July in Review (and then some)
Overall: 52-53, 3.5 games back of Oakland
Hitting: .255/.308/.391 (AVG/OBP/SLG), 4.21 runs/game
Pitching: 119 runs allowed, 4.46 ERA
(Major) Roster Moves
In: CF Adam Jones, DH Eduardo Perez, DH Ben Broussard
Out: â€œDHâ€ Carl Everett, DH Roberto Petagine, OF Jeremy Reed
People may harp on the Mâ€™s for failing to make a big splash at the trading deadline, but swapping out Carl Everettâ€™s rotting carcass for the platoon tandem of Perez and Broussard is one of the best moves they could have made. This pair not only provides a great deal more offense, but strengthens the bench as well. It also means the horror flick â€œCarl Everettâ€™s 2007 Option,â€ rated R for grotesque batting performance, will not be playing at a stadium near you.
The most surprising development of the month has to be the emergence of Mark Lowe as a dominant reliever. Despite not having pitched above AA, Lowe has been unflappable since he arrived, sporting an 11:3 K:BB ratio and no runs allowed in ten innings. Perhaps even more surprising is Mike Hargroveâ€™s willingness to use Lowe in late-game, high-leverage situations despite the hurlerâ€™s lack of experience.
Ichiro! hit .317 for the month, posting a .384 OBP while stealing nine bases without being caught. Yuniesky Betancourt also had a big month, hitting .374 to push his season mark over .300 and getting on base at a .387 clip.
After hitting a robust .287/.343/.497 in June, the offense as a whole fell off dramatically. Jose Lopez (.263/.322/.263) and Kenji Johjima (.250/.280/.361) in particular had very poor months.
Jeremy Reedâ€™s wrist injury put the Mâ€™s in the unfortunate position of rushing prospect Adam Jones to the majors. While clearly talented, Jones has been overmatched at the plate and is still learning to play the position. Without a viable option on the roster, Willie Bloomquist was also given four starts in CF.
In the course of a year, Julio Mateo has gone from above-average reliever to long reliever to being a guy you donâ€™t want to see in the game at almost any cost. And yet, Hargrove continues to use him late in close games at the expense of his more talented relievers. Mateo lost three games in July while allowing close to two runners per inning.
Injuries to Rafael Soriano and Chris Snelling have left us shaking our heads, wondering if these two players will ever live up to their potential in the major leagues.
After ending June with a bit of momentum and a 41-40 record, the Mâ€™s dropped six straight at home to Colorado, Anaheim, and Detroit, getting blanked once and scoring a lone run on three occasions. That slide put them back in a hole they then struggled to climb out of all month.
Gil Meche, Jamie Moyer, and Joel Pineiro combined to start 15 games, throw 85.2 innings, and post a 6.62 ERA with 21 homers allowed. Oddly, each pitcher allowed exactly 21 earned runs for the month.
The Mâ€™s have a better run differential than either Oakland or Texas, trailing only Anaheim, er, Los Angeles, in the division by that metric. They also trail in the actual standings, meaning thereâ€™s still work to be done.
Despite their history of second-half surges and current division lead, Oakland doesnâ€™t scare meâ€”theyâ€™re injury-prone up and down the lineup and are getting very little production outside of Nick Swisher and Frank Thomas (and the Big Hurt isnâ€™t exactly the model of health). The rotation is good, but they’re still too reliant on the health of Rich Harden and the performance of Esteban Loaiza.
Texas helped itself in a big way with the acquisition of Carlos Lee, but was unable to bolster a thin starting rotation. Off-season acquisition Adam Eaton, who has missed the entire year with an injury, made his 2006 debut last week but subsequently missed his next start due to food poisoning. He could be a boost down the stretch, but itâ€™s not as if his career is full of healthy and/or dominant seasons.
That brings us to the aforementioned Angels, who despite their early-season struggles are the class of the division. Their top-notch farm system has already contributed this year, with more help on the way if needed. Further, even without Bartolo Colon they have the best rotation in the division, a rotation which should be strong enough to cover for their supposedly weak offense… an offense which has scored more runs, incidentally, than either Seattle’s or Oakland’s.