Posted: Thursday July 13, 2006 4:33PM; Updated: Thursday July 13, 2006 6:22PM
Nick Swisher has carried an otherwise inept A's offense.
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
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45-43, .712 OPS (14th), 4.20 ERA (3rd)
What went right: All-Star lefty Barry Zito (8-6, 3.29 ERA) is not in his '02 Cy Young form, but he's an ace in anybody's book. Nick Swisher's 20 home runs and .510 slugging percentage are amazing, considering the lack of protection in the lineup. DH Frank Thomas, despite being limited by injury, has 19 homers. And after losing 10 of 11 in late May, the team rebounded with a 10-game winning streak in June (and 13 of 14), putting them back in the AL West race.
What went wrong: A lot of players the A's were counting on -- Milton Bradley, Rich Harden, Esteban Loaiza, Joe Kennedy, Thomas -- have spent time on the DL. Others, like Eric Chavez, could easily have been there. Still, injuries alone can't explain this team's blatant lack of hitting. The A's rank last in the AL in batting average, runs scored, hits, total bases and slugging percentage. As good as Swisher can be, he has 81 strikeouts, eighth in the AL. And Loaiza's arrest in June for doing 120 mph in his Ferrari ... not good. Especially not with the way he's performed on the field (3-5, 6.43 ERA).
What's next: GM Billy Beane is a dealer, but he's not likely to part with any major pieces while the AL West remains so up for grabs. He may look for a power-hitting outfielder, and he might be able to swap a lower-rung starter, or someone who could be a starter, to get one. But with Harden back in a couple of weeks, the A's will rely on their pitching, again, to get them to the postseason.
45-43, .795 OPS (6th), 4.63 ERA (9th)
What went right: All-Star hero Michael Young (.316, 118 hits) is on his way to his fourth straight 200-hit season and is batting .409 with runners in scoring position, best in the AL. Gary Matthews Jr. -- where were you when you first saw The Catch? -- won a deserved trip to Pittsburgh (.328). Backup Mark DeRosa has had a breakout year (.332 in 64 games). Brad Wilkerson leads the team with 13 homers. Akinori Otsuka has been superb in the bullpen, with a 2.13 ERA in 38 innings over 40 games.
What went wrong: What's up with Mark Teixeira's lack of power (nine homers)? Seven losses in eight games in late June and early July dropped the Rangers back to .500. Wilkerson has struck out a galling 92 times, second in the AL. Kevin Millwood has been circumspect at home (3-4, 6.59 ERA), even as he tears things up on the road (5-1, 3.00). Adam Eaton had to have surgery on a finger on his pitching hand and has yet to make his debut in Texas, while Kameron Loe is out with a sore elbow.
What's next: Manager Buck Showalter hopes to have both Eaton and Loe back in the fold in the next couple of weeks. If they both return soon and pitch as expected, that could be enough to tip the balance of power in the West to the Rangers.
Los Angeles Angels
43-45, .728 OPS (13th), 4.07 ERA (2nd)
What went right: They've won eight of their nine games in July. Young Jered Weaver has been a godsend, witháa 6-0 record and 1.12 ERA. John Lackey, though, has been the ace, going 7-5 in 18 starts with a 2.88 ERA and a league-leading .195 BAA. He retired 27 straight batters in his last outing. Vladimir Guerrero's numbers have taken a little hit (.299, 18 HRs, 62 RBIs), but he's still the guy to avoid in that lineup. Shortstop Orlando Cabrera (.292, .354 OBP) has had a solid first half, and though Chone Figgins is having an off year, he has 33 steals, best in the AL.
What went wrong:Bartolo Colon, Darin Erstad and Dallas McPherson all have missed big chunks of time. Garret Anderson is sore too (hamstring, back) and could be having one of his worst years ever. He's hitting just .198 against lefties. Free agent Jeff Weaver was an unqualified bust, going 3-10 in 16 starts with a 6.29 ERA before being traded to the Cardinals.
What's next: GM Bill Stoneman is another cautious sort, though owner Arte Moreno is not above trying to make a splashy signing before the trade deadline. With Colon's health improving, and with Jered Weaver, Lackey and Kelvim Escobar, the Angels have a real chance to win the division. But only because this is the West.
43-46, .745 OPS (10th), 4.45 ERA (7th)
What went right: Second baseman Jose Lopez (98 first-half hits) was a surprising but worthy All-Star. Left fielder and cleanup man Raul Iba˝ez is a quiet superstar, leading the team with 20 homers and 70 RBIs. He has 55 RBIs with runners in scoring position -- the best in the league -- and he made one of the best catches of the year earlier this month. New catcher Kenji Johjima has settled in, both behind the plate and at it, without much incident. An 18-8 June moved the M's back into the race, and Adrian Beltre has improved after moving to the No. 2 hole in the lineup. Closer J.J. Putz has a 2.11 ERA and 16 saves. And then there's always Ichiro (.343, 27 steals).
What went wrong: The mystery is off Felix Hernandez (8-8, 4.95 ERA), though he's only 20 years old and still very effective at times. Joel Pineiro (6-8, 5.94 ERA) could be trade bait. Eddie Guardado lost his closer job after blowing a couple of saves early on and subsequently was traded to the Reds. The team is last in the league in taking walks, fourth in strikeouts and has been shut out nine times.
What's next: The West is there for the taking, but the Mariners don't have the pitching of the A's or the Angels, or the lineup of the Rangers. GM Bill Bavasi has shown a willingness to deal -- Guardado is an example -- but the M's will need more than one good move to win the West.