Abandoning the catch-up
Moving from Gil “This turnaround is totally not like previous turnarounds” Meche for a minute —
The M’s are 4 and 1/2 games behind the Rangers and the Athletics, who are both 38-32. In terms of runs scored/allowed, the A’s aren’t much better than the M’s, and you’d expect the M’s to be at .500, but the games have been recorded, and that’s where the team is.
So is it possible for the M’s to win the AL West or the wildcard? Should they be holding out hope?
Or, alternately, how is this possibility any better than the previous times this “we’re still in it” horse has been trotted out for us?
It’s not. The M’s chances of getting to the playoffs are exceptionally slim on the face. With 91 games left, they have to make up a game every couple of weeks all season long. It can be done, certainly, but if 90 wins will take the AL West, the M’s need 56 more wins in 91 games — that’s over .600 ball for the rest of the year.
Does this really look like a club that can run that hard for that long? Aggressive baserunning doesn’t build that much endurance.
It would be different if you could look at the team and see a lot of players dramatically underperforming while no one played over their heads. But that’s not what we have at all — well, Ichiro’s over his head, and Lopez has been better than even his supporters (hi! it’s me!) thought he would do this year.
But the underperformers — Kenji’s really fallen down, I see him picking it up a little. Reed we’ve discussed, but until he starts hitting, whatever. Everett’s performance has fallen off dramatically, and at the bottom we’ve got Beltre, who I wish would at least have the courtesy to knock me out before his at-bats, except that he’d probably only swing and miss and break my monitor or something.
Sexson’s a huge problem, though — if Sexson was putting up last year’s numbers, or anything close to them, at this point the team would probably be fighting it out for the division lead.
Really. Sexson’s hitting .205/.283/.382. Having him hit well would probably be worth two games in the standings, maybe more, and then they’re over .500. Of course, we could also say “this aggressive baserunning thing’s cost us at least two games” but manager underperformance is out of scope.
So I don’t think as a unit they’re underperforming significantly, but there’s obviously room where things could turn around.
On the pitching side, it’s the same thing. Meche has been good while Pineiro’s been bad, which is a weird inversion of their usual relative positions, but Washburn’s been the ill purchase we feared. The big underperformer’s obviously Felix.
Take all of that and roll it up: Sexson suddenly starts to hit and Felix starts to pitch. That’s still not a .600 team. Sexson and Johjima start to hit, maybe Reed or someone else warms a little, and we get Felix on a roll, while all the while no one cools off… it could happen. I’d love to see it happen.
What are the chances, though? What are the chances that all of the good things are going to happen but there won’t be any injuries or bad streaks or whatever else might afflict the team? 0%? 1%?
This is not the voice of negativity — if the team continues like this, the season will be a great step forward, with the emergence of some key young players the team can build around, and an end to the endless, abject losing. I just don’t see looking towards the playoffs as realistic, and if that belief prevents the team from (say) punting Guardado for a live arm, or otherwise making moves that’ll help them pursue a pennant in 2007+, it’s harmful.