Thursday, April 19, 2012

Production By Position - 2012 vs 2011

If I told you on the morning of April 6th that the rotation would allow three runs or less in nine of the first twelve games what would you have guessed their record would be? 7-5? 8-4? Based on what we thought we knew I think even the most jaded would have guessed at least a .500 record. But here they sit at 3-9, the second worst mark in baseball (thank you San Diego). The starting pitching, outside of the Cleveland series, has been a pleasant surprise but the offense and bullpen have laid waste to several good performances.

Here is how the team has fared since 2000 in games where a starting pitcher has allowed three runs or less:

2012: 3-6
2011: 54-38
2010: 55-26
2009: 54-34
2008: 66-32
2007: 58-34
2006: 38-38
2005: 41-36
2004: 46-33
2003: 63-29
2002: 47-43
2001: 50-27
2000: 47-20

A 3-6 record isn't really cause for concern but because it's early it'll get more attention than it should, simply because it's all we have to work with. I don't think they'll play under .500 all year in these situations. Last year they had a stretch where they went 3-12 (5/8-5/29) and a couple where they went 4-7 (6/15-7/10 and 8/5-8/24) so, yeah, I think this will more than even out.

So far everything we thought we knew has been wrong. We assumed the offense and bullpen would be fine and that second base and catcher would be offensive sinkholes, wrong (so far) on all four accounts. Let's look at how each position has fared compared to last season.

Catcher -

Losing Salvador Perez was huge but Humberto Quintero (.381/.462/.571) and Brayan Pena (.368/.400/.526) have been excellent at the plate thus far. Both are playing well above their heads in the early going, and it certainly won't last, but right now they are not a contributing factor in the team's inability to score runs.

First Base -
2012 .167 .259 .333 .593
2011 .272 .323 .442 .764

Eric Hosmer, however, is another story. Since leaving Anaheim, where he had 4 hits and 2 home runs, he's put up a .118/.250/.176 line. More than one person have compared Hosmer to Will Clark, due to similar rookie seasons and because they are both left-handed first baseman. Clark's sophomore year he hit .308/.371/.580 with 35 home runs, but included in those numbers was a 14 game stretch where he hit just  .175/.250/.275. Slumps happen, Hosmer will be fine.

Second Base -
2012 .311 .326 .444 .771
2011 .254 .301 .335 .636

The Getzancourt experiment has gone better than everybody not named Moore or Yost thought possible. Like catcher, this position hasn't been the problem. It's hard to be upset about the absence of Johnny Giavotella when his replacements have been this productive. I'll wager a healthy sum that they can't continue to put up a .771 OPS but until they revert back to their pre-2012 selves I'll ease up on criticizing Gio's demotion.

Third Base -

If you had the difference in slugging percentage between Mike Moustakas (.419) and Chris Getz (.417) at just two points then step forward and collect your prize. In 11 games Moose has struck out 10 times and has failed to draw a single walk. His walk rate is one reason why he's always been considered less a sure thing than Hosmer. At some point he's going to get a free pass, but the question is, when, and will there be fireworks?

Shortstop -

Alcides Escobar is getting on base at about the same clip as the rest of his career but the jump in slug is significant. He entered 2012 with a .339 slugging percentage but is at .400 in the early going. A .692 OPS with his defense will certainly play. Now whether he can continue at this pace is still in doubt but the talent is most assuredly there.

Left Field - 

A disappointing start to the season has some people worried about Alex Gordon but I have a strange feeling he's about to get hot. Like Hosmer, he's not going to hit like this all year. When those two get going the offense will improve tremendously.

Center Field - 
2012 .238 .292 .333 .625
2011 .301 .341 .462 .803

There's plenty of blame to go around in center as four different players have started a game there. Of those, Mitch Maier is the only one that has shown in inclination to actually hit. It doesn't help that Melky Cabrera is showing that last year may not have been a fluke as he's off to a terrific start (.314/.375/.471). We expected  this would be a position where offensive production would be down and it definitely has been. Maier should - and I expect will - play there everyday until Lorenzo Cain returns. Remember, Cain is no sure thing. He may be a defensive stud but he's yet to prove he can hit major league pitching.

Right Field -

Jeff Francoeur enjoyed a career revival last season but has thus been incapable of carrying it over. For his career April has been his most productive month so his early struggles could be a precursor to a season like 2008 when he hit .239/.294/.359 with a career low 72 OPS+.

Designated Hitter -
2012 .375 .400 .625 1.025
2011 .294 .365 .454 .819

Ned Yost has 99 problems but DH ain't one. Country Breakfast is on pace to accumulate 108 extra base hits. He is really locked in right now.

Rotation -
2012 4.41 1.43 3.9 6.7
2011 4.82 1.43 3.1 5.9

The Cleveland series really destroyed the rotation's numbers. Toss those three games in the trash where they belong and the group has a 2.91 ERA. My only quibble with the starters as a whole is they're not pitching enough innings and are taxing a struggling bullpen. Of course if Yost could bring himself to remember that he has a long reliever named Everett Teaford it would help. Teaford has appeared just once this year and pitched four scoreless innings. To put it another way, two weeks into the season and Teaford has the same amount of relief appearances as Maier.

Bullpen -
2012 4.26 1.35 3.0 10.2
2011 3.75 1.35 4.1 8.1

Yost's bullpen management has been a well documented problem most of his managerial career so it's no surprise that he made some questionable moves this year. But I'm here to help. Teaford, Ned, his name is Everett Teaford. Seriously though, this is a talented unit and I think they'll be fine. 

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