Where Is The American League Competition?

As the calendar turns to June, a third of the baseball season will have been played. Looking at the standings, it might as well end now. The American League’s best two teams may play in the east division. Those teams of course are the Red Sox and Yankees, as their historic rivalry has been renewed. The consensus other two potential A.L. World Series threats, Astros and Indians, seemingly already have their divisions locked up. Where is the rest of the A.L. competition?

The central division Indians are one game above .500 but have a 6.5 game lead on the Leaguesecond place Twins. The east division third place Rays, are already double digit games behind the Yankees and Red Sox. The lone somewhat competitive division is the west. Although it does seem to already be a lock that the Astros will win another division title, thanks in large part to their dominant pitching staff, at least the Angels and Mariners remain competitive.

The Red Sox, Yankees, Indians, and Astros, are going to run away with the American League.

Shohei Ohtani and his “Babe Ruthian” like play has sent shockwaves to the west division. Ohtani has given the Angels a much needed facelift. He has also been someone to take pressure off Mike Trout, as they try and keep up with the Astros. The Mariners and Angels look like they are going to be fighting all season for the final wild card spot. That seems to be the only playoff race.

Part of what has made baseball so great, especially recently in the last decade, has been the parody throughout the league. Low market teams such as the Kansas City Royals or Tampa Bay Rays, have reigned supreme in the A.L., both getting to the World Series in the last decade. Other sports such as the NBA seem very predictable. Fans, media members and experts, even from as early as the preseason, can pretty much pencil the Golden State Warriors against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the finals, due to the league’s collection of top end talent.

The American League Seems To Be Top Heavy.

The Red Sox/Yankees rivalry is the best in sports, but while they continue to thrive and deliver an impressive payroll, other low end markets such as the Chicago White Sox, are forced to “rebuild”. In other words, forced to trade their established stars for prospects. This way teams can have more team control on promising players for longer and pay them less. The Chicago White Sox are currently in the process of this rebuild. They currently have just 15 wins almost a third of the season through. Obviously with less wins, come less fans. It seems that these lower market teams, like Chicago, have completely empty ballparks and declining intrigue.

Teams who do not have money due to lack of revenue, can not spend on established stars, therefore can’t keep up with the stalwarts of the top markets. This is leading towards a top heavy league.

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Sabermetrics for Dummies: Part 1 – W.A.R.

w.a.r

Miguel Cabrera (left) and Mike Trout (right) elevated W.A.R. to a national discussion during their AL MVP race (ESPN the Magazine)

As stat-tracking technology becomes better and better, and budgets become tighter and tighter, baseball teams are starting to turn to numbers, or sabermetrics, to determine the worth of their players. These are a few of the statistics that all teams use to evaluate players.

Today’s stat: W.A.R.

War… what is it good for? Sorry about that, I had to. It turns out that W.A.R. is actually good for something. In fact, it’s the most significant statistic in all of the sabermetric community. W.A.R. is an acronym for Wins Above Replacement. This stat is used to quantify the effect that single players have on the number of wins a team earns. A player’s W.A.R. number is the amount of wins the team would lose if the player in question were to be replaced by a minor leaguer or bench player.

For offensive players, W.A.R. is a combination of batting, base running, and defensive data. All of this data is converted to take into account the position that is played and the quality of potential backup. For pitchers, defensive data along with runs vs. innings pitched statistics calculate their W.A.R.

A baseball player with a W.A.R. between 0-2 is regarded as anywhere from a scrub to a reliable bench player, however that person shouldn’t be a major league starter. A solid starter would score between a 2 and a 3. A good player would achieve between 3-4, an All-Star 4-5, a superstar 5-6, and finally an MVP would have a W.A.R. above 6.

Last year’s AL rookie of the year Mike Trout earned the highest W.A.R. of 2012 with an astounding score of 10.7. The American League MVP Miguel Cabrera finished fourth in the AL in W.A.R. with 6.9, right behind his teammate Justin Verlander (7.5) for the AL champion Detroit Tigers. The best a Red Sox player could muster up was Dustin Pedroia’s 4.7, which ranked 10th among AL position players in 2012.

Baseball might be the only context where this declaration is accepted, but here’s to hoping for more WAR in 2013.