Tag Archives: AL West

Orioles? that’s a surprise, but so are the A’s

Josh Reddick and the Oakland A’s are, to the surprise of many, one-game over .500 and sit second in the AL West. Can they keep it going with a collective batting average of .218?

LIVINGSTONE: A’s three-hole hitter Josh Reddick is having a bit of a breakout year, his first with the club out of Oakland.

Having spent three years between Triple-A Pawtucket and the Boston Red Sox, filling in post trade in 2009 (Sox shipped Adam LaRoche out of town) and injuries in 2010 and 2011, Reddick is getting his first full season under his belt after being dealt to the west coast team in the off-season (Sox got now injured closer Andrew Bailey and hot-hitting, defensive specialist Ryan Sweeney).

In 149 at-bats this season, Reddick has surpassed his HR total from last season where he hit seven in 278 at-bats. Compared to the eight he’s hit this year in 34 games, Reddick looks to have broken out the power-bat many thought he had tucked away in his arsenal of above-average baseball abilities. Tack on eight doubles, 19 RBI and four stolen bases, Reddick is part of a strong 3-4 duo in the middle of a offensively weak batting line-up (Yeonis Cespedes is the other half of the duo – on the DL at the moment). Well, maybe a trio is forming with the explosive hitting of recently signed Brandon Inge. Inge, who the Detroit Tigers let go earlier in May, has been on a tear as of late (6-for-21, 3 HR, 12 RBI, .286 BA), and could beef up the line-up for the remainder of the season.

While Reddick is one of the minor success stories for the A’s early this season – the fact the team is second in the AL West with an 18-17 record is almost as shocking as the Baltimore Orioles leading the East (ok – not nearly as shocking, but still…). After an off-season fire sale by GM Billy Beane in which the Moneyball man shipped pitchers Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey out of town, many wondered how the A’s would compete with teams like Texas and Anaheim (or LA or whatever you call them now).

But the fact remains, they’ve stayed competitive, even with potential ace Dallas Braden on the DL and the team hitting a collective .218 for worst in the league. The A’s rank 28 in OBP (.293), Slugging (.348) and OPS (.641). While the hitting is under-performing to say the least, the pitching has been a positive sign considering the losses the rotation endured in the off-season.

Veteran Bartolo Colon is 3-3 and pitching efficiently and effectively, eating up innings in the process. Tommy Milone is 5-2, a big surprise for the starting rotation that lacks depth – well, in fact, there isn’t any depth at all really. Future ace Brandon McCarthy is 3-3 woith a 2.56 ERA and has been playing great ball all season long. In the bullpen, only Grant Balfour posts an ERA higher than 3.86 (he posts a 4.24) and at least three guys – Ryan Cook, Jerry Blevins and Jim Miller – all post ERAs under 2.00 while pitching in at least 10 innings (0.00, 1.69 and 1.93, respectively. Note: Cook has thrown 16.1 innings and has yet to let in a run).

Jemile Weeks, Cliff Pennington, Kurt Suzuki? The Answer: three guys that are under-performing. If these three guys can start hitting the ball well – and Coco Crisp can remain healthy – plus, we all remember the A’s signed Manny Ramirez in the off-season. If Manny comes back and hits the ball well, like we know he can, he will provided a much needed offensive injection into the order and make for a strong 3-4-5-6 of the order.

No matter what, the fact the A’s are one-game over .500 and sit second in the West is exciting – but can it last?

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Josh Hamilton’s hot start: will Texas re-sign him?

Josh Hamilton, if he stays healthy, will put up a mammoth year going into a contract off-season. Question is: will the Rangers spend money to keep him?

LIVINGSTONE: We’re just about an eighth of the way through the season and the American League doesn’t look like the league preseason analysis expected it to be. Add Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, New York picked up Michael Pineda to solidify their pitching staff, Pujols and co. looked like the perennial favourite to win the AL and the World Series, and the AL East had the look of a four-team race.

Well, that, to this point, is all out the window. But what I really want to get at is Josh Hamilton. His story is well-known to everyone, how he rose from the darkness of drug and alcohol addiction to come back to professional baseball and become the elite hitter he was expected to be when drafted first overall in 1999 by the Tampa Bay Rays.

He never played a game for them and it wasn’t until 2007 that he made his debut for the Reds. It’s been all history from there. When healthy, Hamilton has been a force at the plate in four seasons with the Rangers (Cincy traded him for Edison Voloquez after the 2007 season – wonder who won that deal). He’s helped lead the team to back-to-back World Series appearances, and if all continues the way the season has started for the Rangers, it could be a third appearance.

Hamilton is in the last year of his contract and it’s unclear whether or not the Rangers will even attempt to sign him in the off-season. With big contracts just doled out to second baseman Ian Kinsler (five years, $75-million), catcher Mike Napoli (one year, $9.5 million, likely to turn into a multi-year if he continues to mash the ball like he has this season), Yu Darvish (six years, $60 milion, on top of the $50 million-plus they paid to negotiate with him), Nelson Cruz (2-years, $16 million) and Elvis Andrus (three years, $14.4 million) and third baseman Adrian Beltre (six years, $96 million) – you can obviously see it, is there even any money left to sign Hamilton?

The team seemingly has spent a lot of cash to lock up everyone but Hamilton. Sure, his health is always a question and has only played 133 games maximum in the last three seasons (121 in 2011 and a mere 89 in 2009). The off-field problem involving drinking this past off-season seems to have scared the Rangers a bit in their willingness to sign up to a long-term deal. To be able to become the player he has become, Hamilton has to work three, maybe even four times as hard as everyone else. Staying sober is no easy task, especially coming off the life he lived for four or five years.

So let’s look at why the Rangers would be insane to not re-sign this guy to a long-term deal.

2012 stats: 82 AB, 31 Hits, 3 doubles, 9 HRs, 22 RBI, .378 AVG, .418 OBP, .744 SLG and a sickly OPS of 1.161.

This is only 20 games into the season. While he’s on-pace to hit 75 HR and 180 RBI, it’s not likely he will keep it up to that impossible expectation – but if he stays healthy he could put up 45/140/.350 – a definite AL MVP season. The Rangers would be crazy not to re-sign him if he puts up a big year like he is on pace to do. However, they might not be able to afford what he’ll be asking for. It’s going to be one of the more intriguing story lines as the season progresses. If Hamilton continues to lead the red hot Rangers atop the American League, and he stays healthy, will he stay in Arlington, or will he move on to another team?

Nolan Ryan, don’t be crazy. Get that man a contract.

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