COMMENTARY | With the All-Star game festivities in our rear-view mirror, it's time for teams to get their eyes on the road to wherever it is they're headed. However, for some teams, it's not quite clear which road they're actually on.
Teams like the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox appear to be in cruise control on the Playoff Expressway, while the Los Angeles Angels have spent most of the season careening down the Highway to Heck (I know that's not what it's actually called, but I'm trying to keep things PG around here).
The All-Star game also serves as an unofficial midway point of the season. (Yes, I know the actual midway was almost three weeks ago, but let's not get all bent out of shape about math -- since you may very soon regret it.) Now is the time for under-performing teams to pack it in for the season or get things in gear and start living up to expectations.
And that's exactly what the Angles did -- starting the second half with a series win against the improbably division-leading Oakland Athletics. Starting pitchers Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson pitched well and the offense came through to win the first two games and then the A's Bartolo Colon shut everyone down to avoid the sweep.
The Angels are stuck in third place in the West division -- with the A's in first place and the Texas Rangers in second place. Both of these teams have flaws that make neither a sure bet to make the playoffs. And it's important for the Angels to get wins against them if they're going to pull themselves up out of the mess of the season's first half.
The A's offense and pitching have done well so far, but both have been far out-performing their underlying peripheral stats and while peripherals are not the be-all, end-all of stats, they do give one an idea of how the team should have performed and thus how they are most likely to perform in the future.
Almost every member of the A's pitching staff has peripheral stats that would suggest a worse performance than what they've gotten. That means that you're going to start seeing some regression from these guys. Colon is a great example. We're talking about a 40-year-old pitcher having possibly his best season ever. This is the same Bartolo Colon whose nickname is "the guy who ate Bartolo Colon."
Don't get upset with me about this regression stuff; it's just math. If you don't like math, well then you're quite American aren't you? And before you get too worked up about how ridiculous all this math-speak is, just remember that all of this math-speak is what provided the technologies that allow you to read this article.
Out-performing peripherals doesn't mean those lucky team wins didn't happen -- you still get to keep those. It just means that in the future, barring more good luck, the results won't be quite as appealing for Oakland fans.
Earlier in the season, when I said the Pittsburgh Pirates had been lucky, quite a few people disagreed with me but then when their luck started running out and they were the ones losing the one-run games, I stopped hearing about how wrong I was.
I think the Athletics are a good team -- with some continued luck they'll make the playoffs. There isn't really a lot of competition. And barring injuries or suspensions (yes, Bartolo, I'm looking at you) they'll be in the race until the end.
I'm not some fool who thinks the Angels are going to the playoffs, like this whacko. The team is 10 games back and while that distance has been made up in seasons past, it's a lot of games and a lot of things have to go right.
A team with a pitching staff of C.J. Wilson, Jered Weaver, "Pray for rain," "Pray for a power outage" and "Pray for more games against the Houston Astros" would appear to have its work cut out for it. The Angels are 13-7 in the last 20 games and if they maintain that winning percentage for the rest of the season, they can overtake the shaky Athletics and the mismanaged Rangers.
In the next 10 games they play the struggling Minnesota Twins and then hit the road for games against the Athletics and Rangers. These games should show us whether this team is on the road to recovery or headed for a 10-car pileup.
Jed Rigney is a Los Angeles-based award-winning filmmaker who also fancies himself a baseball writer. He is the lead humor columnist at Through The Fence Baseball. You can follow him on Twitter @JedRigney.
- Sports & Recreation
- Oakland Athletics
- Jered Weaver
- Los Angeles Angels