How quickly time flies! Less than a month ago we were taking a look at how teams were handling the craziness associated with this 2020 season. Now, as we head deeper into September, it’s time to check back in. Most teams have gotten through roughly two-thirds of their regular season schedule. We’ve also seen the trade deadline come and go. So – with all of that as a backdrop – let’s have a look at where teams stand, and where they hope to go over the final stretch of the season.
Today: The American League West
Let’s talk about the A’s bullpen because it deserves far more attention than it gets.
Liam Hendriks continues to be a revelation out of the bullpen. Racking up an AL-leading 10 saves so far this season, Hendriks’ 1.10 ERA and 0.673 WHIP leads the A’s bullpen. It should be mentioned, however, that the rest of his teammates aren’t all that far behind. The Oakland A’s bullpen is the best the MLB has seen this year, and their 2.00 ERA and 13 saves in 15 opportunities only begin to shed light on how dominant they are.
That’s good news, considering that their starters have a middle of the road ERA of 4.92 and a 1.410 WHIP this season, as opposing hitters average .272 off them. There are only two starting rotations in the AL that get rocked more than Oakland: The Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox.
And yet this team is in first place in the West, locked into a playoff berth, and are the second best team in the American League.
All of this while the A’s only have two everyday players hitting over .267.
The A’s have always been a baseball statistician’s dream, but in 2020 they’re re-establishing their place as an incredibly well crafted ball club.
The Astros seem to finally be coming back to life. After starting the season with a dismal 10-10 record, (much to the delight of baseball fans everywhere), the Astros have pulled out of their nosedive. Going 11-6 since, the Astros are now 2 games in back of the division leading Athletics, and they’re beginning to heat up.
In July, the Astros hit .245. In August, they bumped up the production to .251, an incremental uptick, but a positive sign nonetheless. And now in September, they’ve upped their team average to .262. Small victories, for sure. But for the 2020 Astros, you have to take wins where you can find them.
Truly all the credit here belongs to Dusty Baker. This Astros team came into the season with a target on their back, not to mention the loss of Gerrit Cole. Early on, Justin Verlander goes down. So now, this once mighty pitching staff is reduced to Zack Greinke, Lance McCullers Jr., and the hope that their young arms can hang with the big boys.
Thankfully, they’ve fared as well as could be hoped. Framber Valdez has been solid over his six starts, posting a 2.58 ERA and a 1.103 WHIP. Christian Javier and his 4-1 has also shown up in a big way for the ‘Stros. In a mid-August start against the Mariners, Javier held the M’s to a single hit over six innings of work before getting taken out.
And then there’s vintage Zack Greinke, which is always a wonderful thing to see. The 36-year-old Cy Young winner is once again putting up incredible numbers and proving to all of us that age is just a number and baseball is just a game.
God Bless You, Zack Greinke.
Trade Mike Minor? Yes.
Trade Robinson Chirinos and Todd Frazier? Yes.
Trade Lance Lynn? …No?
Play in a brand new stadium? YES.
The 2020 Texas Rangers are garbage. Actual garbage. There’s no denying it. Their offense is in the basement of the league with multiple starters hitting below the Mendoza Line. Jeff Mathis is one of the team’s better bats.
Maybe their pitching staff is decent? No. They’re not good either.
If there is a bright spot it’s in the emergence of Rafael Montero and Jonathan Hernandez out of the bullpen. Both pitchers have sub-0.900 WHIPs, and ERAs below 2.80. Both young arms should stick with the squad for a while, and that stability is something the Rangers will need in the future.
Look, the Rangers are just a few losses away from being worse than the Red Sox in 2020, and that’s saying something considering that the Rangers had a full starting rotation on Opening Day. This team went from rough to awful, and it’s possibly going to get worse considering the thin farm system they’ve been working with.
The Rangers are in trouble moving forward, but they’re dead in the water for the rest of 2020.
Sick uniforms, though. Powder Blue alternates are absolute FIRE.
The Seattle Mariners are bad now, but they’re stockpiling prospects like they’re wearing brown and gold and playing in Southern California.
The Mariners have all but given up on the 2020 season, which is fine since no one was really expecting them to pull out a miracle. However, we’ve been given the opportunity to get a glimpse of the future in Seattle. Man, this team could really be something.
Kyle Lewis continues to impress as he slashes .319/.408/.511, with a .919 OPS, leading the team in runs, hits, home runs, and walks. Lewis has all the makings of a franchise star, and at 24-years-old, he’ll be a Mariner for a while.
Also making their presence known is J.P. Crawford and Dylan Moore. Crawford, who came over from Philly in the trade for Jean Segura, has been a consistent bat for the Mariners, smacking 34 hits, good enough for 3rd on the team. Moore has replaced Mallex Smith as the base stealing threat on this squad, swiping 7 bags this season, the most on the team.
On the bump, Seattle has the youngest pitching staff in the majors, with an average age of 26.6. The Mariners have not had a pitcher over the age of 29 start a game for them.
Headlining their young rotation are Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn, two promising pitchers who came over in deals from the Mets and Yankees. While both pitchers struggled to gain their footing at first, both have settled in, posting mid-4.00 ERAs and respectable WHIPs. Should Dunn and Sheffield continue to develop within the Mariners rotation, the M’s could be dangerous… just not in 2020.
Did you realize that the Angels have only been in the playoffs once in the last ten years? They haven’t won a playoff game since 2009, despite having 3x MVP Mike Trout. And that probably won’t change this season, as the Angels sit nine games under .500.
However, there are certainly things to be excited about if you’re an Angels fan.
David Fletcher has been huge for this team, despite recently being added to the 10-Day IL. Fletcher was hitting .313 when he went down, leading the Angels with 45 hits. Fletcher’s a swiss army knife of a fielder too, so he can fit flexibly into any lineup the Angels need.
Also, Dylan Bundy’s back. Bundy, who had some rough years in Baltimore, is known for gifting long-balls to hitters. In 2018 with the O’s, Bundy surrendered an MLB-leading 41 homers to opposing hitters. That was also the season where he gave up seven runs, on five hits, four of which were dingers, without getting a single batter out.
In 2019, he pitched one inning in a start against the Rays before being pulled after giving up seven runs off eight hits.
I mention these dark moments to illuminate how much of a turnaround Bundy’s had in 2020. Over eight starts this season, Bundy’s 0.947 WHIP speaks volumes, as does his 2.49 ERA and 9.8 K/9. If those numbers hold, they’re the best of his career.
Even better? Bundy’s only surrendered four home runs this season.
The Angels, despite their best efforts, simply don’t have it in them this year to take down the A’s or Astros. But with Joe Maddon at the helm for the foreseeable future, the sky’s the limit for the Halos moving forward.
Could there be a playoff chase in the AL West?
No. The AL West is all but sewn up now that the Rangers, Angels, and Mariners have all thrown in the towel. So now the question becomes seeding and the top spot in the division. If Dusty Baker can keep the Astros on the up-and-up, there’s a chance they reign supreme in the West for the fourth straight year. But then again, there’s always the chance that Moneyball Magic will strike again, and Oakland can hang on to the top spot.
Only time will tell…
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