Monday, June 11, 2007

How did we get here? Offense

Going into Monday's play the M's are 33-26. 7 games over 500!!! This is a team that was maybe one or two more losses from firing their Numbnut manager in April. How did this happen? How did we get here? Keeping the focus on the positive today, I'd like to focus on how our improved offense has contributed to our surprising rebound.

The offense as a whole has been excellent. The M's are 7th in the AL in runs scored, which would be solid enough for a team that plays half of their games in the Safe. It gets even better though, because they still are 3-4 games behind most of the rest of the league. At 5.22 runs per game they are 4th in the AL, trailing only Detroit, the Yankees and Cleveland. Last year we finished 13th in the AL at 4.66 runs per game. We are on pace to score about 100 more runs than last year. Nice.

The M's, like the Angels, are heavily batting average driven. They are 2nd in the AL at .286. They don't walk much, in fact they are have the fewest walks in the league (even on a per game basis), but the high BA is keeping their OBP at a respectable 6th place. They don't hit for much power either, being 6th in the AL in SLG, but again that number, like their OBP is helped by that high batting average. In terms of Isolated power, which separates SLG from Avg, they rank just 9th.

They are not running as much as last year, so the offense is largely dependent on high batting averages and just enough power to keep things moving. Whether an average driven offense is sustainable is an open question, but this is a positive post, so lets just say, woo singles! Keep hitting em boys!

Who are the surprises amongst the offensive players?

Kenji Johjima is a 31 year old catcher who set career highs in games played, innings caught and I'm sure miles travelled last year. I would have been pleasantly surprised to only have a slight falloff from last year's 291/332/451. Instead he is tearing the cover off the ball at 328/355/525. This more in line with the player he was in Japan, so whether he's more comfortable in the US this year or eating more Wheaties or whatever, he's been a godsend. By Baseball Prospectus' VORP stat, he's the third best catcher in the AL. Woot.

I have written in this space many times that Ichiro needs to hit 330 to be a truly elite player. Well he's at 336/392/448 and looking awesome in centerfield. The list of best CF's in the game has his name and Grady Sizemore's on it. That's it.

The Double Play Twins kind of symbolize the M's offense. YuBet is the 7 best SS by VORP, which again is pretty good for a kid known for his D, playing in a pretty extreme pitchers park, but he's very dependent on his batting average. At .301 he's 6th among AL shorts. Lopez is somewhere between the All-star he was the first half of last year and the out machine he was the second half. He's the 7th best second sacker in the league and thats good enough for now.

Jose Guillen was looking really good two weeks ago, but he has struggled in June. Overall he is hitting 263/333/421. Thats only 9th among AL rightfielders, but certainly better than the horror show that he was last year.

As for the rest of the offense, Beltre is Beltre. He's the 6th or 7th best offensive 3b in the league, but he has yet to hit one of his patented two week stretches where he carries the team. Ibanez has managed to keep his average and OBP respectable while punting almost all of his power (He's slugging .397!). Vidro has been a singles machine, not enough to be truly valuable, but not the giant sucking vortex of outs we imagined him to be. Sexson has been one of the worst first basemen in the league, even after his recent surge.

So that's the M's offense. Highly dependent on a high batting average, carried by two guys hitting the crap out of the ball and 3 guys in the upper half of the league. You also got 3 guys who aren't killing you and a first baseman who is REAL TALL. There is real reason for optimism here too, because while Kenji and Yuni might regress some in the next 2/3 of the season, Lopez, Ibanez, and Sexson could all easily improve. Ichiro is likely to continue being Ichiro, which is awesome.

We'll talk about the pitching next post, but if they keep hitting like this, this club might be better than I thought.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home