleman are the reason the Orioles held so many close leads.
So it was a lucky year for the Orioles, but that doesn’t make it less than great. They were a contender wire to wire and made the playoffs for the first time since 1997. They won the inaugural AL Wild Card game and pushed the Yankees to the brink in the ALCS. All in all, it was a brilliantly successful season for a club that had no business being brilliantly successful.
The 2013 version of the team is due for regression mostly because lighting rarely strikes twice, which is what makes lighting so exciting and powerful. Also, they didn’t take steps to upgrade the roster in any meaningful way. With some excellent prospects coming and a respectable core, the Orioles are nobody’s punching bag anymore. But they also aren’t the big man on campus, either.
2012 Grade: B
Early 2013 Projection: 85-77
90-72, 3rd in the AL East
When a team wins 90 games with a Save-A-Lot level budget, it’s hard to be disappointed. But the Rays have turned winning with limited resources into an art form. They can’t get away with pretty good anymore, so third place is third place.
Jack of all trades Ben Zobrist led the way (5.9 WAR) and his teammates Desmond Jennings (3.5), B.J. Upton (3.3), Jeff Keppinger (2.8), and Evan Longoria (2.4 in 74 games) had his back. No other position players made it to 2.0 WAR, but darn it all, Matt Joyce (1.8) came close.
But the pitching, oh my, the pitching. Cy Young winner David Price (5.1) was obviously the staff ace, but he was flanked on all sides but one of the best support staffs around. James Shields (4.3), Matt Moore (2.3), and Alex Cobb (2.2) performed well and Jeremy Hellickson (1.0), who WAR hates, performed pretty well at a 3.10 ERA even if he shouldn’t have.
Also, the Rays had two relievers top 2.0 WAR. RELIEVERS! 2 WAR! Fernando Rodney (2.4) and Jack McGee (2.0) dominated, and Wade Davis and Joel Peralta both hit 1.0 on their own. Man, that bullpen was good.
So the Rays, if one of baseball’s toughest divisions, were really good and won 90 games. They could have used a little more production from first base and the half a year at third base that Longoria missed, but you can’t really ask for much more. Two more wins against the Orioles and they were playing in October.
And the Rays show no signs of stopping. They restocked the farm by taking everyone in the Royals farm system and they filled in holes in the lineup. Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson both have question marks, but they have high upside for low risk contracts.
I’m a big believer in the Rays formula and a full season of Longoria and more Joe Maddon magic should keep the Rays in contention. Very much in contention if you ask me. The fans might not show up and the stadium might be a dive, but they play baseball better than most.
2012 Grade: B
Early 2013 Projection: 92-70
73-89, 4th in the AL East
The Blue Jays didn’t have a great season in 2012, but man have they had a great offseason in 2012. Only 73 wins during the season isn’t enough to be good, but taking everyone from the Marlins and R.A. Dickey from the Mets is enough for a winning offseason.
The 2012 version was led by Edwin Encarnacion (4.4) and backed up by Jose Bautista (3.2 WAR in 92 games) and Brett Lawrie (2.9). No other position player topped the 2.0 starter threshold. But the cavalry is coming.
On the pitching side, it was worse. Only Brandon Morrow’s 2.4 WAR in 21 starts was anything worth mentioning. No other starter had a 1.0 WAR. That’s really bad.
But like I said, the important part of the Blue Jays’ 2012 was the part after the season was over. Here is an incomplete list of players who are now Blue Jays that were not Blue Jays during 2012: Dickey, Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio, and Melky Cabrera.
That’s a big improvement on the previous version of the Jays. Even if those guys don’t perform at their peak potential, that’s at least ten wins in the standings, but it’s probably closer to fifteen.
With the Sox in rebuilding mode and the Yankees working to reduce payroll, this was a great shot for the Jays to join the Rays and the Orioles as the AL East party crashers.
So they’ll be a lot better in 2013, especially if you factor in a healthy Bautista, but I’m not buying them as favorites. Just like the Dodgers, they’re much better, but they aren’t a lock at all. I think the pitching staff will be a lot better, but I think the offense won’t be as great as a lot of analysts think.
But that’s just my gut feeling. On paper, they look like a real contender. For me, they’re still the third best team in that division and not that much better than the Sox and O’s.
2012 Grade: D
Early 2013 Projection: 86-76