So, since it is the end of the month, I thought we could take a look at the offenses around the AL East and see how they compare to one another. I’m going to go team by team, and pick out the highlights and lowlights for each lineup. Maybe this will help you with your all-star ballot. Or maybe you’ll just punch our your home team’s starting nine anyway. Whatever, I’m sure about 75 players will be selected for each league anyway.
I’m using a really simple chart, with at bats and 2 other stats, wRC and wRC+. The wRC stand for Weighted Runs Created. And in-depth explanation of these 2 numbers is here at Fangraphs, which also happens to be the site from which I gathered data to create these handy tables. wRC is a way of counting offensive contributions, it is a complete total of walks, hits, homers, strikeouts, etc. It is expressed as a running total, if you have a player who has accumulated 120 wRC by the end of the season, you are a happy manager. Since it is the end of May, we’re about 1/3 of the way through the season. That means 35-40 wRC is indicative of a hitter having a great year.
wRC+ is a normalized stat, which means a 100 wRC is a league average level of production. If wRC+ is 120, you have created 20% more runs than the average hitter would have in the same number of plate appearances. You can have just a few plate appearances, and have a wRC over 100, as long as your times at bat have been productive ones.
We are looking at the batting contributions for the five AL East teams. I have cut out all of the players with less than 50 at-bats,I wanted to get players making a consistent contribution. The starting 8 or 9 regulars are highlighted in red. The best performer is in green, any notably poor performances are in blue.
Simple? Sure is, let’s start with the Red Sox.
What do the Red Sox bring this year?
David Ortiz is really tearing the cover off the ball. He leads the team in both wRC and wRC+, which speaks to his ability to remain healthy, and hit all kinds of pitching very well. Pedroia has logged enough playing time to have the second most RC accumulated, but he’s not nearly as efficient as Ortiz. He may also be headed for the DL, having injured his thumb this week. The 2 catchers, Shoppach and Saltalamacchia, have been superb.
The Sox have given 91 at-bats to the lowly Marlon Byrd, who is literally half the hitter they would like him to be. Injuries will do that to you, even if you are the mighty Red Sox, those at-bats really belong to Jacoby Ellsbury or Darnell MacDonald. Rookie Will Middlebrooks has 3 times the production Byrd does…. in the same number of AB’s.
So, how do those Rays win ballgames?
They do it by getting Matt Joyce as many at bats as possible, I guess. He has been a better hitter than everybody on the Red Sox. He’s slightly better than Longoria, especially so when you consider that Longo is healing a hamstring injury, and Joyce is still playing. Pena, Zobrist and Upton are all over 20 wRC, and above average. It’s 2/3 of a very good lineup. You would think that Jose Molina’s poor-to-poorer batting would cost him playing time, but the Rays love him for his defense. Also helping him out is the fact that his backup is Chris Gimenez, who is even worse with the bat. Yes, that is mathematically possible.
Let’s look at the Yankees.
Granderson and Jeter form a solid 1-2 punch. They also bat 1-2 in the lineup quite often. In terms of maximizing a lineup, the sabermetric types tell us that that’s the best thing to do. unfortunately, with some horrible results with runners on, this solid lineup has scored fewer runs than Boston, Baltimore, and Toronto. For 200 million dollars, you can get a lineup that is above average all the way up and down, you just can’t guarantee it will hit with men in scoring position. Final note- Russel Martin is not, technically, “good”, but he’s not bad either. Ask the Rays.
Here they are, with Adam Jones playing like he wants to earn every penny of that contract extension he just signed. Nolan Reimold was the kind of player to help fill out the middle of the order, unfortunately, he is out with a neck injury. They have Nick Markaikis, who has been as productive as A-Rod up to this point. Which is much more about how that A-Rod contract is working out, than it is about Markaikis. They have also given 61 at-bats to Endy Chavez. He’s so bad, he appears to have broken the wRC+ calculation. He has 8 hits to his name this year (2 doubles!) and 2 walks. They go nicely with his absolutely nothing else. He’s been below average for his career, but nothing like this. It hurts the team to have him in the lineup at this point.
And, to finish our look at the division, the Toronto Blue Jays!
The Blue Jays have three above average hitters in the lineup, which is good. Two of those guys are free agents at the end of the season, which might not be so good. Encarnacion is playing like he wants to make Adam Jones dollars in the very near future. Kelly Johnson would simply like the respect that he deserved, and did not get, last winter.
The Jays handed out 260 at-bats to Adam Lind and Eric Thames, who, together, did not contribute as many runs as Kelly Johnson. Neither of those players had been brilliant at any time in the past 2 years.They are both looking for their swings in AAA ball right now. Escobar is the other underperforming regular, but he has a much better recent history, so that, and his defensive value, will give him more rope.
Jones, Joyce, Encarnacion, Ortiz. These are the biggest beasts in the AL East. The next time your team is set to face one of these lineups, don’t take the TV guy’s word for it, check who is a real threat for yourself. Fangraphs is open 24 hours a day, and its free!